What if you had an understanding for why your body keeps playing a feedback loop of inflammation and illness? What if I told you your senses have a LOT to say about the potential health your body? What if "being mindful" isn't just something yogis talk about?
I've been spending a lot of time studying the nervous system and the main nerve suppliers of the Vagus Nerve and it's communication with the Sympathetic, Parasympathetic, and Enteric Nervous Systems as part of my group study on the COPP Theory . A big part of this theory is the interplay between the nerves and the chemical messengers with the organs that are supposed to be doing the work. So in homage to this continuing study, I've been paying particular attention to creating a life based out of a parasympathetic state of "rest and digest", reserving Sympathetic's "fight and flight" for true and accurate times of danger or threat. Part of the COPP Theory is to retrain the body's defense strategies, and in people with IBD, how those defense strategies particularly play into how you digest, metabolize, and use food.
As I've been working to mindfully create a sense of peace and capability throughout my body, I've been paying particular attention to any nerve feelings I notice as I go through my day. I figured it would be wise to pay attention to how my nerves feel during the day and just see how much time I spend in a stressed state, that I have simply adapted to. As a way to do this, I've been trying to really focus on true mindfulness. Of course we've all heard the word multiple times, but I've been trying to "be mindful" of being mindful. he goal has been to STOP the multitasking training since birth and get real about being involved exactly and only on the task at hand. I've been using my senses to involve every part of me, which is a great way to create memories, enjoy the experience more, glean more information, remember more, and connect the experience appropriately to how my nerves feel. These sensory "cues" are what tells the vagus nerve how to respond...whether in preparation for stress and fight, or to remain calm and maintain the body. 80% of the efferent fibers of the Vagus Nerve come FROM THE GUT! This means that a good majority of the cues sent to the brain about how to respond to life come from the sensory input from the gut!
I don't know about you, but historically, I've carried my stress feelings in my gut. Throughout these last weeks of being mindful to be mindful, I've noticed the times that I feel my nervous system ignite in stress, translating to muscle tightness and tense gut and stomach, have been times that I am either in fear (worry, expectation of something bad to happen, attempting to prevent something bad from happening, or judging (myself, someone else, a situation). It doesn't have to be something big, and it often doesn't look like what we think. For example, we think "judgment is a negative thought we have about a person, and its mean". Judgement can be as simple as the quick thought that pops in your head, "My son should really get an alarm clock to wake himself up". It's a judgment of what YOU think is best and what YOU think he should be doing. Followed by the feeling of fear you allow that makes you have the judgment in the first place.. "He's going to lose his job. He'll never make something of himself. What if I didn't parent correctly ". These judgments and fear thoughts are common throughout our day.
I was driving to a massage (yes, all part of the "nervous system engagement plan") and felt nerves arise as signified by a tightening in my gut. Upon asking the questions I realized the judgement I held for myself was that I "should be working right now not playing." A TINY source of negative and "inappropriate" nerve stimulation, but it allowed me two things: to examine the concept and the places in my life where it may have come from, decide if I wanted to keep believing that concept, and two, to actively work to restore a sense of calm and peace in my nervous system through breath and active muscle relaxation.
This has been the pattern of what I've been doing EVERY DAY over the last couple of weeks. It's exhausting how often we live in a stressed state that we have simply grown accustomed to! It's unbelieveable how many of my body cues and responses have been from nervous system activation!
As I work largely with people with allergies, sensitivities, digestive issues, IBD and inflammatory illnesses, I pay particular attention to how the nervous system is responding. It has a MAJOR impact on the communication the Vagus nerve relays to the brain, and the signals the brain then sends to the organs, and the hormones and messengers that are then sent to the cells. This greatly determines how the cells will respond to hormones and chemicals and the food you eat.
ALL of your senses are active to serve as the cues that the Vagus nerve discerns, categorizing as "safety", "or "danger/threat". This determination gets sent as a message to the brain and now the body is in a "fight or flight" (sympathetic) state, or a "rest and digest" (parasypathetic dominant) state, based on these cues from the senses. I am training myself to "pay attention with all five senses" to see what kinds of messages my body is receiving. This can help me adapt to my surroundings, adapt my thinking, examine if I'm truly in a "safe" place, or if I need to address my limiting beliefs. All of this determines whether my cells are going to be OPEN to receiving messages in the form of nutrients and chemical messengers or if they will respond defensively. If they respond defensively, this leaves those messengers "out in the cold" with the body's only outlet is to fight them like other foreign substances, bacteria, viruses, or pathogens. However, the cells retain a "recording" of this defense and act appropriately the next time the "offender" comes around. Again, the cells don't KNOW it's an "inappropriate", or exaggerated response to bread, for example, they just follow orders. It is ENTIRELY appropriate to them because their job is the protect the body.
Ultimately, this is the goal of COPP Theory: Cellular optimization through polyvagal and phenolic communications. Using this theory, we can first learn from ourselves by being intentional about being mindful. Being mindful of being mindful. This brings awareness of how we want to live and create life from day to day. It creates a new physicality and physiological capability. Doing this creates a working relationship and acceptance of living from the parasympathetic state and can change our symptoms for the better.
As we're working to create a new, better normal, it makes sense to pay attention to the old ideas that cause us stress and work to understand and create something new. Be mindful to BE MINDFUL and see how it changes your experiences. Let me know what you notice!
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Amanda Plevell, PhD, CNHP is a Natural Medicine Practitioner, researching Cellular Biochemistry, and the effects that food, disease, experiences, emotions, and beliefs play into the programming of the cells, along with the resulting health expression. She is the founder of the Natural Source Companies including community WellClinics, and the Institute for Functional Digestive Health. Author of over 28 natural health and self development books, her bestselling books include such titles as "The Genesis Code", "UnBound: Kicking Anxiety From Your Bucket List", "The Energy of Divorce", "The Real Heal", "Clean Your Plate", and "Beyond the Plate". When she's not serving at her Minnesota-based practice, she spends her time homeschooling her children along with her husband, growing her food forest.
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