A lot of people suffer from various mental health disorders ranging from depression, anxiety, and autism to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Most of these disorders are thought to be connected to the brain since they are mental health problems. However, a different approach has emerged now regarding the cause and treatment of such problems. It has a lot to do with our gut.
Sounds surprising? Not really, since this was already known to our ancestors. We have merely chosen to suppress or avoid that knowledge to run behind modern medicine and its cures, which currently do not cure any mental health problems perfectly.
The Second Brain
The gut, (containing about 500 million neurons and is a part of the enteric nervous system – ENS), is also known as the second brain. It is this second brain which is responsible for how you feel when you feel, and why you feel certain emotions and mood swings. What does your gut depend on? The food you eat! There is a two-way communication happening between the gut and your brain.
The metabolites that your gut microbiota produces stimulate the brain and its functions, and, simultaneously, the functions of the brain act on the gastrointestinal and immune systems to affect the gut microbiota. The microbial independently interacts with the immune system, whereas the communication between the digestive and the nervous system happens through the vagus nerve.
Research on Germ-Free Mice
Scientists have created mice that do not have any microbial gut to study the effects these microbial have on their health. It was found that such mice show a ‘high-risk behavior’, being unable to perform day-to-day functions, like recognizing other mice.
Scientifically, what are the factors that contribute to such behavior? The first one is BDNF- Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor which acts on the hippocampus and is responsible for anxiety.
The other genes controlling our anxiety, emotion, learning, memory, and motor control are the 5HT1A serotonin receptors and the NR2B subunit of the NMDA receptor.
The Food You Eat
What kinds of foods harm you and what kinds benefit you? Anything sweet and fatty is the most dangerous since sweet foods directly feed on harmful bacteria and increase their quantity in the gut. Processed foods and refined foods contain dead nutrients along with huge amounts of sucrose and fructose.
Non-vegetarian diet, agricultural chemicals, and antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary) also harm your gut microbial to a great extent. Avoid using antibacterial soaps or bathing in chlorinated water as much as possible.
The best food for your stomach is fermented foods since they contain a lot of beneficial bacteria which increase the gut microbiota. Curd, yogurt, Kefir, pickled vegetables; raw vegetables are some of the healthiest diets in the world. Apart from benefiting your gut, these products also supply you with essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, significantly reducing your risk of developing any kind of illness.
There are certain probiotic supplements that can be used to replenish your gut bacteria; although nothing is better than doing it naturally by consuming the above-mentioned food items. These probiotics usually affect the insular cortex and the somatosensory cortex which regulate a lot of brain functions including moods, self-awareness, motor control emotions, and even cognitive functioning.
Gut Associated Psychological Syndrome (GAPS)
Gut-associated psychological syndrome includes some conditions like aggression, hostility, irritability, withdrawal symptoms, extreme fatigue, short-tempered, perfectionism, unable to concentrate on anything, extreme guilt, addictions, self-medications, etc. As the name suggests, these conditions are caused due to an unhealthy gut. A bad diet combined with an unhealthy lifestyle is the prerequisite for such conditions to arise.
Smoking, drinking, drugs, and addictions are some of the lifestyle changes that need to be made for healthier living. Depression is, very soon, going to be the number 1 killer of human beings, surpassing cancer and heart defects. If diet changes are not taken seriously, the health of humanity is going to be ruined.
These changes are not difficult to make. It’s just a matter of habit. Eat what nature has provided you. Do not try to make changes to it like processing it or refining it. Eat more raw or boiled vegetables, sprouts, natural varieties of rice, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Believe it or not, these things not only prevent illness but they are also known to cure them. Diet can provide what medicine cannot.
I’ll conclude by saying, ‘Make your food medicine, otherwise you’ll have to make medicine your food.’ Take care, stay healthy.