The Gut Instinct™ Method

At Gut Instinct Wellness®, we believe your body holds an intelligence; an innate ability to bring itself into balance, and great health. Our method teaches you the language of your body, how to understand the messages your symptoms are telling you, and how to then give yourself the support you need to be free of them. This is found through the integration of Functional Nutrition and Somatic Experiencing®. With Functional Nutrition, we unveil the root causes of your health issues, and discover the nutrient dense foods and supplements that best support the restoration of wellness. As you lower inflammation and nourish your body nutritionally, you’ll also receive Somatic Experiencing®, a stress and trauma resolution practice. This work decodes and releases stress patterns in the nervous system that drive symptoms and make you feel unwell. Symptoms and conditions we can help you recover from include:

  • sleep troubles

  • gas, bloating and digestive pain

  • diarrhea

  • constipation

  • IBS

  • fatigue and "burn-out"

  • feeling anxious or high strung

  • feeling depressed or down

  • PTSD

  • pre-diabetes

  • autoimmune issues

  • joint pain

  • chronic headaches

  • skin issues

  • frequent colds, flus or other infections

  • brain fog and memory problems

This "double header" approach, that integrates Functional Nutrition and Somatic Experiencing®, brings restoration to the gut-brain-adrenal axis, resolving trauma and stress patterns, with a special emphasis on the digestive system and the microbiota. Because the gut acts as a foundation for the wellness of all body systems, we are, in turn, bringing balance to the body and mind as an integrative whole. The Gut Instinct Method® is powerful yet gentle, revolutionizing your health, on all levels. Empower yourself, to feel amazing!


The Gut-Brain-Adrenal Connection

Your “second brain” is the impressive nervous system that lies in your gut. It’s good pals with the brain in your head. They have a fascinating two-way conversation going on, all the time. It informs how your body works, the balance of your brain chemistry and your mental-emotional states.

Enter: The Vagus Nerve. The vagus nerve plays the starring role in the gut-brain connection. It is the telephone wire for the deep conversation between the gut and the brain. It is a large and varied nerve which connects the brain in your head with the organs of the digestive system, directly innervating them. 

Stress and trauma interfere with how your vagus nerve and digestive system work, which can then be a factor in all sorts of problems physically and mentally. When we experience a stressful or traumatic event, ideally we process it, learn from it, then let it go. Often times though, modern people override the healthy processing of stress. They move on with life, while, unfortunately, still carrying the residual effects of that stress in their nervous systems. This can cause imbalances in the stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands, and dysfunction in the feedback loop between the brain and the adrenals. The brain and body become stuck on high alert, even if there is no immediate threat anymore. The body goes into what’s called a fight, flight or freeze response.

When it’s stuck there, over time, it can make you feel unwell, in both body and mind. The imbalance in adrenal hormones, can lower important immune cells in the gut lining, leading to immune system problems and digestive troubles. These kinds of changes in the gut lining affect your microbiota (your body's inner bacterial ecosystem) and the messages being sent, via the vagus nerve, to the brain. Symptoms can include fatigue, brain fog and mood issues like depression and anxiety. As science has proven, this chronic stress is an undeniable, underlying cause in most modern disease states, like irritable bowel, autoimmune problems, chronic fatigue, arthritis, mood disorders, heart disease and diabetes. The Gut Instinct™ Method integrates Functional Nutrition and Somatic Experiencing® stress resolution to carefully guide your digestive system, your vagus nerve, your adrenals and brain into a state of resilient balance, so you can resolve long-standing health issues and enjoy vibrant well-being.


The Gut As Your Foundation For Wellness

Your gut is like the queen or mother of your system, continuously nourishing you, feeding you, taking care of your body, brain and overall well-being. It acts as your foundation for wellness, and even people without digestive symptoms can benefit enormously from attention to gut health. 

