The other mind-body connection: Food and psychological health

For the past several decades, the term mind-body connection has been used to refer to the idea, familiar in both the world of alternative health care and the world of “positive thinking,” that our thoughts and emotions can exert a powerful effect on our physical health. I’ve personally verified and validated this to an extent in my own life by discovering that a proper regulation of inner states and outlooks, aided by much introspection, meditation, and other attentional/concentrative disciplines, undeniably contributes to better physical health. (One of the most interesting and preternaturally effective practices is simply to direct neutral awareness to the site of any pain or discomfort, and to feel it as deeply and fully as possible, searching out its inner “shape” and relaxing into it. But that’s another story.)

Thanks to my being saddled with reactive hypoglycemia, I’ve also had to become hyper-aware of the effects flowing in the opposite direction: the effects not of mind upon body but of body upon mind. Eating the wrong things, or the right things at the wrong time of day, can result in fairly catastrophic deteriorations of my inner state, both cognitively and emotionally.

Today a neat little article at Big Think focuses specifically on this issue (the effects of nutrition on the mind), and is well worth your time:

If you believe your emotions can affect your health, nutritionist-author Nora Gedgaudas would say you’ve got another thing coming. In her view, your emotions are largely a product of your health.

At the Ancestral Health Symposium this month at UCLA Gedgaudas spoke about “the myth of the ‘mind-body connection’ and how diet can powerfully impact mental health and cognitive performance” and she expanded on this in an interview with Age of Engagement. “Emotions are biochemical storms in the body and brain,” she says. “The healthier your biochemistry, of course, the better the emotional and also the cognitive forecast.” Psychological issues have physiological underpinnings, she says, not the other way around. Nor are they a result of outside issues.

But what if we have serious problems in life and they drag us down mentally? “What we choose to focus on is largely a product of biochemistry,” she says. “We see absolutely everything through this lens that is our blood sugar stability (…), our hormones and our neurotransmitters.”

Full story at Big Think.

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About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD, GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES, and HORROR LITERATURE THROUGH HISTORY.

Posted on August 24, 2011, in Health & Medicine, Psychology & Consciousness and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. “Eating the wrong things, or the right things at the wrong time of day, can result in fairly catastrophic
    deteriorations of my inner state, both cognitively and emotionally”

    I share that with you. I have IBS. I’m also really interested in psychosomatic medicine and have been since my youth because of an acquaintance with Oriental medicine.

    I like to fast and I’ve realized it sharpens my cognition. It brings me into a calm state, I am extra-aware but not agitated, even my body at such a time feels stronger, faster. There’s a sense of equilibrium between mind and body that is just wonderful as well as between man and environment, exquisite!

    I’ve tried the practice you mention too – the one about “neutral awareness of the pain…easing into it” – it’s nice. There’s a ton of goodies in natural medicine (that group of practices that is usually termed “alternative health”), I like to collect ideas related to that, thanks for your share.

    The lady spoke like a true materialist πŸ™‚

    • I, too, have found that a bit of fasting has the very same positive effect. I’ve never tried it for an extended period, because there’s a fine line between the positive feelings and some hellacious crashes. But going hungry for a time is really sharpening to my overall well-being, if regulated properly.

      Glad you liked my post, Kamelaon, and thanks for sharing.

  2. I am learning that certain foods do not agree with me and by taking them out of my diet, it is helping overall to feel much better in my body. Garlic and Onion are of course two difficult foods that I can’t eat but I suspect, the real culprit in that is some emotional trauma connected to them. Yes, it shows up physically but I know that trauma, emotions and the body all interact and influence one another. One thing I have found is that if I eat too much within a couple of hours of bedtime, it really affects my sleep. Great post.

    • Excellent, Don. Thanks for that. I think the more we all share our experiences in this area, the more solid info that gives us to “go on” as we try and gauge our own individual dietary needs. “Iron sharpeneth iron,” and all that. I appreciate your weighing in.

      By the way, I have the same issue with eating late. My sleep is enormously improved if I make sure to fast, or at least to eat extremely lightly, during the entire last half of the day. A doctor of my wife’s gave her an interesting lifetime dietary recommendation a couple of years ago: Eat basically anything you want, including junk food, from rising until about 11 a.m.. Then for lunch have a huge portion of protein along with some salad greens and fresh vegetables and/or fruit. After 2 p.m., eat nothing, or if you simply have to eat, make it only protein, and only enough to take the edge of the hunger. I’ve found through experimentation that this describes my ideal personal diet, especially if I approach the morning stage of “eating anything” with caution and common sense tailored to my individual food reactions.

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