As a Naturopathic Doctor, having awareness of our mind-body connection is a crucial component to achieving optimal health and wellness.
Our brains and bodies are connected through intricate neural pathways made up of neurotransmitters, chemicals and hormones. These intricate neural pathways transmit signals between the body and the brain to control everyday functions such as breathing, thinking, the way we feel, digestion, movement and pain sensations, etc.
A common example of how our brain and bodies are connected can be seen through the sympathetic nervous system "fight or flight" response. This is a type of survival response that helps us react to dangerous situations, such as if we are under attack, our brain turns on the fight or flight response and the body releases certain stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to help us react appropriately. These stress hormones send signals to our lungs to breathe faster and shallower, to our heart to beat faster, to our skin to sweat and to our muscles to tighten. Our blood pressure and blood sugar will automatically rise too, all designed to help us react in dangerous situations. Now it isn't very common that we are in need of running away from a dangerous animal, but this fight or flight response also gets triggered when we are under different forms of stress, which in today's world we all suffer from many forms of stress.
Some of my favourite ways to help improve the mind-body connection is to spend time in nature, engage in daily exercise, make sleep a priority, stay hydrated, deep breathing exercises and by practicing acupuncture.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the life force or energy current is known as "Qi" (pronounced as Chi) and it is believed that all vital functions within the body are also governed by the changes and movements of Qi. Qi usually flows smoothly through energy pathways throughout the body known as meridians and with ongoing stress, and overworking of the body this can lead to stagnation or the disruption of the smooth flow of Qi in our bodies. Acupuncture is an example of how we can stimulate the smooth flow of Qi in our bodies and to help us keep the mind and body in balance. I enjoy offering acupuncture to my patients as it helps to improve our mind-body connection as well as it helps us to achieve our optimal health and wellness.
Dr. Kate Hunter, ND