Gut Health is Mental Health

In May of 2020, my body was screaming for help. My diet consisted of dairy, wheat, and restaurant-prepared food. Eating out is fabulous, but you have no control over how your food is handled, even when think you do. For over 3 years, each time I would go to the bathroom, my bowel movements were inconsistent. I had spouts of anxiety and depression which led to failed relationships and an unhappy sense of self. 

I knew of a naturopath who accomplished shrinking a cousin’s tumor, helped my mother recover from monthly sinus infections, and many others with their physical pain. When I met with the naturopath, Dr. Wiginall, he tested me for every food and environmental allergy. Getting into the specifics of the treatment is a waste of time, but if I was going to make use of the $2000 I had spent, I had to alter my diet. No dairy, wheat, sugar, or fun. Much of the information provided below is from a book Dr. Wiginall recommended during my treatment, Brain Maker by David Perlmutter. The combination of Wignall, Perlmutter, and a new diet drastically changed my digestive tract. I had solid bowel movements, more energy, and control over my thoughts. This experience was quite incredible. Think of your body as a tree; if you give it sunlight and the proper amount of water, it will thrive. 

Each of us has our own way of feeling “healthy”. Developing a healthy gut looks different for every shape and type of body. Nevertheless, each of us has an opportunity to develop a healthy gut in the same way. After all, gut health is brain health. The bacteria and microbes in your gut will determine how healthy your mind, body, and spirit are. 

The average American’s diet consists of GMOs, protein grown with antibiotics, fast food, and fake produce. American supermarkets sell food at a cheaper price than any other developed or underdeveloped nation in the world. Our national obesity crisis is obvious; unless we can begin to produce quality food at a decent price, those who choose McDonald’s for lunch and fruit and vegetables from Trader Joe’s will struggle to offer their digestive track a sigh of relief. Nutritious options are not accessible to low-income families and those who lack access to educational resources, either.  

  Bacteria sounds like an agent for death. Yes, the bubonic plague wiped out nearly one-third of the population in Europe from 1347 and 1352, and bacterial infections are still worldwide killers. The human body consists of nearly 100 trillion little creates – microbes – that cover the inside and outside of your body. Scientists have only been able to identify around 10,000 species of microbes. They have found that most of these organisms live within your digestive tract, and while they include fungi and viruses, it appears that the bacterial species that make their home inside you dominate and take center stage in supporting every conceivable aspect of your health. You interact not only with these organisms but also with their genetic material. Although the human genome we all carry is mostly the same, the gut microbe of even identical twins is vastly different. Our intestinal organisms participate in a wide variety of psychological action, including immune system functioning, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmitter and vitamin production, nutrient absorption, signaling being hungry or full, and utilizing carbohydrates and fat. All of these factors weigh into whether or not we experience allergies, asthma, ADHD, cancer, diabetes, or dementia. Perhaps no other system in the body is more sensitive to changes in the gut bacteria than the central nervous system, especially the brain. 

Now that we have got the cold hard facts and a slight sense of fear rooted within you, I want to connect this to our spiritual practice. Within spirituality, you need control over your mind, and enough physical energy to put towards controlling your thoughts. If we were to ask an average spiritual teacher how someone should eat to support their spirituality, one might say that fasting is one practice. Fasting is the act of abstaining from food and thought to increase awareness, achieve the discipline necessary to resist temptations of the flesh, purify the body, or avoid evil acts. While fasting has been proven to positively affect the body, you still need to eat. When we cook food, our personal energy is infused into it, and you have awareness over that energy and can infuse intentions into the food. Considering your energy goes into it, your emotional state will be reflected in the meal. If you are feeling strong and in touch with your fives senses, will you choose to make a fettuccine alfredo with bacon, or sauteed vegetables over brown rice with an arugula salad? You decide. 

Although you may not have extreme and unrelenting health challenges that require pharmaceuticals or intense therapy, a dysfunctional microbe could be the root of your bothersome headaches, anxiety, inability to concentrate, or negative outlook on life. New knowledge can help virtually any degenerative or inflammatory condition. 

One option to get a new, and mentally healthy, diet going is considering eating plant-based. Humans need protein, but when we are generating protein from eating beef, chicken, or virtually any kind of meat, we are ingesting the trauma, stress, and already digested protein from that animal. Fortunately, eating plant-based offers protein before it has been ingested by anything else. Tofu, tempeh, and edamame, which are soy products, are among the richest sources of protein. Lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, quinoa, beans and rice, mushrooms, and potatoes are all sources of protein that provide immediate strength, a full stomach, at a cheap price. 

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