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The Importance of Whole Foods on Our Gut Health, Immune System, Mental Health, and Overall Well-being

Hey there — I’m Stephanie, The Superfood Goddess. I am a Holistic health coach and I am deeply passionate about healing my body naturally through whole foods. I come from a background of family trauma that included emotional, physical, and verbal abuse. I’m sharing this honest truth because I’ve changed my life through the foods, mindset, and spiritual shifts. Mindset and positive thinking are a big part of personal healing as well as nutrition. As a culture, we are not discussing the effects of food on our emotional healing and mental health enough. The way we eat has a direct correlation to how we feel physically, mentally and many will agree, spiritually as well. 


Let’s talk specifically about the importance of gut health and how whole foods impact the healing of our gut for mental health. Our gut is the center for everything in our bodies — it is the control center of our immune system, our mental health, and wards off chronic disease. Serotonin production, for example, is hugely important for mood and cognition. It impacts every aspect of our body from our reward center, to learning, memory, and other physiological processes. 


90% of the human body’s total serotonin is located in the GI tract (1) 

If you have ever heard the saying, “trust your gut,” or “I had a gut feeling,” you can be assured that it’s absolutely true. Imagine what you can do for your mental health when you feed your gut foods that contain a wide-range of nutrients. It’s pretty black and white — if you eat awful foods, you are going to feel awful, but if you eat wholesome foods, you are going to feel more whole and incredible. 


Let’s go back in time

I was very sick during most of my childhood. I grew up (as most of us did) on “the standard American Diet,” which consisted of dairy products, lean meats, and artificial flavors. I never knew how drastically sugar, dairy, and processed foods could harm my immune system or mental health. I grew up sick, often had bronchitis and ear infections, and took antibiotics regularly. While antibiotics can be incredible to heal disease and keep us safe, there is some bad they do to our bodies too. Antibiotics wipe out the good AND bad bacteria from your gut. This is great for dealing with the bad bacteria, but we need to keep the good and beneficial bacteria for our gut to function properly. We want to feed our gut a diverse amount of fiber and especially prebiotics. Prebiotic fibers feed our healthy gut bacteria.1 Foods high in prebiotic fiber are Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, raw dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic,  asparagus, whole wheat, spinach, beans, bananas, oats, and soybeans.2 


Our gut microbiome is a crucial center-point for our overall well being 

The gut and brain speak to one another constantly throughout the day via our central nervous system.3 When something is ingested and introduced into our body, our gut receives it first and then relays the “food message” to our brain. It’s simple to imagine — if you eat processed food, your gut is going to respond differently to it than to a piece of real food like an apple or cucumber. Real foods were created by nature to fuel us properly with the right amount of nutrients. The moment we start adding or taking away these nutrients, our body gets confused with what it is supposed to process. 


Whole foods and plant-based nutrition are key to mental health

Let’s get a little personal and serious. I was once on SSRIs, which are a classification of medications used for depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental disorders. After starting my journey of eating a plant-based diet 13 years ago, I am now free and clear of medication going on 9 years now (of course, ALWAYS stay under a doctor's supervision while going off medication). Through my experience of medication-reliant living to the transformation I felt mentally through my eating choices, I’m a firm believer that whole, plant-based foods are the answer to better health. According to this article from Psychology TodayThe gut-brain connection, mental illness, and disease”, the science and expertise says it all.


What we do outside of diet is key to a better mindset

Aside from eating a healthy diet that incorporates minimally processed foods, more  plants, less dairy and meat; we should also be working on our mindset. Food can help us create a blank canvas and provide clarity to achieve a positive mindset — but true mental peace comes from practice, repetition, and finding a mindful routine that works. It’s about finding the things you love and making them a part of your lifestyle. I personally enjoy yoga, meditation, walking in nature, and often take self-help classes and seminars. If we see that the world is a vast place of knowledge filled with opportunities to explore, we have a head start in the world of mental health. There will often be trying situations that will knock us off course but it is our decision to get back up and keep moving forward. Finding a support system, connecting with other like minds, getting a health or life coach, and eating whole foods are solid foundations for our mental health. 

Start simple and be patient with yourself

Change and well-being comes with time, patience, and grace for yourself. You shouldn’t expect to change all eating and living habits immediately overnight, but I am asking you to do yourself a small favor and start being more conscious of your food and product choices. Be more conscious about the activities you partake in that can aid in your mental health, and overall, be kind to yourself. Always reach for a better you and a better outcome. I’m here for you and believe that through whole food nutrition, and your support system, you CAN obtain overall health and wellbeing.  

From my heart to yours, eat well, feel well, be well.  

About Stephanie Bosco

Stephanie Bosco, also known as The Superfood Goddess, is a Holistic Health & Nutrition Coach. She specializes in plant-based & gluten free cooking to “Elevate Mental Health” and the gut microbiome. Other than coaching, she teaches cooking classes online and at festivals, is a private chef, she creates delicious Whole Food Plant Based recipes for her blog, and enjoys building up other brands and women doing good in the world. She is currently studying for a Masters in Clinical Nutrition while working with one-on-one individual and group coaching clients. She believes in the power of positivity in any situation and that you have the ability to change your circumstances if you change your mindset. Stephanie is a firm believer that with taking the time to learn and grow, understanding others, and creating more compassion, we can achieve a kinder world.


References 

  1. Wikipedia contributors. Serotonin. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Published  December 2, 2020. Accessed December 2, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Serotonin&oldid=991902281 
  2. Gut Bacteria. Pcrm.org. Accessed December 2, 2020. https://www.pcrm.org/health-topics/gut bacteria 
  3. O’Mahony SM, Clarke G, Borre YE, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Behav Brain Res. 2015;277:32-48. 
  4. Emily D. The gut-brain connection, mental illness, and disease. Psychology Today. Published  online April 6, 2014. Accessed December 2, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201404/the-gut-brain-connection-mental-illness-and-disease

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