You are what you eat

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As the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” but how often do you really consider what that actually means and how that impacts your life?  On this Dana Being Dana episode, host Dana Michelle, invites her guests to talk about what you consume, both with your mouth and eyes, can impact your focus, mood, energy, sleep, and overall health.  Dana is joined by Lisa L. Marsh, Founder/CEO of MsPsGFree Inc, Dr. Andy Watkins-McCall – Psychiatrist and CEO and Owner of FreedomMind Wellcare and Consulting, and Mary Ellen Taylor, Yoga Therapist & Teacher at Grow Wellness Group /Grow Well Yoga, Barre, and Fitness, to talk about how we can all make better choices that lead to a happier, healthier life.

The gut-brain connection

Dana asked Dr. Andy about gut health and why what we consume can contribute to our overall sense of well-being. “80 to 90% of serotonin is produced by the neurons in our gut.  So, our mood, how we feel, and our emotions, are tightly related to what goes on in our gut system,” said Dr. Andy.

Mary Ellen Taylor spoke about the improvement of physical ailments when clients start eating better saying, “When they begin to just take out some of those inflammatory items, you know, you mentioned gluten, or sugar, or alcohol, or flour, all of a sudden they start to feel better. And so, when there’s not as much pain, let’s say, in the knees, then all of a sudden they can move more. They get outside more, and then they start to feel joy. So that ultimately, they get better rest. There’s definitely that connection of the body and the mind.”

Dr. Andy agreed saying, “There’s a bi-directional relationship between the brain and the gut. Right? They speak to one another. And I think oftentimes we see them as being separated. And in science, we oftentimes think of a blood-brain barrier that it could not be crossed. But now we know that what we consume when it causes toxic, inflammatory reactions in our gut, it can actually cross into our brain.”

What foods should you be eating for healthier guts and brains?

Dana asked her panel to offer advice on what kinds of foods we should be putting into our bodies for optimal mind and body health. Lisa L. Marsh responded by saying, “For me it’s eating things that come from the earth, so eating your avocados, and eating your fruits, and then understanding flax and chia, they were big for me and incorporating those in your diet, either with your smoothies or with our granola.”

Mary Ellen Taylor concurred saying, “For my clients, for myself, and for my family, it’s an anti-inflammatory diet. So, a diet that’s very strong in plants. If we’re eating meats, it’s very lean, organic, and very whole.”

“Yeah, exactly. I agree with both of you. Eating a diet that’s rich in fiber, your nuts, your seeds, your gluten-free grains, and then also making sure that you pick from a variety of different fruits and vegetables. So, the broader the vegetables and fruits that you have, the better that your gut and healthier your gut might be,” said Dr. Andy.

Social media’s impact on mental health

Dana chatted with the panel about how what we consume with our eyes, like social media, can also impact us. She asked the group about what they have seen in their clients regarding social media usage and their mental health.

“I would say that there’s been a rise in anxiety, and a lot of this is due to social media. A lot of times we are looking for things to be fast and available and it affects our overall population. But particularly we’re seeing a lot of it in the adolescent and the youth population. Feeling very self-conscious about appearances, and getting a lot of negative messaging from social media. I definitely feel like what you consume in your mind is really important as far as managing your overall mental health,” replied Dr. Andy.

“I absolutely agree with that. I think you have to really limit your social media intake. I have to do it because I have a business, but what I don’t do is find myself mindlessly scrolling all day. First, I don’t have enough time for that.  Second, I really like to keep things very positive. So positive affirmation, prayer, and grounding yourself and knowing who you are and not letting social media dictate that,” said Lisa.

Mary Ellen mentioned one of the most interesting things she has noticed about social media is how it has spurred self-diagnosis. “Teenagers I work with come in and because they’ve seen it on TikTok, they come in and tell me that they have OCD, or they have anxiety or even had bipolar without a diagnosis from a medical professional. I think that there’s a lot of misinformation on social media,” said Mary Ellen.

Dana responded “I think you make a good point when it comes to social media. A lot of times people assume that what they’re seeing is the entire full picture, the entire reality. And that’s just not necessarily true. You’re usually getting just a snippet of someone’s life or what they’re caring to share and how they’re sharing it.”

The episode concludes with a moment of mindfulness and a demonstration of a breathing technique led by Mary Ellen called “Soft Belly.” The practice is a gentle reminder that sometimes in this fast-paced society, you need to take the time to just breathe.