Written by: Jarka Crawford
Did you know that you have a second brain? There is a ‘second brain’ in your body that is closely connected to how you feel, react and ‘digest’ your day. On a physical level, ‘digest’ refers to your guts - your small and large intestines.
Studies have shown that there is a connection between the health of our intestines and our mood and behaviour. When we are not feeling well mentally, there is a good chance that the intestinal tract needs our attention. Which also means that if the intestines are working well, you will feel more balanced, calm and focused.
Another important part of eating well is how clean, whole food affects your intestinal flora. Intestinal flora is bacteria that populates our intestines. Research has proven how crucial they are to our overall health and resilience, including mental health. For example, beneficial intestinal bacteria produce a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is the ‘feel-good’ hormone. As a matter of fact, up to 90% of neurotransmitters are produced in the intestines by the good gut bacteria and that’s why healthy eating is so important.
Try it out for yourself! Read through the suggestions listed below and choose one at a time and see how you feel.
Eating for better mental health
Unfiltered tap water takes a toll on the intestines. It contains chlorine and pollutants that have an ability to alter the intestinal flora in a negative way. Switch to filtered water instead. Many people like reverse osmosis or carbon filters. Drink 8 glasses of filtered water daily to help you stay alert and flush waste from your body efficiently.
How can you reach this goal? Every time you eat, ask yourself this question: 'What can I eat with this _______ (blank space to be filled with vegetable or fruit). You will not only flood your body with nutrients, but you will also support your intestinal flora. Opting for organic or local produce is the best whole food choice. Check out the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’ lists to see which produce contains the most and least pesticides and residues.
Considering that the brain is largely made up of fat and the whole nervous system is wrapped up in fat, eating moderate amounts of good fats is a no-brainer. No pun intended. Include one or more of the following foods daily: avocados, unsalted nuts and seeds (I’m sorry, peanuts don't count), olive oil, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter.
It's easy to have toast for breakfast, wraps for lunch and pasta for dinner but make sure you include protein with the carbs. Make a conscious choice to include protein with each meal and make it the best quality that you can find and afford, such as grass-fed beef, organic chicken and turkey, fish, eggs, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and quinoa.
Avoid sugar, artificial sugar and hidden sugar as much as you possibly can including white flour products because they also break down to sugar. Sugar has a negative affect on your intestinal flora, which can then affect the way you feel and show up in the world. I understand that it can take time to transition from sugar. Make a plan, which can include replacing milk chocolate with a moderate amount of dark chocolate. Use small amounts of maple syrup, coconut sugar or honey in place of regular white and brown sugar, or use fruit to sweeten homemade baked goods.
So, do you have the guts to make a change in how you nourish yourself, your brains and ultimately your life? Know that you are not alone. Ask for support and guidance.
Jarka Crawford, RHN, CHCP
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Certified Holistic Cancer Practitioner
Email: [email protected]