Mental health AND the gut

Do these sound familiar?

‘Listen to your gut’

‘Gut feeling’

‘Gut wrenching experience’

‘Butterflies in the stomach’

 

There is a book that’s a bit of a best seller right now,

‘The Mind Gut Connection’ by Dr Emeran Mayer – demonstrating the inextricable, biological link between the mind and the digestive system.

Dr. Mayer explains, when this communication between mind and gut is out of whack, further health problems can manifest, such as depression, anxiety, mood disorder, and fatigue.

The gut is such an influence on our whole being – it is often referred to as our ‘second brain’- containing some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. The ‘second brain’ informs our state of mind in other more obscure ways, as well.

“A big part of our emotions are probably influenced by the nerves in our gut,” Mayer says.

So gut health affects our mind and emotions too?

A recent article from Harvard Health Publication also talks about the gut-brain connection:

 ‘The brain has a direct effect on the stomach. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach’s juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.’

 

My aim with creating Lets Get Visceral – is to express and explore my experience of life with gut disease – specifically living with Crohn’s.

Why Visceral?

Visceral in Latin means ‘of the viscera’ (the gut)

Also, ‘visceral’ is usually used to describe something as gutsy/raw/real.

So, let’s get visceral….:)

 

This book ‘The Mind Gut Connection’ and recent articles I have read about the connection with gut and mind – resonates with me totally.

 

Ever since having all the surgery for Crohn’s, complications and trauma that I experienced 1.5 years ago – removing the large intestine and living with an ileostomy bag. As much as my health now seems to be in a somewhat stable state – my ability to cope with life’s stresses – has admittedly suffered enormously.

 

Perhaps the trauma of the gut – has caused a certain trauma of the emotions and mind?

 

Some may call is post-traumatic stress. Well, that could make sense – having lived with the unpredictability of Crohn’s for 20 years, and somewhat recently experienced a worst case situation that lasted for 12 very uncomfortable, painful and unpredictable months.

Some may call it anxiety. I do feel highly anxious a lot of the time now – mainly living in fear of getting sick again, and not wanting to re-live the surgeon’s knife.

Depression? Yep – that’s a factor too, ain’t gonna lie. It’s been a challenge to re adapt to life, as life is different now, and has to be lived differently post surgery. Now it means slowing right down and always being mindful of stress levels. Otherwise – am at risk of having active disease, and further surgery – which is never out of the question when living with a serious case of Crohn’s disease.

A friend had a really great point recently…

*side note – am so grateful for the friends and family in my life who have been there when things get hard*

Anyway, she mentioned how – as much as we need to look after the body, we need to look after the mind. She’s spot on.

Mental health is huge – for everyone.

Looking after our ‘mental hygiene’, as another friend would put it.

This can be taken for granted – by all of us.

I know I have.

In so many of my writings about living with Crohn’s I have been an advocate for making sure those who have bowel disease – follow up with their specialists, get check ups – remain on top of their disease as much as possible. Well, through personal experience – living with a chronic illness (Crohn’s) – taking care of mental heath – is also vital.

I have let that admittedly slip. I have let the anxiety of living with Crohn’s, depression, fear, and anger get the best of me. And it’s affected not just me, but those I love.

What I have experienced, and my resonse to those experiences – to a certain extent, is reasonable – though, sometimes not. Perhaps gut trauma – really does affect ones emotional life and the mind?

Whatever the case – body AND mind health are essential, equally needing attention and a lot of care.

With love,

Syl x

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