Many ancient cultures, notably in Asia, have called the belly the “second brain” and the “second heart” because it is so sensitive to our thoughts, emotions, and lifestyles. It holds much wisdom and awareness. We have many phrases in our culture that reflect this…
“Butterflies in my stomach”
“I can’t stomach this.”
“My gut is telling me…”
As is often the case, modern science is catching up with this folk knowledge. The new field of neurogastroenterology reflects this shift in that it acknowledges its significance. It and other sciences are recognizing how much the health of our bellies impact our mental states as well as many diseases in our bodies.
This “second brain”, otherwise known as the enteric nervous system, is made of sheaths of neurons that line our gut from the esophagus to the anus. This second brain contains about 100 neurons. MORE THAN THE SPINAL CORD OR THE PERIPHERAL NERVOUS SYSTEM. The vagus is the major visceral nerve and it primarily carries information from the gut to the brain, not the other way around which means it can work independently of the brain. So our state of being in our belly strongly informs our moods.
Medications that regulate mood such as the anti-depressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors(SSRI’s) often cause GI issues. Our bowels already contain 95% of our body’s natural serotonin so these medications introduce an excessive amount of serotonin. More than 2 million Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is often a side effect. Scientists have suggested that this could be considered a “mental illness” of the second brain.
This is why digestive health, belly breathing to calm and balance the nerves, and belly massage (especially self-massage) to break up emotional and physical blockages and scar tissue are so crucial to both our physical and mental health.
Chi Nei Tsang (pronounced “chee-nay-tsahng”) or CNT is an ancient Taoist Chinese form of bodywork and healing art combining abdominal massage with breath and energy work to clear the organs of toxins, toxic emotions, and energy blocks. It can gently work on the surface of the belly as well as working deep into the internal organs all the while promoting deep, centering breathing. Sessions include relaxing instruction on self-care (breath work and self-massage).
One session is beneficial but at least 2-6 sessions are highly recommended.
What are the benefits of CNT?
- excellent for digestive issues
- breaks down scar tissue from various causes such as surgery (including cesarean section birth) and injuries
- detoxifies the internal organs
- clears away emotional trauma and blockage
- activates lymphatic flow
- soothes tension in the belly
- improves mood and mental clarity
- supports a strong immune system
- NOT for pregnant or menstruating women
I was introduced to and studied CNT in Tucson, Arizona with Allison Post who (along with Stephen Cavaliere) wrote the book, “Unwinding the Belly: Healing with Gentle Touch”. It is based on the principles of CNT but she created her own style in a very user-friendly interpretation that makes for easy comprehension and application for self-care. I’ve maintained this self-care practice for 20 years.
We can enjoy greater health, peace of mind, and the many gifts that come with self-love when we embrace, value, and care for our bellies. Listen to your gut; it will always have your back.