While it can be easy to fixate on symptoms or habits as individual experiences, the truth is that the mind and body are intimately connected. The diet we choose, the thoughts we focus on, and the way our hormones are interacting will all influence one another and play an important role in our overall health and wellness. Holistic medicine considers the relationship between mind, body and spirit, as well as the way our various physiological systems are communicating with one another.
STRESS AND HORMONE HEALTH
Our thoughts, feelings, and expectations of ourselves and others can become cumbersome and dictate far too much of our experience when we begin to heavily identify with them. Emotional reactivity and activation of the fight or flight response will ultimately signal the release of different hormones (cortisol, for one), and can also begin to deplete those more grounding, nurturing hormones (like progesterone for women), creating an imbalance in the body. In the video below, the doctors discuss this relationship between stress and the endocrine system, along with the long-term impacts of using different SSRIs and antidepressants for extended periods, which interfere with testosterone and progesterone levels and the deep sleep brain waves that help us to move through life with more ease and joy.
It is also not uncommon for women to be misdiagnosed with depression or anxiety while going through menopause, as the natural shifts in hormone production with this experience can affect mood, energy levels and motivation. Sometimes, finding balance and equanimity with our moods begins with balancing our hormones.
NUTRITION AND HORMONE HEALTH
Many of us will gravitate toward comfort food when facing life’s challenges. Emotional eating might feel like a comfort blanket in the moment, but when we too frequently reach for foods that are over processed, high sugar, or contain high fructose corn syrup, the gut microbiome becomes affected by an overgrowth of certain microbes, altering brain physiology and epigenetic signalling in the gut and brain. The resulting inflammatory response will affect our choices and behaviour (by influencing neuropeptides in the brain); the body will then be tasked with managing this inflammation and won’t be able to focus as much energy on repair and growth. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter connected to gut health. When we have an inflamed environment, the serotonin has to stay in the gut to work on healing there and is not able to shift as much to the brain to offer more sense of calm.
HOW CAN YOU BRING YOUR BODY BACK INTO BALANCE?
This emotional and physiological interplay can be quite complex, and it’s for these reasons that Drs. Nick and Sonya Jensen want to encourage us to be mindful observers of our complete experience, rather than making assumptions about what these responses say about us at a deeper level.
Fortunately, there are tools and practices available to all of us (getting out in nature, connecting with loved ones, meditation and breath work) that can influence our state of consciousness and help us to feel less impacted by the ups and downs of our emotional experience.
In the video below, Drs. Nick and Sonya discuss the intricate relationships between our hormones, mental health, and self care practices. This conversation provides an overview of the effect of trauma, chronic stress, and an imbalanced diet on our physiological responses, as well as an invitation to more closely observe your experience in order to deepen your understanding of the relationship between your own body and mind.
Dr. Sonya also shares her concept of a trust cycle, explaining that when we get stuck in the wheel of expectation and emotion and create an identity and personality to fit this cycle, we slowly start to lose trust in our intuition and ability to discern. In order to create self trust again, we have to remove ourselves from this wheel so we’re not stuck in an emotionally reactive state.
When you start to realize you have some control over your physiology, your difficult experiences won’t control you in such an intense way. Allow yourself to just watch your thoughts and feelings with compassion and patience, and through this process, you’ll notice that you’re becoming more in tune with your unique human experience and developing a better understanding of how to best support yourself.