Why is gut health for our mental health so important?
Updated: Feb 28
Everything You Need to Know
When your digestive fire (called Agni in Sanskrit – Ayurveda) works well, you’re better able to digest the foods and experiences in life you consume.
“All disease begins in the gut,” Hippocrates said it thousands of years ago, and it’s one of the foundational principles of Ayurveda as well.
Through Ayurveda, I've been learning to understand myself and my body and mind much better. Ayurveda taught me to pay attention to my digestion as a key to vitality, even mood and energy, and physical strength. I''ve been learning not only how I digest food but also how I digest life and all the experiences and stimuli that are coming into my body on a daily basis. Also, how to prepare my body and mental digestion during seasonal changes. Because what we eat, how we eat, what we experience all of it affects our body and mind - and our gut health and mental health.
I will give you a real-time personal experience:
Have you ever noticed that your digestion and mentality may change when the seasons change?
For example, when the season changes from winter to spring, the elimination and daily digestion may change depending on what I eat and think or feel.
February may bring heavy snowfalls and/or heavy rainy, grey days in some countries. Temperatures are inconsistent and vary from very cold to mild to cold and to mild, and so forth. February is a transitioning month, and weather conditions change,
Seasonal changes impact our body and mind, and many of my clients underestimate it or sweep it under the carpet.
Over the years, Ayurveda taught me to observe myself in relation to seasonal change and notice what happens with the digestion of food, thoughts, and emotions when the seasons are about to change,
For some years, I experienced more sluggish digestion and slow elimination, tendencies to constipation, and the frequency of elimination changed. The thought and emotional patterns are changing.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because our digestion gives us an orientation and fabulous signs of our mental and gut health. If you learn to observe yourself and your digestion and interpret the signs the body shows, it will tell you, and you will feel it whether you are off balance or balanced.
Ayurveda always looks for the causes that are getting us out of balance to reduce or eliminate them to bring balance back.
Sluggish and slow digestion and elimination is not a sign of balance. Nor are tendencies toward constipation or prolonged emotions such as worries, anxiety, anger,
Often I experienced days during seasonal changes from winter to spring of feeling heavy and tired and waking up groggy and slow in getting started in the morning. My mind wandered, and emotions tended toward negative thought patterns and feelings kind of sadness.
Why am I writing this?
Because there is a high chance that it is connected to how we digest food, thoughts, and feelings at certain times of our lives.
For example, when I eat too often fast food,, refined sugar products, milk products, garlic, onions etc it impacts my digestion, changes it, and goes out of balance. Too much garlic and onions make me feel sluggish. Consequently, my mood, feelings, and thoughts are changing, too, and become low. I may experience more as usual negative thought patterns and feelings of low energy such as sadness, worry, anxiety, anger, irritation etc.
For instance, when I am watching scary, violent movies, read or listen too often to the negative news, and have too many draining political discussions or heavy, loaded family discussions, everything in my stomach area closes, and it has an impact on my digestion towards constipation or irregularity.
Ayurveda taught me over time to observe myself and notice the signs of my body when it goes out of balance so that I am able to make corrections towards balance, vitality, even energy and mood, joy and happiness, and peace.
And our digestion is key to it. Our gut health and mental health connection are key to it!
This is why I am writing and describing it all in detail to illustrate the significance of the gut-mental connection.
I can give you many more examples, such as menopause and the gut-health connection, moving to another country, city, or state, and the gut-health link. But for now, I think you get the point, and I will move forward to dive a little deeper into the topic for better understanding.
#1: Why Is Gut Health So Important for our Mental Health?
When your digestion works well, you feel vital, energetic, clear-minded, and enthusiastic about life.
When your digestion is weak or out of balance, for an extended period of time, toxins known as ama start to build up in your system and block your body from assimilating nutrients and eliminating impurities (ama). As ama accumulates in the body, it can show up in different ways. For example, with a thick white coating on the tongue, the body may feel stiff or ache, and we may feel mentally and physically fatigued, exhausted, groggy, and slow to get started in the morning.
There is also mental ama which are feelings, thoughts, and emotions that have not been processed.
Agni breaks the food, thoughts, and emotions down and is responsible for helping us to digest and process foods and toxins and our emotions and experiences.
Agni supports so many facets of our physical and mental health that when it is out of balance, it causes ama (a Sanskrit term meaning something undigested or a toxin) to be formed and accumulated in our mind and body, which can lead to mental and physical illness and disease.
When you have toxins in your gut, it shows up in your thought patterns, leading to conditions such as anxiety, anger, or depression. And when you have chronic negative thought patterns, it influences your gut health, which can show up as gas, bloating, IBS, gastric reflux, or constipation.
From an Eastern-Ayurvedic perspective, it’s because Ayurveda approaches the mind and body as a whole—there is no part of our mind and body that functions independently of the other. In Ayurveda, the health of our mind plays an influential role in the health of our body.
And from the Western approach, in recent years, scientists discovered something called “the gut-brain axis”—a larger network that includes our immune system, and hormonal system along with the gut and its bacteria.
#2: What is the gut-brain highway?
You can imagine the gut-brain connection as a highway that allows information to travel back and forth between the gut and the brain.
For example, when you’re stressed, your brain sends signals that can cause digestive upset, such as diarrhea or constipation. Similarly, when your digestion or gut bacteria are out of balance, they can negatively impact your mood, and you may feel sad, depressed, anxious, and angry. Too much sugar intake, whether industrialized sugar or fruit sugar, can disturb gut bacteria and causes imbalances that may result in mental disbalances such as depression and anxiety.
Research has shown that irritation in the gastrointestinal system—and its bacteria—can impact the central nervous system and trigger mood changes.
