Today as I type this you have more than likely had your kids home from daycare or school since March 18th. Now that we are 6 weeks into the stay at home orders your mental health may be at an all-time breaking point. We still need to isolate from the world but maybe all we want is social isolation from our significant other or our kids at this point. I’ve been with my husband since the 8th grade, he is the love of my life but seriously that man needs a hobby! My heart goes out to all of you mama’s who are homeschooling, taking care of younger kids or babysitting your husbands who all day long are telling you they are bored. I’m blessed to have teenagers who are self-sufficient and love to be around each other, imagine that. My life is easy right now compared to some of you. So, I want to recognize that not all of us are in the same boat. I recently read this quote on Facebook “We are not in the same boat, just the same storm!” Well isn’t that so true, and I’m not just talking about material boats like finances and the age of our kids but also invisible emotional boats. Today I’m here to talk about the invisible emotional crisis you may be going through and help lead you to some knowledge on how you can help right this emotional ship during the midst of this storm or even in its aftermath. One of things I’m seeing as a health coach is the wave of depression that is drowning more and more Americans. According to the federal mental health crisis hotline calls are 900 percent greater than this time last year. Normally depression affects 1 in 5 Americans, and anxiety is the most common mental disorder affecting roughly 6.8 million people. You might feel like you are on a sinking ship at times but there is hope and that comes directly from your willingness to jump into the life raft. We will talk about that life raft in a moment but first, this reminds me of a story about a real woman in US history named the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Known famously for being aboard the sinking Titanic and saving others by loading lifeboats before she got on one herself. She encouraged the 21 women aboard to keep rowing. For hours they rowed until they were rescued by the Carpathia. Molly had struck it rich in the mining boom in the late 1800’s so when she saw women survivors aboard the Carpathia who had lost children, husbands and all their possessions she was able to scrape together $10,000 from other wealthy women to help those in need. Molly went on to pave the way for women in the suffrage movement in 1914 which later led to a woman’s right to vote and run for political office. She survived the titanic, the Spanish flue and the great depression, Molly was a true hero and survivor of her time. There is so much more to Molly’s story but what I want you to remember is that we all have a heroic story, we are going to come out of this okay and even in the midst we will be able to do something with our story or experience to help others, just like the many speakers you are hearing from today. It is possible to thrive during this time and I want to help give you some tools to do that. But for you to be of value to others you do need to take care of yourself first.
I’m a certified health coach currently working on my national board certification. School work and keeping others believing in their health goals is my full-time gig right now. But amongst all that I’m doing to stay busy, I’m getting good sleep, minimizing stress and eating healthy. I realize for me to be of value I have to prioritize my health, or I’d just be sitting at my computer a total zombie with nothing to give my clients or my family. I specialize in gut health and holistic natural ways to heal the body. My formula for thriving is 6 SIMPLE things, focus on your Spirituality, Intellect, Mindfulness, Physical Body, Love/Relationships and Eating Healthy. Of those 6 categories you get to choose which one you need more work on. But today we are going to focus on the Physical Body and Eating Healthy to help improve Mental Health and I want to start in the gut. But before I do that, I want to make a disclaimer. Psychotherapy and antidepressants are still a great way to treat mental illness. So, if that is what your doctor is telling you to do please by all means continue with those treatments and my suggestions can only help make your health even better. Also, if you are sensing that you are depressed or anxious you should see your doctor to discuss. With that said though, antidepressants and cognitive therapy treatments don’t work for more than a third of depressed patients. More recent theories of depression suggest that an imbalance in gut microbiota and dysfunction in the vagus nerve connecting the gut and the brain may be involved. Basically, the brain can cause a top down problem for the gut and the gut can cause a bottom up problem for the brain. In a continuous loop of signaling molecules from the brain to the gut via the vagus nerve we can cause problems on both ends. Have you ever been asked to speak in public? What did you feel in your gut right before you walked out on stage? This acute brain/gut connection is easy to understand. Or the butterflies you felt when you were introduced to your hot husband for the first time. How about the other way around? You’ve had IBS for a long time, you don’t pay too much attention to it, it’s something you’ve learned to live with. But you can’t shake the feeling of being tired all the time and the brain fog is overwhelming. You have periods of unexplained anxiety and lately you’ve found yourself not being able to lose the weight no matter how hard you try. These examples are commonplace for all of us. Many things obliterate gut health, like stress, antibiotics, antacids, foods we are sensitive to, ibuprofen, artificial sweeteners and toxins we ingest, breath in our put on our skin just to name a few. This is the short list of things within your control. If any of these items are coming up for you in a big way, it’s time to consider that they have had an impact on your gut and therefore could have an impact on your mental health. So, taking care of your body isn’t just what you put in that matters it’s what you take away that may matter even more. If you have a journal take a moment right now to list out the 7 disruptors of gut health and put a 1 through 10 next to each one.
Please take a minute to rate yourself.
