How to Improve Your Knee Pain | Knee Rotation

Are you experiencing chronic knee pain? Maybe you have had multiple issues with your foot, your knee, your hip, or our low back, and you haven’t been able to resolve it. In this blog, we’re going to dive into the rotational component of the knee that is often neglected in most rehab and movement programs. 

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How to Know If Your Knee Lacks Rotation of the Lower Leg Inward

If you notice that when standing, your feet are abducted and turned outward, it could indicate a deficiency in internal tibial rotation, where the lower leg fails to rotate inward.

Another sign can be observed during a squat: if your feet tend to turn out as you descend, this too may signal insufficient rotation in the lower leg. This lack of rotation could also stem from limited ankle dorsiflexion—the bending mobility of the ankle. While issues with the hip and foot may also contribute, for the purpose of this blog, we’re focusing on the inward rotation of the lower leg.

Self-Assessment

To assess this yourself, begin from a seated position. Place your arm under your upper thigh and concentrate on the rotation of your entire lower leg. It’s important to isolate this movement from the foot, as simply turning the foot in and out can be misleading. By stabilizing the upper leg with your arm, you can assist in and out movements, but the emphasis should be on inward rotation. This rotational ability tends to diminish with injuries such as meniscus injuries and other knee-related issues.

What You Can Do About It

If inward rotation feels challenging, start by assisting passively with your hand. Once you’re more comfortable, introduce a slight resistance. You can use a band wrapped around the foot in a figure-eight fashion to provide resistance while moving into internal rotation. Adding resistance helps reinforce this movement neurologically when loaded.

Advanced Progression

For a more advanced progression, try placing a block or a rolled-up towel between your knees. Then, using a smooth surface or a bolster, slowly extend your knees while keeping your toes and tibia rotated inward. Aim for complete extension, then reverse the movement by turning your feet and lower leg outward as you return to the starting position. This exercise requires careful control and deliberate movement to maintain good fascial tension throughout.

Key Takeaway

If you’ve encountered issues like patellofemoral pain or meniscus injuries, it’s often associated with inadequate rotation in the tibia or lower leg. I hope you find these assessments and exercises helpful in your journey. Remember, never work through pain, and approach assessments with gentle curiosity to truly understand the mechanics and choose appropriate exercises.

If this was helpful, please give it a like, give it a share, and, of course, subscribe to our YouTube channel, the Movement Paradigm, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. Our goal is to help you live your best life, heal, transform, and, more importantly, thrive.

If you need help more individually, please reach out for a discovery session. We would love the opportunity to help you in any of these areas. And in addition to that, you can feel free to join our app, the Movement Paradigm. We have monthly challenges, live Q&As, and an amazing community, all geared toward whole-body health. So hope to see you there!

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All About H Pylori

Are you experiencing burping throughout the day? Perhaps you feel nauseous in the morning when you first wake up, or you feel unsure if you’re full or hungry. You might even have some upper GI symptoms. Today, we will discuss H. pylori, which is common in 50% of the population.

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What do you need to know about H. pylori?

H. pylori is a bacterial infection that presents itself in the stomach. It can happen for several reasons. 

One, it is highly transmissible. Sharing drinks with family or friends is a common way to transmit H. pylori. Additionally, factors such as poor digestion and protective mechanisms can contribute to its spread.

Decreased stomach acid or pancreatic elastase may lead to reduced digestive capability, particularly in the stomach, thereby increasing the risk of H. pylori infection. Interestingly, even if two individuals share a drink with an infected person, one may contract the infection while the other remains unaffected, akin to other infectious diseases.

How H. pylori can be associated with peptic ulcer

H. pylori is also one of the main reasons why we get peptic ulcers.

In the past, we would always say that an ulcer was due to stress. While there is some truth to that based on stress-driven inflammation, gastric changes, and a decrease in stomach acid, the primary reason that we get that is because of H. pylori specifically. 

When I see adults that go through their timeline and understand that, as a kid, they were having all of these GI issues and were typically treated with a proton pump inhibitor, I always question, “Did they have H. pylori at that time and it wasn’t diagnosed or treated appropriately?” 

If left untreated, it can lead to gastritis and eventually peptic ulcers. It can also cause a variety of other symptoms.

Symptoms of H. pylori

Burping is a common symptom of H. pylori. If someone burps frequently throughout the day or pays special attention to it, it may indicate this condition. 

Other symptoms may include waking up feeling nauseous, being unsure if they’re hungry or full throughout the day, bloating, and classic reflux-type symptoms. Constipation, diarrhea, or bowel changes can also occur. Keep in mind that all symptoms can overlap with any gastrointestinal issue.

Diagnosis and treatment

The most conventional test is actually a breath test. However, a really great way to test for H. pylori is a stool test. You can test specifically for H. pylori as well as do it as part of a comprehensive stool analysis. 

Regardless of the diagnostic method, prompt treatment is crucial if H. pylori is detected due to its potential downstream effects. Even if other issues, such as dysbiosis or high inflammatory markers, are present, prioritizing H. pylori treatment is essential. Fortunately, treatment is relatively straightforward, with successful outcomes achievable.

What treatment is available?

Traditionally, H. pylori is used to be treated solely with antibiotics. Still, in those cases, it only works in 50% of the cases, and in addition to that, as you can imagine, with antibiotics, it’s causing a whole host of other issues. 

H. pylori can actually be treated with mastic gum, which is from the unique resin of a Mediterranean tree. This can be used up to 1,000 mg twice a day for 2 to 3 months and is highly effective in remedying H. pylori. 

Although someone might be experiencing low stomach acid in addition to having H. pylori, it’s recommended not to necessarily use hydrochloric acid or stomach acid as a supplement while treating H. pylori.

This can be reassessed after you finish the treatment successfully, but a lot of times, when someone might be having some of these upper GI issues, it is because of H. pylori. Once again, you can treat the subsequent low stomach acid as needed. There are different schools of thought on this, but clinically speaking, what I found to be very helpful is treating it and then addressing the low stomach acid. And last but not least, do not share your drinks and food with others, even if you love them.

