A groundbreaking study done at University College Cork, Ireland was the first to make a connection between microbes and a specific molecule called microRNA in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex of the brain (link).
Researchers took two groups of mice. One group was germ-free (no microbes) and the other was normal. In the germ-free mice, 103 microRNAs in the amygdala and 31 microRNA’s in the prefrontal cortex were changed compared to the normal mice. This was the first time a study showed that the gut physically changed the mind.
When researchers added back gut microbes into the germ-free mice the levels normalized. This is pretty mind-blowing, and a reason that balancing the microbes in our gut should be a major part of any mental health treatment.
Everyone knows that stress affects us negatively, but chronic stress also physically changes the brain. Research done at UC Berkeley shows that chronic stress changes the production of myelin (the insulation around nerve cells) which disruptions the communication patterns within the brain (link).
Stress also influences the production of neurotransmitters which play a key role in anxiety.
7. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
It’s only when you stop eating gluten that you notice the insane amount of this we’re eating on a daily basis. Bagels and pastries for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and pasta for dinner are all the norm.
The mainstream idea is that only people with a rare condition called Celiac disease have issues with gluten, but there’s something that countless people have and are unaware of called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.
We’re unaware of how many people this actually affects because the body becomes tolerant to gluten over time. It’s only through doing an elimination diet that most people understand the effects of gluten.
If you’re on the fence about gluten, this paper (link) may change your mind. It showed that a protein in gluten called Gliadin triggers the production of Zonulin. Zonulin opens up spaces between the cells of the intentional lining. We know this as a leaky gut. Gluten pokes holes in the gut.
A leaky gut allows toxins to enter the bloodstream and creates an immunological response. If you’re like most people who are unaware of gluten sensitivity and continue to eat it, you’ll create chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a root cause of nearly every psychiatric disorder including anxiety (link).
A New Concept of Anxiety
Understanding is everything. When I wrapped my head around what anxiety actually was, I made a commitment to lifestyle changes and within 9 months I had healed my lifelong anxiety.
I’m no longer on medication and have a sense of inner peace and groundedness that I never thought was possible.
Here is what I did to heal my anxiety
1. A Complete Diet Overhaul
I ate a ton of junk growing up, but as an adult, I started eating a vegetarian diet because I believed it was healthy. I was hearing all kinds of demonizing things about meat and pretty much all animal products in general.
Discovering ancestral nutrition and bringing back fats into my diet helped to heal my brain and body. Though I’ve never gotten my levels tested, I believe my mostly plant-based diet left me deficient in several nutrients.
The re-introduction of meat and animal products while also lowering my intake of carbs regulated my blood sugar and my moods. The brain fog I was suffering from constantly lifted. I had a lot more energy in my body and greater concentration in my mind.
2. Breathwork and Yoga
If you follow me on Instagram (link) you know that breathwork is an important part of my daily routine.
Anxiety is closely tied to the nervous system, and breathwork allows us to activate the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” part nervous system. This lowers cortisol and heals the gut while helping to re-wire neural pathways. Anxiety changes the brain physically, so breathwork is the ultimate hack in creating new connections.