Until last year, the only time I said the word “gut” was in reference to a class at my gym called “Butts and Guts.” Now? It’s up there next to “no” in terms of most frequently used words.
The rise of functional medicine has brought many topics to attention, most notably the importance of gut health. It seems like every day there’s a new book, article or study supporting the idea…it’s not revolutionary anymore. The gut is the second brain and key to our immune system. When the gut is out of whack, everything else is out of whack (think: full body inflammation, brain fog, depression and fatigue, among others). I’m somewhat convinced a weak gut is to blame for the election. Kidding.
I’m not alone in my journey to find stomach peace, as it seems like digestive issues are more common than ever. Occasional gas and bloating is one thing (we all get that) but it shouldn’t interfere with your life. As someone with a long history of GI woes (IBS, autoimmune disease, ulcers), my interest in this topic is personal. After six months of effort I wouldn’t say I’m perfectly “healed” (are we ever?) but I’m confident in my progress. The fact that my stomach isn’t an everyday concern is a huge win. Almost equally as important, I am becoming an expert on myself. I’m in this body for life so, yeah, I should learn how to work with and for it. Things are happening for me, not to me.
As for this post, it’s less sciency and more personal, although I will link to sources for more information if you are interested. That said, there are a few gut health-related things worth noting…
My energy levels have skyrocketed
Random, but hear me out.
I used to need a nap every single day. Let’s not confuse this with wanting a nap, I needed a nap…and an hour one at that! Despite easily waking up early to run, I couldn’t stay awake for a full day of activities. I played it off as my singular college student personality trait, since partying wasn’t my forte. Eventually, my chronic fatigue became more than a joke or a result of ample time. Roll your eyes and laugh (and maybe I was burnt out), but I hated feeling weak 24/7.
Fast-forward a few months and I’m no longer dependent. A stronger gut has resulted in the energy levels of a normal young adult. Now, naps are reserved for an occasional weekend treat or long car ride.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still pro-sleep, just in the normal millennial way.
Further reading: Chronic fatigue syndrome is in your gut- not your head, Gut Bacteria and Brain Function
Diet alone didn’t solve everything
Food is medicine, except when it’s not enough. Before working with my doctor, I assumed that diet alone would change everything. To some extent it did, but I needed way more than a superfood to fix the bacterial imbalance. Nothing helped the way a doctor-driven protocol did.
Further reading: What You Should Know About Your Gut Bacteria
On the contrary, what I put into my body does matter
Duh. I will never discredit the power of a nutrient-dense diet. Now that I’m stronger, I believe certain foods and lifestyle changes can help keep me this way. This one isn’t a pseudo-effect.
I’m not going to hash out all the specifics but I do actively partake in general gut health guidelines. Is that a thing in which to partake? Among other staples, I rely on a high-quality probiotic, collagen (bone broth and powder), fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha) and healthy fats.
Forewarning: be careful if you Google ‘gut health diet.’ Information and result overload.
I found a core team
One very obvious thing I’ve learned is that the more people you invite into your healing journey, the more opinions you’ll have. This can be really good in some ways and really bad in others, the latter referring to conflicting doctor’s orders. I learned the same thing with my foot injury too.
My original intent was to exercise all avenues for healing and while it was the best of intentions, more isn’t always better. I’m grateful to have narrowed down my “team” to a select few individuals whom I reference when needed.
-My mood has improved, which is to be expected when you aren’t in pain every day
-I’ve learned that you need to be your own advocate. Go into appointments prepared yet keep an open-mind.
-I’m not afraid to re-evaluate. As much as I hate change, what works today really might not work next year.
Further reading and podcasting:
–Balanced Bites podcast
–Gut Bacteria and Brain Function
–Dr. Mark Hyman (he’s everywhere in the world of functional medicine)
Autoimmune disease, chronic illness or not, the desire to feel good is universal. I spent so many years putting band-aids on serious issues that it’s taken more time than I wanted to heal. I keep some things personal (and don’t give recommendations) but I’m also open to discussion and supporting others.
Do some research, seek out a practitioner you admire and keep the faith. Your health is worth it. <3