I grew up on Hamburger Helper, instant mashed potatoes and canned green beans. My favorite beverage was Diet Coke. My mother was a victim of the convenience food epidemic and our kitchen was loaded with processed foods. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered food that doesn’t necessarily come in a box or a can. I was also raised eating tons of meat, dairy and sugar. McDonalds was my comfort food. Almost every day, up until I was 48 years old, I would crave a Hamburger Happy Meal for lunch! I believed, because I didn’t know any better, that it wasn’t a “meal” unless it included meat and dairy. I ate this way most of my life and didn’t even question it until I was at a point where my health and life had crumbled around me and I couldn’t go on anymore.
After years of suffering through a completely dysfunctional existence, I finally decided to check into rehab and get sober. I had no idea how much that decision was going to change everything about my life. My depression fluctuated from mild to severe with occasional suicidal ideation since I was 17. I also suffered from low self-esteem, guilt, shame, co-dependency and love addiction. My health was deteriorating and I severe back pain, joint pain, and sciatica down both legs. I had been self-medicating for three decades using alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes.
After going to a 30-day treatment program and getting sober, I started practicing yoga and meditation and studying how food played a role in my mental and physical health. I found top biochemists, nutritionists, and naturopathic medicine doctors that taught me how to use food as medicine and to eat to be healthy, not to satisfy cravings. I had stopped eating processed foods and started eating a healthy whole foods diet. Within months, all of my body pain left me and so did the depression.
New studies by neuroscientists now show that when it comes to your mental health, your behavior, and even your mood, it may not be the brain calling the shots; it may be your gut that’s in charge. Now there is hard evidence linking conditions such as debilitating stress, anxiety and depression to the gut’s microbial residents, known as the microbiome. Scientists are now finding that the bacteria in the intestines have a major impact on our state of mind. Your gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters that communicate with the brain by sending information that affects your wellbeing. Therefore, your mental health is very much dependent on the healthy microbes in your gut.
Researchers have shown that there is a dynamic interaction between your gut, your brain, and your immune system and that in order to maintain overall health of your whole being, you must have healthy gut bacteria. In order to ensure your gut is healthy, avoiding processed foods and foods high in sugar and fructose is essential. Sugars and especially processed sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup feed the harmful bacteria and throw off the balance of the gut’s microflora. This can weaken the immune system and cause a variety of health problems, both physical and mental.
Some of the warning signs that your gut flora is off manifest as subtle forms of depression such as irritability, hostility, extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate, withdrawing from loved ones, perfectionism, guilty feelings, and self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food, and other addictions.
Researchers have discovered that dietary changes can be used as the sole treatment for these mood disorders. One study found that women who regularly consumed foods containing probiotics (such as the bacteria in yogurt) or fermented foods, showed improved brain function and relief of symptoms compared to those who did not consume the probiotics. The study showed that this significantly affected the parts of the brain that control the processing of emotion and sensation.
The healthy bacteria in your gut are vulnerable to your diet and lifestyle and can be harmed by the foods you choose to eat and use of household chemicals. Some of these that are the most harmful are conventionally raised meats and other animal products that come from animals that have been fed genetically modified grains and have been injected with antibiotics (which includes all factory farmed meats and dairy). Processed foods, sugars, processed sweeteners and food grown with pesticides also harms the health of your gut bacteria. Hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps should also be avoided.
One of the most natural ways to begin to heal mentally and physically is to eat a healthy diet that supports healthy gut bacteria. At Villa Kali Ma we provide our clients with a healthy diet of delicious and nutritious organic foods to support the healing of the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. We teach our clients how to live a balanced life in harmony with how nature intended. Women learn how to shop, plan and cook healthy meals that support their mental and physical wellbeing. I know that this works because I suffered for three decades and healed in just a few months by the same methods we teach here at Villa Kali Ma. This is not difficult to do because the food is delicious and you will feel so much better physically and mentally that you won’t want to go back to your old habits.
Peace, love, and many blessings,