The WHOLE You: Mind-Body-Gut-Spirit and the Connections in BetweenOct 31, 2022 09:31AM ● By Tia McLaughlin
Some of us focus on controlling the mind to heal the body, others focus on healing the body parts or organ systems that instruct the body, and some of us look only at the tasks ahead and forget, or take for granted, the body we have while it is in the process of allowing us to carry out our daily tasks.
These are stages in the journey we walk while in our physical bodies and each perspective is very important when discussing the following topic: the Mind-Body-Gut-Spirit (or Soul) connection. Our society regularly utilizes food or celebratory food events for emotional support or comfort. This can be a challenge for our minds since we use food for comfort, but our choices deeply affect our mood. Let’s examine together how food is medicine for the body and mind, and how certain foods like gluten, processed foods and sugar affect us.
Who’s in Charge?
Do you stop to think about your body’s needs or how you feel every day? How many of us realize how much our thoughts influence our bodies? Do you understand that the type of food you put into your body affects your mind and vice versa? Have you ever thought of your gut (stomach) as having its own mind or brain? Many of us jump from diet to diet, or different food groups, reacting to ideas we have seen or heard on the internet or television. Most of us have no idea what foods will actually help us lose weight, improve our symptoms, or which ones cause increased inflammation or affect our unique body and immune system.
Many people will say that their stomach does have a mind of its own and most tell me their body loves sweets, sandwiches, fast food and exciting tastes, yet deep down they also know they shouldn’t have certain foods but end up eating them anyway. So what body part actually craves food? Is it the gut, the mind, or something else?
A Quick Anatomy Lesson
Here is a quick anatomy lesson, the digestive system starts at our nose and mouth, travels down our esophagus to our stomach, then to our intestines and then exits the body. The gut, some call the stomach or the belly, is part of our enteric nervous system. Enteric means “relating to or occurring in the intestines”.
Our minds are part of the central nervous system. Central refers to core things like breathing, heart, movement, spinal cord. Thinking of wiring and connections, our brain and central nervous system is connected to our gut or “enteric” digestive system through a nerve called the Vagus nerve which controls the “brain-gut” connection. This is one of the reasons some of us with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s or other stomach disorders experience symptoms like diarrhea or constipation when we become anxious or upset. Our body is comprised of a bunch of tightly regulated systems with on and off “switches”. Chemicals called hormones and enzymes are the important signals sent through our body to maintain necessary balance in the body as a whole and these chemicals are controlled by our “brain-gut” connection, i.e., our Mind-Body connection.
We are all unique individuals who have very individualized genetics and more and more studies are showing how our environment influences our genetic codes. Our environment is more than just the home we select or the area around us during the day. It is comprised of the food and beverages we consume, television or social inputs we choose, our workplace, other stressors around us, our daily tasks, and the quality of our thoughts. These thoughts drive our perception and when studying the body, it is important to remember that perception is reality.
Fight or Flight
If you are running for your life in a dangerous situation, or if you consistently experience your life as waking up, moving fast to get everything in order, hustling the kids out the door, getting the animals fed and your coffee ready so you can get to work on time, what do you think your body experiences? The body is programmed to stay safe, to stay alive and to protect itself at all costs and it is very clever. In this moment as you try to get ready for work, your body says, “I need more hormones for running fast, turn off the stomach, no need to digest right now, we are running for our lives from the lion behind us,” and it solely works on adrenaline and cortisol hormones to save your life. Prolonged perceived stress triggered by the mind or the body’s “feeling of running or rushing”, affects the body and it eventually will wear out and stop working as well.
Symptoms or disease states like diabetes, underactive thyroid, or even autoimmune attacks start to happen due to signals misfiring and hormone overload without the right balance to “undo” the stress. We are not meant to live in this chronic stress state without “dis-ease” and what we choose to think about really does matter.
The Role of Food, Thoughts & Environment in Balancing the Body
So now what do we do? How do we use food as medicine for our minds? We need to fuel our bodies to do the right work with the right nutrients to use as the best building blocks to make the correct hormones to signal the correct processes otherwise the body is sending off numerous flares and emergency signals instead of resting, healing, and repairing. This affects our minds dramatically through the Mind-Body-Gut connection. If you are low on iron or B vitamins because you do not consume enough, how can the body do the right work for you?
