On Discomfort, again

On Discomfort, again

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes


(Originally posted to Medium.)

“I’ve learned to be comfortable with discomfort.”

Funny how themes keep coming up in one’s life.

Earlier this week I realized that I was three episodes behind on Marc Maron’s podcast and that fellow Toronto Jew Howie Mandel was the first the of the three interviewees that I missed.

You can find the podcast here, and you can see the WTFPod tweet about it here.

I’ve been listening to Marc’s monologues recently because I got invested in his life during his six-minute segment about leaving social media. The gold in this one wasn’t in the monologue, though. At least, not for me. (Though if I were in L.A., maybe I would check out the art exhibit of his girlfriend “Sarah the Painter.”)

It was with Howie and the life lesson wisdom that a human in their 60s brings.
Before I get to that though (and I’m making this article a bit disjointed on purpose), there’s a story that Howie told Marc that is lore around my old neighborhood. I remember hearing the story during my high school years — the same high school he’d attended decades earlier (and that a kid named Aubrey — who raps under the name of Drake — later attended). And so, it was relatable to me, like listening to an uncle tell old stories of his youth.

Furthermore, I love it when Marc Jews it up. It feels familiar. I connect with it. And when Maron mentioned the Jewish communities of Toronto and Montreal I wanted to respond with comments about Vancouver and Winnipeg.

I also like it when podcasts carry messages.

That quotation that I put up top came from Mr. Mandel. I stopped my walk and made a note. I expected that I’d take more notes.

Repeating concepts

I’ve written about discomfort several times recently, here and in other places (often time I either cross-post or modify articles for various audiences).

I called one post, “On Allowing Discomfort”. I often title my posts “On [theme], the way that episodes of Friends were titled, “The One With…”

I touched on the theme of discomfort here, where I shared the following:

Discomfort isn’t bad. We shouldn’t fear it. Fighting against discomfort can lead to suffering, which we don’t want. Discomfort helps us navigate the world and helps us improve our lives.

Usually, messages come to us repeatedly when we need to hear them. I didn’t think I needed to hear this one, but it has resonated.


I used to avoid pain as much as possible, but I know that it’s a tool for growth. I also know that if you don’t run from difficult situations, you can find a beautiful peace on the other side. I’ve experienced this.

There have been times during which anticipated consequences or fear of the unknown have kept me from leaving uncomfortable situations, and while I wish that I’d dealt with the fear differently, the perseverance has been a teacher and situations have resolved in positive ways. I’m glad that I didn’t give up and walk away.

Knowing when to remain vs. when walk away* from a situation is difficult, and we don’t always make the right decision. I do believe that the choices we make at the moment are often those that are right for us. Those moments are where we’re meant to be because they’re opportunities for learning and growth. Of course, we should leave dangerous situations, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Sure, my words can apply to perceived dangers and threats, but I don’t want to address real harm here. (Don’t stay in an abusive situation.)

*(Kenny Rogers’ song The Gambler is in my head now.)

Consider the source of the discomfort

Instead of reaching for instant relief — physical or emotional — ask what the discomfort of pain is about. Is your headache the result of dehydration? Drink water. Is your arm sore because of the way you slept? Consider your bedding situation. Are you experiencing fatigue? Consider what you ate, how you slept, what your stress level is and other contributing factors.

Do you feel awkward because you’re triggered into a negative memory? Deal with that.

Sometimes all you need to do is address the root cause. Other times you need physical relief. Drink water AND take ibuprofen. Address your immune system and take the decongestant if you need it. Journal out your feelings. Communicate. Exercises. Do all the things. But first, allow yourself to feel.

I can relate this to bagels

Yesterday I got frustrated while making keto-friendly bagels. My fat head dough was crumbly, and I couldn’t roll it out. I thought I’d ruined the mixture and failed this baking project. I spent a few moments contemplating what to do.

I persevered. I rolled out the portions I could. The pieces that fell apart upon rolling into ropes got re-formed into biscuit shapes into which I poked a hole with the end of a wooden spoon.

To my surprise, they turned out okay. They’re quite tasty. The one I cut in half yesterday cut cleanly. The one I worked with today was crumbly but was delicious when I fried it in bacon fat. (Isn’t everything?)

I was glad that I persevered instead of throwing the damn bowl of fat head dough out. That dough is my new metaphor.

