If you were doubling over in gut pain or having multiple bowel movements per day and some digestive “guru” simply told you not to think about your digestion, you would write that “guru” off pretty quick.
Well, I’m no guru but I am telling you to minimize your focus on your bowel movements. Easier said than done, sure, but hear me out… As Dr. Thurman Fleet said in his book, Rays of the Dawn, “ Any part or function of the body is apt to become disordered if too much attention is centered on it. Body processes that are controlled by the innate mind are best performed when left undisturbed by the educated mind. In the case of sleep and digestion, we cannot pay too LITTLE attention.”
This doesn’t mean we ignore what water or foods we put in or body, or don’t observe what comes out, in fact, its about putting nourishing things in and relaxing enough to let our body do the job it was designed to do. There are so many things that can disrupt our digestive system these days. Yes food, water, hormones, chemicals, heck even the air we breathe. What I have found though, is the worry, the stress of, the focus on, our problems almost always ADDS TO the Problem. Especially when it comes to natural body functions like digestion. Do you know how many, enzymes, acids, sphincters muscles, etc. all go into turning food to energy? You couldn’t control all that stuff with your conscious mind if you tried! So don’t try. Focus on the things you can control and let the body do what it was amazingly designed for.
This wasn’t easy for me once I developed symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Any tickle from my belly would put me on alert, frantically scanning the area for a restroom. After some time, this connection (belly rumble-> urgent diarrhea) became a pattern for me. I was literally reinforcing the neural pathway from my gut to my brain to act this way. That well worn pathway is sometimes tough to break. That’s why it’s one of the primary areas of focus in my digestive coaching program. Creating a new pathway and letting the destructive one “grow over” or dissolve, is key to not just reliving symptoms but solving digestive dysfunction.
The same is true for another major aspect of health. Sleep. You know it inherently, you just can’t TRY your way to sleep. Remember the night before something important, Christmas eve for example, you knew you needed to get to sleep an would TRY so hard to fall asleep but it just made it tougher. Or these days, when you wake up before your alarm and think “ugh TWO HOURS until I have to be up” while pushing your head harder into the pillow, trying to will yourself to sleep. Forcing your self to sleep doesn’t work.
So what does? Counting sheep? Maybe. It works by shifting your attention to something different, something monotonous. So might relaxing your way back to a restful state. Finding a new comfortable position. NOT focusing on it. There are lots of other ideas we will explore another time.
Whether it’s digestion, sleep, or one of the many other aspects of health, one of the underused methods of relief, is to simply change your focus to something else, to quit giving the problem so much attention. As long as you are doing the things necessary to create a healthy environment, letting the body do what it was designed to do is a powerful action in itself. If you are unsure of what those things are to influence good health, I’m happy to help you discover them.
In the meantime, stay in your lane. You provide nourishing things for your body and mind, and then trust it to take care of the intricacies of the bodily processes. It does its job much better in a relaxed, supportive environment just like the rest of us!