If this was helpful, please give it a like, give it a share, and, of course, subscribe to our YouTube channel, the Movement Paradigm, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. Our goal is to help you live your best life, heal, transform, and, more importantly, thrive.

If you need help more individually, please reach out for a discovery session. We would love the opportunity to help you in any of these areas. And in addition to that, you can feel free to join our app, the Movement Paradigm. We have monthly challenges, live Q&As, and an amazing community, all geared toward whole-body health. So hope to see you there!

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2 Somatic Practices for Overwhelm

Life can get overwhelming, leaving us feeling lost and stressed. If you’re caught up in despair, hopelessness, or panic, you’re not alone. Today, let’s take a breather and do a few easy exercises together. These steps can help you break free from the chaos and shift to a place of mindfulness, joy, and grounding. Join me on this journey to rediscover serenity and embrace a more balanced and peaceful life.

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Why Consider Somatic Practices

When you find yourself in a lower or even a higher energy state, overwhelmed and a bit disconnected from yourself or the world, this simple exercise is designed to help you explore and reconnect with the beauty of your body.

2 Somatic Practices You Can Do to Avoid Overwhelm

1. Body Tapping

The first technique is called body tapping. You can literally tap all aspects of your body, moving through and bringing your awareness to each part. Notice how you feel. What’s happening? Can you feel the vibration throughout your body? Can you feel the fascia, the network of sensory nerves in your body? By bringing awareness and noticing what’s happening, you can do this at your own pace—fast or slow. This technique is excellent for fostering flexibility in both your mind and body.

2. Butterfly

The second technique is called the butterfly. For this, cross your arms, feel that connection, and then open up wide. I recommend pairing this with your breath—inhale as you close and exhale as you open. Feel the connection, perhaps rounding a bit to release any tension you might be holding, and then open up.

Key Takeaway

With both of these exercises, there’s no specific time limit. Instead, focus on what you’re feeling. Consider your physical sensations—do you notice pain, discomfort, or tension? Pay attention to the emotions or thoughts that arise. This reflection is a great way to connect with your experience and be present. When thoughts take you down a rabbit hole, shift your attention to your body. Ground yourself in the present moment by getting into your body.

I hope these exercises were helpful. If they were, please give it a like, share it, and subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. For more content, check out our app with various programs and exercises. 

We also offer one-on-one services and group programs. Feel free to reach out, and we hope to assist you on your journey. Meanwhile, explore our other content, including vagus nerve exercises, somatic practices, nutrition, gut health, and movement to support your health journey.

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3 Vagus Nerve Hacks

Are you experiencing some kind of dysregulation in your nervous system? Perhaps you’re feeling dizziness, blood pressure fluctuations, or even heart rate fluctuations like bradycardia, where your heart rate is low, or tachycardia, where your heart rate is high. You might even be experiencing other unexplained digestive symptoms.

Let’s dive into three simple vagus nerve exercises that can help shift you from a dysregulated nervous system state to a state of social engagement, where you are grounded, connected, mindful, and in a state of safety and connection.

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The oculocardiac reflex

For the purpose of today’s blog, we are going to jump right into the vagus nerve exercises. You can check out all of my other blogs on somatic exercises and vagus nerve exercises to help you regulate. 

Today, we’re going to focus on the oculocardiac reflex. This reflex is essentially influenced through the eyes and has an impact on our state of social engagement. It’s also connected to other cranial nerves, such as the trigeminal nerve and the vagus nerve, and it specifically influences our heart rate and autonomic functions.

Vagus nerve exercise 1

The first technique we’re going to discuss was initially described in 1908. When applying pressure to the extraocular muscles, it can lead to a potential 20% decrease in heart rate. 

When performing this exercise, please ensure you apply very gentle pressure. Use a completely flat hand and gently cover your eyes, avoiding any poking or excessive force. Apply gentle pressure and hold it until you observe a sign of relaxation, which could manifest as a sigh, a swallow, a yawn, a deep breath, or a general state of relaxation.

Vagus nerve exercise 2

The second exercise is a convergence exercise. To perform this, you can use either your finger or a pen. Begin by having your eyes fixated on the tip of your chosen object. Slowly bring the object closer to your eyes while maintaining your focus. Continue observing until you reach a point where the object appears as one instead of double vision. You can repeat this exercise until you experience a relaxation response.

Vagus nerve exercise 3

Moving on to the third exercise, which is the cheek lift, this integrates everything we’ve discussed so far. When we consider the cranial nerves associated with the state of social engagement, it involves multiple cranial nerves, with facial expressions playing a significant role. Our facial expressions influence how we regulate our nervous system and co-regulate with others when we interact in social settings.

Start by bringing your tongue all the way to the tip of your nose. Next, focus on lifting your cheeks as high as possible. You’ll simultaneously raise your tongue and your cheeks. Lastly, turn your head to the final position and try to hold it there for at least 30 seconds or more. Begin with the tongue, then the cheeks, and finally, the head turn. After approximately 30 seconds, return to the center and repeat the exercise on the other side.

Key takeaway

I recommend doing all three of these exercises. Begin with the first one and pay attention to how you feel. Check if you experience that sign of relaxation or a drop in heart rate, which you can measure. As mentioned, the heart rate can decrease by up to 20%, so ensure you feel comfortable and safe. Proceed to the second exercise and reassess to make sure everything still feels good. If you’re still feeling great, move on to the third exercise to integrate everything together.

To incorporate these exercises into your daily life, consider your facial expressions in your day-to-day interactions. Aim to smile and minimize significant frowns and expressions throughout the day. Softening your facial expressions can have a significant impact on your nervous system, influencing your own emotions as well as how you affect those around you. This, in turn, can positively impact various aspects we discussed earlier, such as regulating heart rate and blood pressure, optimizing immune function, and promoting digestive health.

If you found this information helpful, please be sure to give it a like, share it with others, leave a comment below, and, of course, subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm®, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. 

If you’re looking for personalized guidance on your journey and feel that you need an individualized approach, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would welcome the opportunity to assist you.

If you’re interested in accessing a wide range of programs, including those on nutrition, somatics, and vagus nerve exercises, as well as movement programs to help you optimize your overall wellness, consider checking out our app, The Movement Paradigm, available on both Apple and Google platforms.