News flash, our foods are very highly processed, sugary, genetically altered, sprayed with chemicals and stripped of necessary nutrients. Our bodies may remain in a detrimental inflammatory state all the time if we do not learn to choose wisely. We are more than just what we eat. We are literally what we ingest from all sources including our thoughts, the thoughts of those around us and so much more so let’s broaden our view of our environmental inputs.
This is Your Brain on Drugs
So, what kind of chemicals are sugar, gluten, artificial sweeteners? Sugar is much like a drug; it lights up the brain in so many ways and is very addictive. The bacteria in our gut love sugar, especially when unbalanced and not in the proper places. Gluten or wheat is a highly sprayed grain with glyphosate chemicals and for many, this irritates the digestive tract leading to something called “leaky gut” where the gates that usually let nutrients and particles in and out of the intestines, allow a flood of bigger food particles and many other things to “leak” into the main core of the body and it creates many concerns.
Artificial sweeteners trick the mind to think it needs way more insulin or activity than it really does since they have zero calories and many can lead to a blood sugar roller coaster. These changes in the body set off the immune system to attack the foods that leaked out or affected the body and this sets off a cascade of fireworks which can further worsen symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, blood sugar crashes, headaches and more inflammation in the body. The body then tries to react and its hormones or signaling messengers get affected and out of balance which further leads to more symptoms, diseases and bodily stress.
Proper Foods & Proper Mindset Offset Dis-Ease
If we do not select foods that reverse “dis-ease” such as choosing organic fruits and vegetables or limiting grain free or gluten-containing items, many bodies will continue to spiral out of control. Does everyone need to go gluten free? That is an individual choice based on your body’s unique circumstances. Whole foods (with minimal processing or additives) support nutrition. Nutrients support the body’s functions. The body or gut supports proper input to the mind and don’t forget that the mind also can control this spiral through management of negative or detrimental thoughts and or perception too. Understanding that all the body components are connected to one another and that one thing can affect other reactions in the rest of the body is very important. If we learn to master our mindset, our cravings or addictions, we can affect our whole body, including the gut.
Uniquely Individual Choices Make the Difference
We are each unique individuals. Our choices do matter. Our genetics are not our destiny. We can overcome our mindset challenges, support our WHOLE selves and gain strategies for success in a country which focuses on fixing our sickness with pharmaceuticals instead of reversing our lifestyles to reverse our “dis-ease”. How would you feel if you knew how to manage the three most prominent drivers of disease: poor food, stress and toxins around us every day? What would life be like if you could get well, stay well and reach your personal goals?
Re-Connect to the Body – Master Mindset – Beat Cravings – Regain Health
With knowledge and proper guidance, you can re-connect with your body, master your mindset and breakthrough food or sugar cravings, resolve symptoms like bloating, burning, stomach pain, body fatigue, joint pain, muscle weakness, blood sugar issues, return to optimal or goal weight and improve sleep concerns through getting to the root cause of any “dis-ease” or diagnosis.
You can learn to help yourself by cooking new foods, tackling chemicals or food products your body may be reacting to and learning how to take control of your own health so you can heal yourself now and for your best future self, through functional medicine and by addressing the body as one whole unit, filled with the Mind-Body-Gut-Spirit connections you may never have realized existed.
Dr. Tia McLaughlin is the owner of Wholistically Simple Rx, in East Berlin. She is a Pharmacist, Lifestyle Educator, Health & Wellness Coach, and Functional Medicine Practitioner specializing in serving patients with autoimmune conditions such as Celiac, Diabetes, gut health concerns and weight management and those who would like to learn how to utilize food as medicine through a whole body-mind-spirit approach to wellness. Tia has Celiac disease and suffered depression, anxiety and panic attacks which affected her mind and body for numerous years until she was diagnosed and began her journey to whole-ness. She loves helping others connect the dots of their unique body and removing what has been holding them back from living their most beautiful life every day. For more information call 717-885-6638 or visit DrTiaMcLaughlin.com.