“You should listen to your tummy!”, I always say to my patients inwardly chuckling at using the term “tummy”.
They say that half our brains are located in our intestinal tract. Who exactly “they” are, I don’t know, but they must be really smart! I’m sure it’s because half our nervous and immune systems are located in that 30 foot stretch of digestive tract. Who would’ve known that this tract, which takes in macronutrients, processes and absorbs what’s needed and then disposes of what’s not could be about more than just digestion.
In medical school, I can recall going home for Christmas every year and after the usual cordialities and greetings, there would always be a moment when the questions would come. That’s sounds ominous but it was really just my family thinking I knew everything at that early stage of my training and asking a few questions relating to their own health. Heck, it’s more likely there were just trying to make me feel important. Irregardless, most of the questions had to do with my step father’s incessant bloating after eating seemingly innocuous foods. (we’ve all been there!)
At the time, in the infancy of my medical training, his complaints would bounce off my brain like a baby on a knee!
Over the years though, having learned by further studies in functional medicine and experiences with patients, I’ve become more in-tuned with what happens in the gut and its applications in clinical systemic medicine. But we have to willing to listen to our bodies, specifically (considering the subject at hand)…our tummies.
That’s a fact and it’s twofold.
1) A consistently large rotund belly is a clear risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Cancer among others.
2) Intermittent symptoms of bloating and cramps are indicative of an inflammatory intestinal reaction that is often immune-mediated. Let me explain further…
In addressing #1, If you look in the mirror and relax your abdominal muscles, and it looks like you are six months pregnant (and your not)…that is a very clear warning sign! You don’t need a doctor to tell you that’s not a good thing. This indicates an accumulation of omental fat (the fat around your organs and intestine), which is the most obvious outward change in the development of what’s called metabolic syndrome which includes insulin resistance (or Pre- Diabetes), cholesterol problems, blood pressure elevation, and systemic inflammation all of which increase risk for early death and disease. If this is you, you need more than a prescription. You’ll need a comprehensive metabolic lab analysis to assess and address the fundamental causes of this and a plan of action to reverse it.
In addressing #2, An intermittently bloated belly is most commonly a sign of food sensitivities/allergies. In most cases this can be alleviated or at least improved by going what I call “Big 4 free”. This is a diet free of gluten (including rice, corn and oats), soy, dairy, and sugar. Most folks with recurrent intestinal problems and/or abdominal weight gain will improve just avoiding these food groups alone. I say “just” as if it was easy! Getting off carbs, sugar, and gluten is more like an extended exorcism than a walk in the park with a pretty girl. Nevertheless, if avoiding the “Big Four” doesn’t solve the problem, a medical investigation is necessary which may include food allergy testing, stool microbiology testing, and an assessment for “leaky gut” to name a few.
The problem is that most traditional medical clinics are not equipped to fully assess or address these problems in a comprehensive way. So many people either go along status quo and hope for the best or try to do it on their own and don’t have the support team to fully succeed. The most important thing is don’t ignore it! If you are experiencing either #1 or #2 then you should Listen to your Tummy!, It’s telling you some very important information.
To your Health,
Dr. Brian Lamkin