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Gut Health and Chronic Pain: Strategies for a Pain-Free Life

Are you experiencing chronic pain? Perhaps you’ve been to pain management doctors or health professionals, and you can’t seem to resolve this chronic pain that is deeply affecting the quality of your life.

We have seen so many people come into our clinic with chronic pain, and I think that it’s important for you to understand if you are experiencing this — how your gut plays such an important role in not only why pain is happening but how to improve it. So today, we’re going to take a deep dive into talking about chronic pain and gut health and pain-free strategies for your life.

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Understanding chronic pain

Chronic pain is technically defined as pain lasting over 3 to 6 months. Now, if we have acute pain, let’s say, for example, an ankle sprain. You step off a curb and roll your ankle, and you experience an acute response, which is your natural defense and repair mechanism. White blood cells rush to the area, and there is increased blood flow. This results in swelling, pain, and possibly redness.

This is a normal response, precisely what our system is supposed to do. However, in the case of chronic pain, there is no obvious tissue damage at this point. For instance, with an ankle sprain, you would typically have damaged the ligament in the ankle. In that case, there was actual tissue damage that occurred. When we experience chronic pain, there is no actual tissue damage. Nevertheless, our brain continues to perceive this pain. It keeps telling us that there’s still pain and that something needs to be resolved.

We can experience a variety of chronic pain conditions. For instance, arthritis, including osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, can lead to ongoing inflammation, resulting in chronic pain. The keyword here is inflammation. Whether it’s autoimmune in nature or osteoarthritis, it involves inflammation. It’s essential to recognize the role of inflammation in chronic pain.

Another example is fibromyalgia, which can cause widespread musculoskeletal pain, along with issues like sleep disorders, memory problems, and mood disorders. 

Additionally, we can have conditions like allodynia, where there is an increased sensitivity to pain. Think of this as hypersensitivity; for example, when something lightly touches your skin, it shouldn’t theoretically cause pain, but it can trigger an exaggerated response from the nervous system. 

In essence, when considering pain, we should focus on how our nervous system processes it. As I mentioned, we have acute pain and chronic pain. Chronic pain is unique because it involves sensitization of the nervous system, which continues to perceive pain even after the tissues have healed.

Gut’s role in pain

Now, let’s discuss the role of the gut in pain. As I mentioned earlier, inflammation is closely tied to our natural defense and repair mechanism, which is crucial for maintaining our overall well-being. Our immune system is performing the necessary functions.

Consider the gut and the microbiome, where we have over 400 million different bacteria residing. These bacteria play protective roles in our immune health and immune modulation. They also contribute to the synthesis of neurotransmitters and play a vital role in digestion and nutrient metabolism. Moreover, they affect the effectiveness of therapeutics, medications, supplements, and various other bodily functions.

It’s worth noting that the gut comprises 70% of our immune system, thanks to the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). This specific lymphoid tissue has a profound impact on our entire immune system, making it incredibly powerful.

If we have any type of gut dysregulation, such as dysbiosis (an imbalance of bacteria), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), leaky gut, i.e., intestinal permeability, parasites, or poor digestion, this can lead to a whole host of problems, pain being one of them! If we have poor intestinal health, for example, we may not be absorbing our nutrients properly. This can lead to micronutrient deficiencies and even macronutrient deficiencies, and so on. Therefore, the gut plays a massive role in chronic pain. In every patient I’ve ever worked with who has chronic pain and inflammation, we consistently see, time and time again, with stool tests, that the gut plays a huge role in their pain.

When you’re really trying to uncover some of the underlying causes of your chronic pain, you do want to look at specific testing. This could include stool testing and examining specific inflammatory markers, such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and sedimentation rate. There are really specific things that we can look at to get a better picture of this chronic pain and inflammatory cycle. Once you’ve done that and have more information, you can also explore things like a micronutrient panel to understand where you or someone you love might be deficient. 

Pain management strategies you can use

Here are some pain relief strategies you can use by addressing your gut.

1. Address your nutrient intake

This seems the most obvious, but addressing your nutrient intake is just the beginning. Are you eating a diet that is whole foods and high in fiber to enhance the diversity of your microbiome? Having a diverse and fiber-rich diet can be one of the most helpful things for your microbiome. You can also focus on consuming different colors and nutrients. We often say, “Eat a rainbow,” and that’s not just art; it’s also science. Eating a variety of colors provides you with nutrients, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that can help mitigate oxidative stress, which, in turn, helps reduce ongoing inflammation that might be contributing to your chronic pain.

Herbs and spices can be powerful additions to your diet. Consider incorporating items like turmeric, ginger, cloves, and rosemary. You can either add them to your meals or take them in supplement form. Depending on what you discover from potential stool tests or a more in-depth examination, you may want to consider a specific gut protocol to address any underlying infections, dysbiosis, or inflammation that may be occurring in the gut.

2. Consuming essential rich fatty acids

Omega-3s, mainly found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, play a significant role in healing, not only in reducing inflammation but also in supporting membrane health and mitochondrial function.

3. Movement

You should approach movement from a graded perspective, meaning that doing too much too soon can set you back. Movement can positively impact our digestive system, nervous system, and mitochondria, making it one of the most powerful ways to influence chronic pain. However, it must be purposeful and gradual. For example, if you’re starting to walk, don’t jump into walking for an hour. Begin with 5 to 10 minutes and gradually increase the duration as you gain confidence, feel good, and allow your tissues to adapt to the new stressor.

4. Nervous system

Lastly, let’s not forget about your nervous system. There are various ways to address your nervous system, such as through walking, hugging a friend, participating in yoga classes, or engaging in movement. Understanding chronic pain and how to address it definitely involves addressing the nervous system. If you have a history of trauma, you can check out my recent blog on that, as it’s also an important factor to consider. When dealing with ongoing stressors, it’s not necessarily about eliminating stress but rather learning how to navigate through stress. Addressing your nervous system is a top priority when it comes to healing your pain.

