Despite an over-abundance of food in the US, many diseases and health concerns are related to poor nutritional intake. Grocery stores are filled from floor to ceiling with highly processed foods, restaurants offer heaping portions, and fast food chains offer entire meals for $6. But, it’s the quality of the food that’s impacting our bodies — not the variety of choices. By consuming overly processed foods, we are not gaining the nutrients we need for optimal functioning, causing many of us to lack the energy (and interest) needed for engaging in exercise, experiencing sleep dysfunctions, and in many cases, presenting with a variety of behavior health concerns. Our bodies are stressed, exhausted, malnourished, and weak.
The connection between nutrition and wellness is not new. Whether presented by Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, or in more recent times, by Weston Price in the late 19th century, or by documentarian Morgan Spurlock in the 21st century, our diets are directly related to our mental and physical health. In consuming a diet filled with allergens, sugar, colorants, flavorings, preservatives and additives, we are placing our bodies into states of dysfunction and inflammation. Therefore, we can use our most basic behavior — eating — to our advantage.
But, why would changing our diet be so fundamental? Why would it affect our interest in physical activity, ability to sleep, and how we behave and feel?
In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation.” In this article he elucidated that one must first treat their basic physiological needs before one can move up to fulfilling safety needs, achieving love and belonging, gaining esteem, appreciating self-actualization and reaching self-transcendence. Therefore, we need to improve our foundational needs before we can attain an enrichment in our mental well-being.
Aside from Maslow’s theory that identified physical wellness as being foundational for emotional wellness, there is also a direct connection between the gut and our brains. Although the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates noted the relationship between the gut and the mind in disease, it was not until recently that researchers noted an extensive relationship between both systems. Our digestive systems have such an extensive nervous system, that it’s often considered as a second brain — otherwise known as the enteric nervous system. It controls how food will be digested, what nutrients will be transported into the blood stream, and ultimately sends inflammatory responses when irritated. Because it has the ability to send signals to the central nervous system, the gut has the ability to trigger mood changes, without actual emotional triggers. Researchers suggest that it’s the mind-gut connection, which explains the significant number of IBS patients that present with depression and anxiety. Interestingly, even gut flora is thought to play a role. For example, it has been suggested that symptoms of Autism are related to gut bacterial overgrowth or dysbiosis.
By understanding the relationship between the brain and the digestive system, one can see why diet and nutrition serve as vital foundational supports for individuals with behavioral health concerns. In those cases, once you remove harmful dietary stimuli, add beneficial and supportive foods, the gut will begin to repair itself, of its own accord.
But how can these changes be made if you are a finicky eater? Being a fussy eater is a very common symptom of individuals with behavior health concerns. However, in most cases, individuals crave certain foods — usually ones high in sugars, additives like MSG, dairy or wheat. With dairy and wheat consumption, the body will create an abundance of opiates from the ingested foods causing one to feel pleasure from eating. Similarly, with MSG, stimulation of glutamate or excitatory receptors occurs in the brain, and sugar stimulates dopamine receptors that influence the reward centers in the brain much like cocaine and nicotine. Ultimately by stimulating those pleasure centers in our brains, we become addicted to those items, and as a consequence, will crave those foods, while ignoring foods that will improve our health. Furthermore, the gut reacts to the continuous eating of those foods by feeding and increasing the growth of the harmful bacterial (and at times yeast). Additionally, one may start to experience nutrient deficiencies, which can amplify existing symptoms. Finally, some individuals might develop picky eating habits or a lack of interest in any food due to a zinc deficiency. All food will become flavorless. Eating becomes a non-enjoyable experience and tasting new foods will be unexciting. The only way to receive pleasure from eating in those cases would be to eat stimulatory, pleasure inducing foods. Broadening the diet and removing these addicting foods is often the best way to begin a journey into wellness.
Making life style changes is a gradual process. At the Mitochondrial Institute, we work with you on your time frame. Each program is unique and individualized. No prepackage formulaic protocols are employed. Because of this, we will listen to your concerns and develop a plan specific to your needs. Our goal is to ultimately enable you to build a solid foundation for health so that eventually you will be self-sufficient. Below is an outline of our protocol:
Step 1: Repair your Gut
- Remove allergens and foods that inflame the gut
- Remove additives, sugars, artificial flavorings, colorants, and preservatives
- Add foods which heal the gut
- Add foods which supply and promote production of beneficial bacterial
Step 2: Examine deficiencies in your diet
- Understand deficiencies and what they can do to your body and mental well-being
- Learn about foods that are vitamin and mineral dense
- Learn about making your diet a whole foods based diet.
Step 3: Enhance Your Diet
- Make your diet more nutrient-dense and filled with foods rich in nutrients needs for your particular concern.
- Add foods which supports the liver
Step 4: Add exercise and Relaxation Practices
- Add routines that fit your budget and lifestyle.
Step 5: Maintaining the foundation for Mental Health Well-Being
- Learn ways to maintain health and be independent — in control of your own health
Ready to start your journey to health? Click here