The Mind-Gut Connection

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I used to think that developing a peaceful state of mind simply involved getting the mind itself in a state of peace.

However, my research in integrative medicine lead me to believe that there is a real physiological connection between what our gastrointestinal tract is exposed to and our emotional state.

How the Gut Affects the Mind

Veggie bowl

What you eat directly affects your mind.

This is due to the fact that a portal, if you will, is created in the lining of our intestines which allows foodstuffs, infections, and medications like antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, to get into the bloodstream. These can then cause inflammation in other parts of the body and cause symptoms like joint pain, fatigue and acne.

Often physicians treat anxiety or depression with medications, but I ask my patients about their diet because I believe a higher quality of food and avoiding preservatives and chemicals that are so prevalent in processed foods decreases inflammation and contributes to a person’s physical and mental health making them more peaceful.

Therefore, avoiding other substances that compromise the barrier between the gut and bloodstream is key to maintaining health. A well-written article about healing a leaky gut can be found here.

How to Strengthen your Gut’s Line of Defense

mind gut connection, gut defenseHere are some tips to help you strengthen the “line of defense” in your gut:

1. Look at the Ingredients

Look at the ingredients of the foods you are consuming to make sure they do not contain artificial preservatives or dyes.

In addition, consume adequate proteins and good fats since you need them to build strong cellular membranes.

Since sugar and carbohydrates can cause inflammatory reactions, limit their consumption.

2. Consume Phytonutrients

Make sure you eat plenty of what are  known as phytonutrients.” These are compounds obtained from fruits and vegetables and they include substances like carotenoids and lycopene.

Examples of foods which are rich in phytonutrients include kale, spinach, tomatoes and avocados. Foods like these also contain anti-oxidants which prevent cell damage.

The gut mucosa is permeable and benefits directly from exposure to these nutrients. Studies show reduced inflammatory markers that are linked to developing cardiovascular disease in patients who follow a Mediterranean diet. This diet favors vegetables, fish and good fats like olive oil.

3. Consume Good Bacteria

You need good bacteria in the gut to promote digestion and gut health. Antibiotics prescribed for infections can wipe out these good bugs.

An imbalance of the good and bad bacteria causes symptoms like bloating and abdominal discomfort. To restore this balance, drink yogurt and kefir (a smoothie type drink) since they are infused with these bacteria.

Other fermented foods that are also effective for providing good bacteria  and anti-oxidants include sauerkraut and miso.

Woman eatingLet me know what your diet consists of and how you feel about it.

2 Comments

  1. I have friends whom have experienced problems in their ‘gut’ and for whom a peaceful mind has been paramount in helping them to heal. Great article.

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