Click through to read the caption or click here.

Back to Marc and Howie’s conversation…


Image from the WTFpod tweet linked above.

“I’ve learned to be comfortable with discomfort.”

Mandel made this statement near the beginning of the interview. I thought there might be more to it than that, but there wasn’t. Still, the concept was significant and came back near the end without being named.

Both comedians shared stories about overcoming shows that went poorly. Comedians are regularly thrust into these situations. When they’re tanking on stage they need to be resilient and then move on to the next gig. Quitting the business is an option but quitting mid-job (mid-activity) is not.

The rest of us can learn from it.

That’s it. Not my best article, but Mandel's statement about discomfort inspired me want to write about it.

On Allowing Discomfort

On Allowing Discomfort

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Woman sitting on a rock overlooking water.
Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

Except for the lead photo above, this began as an Instagram post. My swyping keyboard finger kept going as if it was a freewriting exercise.

(NB: Excuse any duplicate paragraphs. I'm using the new version of WordPress for the first time and it's duplicating some. I've deleted those I've found.)

When I scrolled up to add some words to a previous paragraph, something happened that I've never experienced in Instagram:


I know that Instagram should be for captions and not full posts. I'm aware that people rarely read the words beneath the picture.

So, here's the full post, slightly modified for blog format (links instead of usernames, headings for readability, etc.) and clarity. This might be something for me to do more often: Start an Instagram post with “See more on my blog”.

See the Instagram post here.

The Full Post

(The photos above are all the Instagram post.)

First I did the scheduled Yoga for Couch Potatoes to Adriene Mishler (Yoga with Adriene), then I meditated along with one of Brett Larkin's videos.

These two are both my favourite YouTube yoga teachers. A few months ago, After a few years with Brett, I decided to switch it up.

I intended to do Couch Potato yesterday because it seemed perfect for a day when a cold made me feel like shit. When I went to bed at night, I realized I hadn't done yoga at all. 

Yoga is my morning routine so that I don't forget to do it. Instead, I mostly rested and engaged in “Netflix & chill” yesterday. I also got some work done, but I did as little as possible.

[This is where I had to cut the Instagram post. Upon reflection, I added the highlighted bit and related thoughts.]

I'm sick, and that's okay

(Stream of consciousness:) l still feel like crap, but that's okay. It's okay to feel uncomfortable & get sick on occasion. Our obsession with health is unhealthy when it keeps our bodies from doing what they naturally do.

I believe in living a life of ease as much as possible. I also believe that there are times when we should try to allow the discomfort to exist before grabbing relief.

It's a good exercise in, excuse the phrase, not being a wuss.

It's also helpful.

Acknowledging and leaning into the discomfort without rejecting it acknowledges that we have to navigate through the world every day. It takes some power away from the feelings, which is in itself is a relief.

Sometimes what we think is the prevention of discomfort is actually FEAR. Some discomfort does toughen us up.

Yes, seek help

NOT that we shouldn’t seek help when we need it or prevent discomfort when it can be avoided.

What I'm saying is that sometimes in our dislike for discomfort we don’t allow ourselves to deal with issues (whether a cold or an emotional issue) & heal. 

 There's a difference between “discomfort” and “suffering”, and it's an important distinction. 

Avoiding discomfort can lead to suffering.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be sick or hurt or experience negative emotions, we go into denial or bypass.

Sometimes we have to acknowledge that life has shitty moments and then decide to do something about it, thoughtfully rather than impulsivity or by habit. I'm not sure I'm communicating this well, but if I'm not and you have questions, I'll answer.

[Note: I suspect that it's more clear in the blog version than it was going to be on Instagram.]

Back to that cold

I've been taking herbs & other immune boosters.

If I’m still sick tomorrow when I have to work THEN, I’ll medicate for relief and while at work I‘ll take precautions to not spread germs. There’s only so much I can do. It’s the time of year, and this cold is going around. I feel for people who are immune compromised.


How the germs got me

(To be honest, I’m partly including this little paragraph because I like analogies.)

I consumed foods that are known immune suppressants the day before I got that telltale sensation in my throat. My immune system was probably busy tackling that. Like The Night’s Watch, the soldiers of my immune system went to battle White Walkers (sugar — which is not a bad analogy with the “white”!) and left my body vulnerable to attacks by other invaders.

What do you think of this format?

