Gut Health Equals Brain Health

I recently watched Ocean Robbins interview Team Sherzai in relation to their research on preventing Alzheimer’s disease and maintaining optimal brain health. Their years of research have identified the most critical components of having a well-functioning brain for a lifetime. Guess what they are? Diet, exercise, stress reduction. Sounds easy, but most of us fall short of making these simple lifestyle changes. And it’s not all our fault. We live in a very complex, fast paced, stressful society that has high expectations and demands our attention 24/7. At some point, all of us reach that point where the only thing left to say is, “Enough!” Maybe that day is today.

Team Sherzai recommended the following ten things to Incorporate into your lifestyle to maintain a healthy brain for a lifetime:

  1. Follow the MIND diet. This is a Mediterranean style diet that is a whole plant diet. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits, but decrease the amount of meat and dairy. Preliminary studies with the MIND diet have shown a decrease risk for Alzheimer’s.
  2. Build cross brain connections. Meditation or grounding techniques, such as recitation or abdominal breathing, will help to redirect the brain and focus the mind on pleasant memories or sensations.
  3. Switch up your routine. Don’t follow the same route to work every day. Learn something new, maybe a new hobby or exercise routine.
  4. Take brisk walks. This decreases the inflammatory hormone, cortisol, and it encourages the growth of new blood vessels.
  5. Use these three exercise strategies: Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise, include some strength training for your muscles, and do this consistently for 5 days a week. Random acts of exercise don’t count.
  6. Replace bad stress with good stress. Seriously and with intention, look at your life and release those things that are no longer needed or not relevant to the life you want to live.
  7. Eat foods your brain loves. Leafy greens, blueberries, turmeric, and coffee are great starters.
  8. SLEEP! Lack of sleep is destructive to your brain. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
  9. Establish healthy routines. Arbitrary healthy acts are not beneficial. Once your healthy routines are hard wired, they will occur naturally.
  10. Use SMART goals. The acronym stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Sensitive.

Gut health equals brain health. The science of the microbiome is life changing for everyone, not just those of us with gastrointestinal disorders. Gut health can determine whether or not we will have a life of good health, well-being, emotional stability, and productivity well into our golden years or a life of sickness, disease, fatigue and emotional unhappiness. Good gut health can potentially prevent a diagnosis of heart disease, autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s disease, and even Alzheimer’s.

The notion that good nutrition equals good health is a concept that has been accepted for years. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Thanks to current research, it is now an established fact. Eating a healthy diet has never been more important than now that we have experienced the results of a pandemic. We must boost our immunity in order to save not only our lives, but those we love as well. Good nutrition is essential for holistic health.

https://www.kathleenchoe.com/post/2017/09/01/cross-brain-connections-what-are-they-good-for-anyway

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mind-diet#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2

https://teamsherzai.com/

Veggilicious

Green Smoothie

The best way to heal your gut is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of them. They boost your immunity, strengthen the gut lining, enhance your beneficial gut bacteria, and produce more serotonin, which makes you happier. What’s an easy way to get your minimum daily requirement of these nutritional rock stars? Drink a green smoothie! It’s full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The following green smoothie recipe, compliments of Dr. Robynne Chutkan, is healthy, delicious, and provides three servings of fruits and veggies. That’s half of your daily serving in one drink!

Here is a breakdown of the nutritional goodness in this powerhouse drink.

Greens

 Any of the following are appropriate for this smoothie:

Kale is loaded with Vitamin K which helps with blood clotting, bone metabolism, and regulation of calcium levels. It also has Vitamin A and C which have antioxidant properties. That means they help prevent cell damage and certain diseases.

Collards are extremely high in calcium, which is necessary for bone health.  They also have Vitamin A, B9, and C and K.

Spinach is loaded with Vitamin K and A, and it also has high levels of folate. Folate can help prevent anemia, but it is especially important during pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence. Manganese, an important mineral for building bones and connective tissue, is found in spinach.

