Photo by Patrick Hendry
You ever get whacked over the head with something so obvious you can’t believe you never saw it before?
Like that time I was 19 and realized the Arby’s sign was a cowboy hat. I don’t know what I thought it was all those years before this earth-shattering discovery, but it was as if I saw the whole world with new eyes.
So I had another one of those crazy discoveries recently, but this one was arguably more practical and valuable to my life than the Arby’s sign: My digestive health affects my mental health affects my gut health…etc. You get the idea.
I’m a self-professed stress ball, but I’ve noticed my general anxiety almost disappears when I’m eating right, sleeping right and working out. I never really thought that much about why that might be, until we started really studying gut health over the last few months.
We’ve all heard the annoying phrase, “You are what you eat,” but it’s so familiar by now that it’s easy to dismiss without really thinking about what it means. I think we often forget that what we are is not just our bodily health; it’s our mental health, too. And yes, what we eat affects that deeply, by way of our digestive tract.
Most people by now are aware that stress and anxiety can contribute to all kinds of digestive problems. But did you know that the opposite is also true? Digestive problems can send a tsunami of negative signals to the brain, affecting your mood and ultimately your mental health. Talk about a crazy but oh-my-gosh-so-obvious connection.
This post from The Paleo Mom, “How Mood and Gut Health are Linked,” published a full two and a half years ago, shares the science of this eye-opening phenomenon.
The important takeaways from her post:
- The nerves running through your digestive tract are so prolific that the gut is often called the “Second Brain.”
- 90 percent of those her fibers send signals from the gut to the brain; not the other way around.
- The best way to reduce stress, depression and anxiety? To reduce the inflammation in your gut, so it stops traveling through your body to your brain.
Read her whole post, though; it’s great stuff.