I used to think that developing a peaceful state of mind was simply getting the mind itself in a state of peace. My research in integrative medicine leads me to believe that there is a real physiological connection between what our gastrointestinal tract is exposed to and our emotional state.
A portal, if you will, can be created in the lining of our intestines that allows infections, and medications like antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, to get into the bloodstream. This then may cause inflammation in other areas of the body.
What you consume directly affects you. In this post, I talked about how important the proper foods are to the mitochondria. Avoiding other substances that compromise the barrier between the gut and bloodstream is also key to keeping balance. Here are some tips to strengthen the “line of defense” in your gut:
- Look at the ingredients of the foods you’re consuming. Make sure that those products don’t contain artificial preservatives or dyes. You need proteins and good fats to build strong cellular membranes. Sugar and carbohydrates can cause inflammatory reactions, so limit these.
- Make sure you’re eating plenty of what is called “phytonutrients.” These are found in fruits and vegetables and contain substances such as carotenoids and lycopene. Some examples are: kale, spinach, tomatoes and avocados. Foods like these contain anti-oxidants that prevent cell damage. The gut mucosa is permeable and benefits directly from exposure to these nutrients. Studies show less inflammatory markers that are linked to risk of cardiovascular disease in patients that follow a Mediterranean diet. This diet favors vegetables, fish and good fats such as olive oil.
- You need bacteria in the gut to promote digestion. An imbalance of good and bad bacteria causes symptoms of bloating and abdominal discomfort. Antibiotics prescribed for infections can wipe out these good bugs. Yogurt and kefir (a smoothie type drink) are infused with these bacteria and promote redistribution of them. Other fermented foods can also be effective in giving back good bacteria and are also anti-oxidants. Examples include sauerkraut and miso.
The inflammation that occurs in the gut manifests itself in the rest of the body as joint pain, fatigue and acne. Often, physicians treat anxiety or depression with medications, but I ask my patients about their diet. I believe a higher quality of food and avoiding preservatives and chemicals so prevalent in processed foods will decrease inflammation and thereby make you feel more peaceful. A well-written article about healing a leaky gut can be found here.
Let me know what your diet consists of and how you feel about it.