We had a look last week at thought processes triggering a physical reaction, which we feel as an emotion.

Now let’s look specifically at how these emotional reactions affect your digestive system.

Your brain is part of your central nervous system – brain, spinal cord and nerves that branch off in to every limb and organ of your body including your gastrointestinal tract.

Emotions are felt in the gut just as quickly as they arise from thoughts in to emotions. Emeran Mayer, the author of The Mind Gut Connection is right on point when he says “Your gut mirrors every emotion that arises in your brain”


There are researchers doing incredible work on the mind-gut connection, and it’s here we begin to understand how stress, a cognitive concept originating in the mind and felt in the body, affects our gut.

Dr Yvette Tache is a scientist and research professor on the brain-gut axis. She describes the stress response in relation to the gut as this

“A person’s stress response involves a network of brain regions that interact as they receive information from inside and outside our body. When stress activates this network, it triggers two main pathways. One is called the pituitary-adrenal axis, which acts to increase circulating hormones, particularly cortisol involved with regulating the body’s response to stress.

The other is the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary bodily functions such as our blood pressure, heart rate and bowel function.

Both of these pathways directly or indirectly affect gut function through the unique system of nerves within the bowel wall (ENS). These pathways, along with the brain and ENS are collectively referred to as the brain-gut axis”. – Yvette Tache

You can read that full article here:



You can’t argue with that. It’s biologically hardwired into us. I bet you can relate your experience of stress to that. The more stressed you are, the more gut symptoms you experience. That’s why a great deal of my work is educating clients that stressing about your symptoms actually gets you the very thing you don’t want – more symptoms.

I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. But only because you don’t have those skills in your toolkit yet. That’s why I’m here, to give you as many of those tools as I can. The objective is to get you back in to a relaxed state so you can get out of your guts way and let it shake it’s tail feather! It knows what it’s meant to do; it just needs you to stop interfering with it.

I had a woman referred to me with ongoing gut symptoms including diarrhea, cramping and bloating. She had completed various tests and interventions including a last ditch effort of an anti depressant. In her second session we attended to the pain she was experiencing in her stomach by slowing down and coming in to a quiet relaxed state. She described the pain as burning, inflamed and tight. When I asked her to feel which emotion was in those sensations, she immediately answered “anger”. She was angry with her husband, and she had been stuffing that anger down in her stomach for years. It wasn’t until we investigated this anger thoroughly that it began to soften. Only in that softening was she able to find some relief from her gut symptoms.


I saw the young and very talented scientist Giulia Enders speak at the Sydney Opera House a few years back.  Her best selling book is called “Gut”. She has such a gift in converting hard science about the gastrointestinal tract into fun imagery.

She spoke about the 2 anal sphincter muscles – an interior and exterior one. The interior muscle is part of our autonomic nervous system that the rest of our digestive system is controlled by – we don’t have conscious control over this one. The exterior sphincter muscle is the one we can control – by clenching and unclenching. Those two muscles work together to eliminate waste (a stool) from your digestive system.

So Guilia is on stage with this cartoon slide of a miniature man with a magnifying glass walking backwards and forwards inside the anus between the internal and external sphincter muscles. There he is, receiving a message from the internal sphincter which is further in towards the rectum, that there’s waste ready to be expelled, so he says OK hang on, and toddles down to the external sphincter muscle and peers through it to the outside world to check the environment the person whose body it’s attached to is in. They’re out in public with no available bathrooms in sight so he heads back down to the internal sphincter and says nope, you’ll have to hold that one in for a while, and the body promptly does.



Relaxation. Gut Focused Psychotherapy. Gut Directed Hypnotherapy.

Counseling and talk therapy don’t work because what you’re feeling and holding in your body has long passed the conscious mind to deal with it. You would have already resolved it by now if that were the case. Those symptoms may have some origin in the mind, but they are now stuck in the body so it’s there that needs the attention and care and healing.  The relationship you have with your digestive system has more impact than you probably know

You’re a unique human being and have your very own thoughts and worries that deserve to be attended to. You deserve to feel better, and we can absolutely get you there.

The body keeps the score and it’s always right. It’s when we don’t listen to the body that we find ourselves in trouble. That link between your body and mind is unmistakable.  You can’t switch off the connection between the mind and gut, but what you can do is create a really great friendship where both of you thrive.

About the author

Michelle White offers 8 years of clinical experience in gut focused therapy and gut directed hypnotherapy through Happy Inside; the program, iPhone app and podcast.