Many cultures and early medicine in the past clearly defined mind and body as two separate entities. While this categorized approach isn’t as widespread nowadays, we tend to separate the two on a subconscious level, often times not fully aware of just how interconnected our mind and body truly are.
Recent studies have shown that people with poor mental health, depression, and other psychological factors such as mental illness and psychological disorders are 32% more likely to have died from cancer, and it has been speculated that the increased stress from mental health issues may be linked to an increased risk for hypertension and coronary heart disease.
Many people suffering from these illnesses are less likely to seek the required medical attention due to their psychological issues or depression, directly impacting their physical health. If poor mental health can have such a detrimental effect on the body, it only makes sense that having a healthy mental state will have a beneficial effect on your physical health.
When looking to improve your mental state of being, there are a few factors that you need to consider:
Your lifestyle and how you take care of your body can greatly affect your mental state and vice versa. If you are someone who already suffers with bouts of mild seasonal depression, or to a lesser extent tend to live a more sedentary lifestyle due to your own personal outlook on life or other circumstances, making some minor lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on both your mental and physical state.
Physical activity is a great way to improve your physical well being, but it is also linked to having a positive impact on your mental health as well. While keeping physically active helps keep your body energized through the production of adrenaline, increasing metabolism to help break down fatty acids in the body and get rid of fat deposits, it also plays a role in the production of endorphins.
Endorphins are the feel-good chemical of the brain, targeting the pleasure sensors and having an overall positive effect on your mental well being. It’s the reason why you always feel so much better after going for a run to clear your head after a bad day at work, or after going to the gym after a stressful event to blow off steam.
The physical activity not only puts the built-up adrenaline triggered by the emotional distress to good use, but also releases those endorphins to counter the stress and helps improve your mood. Even a simple brisk walk for 10 minutes is enough to start producing endorphins.
The type of exercise is entirely up to your discretion. If you’re a high-energy person who likes explosive workouts, something like cross-fit or sprints may work best for you. If you can’t handle extensive workouts or prefer something more meditative, yoga or tai chi are deceptively strenuous, and the meditative nature of these exercises will help increase beta wave production in the brain, bringing about an overall calming sensation when combined with the endorphins.
Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet is essential for body health, but also mental health. Since many mood factors are caused by chemical reactions in the brain, having insufficient nutrients can actually cause a change in your mental state since you’re essentially depriving your brain of what it needs to function properly.
Glucose is extremely important, as the brain essentially runs off of glucose, but having all of the necessary vitamins, minerals, and plenty of protein will also greatly benefit your overall health. Consider adding some superfoods to your diet, like pomegranate, salmon, walnuts, and watermelon. These not only are chock full of nutrients, but are a great source of antioxidants as well, which help promote cellular health.
If you do smoke, I’m sure you’ve been told plenty of times to stop smoking. While it’s no easy task to quit, smoking wreaks total havoc on your body, the effects of which can take up to 15 years of being smoke free to recover from if it isn’t already too late.
Without even going into the harmful chemicals in cigarettes, the smoke itself triggers an inflammatory response in the alveoli of the lungs, causing your immune cells to produce elastase, an enzyme that breaks down elastin. Normally, this response would be a good thing almost anywhere else in the body, as it constricts the blood flow and allows more white blood cells and other aspects of your immune system to flood the affected area to attack and dispose of toxins in the body.
The alveoli, however, are lined with elastin fibers which help them revert back to their natural shape when we exhale. The elastase released by the immune system breaks down these fibers, causes permanent damage to the alveoli, resulting in burst alveoli and possibly even leading to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).
As surprising as it sounds, stomach health can have a major effect on your brain as well. In the article “Are Gut Microbiome Tests Accurate Or Worth It? What To Do Instead”, Dr. Todd Watts explains that an unhealthy gut microbiome negatively impacts your brain.
According to the article, ten different signals are sent between the brain and your gut. Only one of these is sent by the brain, the rest are sent by the gut. This could mean that poor gut health or an unhealthy microbe ecosystem in your digestive tract could have an unhealthy effect on your brain, based on the signals being sent to the brain.
Microbe testing, however, is more a snapshot image at a specific time rather than an overall picture of your gut health, and it may not even be all that accurate depending on the test. If the test is done on a stool sample, the microbes present in your stool may not even reflect those in your digestive tract.
This would make sense as part of the purpose of the excretory and digestive system is to remove wastes and other byproducts or excess nutrients that are not needed from the body. It would make sense then that these microbes might make their way into your stool if they are not needed or are foreign or harmful to the body.
Taking a biopsy might give a slightly more accurate picture, but the microbial ecosystem of your stomach changes wildly from day to day, or even due to dietary factors like eating certain foods. These tests might help determine if you have a parasite like a tapeworm somewhat accurately, but that’s about it. Alternatively, the article suggests focusing on overall gut health through eating fiber, keeping your gut moving and keeping your bowel movements regular.
There are a lot of factors that affects your physical and mental health, and both systems play off each other as well. Taking a combined approach to your health by caring for both your body and mind at the same time is the best way to keep healthy. Ignore one, and the other will suffer because of it.
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