Collective Trauma, Gut Imbalance and How to Address It
By Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Seven months into the year 2020, and it seems unanimous that American society is in a pivotal, historic time. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the health and incomes of this nation’s most vulnerable and marginalized. State economies contend with how to reopen in the midst of a recent surge in the virus outbreak. Protests have ignited in more than 75 U.S. cities to raise awareness for racial justice. Wildfires rage across the Southwest, and tropical storms have already been detected near the Gulf Coast. Fears of unemployment loom over households, and the effects of social distancing can lead to isolation or mental health concerns.
With all that being said, the collective trauma of this moment in our country should not be ignored because unresolved stress, anxiety and trauma burrow deep into the body where dis-ease can manifest. One area that is extremely susceptible to this is our gut microbiome which promotes digestion, metabolism, immunity and even brain function. When the gut holds trauma, it “creates a perfect storm of inflammation and dysbiosis,” warns Dr. Christina Captain, nationally board-certified Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and lead practitioner at the Sarasota Center for Acupuncture and Nutrition (SCANsrq).
“How does this happen? To begin with, an unhealthy diet from stress-based comfort eating or limited economic resources will contribute to inflammation. This is further exacerbated due to other causes of tension that elevate cortisol and keep the body hypervigilant,” she continues. And with all those painful images and sound bytes on our news channels or social media feeds, there is much to feel stressed about currently. However, “without balance in the gut microbiome, it’s not possible to heal the body. The gut is a brain of its own and overlaps with all other systems in the human body, so a number of symptoms can be traced to a root pathogenic cause in the gut,” Dr. Captain enumerates.
How the gut responds to many of these cultural traumas is outside our control. Influencing factors remain uncertain. We do not know if the pandemic will continue for another few months or the rest of this year. We are unsure if the protests will activate racial equality, justice and reconciliation. We have no idea what “normal” will mean for us on the other side of this unprecedented time in our nation. But while there might not be much we can do about the external pressures, we are in control of how to re-stabilize that stress response internally. This, adds Dr. Captain, starts with improving our nutrition.
“Someone who avoids all animal flesh but eats too many refined grains and oils can experience inflammation, and the same goes for an only meat and potatoes eater as well. Then we have the acidic keto dieters—these are people whose cholesterol and blood sugar levels are reduced by eating foods like cottage cheese and deli meats. They can lose weight on this diet, but their bodies are still acidic and inflamed which might also result in disease. This is especially dangerous because keto dieters tend to believe their bodies are healthy when they could, in fact, be a heart attack or stroke just waiting to happen. These various diets can force the gut into a dysbiotic state which can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) issues such as heartburn, diarrhea, constipation and bloating.”
It’s a crucial first step to examine how we nourish ourselves and make adjustments for a non-inflammatory eating plan. Dr. Captain’s holistic medicine practice goes even beyond this, however, to unearth the roots of gut imbalance at their source. “SCANsrq provides a detailed and thorough intake to identify both patterns and problems in the gut. A favorite method in our office is the GI MAPS diagnostic solutions test which detects the DNA residue of any virus, bacteria, protozoa or fungus that has caused a disruption. It is also one of the only stool tests that can register zonulin proteins which can indicate a leaky gut. By no means does this test replace a colonoscopy examination though.
“Once these roots are exposed, we use natural substances—which can be just as effective as pharmaceuticals—to kill the pathological microbes. Of course, nutritional changes and probiotics are essential to any GI restoration plan too, and we have been successful in resolving many GI disturbances, so our clients can resume their lives without the prior discomfort they experienced. Acupuncture can also be utilized for symptom treatment and stress relief during this unstable time. Our doors are open, and we are here to assist you on the journey to a more balanced gut and healthier body. We adhere to all CDC recommendations to keep both you and our staff members safe, and we also offer complimentary meet-and-greets (via online platforms) to determine if we can help you. But if we cannot, then rest assured, we will find someone who can and refer you to them accordingly,” Dr. Captain vouches in conclusion.
Sarasota Center for Acupuncture and Nutrition is located at 2650 Bahia Vista Street, Suite 101, Sarasota. For more information on this practice or to schedule a complimentary meet-and-greet with Dr. Christina Captain, DAOM, MSAOM, MSHN, MA, Dipl. Ac., AP, SLP, call 941-951-1119 or visit SCANsrq.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features tips for embracing an active, nutritious, balanced and empowered lifestyle.