Mental Wellness and Your Gut
Did you know your body digests and assimilate your emotions just like food? Think of a time when you had butterflies in your stomach before a big event or when you had a “gut feeling” about a situation. The truth of the matter is the brain in your head (first brain) is connected to your second brain – the gut (microbiome) by a neurotransmitter highway called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system in the human body. It also connects the heart, immune system, all major organs and is divided into two branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic branch is where the rest, digest, healing, and calming process takes place. Ideally, we should be in this mental state 90% of the time but the stressors we encounter daily dictate otherwise.
During this past year, roughly 80 million Americans experienced a mental health challenge. According to a survey by Gallup, American Assessment of Their Mental Health, 2001-2020, showed a range of 81-89% Americans described their own mental health or emotional wellbeing as excellent/good. In 2020, it decreased to 76%. So many factors contribute to the decline such as COVID-19, loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, health disparities, racial tensions, etc. The Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2020, published; scientists are finding that the bacteria in your gut may be the trigger to feelings of stress, anxiety, and severe depression. In fact, 90% of your body’s mood-boosting hormone serotonin is found in your second brain.
Integrating healthy, lifestyle strategies to nourish your mind and body is needed to flourish. Having a healthy, balanced microbiome is essential due to seventy percent (70%) of your immune system is in your gut. Therefore, understanding factors such as sleep, stress, exercise, environment, etc. that contributes to your mental wellness is necessary. A successful approach is having an individualized program designed for your own body constitution. Mental wellness is an active process of moving from unhealthy, to well, to fit. Mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness, and it is all interconnected.
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