Category Archives: Mind

Pay Attention To Your Gut Instincts

Support your second brain

Tawnya Ritco, RHN

Modern gastroenterology suggests that our “gut instinct” stems from the 500 million neurons contained in the gastrointestinal tract, in the network of nerves contained in the walls of everything from our esophagus to our stomach and intestines.

That network—the enteric nervous system (ENS)—is what’s known as the “second brain.” And for good reason. The ENS is the body’s second-largest concentration of nerves behind only the brain (and ahead of the spinal column). In fact, there are 30 to 40 percent as many neurotransmitters identified in the gastrointestinal tract as there are in the brain.

The body’s prime source of serotonin

The ENS controls digestion, including everything from the biomechanics of the stomach and intestines to the alkalinity that allows digestive enzymes to work effectively. By producing 95 percent of the serotonin found in the body, this “second brain” does much to govern how we react to environmental stress. As a regulator of aging, learning, and memory, along with many organ functions and growth factors, serotonin affects our overall physical and mental well-being.

The ENS also produces as much dopamine as the brain—important for everything from motivation to motor control and the production of other key hormones. Working with the brain or independently, the ENS thereby plays a strong role in supporting the healthy functioning of the body.

Protecting the GI tract

The connectivity between the ENS and the brain is yet another reason why nutrition is so important: the healthier the digestive system, the healthier the body. More specifically, the healthier the epithelial tissue in the walls of the gastrointestinal tract, the better it will protect the nervous and circulatory systems from bacteria and viruses. The healthier the digestive system, the more likely the ENS will function optimally.

Nutrition, hydration, and supplements

Consuming fewer processed foods and eating more plant-based foods reduces the stress on our digestive system (and, by extension, the ENS). Hydration is also important, as is relaxation prior to and during meals.

The medicinal mushroom lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus)—associated with optimal nerve health—may also assist in the proper functioning of the ENS and the way it communicates with the brain.

Nutritional supplements known to enhance tissue health are another avenue toward good digestion: by optimizing the integrity of the epithelial lining of the GI tract.

Everything from mood to decision-making can be affected when the GI tract is inflamed or otherwise under duress. Making the right decisions around healthy eating is one of the surest ways to sustain balance and good choices in every other facet of our lives.

Previously published in Alive Magazine.

Tawnya Ritco, R.H.N., is Director of Education for PURICA and promotes natural health education and finds inspiration in the connection between nutrition, lifestyle, and vitality.

You Are How You Think and Feel

Diet and exercise are typically the first things that get our full throttle attention when we’re looking to improve our level of health and fitness.

A less tangible but equally important pillar of our health is our overall mind-body-spirit balance. If you don’t think well or feel well, you won’t be as well as you can be.

Caring for your mind-body-spirit balance supports your nervous and endocrine systems. More and more people are overstressed long before they are overweight. Having a poor stress response can also stunt your progress and rob you of enjoying optimal results from your fitness and nutritional efforts.

If you’re eating clean, training hard and not seeing improvements in your physical body or feeling positive, chances are you need to consider giving your mind-body-spirit wellness some direct attention.

Changing your thinking habits is the first step to having your feelings follow. Rather than letting your feelings direct your thinking and behavior, I invite you to try the following activities consistently for the next eight weeks to help nourish your mind and spirit. Trust me your body will feel the benefit!

  1. Breathe:
    This might seem like a no brainer, and for most people it is. To shift mindless breathing inward and make it mindful, find 5-10 minutes in your day 1-3 times per day to practice conscious, deep breathing. Search “Box Breathing” for tips and technique and don’t be surprised if you feel a little lightheaded before you feel less stressed and reenergized.
  2. Be Grateful:
    Gratitude is an enormous attitude adjuster. The simple act of starting or finishing your day by writing out or verbally acknowledging three things you are grateful for on a daily basis will have a phenomenally positive effect on your well being. Research suggests that implementing daily gratitude can improve your happiness health by as much as 25 percent.
  3. Meditate or Pray:
    The similarities found in meditation and prayers are quite revealing. For this practice of mindfulness, use whatever label you feel most comfortable with and for the next eight weeks simply monitor your thoughts and feelings without getting stuck on them. You do not have to sit in the lotus position and chant ‘Om’ all the time to practise mindfulness.

Here is an effective three-step “prayer” style closely akin to mindfulness:

  1. Opening yourself to whatever it is that you are experiencing.
  2. Welcome any feelings of fear, anger, unhappiness or whatever it may be.
  3. Let go of trying to control the outcome and leave it to the universe to take care of.

Motivated Mindset

Melissa Tucker - PURICA Ambassador
Melissa Tucker
PURICA Ambassador

Melissa Tucker, a training coach and one of Canada’s foremost global fitness competitors, is a member of our team of PURICA Ambassadors committed to promoting positive lifestyle solutions, including healthy eating and training tips. Here are Melissa’s tips on how to keep motivated.

A lot of people associate getting fit with “motivation”. If they’re not “in the mood” to exercise or eat right, then they don’t bother. What would happen if you only washed your dishes or paid your bills when you felt like it? Exactly! The outcome would not be very good. If you want to see consistent progress with your fitness, take Nike’s slogan to heart and just do it, regardless of how you feel.

Here are some ideas to keep your mind motivated:

  • I like to journal my progress. Once my pen hits the paper, all the reasons why I’m working out and eating well get turned into positive emotion to fuel my passion to reach my goals!
  • Finding inspiring quotes or books based on the power of focus and profiles of famous athletes pushing themselves from their deepest core to cross their finish line…those examples make doing 45 minutes of cardio not seem so extreme.
  • I keep myself in check by booking a session with my trainer. Yes, I’m a trainer myself and yes, I myself have a trainer. It always helps to have a positive push from someone who has your goals in their mind as well. You can get that same push for free by simply partnering up with an equally-motivated workout buddy.

For more information, check out or email PURICA Ambassador Melissa Tucker at And for regular healthy eating and training tips, follow us on Twitter at and like us on Facebook at