Distended belly. Painful bloating. Brain fog, headaches, fatigue. Not a pretty picture — but over 60 million Americans suffer from these symptoms every day. And that’s just reported cases; there are millions others who ignore their symptoms, simply accepting them as a way of life. What are our guts trying to tell us?
That used to be me. When I was 18, I started getting horrible aches in my lower abdomen. I would be painfully bloated and constipated for days (if not weeks). Something was clearly wrong but I was young, naive, and too embarrassed to do something about it.
Facing your symptoms head-on is tough work. Healing is a scary, slow process that often means you need to make a major lifestyle change. But ignoring your gut health has zero upside; If I’d acknowledged my symptoms sooner, I would’ve saved myself years of discomfort. Here are three common reasons we ignore what our gut tells us, and why it’s time for us to take back control of our health.
1. We Convince Ourselves It’s Nothing Serious
I dealt with painful bloating and constipation for so long that I thought it was normal (hint: it’s not!). And the sad part is, it was normal for me at the time so I stopped thinking anything was wrong. Like so many others, I quietly accepted my fate. This can be a dangerous recipe for serious health problems down the line.
If left untreated, digestive disorders like IBS, can cause psychological and physical pain. With conditions like celiac disease or SIBO, the complications can be even more damaging. When your intestines are compromised, your body can’t properly absorb nutrients. This leads to malnutrition, and severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which causes fatigue, brain fog and potentially permanent damage to the central nervous system.
Yes, overhauling your diet and lifestyle can be a challenging adventure at times (mentally and physically) but the potential risks are worse. The time is going to pass anyway — use it to heal!
2. Society Has Conditioned Us to Be Embarrassed of Our Bodies
I get it: talking to a stranger about your most embarrassing bodily functions isn’t exactly a trip to the spa. But if we’re ever going to solve our gut health problems, this is a crucial part of the process. You’ve been uncomfortable for this long already — what’s a few awkward talks with your naturopath? Trust me, they’ve seen it all (and much, much worse), and they genuinely want to help.
A few years after my symptoms started, I began self-diagnosing. Some things actually worked: when I cut gluten from my diet, I was literally in tears over how much better I felt. But when the distention, bloating and pain returned, it was time to face facts: there was something more going on and I needed help to figure it out.
I found a naturopath who specializes in gut health and committed 100% to healing myself. She’s been able to guide and support me in this journey in a way I never could have done alone.
3. We’re Afraid Of What Our Symptoms Mean
It’s a heck of a lot easier to pretend your symptoms don’t exist than it is to acknowledge them. Admitting them makes them real and that’s scary stuff. But if your gut is speaking out, it means something is already going on. Instead of fearing (and avoiding) it, we need to plan how to eradicate, and then prevent it. In most cases, gut health issues are caused by an underlying (and very treatable) problem, such as food sensitivities, medications, or hormonal or bacterial imbalances.
It’s usually a combination of a number of factors. (Fun fact: I’ve dealt with all of these and more at some point in my gut health journey, but more on that another time.) For me, it turns out my damaged intestines and food sensitivities stem from an overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Medications like these can wipe out your gut’s ability to replenish its microflora, which, in my situation, translated to a bad case of SIBO.
I’m the first to admit that addressing gut health symptoms is a monumental challenge. I’ve had to give up a lot on this journey (read: all the foods I thought I could never live without), and it’s an ongoing process. However, knowing I’m in charge of my health and healing myself naturally makes it worth it. Even if it takes months or years to heal, you can’t put a price on feeling good and doing right by your body.
This post was contributed by a guest author and edited by The Zura Health team.
Written by Mackenzie Green.
Find her on LinkedIn → Mackenzie Green