For an entire decade of practice I have known the powerful connection between food and mood. In this blog, and in my visits with my patients, I am always discussing the benefits of nutrition for so many reasons. I know that good nutrition can radically change the way a person feels. What’s even more profound is that it can change a person’s life experience.
Certainly nutrition is needed for strong bones, teeth and muscles. Nutrition can also make a significant difference in the way our metabolism works or how our skin looks. It’s also well known that certain foods can make negatively affect how we feel emotionally. The media broadcasts it daily. Not enough water, too much sugar, junk food, etc., can lead to irritability, low mood and/or malaise. Eating foods that are rich with vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, etc., can boost energy, mood and vitality. These foods not only affect how we physically look, but also how we feel mentally and emotionally.
Why is this?
The most obvious reason is the quality of nutrients. Nutrients fuel the brain and support proper neurotransmitter creation. But there is something more. Something that researchers are on the cutting edge of. Something that we’ll hear more about but perhaps won’t get the full story in the media for another five, ten, maybe twenty years.
Our digestive tract is our second brain. This has long been seen as an integral part of mental health by Naturopathic Medicine and other natural health disciplines. Our gut is infused with millions of nerve endings and it is the location of the highest number of nerve cells after our brain.
The start of our Central Nervous System is our brain and out from there nerves fibers move down our spinal column and branch out into smaller and smaller fibers until we reach the smallest fibers at the end, the “nerve endings.” Nerve endings intimately communicate with our most outer parts of our bodies. They sense hot and cold on the surface of our skin and quickly return the information to our brain. They are part of our other senses to take in information quickly about our surroundings and our experiences so our brain can interpret them. But what’s even more amazing is that the nerve endings in our gut also read that environment for information. What goes on in our gut, doesn’t stay in our gut! Our brain finds out about it real fast and its health can be influenced.
Recently, I was sent a really great article about the researchers who are paying attention to this gut-brain connection with respect to mental health. It was truly refreshing to read it. I really appreciated the recognition that the brain is not separate from the rest of the body. Although mainstream medicine has been treating mental health issues by medicating the brain, it would especially be a benefit for so many people who still struggle even though they are on medication, to adopt this whole body concept in psychiatry.
To read more about this relationship between digestion and mental health click this link: Gut feelings: the future of psychiatry may be inside your stomach.
As a Naturopathic Doctor I have dug deeper in my work to find health solutions for my patients. The “Gut-As-Second-Brain” is a known reality in my line of work. It doesn’t seem unusual to me for researchers to seriously consider gut health as a way to resolve some of the most life altering mental illnesses. I am thankful that this type of research is getting the attention it deserves.