Key takeaway 

I hope you can appreciate the significant role of your gut health in your chronic pain. It’s important to understand that you can take actionable steps to alleviate your pain. Yes, it might be challenging, and yes, it’s a journey, but there are things you can do to initiate the process. 

Even if you can’t perform stool testing or any testing, start with some of the steps I mentioned about optimizing your nutrition and movement, nurturing your nervous system, and improving your sleep. These actions can truly begin to transform your gut microbiome, restore your body’s balance (homeostasis), and kickstart your journey toward healing from your pain.

If you found this information helpful, please be sure to give it a like, share it with others, leave a comment below, and, of course, subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm®, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. If you’re looking for personalized guidance on your journey and feel that you need an individualized approach, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would welcome the opportunity to assist you.

If you’re interested in accessing a wide range of programs, including those on nutrition, somatics, and vagus nerve exercises, as well as movement programs to help you optimize your overall wellness, consider checking out our app, The Movement Paradigm, available on both Apple and Google platforms.

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Biology of Trauma: How You Can Heal

Are you experiencing ongoing health issues that just can’t seem to be resolved—autoimmune disease, chronic gut issues, maybe things like neurodegenerative disease? Maybe you’ve experienced trauma as a child or as an adult, and you know that it might be affecting your body physically, but you’re just not sure how?

In this blog, we’re going to talk about the biology of trauma—how trauma can affect our physiology.

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Why understanding the biology of trauma is important

I’m interested in trauma because I have experienced a fair amount of trauma in my life, just like so many of us have. One of the things that I’ve learned, however, is how movement has healed my body. Understanding the science of why movement is so powerful in healing and being able to discharge energy is so important. Also, understanding how, without addressing repressed and suppressed emotions and trauma, it can result in physical issues, such as cancer and other chronic health conditions.

The Polyvagal Theory and how it relates to trauma 

I think it’s always helpful to start with the Polyvagal Theory. This theory is by Dr. Steven Porges, and it really gives us a great visual representation of our nervous system.

Ventral vagal state (social engagement/safety)

As we break down the three aspects of our responses to our nervous system, let’s start with the state of social engagement. I like to refer to that as our state of safety, our state of connection, and our ability to relate. This is where we can connect to ourselves, connect to the greater world, and be compassionate, grounded, and mindful. From a physiological standpoint, this is where we’re able to rest and digest and have optimal immunity, mobility, and digestion in our gut.

Sympathetic state (mobilization/activation)

When we think about our fight or flight response, which many of us are familiar with, we consider it as our survival mechanism. In the fight or flight state, we’re primed to survive. Blood rushes to our extremities, our pupils dilate, and our blood pressure and heart rate elevate. We’re preparing to either fight or flee to ensure our survival.

Dorsal vagal state (immobilization/collapse/emergency)

Then, there’s our freeze state, also referred to as the dorsal vagal state, while the state of social engagement is known as the ventral vagal state. 

In this freeze state, we can become overwhelmed, disconnected, and even experience shutdown or suicidal thoughts. From a physiological standpoint, you can think of it as our emergency state. Our body doesn’t know what else to do and simply can’t continue. This is where trauma comes into play. 

When we’re in a fight or flight state, we activate the HPA axis, our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is our body’s stress pathway. This is when cortisol and adrenaline are released, and it’s meant to protect us. It’s not inherently a bad state, as we often think. However, if this state persists for an extended period, with continuous stressors, we reach a point where we just can’t go on anymore.

When we haven’t dealt with these things, we can’t even process them. Additionally, consider that when we don’t have enough in the tank to keep going—not enough nutrients due to the damage caused by constant cortisol and adrenaline release—we become depleted. In either of these two cases, we move into a freeze state, which is our dorsal vagal response, our emergency state. This is when physical issues start to manifest.

In this state, we might receive a new diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. We might begin to experience dysautonomia, a dysregulation of our nervous system, which includes heart rate fluctuations such as bradycardia (low heart rate) or tachycardia (high heart rate). We could also experience symptoms like dizziness and blood pressure dysregulation.

Additionally, we could develop conditions like cancer or persistent gut issues that we keep trying to treat but just can’t seem to get better. Often, this is where the biology of trauma begins to reveal itself. When trauma hasn’t been addressed or discharged, it leads to physiological changes that ultimately alter our biology. These changes affect how our physical being copes with life’s stressors and continue to function.

The role of fascia in trauma response

Additionally, we also need to consider the fascial aspect of our physical response to trauma. When we’ve experienced any kind of trauma, it can look very different for each person, as it’s filtered through our own unique lenses, including our belief systems, values, and biases. Two individuals exposed to the same event might have entirely different responses due to these factors.

Regarding fascia, think of it as our three-dimensional network surrounding our organs and muscles, acting like the glue that holds everything together and serving as our force transmission system. However, when we have patterns of trauma, whether physical or emotional, it can ultimately impact all the information traveling to the brain. In our fascia, we have more interoceptors than proprioceptors. Interoceptors are the receptors responsible for providing us with internal awareness of self, like hunger, pain, heart rate, and breathing rate.

So, information from our internal environment is constantly signaling to the brain. These cues are consistently directed to the insular cortex of the brain, which is another major factor in how we hold these patterns in our body.

To illustrate, consider if you’ve ever had a scar, whether it’s from a c-section, thyroid tracheotomy, or any other type of scar on your body. A scar is essentially fascia with collagen fibers that typically have a certain arrangement but become cross-linked, making the tissue strong but less elastic. When we begin to address these scars, we often experience emotional releases. This is because a scar is connected to many things, including our physical tissue and the traumatic events related to surgery, falls, or injuries. 

Working on a scar can lead to significant emotional releases, shedding light on how our fascia and tissue influence our emotions. By considering all this information, there is a path to healing your body both physically and emotionally.

How you can heal your body

So, how can you heal your body? 

1. Address your health conditions

First, you want to address your health conditions. This might sound counterintuitive, as you may have expected me to say to address the trauma first. However, when your body is simply unable to cope any longer and you’re completely depleted, addressing these physical issues becomes crucial.

This depletion can manifest as nutrient deficiencies, such as magnesium and zinc, especially when you’re under significant stress, which depletes these essential nutrients needed for overall function. You also need to address physical issues like gut problems, including parasites, SIBO, or leaky gut. If you’re dealing with mitochondrial issues leading to chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and similar problems, these must be addressed as well.

