Insight Blog

Adventures in Mindful Living

Whether you’re applying mindfulness to your relationships, career, health, or as a spiritual practice, you’ll find helpful stories, tips, and articles that will enrich your understanding of topics such as psychology, meditation, neuroscience, and personal development.

Tuning Into Our Gut Brain

Reading our bodies signals

Share this on:

As the tray of freshly baked almond-flour pumpkin muffins emerges from the oven, the scent of cinnamon, cloves and melted chocolate fills the air in my kitchen.

My daughter walks through the door after getting off the school bus and takes a deep breath, inhaling the aroma that wafts toward her. “Mmmmm, smells yummy, Mommy!”

Eating home-cooked food was always an important ritual in my family when I was young. A tradition I enjoy sharing with my husband and two young kids now. Growing up, it was the one thing that brought us together – and away from our screens, our games, and our rooms – in the spirit of appreciation for good food and each other.

That being said, my early years weren’t always easy. In fact, I often struggled with anxiety, depression and stomach discomfort as a kid.

By the time I was a pre-teen, I had developed a prediabetic type blood sugar imbalance due to a dangerous cocktail of emotional stress (cortisol causes blood sugar to fluctuate greatly), genetics and an insatiable sweet tooth. Not a good combination.

As I got older I started developing more tummy troubles. A host of inflammatory and metabolic conditions started to build up in my body, worsening after every meal.

Despite the inflammation that was wreaking havoc in my intestines throughout my teens and into young adulthood, I often felt frustrated and confused about what to eat.

Why was my struggle so real? Partly due to convenience, partly for social pressures, but mostly because I felt unsure about my ability to prepare and find meals and snacks that didn’t make my health conditions worse!

That’s when I began to study all about the microbiome — the living ecosystem that exists within our bodies responsible for producing feel-good chemicals like serotonin and GABA, digesting our food and extracting the nutrients we need, among so many important things.

As I started listening to my body and reading helpful research, I noticed just how closely my symptoms correlated with not checking-in with my body regularly.

This is because when we are mindful of how our body is feeling (sensations, thoughts and emotions) this allows our nervous system relax and feel safe, which in turn, allows our microbiome to do it’s job and produce more feel-good chemicals. It’s an upward spiral journey where our mental and physical health flourish together. 

As I studied and tried to eat more mindfully, I figured out how to blend these sciences (mindful eating and the microbiome) in a way that healed my body from the inflammation I’d suffered all my life.

“When we tune into the wisdom of our body through mindful, intuitive eating our health and mood can completely transform.”

Let’s discuss what I learned about inflammation and craving.

The first thing to know is that microbes line our intestines, helping us digest food. But this intestinal slime is actually made up of good and bad bacteria.

Good bacteria supports our body in crucial ways. It helps us poop every day, for one. It also produces our own internal pharmacy of natural antidepressants – chemicals that make us feel safe and relaxed. One example is serotonin, which makes us feel like everything will be okay, even in the midst of stressors and changes in our lives.

This good bacteria also builds essential short-chain fatty acids, which reduces appetite and balances blood sugar.

Then, there’s the bad bacteria. This kind of bacteria feeds on excess blood sugar, creating neurotoxins that cause confusion, inflammation, and gas. By messing with your blood sugar, these bacteria give you that feeling like you’re always hungry, even when your body has had enough to eat.

Overtime, I figured out a method that worked for me – and eventually for my clients struggling with digestive system imbalances, blood sugar highs and lows, and inflammatory conditions. 

This method consists of four parts:

1. Understanding the science behind our gut brain

2. Mindfully reconnecting with our body regularly

3. Creating a food oasis

4. Practicing intuitive, biome-conscious eating

When we tune into the wisdom of our body through mindful, intuitive eating our health and mood can completely transform. Mine did, in ways I never thought possible. All without telling myself any foods are completely “off limits.”

Back in my kitchen, I place the homemade muffins on the stove and step back to admire my work. They are moist, steaming, and – most importantly to me – medicine for both me and my children’s bodies.

Join my 7-day Mindful, Intuitive Eating Challenge for the chance to turn inward and kindle your relationship with your body for lasting changes in your health and mood.

Heather Wise, MPH

Health and Wellness Coach
Co-Founder of SkillfulMeans