Surely you’ve heard the saying ‘you are what your eat’? It’s a concept synonymous with weight loss but it’s also worth exploring what this actually means for your overall health and wellbeing.
While the human body is made up of 37 trillion cells, the number of bacteria living in or on the human body outnumbers those human cells by 10 to 1. We carry bacteria that cause disease and bacteria that are beneficial to our health at the same time. Not only are we what we eat but the dominant species of bacteria are also determined by what we eat. If the balance is off it can result in a compromised immune system and increased chronic inflammation, which are the foundations for so many chronic degenerative diseases.
The gut is where 70-80% of the body’s immune system resides and it has the largest accumulation of lymphoid tissue in the body. If the vast majority of the immune system is located in the gut then it is hardly surprising that there is a strong connection between gut health and mental health, although rarely do patient and practitioner make the connection alike.
The ancient wisdom of Aristotle, observed that the body out of balance affects the mind. Sadly by the time Descartes came along in the 17th century and outlined principles which still inform our approach to modern medicine today (including the principle that the mind and body are separate) has overshadowed Aristotle’s early wisdom. This approach of mind and body being separate is still a common approach in medicine today, however an integrative holistic approach recognises the links between mind and body, nutrition and the environment.
The mind, immune system (including gut health), hormone balance and nervous system are all interwoven with one another and affect the mind. This connection is now recognised in a relatively new science termed psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). With the belief that the mind can affect each of those systems, the interaction of the human body and our environment, and its impact on our health.
If you’re interested in learning more about psychoneuroimmunology check out this interview The Good Doctors did on the topic.