Gut feeling: Why Healing Gut Issues Requires a Holistic Approach

Practised for almost 5,000 years, Ayurvedic medicine has long been aware of the inextricable connection between gut health and both emotional and mental health. According to Ayurveda, only with a healthy and high-functioning gut can we digest all nourishment – physical, emotional and mental – and eliminate all toxins from our system. In contrast, improper digestion leads to a buildup of toxins – undigested food, unprocessed emotions, stress hormones – that further weakens our digestive functioning.

This understanding represents a holistic approach: viewing overall well-being as the result of a healthy mind, healthy body and healthy lifestyle. Because our mind, body and emotions are interconnected, gut health is crucial in finding the balance that leads to overall well-being and vitality in Ayurvedic philosophy. It’s also why starting with a Mind-Body Mapping consultation helps our customers get the best healing results: it allows our doctors to holistically assess your health and find the root cause of your symptoms.

But only recently has Western scientific research explored the gut’s central role in maintaining overall health through the regulation of hormones, promotion of immunity and control of inflammation.

The importance of gut health to mental and emotional health

Essentially, recent studies have confirmed what Ayurveda already understood about the role of digestion in physical, emotional and mental health:

  • that the gut is highly sensitive to stress, because
  • the stress hormone cortisol causes gut inflammation, which manifests in uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, re-flux, constipation and diarrhoea; but
  • that, if left untreated, gut inflammation can leak from the gut and spread throughout the body in the blood, causing the development of chronic gastro-intestinal conditions such as IBS and Crohn’s disease, and
  • that gut inflammation weakens our digestive system, which controls our absorption of serotonin, ability to manage stress and our immunity; and as such,
  • long-term or chronic gut inflammation can cause hormonal and emotional dysregulation, leading to the development of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

These understandings, relatively new to Western medicine, are the reason that Ayurveda takes a digestive system-first approach when it comes to healing, and why so many people now seek alternative treatments outside the realm of pharmaceuticals and surgical intervention.

Ayurvedic treatment for gut issues

According to Ayurveda, only by removing toxin buildup can we reset our digestive system and restore our body’s natural immune defences. Panchakarma detoxification is Ayurveda’s primary healing system because it acts like a ‘reset’ button for the mind and body, naturally removing toxin buildup from the digestive system through an individually-tailored diet, herbal supplements and oil massages and skin treatments.

Lifestyle changes are often important to prolong the rejuvenating effects of detoxification, due to the importance of adequate sleep, exercise and relaxation for maintaining strong digestive function and gut health.

Ayurvedic foods for digestion

You may be wondering where to begin when it comes to improving gut health. In Ayurveda, food is medicine, so your diet is a great place to start improving your digestive function.

Which foods are best for your digestive function depends on your body type or dosha, but some foods that aid digestion include:

  • Yogurt, which promotes healthy digestive bacteria (when eaten during the daytime)
  • Lassi, a good source of probiotics
  • Apples, which are fibre-rich
  • Fennel, which prevents constipation and promotes regular bowel movements
  • Paw paw, a great source of fibre
  • Ginger, which improves digestion and counteracts nausea

If you’re experiencing gut issues such as bloating, IBS, constipation, diarrhoea or a sense of fogginess and fatigue after meals, you may find that a Panchakarma detox is exactly what you need. You can find information about our detox treatments here.