Your gut’s connection to your emotional state makes it your second brain

Gut outline on chalkboard / image source: healthbeat.spectrum.org
Gut outline on chalkboard / image source: healthbeat.spectrum.org

Your gut's connection to your emotional state makes it your second brain

This post originally appeared November 12, 2018.

Have you ever heard of the gut-brain connection? If not, you’ve definitely experienced it. It’s that nervous feeling in your stomach when you’re in an unfamiliar situation or that full feeling when you’ve received unexpected sad news. Emotions such as happiness, anger, anxiety, and sadness can all cause a physical reaction in your gut.

The gut includes every organ involved in digesting food and processing it into waste. The gut or “second brain” can operate on its own and communicates back and forth with your actual brain. The vagus nerve controls messages to the gut and runs all the way from the brain stem to part of the colon. Hormones and neurotransmitters also connect your gut chemically to your brain.

Many contributing factors affect how your body digested and eliminates what you eat and drink. They include diet, food intolerances, lifestyle, hormones, sleep, and medications.

To maintain or restore gut health and support good overall health, it is important to maintain a strong balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Eating a diet that includes foods with probiotic or prebiotic ingredients support a microbial health by restoring balance.

What are Probiotic Foods?

Probiotics contain live beneficial bacteria grown during carefully-controlled fermentation processes. You may already have probiotics in your diet: plain yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, and miso.

What are Prebiotic Foods?

Prebiotics do not contain bacteria. They contain indigestible fibers that ferment in the GI tract. There, they are consumed by probiotic bacteria and converted into other healthful substances. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, cabbage, asparagus, legumes, and oats.

Are There Other Foods that Benefit the Gut-Brain relationship?

The following foods have also been shown to balance and improve the gut:

  • Omega-3 fats
  • High-fiber foods
  • Polyphenol-rich foods
  • Tryptophan-rich foods

If you’re experiencing indigestion or even if you are prone to depression or anxiety, you may want to look at your diet. By incorporating gut-healthy foods, you can begin to nurture your second brain.  

How Relative Fat Mass Index improves on Body Mass Index as a measure of health

Relative fat mass index is supplanting body mass index as an indicator of health.
Relative fat mass index is supplanting body mass index as an indicator of health.

How Relative Fat Mass Index improves on Body Mass Index as a measure of health

Underweight. Normal weight. Overweight. Obese. These are the four categories the Body Mass Index (BMI) has used in its health assessment.

BMI calculation is based on two metrics: height and weight. Use one of many online BMI calculators and you will receive a number that is meant to indicate your general health. Below 18 and you are underweight. You are of normal weight if your BMI is between 18.5 and 25, overweight if it is between 25 and 30. Anybody with a BMI of 30 or more is obese.

However, more reports and studies are finding fault with BMI as a measure of health. Basing a calculation of health on height and weight alone, BMI doesn’t take into account bone, muscle, or fat proportions. This means that a person with exceptional muscle tone and low fat is more likely to have a higher BMI compared to someone with higher fat and lower muscle tone — because muscle can be four times as dense as fat.

If the BMI is defective, why are we still using it? Is there an easy alternative to the BMI? Yes, and it’s the relative fat mass index (RFM).

Studies have determined that your waist circumference provides a more accurate reading of your abdominal fat and risk for disease than BMI. Based on data from 3,456 patients in the United States, the RFM measurements closely matched those taken by a high-tech DXA body scan, widely considered the gold standard for measuring body tissue, bone, muscle and fat.

To get your new RFM measurement, measure your height and waist circumference, then plug the figures into this formula:
MEN: 64 – (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM
WOMEN: 76 – (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM
What’s interesting about the RFM is that weight is not even part of the overall equation. Additionally, there are no strict categories for simple classification.

As doctors and organizations like the American Society for Nutrition and the American Diabetes Association promote waist-circumference measurements as a supplement to, or replacement for, the body mass index, we are starting to rethink the relationship between weight and overall health. So, let’s say goodbye to the BMI and embrace the change that comes with new information that will hopefully lead us towards a more holistic view of wellness.

When treatments go wrong: speak up, it’s your body

Image source: The Independent / Getty Images
Image source: Shutterstock

When treatments go wrong: speak up, it's your body

Last week, I wrote about IV Therapy. I explained what it is and outlined how it may or may not be helpful to treat chronic or immediate health concerns. I also mentioned that I had recently tried IV Therapy and shared my own thoughts.

What I didn’t describe was my experience at the clinic. It can be difficult separating a treatment from the circumstances surrounding how that treatment was administered. I believe I did my best to be impartial and focus on what I felt were the health benefits of IV Therapy.

Now, separated from the actual cocktail of vitamins and electrolytes, I would like to focus on what actually happened at this clinic. I was attended to by a nurse who did not properly administer the IV drip. While clinics are staffed by certified medical professionals, you have assume that the individual attending to you knows what they are doing.

Well, maybe this was just a bad day or a one-off experience, but my nurse did not get my IV into my vein. Instead, my upper arm filled with fluid. When I asked my nurse if this was normal, I was shrugged off. Eventually, I needed to speak with a different nurse when I was in an increasing amount of pain. And I am not a complainer. I have an extremely high pain tolerance. This nurse realized what was going on, quickly removed the IV from my arm, and re-administered it. Immediately, I could tell that this was done correctly.

For many of us, we know what feels right and what is uncomfortable. We know how our bodies should react and when we are struggling beyond a reasonable expectation.

