Issue 61, August 2016, London

The mind-gut connection

Over the past few years, the mind-gut connection has filtered from the research world into the mainstream media. More and more information is now available on how the health of the gut can tell how stressed you are, how likely you are to fall ill and how long it will take you to recover. I have been following this research with great interest because in a completely unexpected way, the concept parallels one of the principles of Chinese meridian. 

For centuries and definitely in the past few decades, Chinese medicine touted what seemed like a very bizarre concept: That how you eat, what you ate and your digestion could even remotely affect your stress levels and vice versa and then all that in turn could influence how often you felt unwell and how easily you would recover from illness. It is definitely an idea that takes a while for the brain to comprehend at first.

The idea is actually quite simple. Many of you are already familiar with channels and meridians, and the organ systems being similar to chess pieces that all have a job and main function. Some organ systems control the first line of defence while others are more systemic, they take a while to weaken but when dysfunction occurs, things fall apart quite spectacularly.

Among the chess pieces, the Spleen and Stomach functions in Chinese medicine are primarily focused on transforming what the body eats into nutrients and then transporting them to areas of the body where they are needed. But the Spleen doesn't just toil away endlessly with no complaints. Like all of us, it expects a good work environment with regular hours and a good work-life balance. Like all good workers, it can work under pressure for a while but it won't be able to do it forever.

A lot of modern lifestyle choices can feel like Victorian-era workhouses to the Spleen: the long hours, late nights, work stress, relationship stress, commuting stress, being put on hold for 30 minutes stress, lunch at the desk, late dinners, skipping meals, raw food, salads and smoothies all year round, constant snacking, sugary drinks, cakes and then more cakes. Individually (and most certainly collectively) any one of these factors over a long period of time can start to wear the Spleen down, and when that happens, it's like trying to work with a constant hangover.

You feel like you're walking through quick sand, heavy and lethargic, the brain feels foggy and the body seems weighed down or is actually weighed down with some extra pounds. There is bloating, loose bowels, and then sometimes constipation. If you're a lady, there might be extra discharge down there. Stress becomes harder to manage and for some, apathy sets in so that while you would like to go out with your friends, when the day actually comes, pyjamas and sofa seem more inviting. Sleep is all you want but no amount of sleep makes you feel truly refreshed.

And now consider this picture from research on the gut and the trillions of microbes that live in your body:

"There are receptors throughout our bodies that respond to signals from the microbes or the metabolites that they produce. For example, certain microbes can influence the production of the serotonin molecule, which plays a role in appetite regulation, food intake, well-being and sleep. That gives the microbes a tremendous ability to influence overall health states."

The LA Times recently interviewed Dr. Emeran Mayer who has been studying interactions between the gut and the mind for 30 years and is the author of "The Mind-Gut Connection". He further describes the effects of stress and anxiety and how the gut microbiota responds:
"When we experience these emotions — especially stress and anxiety — there is also a release of stress hormones like adrenaline and norepinephrine. They circulate in the blood and make your heart beat faster and cause sweaty palms. We are learning now that they also influence the behavior of the microbes in your gut because they have receptors for these chemicals."

It is fascinating to see how finally after all the years and from completely different angles, the importance of the gut is being understood and it is possible that more theories from Chinese medicine can be understood from scientific research.

Read the full LA Times article here.

+ From the archives: Can how you feel affect your health?


What is a constant cycle of violent news doing to us?

Our phones vibrate with news alerts. The talking heads fill air over cable news captions that shout “breaking news” in red. Rumors and misinformation abound. The comments erupt on Twitter, Facebook and news sites. So what is this doing to us and what can we do about it?



The best way to wash salad and vegetables

People in the UK have been advised to thoroughly wash their salad leaves amid concern of a recent E. coli outbreak. From the BBC: What exactly is the best way to wash your greens that you're going to eat uncooked? 




If you have been kind enough to refer someone to me – I want to say a big THANK YOU. That is the highest compliment and it’s warmly appreciated every time.


Other news: Holiday notice

There will be no appointments available from 29 August - 12 September. Clinic resumes on Tuesday, 13 September

I will be spending some time in Greece to recharge and refresh. I am planning on a little tech detox as well so while I will still be in touch with humanity, please note I may take longer than the usual 24 hours to reply to emails.

To book an appointment contact me directly or contact:

Covent Garden location: 020 7379 7662
2 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, WC2H 9DP

King's Road location 020 7225 2050
124B King’s Road, SW3 4TR

And finally...

See how evolved you are: this video shows you how to find your vestigial organs (those useless body parts that evolution hasn't completely gotten rid of yet).

Ka Hang Leoungk
Managing Editor, Pointspace

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