Healthy Gut….Healthy Brain. What’s the Connection?
We are what we eat folks! Haven’t we all heard this? But how many of us take this seriously? As a therapist, wife, and mother of two, pursuing a healthy lifestyle has always been a priority. I like to push myself to consistently be striving for an improved sense of health; whether that be spiritual, psychological, relational or physical health. This challenge became a lot more real for me after the birth of my second child, when I experienced some persistent emotional and physical symptoms that sent my body and mind into a somewhat downward spiral. The way that pregnancy, or any other physical or psychological stressor, can disrupt the intricate and delicate systems in our body is mind boggling. Thus began my journey of discovering how it all connects and how do we achieve a true sense of health and balance.
Ever noticed what happens to a child after they’ve eaten sugar? Or are you someone who feels “butterflies”(or nauseous) in your tummy when you’re stressed or nervous? Sometimes the very thought of something yummy can make us feel hungry? Ever had a “gut-wrenching” or “going with your gut?” experience? The gut is sometimes referred to as the second brain, and has great influence over our mood and thoughts. This is partly due to more than 5,000 species of bacteria that live in our digestive tract and the important communication that is carried from the gut to the brain via the vagus nerve, a direct neuronal connection between the two organs. Without getting too into the science of it all, when our gut is struggling, inflamed or “leaky” it directly impacts our ability to think, make decisions and function. Conditions linked to the imbalances in our gut are: Depression, Anxiety, Autism, ADD and ADHD, Obesity and Diabetes, Schizophrenia, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Gut and brain health…a key ingredient of self-care?
The battle for our bodies and our minds is a real one. It drives me crazy that we live in a society in which we need to prove something is dangerous before it is taken off the shop shelves. What’s worse is that items sometimes advertised as “good for us,” are actually at closer examination simply polluting us further. But what I’m discovering is that the truest way to allow our body to heal and thrive, is to examine what foods are bodies are sensitive to and learn how to truly nourish ourselves. Viewing our food as medicine, rather than needing medicine to help our bodies recover from the food we eat. I think we have a responsibility to fight this battle head on taking into consideration that what we ingest has the power to be healing or harmful, and teach those younger than us how to truly practice the art of self-care.
In addition to this being mindful of the other vital ways we practice self-care: staying active and moving daily, practicing healthy sleep habits, spending time with loved ones and being aware of other toxins we are inputting into our systems. But if you haven’t before, consider how your gut health and what you input into your body impact your mind and overall ability to cope with life’s everyday ups and downs.