And there you go. Is this format a good idea? My Instagram account gets way more eyes on it than my blog (though I'll be importing this into Medium), but maybe this is a way to get people to read what I say.

What are your thoughts about living with discomfort?

Boost your brain health for better memory, mood & focus

Boost your brain health for better memory, mood & focus

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutesHerbs for Better Brain Health

We all experience changes in our brain health as we age, which can affect our mental performance, including our memory, cognitive function, and mood.

The good news is that by being proactive about your brain health, you can slow down the natural progression of ageing, mitigate the effects of hormone shifts, and support your mood and mental clarity — keeping your brain clear, sharp, and adaptable.

And to get you started, on Wednesday, August 15, herbalist, naturopathic physician, and director of medical education at Gaia Herbs, Dr. Mary Bove, will share some of the most effective natural medicinals for your brain health — both preventative and symptom-specific.

You can RSVP for free here for Discovering Medicinal Herbs for Better Brain Health: How to Enhance Your Mood, Memory, and Reduce the Effects of Stress & Aging

You’ll discover:

  • Two simple brain-protecting herbal teas for improving mental clarity, focus, and attention
  • Herbs that can help lower the risk of dementia, including 3 herbs that improve memory and recall while also decreasing forgetfulness
  • Herbs for mood support, brain resilience, and revitalization of spirit — to minimize the effects of stress on ageing
  • Adaptogen plants that protect us from and enhance our ability to adapt to stress
  • Proven herbal remedies for nourishing your brain daily, including the benefits of brewing herbal teas

A healthy, well-functioning brain is a key part of a vital and active life.

Dr. Bove is a national expert on brain health and can help you boost the wellbeing of this important organ to nourish and revitalize your entire system!

Register here

A downloadable recording will be provided later to all who register, whether or not you listen to the scheduled event.

Genius Foods: Maxed Out

Genius Foods: Maxed Out

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutesMy interests in health primarily lie in two areas:

  1. Gut (digestive) health
  2. Brain health.

The latter is what I practice.

Of course, I had to read a book called, Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life! The author: Journalist  Max Lugavere with Dr. Paul Grewal, M.D. The book was published on March 20 of this year, and Lugavere was inspired to write it because of his mother's experience with dementia. The official book description:

After his mother was diagnosed with a mysterious form of dementia, Max Lugavere put his successful media career on hold to learn everything he could about brain health and performance. For the better half of a decade, he consumed the most up-to-date scientific research, talked to dozens of leading scientists and clinicians around the world, and visited the country’s best neurology departments—all in the hopes of understanding his mother’s condition.

Now, in Genius Foods, Lugavere presents a comprehensive guide to brain optimization. He uncovers the stunning link between our dietary and lifestyle choices and our brain functions, revealing how the foods you eat directly affect your ability to focus, learn, remember, create, analyze new ideas, and maintain a balanced mood.

Weaving together pioneering research on dementia prevention, cognitive optimization, and nutritional psychiatry, Lugavere distills groundbreaking science into actionable lifestyle changes. He shares invaluable insights into how to improve your brain power, including…

(You can read the rest on Amazon.)

Below is some of what I learned, and my thoughts. A slightly expanded version will appear on my Medium blog.

Genius Foods was a welcome follow up to the book Food: What the Heck Should I Eat by Dr. Mark Hyman (released February 27, 2018), which I read immediately before and also enjoyed immensely. I agreed with everything in Dr. Hyman's book, and I learned a lot. From Genius Foods, I learned a lot too, and it reinforced information in my memory.

Food as medicine

These books follow the ‘food as medicine' principle that foods can help you or harm you. The same foods that are healthy for one person can be toxic to another, but there are some concepts apply to all. I've been saying this for years. Eat the good stuff, cut out the shit. You get to control what you put in your mouth. If it's “bad” for you either don't put it in your face, or consume it and enjoy it.

I like a good debate

One of the things I enjoyed about Genius Foods is that I didn't agree with everything that Lugavere wrote. This thrills me. Not in some sanctimonious way, but because we're all human with our own caches of information, experiences, opinions and perspectives and it's refreshing to read viewpoints that I don't share. I enjoy learning new information, and I like reinforcing knowledge. It helps me learn and retain knowledge. When I disagree with an author, I sometimes imagine myself having intelligent discussions with them. Also, differing reminds me that 1) I know my shit and 2) authors are human, they are not absolute authority figures.

