Anyone who is familiar with Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese Medicine, or any other ancient wisdom tradition that takes a holistic view of health and life, won’t find the idea of the mind and the body being inseparable from each other and influential upon one another strange.
It is only really in the Western tradition that we’ve lost this inherent concept of mind/body connectedness. But we are rediscovering it and what is being indicated by Western science now has been known for thousands of years by many ancient traditions: your mental health and physical health are beyond connected; they are inter-dependant.
Interestingly, many research studies are now demonstrating that brain and mental health are influenced directly by what is going on in your gut. You may know that we have millions of commensal (friendly and supportive) bacteria and microorganisms living in our bodies, which it is now becoming clearer serve to support how our body functions. For example, you’ve probably all heard of the Gut Brain Axis, the pathway between the gut and the brain that the microbiome can influence.
This pathway connecting bowels, gut, heart, lungs and brain as well as a few key glands which regulate the immune system needs supporting. Chronic over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system coupled with poor nutrition and environment toxins can lead to chronic stress and inflammation, a suppressed immune response and vulnerability to recurrent illness. It can also contribute to low mood, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
Some bacteria in the gut, so called “good bacteria”, it is now being shown, often function to produce substances eg short chain fatty acids, that act as messengers sending signals along our nerves, specifically the Vagus nerve, with its efferent and afferent branches to and from the brain and the gut, maintaining the balance between our sympathetic (fight and flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) by responding to the plethora of stimuli we are subject to around the clock.
If our gut microbiome is unbalanced, because we aren’t eating for our gut health, or we have too much stress and toxic load to deal with compromising our gut, and the opportunistic pathogenic bacteria get out of control causing problems, and those good bacteria aren’t present, or able to create those key messenger substances as a result, we can feel that emotionally as well as physically. Many, many things influence that microbiome balance, but what are some simple things we can we do to support it?
Here are my top tips: