“Well-being is not about always being safe or fed or comfortable. Rather, it is learning to walk the line between the two, to balance, to move back-and-forth between them with ease and grace.”                                                                                                                                    
John Ratey, MD

 

You have probably read by now how scientists are linking anxiety to the health of one’s gut. Addressing the connection between the gut, the brain and their role in anxiety is a popular topic. Medication is the most common form of treatment for the estimated 40 million Americans suffering from anxiety disorders. In my research on this topic, I began comprising a list of how to’s for holistically fixing anxiety.  Meditation, visualization, breathing, exercise, diet, mindfulness, positive thinking, body scanning, and sleep are all well and good and any one of them may help your anxiety.

 

Before I address a proper diet for improving the the health of your gut and brain, I need to address one little problem that eats at my core when reading the aforementioned how to’s. Each one of the above techniques is something you do, but it’s only a temporary fix if the root issue of the anxiety itself stays neglected.

 

A family member of mine, named Russ, wisely advises people of the notion that we are all human beings, not human doings.  In this journey of living and healing you have to be authentically connected with others and more specifically with yourself.  The mindfully connected life involves slowing down to simply be vs. frantically rushing around doing every thing you can to fix/distract/numb/prove yourself, yet staying completely disconnected from your very being.

 

No matter what anxiety reducing activity you partake in, when your doing is used as a distraction for your being, you will never arrive at healing.  In fact, the balance becomes even more disrupted and you slowly destroy yourself from the inside out. Your activity becomes a bandaid, and bandaids fix nothing.
 

Bandaids fix nothing

Bandaids may provide protection for a wound, but they will not heal your wound. I cannot, in good conscience, write like many other health bloggers, offering only quick, temporary fixes and act like every bad thing will go away if you only follow my plan.  There is deep seated yearning in each of us for wellness. Wellness encompasses so much more than a trendy diet or hot yoga session.

Wellness is a balance and that balance is often different from one person to the next. The balance of well-being is more than looking good, eating right, or performing handstands. Wellness weaves back and forth through one’s lifestyle, mind, movement, environment, soul, and diet.

 
Life is learning to find the grace in balancing the often times chronic imbalance of stress and anxiety. It’s a downward spiral if we don’t slow down enough to recognize the source. 
 
Anxiety creeps. Your breath becomes shallow, the heart picks up speed, the jaw tightens, the fist clenches, and the mind becomes either fixated or blank. Then the toxic voices (or brain vultures as friend and author, Leeana Tankersley calls them) rise up to whisper shout the “if only I’s.”  If only I were…….able to be all things for all people at all times.
Life is often too much to bear with burdens too big to carry, but we do have choices in how we respond. Unfortunately, the default choice is often numbing oneself to avoid the pain of the soul’s unrest.  Don’t settle, you are worth more than this. I have been quoting Brene Brown quite a bit lately, but she speaks so well about the human condition:

 

“Shame enters for those of us who experience anxiety because not only are we feeling fearful, out of control, and incapable of managing our increasingly demanding lives, but eventually our anxiety is compounded and made unbearable by our belief that if we were just smarter, stronger, or better, we’d be able to handle everything.”

 

As a mom of two boys, I have learned to recognize when toxic anxiety begins to creep up on me. Usually it is when I am asked to be more than I can give at that moment. If only I were perfect.  If only I could provide for their every need. If only I…..
 
 
The truth is, my boys don’t need a perfect mom. They need a present mom, willing to be honest in the middle of life’s messiness. A mom who chooses to engage rather than numb. One who is willing to connect with their little hearts and hear their stories without distraction. One who is willing to offer whatever love, joy, and hope I can muster even when life sucks sometimes. One who loves and teaches how to love. One who is willing to let her words and actions speak louder than the toxic voices and tell my boys, “You are treasured, you have value, you matter.”
 
No matter how life around you may fall apart, the honesty of your fear, pain, and lack of put-togetherness should always point to God’s redeeming story.  Redemption is knowing you are loved and valued despite your failures. His redemption brings peace and rest to your soul. Peace that surpasses all understanding is counter cultural. You can rest in knowing that you don’t need to be all capable, beautiful, fit, and well educated to have meaning.
 

Being vs. Doing
The act of being is learning to rest in who you are.

Luke 12:22-23 says, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

 

Life is more than food and clothing is an important reminder, but I still worry about both. I know life is more, but oftentimes the more is what I am grasping for.  As I read on in verse 24, I learn something else. There is a greater reason we are not to be anxious…..we are valued, treasured in fact, by the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

 

Being valued is something I receive, not something I do.  Maybe the reason we try to do so much as a cover for our anxiety is because we have forgotten our value.
Let me say it again, You have value! Rest in your value! 
You are treasured and have been since you were formed in your mother’s womb. Take God at His Word. Something of high value, is always taken care of. He doesn’t bring you to where you are just to leave you there. 

 

Imagine the ripple effect on humanity if more of us lived out of knowing we are treasured and in turn are able to treasure others.  Having a deep seated knowing of our own value, allows us to assign value to others.  When we treasure others, no matter their color, creed, race, sex, or origin, we show the heart of God.
 