In Genius Foods I highlighted a lot. I bookmarked and annotated. Truthfully, I retained little in my memory. That's what the bookmarks and annotations are for. Notice the Post-It notes that say “liver function”, “intermittent fasting” and “poop”. (You know I'm going to edit this post from my phone JUST so I can use the poop emoji.)

There are actually many tape flags. Max took video of me and my book.

I had to post this one too, because “poop”.

Repeating concepts

Specific themes have been recurring in the books that I've been reading, and some of those books were written a decade or more ago. For example, while reading Genius Foods, I wondered if Lugavere had read the same book I had that referred to brain-derived neurotrophic factor (aka BDNF) as “Miracle-Gro for the brain”, published in hardcover format ten years ago.

(Or, you know, maybe I've got confirmation bias, and I'm seeking out books that tell me what I already know and think.)

Intermittent Fasting, intuitively

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

One thing that I've noticed in all the reading and learning is this: My body tends to do what it needs to do instinctively.

Take intermittent fasting, for example, which is another one concept that keeps coming up in my learning adventure. Lugavere discusses that 16:8 method of fasting, which entails sixteen hours of fasting and an eight-hour window in which eating is permitted. Two days ago I listened to Dr. David Perlmutter's interview for the Keto Edge Summit, in which he talked about intermitted fasting. Intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet complement each other in many ways.

I often joke that when I forget to eat, I'm “intermittent fasting” but when I really thought about it, I remembered that for years I couldn't eat breakfast because eating in the morning made me feel nauseated. I also recalled that when I have an office job I tend to make a smoothie or oatmeal to take to work and I slowly sip or nibble over the course of the morning. I don't get hungry for lunch until around 2 when I do this. Now that I'm once again working from home I often don't eat until later. I drink a fatty coffee with coconut milk stirred or blended in.

I DO do the 16:8 intermittent fast. My body knows. I don't do this because it's the newest fad.

Lugavere points out that women should start with a 12-14 hour fast. That's basically from the end of an early dinner through breakfast. He goes into the concept of cortisol, which you can read about in the book.

The ketogenic diet

In Genius Foods, Lugavere does discuss the ketogenic diet, including this bit:

It's been so effective, and its safety record so robust, that it's currently being evaluated as a therapeutic option for numerous other neurological diseases. Migraines, depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and even [ALS] are all conditions that have been associated with excessive brain inflammation.

He presents his own diet, which he calls The Genius Plan, which is like a modified version of keto. His plan differs in the types of fat and in how it nourishes the microbiome.

If you want to learn more about what he said, buy the book. I also recommend the Keto Edge Summit. Dr. Perlmutter's interview talks about nourishing the microbiome on keto, sot the two resources complement each other well.
Also, one day of the event was about cancer. Lugavere mentioned cancer concerning keto in his book.

The truth about poop

Mr. Hankey Poop GIF by South Park  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Another fact from Genius Foods (which I knew because I'm a microbiome nerd): Each gram of poop contains one hundred billion microbes. Every time you take a dump, you excrete about one-third of your colonic bacterial content, which rebuilds over the day. Each microbe carries its own unique genetic material. Think about it. Howdy ho!

And speaking of poop…

Living with a dog is one of the top ways to increase the microbial diversity of the home and in the gut. Yep! My gut is diverse!

Brain health

I've talked a lot about the microbiome so far. Honestly, that's because I have the book beside me and I'm going in order of the chapters to refresh my memory, but there is a ton of information about neurotransmitters and brain health. Some of the bits that I highlighted:

  • In a forced swimming test to study depression in mice: “Mice that are depressed tend to give up hope and allow themselves to sink sooner than happy mice.” Don't be a mouse.
  • Mice given probiotics seemed more eager to stay afloat in these studies. They also showed an increase in anti-anxiety receptors in certain parts of the brain.
  • Healthy serotonin levels may rely on vitamin D, as Vitamin D helps to create serotonin from tryptophan. This makes sense in the context of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Meeting and book signing

It was a coincidence that one of my favourite brands, Genuine Health, was the host/partner. I didn't find out about this event through their PR people or their mailing list (their emails go to an email address that I check maybe weekly), but through Max's Instagram account.
(Side note: If you click the link above, you'll see every post I've written for this website that mentions Genuine Health. Those products are still my favourite. My love affair with fermented Greek yogurt proteins+ is going strong after two years.)

