When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there was little known about the connection between the body and the mind. They were kind of two different entities. No one ever told me that my mental state would affect how I felt physically. That the chronic pain I had been living with since I was a child was directly connected to my mental health. When they were trying to determine what was wrong with my legs no one even thought to connect the two. I may add that it was through my own research that I came up with answers after 40 years of testing and coming up empty.
The most recent discovery has been the connection between gut health and mental health. This was a shocker for me when I discovered this during my research. Many studies have been done and continue to be done to determine the extent of the relationship. Yogurt has taken on new life as the solution for digestive problems. Soon commercials for yogurt will be talking about fixing your anxiety. So exactly how does this work?
We are made up of 100 trillion organisms which are referred to as “microbiome.” The brain and gut communicate via the nervous system, immune system and hormones. Some of these microbiome will even release neurotransmitters which communicate with the brain.
The body will respond to stress via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Or better well known as the “fight or flight” response. I am sure we are all familiar with that one. Normally, our bodies will naturally return to normal once the danger is no longer present. When there is chronic stress the communication within the mind and body which enables this transition to happen gets all screwed up. This can lead to anxiety, depression and a variety of physical problems.
Our ability to regulate the fight or flight response as well as rest and recovery falls upon the hormonal and immune systems. Unfortunately when faces with stress, our response systems cannot distinguish between physical or mental distress. Say you suffer from social anxiety and you have been invited to a function for work that you are required to attend. Your heart will pound and you are filled with anxiety. The same reaction will happen whether you have a meeting with your boss or if you are out in the ocean for a swim and you hear the theme song for Jaws.
Your hormonal and immunological systems will both kick into high gear. Our bodies can be so complex but sometimes it can be as dumb as a doorknob. Our immune system gets involved because our body will react to stress as if it were an infection. The result: chronic stress = chronic infection. Our immune system uses inflammation to save us from pathogens like the flu or strep. When there is a high level of inflammatory responses it can lead to many chronic diseases like depressive disorders, high blood pressure and MS. There is even a connection between these responses and whether or not you get cancer. Gut health has such a huge impact on our mental health because the microbiomes play a vital role in regulating our immune response. So the condition of our gut can determine our health both physically and mentally.
When I first started looking into this, I was surprised at the amount of products out there that have the sole purpose of improving gut health. They are not stupid either. They will offer multiple articles about research done that connects the gut to mental issues. The thing is….they are correct. It is becoming more and more recognized. I thought that only the mental could affect the physical. Turns out it works both ways.
I started with a drink that regulates the health of the gut. I can tell you one thing, my digestive system has drastically improved. Many things have changed in my dealing with my bipolar and general anxiety disorders over the past year. It is difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what is doing what. What I do know is that my life is completely different now. I have not had a depressive episode in over a year.
I believe that many factors have to be taken into consideration when trying to improve the quality of life for a person with a mental illness. Come to think of it, there is not much I have not changed. Improving my gut health is just one of the tools I use now. If someone was to ask me what made the change in how I dealt with my illness, my answer would be simple…knowledge. The research I did gave me such a better understanding of how my body and mind work. As well there were so many different tools that I could use to help myself.
Feeling lost and overwhelmed by an illness can be devastating. I know when I was first diagnosed, I had no clue except for the basic definition. If only back then I had started to learn more about my illness. I could have saved myself and my family a whole lot of heartache. We have something that has completely changed the face of mental illness. The internet. I can say in honesty that I have never run into anything that I could not find information on. Gotta love Google.
In my day if it was not written in a book…you were doomed. That and the fact that the majority of people had never even heard of it. I know my doctors had the same knowledge as I did. What they read in a book. Now it is everywhere. So much information on the whys and hows. Knowledge is your greatest asset for a healthy mind. Well I would not classify mine as exactly healthy. But it is a hell of a lot better than it was! I had so many questions and I found answers. Or there is always the option of listening to an expert like myself to teach you all there is to know. If I am your source for life improvement…you are screwed. (I do not know if that is a joke or honesty)