By being able to do all the stages of digestion well, you’ll be more likely to have adequate nutrient production. Your GI tract produces all kinds of nutrients and neurotransmitters such as serotonin. We are learning new information every day about what role the gut plays!
Your GI tract is part of building a healthy immune system and is very connected to mental health. Your gut produces between 70-90% of the serotonin in your body, which helps with mood, well-being, and happiness. If you want to have good mental health, improving your digestion is a great place to start.
Dylan is a young 26 year old who has severe bipolar disorder with mixed symptoms of depression and mania. Due to the type of bipolar disorder he has, it has been a challenge to find a medication that works consistently for him. As a result, he often needs medication changes and is rarely able to find a balance between his bipolar symptoms and the medication side effects.
When Dylan is manic, he is super impulsive and has difficulty maintaining focus for any length of time. In this state, when he does cook, he often forgets to clean up, leaving his kitchen with unsafe bacteria growing on meat packages or on food that has been left out. When Dylan is depressed and lethargic, he has little energy to prepare foods. He tends to reach for foods that are quick and easy, often very sugary or the bad kinds of fats. Regardless of his state, Dylan eats mostly processed foods or fast food, with little fresh vegetables, fruit or lean protein sources.
When you look at Dylan's situation, it’s easy to wonder how his gut is connected to this picture. Is his gut not producing the right hormones because it isn’t getting the right nutrients, making the bipolar disorder worse? Or is the bipolar disorder preventing the gut from producing the right hormones, which impacts Dylan's food choices? This is a case of the chicken or the egg. Which came first? Either way, though making better food choices, Dylan was able to better manage his bipolar disorder and reduce the negative impact of his medications.
Just like Dylan, you can improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety by improving the quality of your nutrition and digestion. Start by eating whole foods, chewing them well and eating only when you are relaxed. Your brain craves good healthy fat like that in fish oils, avocado, coconut, nuts, and seeds. Choose these fat sources more often to help give your brain the nutrients it needs to run well. Make sure that you hydrate with fresh water so that your cells are able to clear out toxins on a regular basis. And don’t forget to move your body. Exercise can be as effective as an antidepressant without all the nasty side effects of weight gain and doesn’t take six weeks to start working. Exercise helps to stimulate your bowels improving the last stage of digestion, where you eliminate things from the body. Sending out the bad stuff is just as important as putting good stuff in.
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