Swiss Chard, comparable to the first three, has significant amounts of Vitamin A, C, and K. Like spinach, it also has manganese and it also has another important mineral, potassium. Potassium is important for regulating heart rhythm, blood pressure, and nerve function.

Celery and Parsley

Like the greens, celery and parsley are loaded with Vitamins A, K, and C, and they are both rich in potassium and folate.

Fruits 

All fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber is essential for feeding gut bacteria.

Any fruit of choice is good, but avoid bananas because they have no liquid. The smoothie will be too thick. The fruits I prefer are apple (with cinnamon and nutmeg added), pineapple, orange, or blueberries (with cacao added).

Lemons

They are full of Vitamin C and they help decrease the bitterness of the greens.

Ginger

This wonderful and versatile herb has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has also been shown to speed up stomach emptying which helps prevent reflux. It is great for nausea, too.

Green Smoothie

2 Handfuls of Greens (spinach, collards, kale, swiss chard) Preferably use two different varieties for more nutritional benefit.

1 stalk of celery

½ handful of parsley

Juice of ½ to 1 lemon

1 inch section of fresh ginger, adjust to taste

1 Fruit of choice – apple, orange, pineapple, berries (Don’t use bananas, they will make it too thick.

Water or coconut water for desired consistency.

Add ice and blend in a Nutribullet or high speed mixer. Drink daily.

Stillness

Meditative Musings

I meditate to listen to the silence, to absorb the stillness. I meditate to recharge, energize and focus. I meditate to align my chakras and to integrate mind, body, and soul – the Holy Trinity within. I meditate to find purpose, direction and fulfillment. Lastly, I meditate to find enlightenment and to understand Truth. The Truth of not knowing, not understanding, and not visualizing the inherent Truth in being human. Acceptance of this “not knowing” is the true spiritual path. Life’s mysteries will always remain inexplicable.

My body is a holy gift from God, a complex physical manifestation of my spiritual essence, designed for sacred purpose and boundless creativity.

Ready yourself for a spiritual connection.

Be still and know that you and God are one.

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I feel the ground beneath me – firm, unyielding, and strong – my lineage. It is the dust from which I came and to which I will return.

I bring my attention to my feet, essential for walking upon holy ground that leads me down my journey’s path.

I am mindful of my knees that allow me to reverently kneel in the presence of the Divine Creator.

I bring my awareness to my hips that allow me to stand tall and steady when the tenacious winds of life are raging around me.

I contemplate my hands which are the hands of God, designed for reaching out to others in their time of need, and realizing that I am allowed to receive in my own time of need.

I bring my attention to my elbows which allow me to hold close the people that I love.

My shoulders allow me to lift up my brothers and sisters from the depths of despair and raise my clasped hand skyward to demand justice and equality for all.

My mouth speaks only Truth, the timeless knowledge of faith, hope, and love.

I am the embodiment of God, made in the image of my Divine Creator, commissioned to create a heavenly kingdom here on earth.

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Contemplate the softness, the stillness, the silence, the shelter of sable shadows within the mind’s eye. Allow yourself to experience the lightness of release and the fullness of connection with universal oneness.

Namaste

Spirit

There are many words for spirit – essence, soul, energy, phantom. For some, it is a soul that lives beyond time. For others, it is the essence of a person, a characterization of our individuality.  Many believe it is the creative energy that gives life and purpose to our human existence. I choose all of the above. It is the spirit where beliefs and passions are created. It is within our spirit that we find meaning and purpose in life. It is the force that guides us through our daily tasks, rejuvenates us when we are weary and disillusioned, and sustains us when we are broken and desperate. And it is this intangible, indestructible, infinite, and enigmatic power that is the eternal consciousness of existence.

Interestingly, spirit comes from the Latin word for breath. The Hebrew word ruach means both spirit and breath. A spiritual person would define this energy as the Breath of Life. Genesis tells us that God breathed life into Adam. It is the essential element that sustains us from our first inhalation until we take our last exhalation. It is the life force that monitors our thoughts and emotions and guides our decisions. These thoughts and beliefs power our actions. Therefore, we become what we believe. Consequently, all three – body, mind, and spirit – must be integrated in order to lead an authentic life. This interconnectedness means that if there is a problem in one of these areas, it will be experienced in all three.

