As a psychology professor, I have taught for years regarding mind/emotion and its effect on the body and vice versa. Remarkably though, most of my students still had a tough time distinguishing between the brain and the mind. First let’s be clear, THE BRAIN AND THE MIND ARE NOT THE SAME!
We have been conditioned to believe that our minds (thoughts, emotions, will, memories, perceptions, etc.) are in the brain but research is discovering that, in fact, our thoughts exist throughout our bodies particularly in our center (gut). There is clear research indicating the gut brain connection.
Hippocrates once said that “all disease originates in the gut” and all means both physical and mental. Furthermore, research shows that there is a link between gut bacteria and our emotions and thoughts. Studies done with mice have shown that gut bacteria affect thoughts, emotions, food choices and even the PERSONALITY!
Until recently, most medical doctors in the health industry have been primarily focused on the physical aspects of our health. Most physicians have not been trained on the psychological connection to the body. Within the past few years there has been a big shift toward holistic health because it deals with the whole person, not just the physical body.
Patients are beginning to educate their medical doctors about their mental and emotional health as it relates to their physical health. For most physicians, the only treatment they know comes in the form of a pill or surgery. People are needing answers and therefore they are reaching out to their primary doctors for emotional support. It is no secret that general practitioners (those not trained in mental health) have been writing prescriptions for antidepressants and anti anxiety meds to the masses for years. The question then becomes, how is it affecting the physical health of the patient?
More people are discovering that the answer does not come from a quick fix medication that often adds more problems to the mix. I can personally attest to this. To take the antidepressant or not to take the antidepressant, that is the question. Every person needs to decide that for themselves without judgement! As a society though, I believe that we are at a crossroads. Do we continue to listen to the advice of the medical industry or do we take matters into our own hands and become our own physicians? Many people are already choosing to do what is best for them. We all need to do what works for our own health and the health of our loved ones.
Diet and Mental Health
The evidence is there and if you are among the many that have begun to change your diet and eat more plant based food (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.) you have most likely experienced the benefits on your emotions. Plant based foods affect our moods! Therefore, it doesn’t take a scientist to see that there is a clear connection between food sources and our emotions. Understanding how this occurs is another subject.
Influence of Gut Bacteria
In my research studies regarding the effect of gut bacteria on personality, I came across something that was very interesting. According to PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections)
The disorder occurs when strep triggers a misdirected immune response results in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life changing symptoms such as OCD, anxiety, tics, personality changes, decline in math and handwriting abilities, sensory sensitivities, restrictive eating, and more.
This information really got my attention and it probably just got yours. Personally, I know that it is true because of my own experience with anxiety/depression and the constant cycle of my streptococcal bacterial infections. This in turn led to a constant string of antibiotics which ultimately hurt my body more than it helped. People are now asking, “what else do we use for infection besides antibiotics?” Many have discovered the healing power of plant based foods, herbs and essential oils to eliminate infection in the body. (I am not a medical doctor, I am a clinical psychologist who specializes in education on natural medicine). I can only tell you what I have discovered through my own personal knowledge.
I had a very interesting experience about 5 years ago while recovering from a gastrointestinal (GI) bleed that landed me in ICU for 2 days. Shortly after getting out of the hospital, I was taking a triple antibiotic cocktail used to get rid of the h pylori infection in my intestines. I basically had such a reaction from the antibiotics that every time that I ate, I had to run to the bathroom. It worried me because I could not keep anything in my stomach for a few days and this prompted me to seek the advice of a pharmacist. He referred me to a probiotic and after taking a few pills, I noticed an immediate change. I began to keep the food in my stomach.
What was rather bizarre about that experience had to do with my mental status. I felt a sense of overwhelming freedom and wellbeing that I cannot remember feeling since I was a child. I had always struggled with a sense of apprehension in some form and for a few days, that feeling of worry and uneasiness was completely gone! Obviously, the feeling came back but it really got me thinking about what the gut bacteria had to do with my emotions. It was an eye-opening experience!
CHANGE OUR THINKING, CHANGE OUR LIVES
If we are struggling to get well, both physically and emotionally, it is going to require us to change the way in which we view mental health. There are root causes to our health issues! I have always been confused by the notion of “mental illness” which led me to analyze my own question,“how come there are no ‘cures’ for mental illness but there are ‘cures’ for physical illness?” Think about it, is that even true? If that were true, why are we still getting sick from “illness?” Dis-ease is dis-ease, it doesn’t matter whether you call it physical or mental disease…it’s the same thing!
There is such a mentality, particularly in this country, that chooses to separate everything, label them and put them in a box. We need to wake up to the fact that the mind and the body are interconnected! What affects one, affects the other! It’s like having a person with “multiple personality disorder” commit a crime, which person do you send to jail? (We have changed the name to Dissociative Identity Disorder because we realized how silly it was to label someone as different people in the same body). It is one person with one mind, simply that!
As you can clearly see, I am very passionate about holistic health because it affects our quality of life and our happiness. When our health suffers, everything and everybody around us suffers. Let’s get on a mission to advocate for the truth about health, every aspect of it!
The future generations need to know the truth about health and given the hope that healing is possible. For most of us, it’s a journey but we know that we are on the right path!