Addressing these physical issues allows your body to start processing some of the emotions and provides the opportunity for your body to feel safe again. In the state of social engagement, we need to feel safe and connected. Unresolved past traumas that haven’t been processed leave us feeling unsafe as if we’re in a constant emergency state. Therefore, it’s important to address physical issues to kickstart the journey of healing from trauma.

2. Bottom-up approach

We often think about dealing with our trauma and emotions, in general, from a cognitive perspective. We try to rationalize and talk ourselves out of feeling a certain way in various circumstances, which can be quite challenging. When we consider a bottom-up approach, we focus on somatics, which essentially means movement.

Somatic practices involve utilizing the body to process and discharge emotional energy. One key aspect is working with the fascial tissue. It’s important to move the body in a safe way, allowing ourselves to release and process this energy literally. Various practices can help on this journey, such as somatic experiencing and Dance Movement therapy, which is considered one of the original somatic practices. The core idea in somatics is a movement-based approach.

For example, you can try a simple exercise like the butterfly hug. Bring your arms over your chest, interlace your fingers, and let your hands rest gently on your chest. Just this act can bring comfort, soothe your feelings, and make you feel safe and supported. Begin to alternate and create a slight vibration in your body, providing sensory information and allowing your body to settle in.

It’s important to stay in the exercise until you genuinely feel a response. Often, we cut such practices too short. Don’t rush it. Allow yourself the gift of time to feel comforted and safe. Whether that takes 1 minute, 3 minutes, or 5 minutes, it’s okay.

3. Integrate everything together

Third, it’s essential to integrate everything together because we must ensure that we’re addressing the physical issues comprehensively. We can’t simply attribute a physical health condition solely to trauma. Instead, we need to examine the physical condition in isolation and make sure we’re managing all aspects of it. This includes treating symptoms and addressing the underlying causes while simultaneously working on the journey of learning to regulate your nervous system.

Understanding the power of the autonomic nervous system is crucial. You can find more information on this in my blogs and videos about the vagus nerve. There are numerous ways to examine how our nervous system functions and regulates our autonomic functions, which encompass everything from our breathing and heart rate to digestion and swallowing. When we can address all these aspects, we create a more comprehensive approach to healing.

We learn how to regulate our nervous system throughout the day, enabling us to return to a resilient zone. This allows us to navigate any stressors that come our way, whether they’re flying at us rapidly or occasionally. However, it takes time, practice, and a deep understanding of your nervous system.

When you truly understand your nervous system, you realize that you have significant control over it, and you gain the power to choose what to do, when to do it, and how to do it for yourself. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. In my online vagus nerve course and somatic course, I provide various exercises, but you have to find what resonates with you personally.

By addressing this through a movement-based approach, taking care of physical issues, and understanding the connection between your physical health and trauma, we can truly help you heal your body and live your best, thriving life.

If you found this information helpful, please like, share, and subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm®, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. If you want to join our app and join our community, please make sure to check out the Movement Paradigm app on Google or Apple. Get a 7-day FREE trial!

If you’d like to learn more about how we can assist you on your journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a discovery session. We look forward to helping you on your path to wellness.

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3 Stages of Stress

Ever wondered why stress affects us the way it does? Dive into the intriguing world of the three stages of stress, where we unravel the science of your body’s HPA Axis and sympathetic nervous system activation. Discover these stages, learn how to identify them, and equip yourself with the tools to treat stress effectively.

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How Stress Affects Our Body

Let’s start by discussing how stress affects our body. Stress can be categorized as both good and bad. Good stress, known as eustress, can be related to physical exercise or the excitement of an upcoming event, for example. Eustress plays a vital role in our performance, but today, we will focus on the three stages of stress and how acute stress can transform into chronic stress, impacting our bodies.

The HPA axis, short for the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is the body’s stress pathway. When we encounter a psychological or physical stressor, our limbic system, the brain’s emotional center, detects a potential threat. This sets off a series of events, with signals sent from the limbic system to the pituitary gland in the brain, which, in turn, signals the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then prompts the pituitary gland to communicate with the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands respond by releasing cortisol. If this stress continues for an extended period, it can lead to a persistent activation of the HPA axis. It’s crucial to understand that when the HPA axis is activated, it triggers the sympathetic nervous system, putting us in a fight-or-flight mode for survival.

When the sympathetic nervous system is upregulated, or the parasympathetic nervous system is downregulated, it’s like having the gas pedal pressed down continuously. The longer the HPA axis remains activated, the more our sympathetic nervous system stays in overdrive.

In 1963, Hans Selye pioneered understanding physiological responses to stress, a concept known as General Adaptation Syndrome.

Stages of Stress

Stage 1 – Arousal

Let’s examine a typical cortisol rhythm. Around 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., we experience the highest peak of cortisol, which gradually decreases as the day progresses, particularly as bedtime approaches when melatonin takes over.

In a stage one arousal state of stress, both cortisol and DHEA levels are elevated. DHEA is a crucial hormone associated with vitality, often called the “anti-aging hormone.” Initially, this response is entirely normal, resulting in episodic increases in both hormones followed by a return to baseline. Typically, in this state, you may not experience any symptoms, but you are stimulated, and there is a rapid release of catecholamines. This is essentially a natural and expected response.

This scenario applies when we encounter episodic stress throughout our day or life. The HPA axis and sympathetic nervous system become activated temporarily, but we ultimately return to our resilient baseline state. Everything remains well within the normal range.

Stage 2 – Adaptation

Now, this is where we are adapting to a higher cortisol point. This can manifest as elevated cortisol points at various times throughout the day or even persistently high cortisol levels, particularly in the morning. It’s not uncommon to wake up at two or three o’clock in the morning due to cortisol peaking prematurely.

In this situation, cortisol remains chronically elevated while DHEA levels start to decrease. This is when you might experience stress-related symptoms such as panic attacks, anxiety, depression, or feeling both tired and wired simultaneously. Instead of winding down for sleep at night, you find yourself with the energy to keep reading, cleaning, or tackling various tasks despite feeling tired.

