Why does psychology matter in gut health? Can you use your psychology as a powerful tool to promote healing in your physical body? How can your body and mind help one another to recenter and find peace?
MEET DR. JENNIFER FRANKLIN
Dr. Jennifer Franklin is an experiential, relational, somatic, and mindfulness-based psychologist with about twenty years of psychotherapy experience. She has an educational background in mind-body/holistic psychology. Dually licensed in North Carolina and California, Dr. Franklin offers individual and couples therapy, teletherapy, and consultation.
Dr. Franklin worked at the UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders and specializes in healing functional medical problems, especially Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction like IBS, along with issues associated with anxiety, panic, interpersonal relationships, attachment, and trauma. She has served as an associate editor for the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, has taught mindfulness/Vipassana meditation, and has been a long-time yoga practitioner.
The gut-brain axis … the vagus nerve is part of the nervous system that allows your brain and gut … and other digestive organs as well to communicate … there is always this [gut to brain] communication happening in our bodies and there’s a lot of information being transmitted about what’s happening in our bodies. (Dr. Jennifer Franklin)
The messages that flow from the gut to the brain are essential for proper brain function because they are messengers of homeostasis in the body.
This is because the gut gives information about the environment that the body is in. This information is sent by the gut to the brain.
On the other hand, people’s psychology impacts them in various ways. People’s desires, perceptions, wants, needs, and fears fluctuate daily. This is an important variable because, with awareness, one can influence it to create positive change.
Be aware of your influence
Even though someone cannot control their symptoms, they can control their thoughts and can work to shift their perspective for the greater good of their physical health.
When there’s a stressor and a threat in our environment, whether, in our internal environment or our external environment, our brain zooms in on the threat … that threat are our symptoms, so then we get more focused … on the symptoms that are not making us feel very good, then we feel helpless to stop them, then we feel out of control … it leads to an unpleasant cascade of psychological, and worse, physiological symptoms. (Dr. Jennifer Franklin)
This is where psychology becomes important in physical health: be aware of the influence that you can have over your thoughts.
Use this ability benevolently and help your healing, instead of hyper-focusing on what is wrong. Focus on what you can influence positively.
Use your body to help your mind
Just as how you can use your mind to help your body, you can use your body to help your mind overcome stress and anxiety.
Moving the body with slow, steady, and calm movements shows the brain that the body is safe, not in danger, and can relax.
Activities such as yoga and gentle exercise help regear the mind from being in an activated nervous system to getting back “into the body”, out of the mind, and therefore in the present moment, as oftentimes anxiety and stress are future-related.