The Role of the Mind in Digestive Troubles

When we experience some digestive upset, we tend to engage the mind to try to figure out what the problem is, and as a result, we work on adjusting our diet, concluding that there are certain foods that don’t work for us, and we spend countless hours looking at the issues surrounding our body’s ability to digest and assimilate the food we eat, and the implications of any imbalances that occur. In some cases, there are actual issues caused by the food or the preparation of it, but in many cases, we get to a level of sensitivity that we are always fussing about what ‘works’ and what ‘does not work’ for us. The more attention we pay to this ever-finer sensitivity, the greater the influence of the mind on the digestive process. Mental intervention in digestion is an area that causes a great deal of disruption to the body’s normal functioning.

The Mother makes several important points in this regard. First, if one is eating one’s normal diet, it is clear that it is not the specific foods involved that are causing the disruption, so the attempt to micro-manage the diet is simply an act of the mind’s interference in the process. Second, much of the disruption of the digestive process is actually due to emotional or mental issues which impact the body, including anxiety, worry, or some kind of distress in one’s life or relationships. Rather than micro-managing the digestion, and thereby further imbalancing the body’s operations, it is best to let the body continue its normal action, and bring peace to the mind and the emotions!

The Mother notes: “When I was twenty, a doctor told me that in cases of troubles of the stomach or intestines, the best thing is to continue eating as usual and not to bother about the trouble. He said, ‘If you have acidity, it will come from whatever food you take and the more you bother about it, the more it will increase. If you go on changing your food, in the end you will find that you cannot even drink a drop of water without getting into trouble. But if you remain normal and don’t worry, you will become all right.’ And I have found this advice to be quite true. … In the effect of food on the body 90% belongs to the power of thought.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Body and Physical Consciousness, Preoccupation with Illness, pp. 91-93

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