The word spirit comes from the Latin word for breath.

Body, mind, spirit. It is the foundation of yoga. The literal translation of yoga is unity. It is a physical practice intended to strengthen the body, calm the mind, and strive for oneness with the Divine. The philosophy of yoga believes there are energy centers within the body. These are called chakras and they are aligned vertically from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. All seven of these main chakras must be in alignment for our energy, or prana, to flow freely and keep us mentally and physically healthy.

From a practical standpoint, what is the connection between mind, body, and spirit? It’s a timeless concept, but a trendy term for today. It’s discussed in churches, yoga studios, college campuses, to name a few. And it is a spiritual concept with very tangible physical implications. American medicine is beginning to understand that the connection is not just important, but essential to healing. We must develop good lifestyle habits to maintain physical health, empower our minds to believe we are in control of our health, and listen to the still small voice within that brings insight and compassion. We would do well to heed the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu:

Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Achieving a destiny of physical health, emotional stability, mental clarity, and spiritual enlightenment begins with only one thought – an empowering and inspirational thought to bring balance and brightness.

Therefore, it’s not enough to eat a healthy diet, you must be aware of your emotions and feelings that you experience throughout the day. It’s not enough to maintain a regular workout routine, you must take time to feel the rhythmic beat of your heart and the essential breath of life. Inhale and exhale with intention. It’s not enough to learn new skills and search for new experiences to keep your mind alert and focused, you must take time to go within and examine your desires and your reason for living.

Explore your passions! Find that creative, uninhibited energy that allows you to live an authentic life of enthusiastic spontaneity. Unite with the Divine that lives within. Your life will be full and abundant. Gurudev Sri Sri defines it this way:

Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a dynamic expression of life – in terms of how joyful, loving, and enthusiastic you are.

Mind

The digestive symptoms of IBS are well known and treatment focuses on relieving these digestive disorders, but many IBS sufferers report symptoms unrelated to digestive disorders, such as headache, fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, and depression. These symptoms are considered to be psychological and supervised by the brain. Turns out they are controlled by the brain, the one in our intestines. And what is the key that unlocks these emotions? Gut bacteria. Current research establishes a connection between these behavioral symptoms, the microbes in the intestines, and the nerve cells embedded in the intestinal lining.   Gut bacteria   are necessary for digestion, helping to break down food products into a usable source of energy, but research is demonstrating the complexity of these tiny organisms and how they influence multiple organs, including our immune system, vascular system, and even our brain. This emerging field of knowledge is not only fascinating but validates the emotional components that are associated with IBS. So exactly how does this second brain work?

First of all, there is a complex communication system involving the intestines, the nerves within the intestinal lining, the gut microbiome, and the brain. The intestines are equipped with their own nervous system called the enteric nervous system and there is busy neurological highway with messages running in both directions between the intestines and the brain. This is your vagus nerve and it carries extensive signals from the intestines to the brain and from the brain to the intestines.   So the gut and the brain are in constant communication with each other, and we know this because we experience it on a daily basis. If you are stressed because of an upcoming presentation you may develop an upset stomach with diarrhea. If you have a noisy, upset stomach at work, you will feel some stress and anxiety. This is a concept that has always been accepted, but now we know it to be a scientific fact, and clinical studies prove it. Not only that, but the critical component in this research in the gut brain communication is gut bacteria.  Current scientific studies have confirmed that gut bacteria influence our moods and our emotions. The reverse is also true. Our emotions influence our gut bacteria.    

The little bugs within our intestines, our microbiome, communicate with our hormones, and our immune cells, which are abundant in our intestinal tract.  One of the major hormones produced in the gut is serotonin, the happy hormone. Serotonin influences our mood and social behavior in addition to regulating digestion. In fact, ninety percent of serotonin is produced in our gut. Altered levels of serotonin have been linked to IBS which can account for the anxiety and depression reported by some IBS sufferers. 