One reason for keeping your gut health in the balance!
If we feel mentally dysbalanced, experiencing mood swings, more highs and lows and fewer even moods, and depletion of vitality, it is helpful to also take a look at the physical level in the area of nutrition and dietary habits.
Whatever happens in one part of the mind-body unit impacts our whole system.
From an ayurvedic perspective, there are three columns of mental health:
1. Healthy, enough sleep in relation to the daily rhythmic flow of time
Agni falls in the nutrition column and is responsible for helping us digest and process foods and toxins and our emotions and experiences.
But when your digestion is weak or out of balance, your body struggles to assimilate nutrients and eliminate impurities (ama).
What are signs of weak agni?
👉🏻Dark circles under the eyes
👉🏻Offensive body odor and breath
👉🏻Constipation, loose elimination, nausea
👉🏻Sluggishness, dullness, heaviness in the mind
👉🏻Feeling groggy and heavy and slow in getting started in the morning
👉🏻Rejection and lack of acceptance of life experience
👉🏻Emotional upset when eating
#3: How can we improve our gut and mental health naturally?
Ayurveda offers plenty of simple, natural strategies for boosting your gut health and mental health.
For example, I started eating more Sattvic food - the Sanskrit word for food that is pure and balancing. Sattvic food digests easily and provides strength, vitality, and energy.
It is important to clean our gut and mindset regularly. You can compare it to your apartment or house. You want to clean your house and different rooms in the home regularly. This is how you can see your gut as one room of your house and your mind as another. You want to clean the dust regularly so that it is clear and vital.
Breathing techniques (Pranayama in Sanskrit), meditation, or yoga are wonderful ways to clean the mind and strengthen the body.
Another great way to clean and strengthen the gut and mental health naturally is a gentle Ayurvedic Cleanse.
In Ayurveda, cleanses are recommended from time to time to help your body clear out ama (accumulated toxins), so you can feel lighter, clear-headed, brighter, even mood and energy, and more vital again.
You can do an Ayurvedic cleanse any time of year, but the spring and fall are perfect times, as your body naturally begins to let go of impurities accumulated over the year.
Any Ayurvedic cleanse aims to get rid of ama or toxins in your body and mind. Simply put, ama is the by-product of incomplete digestion.
Ayurvedic cleanses are safe and gentle and benefit your body's natural detoxification systems, including the bowel, kidneys, urine, skin, sweat glands, and liver. Ayurvedic cleanses are never harsh or forceful—and the beauty is you are allowed to eat during the whole cleanse.
#4: How to Do an At-Home Ayurvedic Cleanse:
Every Ayurvedic cleansing program has three steps: preparation, cleansing, and post-cleansing/integration.
A cleanse is an excellent beginning on your health and healing journey or a milestone!
The cleanse that I created is a Do-IT-Yourself (DIY): Gentle Ayurvedic Cleanse
It’s a 3-day Kitchari cleanse with 2 preparation days and 2 integration days.
The course is available on a platform that you will get access to after purchase. It is structured and organized in a way that it’ll lead you through the cleanse.
👉🏻Planing instructions for the cleanse
👉🏻Instructions & recipes for the preparation days
👉🏻Instructions & recipe for the 3 day Kitchari Cleanse
👉🏻Instructions & recipes for the integration days
👉🏻A guided meditation
👉🏻Yoga posture that’s supportive
👉🏻Morning routine instructions
👉🏻And a few more surprises
All for a total of $47
The cleanse is so organized that you can do it completely on your own. Usually, I offer a time frame during Spring or Fall when I will be available for questions on the platform of the DIY course. I announce those dates ahead of time on my IG or LinkedIn account or in my email list. So if you want to be notified of Gentle Ayurvedic Cleanse in the future, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on IG or LinkedIn.
This year the cleanse is going to take place two times, in March and in April:
March 18 to March 24, 2023
April 16 to April 22, 2023
And you can sign up for it here:https://evocative-healthpath.mn.co/plans/243990?bundle_token=dca5acb3a2a9762fb408f8eaa9cd8d4d&utm_source=manual
In addition, you can book one or two sessions before and after the cleanse with me if you feel like that would be a great support for you! It’s optional and simply an offer! Just send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know there are people out there who enjoy exploring things on their own. I do, too.
And I know there are people out there who love to be guided, cheered on, and held accountable for greater success. I'm also one of those.
I’m here for you to share my experiences, knowledge, and wisdom in whichever way you choose.
So if you feel the desire to do something for yourself and set the reset button, begin with a cleanse!
The overall goal of our health journey is to increase sattva in the mind and body. Sattva means simply Being, having a clear and pure spirit, and balance in our body and mind. It is the source of our mental health. The more Sattva we cultivate, the stronger our immunity, productivity, and capability to set healthy boundaries - you may also like my recent blog on boundaries and burnout. Check it out : https://www.evocativehealthpath.com/post/why-a-lack-of-boundaries-may-result-in-burnout
We can strengthen Sattva with nutritious, sattvic food, positive thinking, processing emotions, and trustworthy relationships.
It really comes down to how we want to feel in life. I prefer to feel vital, peaceful, and calm rather than agitated or stressed. I enjoy myself most when my body feels strong and soft, mobile/agile, and when my mind is soothed, clear, and my heart filled with love and joy. When I can freely express my emotions and feel connected to my body, open and enthusiastic about what is happening in my life, I feel content and know I get the most out of my experience and life.
Remember, it is your birthright to feel well, happy and healthy.
As always, if you have any questions, I invite you to leave comments below the post or send an email to email@example.com.
I'd love to hear from you.