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[The following is the full transcript of this video blog. Please note that this video, like all of Dr. Chiu's blog videos, features Dr. Chiu speaking extemporaneously– he is unscripted for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!]
What's up, everybody!
My name is Dr. Titus Chiu and this is The Modern Brain.
Do you have chronic digestive symptoms that no matter what you do, you just can't get rid of them? Are you experiencing bloating, constipation or diarrhea, just stomach pain, or maybe even IBS?
Have you tried everything within your toolbox? Have you tried changing your diet? Have you tried taking different supplements like probiotics?
Maybe you've even gone out and ran some advanced lab tests like stool tests or SIBO breath test and still, you're struggling.
Well, the thing is, it might not actually be your digestive system that's the problem.
It could be your brain. Let me explain.
Within your nervous system, there are many different areas that perceive your body.
For example, over here in the back part of your brain is what we call the parietal lobe. In the parietal lobe, we have all these different brain cells that perceive where you are in space and also perceive your sense of touch.
If I touch my left hand right here, it's my right parietal lobe that allows me to perceive that.
Well, the interesting thing is you have the same thing for your guts, for your viscera, and for your digestive system.
There is another region and it's buried even deeper behind this region of your frontal lobe, parietal lobe, and temporal lobe.
It's what we call the insular cortex.
The insular cortex is a really, really important part of our nervous system because it gives us our sense of compassion. It gives us a sense of empathy for others. It allows us to perceive suffering for other people as well as our own.
But one thing it also does is it processes our internal sensations like those we have in our digestive system.
If you've had a chronic gut problem or digestive problem like bloating, gas, constipation, pain or IBS, it could be that there is actually something going on in your digestive system that we need to identify through lab testing, like stool tests or a breath test.
If you've done all that, you've tried the diets, the supplements, and you've made all these changes BUT you're still experiencing that, again, it could be because your insular cortex has become overactive.
Vicious Digestive Cycles
What ends up happening is it becomes this vicious cycle.
Let's say you had food poisoning when you went traveling years ago to India. You experienced food poisoning and ever since then, your gut has never been the same.
You actually had a problem in your digestive system like a parasite or a bacteria that you needed to get rid of. It was there for many months or years. Finally, after you identified it, you got rid of it through some type of gut-healing protocol.
The thing is yes, you cleared up and healed the gut BUT there has been a communication and a conversation happening all throughout those months and years between your gut and your insular cortex.
What ends up happening is that your insular cortex develops what we call neuroplasticity, but not in a good way.
Your insular cortex starts to perceive and become really sensitive to any type of movement or sensation coming from the gut.
So much so that once you heal the digestive system, the insular cortex remains stuck and still thinks that there's a problem in your digestive system.
Pain That Stays in the Brain
A great example is what's known as phantom limb syndrome.
This happens when people who have lost their limbs in a traumatic event still experience pain in that limb– even though it isn’t there.
So a lot of neuroscientists just completely changed the way we thought about pain.
Rather than pain being a problem of just the actual organ or the actual appendage, it's actually a problem of processing in the central nervous system. This is where that trauma became embedded in the brain.
That's why even after the "phantom limb" was gone, the brain still perceived that pain.
Your Discomfort May Come From Embedded Pain
That could be the case for you, but it's not like you lost your gut or whatever. It's just the same concept.
The symptoms you're experiencing might not actually be a problem of your gut anymore or just a problem of your gut, it could be a problem of over-activity in your insular cortex.
The great news is that there are so many different things that you can do to help calm that insular cortex down, and in doing so, give your belly a break. This will start to ease whatever tension you feel in your gut.
One simple thing you can do is a belly massage:
When you apply pressure to your digestive system, there are all these motion detectors found within your gut.
When you put pressure on them, it activates a nerve fiber we call the vagus nerve.
This sends a signal all the way into your brainstem and from there, it goes from your brainstem to your insular cortex.
If you do it with slow deep breathing movements, taking deep breaths in and out, and applying gentle pressure to your belly, that'll help calm an overactive insular cortex.
When you do that, you can start to rewire your brain which could be the root cause of your digestive symptoms.
Help a Friend By Sharing
I hope this video has been valuable to you.
If you know someone who would benefit from this, who had struggled with chronic digestive symptoms (gas, bloating, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for months or years, and they've tried everything and they're frustrated, then share this video with them.
This simple tip — belly massage of the insular cortex — can be a game-changer for them.
My name is Dr Titus Chu, thanks for watching, and this has been The Modern Brain.