Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Anxiety. Worry. Fear.
It’s easier said than done to give these up. To release and trust; to pray with thanksgiving, especially when things get crazy.
But yet we are instructed to do so. Not only to trust God completely, but for the sake of our health.
Recently, I wrestled with a difficult decision of whether or not to put my 4-year old on a series of medications to eradicate some bad bacteria found in her gut. On the outside she is a happy, healthy kid who is smart, funny and developing well, except for her small stature. As a mom involved with health on a daily basis, with my face in a nutrition book at every chance I get, and having gone through parasites and associated illnesses before, my intuition told me to get her checked and alas, we found some things that just don’t belong in her body, and may indeed be preventing her growth. So, the doctor prescribed a month of meds and I had to decide whether to follow his advice or not. Many times when I am in that situation I sit and I worry and I worry some more. I go over all the bad things that might happen, and I work myself into frenzy. In fact, I become the exact definition of worry according to WebMD, “feeling uneasy or being overly concerned about a situation or problem. With excessive worrying, your mind and body go into overdrive as you constantly focus on ‘what might happen.’”
I wish I could say I didn’t do it this time…but I did. In my mind I came up with every possible scenario of what could go wrong, and failed to focus on what might actually go right!
Somehow thinking about all her possible side effects made them come upon me. My mind was inundated with thoughts of gas, diarrhea, bloating, etc. A few days later I started to feel all of that. It’s strange that happened to me…or maybe not so strange.
The human gut is often called the “second brain.” Trillions of organisms comprise the delicate structure that is your body and your gut. Researchers are now coming out with studies that show the link between the mind and the body. In fact, powerful placebo effects have occurred healing a condition just as well, if not better than, the medications administered. Through positive affirmations and visualizations, people have “escorted” illness out of the body.
How is that possible?
Author and mind-body expert David R. Hamilton, PhD, in his book How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body, states that your mind communicates with the rest of the body through chemicals called neurotransmitters. These are carried with your thoughts and can find their way into your DNA, switching on or off certain proteins. “In this way,” he states, “repeating a thought produces new connections between neurons, and this is how the brain changes with our thoughts and experiences.”
These chemicals also communicate with the bacteria in your gut. In fact, studies have shown that the gut bacteria influence behavior, including stress responses and anxiety levels. Conversely, it has been shown that psychological stress suppresses beneficial bacteria. Bacteria in the gut and thoughts mingle in a symbiotic relationship.
That definitely gets me thinking (once again). The gut cannot only feel what you think, but it can hear your thoughts! That’s fascinating and frightening at the same time (although I won’t let my gut know I’m scared because then I’m just going down the same slippery slope again!)
In my case, due to my obsessive worrying, my thoughts may have created my gut discomfort and suppressed the good bugs while allowing my own bad ones (because we all have good and bad bugs) to flourish. Or it could have been sheer coincidence, I don’t know.
To back up all this new research on the mind-body connection is thousands of years of knowledge from Chinese medicine, which has linked spleen deficiency to excessive worry. In modern medicine, the spleen doesn’t have much of a role in the digestive process, but in Chinese medicine it works with the stomach to digest food. It also, however, digests information.
We live in a time of information overload and so the spleen is constantly at work. We have access to an infinite amount of information at any given time, and it seems the more we know, the more we are prone to worry. Weakness in the spleen can cause poor appetite, gastric pain, vomiting, belching, hiccups, abdominal distention and pain, diarrhea, and loose stools.
So when your doctor says your illness is due to stress, he or she is not lying, but may actually be speaking ahead of the times. Rather than leave the office in dismay, leave with the comfort of knowing that your condition may not quite have manifested into a full-blown illness yet and you have the power to reverse it.
If YOU make up your mind to do so.