One of the big mistakes modern medicine has made is to detach ailments, emotions, mental health and physical health and divide them into sections. We have doctors that specialise in organs, doctors that specialise in specific diseases and doctors that specialise in helping us with our mental health. The undeniable connection between mental health and physical health is strong.
So, why do healthcare providers separate mental health and physical health? They treat mental and physical health as independent instead of a system that is deeply connected? I am going to take you through the 7 ways that your mental health is connected to your physical health.
The Holistic Approach
It’s the main difference between doctors and holistic healthcare practitioners. As a nutritionist, I am lucky to have the freedom to look at a person holistically. I can take the time to assess your issues. This helps me to see where your mental health and physical health are connected. One area is gut health. The connection between brain and gut is undeniable. Your gut is responsible for mental health. These are the neurotransmitters that you need for good mental health. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter and it is made in your gut.
If you have IBS, IBD, Crohn’s or other gut issues then chances are you also have an issue. Either with the quality or quantity of hormones, neurotransmitters and your immune system. The gut plays a huge role in all of these. If you have a hormonal imbalance or a lack of good quality neurotransmitters, the effect on mental health can be significant.
Your sleep is vital for physical health. It’s also vital for mental health. Sleep problems have been linked to a lot mental health issues like depression, anxiety and ADHD. Sleep quantity is important but sleep quality is too. Adequate sleep can be very beneficial for both mental and physical help.
2. Exercise for mental health
No toxic diet culture here! I will never recommend you try to exercise your weight away, that doesn’t work. Exercise and physical activity is excellent for physical health. Both for your heart, lungs and circulation and for your mental health too. It’s also great for stress relief which helps with mental health. Win, win.
If you suffer from headaches, fatigue and mood changes you can simply be dehydrated! Dehydration can stop your brain from working properly so you can feel down or have low moods and simply drinking more can make a massive difference. Dehydration can even lead to cognitive impairment like brain fog or forgetfulness. If you feel like you’re regularly having an afternoon slump despite eating a carb controlled lunch, have a big glass of water with electrolytes and you will quickly perk up.
4. Substance Use
Alcohol or over the counter medication can have significant impact on your mental and physical health. If you are self medicating with alcohol, or other substances it can make feelings of low mood and depression worse. If you have any underlying issues they can be made much worse with even small amounts of alcohol which is a know depressant.
It makes sense to think that a physical ailment can have a detrimental affect on your mental health. Any illness can lead to issues with mental health. Think about something as simple as a cold. The itchy eyes, dripping nose and loss of sense of taste and smell. Not being able to taste food is a pretty grim experience. If it goes on a little longer than normal then it’s no surprise it can leave you feeling down.
Even if you don’t actually want an active social life you can feel the effects of not having social connections both in physical health and mental health. We humans are social creatures. This is because it is from historical times when being alone was a death sentence. We needed the tribe to keep us safe. Connections, touch, laughter and community are all essential ingredients to health.
In this post I have left the topic of nutrition to last. It goes without saying that nutrition is important but I am saying it again anyway. This one is tricky. If you decide to follow standard dietary guidelines, it might help you thrive. Standard guidelines are also equally likely to make you ill. Unless you choose to eat right for your own body and your own level of activity, you risk making yourself ill.
I know because it happened to me. I ate really low fat and low calorie and I was morbidly obese. Not only that, I was also riddled with anxiety. Throwing out the dietary guidelines and finding what worked for me meant that not only did I lose weight, but I was able to come off my anxiety medication.
Weight loss is more than food
I had an internet argument with someone recently who was adamant that her weight gain wasn’t because of what she was eating. She told me again and again that her 2100 calorie diet was well within the limits for her height. Against my better judgement I tried to explain that, yes, calorie control is important. However, where those calories come from is equally important.
Eating the right type of diet for your body, including eating enough protein, can make a massive difference. Not only to weight but to mental and physical health. It’s part of the bigger picture. Weight loss comes from health first. Physical health and mental health combined. If you want to find out how to start a diet that is right for your body, check out Protein Priority Diet.
In the meantime, work on the 7 points yourself and see how quickly you can see improvements in your mental health and physical health.