For where your treasure, there you heart is also. (Luke 12:34)
You are not valued because of your accumulations or accomplishments. Neither are you counted as worthless from the sum of past circumstances, choices, or mistakes.  Resting in our your value means you don’t have to scream so loud or fight so hard to earn it or take it. 
Being has to occur before doing. Understanding your worth, allows you to then be able to see the value in nourishing your body and soul.  Rest in understanding who you are, and how you are loved, then feel free to do, not as a distraction, but because you are worth it.

 

5 day meal plan for your gut and brain health
 © Copyright (2016) Remedy Health and Wellness

 

The Gut, Brain, and Anxiety

Once it is well with the soul, we can start to address the gut imbalance. Psychoneuroimmunology is a field of science which studies the affects of negative and positive emotions on our immune system.  Negative thoughts and feelings increase the inflammatory state in our body and depress our immune system, while positive thoughts and feelings have an anti-inflammatory effect improving the body’s balance. It also studies how stress acts like an infection on our immune system as Dr Maier, PhD, explains “In a real, true sense, stress makes you physically sick.” 
 
Chronic anxiety causes a negative feedback loop in the gut-brain axis. One study notes, the repeated exposure to stress alters the homeostatic environment of the brain. The inability to shut off the stress and anxiety invites chronically elevated levels of cortisol, insulin, and epinephrine, which continually excite the brain.

 

A continually excited brain is an inflamed brain.  This inflamed brain plus an unhealthy gut are a lethal combination. For example, chronic anxiety can cause leaky gut. This same leaky gut then causes chemicals and toxins to seep out into the rest of the body through the blood, up into the brain and alters the chemical balance of the brain, possibly affecting many components of mental health.

 

I am not a physician, or psychiatrist. I do not claim to know all the workings of the brain or its solutions. It is dangerous for a health practitioner to trivialize the anxiety and stress someone is under. We are not just evolving physical bodies, we have souls. The inner workings of the brain house every physical aspect of our body as well as our memory, learning, thoughts, and feelings. The brain also influences our desires, reason, convictions, emotions and will.
Treatment should never be one size fits all. Reducing your levels of anxiety and improving gut health are important keys toward well-being and can influence a more positive feedback loop between the gut and brain and decrease their chronic inflammation.

 

When it comes to the health of the neurological system, the proper functional approach addresses the body, mind and soul. Treatment involves all the above “doings” as well as focusing on toxicity, sleep, supplementation, stress relief, therapy, prayer/mediation, exercise, and nutrition. 
While we can’t always control our life stressors, we can control it’s negative and inflammatory effects on our body, mind, and soul. Our stress response, immune function and memory can be directly affected for better or worse by the foods we eat.  

 

Mind Numbingly Good Food

The brain and the gut (the second brain) each need to be properly nourished. It is easy to think of them as separate, but they have a two-way street where one affects the other and vice versa so the nourishment is intertwined. 

 

Processed foods of the modern western diet are high in sugar with chemical additives, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, artificial flavors, artificial sugars, and refined vegetable oils. This type of diet provides no nourishment for the gut or brain.

 

A couple weeks ago, I addressed gut health. Eating to improve the gut is an important component in anxiety because the right bacteria can help reduce gut inflammation and stop leaky gut to aid the balance between the gut and the brain. One such type of bacteria is  Lactobacillus Rhamnosus which is shown to lower elevated levels of the stress hormone, Cortisol.

 

Besides healthy gut bacteria, the brain also needs healthy amounts of fat, particularly Omega 3’s.  Dr. Perlmutter explains, “a high percentage of fat is associated with better processing speed, learning and memory” (in the brain).

 

Foods containing healthy fats are grass fed butter, avocado, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, wild caught fish (salmon), nuts (walnuts), and seeds (chia). Other healthy brain foods are herbs (rosemary), spices (turmeric), pasture raised eggs, grass fed meat, grass fed dairy pasture raised pork, pastured poultry, organic vegetables (green leafy), fruit (blueberries), and dark chocolate.

 

Remedy’s 5 day meal plan for nourishing the gut and brain 

For those of you who are content in your being but still struggle with anxiety, your gut is a good place to focus. Moses is a man who is authentically connected and knows his value yet still struggled with anxiety. Last year, he was a willing husband who went along with his wife’s meal plans which I had created. His Remedy Story is living proof that eating real food to nourish the gut and brain works wonders.

 

It is such an honor to have him share, “Melanie’s meal plan and coaching played a significant part in my battle with anxiety.  The combo of exercise, therapy and healthy eating greatly reduced my anxiety levels.  I also slept better and woke up feeling rested while following Melanie’s plan.”

 

I have created a 5 day meal plan consisting of many healthy gut and brain foods because you are worth it. Comment below and share your experience if you use the Remedy meal plan. 

 

If you want to know more about how to change your diet to reduce chronic inflammation and improve your health the please contact me.

 

I leave you this great quote by Anne Lamott, “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”

Here’s to enjoying a healthy gut, brain, mind, soul, and life!
Receive this meal plan free to your inbox when you purchase 2 others weeks HERE. (use the drop down tab and select 2 week meal plan)