Looking at your health holistically emphasises the important of the whole body and the interdependence of its parts. This perspective changes our how we talk about ourselves. Instead of saying body and mind, we can say mind-body accepting there is no separation of these two concepts. Some might say they think holistically about their health when in fact they still see their body and mind as separate. Most of us accept distress and mood affect our health, but we might overlook that the internal state of our body can affect our mind, our feelings and behaviour. The Gut-brain-axis is an example of the interdependency of many life-sustaining systems that are influenced by the constant bi-directional communication between our gut and our brain. It is a reminder we are not in control of our bodies , our bodies are often in control of our minds.
Here’s a some examples of how our body affects our mind/brain.
When you get a cold or flu , the immune system sends messages (cytokines) to the brain to tell you are sick .The brain then does numerous things to protect the body from infection including turning up the body temperature to create a fever to kill the virus. The brain activates many immune functions and research has shown these cause behaviours that are characteristic with feeling depressed, for example: – withdrawing from people, fatigue, irritability, and feeling flat.
There are thousands of species of bacteria in your body and some thrive on certain types of food and will perish when deprived of its favourite diet. Bacteria cause cravings for certain foods that it needs. So is it you who craves sugary drinks or your tiny friends/foes? When you change your diet your bacteria population changes and the craving for food will change. When I find some good studies on this I will share them with you.
Food and drink can make you feel anxious, restless, irritable and even depressed. Your gut is constantly communicating to your brain about how it is. When your gut is under attack from toxic substances from processed foods or drinks it informs the brain so you are aware you have something inside that probably shouldn’t have. This process activates the immune system and stress system to protect you from the toxic chemicals. These changes affect your mood. There is research that up to 60% of people who are diagnosed with a gut complaint (e.g. IBS, IBD, SIBO, Gastritis) also suffer from mood disorders (anxiety, depression, OCD). This is more than coincidence. Our guts produce many hormones that influence our mood. One prime example if serotonin . An hormone associated with the brain, which is true to some extend , but serotonin is key to gut motility and most of it is produced in our gastrointestinal tract. When our gut doesn’t work well it can have a profound affect on production of serotonin and this affects our mood.
Don’t underestimate the profound influence your gastrointestinal tract has on how you feel. The reward for giving up junk food is that you are going to feel happier and have more energy.