When your gut is healthy, you have more energy, feel clear-headed, resilient and full of life. After all, the nutrients from the food you eat feed all parts of you, including your brain. They are absorbed through the digestive system, into the blood. They then travel throughout the body. These nutrients act as vital building blocks to keep everything running smoothly. A healthy gut, which absorbs nutrients well, is essential for your hormones, heart, bones, immune system, and brain. In fact Dr. Michael Gershon’s cutting edge research says that the gut is your second brain. It is home to 100 million neurons, which is even more than in the spinal cord. Important neurotransmitters (your body’s chemical messengers) are manufactured right there in the gut. Amazingly, about 90% of serotonin—your body’s happy hormone—is produced in your digestive system! And 75% of your immune system resides in the gut! Researchers are making fascinating strides in understanding the microbiota (your body's bacterial ecosystem, which lies largely in the digestive system) and the profound effect it can have on health or disease. Gut dysfunction is implicated in many maladies like chronic fatigue, mood issues, memory problems, joint pain and autoimmune disorders. As you can see, optimizing digestive health is a powerful way to give your body what it needs to resolve stubborn health problems and embrace long-lasting vitality.


Functional Nutrition

Functional Nutrition is a practice that emphasizes the bio-individuality of each person. Sarah Cotten, your functional nutrition practitioner, is your health detective. She takes a deep investigative look at your health and family history, the habits of your daily life and your emotional well-being. Together you will explore potential food sensitivities and the nutrient dense diet that best supports you. Sarah can run lab tests to assess your adrenals—your body’s stress response system—as well as your digestive tract, looking for the presence of parasites or other infections. Perhaps most importantly, Sarah listens to you deeply. In this way she is able to form an understanding of the depth and breadth of you—and, how you may have fallen out of balance. Through the lens of functional nutrition, you and Sarah work together to unveil the root causes of health problems. She then supports you as you adopt a wellness practice, with a whole food and nutritional supplement plan tailored to you as an individual. Functional Nutrition with Sarah Cotten is a powerful practice to bring transformation—at a cellular level—to your body and mind.


Somatic Experiencing®

Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a stress and trauma resolution practice. Unresolved stress and trauma patterns can contribute to debilitating fatigue, digestive problems like IBS, anxiety, adrenal imbalance, depression, frequent colds and flus, memory problems, brain fog and chronic pain. A traumatic experience can be anything from a car accident, to a bad fall, to the death of a loved one, to the experience of physical or emotional abuse. What tells us it is trauma is how the nervous system responds. Like all mammals, we respond to trauma by going into survival mode (called fight, flight or freeze in SE). Imagine you are running away from a bear. The high gear state that you would go into is survival mode. This is healthy in the short term. It saves your life as you run away from the bear! 

Problems arise, though, for us as modern humans, when we get stuck in that survival mode, long after the threat is gone. This is called the fight, flight or freeze response. It's as if you are running away from a bear, 24-7. When you are stuck in survival mode you can't rest, digest, and recover. Your cells' ability to repair becomes inhibited. You stay in “high gear” and stress patterns become lodged in the nervous system. Being in chronic survival mode takes its toll on the body. Blood pressure, heart rate, breath and muscle tone are affected. Body systems that don’t contribute to direct survival in the moment - like digestion, the immune system and the reproductive system - are down regulated. Inflammation can run rampant and brain chemistry can become imbalanced. 

This survival physiology can commonly can lead to adrenal fatigue, digestive issues, anxiety, depression, a lowered immune system, memory issues, chronic pain and brain fog. The solution is to gently work with the nervous system to unwind the stress patterns stuck there so the brain understands that you are now safe, no longer under threat. This is the powerful work of SE. It teaches your body to come out of high alert. It takes a nuanced look at how you are holding onto trauma, and tunes into the instinctive (but previously unseen) ways in which your body can naturally deactivate that stress. This balances adrenal health and lowers inflammation. You are then free to comfortably rest and digest. The body can go into deep repair mode, and long-standing health issues can be resolved. 

What Does SE Look Like?

And what do you actually do in an SE session? Although it can look like traditional talk therapy, SE is different, in that the work is rooted in the nervous system—in the body. While talking about your experiences is part of the process, the emphasis is on how stress is showing up in your body. We carefully track sensations, images and other present moment experiences that come up in reference to trauma and stress. We then look for and follow the ways in which your system is able to deactivate, release, relax and integrate. While the work is often done in chairs, sometimes gentle touch and a massage table are used.

Solving stress and trauma patterns in this way is the missing link in modern healthcare, both holistic and traditional. Thorough stress and trauma resolution is a key step in repairing digestion, brain function, emotional health and overall wellness. Through SE, you can feel clear, present, resilient, and confident—and long-standing symptoms can resolve. By unwinding chronic stress, you find you are full of energy, at peace with yourself, and ready to connect with the world.