Updated: Mar 2
Ever had some bad news or got a shock and gasped for air? This is one of the ways your body and brain work together to prepared to fight or flee. It's completely natural. You might release adrenaline, your blood pressure goes up (this helps you with acting fast) and most blood goes to your 'essential organs'.
Let me repeat this: blood and it's nutrients get more concentrated to your extremities and essential organs. Meaning: only the minimum of your oxygen and nutrients are used in your 'non-essential organs', like your digestive system and some hormonal systems.
No point in efficiently digesting your food when you're about to be eaten by a tiger. And when it comes to hormones, balancing your hormones optimally for reproduction, sleep or even mood is last on your nervous systems list of priorities.
When you feel like that 'gasp' for a short time, and then turn back to a balanced state, not much harm gets done. Stress (and shallow breathing) can become a problem when you experience it for a prolonged time, leaving your digestive system in a constant state of malnourishment, out of whack hormones, and worn out adrenals.
Now, you might feel as if you're doomed. Because you have a stressful job, or because you live in a turbulent situation.
Before you hand in your notice, or make drastic changes to your personal life, listen up.
There are ways to manage your stress levels, specifically by some breathing exercises.
Since digestion is my main topic of interest, I would like to explain to you why deep breathing can be beneficial for your gut and it's feelings.
Your digestive system is surrounded by lots of nerve endings, which communicate between your brain and gut. If you perceive stress, in any way, Those nerves can create the same 'gasp' motion.
While on the other hand, if you focus with intention, on breathing deep into your lower belly, this can help with the relaxation of those nerves. Which in result can improve digestion AND how you feel in your mind. Win Win!
It doesn't have to take long. You don't have to sit in lotus position for 45 minutes, chanting 'Om'. You don't even have to close your eyes if you don't want to.
How to go about it.
There are a lot of different types of breathing techniques. What works best for you is very personal.
There are specific yogic breaths, where you close one nostril whilst breathing in and out through the other, before changing sides. This so-called 'alternate nostril breathing' might take a bit of practice.
If you are pushed for time, simply take 1 minute to yourself. Shut out any distractions, and focus on breathing deeply into your lower belly. It can help to visualise the air flowing into your body, or putting your hand on your belly to feel where the air goes. After your full breath in, slowly and fully breathe out while focusing on relaxing your lower belly muscles.
As you can see, you could do this behind your desk, while 'pretending' to read an email, when stuck in traffic (make sure to keep your eyes open!) or when in line in the supermarket.
Starting with 3 deep breaths is a great start, but feel free to do it for longer, and do it as often as you like.
As a big part of this simple trick is to be mindful, you might feel a bit odd at the start if you're new to it.
That's totally ok! Being mindful is like a muscle, it gets stronger as you practice it more. And again, how deep or intense you want to do it is up to you. If you find this too 'whoo-whoo' for you, it might help to start with the absolute minimum.
If all you want is to support your digestion, only take 3 deep breaths before each meal, you can even think or focus on the food you will eat and what nutrients and gut-nourishing ingredients you'll feed your body with.
Doing this 3 times a day can improve your digestion, and you might start to enjoy the feeling!
If you want some more guidance on deep breathing, there are lots of apps, videos and courses available online. Try some different versions and see what suits you best.
Breathing and relaxation is one of the things I teach in my 12 week Gut Health and Wellness course, along with lots of other tips to improve your digestion, learn new cooking skills and start to introduce some time for YOU!
If this is something for you, click the button below and have a look to find out more!