What can you do if you have an experience that feels more uncomfortable than invigorating? The first thing you must do is tell the person administering the treatment to stop. Although they might think that everything is proceeding according to plan, only you can speak up and explain how you are feeling. Sometimes it can be difficult to advocate for yourself when you are in a vulnerable position. However, speaking up is not making yourself an inconvenience. It not only draws attention to what you are experiencing, but provides the administrator with valuable feedback. Maybe you aren’t the first person who has had this reaction to this therapy. Maybe your own voice will ease the experience for others.

Speaking up, especially in a bodywork or wellness setting, can be awkward or uncomfortable. As the expert of your own body, your experience is more critical than those of the people in charge. You are paying for them and you deserve to be treated properly. This includes being honest and, yes even critical, if the experience is uncomfortable, the setting is unprofessional, or you are not satisfied.

You are the customer — and your words and patronage are your real currency.

IV therapy: magical health infusion or expensive and temporary placebo?

IV therapy: the latest wellness trend. Image source: lateet.com
IV therapy: the latest wellness trend. Image source: lateet.com

IV therapy: magical health infusion or expensive and temporary placebo?

The Future of Fitness Explained: IV Therapy

If you love to learn about new exercise and fitness trends, The Future of Fitness explains it to you in a way you can understand and separate the hype cycle from actual results.

IV therapy has been used for decades in hospitals to treat a range of conditions from dehydration to nutrient-absorption disorders. However, IV Therapy clinics have started to pop up in busy metropolitan areas. Boasting miraculous hangover cures and immunity boosts, are these expensive shot infusions worth the price or are they just hype?

What is IV Therapy? 

IV Therapy is an infusion that is specifically designed to address a health concern, to increase immunity, as a beauty treatment, or to boost energy. A cocktail of vitamins and minerals combined with fluids and electrolytes are delivered to your body intravenously. With IV Therapy, as soon as your infusion starts, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are quickly circulated through your bloodstream and delivered to cells.

What Do I Need to Do? 

If you are interested in IV Therapy, you need to book an appointment with a clinic. You can find a number of locations online that explain what combinations and treatments they offer. You arrive at the clinic, sign a waiver (or waivers depending on health history or age), and wait to be hooked up to an IV by one of the healthcare professionals.

Does it Work? 

There are lots of stories about people who felt IV Therapy was invaluable in helping them manage a variety of chronic conditions like migraines, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular issues, or adrenal fatigue. As someone who recently tried IV Therapy, and with most alternative healthcare practices, I feel that results may vary. I booked myself an appointment when I was feeling rundown and susceptible to a cold. After my treatment, I did feel renewed and energetic — and I did not get sick. However, it was only four days before I returned to my previous tired state.

Should I Try It? 

It depends. How do you feel about general IV infusions? Have you had any previous difficulties having your blood drawn or receiving fluids through your veins in a hospital setting. Fighting your own history of IV drips to try a trendy cure is probably not worth it.

If you have no problem with IVs and want to see if IV therapy can restore your energy or help you fight off a cold, this might be for you. If you have been working long hours or extending yourself, IV Therapy may be a quick solution to prevent the inevitable burnout and crash that comes with over-work and over-play.

Do keep in mind that IV Therapy is quite expensive — prices are usually over $100 per session and are generally paid for out-of-pocket.

More Information Please!

Try these links and get educated about IV Therapy:
https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-07-07/should-you-try-iv-therapy
https://www.healthline.com/health/under-review-IV-vitamin-therapy
https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/iv-drip-bars-is-this-the-new-path-to-wellness/
https://www.medicaldaily.com/hydration-therapy-benefits-and-risks-behind-iv-infusion-water-and-minerals-401808

Assembling your care team: do you need bodywork specialists to supplement your personal trainer?

Massage therapist doing body work / image source: babymoonlex.com
Massage therapist doing body work / image source: babymoonlex.com

Assembling your care team: do you need bodywork specialists to supplement your personal trainer?

When you are assembling a care team, your personal trainer is at the center. They can assess your overall wellness holistically and your one-on-one work together can be complemented by other individuals with different skills and experience.

I find myself guiding my clients routinely to two specialists: a chiropractor and a massage therapist. Most personal trainers will have relationships with other bodywork specialists and can recommend them, if asked.

Why Chiropractors?

Chiropractors manipulate the spine. They believe that proper alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal structure will enable the body to heal itself. Manipulation is used to restore mobility to joints restricted by tissue injury or repetitive stress.

Following an initial assessment, a chiropractor will work with you over a period of time to address immediate issues. They recommend monthly assessments to proactively prevent issues from returning.

Why Massage?

Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain, and muscle tension.

There are many different kinds of massage from deep tissue to hot stone to reflexology. It may take time to find the right type of massage and the right therapist. Every therapist has their own specialty so see what feels best for you and your body. Some practitioners have a variety of massages they offer so learn what is in your therapists’ skill set.

Both massage and chiropractic work can be covered by workplace benefit plans. Like visits to most specialists, your initial appointment will be longer and potentially more expensive. In this assessment, be clear about why you were referred and even demonstrate some of the exercises your trainer has shown you. Like any relationship, working with a chiropractor or massage therapist relies on honesty. Your therapist will look for cues of discomfort during your treatment but nothing replaces clear feedback.

From craniosacral therapy to osteopathy, I feel it’s essential to explore bodywork specialties and try them out myself. This way, I can provide you with an unbiased recommendation and we can discuss whether or not this would be a beneficial addition to your regular care routine. It can be easy to start making appointments with multiple therapists but research and recommendations can help you avoid adding too many people to your wellness payroll.

Video: Joseph Cipriano, DC