Scientific research reveals a strong link between what we consume and how we feel mentally and emotionally. It might be time to think of supplements, fruits, vegetables, and plant extracts as medicines. Scientists and researchers are just beginning to understand the complex interplay between our food choices, our gut microflora, our genetics, our immune functions, and our brain health. For example, serotonin is a key neurotransmitter. The gut microbiome is critical to the normal functioning of the gut-brain axis, and behavior linked to serotonergic neurotransmission has been shown to be influenced by gut microbiota. The gut microbiota is, therefore, an emerging therapeutic target.
Research is also showing the critical role of omega-3 fatty acids in the function of the central nervous system and in the outcomes of depression. According to a paper entitled “Omega-3 fatty acids and major depression: A primer for the mental health professional,” the dietary intake of Omega-3 fatty acids has decreased substantially in Western countries over the last century. The Standard American Diet currently has omega-6 fats outnumbering omega-3s by a ratio of up to 20:1, yet the ideal dietary ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 has been recommended by an international panel of lipid experts to be approximately 2:1. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in seafood and several nut and seed oils. Epidemiological studies support a connection between dietary fish/seafood consumption and a lower prevalence of depression.
An Organ Within an Organ
Could it be that when our bodies are nutritionally starved, we’re more susceptible to triggers, bacterial and viral, that bring on these genetic expressions to disease? Perhaps this is why we see this major uptick in autism and autoimmune problems—and not only these, but in anxiety and depression as well. According to researchers, the intestinal microflora is a positive health asset that critically influences the normal structural and functional development of the immune system. Manipulation of the flora by consuming certain foods, beverages, and/or supplements to enhance the beneficial components of our gut microbiomes could be a promising therapeutic strategy—and may even prevent health problems in the first place.
According to research, the flora in our digestive tract has a metabolic activity equal to an organ within an organ. The mechanisms guiding the influence of the bacteria on immune responses are beginning to be more understood. Therefore, an improved understanding of our gut flora will help us improve human health and ultimately reduce infectious, inflammatory and neoplastic disease processes.
Every day brings new headlines about the ways in which our minds and bodies are one. I was just reading about how Lyme disease can induce explosive anger, and about how hormonal shifts during menopause can affect women’s mental health. We are learning more every year about the connection between gut health, our immune system, and our mental health. Add to this all of the concerning news about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and it becomes overwhelmingly clear we need new tools to get and stay well.
My hope is that families will benefit from the latest research, and reach out to me to learn more about changing the conversation.
Our bodies are absolutely remarkable in a million different ways—but they are not machines. We cannot expect them to function day in and day out for decades without giving them the nutrients and phytochemicals they need to fight off disease. It’s time to approach our health comprehensively.
Pamela Wirth wrote a book about how better nutrition, supplementation, and functional medicine helped improve the health of her family (adults and children alike), with contributions from doctors, including pediatric neurologist Melanie Alarcio, M.D., immunologist Ryan Casper, M.D., and Jeremy Appleton, N.D. Her book explains the things that can trigger genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease and mental health issues, and discusses the difference between conventional medicine and functional medicine. It explores the new understanding about the connection between our bellies, our brains, and our behaviors.
Every day brings new headlines about the ways in which our minds and bodies are one. We are learning more every year about the connection between gut health, our immune system, and our mental health.
To learn more about these topics, please pick up a copy of Pamela’s book Hello, Health: Navigating and Winning Better Cognitive and Immune Function at Amazon.com today.