Up until now, mental illness had always been pinpointed as a chemical imbalance that affected the brain. Today, more studies are showing that our digestive system and its health also plays a huge part in the optimal health and performance of our brain. This new way of seeing mental health has begun to open doors to understanding more in depth why certain mental illnesses occur. If we are willing, however, to explore beyond the dynamics of the brain-gut connection with a humble, open and honest approach, the findings will eventually reveal to us that our spirit health plays just as an important role, if not more, in our overall well-being.
Having good gut flora or good gut bacteria is necessary to having a healthy digestive system. Good gut flora keeps the digestive tract at a pH balance which protects it from harmful bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, shigella, yeast, and fungus to survive. The digestive tract, however, is not the only system to benefit from having healthy gut bacteria. Healthy bacteria in our gut is also responsible for leveling hormones, boosting the immune system, managing cholesterol levels and weight, energy boosts, and fosters emotional and mental stability.
A Little Bit Of Dirt Won’t Kill You
When dirt’s been given such a filthy reputation, it is quite difficult seeing it having any health benefits at all. But the word is out! A little bit of dirt won’t kill you. In fact, a little bit of dirt can actually heal you!
Mycobacterium vaccae (M. Vaccae), is a particular type of good bacteria that is found in soil. This good bacteria is drastically being depleted here in America, and for the past 30 years our bodies have been feeling the effects. Diseases like Ulcerative colitis (UC), Inflamatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease (CD)
, Obesity among others are thought to likely be a result of this depletion due to chemically, contaminated soil. It is also believed that depression is linked to the lack of exposure to dirt all together.
Other gut damaging behaviors are the overuse of antibiotics, drinking alcohol excessively, and drinking water with high levels of chlorine. When enough of the healthy bacteria is depleted, the digestive system then becomes a breeding ground for chronic inflammation, causing many major body system malfunctions.
Studies are showing that this good bacteria I(M. Vaccae), when given to mice, shows signs of improvement of the immune system. Also, when exposed to this good bacteria through gardening or other activities, it’s been known to activate seratonin in the brain, causing more relaxation in people and less anxiety.
It is understood that when the immune system is working optimally, problems related to stress are less likely, over time, to cause bigger problems down the road. As scientists are understanding more the link between our gut and our mental health, they are realizing, too, that receiving signals in our gut like “feeling butterflies” or going with gut instinct is back and forth communication we are having with what is considered our body’s second brain.
While Mycobacterium vaccae is known to the clinical world as the “friendly bacteria”, it is important not to get it confused with its other family members such as mycobacterium leprae (bacteria causing leprosy) and mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Growing and Keeping Good Gut Flora Balanced In Your Digestive Tract
One of the most common ways people have increased good bacteria in their digestive tract is by taking probiotic supplements. Such supplements, however, will need a healthy environment to really be beneficial, so combining supplements along with eating healthy would be a good place to start.
The best way to line our intestines with the good stuff is to eat lots of lactic acid rich foods. These are fermented foods such as yogurts, pickled vegetables, kefir, and soy. Lactic acid keeps the intestines lined with an acidic bacteria that keeps the bad bacteria that reaches your digestive tract from later becoming an issue.
Overtime your gut will show the effects of healthy, budding flora if these (acidic) fermented foods and drinks are eaten on a regular basis,
Bad Bacteria And Its Link to Psychosis
The vagus nerve, also known as the “wandering nerve”, begins from the cerebellum and branches out to many organs in the body, ending at the small intestine. These nerve fibers act as a two-way informational highway, sending and receiving messages to and from the brain and the solar plexus.
When the gut is constantly bombarded with harmful bacteria, the communication sent to and from through the vagus nerve will eventually become distorted, or even blocked all together.
Communication begins at the enteric nervous system (ENS) reaching as far down as the abdomen/genital area (solar plexus). It is one part of a three-part autonomic nervous system (ANS) that is responsible for sending 90% of all signals transmitted to the brain via the vagus nerve. This is very interesting information so keep it in mind. It will be of an enormous importance to understanding the connection between your spirit and your gut. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which operates on cortisol and adrenaline and is responsible for moving the body into action, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), operating as its complete opposite, are the other two parts of the ANS.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is when the small intestine is overpopulated with the same bacteria that usually populates the large intestine and colon. When this happens, it can cause a variety of health problems. neurotransmitters to malfunction, causing severe damage to other organs in the body, even death, Neurotrasmitters, melatonin and seratonin, ensures that the body rests well and is emotionally balanced. Studies are showing that when these neurotransmitters are blocked, mental issues like depression and anxiety become a factor.
A chronic parasitic infection known as Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii ) found in the digestive system has also been found to contribute to mental health disorders like bipolar, chronic depression, and schizophrenia. The T. gondii parasite is known to be transmitted by either the ingestion of Toxoplasma infected spores of feline feces or consuming the meat of animals who were already infected by Toxoplasma spores.
Approaching Our Mental Health From A Spiritual Perspective
Over time stress can create numerous problems for the digestive system. For example, when a person is stressed he/she may consume more food than usual, and often foods that are high in unhealthy fats and sugar. Some may decrease their food intake, replacing it with alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine. Stress can also affect nutrient absorption in the intestines and if stress becomes too chronic, stomach pains, even stomach ulcers can develop.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) produces the hormones cortisol and adrenaline when the body feels threatened, causing the body to undergo rapid respiration and heartbeat, dilating blood vessels, and an increase in glucose levels in the blood stream. During this process, the digestive tract is also affected, sometimes becoming overly sensitive, reacting to stress with stomach pains and nausea.
Your solar plexus, also known as the celiac plexus, is known as the third Chakra (energy point) of the human body, according to Hindu Sanskrit. It is the area, or the center of our body from which we become empowered. It is considered the seat of the human personality, or spirit (true self). It is where the power of our Will resides.
Now let’s recall what was mentioned earlier. The gut (solar plexus) sends 90% of all signals to the brain through the vagus nerve. If this information is correct then let us ask ourselves this question. Where are these signals coming from?
The outside of the brain’s nerve network is grey matter. This area is where decisions are made. The inside of this nerve center is white matter, and this area is where information is received then forwarded to other nerve networks. With the enteric nervous system (ENS) of the solar plexus, the setup is reversed. The outside of this system is white while the inside is grey. In this case, should we be placing more emphasis on the reception and the emission of signals from the solar plexus?
As more people are understanding the seven major Chakras of the body and their functions, more are understanding, too, that this third Chakra (solar plexus) is what governs the entire digestive system, gall bladder, spleen, kidney, liver, as well as the autonomic nervous system. When this pressure point is blocked (energy flow obstructed) due to an unhealthy diet, stress, or parasitic infection, not only do the organs of the body begin to malfunction, causing dis-ease, but the brain will begin to experience certain forms of mental dis-ease such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, mania, and pyschosis. When energy flows unimpeded throughout the solar plexus, well-being and inner peace becomes the dominant emotion.
Living a spirit-centered lifestyle does help to maintain a healthy gut and brain. Usually when a person places an emphasis on nurturing their spirit, the health of both body and mind becomes priority. Mindfullness practices and stress alleviating techniques become the lifestyle along with eating healthier and cleaner whole/superfoods. It appears that there is an undisclosed format that is intuitively adhered to when tending to their spirit. The spirit-centered person shifts from trying to fix their lives from the outside to making spiritual alignment their ultimate goal. Is this then the last piece of the puzzle to having true mental health?
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Read our other articles about alternative ways mental illness is now being treated today.