Geeky wellbeing favourites: December 2022
Where I go on and on and on about one of my favourite topics, the gut microbiota
A couple of weeks ago, my invitation for ZOE health and nutrition finally arrived in my inbox. The promise of a better understanding of my gut microbiota. Of personalised solution to my health problems - my weight, my problematic gut, even my anxiety maybe (by the way, they don’t promise to solve all your problems, because, well, they wouldn’t).
If you know me a little bit, you’ll know how obsessed I used to be with the gut microbiota (I even hinted at it in a previous newsletter). In my old job, I went to conferences, commissioned articles and wrote about it. When the British Gut project came to the UK, I took my poo sample and sent it off for analysis, hoping for something close to what Zoe offers today (sadly, this was a little more primitive and just told you want species you had, with no actionable information). I was gutted (hah!) when so many people ended up writing books about it because, well, it could have been my book.
Sadly, the Zoe programme is ridiculously expensive, and while I can afford it, I can’t quite justify the expense. So I’m still umming and ahing about it.
And so, while this is still fresh on my mind, here are some cool things to read and listen to this month as you eat and drink away (probably slightly messing up your own gut microbiota).
Completely off topic, but one of my poems was published last month! (in a real creative/literary website)
It may sound kind of sci-fi, but your gut microbiota affects your mental health. It influences the communication between your gut brain and central nervous system, which can alter how you feel and how you behave.
Check out this episode of the excellent Zoe podcast for more on the link between the gut microbiota and mental health, and research into psychobiotics to see if we can use microbial interventions to improve our mental health.
Listen a bit more
This episode of Feel Better Live More is a short and snappy summary of how food can influence your mental health – not directly on the gut microbiota, although obviously the two are linked and what you eat is likely to influence the composition of your gut flora.
Intrigued by how the bacteria in your gut can influence your mental health? This is a fairly comprehensive (possibly a little technical) article covering some of the research discussed in the podcast linked above, as well as additional work, including on the impact on brain chemicals (neurotransmitters).
Read a bit more
Something a little more digestible (hah! full of puns today!) – here’s a shorter article referencing mainly the research from the Zoe podcast, and ideas on what you can do to improve your mental health via the gut microbiota.
Ps. I know some of you want a book recommendation. I have to admit I have not ready any books on the gut microbiota because I feel it’s a space I know fairly well – which is probably not true. So this is one for my list.
Would your gut microbiota benefit from some deep deep calm from yoga nidra? (omg how cool would it be to do a study on this and find out if it’s true?). Ok, calming down now. Last month I led a yoga nidra for creativity for my online writing group, and I’ve recorded it for your listening pleasure, relaxation and inspiration. The sound quality is not great (a little robotic?) but I hope you enjoy it anyway!
Mind–body science highlights
Yoga and meditation for IBS: Speaking of guts, a yoga and meditation intervention decreased the severity of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which was not observed in the control group. The yoga and meditation group also reported improved quality of life, although weirdly both intervention and control groups reported a decrease in the intention to practice yoga and meditation (not sure what that means).
Yoga nidra and chanting Om to lower BP: Another small-ish study (80 participants) found that chanting Om and practicing yoga nidra five times a week for 2 months alongside medication lowers blood pressure and improves lipid profile (including cholesterol). The same effect was not observed in the control group, which continued with medication as normal. Annoying that they combined the two interventions though as we don’t know if it’s one or the other, or the combination, that had the effect.
Don’t forget the carers: Being a caregiver can have a significant impact on one’s health, so it’s really interesting to see a study evaluating the effects of a six-week Iyengar yoga intervention on those who care for patients with cancer. Stress, depression and anxiety remained unchanged and were comparable to the control group; however, the study did find significant and beneficial changes in two markers of cardiometabolic health, which may prove protective against the development of metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
You may have missed
I have not been blogging as I am trying to focus on another writing project, but here are some highlights that may be of interest.
What is the vagus nerve – and why should you care? Yes, it is in fact the vagus nerve that connects our head brain and gut brain, so it is this connection that the gut microbiota influences.
What do depression, inflammation and yoga have in common? On the links between depression and inflammation, the latter of which is likely to be linked in some way to the gut microbiota. Plus how yoga could help by tackling inflammation.
Does yoga really support a healthy immune system? Here’s the evidence, in case you were not convince.
Have a wonderful holiday period!