I nearly had a “hi, let's be friends” moment. It was slightly awkward. I went with it because I'm determined to use my voice, be visible and not get rattled.

More about keto

Rolling Meadows butter

A Canadian brand that I like. In Canada, labels are in English and French.

When I saw him at his Toronto book signing, Lugavere emphasized that he doesn't recommend adding extra fats but eating foods that naturally contain fat. Avocados are good. Someone in the audience asked him about what health advice he thinks is bad. He answered, butter coffee. I noted this because I was amused. Lugavere said that he drinks it once in a while because “it's tasty AF.”  Yes, he said “tasty AF” and not, “tasty as fuck”.That's almost like verbalizing a hashtag. 🙂

One place where he and I disagree: He claims that there's no evidence that butter is good for health. Yes, your fat calories should come from more nutrient-dense sources, but there any many health benefits to eating butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows. Among these:

  • It contains vitamins E, D, A (great for hair and skin) and K2 (crucial for regulating calcium metabolism in the body).
  • It contains the ideal ratio of omega 6: omega 3 fatty acids, which makes it anti-inflammatory.
  • Furthermore, fat and cholesterol have been shown to improve hormone regulation and cell membrane function. Grass-fed Butter

Diversify your nutrition sources. You don't need to consume butter in your coffee every day – even if you agree that it's tasty AF it's probably not a good idea – but I don't think that butter is poor advice.

Nutritional psychiatry

I learned this phrase in the talk he gave before signing books, but I knew correctly what he was talking about. A report published in medical journal EBioMedicine in March 2017 calls nutritional psychiatry a “nascent field” and refers to a “consistent evidence base from the observational literature confirms that the quality of individuals' diets is related to their risk for common mental disorders, such as depression.” However, my aunt Dr. Hyla Cass (a real doctor who went to medical school) has been practicing this for decades. She's the one who got me into essential fatty acids for brain health. Gotta love when the mainstream medical community catches up, and she IS part of the mainstream community.

I feel like I've said enough but I don't know how to end this. How about this: Buy Genius Foods. If you're not ready to commit to that, follow Max Lugavere on Instagram.

This post contains affiliate links.

Brain Food

Brain Food

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutesIn my last post, I discussed the neurotransmitters in your gut, making the connection between what you eat and your brain health. I addressed the gut's role in the immune system and allergic reactions in the brain. I shared that I've been on what I call a “reset diet.” I want to expand on all this, mostly from the perspective of the food we eat. I ended up with a post that was almost 2,300 words, so I moved the final part to a new post. Still, this is a long one because there are a lot of related concepts.

“Let food be thy medicine.”

Food can help us, or food can harm us. No two people are affected the same way. We have different food sensitivities and allergies. Some we're born with, some develop later in life.

What is an allergy?

Simply put, an allergy is a damaging immune response by the body to a substance.

According to The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “An allergy is a chronic condition involving an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance called an allergen.”

If you have an allergy, your immune system views the allergen as an invader, and a chain reaction initiates. White blood cells of the immune system produce IgE antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to a specific kind of cell, causing a release of potent chemicals such as histamine.

Although allergies can develop at any age, the risk of developing allergies is genetic.

Understanding the immune system

The immune system is a host defense system. It’s made up of a complex network of cells, tissues, organs, and the substances they make that helps the body fight infections and other diseases. The immune system includes white blood cells and organs and tissues of the lymph system, such as the thymus, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and bone marrow.

To function correctly, the immune system must detect a wide variety of microorganisms called pathogens that can cause disease and distinguish them from healthy tissue.

Immune system disorders can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, and cancer. Immunodeficiency occurs when the immune system is less active than normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections.

As indicated above, the immune system is involved in allergy responses.

There are two system analogies that I tend to use:

  1. The immune system is like a computer firewall, keeping viruses out.
  2. The immune system can be seen as an army with a limited number of soldiers and ammunition.

I think that the immune system can only focus its energy on so many things at a time so if there’s a cold or flu going around and you're not taking care of your immune system, there’s a higher likelihood that it will slip in. Everyone has different conditions under which they tend to get sick. For some, it's stress. For others, childhood trauma could keep their immune system chronically weak. For me, sleep is critical. I know that if everyone around me is sick, I need to get enough sleep to keep my defenses up. Some people seem to get sick every time there's “something going around.”