Be aware too that if you are unsure if you are ingesting some of these substances like artificial sweeteners or if your makeup is toxic take some time to run your typical makeup and food through EWG.org’s website called Skin Deep and they will rate your products for you. There is a time and place for drugs such as Ibuprofen, antacids and antibiotics but if you know you are overusing these or have been taking them for longer than 10 days talk to your doctor about an alternative.
OK, now that you have your list of things you know are offensive to your gut. Let’s talk about things you can do including food and supplements that have been researched to help you feel better emotionally and help your gut thrive.
1. Sleep– 7-9 hours of restful sleep is the sweet spot, if you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, I can help you with ways to do that but that’s a whole other blog.
2. Exercise– Not too much and not too little. HIIT and weightlifting. Join me every morning 8am Pacific in my No Bad Days Simple Wellness for Women FB group. Or if you prefer, go to my YouTube channel, search No Bad Days Jolene Fisher and look for the gold pineapple. All 31 of them are listed under the quarantine HIIT workouts. I also highly recommend Yoga and meditation for stress reduction.
3. Supplements: Omega 3, Vitamin D and Pre and Probiotics
a. Omega 3 (Brain is 60% fat, with half of that being DHA, which is an essential fatty acid responsible for helping keep our memory sharp and our brains at their normal size. They are also responsible for gut lining repair! They are also good for inflammation and heart health. Omega 3’s are one of my top nutritional supplements.
b. Vitamin D deficiency is a huge problem and can lead to a lot of issues. Including depression, bone loss, low immunity and intestinal permeability. Since we are talking about gut health and its relationship to mental health, we really want to make sure you aren’t low in Vitamin D levels. The only way you would know is through blood testing. But most of us are deficient anyways. In fact, 41% of the US population is deficient and the darker your skin naturally is the harder it is to synthesize vitamin D. The African American population is 83% deficient. Vitamin D has a direct correlation with depression as well. Talk to your physician about proper dosing.
c. Prebiotics are the fiber that feeds the good gut buddies. Eating a lot of dietary fiber will help ensure a healthy diversity and level of gut microbiota. Psyllium husk fiber and leafy greens are great ways to up the fiber. One other interesting thing to note for all the breast-feeding mama’s out there. Mother’s milk contains important prebiotics designed to feed the gut bugs of a newborn.
d. Probiotics are necessary if you are starting from scratch. Meaning you are on antibiotics or you are just starting your journey into better gut health. There are so many options out there so let me take this time to warn you about buying any of your supplements from online sources like Amazon or Ebay. Unless you are inside of a company’s supplement website listed on Amazon you may be getting a counterfeited product. I get my Probiotics directly from my Naturopathic doctor. I also like buying supplements from trusted companies who have great quality control testing. Like Designs for Health and Isagenix for example.
4. Food to help increase your mood and decrease your waistline
a. Protein– Getting the proper amount of protein every day is critical to your body. In general terms you need to eat ½ your body weight in grams of protein every day just to maintain the cells of your body. If you want to really make a difference in how you look and feel you will need to eat up to 1 gram of protein for every 1 lb. of lean body mass. Every cell of the human body is built on proteins or Amino Acids. These building blocks include 9 essential amino acids. Essential means that we need to eat them every day because our body doesn’t manufacture them on its own. Tryptophan is one of those 9 essential amino acids. You probably didn’t know this, but Tryptophan is the precursor to making Serotonin. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin helps to relay messages from one area of the brain to another. Because of the widespread distribution of its cells, it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. Of the approximately 40 million brain cells, most are influenced either directly or indirectly by serotonin. Serotonin is known as our “feel good hormone.” This includes brain cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior. So now you can see why it’s important to get the proper amount of protein so that we get the essential amino acids needed to make healthy brain cells.
One theory on depression states that, depression is caused by a lack of new brain cell growth. Since Serotonin is responsible for stimulating new brain cell growth you can see why not having enough of it can be a problem for a whole host of reasons. You may have heard of an SSRI which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. These SSRI’s are one type of antidepressant and are meant to increase serotonin in the brain. Lexapro is a common SSRI, for example. These drugs basically try to keep more of your natural serotonin in circulation so it can have its proper effect on the brain. Again, talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
b. Fat– Eating about 30% of your daily calories in the form of healthy fats will help build healthier cells. Every cell in the human body is surrounded by a fatty lipid layer. Also, our hormones are manufactured using fat. Your brain is 60% fat as well. So, don’t avoid this amazing macronutrient. Good fat sources come in the form of avocados, nuts, salmon, coconut oil and olive oils.
c. High-fiber foods, such as fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains, encourage the production of short-chain fatty acids in the gut. In the last few decades, it became apparent that SCFAs might play a key role in the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome, bowel disorders, and certain types of cancer. Research is focusing on how SCFA’s can increase our metabolism. Keep eating your fiber rich foods to shrink the waistline and help those gut buddies flourish. The average American eats 20-25g of fiber per day but please try to shoot for higher amounts. At least 25 as your baseline.
