Hello hello, everyone! Today I’m going to visit a topic of discussion that I find very personal and compelling: the correspondence between your gut health and your mental health. Or, in less political terms, what you eat and how it effects how you feel. Fasten your seat-belts, people, I’m honestly going to pour my heart out on this one.
I have a pretty unique perspective on this, I’d say, because I’ve gone through a couple of different lifestyle phases in the past two years. 2015 and before, I found myself constantly unhappy, and looking for happiness outside of myself. It was a dark period, but it never stays dark for long. 2016 was a breakthrough year for me. I learned what self love was, and took all the actions necessary to look after my own health. Suddenly I found myself empowered, independent, and more or less free of the crippling social anxiety I had felt since the beginning of high school. I looked to magic and made myself into something bright and spiritual, instead of the cold, cynical being I was so recently.
Then 2017 came. Veganism knocked at my door and I answered. (So did sobriety, by the way.) I started a diary and wrote every day, left the wine in 2016, and dove back into fitness after the hibernation period that is the holidays. I felt incredible. Winter had never been so warm. At the beginning of February, I was running three miles twice a week, and spending most of my time outside of school in the woods.
Come around the beginning of March, though, my sunshine went through a temporary but complete eclipse. I caught strep at a party. No big deal though, I thought, one round of antibiotics and I’ll be good to go. But it wasn’t that simple. Over the course of about a month and a half, my strep relapsed four times, and I stayed on antibiotics for four straight weeks. The doctors warned me that my stomach may act up during the treatment, but what they didn’t tell me was that I’d be more or less crippled by anxiety the entire time. Not mention that the anxiety lingered about a month, give or take, after the treatment was complete. We’re talking serious hypochondriac behavior.
Mental illness has a long-running history on one side of my family, with multiple cases of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. The struggle was real, you could say, so real that I seriously considered seeing a therapist. But… something just wasn’t adding up. So I went down a Pinterest bunny trail and did every anxiety-relieving yoga regimen I could find, buried myself in my passions, and just decided to stay positive despite it all. I realized that my “vegan diet” had turned into a “bread and starches” diet and promptly turned it around. That anxiety faded over that month and a half, and I finally beat it when I started exercising and eating a balanced ratio of macros again…
So, you might have seen this coming, as soon as the healthy bacteria repopulated in my system, I felt like myself again. That’s when the dots started connecting. I looked back on the phases of my life not just as periods in different places with different people, but as distinctly different lifestyle phases differentiated predominantly by the food I was eating. Now that I’ve thrown this seemingly brazen factoid at you, please refer to this article on Psychology Today that discusses the relationship that our stomachs have to our brains, and subsequently, how changes in diet and probiotic supplements effect the health and behavior of individuals. (I would mention the amount of antibiotics that regularly get pumped into commercial meat, at this point, but you probably have time to look at PETA’s page yourself.)
So, to summarize, in 2015 I was a sedentary cheese-addicted carbivore. I was depressed at worst, and dysfunctional at best, that year. In 2016, I was active and selectively omnivorous. I built physical and mental strength. I climbed out of the holes I’d dug myself into. I cultivated self love and pride. When 2017 started I became active and vegan. I filled those holes back up with dirt and planted flowers over them. In February I got sick and became a vegan on an extended antibiotic regimen. I was fighting panic attacks and staying inside for days at a time. (The veganism didn’t seem to help me much there, did it?) Fast forward to now: more than halfway through 2017, I’m finishing up my Associate’s of Arts degree, running a blog, studying to become a certified Human Design specialist, and moving forward into my Bachelor’s.
But here’s the real point I’m trying to make… what you eat matters. No matter where you are in your life, if you consistently put things in your body that help instead of hurt you, the way it will make you feel will add to the momentum of whoever you are trying to be.
To healthier tummies and calmer minds,