It's not just about getting sick, or allergies. Every time we bang our knee or stub our toe, our immune system goes to work. We bruise, we swell. When we get food poisoning, we vomit and/or have diarrhea. Our body reacts to keep foreign invaders out.

Skin reactions such as cold sores, pustules, and acne are all immune related. Acne has many causes – most notably hormonal – but the immune system also plays a part.

Studies have found a correlation between the bacteria Propionibacterium, acne and the immune system. (Source: Gabby Bernstein's interview with dermatologist Bobby Buka, MD.) Propionibacterium lives in and around the sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and other areas of the skin. One study found that Propionibacterium was the most prevalent human skin-associated genus of microorganisms.

The immune system and what we eat

In addition to allergies, there are other reasons foods might not be suitable for us and yet tolerated by others. Sometimes foods will always harm us, sometimes it's only at certain times.

We all have different needs to thrive. Some people thrive eating high-fat diets (everyone needs fat, but some need more than others). Some do well on a high carb diet. Some stay healthy eating vegan, some can’t eat vegan at all. Some people can’t eat raw vegetables without digestive distress. Some people get kidney stones if they eat too many vegetables. The list of examples goes on.

The point: There is no one-size-fits-all eating lifestyle. However, there are foods that in general, we should all eat more of, and some we should eat less of.

The Candida Connection

You might have a yeast overgrowth and not know it because you don’t know the symptoms or what it looks like, or you hear “yeast infection,” and your only association is TV commercials for vaginal yeast infection treatments.

Candida Albicans is the most common type of yeast infection found in the mouth, intestinal tract and vagina, and it may affect the skin and other mucous membranes. If the immune system is functioning optimally (your soldiers are fully armed), this type of yeast infection is rarely serious. It's usually harmless. However, if the immune system is not functioning correctly, the candida infection can migrate to other areas of the body, including the blood and membranes around the heart or brain. (Source: WebMD)

Candida is a fungus. At proper levels in the body it helps with nutrient absorption and digestion. When there's too much of it, symptoms may appear. That’s when you get Candida Overgrowth Syndrome, a chronic condition that flares up in connection with food sensitivities and a disruption in the gut and skin microbiomes.

Candida can grow out of control when your body's natural pH balance is disturbed.


Your Body Has Two Brains

Your Body Has Two Brains

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutesYour body has two brains

Yep. I just said that. Did you know that the gut is often referred to as the “second brain”?

Not specifically the gut, though you’ll hear it called that, the enteric nervous system (ENS). The “gut” is generally the “gastrointestinal tract.” The enteric nervous system is embedded in the lining of the gastrointestinal system, beginning in the esophagus and extending down to the anus.

The ENS consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut.

Simply put: Neurons line the gut. The gut contains neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters affect our brain health. Balancing neurotransmitters is a brain and body job.

Quick fact:

 The second brain contains some 500 million neurons, one two-hundredth of the number of neurons in the brain and 5x as many as the one hundred million neurons in the human spinal cord. 

Emotions and the gut

About 90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus nerve, carry information from the gut to the brain. This has huge implications.

For one thing, people tend to associate neurotransmitters with the brain. When people talk about mental health issues such as depression, they often speak of neurotransmitters. For example, we talk about selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI medication) such as Paxil, Lexapro, Prozac, and Zoloft to treat depression.

But read this:

 95% of the body's serotonin is produced by the gut nerve cells, and every class of neurotransmitters found in the brain is also found in the gut. 

It’s a complex relationship.

Given the physical connection between the gut and the brain, it might not surprise you that our emotions are influenced by the nerves in our gut. Think “butterflies in your stomach” or that kind of anxiety, fear, or excitement (bad or good) that makes you want to vomit even if you might not be nauseated. Panic attacks. Stress diarrhea. The feeling you get when you first fall in love or when you have a crush. Antiici…..pation.

When we’re thinking about depression and other mental wellness issues, we need to look at what I call our Intake.

Food and mood

Our gut plays a prominent role. That means digestion plays a prominent role. That means that what we eat, how we eat, the combinations of foods, and eating what is right for us, affect our mental health.