Stage 3 – Exhaustion

So, think of it this way: if your adrenals have been pumping out cortisol for so long, then at some point, your body’s natural homeostasis is affected. At this point, cortisol is now low, and DHEA is low.

Various things typically occur in this stage, but you are likely to experience significant chronic fatigue. You’ll also notice more depression than anxiety, although anxiety can still be a significant part of it. Low blood sugar and glucose dysregulation are common patterns here.

When looking at a cortisol graph, there will be at least two to four points that are low on the cortisol rhythm. Normally, it starts up around 6:00 a.m. and gradually decreases throughout the day. However, in this case, multiple points are low. This can lead to symptoms such as fibromyalgia, dizziness, brain fog, inflammation, allergies, and even early menopause, which is another sign of stage three stress.

Other common symptoms are cravings for salty food, dizziness, and easy bruising.

Understanding the Stage of Stress You Are In

So, as you can see, each stage is very unique in its presentation. Some individuals may present with signs of stage two or stage three, which is common. However, I believe the first step I recommend is to try to better understand where you are. Simply identifying your stage is an excellent starting point for healing your body, and knowing that you can do it is important.

Your body is designed to heal itself, so when you start providing it with the things it needs and desires, you can significantly impact your health.

Tips for Overcoming Stress

Here are a few important tips, regardless of your stage. What stage are you in right now? Simply identifying it and understanding stress a little more is a great starting point. 

Tip #1 – Focus on Your Nutrition

Focus on your nutrition! Especially if you are in stage three of stress, where you’re experiencing a lot of blood sugar dysregulation and low blood sugar in general, this is an area that you can really begin to eat every three to four hours. I would not recommend fasting in this situation. Instead, concentrate on balanced meals that include protein, healthy fats, and fiber sources, and consistently consume whole foods throughout the day. 

Even if you find yourself in a slight caloric surplus, it’s important to note that most people I encounter are actually in a caloric deficit, which can contribute to more stress on the body.

So, keep in mind that the focus here is on whole foods and consistently eating high-quality nutrients. This approach aligns with my next suggestion: to ensure you’re replenishing nutrients. If you’re consuming very few calories or fasting, all of these practices can deplete your body with the essential nutrients needed for a healthy nervous system and stress mitigation, making you more resilient.

Therefore, emphasizing the intake of optimal nutrients and whole meals is a crucial step in managing stress.

Tip #2 – Nervous System Regulation

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you can see lots of different examples of this, but this can start with simply moving your body. This can be any type of breath work, movement, authentic movement, somatics, and vagus nerve exercises I have provided you. It could be anything to consistently regulate your nervous system in a healthy way. What are your triggers, and what things really are fulfilling you?

Tip #3 – Optimizing Sleep

I’ve written a few blogs on sleep, but here are some ideas: First, you want to think about down-regulating your nervous system to be able to go to sleep. Have a ritual before you go to bed. Wear blue light blockers if you’re using your phone, TV, or tablet because, in this case, it’s actually signaling to the receptors in your retina that it is morning time. 

When you wake up, your ritual is even more important. You want to ideally try to get morning sunlight within the first 20 minutes of waking up. If that’s not possible, you can use a SAD light. It’s not as good as the sun, but it is a good backup plan so that there’s at least something in place that will help to increase your natural cortisol in the morning, and it will also help with the evening melatonin production. 

So, consider everything you can do to optimize sleep.

Tip #4 – Supplementation

With this, the biggest take-home that I want to give you here is within each stage of stress, there are many different options. This will depend on your medical history, the stage of stress you’re in, and the types of things you are sensitive to—have you tried herbs, botanicals, or adaptogens? Have you had an issue with them in the past? There are so many variables. The first step is nutraceuticals, i.e., getting the nutrients that you are not getting through food.

Beyond that, you can get more specific in looking at different adaptogens that might be appropriate for your level of stress. For example, Ashwagandha is appropriate for all three levels of stress. That may not necessarily be the right thing for you, however. You do want to check with your doctor, functional medicine provider, or dietitian to ensure it is. 

There are so many things you can do to begin to pave the way for a more resilient nervous system, a healthy body, and a healthy mind.

If you found this information helpful, please like, share, and subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm®, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. If you want to join our app and join our community, please make sure to check out the Movement Paradigm app on Google or Apple.

To learn more about how we can assist you on your journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a discovery session. We look forward to helping you on your path to wellness.

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Recipe for success: 7 ways to improve your gut and mental well being

Are you ready to embark on a transformative journey towards optimal well-being? If you’re eager to feel your absolute best, you’re in the right place! In this blog post, we’re about to unveil seven incredibly effective strategies to improve your gut and mental well-being.

From dietary advice to physical activities, consider this your comprehensive guide to achieving a healthier, happier you! So, let’s dive right in and explore the recipe for success when it comes to nurturing your gut and your mind.

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The gut-brain connection

Now, many of you have heard me speak about this before, which is how powerful the gut-brain connection really is. What we are fueling our body with, what we’re putting in day in and day out, is directly affecting our brain, thoughts, emotions, and the ability to regulate our nervous system. It is directly affecting our gut. 

This beautiful relationship is something that we can optimize through some of our daily habits, our choices, and recognizing what are the things that are going to help our overall emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

7 ways to improve your gut and mental well being

1. Optimizing digestion

Consider taking three diaphragmatic breaths right before you eat. This is because when we bring blood flow to the autonomic nervous system and the digestive tract during our meals, we optimize our digestive capabilities.

If you’re multitasking, like looking at your computer, checking our phone, or while eating, this increases cortisol levels and diverts blood flow away from the digestive tract, slowing down our digestive process. So, if we can take at least three breaths before we eat, or even more, we bring ourselves to a parasympathetic state, promoting ‘rest and digest.’

In addition to that, chewing your food 20 to 30 times can significantly help with the mechanical breakdown of food. This process begins in our mouth, where our saliva releases enzymes to break down the food. 

Chewing also signals the body to prepare for digestion, optimizing the production of bile, pancreatic enzymes, and hydrochloric acid. This way, we can break down the food into very fine particles before it reaches the small intestine. 

