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The Gut is the Second Brain: How Diet Influences Mental Health
This topic is something that I care very much about. There is so much violence in this world and we are often apt to believe that there are just THAT many horrible people out there. If you mention how nutrition and food can influence the brain, people tend to think you are a bit off your rocker, and they just ignore you. But mental health is just as dependent on diet and nutrition as physical health is. Having a mental illness doesn’t mean that you are broken or a bad person. It means that you are feeling the effects of having generations of poor nutrition thanks to bad diet suggestions from “experts”, processed food on the shelves, and soils depleted of essential minerals.
I’ve touched on this a little bit with my posts on Anxiety and Depression, Bipolar disorder, and Postpartum Depression. If our bodies are depleted and starved of nutrients, then they cannot work properly. Period. There are also several other things that can effect our mental health and we will go over that now.
Leaky Gut and Mental Health
Our gut is our second brain- when we suffer from leaky gut and food intolerances, our brain health also suffers. This is one of the MAIN cause of anxiety, depression, violent tendencies, etc.
Common Food Culprits:
- Artificial Colors and Flavors
- Processed Foods and Sodas
- Trans Fats
- Refined Sugar
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
How to Heal Leaky Gut:
- Address low stomach acid
- Heal and seal the gut lining
- Address pathogens, heavy metals, and parasites
- Repopulate with good bacteria
- Address mineral imbalances
- Eat a whole foods, balanced diet
Check out my whole post on healing the gut here.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Mental Health
There are many nutrients involved in brain health. Mostly we rely on minerals, vitamins, fat and amino acids for our brain health so a deficiency or imbalance in any of these can create many mental related symptoms.
The main cause of almost all illnesses out there is an imbalance of minerals or a build-up of heavy metals. The 2 biggest contributors to anxiety and depression are magnesium deficiency and a copper imbalance I linked my articles to these topics so you can see how to test and treat them! Testing for these imbalances is crucial to know what you are specifically dealing with- we will all have different triggers and causes for diseases. Zinc, copper, and manganese are also important for neurotransmitter health and brain function, so they also play a part in both anxiety and depression. Mercury, excess copper, and other heavy metals can wreak havoc in the brain as well.
B complex vitamins are an important part of our health. A deficiency in the B’s can contribute to both anxiety, depression, and other related issues. There is a growing problem with people not tolerating certain forms of B vitamins in supplement form because of methylation issues and because of MTHFR defects (which is actually related to mineral imbalances, but we’ll get into that another time!). The safest bet is to get your B vitamins from food- bee products are a great way to get “bee vitamins” (get it, BEE vitamins? haha). Raw honey, royal jelly and bee pollen are all great sources of B vitamins, as well as vitamins and enzymes. Liver is also another great source of the best bio-available B vitamins- if you don’t like liver, you can try desiccated liver capsules or make your own raw liver pills. My favorite nettle infusions are also a decent source of all the B’s except B12.
How Poor Nutrition plays into mental health:
Drugs: Both Illicit and Pharmaceutical
Obviously we know the terrible side effects of illicit and illegal drugs- they destroy the entire body and ruin people’s lives. But pharmaceutical drugs can be just as harmful. In fact, there are countless studies out there proving how dangerous, addictive, and terrifying these drugs can truly be. Some sources say that these drugs permanently change your brain chemistry with the first dose, some drastically increase the chance of suicide while using them, and many of them have a chance of becoming extremely addictive and may take years to taper off of, even if you had only intended to use them short term.
I won’t lie: drugs scare me. I know a few people who have committed suicide either right after being put on anti-depressants, or they did it while trying to finally get off of the drugs. My last experience with a pharmaceutical left me scarred for life: I was given an anti-spasmodic to deal with the esophageal spasms I was having and the first time I took it I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart racing so badly my chest hurt, and with terrible, violent thoughts. That was around the time I started realizing that drugs are NOT the answer to healing illness!
I could go on for days about how drugs mess with the brain and body, but I will just list the best sources I have found. It is infuriating how many people are being given these drugs like they are candy, and they are never warned about the possible side effects.
- The Dark Side of Anti-Depressants by Chris Kresser
- Do Antidepressants Permanently Rewire the Human Brain? By Dr. Mercola
- Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs: A Guide for Informed Consent (book )
So How do we heal our brains?
- First and foremost, assess your diet. Cut out the junk and start adding in real, whole foods. This is one of the most important changes to make.
- After that, healing your gut is crucial. Our gut is our second brain- 95% of our serotonin is in the gut!
- Find out your personal deficiencies with both blood tests and HTMA. Treat any underlying infections (parasites, excess yeast, EBV) and strengthen the body to deal with excess heavy metals like mercury.
- Assess the stress in your life- try to limit stress or learn how to manage it more efficiently.
- Eliminate as many toxins as possible. There are a lot of toxins we can’t control but when it comes to our homes, we can do a lot. Switch out harsh cleaners for vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. Change your beauty products to more natural products, or make your own. Stop using conventional candles and air fresheners.
- Stop being scared of fat! Our brain is nearly 60% fat. This low fat-high carb/sugar crave over the last several decades has severely effected our brain function. Check out this study on essential fatty acids and the brain, plus read my post on how to get more good fats in your diet. Cod liver oil is probably one of the best things you can use for your brain!
- SLEEP! This is how the body and brain repair itself
- Help educate people. I’m sure we truly have some terrible people in the world, but imagine the good we could do if we could get people to understand the link between diet and mental health. Kids wouldn’t have as many meltdowns, teens wouldn’t be as angry and depressed, and there wouldn’t be 11% of the population of people aged 12 (!!) and over on at least one anti-depressant. (And take into consideration that “About 8% of persons aged 12 and over with no current depressive symptoms took antidepressant medication.” SOURCE-CDC So people ARE being given these pills for no apparent reason)
- Find natural ways to help your symptoms while you are healing underling issues and deficiencies. Magnesium, B vitamins, Cod liver oil, turmeric, ginger, yoga, EFT, herbal remedies like lemon balm, chamomile, and oat straw, and countless other things out there can help with anxiety, depression, anger, and more. Healing does take time but there are plenty of crutches you can use along the way that will actually help your body and not hinder healing. . Check out my post on anxiety busters here.
- Heal your nervous system as well.
- Find a doctor willing to work with you to actually HEAL instead of just mask symptoms. So many doctors are starting to get on board with true healing now and they are willing to help more people now.
More Resources- Please do as much research as you can on this. I feel like this all deserves a book and not just a blog post.
- Metals and the Mind
- How to Fix your Brain
- Antidepressants Cause 40,000 Deaths a Year – But They’re Handed Out Like Candy
- Number of Americans taking antidepressants doubles
- Antidepressant Drugs Market (MDD, OCD, GAD, PD) 2018 Revenue Forecast to Reach $13.4 Billion
- Nutritional Psychiatry, Harvard: Your brain on food
Disclaimer- I am not a doctor so if you are suffering from an illness, I would advise you to seek out a licensed health professional before embarking on any suggestions I make. The suggestions on this website are just for informational purposes only and by choosing any of the natural remedies discussed here, you will be taking responsibility for your own health and wellness