Tuesday, 4 August 2020

The Gut/Brain Axis


Dear Rob,

It’s hard to top a film that appears to be a cult classic, but we shall give it a good go. So, from Dinner with Andre to just…dinner?

You may be wondering if anything inspired this blog post. Indeed, it did. It was inspired, like most things in my life, by stress.

I have been rather stressed for two weeks or so. I practiced my meditation and mindfulness, I engaged in pleasant activities to keep my mood up and I even spoke to my therapist. My mind was clearer, I felt calmer and more optimistic.

My brain was chill. It was having a grand old time, enjoying all the positivity I had been obsessively feeding it. My stomach on the other hand, was less pleased.

I would wake up every morning (at a reasonable time, thanks brain), and I would instantly feel sick. My stomach would hurt. I would just feel…ugh. And so, like I tend to do, I hopped onto Google and asked why. And here I discovered something I hadn’t known – there is a link between your gut and your brain.

I don’t know why this was so revelatory – in fact, one of the things I had mercilessly drilled into me by a former social worker was how important food was to your mood. But I had figured it was mostly vitamin related. You eat some salad and some fish, and your body has the energy it needs to function, lessening the physical effects of depression. Simple.

I found out that the organisms present in your stomach could have a direct impact on your brain. This is because there’s a link between your gut and your brain called the gut-brain axis.
Now, I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know the ins and outs. But simply put, your stomach can produce all sorts of hormones including serotonin (we’re big fans of that one) and melatonin which helps you sleep. Your gut flora, the microorganisms that live in your digestive system, can release molecules that affect the vagus nerve which tells your brain about what’s happening in your stomach. So, there’s a connection between the two of them. It stands to reason that whatever is happening in your stomach can then affect your brain.

dissection of brain showing neurons


In fact, probiotics are meant to be good for people with mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

I mean, it’s a pretty complicated area of study, one which I have no idea about as I’m not that smart, but it’s super interesting to read up on!

Have you ever found that your stomach is affected by your mood, or potentially the other way around?

I am very tempted to give probiotics a go to see if anything happens! It’s worth noting that the research is in its infancy and most of it comes from animal studies. But I do like the idea that mental health isn’t just confined to the brain.

Do you think a more holistic approach would be beneficial in terms of mental health treatment? It would be super interesting to hear your thoughts!

Emerging into the new normal...

Yesterday we met as a group for the fist time in a cafe since the lockdown. We had a great time chatting about this and that as well as how we are all coping with thoughts around the virus. We also got to enjoy the 50% subsidy in Costas courtesy of Boris! Next stop will be getting ArtWell up and running as well as the Selby District Mental Health Forum! Get in touch if you'd like to come along to our peer support groups. Keep safe and look after yourself. Robert

Monday, 27 July 2020

Another introduction...

Hi, I’m Robert and this is my opportunity to do a little introduction to me. So, I’m also a survivor/consumer of mental health services on the road to recovery (I’ve been discharged from secondary services and am back under the care of my lovely GP) which I guess is a positive. I wonder if this means that I’m now responsible for my own mental health - guess that’s the way it should be though it doesn’t stop me from worrying. I’ve struggled with my mental health on and off since the age of 18 experiencing depression initially just for occasional 24 hour periods but then building up to over a decade of chronic ill health. It’s taken a whole heap of meds, a number of stays in hospital and finally a years participation in a local therapeutic community to finally help me to understand (I think) where my depression comes from and how I can start of manage it and it was this last experience that kick-started my recovery. At the moment I split my time working as a Learning Access Worker/free lance trainer/Director for Brighter Futures which keeps me busy but still unfortunately not satisfied - but hopefully I’m working on that! The idea of this conversation came to me by way of a film. I find that films often offer up to me metaphors for life and the film that came to me when talking with Lisa was My Dinner With Andre. A bit of an odd film but worth watching if you ever come across it. It tells the story of two friends that meet after many years of not seeing each other who then have a conversation over dinner about what they’ve been up to in the intervening years. The film is a recording of their conversation. They touch on all sorts of things but keep coming back to some of the big questions like ‘The meaning of life’. Anyway, I felt that it would be great if Lisa and I could have a sort of conversation about this and that as well as maybe looking at and answering some of the bigger questions that trip us up. It’s not therapy though it may be therapeutic and you never know it might be interesting at least to us, maybe to others. So, life is a journey or a series of multiple journeys... here’s the start of another one!

An Introduction



Hello!

My name is Lisa and I am a mental health (survivor, sufferer, patient?). I’ve been dealing with my mental health struggles for around fourteen years and I like to think I’m well on the way to recovery. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was younger and have carried the label into my adult life. There’s been a few other ones interjected along the way, but I try to focus less on the names nowadays. 

 I’ve had all the therapy that could be thrown at me, I’m on antidepressants (big up, Sertraline) and as of last week, I am a daily meditator. I’ve had my fair share of trouble in the world of mental health – diagnoses I don’t agree with, refusal of treatment I think I needed, flat out nasty comments from people who were supposed to be there to help. All in all, I’ve been at the very bottom, as well as the very top (yay, bipolar), and am currently hovering around the middle. I’m okay. I’ve learned to quite like okay.

So where is this blog going? Well, as we sat in a Costa on an uncomfortably warm Thursday morning, Robert had a brilliant idea to have a conversation. We’re quite good at conversation, Robert and I, and tangents, so what could be better than doing that in blog form?

This is intended to be a bouncing of ideas back and forth, with perhaps some epiphanies and revelations along the way. Personally, I think more people should be interested in what’s going on in their minds. Mental health still has a long way to go and despite the media talking about depression and anxiety as (rightly) a common and valid problem to have, some of the murkier aspects of mental ill-health are still swept under the rug, which is why it’s always important to keep up a conversation to demystify and destigmatize the topic.

So that’s what we will try to do. 

No pressure.