Now Reading
Digestion and Our Minds

Digestion and Our Minds

In Chinese Medicine we have an understanding that digestion is not limited to the food and drink that we ingest. Digestion is everything that you take in that needs to be processed and absorbed; the books you read, the news you consume, any intellectualisation of new ideas and concepts as well as your nutrition. 

The spirit of the body that governs the mind is called the “yi” and it is said to reside in the spleen, as well as in the mind. Now most of the time in western medicine we think of the spleen as belonging to the immune system. However, in Chinese medicine the spleen is paired with the stomach and governs our digestion.

It is highly likely that the Chinese medicine functions attributed to the spleen are also including the pancreas organ, as the taste it is associated with is “sweet” and too much sugar can weaken its ability to regulate fluids around the body properly (hello insulin resistance and diabetes!). 

So essentially the idea on offer here, is that if we are completely swamped with the number of things we are “digesting”, we might be putting extra stress on the spleen organ as well as on our mental energy. 

You might resonate with this idea – that mental exhaustion always seems so much more tiring than straight up physical exhaustion? If I am simply worn out from a big day of physical activity (provided I had not been dipping into my reserves), then a good meal and a good sleep should see me bouncing back quickly. Whereas mental exhaustion, think high stress job, university life, relationship worries etc can leave you absolutely bone tired.    

I think it is therefore a really important part of self-care to be mindful of how much you are “consuming” on all levels. In an age where technology has woven itself into every waking hour, it might be a good idea to see where you can weed out some of your consumption. Some ideas that you might like to try include:

  • Having one meal a day where you are not also in conversation with anyone, scrolling on our phones, or splitting our attention with another activity. 
  • Being mindful of how many hours a day you are spending on social media.
  • Taking some quiet time in the evenings free from devices to wind down before going to bed. 
  • Simplifying your meals so as not to overload your digestive system with too many different kinds of foods to digest in one meal. 
  • Including some kind of mindfulness practice; breath centred meditation, quiet walks, or gentle yoga to give your mind some space from relentless overthinking. 

The mind and the gut are connected. You may have already made this connection for yourself. When you are in a high state of anxiety do you notice changes in your digestion? 

More than ever before, finding ways to pacify high levels of stress and anxiety are more than just self-care, they are non-negotiable aspects of health. 

By Dr Karina Smith.

See Also
What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top