Why is the gut called the second brain? Why are digestive issues linked to various chronic illnesses? What is a healthy gut and how does it impact fibromyalgia? We are going to discuss the importance of gut health and the first step in getting the gut healthy again. Are you ready? Get your pen and paper ready because I’ve got some things worth jotting down.
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What is a healthy gut?
After becoming ill the week of my birthday in 2018, I didn’t fully recover (still haven’t as of this writing). My days were full of stomach discomforts, sharp pains, nausea, vomiting, headaches, muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, and more. Initially, I passed it off as a stomach bug made worse by fibromyalgia. As time went on, and I didn’t seem to be getting any better, I was led to researching the gut – extensively.
What I found in the following weeks was astonishing and cemented my thinking that food had a bigger impact on our bodies than we realized. There’s a whole world of microorganisms living in our guts (and the rest of our bodies), and this microscopic beings are responsible for how well we are living and enjoying our lives. I know that sounds extreme to say, but after reading these articles about gut health, I know you’ll agree.
I’ve also learned what is a healthy gut and what is not. I do not have a healthy gut and I cannot ignore it any longer. A healthy gut is one filled with good bacteria and is supported with regular, continued support. I’m happy to say I’m on my way to a restored, well balanced gut flora. You can, too!
What are the symptoms of an unhealthy gut?
For anyone living with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, and many other illnesses, the gut seems to always be involved in some way. There are stomach discomforts, gas, bloating, IBS, gastroparesis, sensitivities, intolerances, and more. We know the gut is involved because we feel it often in some way rather it be during or after our meals.
But did you know you’re other symptoms you’re experiencing that may also be linked to the gut. These symptoms can be fatigue, brain fog, headaches, muscle weakness and more. It’s not a guarantee it’s link to your gut, but there’s a good chance it is.
The gut is our second brain
My friend and neighbor, Nicole, is a certified holistic nutritionist and also writes a blog called Naturally Nicole. I reached out to her a few weeks ago regarding stomach issues I am experiencing, and to get some insight as to how to resolve these issues. She has helped me tremendously as far as gaining insight to the gut.
I asked Nicole for a statement in regards to today’s show and this is what she has to say,
“Our gut is actually our second brain. Some experts even believe them to be our first brain. Our guts are filled with billions of neurons and molecules that can function independently. Our stomachs harness billions of bacteria (our gut flora) that has been traced back to affecting not only our health, but also our personalities and decision making. (You know, that GUT feeling you have? It’s more than just a feeling).
There is still so much research to be done on the power of gut health, but what we have learned over time is that over 80% of our immune system lives in our gut, so we must treat it with the utmost care!”
I agree. I’ve done some research into the gut and that bacteria Nicole mentions and this is what I’ve found about it.
The Microbiome: An ecosystem within the body
Our bodies have an ecosystem of bacteria – beneficial bacteria – living within our bodies called the microbiome. The majority of the microbiome live in our digestive system. The microbiomes help make up our DNA, how likely we will get a disease of some sort, body type and more. It’s incredible.
Over the course of our lives, we shape our microbiome and it adapts to our environment. This environment we create for it is done by how we sleep, the bacteria we come into contact with, the amount of stress we experience and – most importantly – the food we eat.
Sidebar: Many times I don’t eat because I want to avoid stomach issues. This is wrong. I know it’s wrong, and I still do it at times. Not eating is starving your body of what it needs. Broken down to a cellular level, the mitochondria that powers our cells need fuel. They need the fuel to give our body what it needs to function. The function could be your heart beating, lungs breathing, and stomach to digest. Denying food to the body is depriving your body of fuel to function.
Getting back to the gut and the food we put into it. We want to have healthy gut flora. As Nicole said, a majority of our immune system is in our gut, so it’s important we keep it healthy. Some ways to get your gut healthy again is by doing an elimination diet followed by a cleanse, and then preventative care with probiotics.
How does a healthy gut impact fibromyalgia?
With our bodies in a constant fight-or-flight response, our digestive tract is placed on the back burner, so to speak. Meaning, our bodies are focused in an alert status and all of our body functions support that alert – tense muscles, increased heart rate, reduced gastric secretions, and slow gastric motility just to name a few. This means our bodies are more focused on eliminating the alert (fleeing or finding safety) rather than digesting our lunch. This results in a slower stomach and an inadequate digestion process. Read more about it in The Fibro Manual by Dr. Ginevra Liptan.
A healthy gut flora will require your determination because it’s not an easy task to give up those unhealthy foods. (I know better than anyone!) However, by establishing (or working to establish) a healthy gut flora, you will see a reduction in your overall fibromyalgia symptoms. That’s enough determination for me! Take baby steps to better gut health by following my Gut Health series on Fibro Live starting with the elimination diet (the video below talks about healthy gut flora followed by the elimination diet). To read the full transcript and get the resources of the elimination diet, click here.
Fibro Live Video