2. Balancing your nervous system

There are so many ways to balance your nervous system, and if you follow any of our videos and our content, you’ll realize that there are endless possibilities. So much of it is about finding what most resonates with you. It could be anything from diaphragmatic breathing, walking, getting out into nature, doing specific vagus nerve exercises, dancing, engaging in authentic movement, or somatic movement where you can freely express your emotions. It could even be as simple as talking to a friend.

There are lots of ways to balance your nervous system, but it starts with recognizing which nervous system state you’re in. Are you in a state of safety and connection, are you in fight or flight, or are you in a freeze state? Once you can identify your current state, you can then choose what you can do to become more resilient and bring yourself back to that state of safety and connection, allowing you to better navigate life’s challenges.

3. Movement and exercise 

This can actually help with the diversity in our microbiome, which can ultimately be very protective against conditions like colon cancer and gastrointestinal diseases. Making movement a priority in your life is crucial. This could mean walking, lifting, or running, but it’s important to think about exercise and movement in a specific way.

In my world, they’re a little different because we want to think about moving all day long. Our bodies crave movement, and that’s what we need for a healthy nervous system and a healthy gut. If we can view movement as a gift that we’re nourishing and appreciating, and exercise as a way to push our bodies outside of their comfort zones, taking them a bit past what they’re used to so they can adapt, change, grow, and evolve.

4. Probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods

The way to think of this is that if you are relatively healthy, without any obvious digestive issues, it’s likely easy for you to incorporate probiotic-rich foods. These include items like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and foods with active live cultures, and perhaps even a probiotic supplement.

Now, if you have gut issues and you’re not sure what they are, it can be especially beneficial to consider a stool test to identify the specific issues. Many people with gut problems find that probiotics are not well tolerated, especially if there’s something going on in the small intestine like SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). In such cases, probiotics might not be the first step to take.

However, when we think about general health and well-being, including mental health, probiotic-rich foods are great. When considering psychobiotics, which are specific strains related to mental health, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the two most common strains you’ll find in a probiotic supplement. These strains can be particularly beneficial for mental health, and there has been a lot of promising research on them.

Additionally, we want to think about prebiotic foods, such as bananas, garlic, and onions. These foods can be thought of as the fiber sources that probiotics feed on.

5. Anti-inflammatory foods

We should also consider factors like Omega-3s, increasing our intake through fatty fish, as well as foods like walnuts and flax seeds. Simultaneously, it might be beneficial to decrease some of our Omega-6s, which can be found in higher-fat foods, such as seed oils that are often present in packaged foods. The goal here is to optimize our intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Anti-inflammatory nutrients can be thought of as Omega-3s, but also include phytonutrient-rich foods. A great way to approach this is to incorporate a variety of colorful foods into your diet. Think of all the different colors – reds, blues, yellows, etc. Each color provides different nutrients that can help support our biochemistry and promote overall health.

6. Fiber-rich environment

Fiber is incredibly important for maintaining a healthy microbiome. We should aim for at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day, although the specific amount can depend on your diet and individual needs. What’s crucial is obtaining fiber from various sources. In this context, diversity in fiber sources is more important than simply meeting a daily fiber goal. It’s this diversity that helps beneficial bacteria thrive in your gut.

7. Specific nutrients

To get a bit more specific about certain nutrients, we can aim for foods rich in tryptophan, which is a precursor for serotonin, often referred to as our “happiness hormone.” These foods can include items like turkey and eggs.

Additionally, we can focus on tyrosine, a precursor for dopamine, which can be found in foods like meat or almonds. It’s important to recognize that specific nutrients like these play essential roles in neurotransmitter production, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. Proteins serve as the building blocks for these neurotransmitters, making a protein-rich diet a crucial aspect of maintaining their balance and functionality.

The Bottom Line

These are just seven of many strategies, but I hope they give you a good sense of the various possibilities we have to optimize the relationship between the gut and the brain.

If you found this information helpful, please like, share, and subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. If you’d like to learn more about how we can assist you on your journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a discovery session. We look forward to helping you on your path to wellness.

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The Body’s Emotional Landscape: Exploring Fascia, Interoception, and Trauma

Have you ever wondered how emotions and traumas are stored in your body? Join us as we explore the fascinating connection between fascia, emotions, and healing. Discover the role of fascia in our physical and emotional well-being, the impact of trauma on interoceptive awareness (internal awareness of self), and effective ways to release emotions and facilitate healing.

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The Body’s Emotional Landscape

We know all too well how emotions have such an impact on our thoughts. But we also want to recognize how emotions have such a profound effect on our physical body. You may have heard that emotions and traumas are stored in our bodies. We will talk briefly about the science behind it and exactly what that means.

Our focus will be on the role of fascia in emotions and trauma, as well as interoceptive awareness, which connects to our internal self-awareness. Additionally, we’ll examine how trauma stored in the body can lead to various physical and emotional responses. Most importantly, we’ll learn how to heal and restore our body’s balance.

The Role of Fascia in Emotions

Let’s talk about the role of fascia in emotions. Our fascia is our three-dimensional network that surrounds everything in our body, from our muscles, joints, and bones to our nerves, lymph, and organs; it’s our connective tissue, the glue that holds everything together. Therefore, it is perhaps one of the most powerful systems in our body.

Trauma and stress can lead to a lot of physical changes in our bodies. Think about when we’re stressed; we might hold the tension in our neck and shoulders. If you’ve ever had jaw issues, such as TMJ, you may have noticed clenching and grinding due to ongoing stress.

In our bodies, chronic tension patterns can arise due to various factors. To better understand this, consider the concept of fascia, which should ideally possess both elasticity and the ability to generate tension, known as tensegrity. However, when we experience altered patterns over time, these changes can affect our fascial tissue.

Our tissue is meant to have elasticity, allowing free movement while also providing tension and structure. Imagine a scenario where our tissue undergoes an altered pattern for an extended period. Think of a rubber band with a knot in it. Even if we keep stretching the rubber band, the knot remains. In fascial tissue, we can develop patterns of restrictions, leading to potential issues like pain, dysfunction, and impaired movement.

