The light from the bathroom shines on Pierre’s dark face as he stares at himself in the mirror. The gaze is distant and empty. He grabs his electric toothbrush with his right hand and hears the clicking of his bracelets – a mixture of various metals and mineral stones.
It is 6:47 am, and, in precisely 13 minutes, he will be finished in the bathroom, as always. And as always, he already knows, going in his car, his intestine will twist and make him suffer. This situation lasts for about 20 years. Pierre is 38 and spent half of his life with searing abdominal pain that all the specialists he consulted have failed to treat. He has been told of functional colopathy, irritable bowel syndrome, and God knows what else. But what Pierre knows is that it can’t go on any longer… he needs a different solution. He’s already tried a slew of things: different kinds of probiotics, different strains; he’s tried eating gluten-free, lactose-free. He has tried intermittent fasting before, with no success; at most, a temporary improvement.
As the intestine is the second brain and the first is treated by a therapist, today, leaving the office, he has an appointment with a coach in “relaxation and personal development.” Anyway, he has nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain. The various medical consultations ultimately concluded that the symptoms were anxiety-induced. All of this would only be due to his hectic pace of life and possibly his perfectionism. Pierre admitted this with difficulty, but eventually, he finally recognized that his life was swirling and he was putting enormous pressure on himself. Besides, the colopathy had started the year he was preparing for his Baccalaureate: would he, in fact, be an anxious person who ignores himself? Possibly yes, when you think about it: anxiety and perfectionism aren’t mutually exclusive.
It is 6:33 pm when he looks at his watch as he leaves the consulting room. The meeting will have lasted precisely 30 minutes, and it will have been rich in lessons for Pierre. After the appointment, he decides to take a short walk in the charming square opposite to ponder on the advice he received.
The gut is known to be the second brain because of the billions of neuronal cells it contains. Different scientific studies go further by talking about a direct gut-brain connection. The gut microbiota in humans communicates to the central nervous system through the gut-brain axis, and this communication functions in a bidirectional manner ( Saruja Nanthakumaran-2020, USA )
And if we think about it, you already experienced that for sure:
Have you ever had a gut feeling or butterflies in your stomach? Or abdominal pain when you feel stressed before something important? Well, these sensations emanating from your belly suggest that your brain and gut are interconnected.
Functional colopathy is extremely common: It is estimated that approximately 10% of the world population and 15% of the people in the Western World suffer from IBS. The condition is characterized by a mixture of recurrent abdominal pain, bloating, and changing stool consistency. This last symptom can be experienced as diarrhea (IBS -D), constipation (IBS-C), or interchanging diarrhea and constipation (mixed-type or IBS-M). You may also have mucus secretion and nausea ( Hans Raskov – 2016, Denmark).
The gut-brain interconnection is vital here, suggesting a reciprocal and bidirectional influence. The scientific community now accepts that psychological causes can lead to abdominal pain. You must also consider the reverse; in this case, the situation could be a possible vicious circle that traps you.
Clinical and pre-clinical studies show that psychological stress significantly impacts intestinal sensitivity, motility, secretion, permeability, and mucosal immune activation.
IBS is a stress-sensitive disorder, and its treatment should also focus on managing stress and stress-induced responses (Hans Raskov – 2016, Denmark).
Many promising results have emerged by exploring various studies on the role of the gut microbiota and its effects on selective serotonin receptor inhibitors (SSRIs) in depression management. For instance, scientists have identified a consistent set of quantifiable microbial markers in the stools of depressive subjects. These markers can be further used to determine the severity of disease progression ( Saruja Nanthakumaran-2020, USA )
The management must be comprehensive. Here are the ten tips that the therapist put forward:
- Drink 1,5 to 2 liters of water every day. Remember that water is a crucial component of our bodies, allowing us to function correctly. Does it seem difficult to you? Try the 8-glass technique to get to two liters per day.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco. These substances are naturally irritating and disrupt the proper functioning of all biological functions. Do you think it’s hard to quit? Yes, it is. But do you avoid trying when something is difficult? Do you stop at the first obstacle?
- Eat dietary fiber that improves your digestion. Fibers are natural protectors of the intestine. Also, they prolong the feeling of fullness, meaning they can assist in weight loss.
- Avoid saturated fat, sodas, sugar. Do I really have to explain why?
- Eat regularly at the same hours. Take time for eating; it’s not a race. Good digestion is like a behavior; make it a habit.
- Work out for 30 minutes every day. Our bodies are complex and ingenious machines, with many interactions between our organs.
- Rest! Have a good sleep for 7-8 hours. Thinking you can get back missed sleep is a mistake. Good health can only be global. That means your health is a balance between the normal physiological state of all biological functions.
- Restore microbiota. It is one of the critical elements of good intestinal function, ensuring a slew of beneficial chemical interactions that promote brain health.
- Relax! Try meditation, Yoga. As we said, the brain-intestine relationship has been proven to be a two-way street. Start with the cardiac coherence adapted for beginners: inhale for 5 seconds through the nose and exhale for 5 seconds through the mouth. Repeat for 5 minutes.
- Have a bowel movement every day at about the same time. Regularity creates the basis for repeated behavior, thus creating a habit.
Pierre finishes his stroll with calm breathing, a lively and determined gaze, and steady steps. The discussion with the coach makes him think and question himself. For him, the perfectionist who wants to be flawless in everything he does, it’s difficult to admit. However, he knows how to put his ego aside to achieve these goals, and the stakes are enormous. It’s about the one thing he still hasn’t been able to resolve: his abdominal pain. He could finally consider making his journey to Compostela or a Trek in Vietnam. Unfortunately, his intestine has prevented him from going – until now.
It is 6:57 pm before entering his car when he takes a deep breath. Pierre thinks inside himself in deep and determined relaxation: “I will succeed”!
This thought will be the start of the global change process for the life that Pierre deserves to have …
PS: Irritable bowel syndrome is a mild but disabling daily functional disorder. It is widespread so that it can be confused with other pathologies. My advice: it would be wise to consult a doctor when you experience any abdominal pain to ensure the absence of severe underlying pathologies.