I talk a lot about the relationship we have with food and ourselves, but in the process of a healthy emotional and mental relationship, a key component is building a healthy physical body.
It’s not the sexiest topic, but it’s something I have become incredibly passionate about over the years as I’ve worked through my own physical ailments.
Our gut health. Hormones and the biological make up of our guts have a direct impact on our overall physical, mental and emotional health. Our stomachs have long been considered our second brains, and for good reason. Studies have shown that what we put into our bodies releases different hormone receptors and causes different types of responses. The opposite is also true; our mental health impacts our body’s ability to break down and utilize nutrients. Stress eating, physical pain from worry, easy digestion when you’re happy? All legitimate responses.
Our body’s ability to break down, digest and utilize nutrients is based on the health of our guts. Good bacteria work in our bodies to allow for the absorption of key nutrients which leads to ultimate physical and mental health. Unfortunately due to poor eating habits, over use of antibiotics and medications, and environmental toxins the balance between good and bad bacteria often tips the wrong way. When this happens we create a volatile environment, which results in so many uncomfortable side effects and symptoms including bloating, diarrhea, constipation, skin issues, mood swings, sleep disruption, mental fog, headaches, joint pain… the list goes on and on.
Why does this happen? Well. To put it plainly, when we are constantly chowing down on junk food we cannot process or utilize combined with environmental toxins and a lack of healthy nutrients going in, our bodies become overloaded. Most of us have been on antibiotics at some point also. While I think we are so fortunate to live in a time when medicine is as advanced as it is, we have become so accustomed to pill popping which wipes out the bad and good bacteria leaving our bodies depleted of the much needed assistance required to break down nutrients for absorption.
Basic biology teaches us that bacteria thrive in a sugar filled environment. So when we are feeding our bodies highly refined and processed foods, this so easily converts to sugar and boom! The nasty bacteria overtakes our bodies, causes havoc in our stomachs, and then our bodies.
Often overlooked is the mind-gut connection and the unbalanced cycle which is created. When we eat poorly, our body cannot function the way we want it to; this includes our mental health. We are more likely to make poor choices, food and otherwise, when we are depriving our body of the healthy nutrients it needs. So no matter how much we may want to make good choices, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Instead we will chose the high, empty calorie, high sugar, high refined carbohydrates foods which are often filled with unhealthy fats. Our bodies are designed to work when being fed a high nutrient diet and this includes a healthy balance of carbohydrates (fibre filled!), protein and fats. So when we continuously feed it garbage, it’s still going to want the good stuff, and so the cycle begins. We eat unhealthy, over processed crap, our bodies signal we are still hungry so we give it more of the same junk instead of what it actually wants and then beat ourselves up because we ‘caved’ and ate too much.
The good news is that once you understand this mind-gut connection even in the most simple, basic form you are then able to work towards changing the way your body is functioning. It’s not a permanent problem and can be changed with a shift to more healthy foods and less junk. (I seriously cannot even say junk ‘food’ because that is not food!)
My number one suggestion for anyone wanting to make any sort of improvement to their health a simple one: add in more fruits and veggies. Even if you continue to consume the junk (hopefully in smaller quantities), at the very least your body is still getting some of the basic nutrients that it needs to function at optimum levels. By doing this you can begin to replenish the happy, gut environment and restore nutrients to your body.