I was several months postpartum and really enjoying my baby. Hooray!
Sure, there were lots of transitions underway but things were gradually taking shape into a new normal for my family. The one thing that was not going in the right direction was my health. Don't get me wrong, I know that the postpartum period is delicate and it is important to be patient and compassionate with oneself. Something just wasn't right and I knew that if I didn't take action soon, it would start to impact my functioning as a wife, mother and physician.
My digestion was off, my energy was consistently low and it was all affecting my mood. I decided to treat myself like I do my patients and start with a focus on improving my gut health.
It might surprise you to know that you are more bacteria than you are human. That’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. Our bodies carry trillions of bacteria (also called microbes) that outnumber our cells 10 to 1. Most bacteria are not harmful to us as they work in harmony with our bodies to help fight off the bad bacteria (pathogens) and strengthen our immunity.
The genetic material of all the microbes that live in our bodies is called the microbiome and every one of us has a unique one that is determined by our DNA!
95% of bacteria are found in the gastrointestinal tract (gut) which is made up of the organs that transport food from the mouth to the anus. The “good” bacteria in our gut microbiome are useful in digestion, absorption of nutrients into our bodies, metabolism, regulating body weight and they also affect some of our brain functions.
If the gut microbiome is upset or not functioning normally, you may experience issues like bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, stress, and diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, obesity, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The Gut-Mind Connection that affects our overall well-being
“If there's one thing to know about the human body; it's this: the human body has a ringmaster. This ringmaster controls your digestion, your immunity, your brain, your weight, your health, and even your happiness. This ringmaster is the gut.” – Nancy Mure
Our gut is also referred to as the “second brain” and not because it harbors thoughts, beliefs, and philosophies of life. It is because whatever happens in the gut affects the thinking brain and vice-versa. The gut-brain axis is fundamental because;
• Our happiness and wellness are an inside job! 95% of our natural “mood stabilizer” hormone called serotonin is produced in the gut. Serotonin helps regulate moods in the brain, sleep patterns, digestion, learning, and sexual desire. Studies have revealed that low levels of serotonin contribute to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
• 70 – 80% of our immunity is found in the gut and our cells produce small proteins called cytokines that regulate how our bodies respond to infection, inflammation, trauma, and immunity. Some cytokines increase inflammation and others help us heal. Scientific evidence reveals that an over-exposure to pro-inflammatory cytokines can cause neuropsychiatric disorders like anxiety, depression, dementia, and schizophrenia. On the other hand, stress that leads to depression endangers the immune system by inducing chronic inflammation.
• The vagus nerve connects the brain to the digestive system and communicates signals between them. Without the vagus nerve, our bodies would not function properly as one of its key functions is to balance the nervous system by aiding our response to stress, decreasing blood pressure, alertness, heart rate and digestion – which in turn makes us calmer and more relaxed. Stimulating the vagus nerve has been referred to as the secret to fighting stress and has also been proven beneficial in treating mood and anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal, psychiatric, and inflammatory diseases.
Healthy Gut = Happier You
“Quite literally, your gut is the epicenter of your mental and physical health. If you want better immunity, efficient digestion, improved clarity and balance, focus on rebuilding your gut health.”
– Kriss Karr
An overgrowth of the less than 1% of bad bacteria can be encouraged by wrong dietary choices which may result in the development of diseases like:
- Chronic gastrointestinal diseases that bring abdominal discomfort or pain such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea
- Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis
- Systemic metabolic diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes
- Neuroimmune Disorders like Major Depressive Disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Schizophrenia.
The good news is that you can work towards improving your gut health to stimulate more friendly bacteria but there’s no one size fits all solution for everyone’s microbiome. Just like our fingerprints, our microbiomes are distinctive so it is paramount that you seek professional help that is tailor-made for your particular gut microbiome.
Here are 3 simple steps to significantly improve gut health, energy levels and mood:
• A thorough, comprehensive intake that includes a 60 - 90-minute case review (not 15 mins!) to assess current concerns, past health history, family history, and mental/emotional health.
This is an essential step to uncover to the root causes of current issues and trace when they began. The development of the gut microbiome begins at birth, and it is also influenced by genetic factors – that’s why learning about your family history is important.
As an adult, your microbiome continues to be shaped by your dietary choices, lifestyle, and living conditions. There will be a lot of ‘a-ha!’ moments when you make the connection between what you’ve been eating and how you’ve been feeling. This first step will put things into perspective for you and you’ll realize that the mood imbalance and digestion issues you’ve been experiencing are not “just in your head” and that there is something amiss in the relationship between your brain and the gut microbiome.
• Functional medicine testing that includes vitamins, minerals, hormones, food sensitivities, and gut microbiome metabolites paired with an individualized treatment plan developed based on results.
Treatments must be based on measurable health markers. With the appropriate testing and interpretations of results with your specific needs in mind, you can determine the best next steps and then measure improvement over time based on symptom resolution and re-testing, as needed. A comprehensive approach to treatment seeks to not only medically treat your issues but also encourage your overall wellness – mind, body, and spirit.
• Mental and metabolic health coaching that includes weekly content and action items paired with 1:1 coaching calls that offer accountability to help you implement healthy lifestyle habits to maintain long-term.
You’re not meant to walk alone on this journey. You need support and accountability to stay on track. More importantly, you need the assurance and encouragement that you’re doing what’s best for your microbiome. Your results will speak volumes for you and once you see that change is possible, you will continue to pursue it.
Your overall well-being and vitality are dependent on how healthy (or not) your gut microbiome is and taking care of it is the beginning of building the body and life you'll love. Good metabolic and mental health are a result of a healthy gut.
After about 40 days, I had discovered and implemented the ideal nutrition, movement and mental wellness/spiritual practice routine to achieve sustainable energy levels, balanced mood and healthy digestion. Most importantly, I was creating a "new normal" for myself, enjoying the process and once again felt at home in my body.
Now it is your turn!
Check out our Fort Day Fresh Start Program which takes you through the 3 steps above and harnesses the power of natural medicine to help you reset, heal and thrive!
Contact us for more information and book a complimentary consult to learn more and begin your journey.