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Get to know your intestines and become an expert in your disease
Part 3 in my series on the the gut. Basically, we also have to be a kind of active researcher and always look for what helps, what doesn't work, what hurts and above all what functions best to keep our gut in balance.
Hi, I'm your gut and I'd like to talk to you today.
So, folks, let me introduce you to your intestines. Today I'm going to talk to him about how Corona has affected him and what advice he can give us so that we can get along well in our daily lives.
We're curious what you're going to tell us. How are you doing?
Hello, let me put it this way. I'm responsible for how you feel, and you're responsible for how I feel. If you treat me well, you'll feel good.
Lockdown, how were you during that time?
Oh dear, well, so many people hoarded canned food and industrially processed ready meals, and many of them ate that most of the time. As you know, (see What role does our intestine play? ) I love and need routine, beyond that I am meticulous. I have many teams of good bacteria that I have to keep in balance constantly. If you change your routine and stop eating fresh food and lots of fibre, my system will simply break down and you will notice that quite quickly. For some of you, it might not have been a bad idea to have lots of toilet paper, because if I can't function properly, you might find yourself sitting on the toilet for quite a long time. If people stuff too much bad food in them, I run the risk of bad bacteria taking control, and I don't want that.
So varied and fresh food is good for you
Yes, or frozen fruit and vegetables are fine too. But it's not just the food. The lockdown meant that many were juggling between working from home - home schooling and all the housework. Apart from that, many people were worried about how things would turn out. All this caused a lot of stress. I do not like stress at all. I am a very sensitive guy and tend to react to stress with cramps, bad digestion, constipation and/or diarrhoea.
Anything else that made it hard for you?
Yes, although some people were able to do more sports than usual, which made me happy, some people moved much less than usual. So once again, a change of routine. I've said it before, to get your bowles moving, you have to move your body enough. It takes two to tango, you know?
So bad eating habits and too little exercise, anything else that made you uncomfortable?
I have a good relationship with the brain. If I'm not doing well, for the reasons I've already mentioned, I tell him about it. He then makes some adjustments and you feel depressed or moody, you cannot concentrate and your efficiency decreases.
If we have to stay home a lot again, what do you recommend?
It is best to follow a kind of daily routine, eat food with vitamins and fibre, if possible fresh and try to structure each day in a similar way. Don't forget exercise, you can also do this at home or in the garden. Then I am super satisfied with you and do my best to function properly.
Even more tips and tricks
How do we get a good gut feeling?
Over a longer period of time, I can develop a variety of functional disorders, especially if you do not follow my advice. You call these functional gastrointestinal (GI) and motility disorders. Mostly chronic conditions. The quality of your life is considerably disturbed and you no longer feel comfortable in many situations. Not only you are affected. Your family members and friends are affected. (Frequent visits to the toilet, some activities are not even possible). These disorders also affect relationships in the classroom, at work or in connection with social interactions.
Basically you also have to be an avid researcher and always look for what helps, what doesn't work, what hurts and most of all what works best to keep your intestines, that is me, in balance.
So we know you're sensitive. How do we avoid disruptive factors?
Address conflict don´t hide your feelings and bottle up all the time. Studies show that stress is reduced when you address problems rather than retreat. No matter how serious the problem... "No matter how bad the truth is, everything else is worse." they say. Discuss exactly with your partner or family what help you need and want in terms of timing, memories, eating habits, etc. If you don't do this, wrong information often leads to unwanted advice or memories and boom you have a conflict situation again. I feel that too. Try to explain what you do to find out what is good for you, what is tolerable and what is not, and how much effort this detective work requires. The effort should be acknowledged and not lead to you being labelled "complicated". Sometimes others project their own health concerns onto you. Find out where their comments do not apply to your health problems.
Chronic bowel problems - What can friends and family do?
You suffer from the disease, so you are also an expert in the disease (or you should become one). Therefore, it is not always helpful if family and friends are a bit too alert or too protective. These well-intentioned gestures can cause opposite feelings in you, can't they? When asked several times "Are you okay? Can you really do that? " it can cause anxiety in you which is transmitted to the gut, that is to me. Suddenly symptoms appear or they get worse, and the planned undertaking is actually ruined. A lot of routine in your personal life and time management is very helpful. I can't say it enough. Avoiding disorganization, overplanning or lack of planning helps you to feel more internally regulated and balanced and to regain a sense of control. It is a great support when family members or friends can be a little flexible. Sometimes symptoms suddenly get worse and plans need to be changed. Not all relationships can handle this. Reproaches and admonitions are not very suportive. Those who suffer from an unpredictable illness often feel guilty when plans cannot be implemented. Sayings such as "You are not eating right" or "You worry too much" are well-intentioned, but assign guilt. As a result, you feel a painful loss of control, because you know how often even the best self-discipline cannot always prevent symptoms from breaking out. So communication is the magic word.
How do I cope with gut problems in everyday life?
Get to know each other better. You and your gut. How do you react emotionally and physically to stress? Close your eyes and imagine a stressful situation. Do you react with symptoms or do you feel the stress exactly in your stomach and intestines? To find out, it helps to keep a daily diary for one or two months to identify situations that cause stress reactions. And now it's obvious: try to avoid these situations or eliminate the stressors, depending on the situation. Try to learn methods that will reduce your susceptibility to stress. Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises or mediation techniques can help reduce stress reactions. Find a good and caring doctor who understands the symptoms. Especially with this sensitive subject, this means so much. If you are suffering from an emotional disorder (such as depression or anxiety) that can worsen your symptoms, don't be afraid to seek help. Since Corona, there are even more online self-help offers. This can be a good start. Sometimes medical care and medication to calm the mind are needed. These often calm the intestines because of their common chemistry. So I benefit from that too.
"Your gut decides how you feel, you decide how your gut feels. ”
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Happy Gut, Happy Life!
German irritable bowel syndrome self-help association (2020). IBS. https://reizdarmselbsthilfe.de/was-ist-ibs
International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. (2020). International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. https://www.iffgd.org/
Moleski, S. M. M. (2017, December). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (spastic colon, irritable colon). Msd Manual edition for medical professionals. https://www.msdmanuals.com/de-de/profi/gastrointestinale-erkrankungen/reizdarmsyndrom-ibs/reizdarmsyndrom-ibs