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Sunday, July 03, 2022

“You can’t expect to have a healthy mind if you don’t have a healthy functioning, well-nourished body as well”

Your body and your mind are connected.

And it’s so much more connected than you might think. When we talk about the mind we aren’t just talking about your brain, your mind is connected to every cell in your body- from your digestion to your blood cells.

The classic example of this connection is the fight or flight response. Every time we get stressed our bodies switch to a different setting from its normal natural relaxed state to one that is ready to react and protect us.

Our digestive and reproductive systems slow and our muscles engage ready to run or fight. Even the platelets in our blood become stickier so that we are less likely to bleed out if we are injured- seems a bit over the top when you think that this is happening every time you have to give a presentation at work or you are stuck in traffic late to pick the kids up from school- but it’s true.

Every cell in our body is trying to protect us at once. It’s kind of nice that our bodies do so much to help but sometimes it’s not always appropriate. I always picture a super overprotective dog that goes nuts every time someone comes near the house, reacting without really fully understanding how life-threatening the event really is.

Another example of this mind-body connection is serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes us happy. Almost all of our serotonin is manufactured in the gut. You may have heard the term gut-brain connection before, well this is one of the best examples of why having healthy digestive function is really important for mental health.

When you start to think about your body this way you can begin to see how relevant it is to consider the whole body when treating stress and mood disorders and why you can’t expect to have a healthy mind if you don’t have a healthy functioning, well-nourished body as well.

During fight or flight states we are constantly burning through nutrients that our bodies require to maintain all these body changes. In particular magnesium, B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids are used up really quickly and deficiencies in these nutrients are really common in patients with a past history of long term stress.

This connection works the opposite way too. Sometimes mental conditions like stress can be exacerbated by disruptions within the body. Some examples of these include:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Adrenal dysfunction
  • Genetic factors
  • Hidden infections
  • Digestive dysfunction
  • Poor sleep
  • Chronic pain
  • Nutrient deficiencies

As a Naturopath, accessing someone who is suffering from anxiety is so much more than just asking them about their mental health. We cannot expect to see any real change for these patient’s unless a holistic view is taken that includes all aspects of a person’s health- emotional, physical, social plus diet and lifestyle.

If you have been struggling with stress lately and feel like your physical health might be exacerbating it or getting in the way of proper stress management, then book an appointment for an in-depth assessment of your overall health.

By Jessica Trethowan – Naturopath
BHSc. (Nat), BHSc. (Rehab. Counselling), NHAA

Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash