Did you know you know you have a second brain? Stay with me ok.
Sadly, some of the things I’m about to share with you may be the first time you’ve heard it. There is some amazing research going on in the background to the connection between the foods we eat and our mental health. We already have a pretty good idea of what happens to our bodies physically when we eat bad foods or not enough of the good ones but what if you were told that you could help slow down or improve symptoms of your loved ones dementia. What if instead of taking a purple pill for acid reflux that all you had to do was include certain foods into your diet and exercise. What if women who suffer with poor cognitive memory, depression and anxiety from hormonal changes or stress could significantly lower their symptoms by eating the right foods and exercising.
The Second Brain
With advances in science around mental health and the connection to the food we eat, doctors, the government and scientists should be shouting it from the roof tops! But, sadly you will have to take the power into your own hands and do your own research because as long as pharma is around, the discovery of food as medicine will never win a Nobel Prize.
So, where is your second brain? you ready? it’s in your GUT, that’s right, your gut(intestines) are the spark plugs to your brain just like the spark plugs are to the engine in your car. Just like the brain has neurotransmitters and nerve cells, so does your gut. The ENS(enteric nervous system, intestines) is the part what controls the digestion system in your gut, it’s also impacted by what’s going on in your brain.
The gut has more than 100 million nerve cells, that’s enough to make you go hmmm. The gut tells our brain whether we’re hungry or not by the hormones that run through the blood stream. Now recently, a study found a new set of pathways that use gut cells to rapidly communicate with the brain stem. If you look closely you will see the “vagus nerve” going all the way down to the ENS system (intestine).
This just blew my mind when I read about this and the strong connection between the two, our gut and our brain. That’s why scientists and researchers will call your gut the “Second Brain”.
Fight or Flight
So now that we know that the vagus nerve connects the brain stem to the abdomen now what? This really is a huge scientific discovery and I could make this blog a book, but hey, thats where I got my information. More and more doctors and naturopaths are sharing these findings in books being written on the subject of gut and brain health. If you’ve ever heard the term, “leaky gut” thats all tied into this research.
The SNS (sympathetic nervous system) which controls the flight or fight system also controls our digestive system. Believe it or not when you are suddenly faced with a fight or flight scenario your digestive system SHUTS DOWN. The SNS system signals the vague nerve to be disrupted and digestion all down the line gets disrupted. If this disruption takes place too often we can end up with a slew of problems from heartburn, IBS and acid reflux to serious life threatening diseases when chronic conditions remain unchecked. This also keeps our bodies from absorbing important nutrients. So where does this all take us and what do we need to do to avoid ending up in a predicament like this over and over?
Stress Management & Mindful Nutrition
These last several months like many of you I have experienced unusually high levels of stress and anxiety. For the first time in years my appetite changed drastically. I’ve basically had no appetite and if I did, I didn’t crave the usual plate of healthy plant based meals & snacks, rather it was potato chips, french fries and donuts. The science behind this is that sugar releases serotonin levels in our brains and makes us feel better. The problem however with emotional eating is the feeling of relief only lasts temporarily until the feeling of the threat(stress) is gone. In many cases the stress(chronic) or triggers in our lives do not go away for a long time and turning to junk food to manage emotional stress is for obvious reasons not healthy. Thats another topic for another day.
The GOOD NEWS is we have the power to choose the right foods to eat to allow our gut and brain to work together in harmony. Stress is inevitable, however, it’s how we handle it that determines the negative effects it will cause to our bodies and minds. If we can manage stress with exercise, meditation, setting boundaries and eating the right foods, we can significantly reduce the risks of disease and slow down or reverse current conditions we may already have.
Click Ways to relieve stress
Have you ever heard of pepitas? I never heard of this term until i turned to plant based foods. It’s actually a another name for PUMPKIN SEEDS. You need to include these tiny super seeds into your diet. They are a triple threat to your gut and brain. Meaning, they have three times as much potassium, calcium and magnesium which all have these minerals are known to delay cognitive decline and boosting the mood. Need a pick me up? grab handful of these super seeds. Before bedtime is a good time as magnesium/calcium have been proven to aid in better sleep. Interestingly our bodies naturally store about 25 grams of magnesium. Sixty percent of that magnesium is stored in our skeletal system and the rest in our muscles, soft tissues and bodily fluids. Today our society has a huge deficiency in this mineral, not so much because were not getting enough in our diet(almonds, cashews, spinach), but remember earlier I wrote about the stress effect on our digestive system disabling our body to absorb nutrients?
Click for More in magnesium benefits and foods to include in your diet. Foods good for your brain.
So now that we know how stress can affect our gut and how our gut can affect our brain we can now make healthier choices in what we eat and how manage stress and anxiety. It’s important to know that stress and anxiety do differ but both negatively affect our brain and gut. People under stress experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping. Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor which can lead to the same symptoms as stress if not properly managed.
If I told you today that the right foods could fight some of your ailments like acid reflux, IBS, relieve symptoms of depression, slow down the decline of your memory, reverse digestive and gastrointestinal issues would you try? I always say that getting healthy isn’t always about cutting out all the bad food, its about including the good ones. Here are some great foods to add to your weekly grocery list. One day at a time, one change at a time can make all the difference in our life or someone that you love.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear~Buddha”