Obviously, the ongoing conversation between the gut and the brain is certainly not limited to implications for IBS. It affects every organ in the body, but for those of us who suffer with a multitude of GI symptoms, migraine headaches, fatigue, and other manifestation associated with this perplexing disorder, the discovery of this microbiome communication is astounding. It validates those of us who suffer with IBS. We have always known that it had something to do with our diet.

So when we eat to maintain gut health we are also feeding our brain.  The two are inseparable, but that is true of every organ in our body. One impacts the other. They work together like a well-orchestrated symphony.  If there is disease in one area of the body, it will affect another part of the body.  Treating symptoms for one disorder without identifying the underlying cause does not bring healing, it only creates a new set of symptoms.  That is why holistic healing is foundational to health, and boosting our immunity by feeding the gut is the first step. Eat wisely.

Body

Yes, this is another healthy gut website. Cyberspace is flooded with them. By now, everyone should have a healthy gut, right? So why are we still talking about it? Could it be that it is too much hard work? I mean seriously, you would have to quit your job, stay home and make 3 meals a day! Or maybe, we don’t really give a flip about a healthy gut? Thanks anyway, pizza, burgers, and beer are fine for me. Or maybe, we think it is a futile endeavor. Our soil and water and air are overloaded with toxins already, so what good is eating a healthy organic diet?

The bottom line is that it’s not always easy or economical to eat a healthy diet. In addition, our eating habits and preferences are well established by the time we enter adolescence, so if a healthy diverse diet of fruits and vegetables is not already on the plate, it’s not likely to transform into a wholesome and nutritious culinary delight, especially not overnight. Margaret Mead said, “It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.” True statement for men, women, and children.

In fact, most of us only make changes when we are forced to, as in we receive a diagnosis of diabetes, cancer, IBS, or some other disorder that compels us to make changes to improve symptoms or even prevent an untimely death. I completely understand that many people are just not motivated to make major dietary and lifestyle changes when there is no apparent problem. Why put in the work? As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The fallacy in that argument is this. It is broken, you will feel better and you might just save a life – your own.

We live in a world where people ingest Benadryl, Claritin, Tylenol, Advil, Tums, and Nexium, like they are Altoids, unaware that their skin rash and itching, sinus drainage, headaches, gas, and reflux are all symptoms of leaky gut. And if that’s not enough, they are even more clueless about the damage they are inflicting on the already compromised gut with frequent doses of those OTC products. Of course, if you ask them, they will say they don’t have gut problems! Why should they change their diet? Some of those people are truly unaware and others prefer to remain uninformed. The bad news is, just because you don’t suffer from gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation doesn’t mean you have a healthy gut. In fact, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that the majority of Americans have dysbiosis or unhealthy gut microbes because of our nutrient poor western diet.

 It’s not just about feeling good and not subjecting your family and coworkers to frequent gaseous episodes, although that is one good reason to work on feeding your gut microbes. Scientific studies are indicating that many people with chronic disease have altered gut microbes or a proliferation of bad bacteria and decreased amounts of good bacteria. Increasing evidence in recent years suggests that the underlying cause of autoimmune disease is a result of a lack of beneficial gut microflora, a lack of keystone species which are essential bacteria for creating a stable microbial ecosystem, and a leaky gut which allow toxins to enter the bloodstream.

Having a healthy gut decreases your chances of heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, and fibromyalgia, to name a few. In addition, studies show that the gut microbiome impacts our mood. Anxiety and depression are prevalent in our society. The Gut-Brain connection is very real, and the food we eat can instill confidence, contentment, and increase vitality or it can make us feel anxious, angry and isolated.

If the above is not reason enough to make dietary changes in your life, think of your children and grandchildren. The food we give our children will impact their physical health, lifestyle choices, economic status, relationships, and their overall sense of well-being throughout a lifetime.  Shouldn’t you do it for them?