I had a few requests to write more about gut dysbiosis! I can babble on about this topic for days, so fair warning. Gut dysbiosis!
Chinese medicine has a handy name for gut dysbiosis: internal dampness. I like this label because besides the mild grossness of it, it gives a visual description of what is going on. Think of nature- let’s say a river. Rivers are wet of course, but not neccesarily damp. Dampness is more of a term that you would use to refer to a swamp, where the water has slowed down and become stagnant. Certain life starts to thrive, the stuff that further clogs up waterways, and before you know it has started to take over the trees and every available surface. Everything begins to rot.
Your digestion has two big factors. First, you have your Liver and Gall Bladder system that produce and squeeze bile in to your stomach to break down foods, particularly fats. Second is all that gut flora that I talked about in the previous blog post, that lives in a mostly symbiotic relationship with you, breaking down compounds and spitting out more compounds and gasses.
Let’s look at your Liver first. Like anything else, it can get tired if it has to work hard. Now the Liver is a multitasker and it not only makes bile, but also does a couple of other big jobs as well such as metabolizing what is in the blood, most notably hormones such as Cortisol and Adrenaline, toxins, and more. It is a storage facility for important substances that are then released when we need it, like converting stored glycogen into glucose when we are running from a bear or getting upset watching Fox News. It plays a major role in digestion, detoxification, and blood processing.
The Liver can be either a cause or a victim of gut dysbiosis. As a cause, or a factor in a cause, it is because the poor thing is just overworked. It could be a high volume or high fat diet that requires large amounts of bile to be produced that then drains the Liver’s ability to keep up with its other jobs. It could also be a stressful period of your life where the Liver gets overworked trying to clean out the Cortisol constantly being dropped into the bloodstream. It could be the late night meals or staying up late, keeping the Liver working on digestion and the blood in the digestive tract. Between 1-3am the capillaries crank open throughout the Liver system as part of your circadean cycle, and it is during this time that much of the metabolizing is done by the Liver. If the blood is being used elsewhere, this doesn’t happen as effectively. In fact, usually a symptom that is seen when this cycle has a blip in it is that you will wake up somewhere in that 1-3am range.
The end result of much of this is that digestion will start to be impaired. It will slow down and start to get backed up.
So what is part one of preventing or resetting gut dysbiosis? Take it easy on your Liver. Reduce the load on it for bile creation: lighten up on fats, and avoid those giant meals where you feel overly full. Like about 50 cultural and religious guidelines around the world, eat to about 75% full. Don’t eat before bed. Take some time before bed to let your digestive system close up shop. Try to sleep at a decent hour (yes, I know, this is pretty much impossible for fibromyalgics out there). Blue-light filtering glasses can help with that, as well as staying away from electronics just before bed and setting a regular bedtime. Easy on the alcohol, and stay away from stress triggers. If you watch Fox News and have a flare-up, you know it is affecting your sympathetic system! Stay away from triggers for a while that stress you out.
Gut dysbiosis or not, the Liver system is one of the prime organ systems that are impaired in all fibromyalgic patients. It plays a huge role in why you don’t sleep, why you get anxiety, and why inflammation and pain may exist.
If your Liver is working well your digestion will run smoother. In the swamp scenario, the Liver is like the water in your river. You want it to flow. In part two, I’ll delve into the other half of it, your gut microbiota. I’m excited for that one because I get to use plenty of food metaphors!