Lastly, as it relates to fascia, fascia is our force transmission system, so when this system is altered through surgery, some type of adverse event, or injury, it can change how we move through the world. This can change our ability to move efficiently; it can affect our ability to move freely, and ultimately, this can greatly influence our emotions.

Interoceptive Awareness

Interoception is our internal awareness of self. It gives our brain information about things like pain and temperature. Our interoceptors are mechanoreceptors located in the fascial tissue and primarily in the viscera. These interoceptors provide input to the insular cortex of our brain,  where we can process emotional information.

It is estimated that we have up to seven times more interoceptors in our fascia than proprioceptors, which detect joint position and movement. Therefore, we can see the impact this will have on our emotions and our physical being.

Trauma’s Imprints on the Body

When we have experienced trauma in our lives—and that could be unique to each of us and how we perceive what is traumatic—this can interrupt the interoceptive processing between our body and our brain.

We could become more hyper-vigilant. This could lead to becoming hyper-aware of your sensations. For example, in the case of chronic pain, which is associated with trauma, our brain is sensitized. It detects and senses pain, even when there is no tissue damage.  

On the other hand, it can contribute to a hyperarousal state. In this state, we may feel numb, depressed, or stuck. Consequently, we can have a different interpretation of our bodily signals, where we might intentionally tune them out. For example, initiating signaling and repressing emotions can become the norm.

This signaling is influenced and can cause a different reaction for each person because we’re all unique. And so, in essence, this interruption can cause dysregulation in our nervous system, and it can cause us to be disconnected from our body in some way.

Facilitating Healing and Releasing Emotions

How do we release emotions and facilitate healing?

Your body is designed to heal itself, and please remember that you have this innate capacity to heal. When you are able to give your body what it needs and what it deserves, you can work through a very safe, gentle, and healing process.

As it relates to addressing the mind and the body—we often refer to that as mind-body because they are connected. Somatic therapy, which is a mind-body approach, can be very helpful.

What does that mean exactly?

The easiest way to think of it is to think about movement because we, as beings, are mostly non-verbal. Only seven percent of our communication is verbal, and the rest of it is non-verbal. This means that moving our bodies safely and gently is crucial for emotional health.

How we move can look different for every person, such as walking outside mindfully or doing specific vagus nerve exercises. I recommend checking out all of my vagus nerve exercises, as there are many options to choose from. You can also explore various somatic practices like trauma release therapy and pendulation to understand what’s happening in our body with a gentle curiosity.

For instance, if you are experiencing pain during meditation, you can consider being curious about the pain and how it feels. Can you dial the pain down or change it? If your hip feels tight in a position, can you manage it or explore it? It’s essential to address this mind-body approach gently and safely.

By understanding these bodily sensations, we can grasp the significance of our fascia. Our fascia plays a huge role in our emotional being. Therefore, moving our body in an authentic way that suits each individual, like dancing, animal flow, or walking, can be very effective in managing emotions. It’s important to note that somatic therapy is very different from talk therapy, but it’s not a matter of one being better than the other; they’re simply different approaches.

As we think about how our nervous system influences our emotions, movement emerges as a great way to address these influences.

If you found this helpful, please like, share, and subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement.

If you need assistance with your movement, barefoot training, or overall health, please reach out to us. We would love to help you.

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How is your gut and brain connected?

Have you ever experienced “butterflies in your stomach” before an important presentation or felt your appetite disappear during a stressful situation? Well, you’re not alone. Our gut and brain are closely connected, and this communication is referred to as the gut-brain connection.

In this blog post, we’ll explore how this two-way communication occurs and affects our overall well-being. Specifically, we’ll examine the three primary pathways that connect our gut and brain. So, get ready to learn something new and fascinating about the incredible relationship between our gut and brain!

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Why Understanding the Gut-Brain Connection is Important

Whether you have anxiety, depression, headaches, brain fog, or digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, reflux, autoimmune disease, skin issues, or neurodegenerative diseases, we must consider our gut-brain access. This amazing bi-directional communication between our gut and brain is connected through three primary pathways.

Three Pathways That Connect The Gut And The Brain

Pathway 1: Nervous System

The first pathway, the nervous system pathway, is connected via the vagus nerve.

As you may have read in my previous posts, the vagus nerve is our wandering nerve. It is a pair of cranial nerves (10th cranial nerve). It wanders down with branches into the throat, ear, esophagus, lung, heart, and entire digestive tract. The vagus nerve is also 80% of our parasympathetic system, which connects our gut and brain. It is one of the best visual representations of this connection.

Therefore, whether we think about specific health conditions or concerns, we want to understand and appreciate this connection and how we can influence it. For example, we can work on diaphragmatic breathing before we eat to bring ourselves to a parasympathetic state and optimize our gut-brain connection.

Pathway 2: Hormonal

The second pathway is the hormonal connection. We want to think of our neurotransmitters, which are our chemical messengers. The gut bacteria help produce these neurotransmitters, so we need proper nutrient intake for that.

For example, approximately 90 percent of our happiness hormone, serotonin, is in our gut, and around 50 percent of our dopamine is also there.

GABA, which inhibits anxiety and fear, is also in our gut. Therefore, to optimize brain health, we can address our gut. Gut dysbiosis, for example, will likely contribute to health conditions that may include but not be limited to anxiety and depression.

Pathway 3: Immune System

The third pathway is the immune connection. Seventy percent of the immune system is in our gut, which is called GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue).

We want to consider that if there is inflammation in the gut from food sensitivities and allergies, parasitic infections, pathogenic infections, leaky gut, or IBS/inflammatory bowel disease, this can cause systemic or excessive inflammation.

If we have inflammation in the gut and the lymphoid tissue, which is 70% of our entire immune system, it can ultimately affect everything in our body, especially the gut-brain connection.

The Bottom Line

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve seen others about the gut-brain connection. I hope that this information has been useful and that you find the topic as fascinating as I do.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like, share it with your friends, and subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm, for more weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement.

If you’re looking for support on your health journey, we’re here to help! Feel free to reach out to us for a discovery session.

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