I spent the past four days at the second annual Mind Body Green Revitalize conference in Tucson, AZ. It was an incredible event, and I had a front row seat (literally!) where world renowned experts in wellness and integrative medicine were speaking about physical health, emotional health, sex, biohacking, brain science, and beyond.
I want to share some of my favorite take-aways with you.
Over the course of the past few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in the role that our physical health plays in our emotional wellbeing. There’s mounting scientific evidence that the relationship between the two is strong, and researchers are currently looking most specifically in two, distinct areas:
One, the role that the microbiome plays in anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, and two, the role that inflammation may play in depression.
To translate, the microbiome refers to all of the tiny microbial organisms (bacteria, fungi, etc.) that live in our guts and on our skin and – while it might sound a little disgusting – we NEED these creatures (the good ones at least!) for our survival. They actually outnumber our human cells by 10-1, and everyday there are tiny wars playing out inside, and on, our bodies between the “good microbes” and the “bad microbes.” To be very simplistic about it: when the bad microbes take over, illness results.
The good microbes are killed (along with the bad ones) by antibiotics, but are fed with healthy, probiotic foods like fermented vegetables. No one does a better job of describing and discussing the microbiome than gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan, so if you want to learn more about the microbiome in general you can watch her talk from Revitalize 2014 right here.
That said, we’re now learning that dysbiosis in the gut (microbial imbalance) may play a role in anxiety, among other things.
Furthermore, there’s evidence that inflammation in the brain, which may result of any number of physical diseases or general ill health, may play a part in a subjective feeling of depression and many of its symptoms (low energy, difficulty with sleeping and eating, etc.)
It would appear that the old adage that “we are what we eat” applies to our emotional lives as well.
I’ve been personally interested in health and nutrition for a long time, but I’ve upped my own game over the course of the past 9 months or so, and I’m really reaping the rewards. I’ve been exercising more, have been more diligent about taking my supplements, and have added some “super foods” to my diet (namely chia, and sauerkraut, and I’ve been drinking more smoothies, etc.). As a result I’ve had more energy, have been sleeping better, and have experienced a greater stability in my overall mood.
If you’re curious to learn more about how you can take better care of your mental health through nutrition, I highly recommend Dr. Mark Hyman’s book, The UltraMind Solution. It’s an excellent resource and it covers the specific supplements that are beneficial to brain health, like L-Tyrosine, which naturally boosts dopamine release and absorption – dopamine being a key neurotransmitter involved in mood and attention**.
There were TONS of great talks this year and I’ll be sharing some of my favorites on social media as they get released, but this was some of the content that excited me the most – and you can count on me to talk more about it as the research develops.
In the meantime, if this post is making you feel inspired to up your own game in the health department, here’s what I recommend:
1) Be gentle with yourself. It’s not necessary to do a complete “life overhaul.” Just try to lean in to greater health and wellness. According to the New York Times the single best form of exercise is simply walking. So if you haven’t been making exercise a priority, see if you can get out a few times a week and take a walk.
2) If you enjoy junk food and sweets, and if the thought of giving them up is overwhelming, focus instead on trying to eat MORE healthy foods. What does that mean? More veggies, more greens. If you want to watch a great movie about food and nutrition, I highly recommend Fed Up.
3) If you’re already exercising and eating well, can you lean in more?
Your mood will certainly thank you 🙂
** Medical disclaimer: Don’t take supplements without proper advisement by your medical doctor.