The Standard American Diet doesn’t often include a lot of protein, good fats and fiber, so be intentional about your intake of protein, fat and fiber everyday to build healthier cells, which in tern lead to a healthier overall body.
But even if you did all the right things with your diet, it wouldn’t be of much help if you aren’t managing your stress levels. Remember when you rated your stress on a level of 1-10, look at that number one more time. If it’s over a 5 you may be suffering from chronic stress.
This chronic stress will catch up to you in the form of weight gain, weakened immunity, and possibly even an autoimmune disorder. Let’s not forget the #1 and #2 causes of death in America is Cancer and Heart Disease. Both caused by inflammation in the body. Stress is a killer and we need to pay attention to it. This is probably the most important thing that can undermine your health goals. Letting stress go is hard for us to do, especially now during these crazy Covid-19 times. We need to learn to be a little more like Zebras. So Picture this in your head from the book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.
A Zebra is attacked, it gets away from the ferocious lion and returns to its herd. Within seconds the Zebra has returned to its normal activities trotting along like a normal Zebra like the rest of them. We are in this storm of Coronavirus together, how we respond to our own stressor will dictate how well we come out of it. Are you going to be an Unsinkable Molly Brown, or like a Zebra? I hope so! De-stressing will optimize your bodies metabolism of food and quit down the inflammation raging inside of you. Here are several ways to unwind.
1. Arts and Crafts
2. Breath work- look up belly breathing or box breathing
3. Conversations- with a health coach or a friend
4. Counseling- with a trained therapist
7. EMDR- A form of therapy used by a trained licensed counselor
8. Hot tub, or bath
10. Meditation and Prayer
13. Passion- This is important. Make some time for this area of your life and explore this a bit more
15. Playing or joking around
16. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
18. Spiritual practices- Joining groups that help keep you accountable
19. Tai Chi
20. Tapping Technique, look it up
Since we humans are not zebras, we have to work a bit at adopting a zebra-like approach to stress; living in the moment, not worrying about things outside of our control or what might happen next or what we can’t control (like turning off the news). It takes practice, so Hiring a health coach, seeking out counseling or connecting with a friend are all steps in the right direction to practicing during this time. If you can’t hold yourself accountable right now to releasing stress get help. I’m here to help! I offer a course called Healthy Body Happy Mind, in this 5-week course we go in depth on the topics we’ve already discussed, and you become the center of attention. We will set goals, and you will learn how to get your mindset to tune into a conscious awareness for change. This course is meant to give you results that are lifelong habits. I’m also offering 5 weeks free to my No Bad Days App. You will find a lot of home-based workouts for this time in quarantine.
As your health coach I can help direct your goals with our built-in calls offered throughout the program. Go to Nobaddays.biz/programs to learn more about this special course.
Bouchez, C. (2008, January 23). Serotonin: 9 Questions and Answers. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/serotonin#
den Besten, G., van Eunen, K., Groen, A. K., Venema, K., Reijngoud, D.-J., & Bakker, B. M. (2013). The role of short-chain fatty acids in the interplay between diet, gut microbiota, and host energy metabolism. Journal of Lipid Research, 54(9), 2325–2340. https://doi.org/10.1194/jlr.r036012
Fausto, R. F. (2020, April 28). No, we’re not in the same boat! Retrieved from https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/health-and-family/2020/04/29/2010462/no-were-not-same-boat?fbclid=IwAR01FUV8cgbs4RuLVTw6svPkgnTyES0qnfFnXYWTbHaY6wc7-m_OO6YpsWg&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&utm_term=Autofeed
Fung, T. C., Vuong, H. E., Luna, C. D. G., Pronovost, G. N., Aleksandrova, A. A., Riley, N. G., … Hsiao, E. Y. (2019). Intestinal serotonin and fluoxetine exposure modulate bacterial colonization in the gut. Nature Microbiology, 4(12), 2064–2073. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-019-0540-4
Greenberg, M. (2018, December 30). Feeling Depressed? Gut-Brain Dysfunction May Be to Blame. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201812/feeling-depressed-gut-brain-dysfunction-may-be-blame
Gundry, S. R., MD. (2017). The Plant Paradox. New York, New York: HarperCollins.
H. (2000, January 1). About Margaret “Molly” Brown. Retrieved from https://mollybrown.org/about-molly-brown/
Kane, A. O. C. (2020, April 26). People have increased anxiety and depression from Covid-19 — telehealth can help. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/494732-people-have-increased-anxiety-and-depression-from-covid-19-telehealth-can
Martin, C. R., Osadchiy, V., Kalani, A., & Mayer, E. A. (2018). The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis. Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 6(2), 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcmgh.2018.04.003
Myers, A. (2017). The Autoimmune Solution. New York, New York: HarperCollins.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). (2019, September 17). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/ssris/art-20044825
Skerrett, P. (2020, April 21). Covid-19 and suicide: an uncertain connection. Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2020/04/22/suicide-covid-19-uncertain-connection/
Spritzler, R. F. D. (2018, July 23). 8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-deficiency-symptoms#section4