Sunday, November 04, 2012

Better digestion

One stunning side effect of my recent achievements in self-nurturing and loving myself is that my digestion has improved. I've struggled with self-loathing behaviors and low self esteem my whole life, but my digestion only started having real problems a few years ago. In 2008, the same year I turned 42, I noticed that I could no longer digest dairy products comfortably, even with lactose digestion aids. In 2009 I lost the ability to eat wheat products and baked goods without stomach aches. By 2010 I made the rule that I would not eat anything past 8:00 p.m. because I found that going to bed on anything but an empty stomach affected my sleep.

There is increasing scientific evidence that gut flora directly affects mood and mental states. The stomach and brain are so intimately connected as to constitute one big organ, or maybe we can just call the stomach "the little brain."  Of course, those of us with nervous stomachs or who get anxiety heartburn don't need to be told that the state of our minds influences how our stomachs function, but now we're getting the data to back up that conventional wisdom.

I worked with a new therapist intensively on my emotional health over the past couple of years, but noticed no change in my digestion problems. An increasingly sensitive stomach seemed my fate as I settled even further into middle age. But since that work finally moved my inner critical voice into the back seat of my mind, and I've stopped punishing myself every day for mistakes real and imagined, my stomach has gotten better! I no longer lose hours of sleep because I had too many cookies or had a sandwich past 6:00p.m. Incredibly, I ate a pizza dinner with my husband last week and I was fine. It was the first time we'd shared a delivery pizza in three years.

I seriously thought everything gets worse as we age. I'm surprised and joyous to find that my anxiety-ridden personality was a huge part of my inability to enjoy many foods. Now that I'm finally fixing my self esteem, my stomach works better. It seems that peace leads to peace in remarkable ways.

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