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Mental health has become a forefront of the medical society and with psychologists and therapists. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, you name it. These mental health concerns have been skyrocketing lately. Did you know the brain is connected to the gut? They call it the gut-brain connection.
Gut health is extremely important to mental wellness. Did you know a large portion of serotonin is produced in the gut? (1) Serotonin is a neurotransmitter than aids in controlling mood, sleep, memory, and cognition (2). GABA is another neurotransmitter produced in the gut that aids in controlling feelings of fear and anxiety (3). These neurotransmitters are important because they travel along the body’s nervous system and sends signals to the brain.
Many of these neurotransmitters as well as other chemicals that effect the brain are created by gut microbes (4). You may be familiar with the term “probiotics,” this is the good bacteria in the gut. The microbes in the gut are also responsible for producing short chain fatty acids, absorbing dietary fats, and metabolizing bile and amino acids (5,6). Proper gut microbe levels and diversity can significantly impact mental health in addition to immune system health. Supplementation with a quality probiotic is highly recommended as well as a diet that is full of nutrition for the microbes.
Which Foods aid the Gut-Brain Connection?
- Omega-3’s: These are fats found in fish and provide energy and nutrition for the brain. Ingesting omega 3’s has shown to reduce brain disorders and improve gut microbiome (7). These can be supplemented with high quality fish oil supplements.
- Polyphenols: These are plant based chemicals that are digested by microbes in the gut. These are found in cocoa, green tea, olive oil, and coffee. Polyphenols could improve cognition and do increase healthy gut microbes (8).
- Fermented Foods: These include yogurt (with live cultures), sauerkraut (with live cultures or fermented at home), keifer, and cheeses. These foods contain healthy bacteria that aid the gut.
- Fiber Rich Foods: Nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables (fresh or lightly steamed is best) contain prebiotic fiber that feed healthy gut bacteria and can even reduce the stress hormone, cortisol (9).
- Tryptophan: Foods rich in tryptophan include turkey, eggs, and cheese. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted to serotonin.
If you are looking for a way to reset your gut microbiome and strengthen the gut-brain axis, try taking this Mental Wellness Assessment to see where you stand. Consider a supplement regime that will strengthen this connection and increase healthy microbes in your gut! Comment below to ask Dr. Ryan his recommendations.
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Most of us are familiar with the saying “the glass is half full/empty.” Most people operate towards a more positive mind set or a more negative mind set. The power in these ways of thinking is profound and affects a person’s overall well being, health, and even success in their lifetime. From childhood, the affirmations we heard and have told ourselves affect our minds well into adulthood. It is human nature to veer towards negativity and piercing ourselves with negative thoughts and memories. Negative thinking can be self-induced and even absorbed from others around us. This negative energy can cause reduced immune function, depression, and a tendency of illness and disease. The mind is a powerful thing! However, the good news is we can rewire our brains to induce more positive thoughts and memories and encouragement despite failures and trials throughout our lives.
Positive Affirmations are a fantastic tool to start slowly rewiring the subconscious. We all have a set of affirmations within our subconscious that have been developed over time based on what we have been told by others, absorbed from others, from experiences, or formed by our own thoughts. If they are positive affirmations, that’s great, but if they tend to be negative, we cannot expect to experience happiness and joy since the subconscious is continually defaulting to negative affirmations. Consistent negative affirmations and growing negative affirmations often cause an individual to reach a point of despair or depression when they cannot figure out how to get out of a negative situation.
Use Positive Affirmations to consciously replace negative affirmations. These affirmations should be individualized, positive thoughts that describe a desired, positive outcome. These thoughts should be repeated out loud and often to begin consistently triggering the subconscious and ultimately rewiring the brain. Create a routine to repeat positive affirmations. Consistency and repetition are key to rewiring the brain. Try creating a habit of waking up and starting your day by repeating your positive affirmations twenty times and possibly again at lunch time or before bed. Try saying them whenever you catch yourself thinking negative affirmations or thoughts as well.
Create personalized Positive Affirmations by visualizing a desired outcome, behavior, attitude then turning it into a simple, positive statement. Create the statement using present tense as if it is currently true. For example, avoid saying “I want…” instead say, “I am…” or “I have…” Avoid using negative words such as “don’t” or “can’t.” Finally, write down your statements and BELIEVE in them. Your belief and faith in your statements are the driving force to rewiring a negative mindset.
Repeat, Believe, Experience the changing of your mind into a positive environment. Continually repeat your positive affirmations even if you feel like you have maintained a positive mindset. This will strengthen those connections and aid you when a negative situation or trial comes. Be sure to say these statements out loud or record yourself saying them. There is power in spoken words.
Retrain Your Brain by weakening negative thoughts and strengthening positive thoughts. Try this exercise: close your eyes and imagine something negative in your life. Give this negative thought/experience/person a color and a picture. Immediately think of something very positive in your life. Give this thought/experience/person a color and a picture. That’s it! You can transform a constant negative into a positive by choosing to identify it, respect it and then switch to a positive thought and focus on that.
Positive Affirmation Examples
- I know I have the strength and ability to make my dream come true.
- Happiness is a choice and my right, I choose to be happy.
- I forgive those who have harmed me and have peace in my relationships.
- I love myself and I allow others to love me.
- I truly release my unconscious emotion of (despair / shame / humiliation / guilt / regret / grief / apathy / anxiety / fear / anger / hate / craving / pride / scorn / etc.) and replace it with the infinite power of love.
Go forth and embrace peace and joy!