Your Gut Health: It’s All Part of the Whole

For any of you who wonder, it’s not that I don’t have thoughts about current events, it’s just that I struggle to find the words. I am terrified of alienating or offending. I want to consider all perspectives. I don’t want to be silenced or paralyzed by my fear. I am aghast by witnessing a basic lack of decency between human beings. There was a time when I was optimistic that we humans had come to some basic agreements about what constitutes humane treatment of each other. I know violations of humane treatment have always existed and persisted. I am straining to hear my own answer to the questions “What now?” and “How do I help?”

For now, and until I am clear about a different way of helping, what I offer is health education for women in hopes that it empowers us to take good care of ourselves and those who we take care of.

Today, I took my mom for cataract surgery which went fine except a cardiac issue was identified. As an ultrasonographer conducted an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of her heart), he said “your heart comes with a soundtrack” while he recorded the sounds of the valves in my mother’s heart. The comment was touching. We all have a heartbeat and it has its own unique, precious sound. Shared experience yet individualized. How humane.

The ultrasonographer used the term “broken heart syndrome,” which is actually a thing. I looked it up and according to the Oxford Dictionary, broken heart syndrome is “a condition characterized by sudden dysfunction of part of the left ventricle of the heart, accompanied by symptoms resembling those of a heart attack but occurring in the absence of significant coronary artery disease. Typically attributed to stressful events, the condition is usually transient.” Get this: it is treated with medication. What???

My mom and I considered her significantly broken heart. Her partner and sister died within 48 hours of each other in July, so that may be a contributing factor to what is generally considered an “electrical” issue within the heart. How can her heartbreak be separate from the electrical issue? She is whole and her systems are connected.

The concept of being whole and having systems that are connected is at the core of systems biology and functional medicine. What happens in one part of the body has an absolute bearing on what is happening in other parts of the body. The gut is a, if not the, primary influencer on our health.

Just after New Year’s, my brilliant friend Karen sent me the article, “Preventing environmental enteric dysfunction through improved water, sanitation and hygiene: an opportunity for stunting reduction in developing countries,” by Mbuya and Humphrey. The article was published in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition in 2016. In 2011, the growth of one in every five children was stunted worldwide. Wanna know why? It’s not because of poor diet or diarrhea, but because of subclinical gut disease. Subclinical gut disease is when someone’s disease is not obviously related to the gut.

There are two mechanisms at play in subclinical gut disease that result in stunted growth. Simply stated, the mechanisms are poor digestion and poor nutrient absorption, and a leaky gut that results in a chronically activated immune system. Kids don’t grow with an unhealthy gut. The mechanisms of subclinical gut disease apply to adults, as well, and underwrite a multitude of health issues.

Here are five essentials about your gut health:

  1. Many health issues are the clinical manifestation of an underlying gut imbalance. Sometimes the manifestations are clearly connected to the gastrointestinal system, such as irritable bowel syndrome, gas, and bloating. Sometimes the clinical manifestations seem to be unrelated to the gastrointestinal system, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, depression, anxiety, fatigue, fibromyalgia, or autoimmune disease.
  2. You have to eat vegetables to have a healthy gut. Vegetables are high in fiber which fuel the cells in our colon and help maintain microbial balance in the gut.
  3. Your stool will tell you a lot about the health of your gut. Ideally, you want stools that are dark brown, shaped like a banana, and sink to the bottom of the toilet bowl.
  4. Neurotransmitters, hormones that affect your mood, are primarily made in the gut.
  5. The foods that are most likely to be inflammatory for us are gluten and dairy. Their molecular composition is similar.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks to learn more about gut health. Send me your questions so I can address them. Share your story if you have one, so others know they are not alone – share the individualized experience.

TELL OTHERS

Comments are closed.