Hippocrates, often referred to as “The Father of Medicine” and the author of the Hippocratic Oath that all medical practitioners take is famous for saying “All disease starts in the gut.” He also said, “Let food be thy medicine.”

Those two Hippocrates quotations alone are very telling. Disease starts in the gut, and food as medicine. What we put in our mouths can help us or harm us.

Some researchers say that up to 90 percent of all diseases can be traced in some way back to the gut and health of the microbiome (others say closer to 80%).

An aside: Bill and Ted might have invited Hippocrates back to their classroom if their project was in health class! They'd have called him “Hippo-crates,” like “So-crates” below:

(RIP, George Carlin.)

Little proteins and mood

There are two types of peptides (little proteins), specifically opioid peptides, that affect the morphine or opium receptors in the brain: Casomorphins, from the digestion of milk protein casein, and gluteomorphins derived from gliadin, one of the primary proteins found in gluten grains.

These peptides are absorbed from the gut and find their way to the brain, causing mood and behavioral problems. Gluteomorphins could also lead to the malabsorption of vitamins and minerals.

There are two ways that peptides cause problems in the brain:

  1. They look foreign, so the immune system reacts. This leads to overall inflammation which can show up as autoimmunity, autism, ADHD, depression or psychosis. The brain gets inflamed as an immune response, just as when you bump another body part, it swells.
  2. Peptides leak into the body and brain and mess up brain function like heroin or a psychedelic drug would.

Source: Mark Hyman, MD, The Ultramind Solution.

(After I learned that, I wanted to have my peptide levels tested. It’s a urine test.)

The microbiome

The microbiome is a complex internal ecosystem of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi and other) located within our bodies. In adults, microorganisms make up about 1 to 3 percent of the body's mass. That's 1.5-4.5 pounds of bacteria in a 150-pound adult or 2-6 pounds in a 200-pound adult. (Source: National Institute of Health)

The vast majority of the bacterial species that make up our microbiome live in our digestive system/gut/ENS. Adults have over 100 TRILLION microorganisms living in their gut.


A loss of microbial diversity is called “dysbiosis” – which translates to “life in distress.” As it’s understood, dysbiosis is the loss of beneficial microbes and pathogenic (bad) ones encroach. Of course, we want more good bugs than bad. When bacteria are out of balance, so are we.

It’s a global health crisis.

In The Ultramind Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman wrote that when antibiotics are used to treat harmful bacteria, depression often lifts.

Dysbiosis is related to the food we eat – not just junk food vs. health food, but quality. It’s related to the water we drink. The air we breathe. Soil contamination. Pesticides. Pollution. Chemicals. Viruses, which lead to antibiotics, which lead to superbugs and so forth.

The gut microbiome and the immune system

Most of the immune system resides in your gut. The gut microbiome and the immune system influence each other and rely on each other.

I’m often telling my partner to lay off the jujubes because they (the sugar) suppress the immune system. You know what? He’s getting over a cold that made him feel dreadful. One day he suspected that he had the flu. Another day he proclaimed pneumonia. He subsequently had a temperature of 101°F. After about 4 days of uncomfortable sickness, he was on the mend. He gave me that cold and it barely registers. Sure, I've had a couple of excruciating headaches, including one that woke me up in the middle of the night with its stabbing, searing pain, and I’m coughing up a bit of mucus, but it’s nothing compared to his experience.

Until 2 days ago I’d gone without sugar, yeast or grains for a couple of weeks. I gave up beer and ate light proteins (more on that to follow in another post). I’ve been calling it my reset diet. Then there was birthday cake. My birthday cake. I chose to allow myself a slice or two of birthday cake.

I've also been taking Vitamin D, cod liver oil and probiotics regularly.

Microbiome, microbial diversity, and allergies

Some allergic reactions happen in the brain. It’s like a runny nose but in the brain. Therefore, food allergies can cause mental symptoms, such as brain fog, anxiety or depression.

Microbial diversity in poop samples in babies can indicate allergies later on.


I've tried to keep this concise and straightforward with little jargon. I have some related posts planned that might add more relatable context to it. This piece of writing and those related ones that haven't been written yet have been rolling around in my head for almost two weeks. When I started to draft this one a few days ago, I had too many ideas to untangle. It wasn't until I started typing this one that I got into the flow and it practically wrote itself. A lesson here: Sometimes procrastination is useful.

Stay tuned.

Pin It on Pinterest