Just before the holidays I went to an integrative medicine practitioner. I have had an interest in holistic wellness for years now and I thought it was about time to pay a visit to an actual medical professional in the field. Besides pure curiosity, my main reason for the visit is that I have struggled with anxiety for over a decade and based on my own research there is an obvious correlation between what you put in your body and how you feel. This includes mental health issues. I decided to pursue some details.
To begin with, I waited almost an entire year for this appointment. The office I went to spends over an hour with each new patient. The intake paperwork was extensive and thorough. Some of the initial questions included topics such as:
- childhood immunizations
- whether or not I grew up around herbicides, pesticides or chemical plants
- how often I took antibiotics as a child
- life stressors
- what my diet consists of
- what I’m putting in and on my body
These were also some of the things we discussed during my first appointment. I was already on board for the use of non-toxic products in my home and on my body. I recently wrote a blog about it that you can check out here. The main takeaway was the diet. It was suggested that I do a 20 day anti-inflammation diet in conjunction with probiotics, digestive enzymes and some other supplements that were specifically tailored to me based on our discussion.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The same day as my initial appointment I had several tubes of blood taken to send off for IgG antibody testing for food sensitivities. Although I obviously didn’t walk out with the results, the suggestion was to avoid the 7 main inflammatory causing foods for 30 days before returning for a follow up appointment. That meant total exclusion of the following:
- Sugar & artificial sweeteners
Granted I eat a cleaner diet than most people I know, I still eat all of those foods, at least in moderation. All of them except for artificial sweetener because they’re sketchy and I avoid them. This would mean a several long trips to the grocery store and a lot of self control.
Inflammation & Gut Health
Normally, inflammation is a healthy response. We scrape our knee and our acute inflammatory response enables our skin to heal itself. Inflammation is problematic once it becomes chronic. There is a large body of research suggesting that the root of chronic inflammation is in the digestive tract as it is our first line of defense against toxins, bacteria, viruses and whatever other funky stuff we’re putting in, on or around our bodies. Unfortunately, our gut can easily become overwhelmed by poor nutrition, medications, stress, and environmental toxins. This has a detrimental effect on our immune system. To put it simply, the more unhealthy our gut is, the more inflamed our entire bodies become, including our brains.
The Effect on Our Mood
Food directly effects the way we feel. Everyone has heard of a sugar rush. The immediate sense of satisfaction from our taste buds, increase in energy and brief improvement of mood shortly followed by a crash. Most of us can also recognize the impact that anxiety and other emotions have our gut. It’s probably easy for you to recall a time when you had digestive troubles as a result of nervousness or stress. Research tells us that this relationship is bidirectional meaning that the health of our gut can also impact our brain. Several studies even suggest that depression is a symptom of chronic inflammation.
Sources of Inflammation
Dr. Brogan‘s list: “Inflammation stems from many sources, including, hallmarks of the modern American lifestyle:
- Sugar. Sugar, particularly in the form of fructose and sucrose, spikes insulin and triggers release of inflammatory cytokines. It forms advanced glycation endproducts when it binds to proteins, and oxidizes lipids which form cell and mitochondrial membranes.
- Chemicals. Pesticides, environmental pollution from industrial waste, hormonally-modulating plastics, fire retardants, and cosmetic additives all stimulate our immune systems to varying extents and disrupt optimal production of energy on a cellular level, particularly in vulnerable tissues like the thyroid.
- Pathogens. The aforementioned culprits, and notably herbicides, gluten grains, and genetically modified foods, promote intestinal permeability, changes in our intestinal flora that facilitate growth of pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and fungus which keep our immune systems in a state of alarm,
- Stress. This catch-all term, broadly defined, represents the ultimate link between hormones and inflammation, because stress, whether it’s psychological or physiologic, triggers the release of cortisol. Cortisol helps to mobilize blood sugar so that you can run effectively and efficiently from that tiger chasing you. It also acts as a systemic immune suppressant, lowering levels of secretory IgA, an important body guard of the gut mucosa.”
Decrease Inflammation & Improve Your Mood
- Change your diet. Sorry friends, I know people don’t want to hear that but this is without a doubt the most important thing you can do to begin to heal inflammation in the body. Sugar, artificial sweeteners, gluten and dairy are some the main culprits. Do your own research or consider allergy testing to find out what may be effecting you negatively.
- Add a Probiotic. The supplement I take has 5 different strains and 2-10 billions CFU of each.
- Try Digestive Enzymes. Try taking a supplement with a variety of plant sourced digestive enzymes before heavy meals.
- Stay Hydrated. Water helps flush toxins out of the system via the kidneys, liver and bowels. Our cells also need water to function properly.
- Exercise. When we are active we are more prone to sweat out toxins, activate our lymph systems and boost our circulation.
It’s difficult to change every day habits like eating, no argument there. What I can tell you from personal experience is that I have benefitted immensely from changing my diet and adding some simple supplements to help heal my gut. If it could improve your quality of life to make a few simple changes then what’s the harm in giving it a try?
All the best,