Could your brain be at the root of your digestive problems? Do you know that symptoms like acid reflux, burping, bloating, constipation and diarrhea can actually be caused by problems with the brain itself?  If you’ve gone to every doctor, taken every supplement and still not gotten better, this may be the missing piece to the puzzle.

There is a very important communication that goes on between our brain and our digestive tract. This is called the Gut-Brain Axis.  In this video I explain what the gut-brain axis is and how it can affect digestive health. I also offer concrete tips and tricks to get you better.

In my practice I consult with so many people who feel that they have done everything to heal their gut. They’ve gone to many doctors and taken every supplement you can think of. Still, they haven’t gotten the results they’re looking for. The most common reason for this is that they haven’t addressed the gut-brain axis.

Typically when we go to doctors for help we tend to be treated by specialists that look at nothing but the symptom we came in with, rather than looking at us as a whole person. So if someone is experiencing a gut issue they will focus all their therapies on the digestive system. However when we think holistically we open up to everything else in the body that could be contributing to a set of symptoms. One example of how this could work is to look at the Vagus nerve, a nerve that comes directly from the brainstem and has a huge impact on gut health.

The vagus nerve exits the brain and travels on a complex path throughout the entire body, connecting our brain to our vital organs. The messages that the vagus nerve sends our body are for healing and digestion (rest and digest).  The organs themselves ( Intestines, Liver, Kidney… ) send signals back to the brain and this communication allows the body to perform its vital functions.

Here lies one of the biggest Gut-Brain Axis problems.  The Vagus nerve helps us to “rest and digest” but we can’t be highly active and have this “rest and digest” process happening at the same time.  We have to pick one or the other…taking care of the business of our daily lives OR resting and digesting.

Our nervous system functions in one of two modes: sympathetic or parasympathetic. Sympathetic mode is the mode where you are accomplishing tasks, working. Parasympathetic mode is when we rest and digest. When we sleep we are in a purely parasympathetic state.  This is why sleep is so important, it’s the only time our body truly heals. As modern humans–especially in big cities–there is too much stimulation to the sympathetic nervous system. If our days are full and we are constantly on the move we short circuit our ability to heal.

Want to heal the gut-brain connection? Here are some tips and tricks for engaging your parasympathetic nervous system and healing:

1. Sleep.  Optimally I’d love to see people getting 8 hours a night.  7 hours is not bad and if you are as low as 4-6 hours average you need to commit more time to sleep in order to heal.   If you can dedicate just 15-20 minutes more toward sleep each night, you will greatly increase the parasympathetic ( rest and digest ) system.

2. Meditation.   “If you don’t have 20 minutes a day to meditate you really need an hour.” A great way to increase the parasympathetics is to meditate daily.  

3. Fun.  We all need to put down our work and commit more time to doing things we simply love to do.  Even though a lot of things we love to do are activities and stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, when we enjoy life more we tend to have more restful sleep and better digestion.


Dr. Jason Piken is a Chiropractor, Certified Nutrition Specialist and Health Coach in NYC offering a unique holistic and whole body approach to nutrition and wellness. Since starting his practice in 1996, Dr. Piken has taught people how to heal from various problems ranging from chronic pain to digestive disorders. When you walk into his office, you know you are in an environment where you are going to be personally cared for. His midtown Manhattan office, Innate Wellness Group, functions as a primary source for healthcare without the use of drugs or surgery.


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