What's Getting In The Way Of Happiness?
We often overlook the importance of food as it relates to our emotional state. In fact, we even overlook our lifestyle habits and the effects it has on our mood and behaviour. In this article I’ll show you ways you can make incredible and positive changes to your psychological health, brain and central nervous system through an holistic approach. Your first task is to get to know yourself. Start noticing, and without self-judgment watch your habits. From there, as you understand and recognize your ways, you are also empowering yourself to make educated choices that best suit you and your health. Here are some important ways you can make a huge difference in your life and your loved ones lives:
The human microbiome, our invisible yet important friends are the key to our health and wellbeing. These are the friends that you definitely want to take care of for life. And you can be sure they will relentlessly take care of you in return! These amazing bugs keep us and all other living organisms alive and thriving. Whats truly amazing about them is that they dictate how our body responds to every thing. In last month’s issue we learned that the most devastating way to disrupt the balance of our micobiome are with antibiotics - in medicine and in our food. It’s important to understand that the food we eat drives our microbiome. What you eat directly reflects the environment inside your body, it either invites or rejects good strains of bacteria. Your gut flora is one of the most important factors in health and in today’s world, because of the over usage of antibiotics, we need to replenish and maintain the right strains of bacteria in order to stay balanced both physically and emotionally. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kvass, kefir, and miso are extremely helpful to our flora, but taking high quality probiotics are also essential especially if you are dealing with energy imbalances, depression, mood changes, compromised immune system, and behaviour issues. It’s also important to remember that toxicity hinders the function of our body, over time it can deeply and negatively affect the way our body drains toxins. Sounds crazy but try adding bugs to your diet, it can be one of the most best ways to enhance your emotional health.
Most people think that our diet has little effect on our emotional state but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We now know that diet has one of the most, if not the most, influence on our health and our emotions. According to Paul Pitchford, if a child eats an excess of poor quality red meats, that child is usually aggressive and/or emotionally stressed because of the excess fatty acids called Arachidonate that are formed. Arachidonates are hormone-like compounds which promote mental and physical inflammation causing aggression and internal stress which results in negative behaviour and mood shifts (for both children and adults). Have you ever felt joint pain, or changes in your emotional state especially after certain meals? I invite you to take a closer look at the foods you are consuming and entertain the idea that it’s likely your symptoms are due to your diet. But before you blame it all on the food, you must remember that the state of your body and the amount of accumulated toxins play a major role on how your body reacts. The state of your digestive system, liver, and your microbiome (the bacteria in your gut) all dictate how your body reacts to the food you eat and where it stores the toxins that can’t be broken down.
Lets take a closer look at what toxins are lurking in our food. Processed sugar, sugar substitutes, and flavour enhancers are called neuro-toxins and they are major culprits in our mood, behaviour, and emotional state. They have devastating effects on our brain and our neurological system causing pattern changes to our neurotransmitters, negatively impacting our endocrine system (hormones), and other organs.
Every living thing on our planet uses glucose for energy, however the problem is that we are consuming way too much and way too processed forms of it, with zero nutritive value. We are continuously consuming amounts that accumulate in our already over-burdened bodies without draining out. Unfortunately processed sugar is hidden in everything, from cold cut meats, sauces, crackers, breads, savoury spreads, to baby food. It devastates our metabolic system causing changes to our brain, mood, neurons, and puts great burden on our favourite organ - the liver. When our liver is burdened, it does not properly break down, neutralize, and excrete accumulated toxins, therefore, the vicious cycle continues in our body: toxicity - inflammation - symptoms - harm to the body. Sugar substitutes like aspartame and flavour enhancers like MSG (monosodium glutamate) have a similar devastating effect. MSG is often found in heavily processed foods and even if it’s not listed on the label, its often a by-product of processed food. It’s a food additive found in almost all commercially prepared food and can be hidden under many ingredients including hydrolyzed and autolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed and autolyzed yeast extract, plant protein extract, sodium and calcium caseinate, yeast extract, textured whey protein, natural flavor, and so on. It doesn’t change the taste of food the same way as sweet, salty, bitter, and sour substances do, instead it alters the taste of food by stimulating the sensation of taste. It fools our brain into thinking food tastes great and that we are consuming protein (amino acids). Sadly, it is a way for manufacturers to use less real whole foods (mainly protein) at the expense of your health. Sugar substitutes like aspartame and MSG act like poison in our body. According to doctor Russell Blaylock (a neurosurgeon), MSG and sugar substitutes affect our hypothalamus which is a small area of our brain that is responsible for controlling some of the most vital neural systems in our body. The wiring of our hypothalamus is some of the most complex in our nervous system, with connections to our emotional control centre and many other parts of the brain.
Through these connections it regulates emotions, our autonomic system (stress response), our hunger signals, feeling of satiety, our immunity, memory input, and controls our anger. Disruptions to this vital area can result in minor (or major) behavioural problems, hormone imbalances, sexual disfunctions, obesity, and immune suppression.
MSG and aspartame are known to be excitotoxins to the brain, which means when we consume food containing them, it excites the brain into mass production of dopamine (a neurotransmitter responsible for our emotions, movements, sensations of pleasure and pain). Okay, I know this doesn’t sound that bad, why wouldn’t we want a lot of these good hormones? What really happens is it creates an unnatural drug-like rush that gives us a false and brief sensation of well being. It causes a pathological condition in our brain that over-excites nerves and brain cells to the point of death causing destruction to our brain cells, our neurons, and nerves. It’s highly addictive and causes many undesirable symptoms such as migraines, balance difficulties, shortness of breath, asthma attacks, heart palpitations and irregularities, arthritis flare-ups, depression, behavioural problems especially in children, and more. For a complete list of ingredient names MSG can be hidden under, check out the Health Articles section on my website. Lessen your toxicity load and automatically you will feel many positive changes physically and emotionally. The good news is that your body will always give you clues. Slowly, but surely, take time on a regular basis to listen, you will see that choices and changes will become much easier. I promise. Your body wants to work with you, not against you. Your body knows how to heal and balance, it’s job is to keep you alive! But it’s up to you to get it thriving. I know you can do it!
Lastly, nature has been on the top of many mood-enhancing regimes but lets look at why this is so. A Stanford study shows that the more urbanized a person is and the less interaction they have to natural environments, the more likely they are to have mental health issues like depression, and anxiety. In our rapidly urbanized world, it is becoming evident that accessible natural areas may be vital for our mental health. There are many reasons why spending time in nature is essential for health and our psychological resilience.
In Japan, scientists found that when people spend time in nature, they actually inhale beneficial bacteria and plant-derived essential oils as well as negatively charged ions which interact with gut bacteria to strengthen the body’s immune system and improve mental and physical health! Isn't that amazing? We’ve talked much about the benefits of bacteria, so here is another reason to get out in nature, inhale deep and let the bugs in! Nature can help us withstand and recover from life’s challenges. What’s really interesting is that in some studies MRI scans showed increased blood flow to the brain as well as stimulating the area of the brain associated with empathy and altruism. Lets integrate nature back into our lives. Every week if you are able to get yourself out in nature even if it’s just once, you will truly be helping your emotional, psychological, and physical health in a very big way. Invite happiness in and don’t forget to have fun!