Could simple exercises that train your brain actually improve your gut health? The answer is a definite "yes" according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSc, author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working? and a new book coming soon called Gluten, Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity.
In a recent interview with Sean Croxton from Underground Wellness as a part of his Digestion Session series still going on this week Dr. Kharrazian talked about the brain-gut axis, not to be confused with the gut-brain axis.
“One of the most neglected things that I think most practitioner’s don’t understand, whether they’re conventional or alternative, is that there’s this brain-to-gut axis.”
Dr. Kharrazian explains that some of what we may assume to be traditional gut disorders may in fact be a type of neuro-degenerative disease that starts in the gut. And the way to determine if a digestive disorder is brain-based is to look for motility issues.
“Motility means how you move foods; when you eat something and how you have a bowel movement.” says Dr. Kharrazian. “Do you have constipation, do you have to drink coffee to have a bowel movement, do you have to take magnesium or some kind of laxative to have regular bowel movements? If you do, that could very well be a brain-to-gut axis issue.”
Slow motility then becomes the trigger for chronic digestive issues such as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), H. Pylori infections, Intestinal Permeability and eventually auto-immune disorders.
You can have your doctor check for whether or not you have a motility problem or you can check yourself by two simple methods:
Gargling - Gargling with water stimulates the vagus nerve which helps bring blood flow to the gut. Dr. Kharrazian suggests gargling forcefully with water several times a day. If you’re doing it right, he says, you may even start to have tears come to your eyes. This is because it also stimulates an area of the brain right next to the vagus nerve called the the superior salivatory nucleus, which causes you to tear. You may need to start with a small amount of water and gargle for a short period of time but slowly building up the duration and intensity will exercise those neurons and strengthen them.
Induce Your Gag Reflex - Using disposable tongue depressors, press on the the back of your tongue just enough to induce your gag reflex. Be careful not to go too far into the back of the throat to cause injury. Stimulating the gag reflex may also cause you to tear up which is once again a sign that you have stimulated your vagus nerve.
Coffee Enema - Most people who have heard of coffee enemas will know that they are used for detoxification. But Dr. Kharrazian suggests using a strong coffee enema daily so the caffeine in the coffee will stimulate something called the gastrointestinal nicotinic cholinergic receptors which encourage gut motility. If you are using a strong enough concentration of caffeine you should get the urge to have a bowel movement. Then he says you need to suppress your urge to eliminate for as long as possible.
“As they suppress their urge they’re firing their frontopontine vagal enteric axis. If they keep doing that, they build endurance and they start to regain their brain-gut axis.”
Sing - Another way to stimulate the vagal muscles at the back of the throat is to sing really loudly, which is probably the easiest and most fun of all the other suggestions!
If you are interested in learning more about what the top experts in digestive health recommend, I suggest you check out the Digestion Sessions. I’m learning so much and I’m excited to be able to pass some of this info on to you!
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.