Category: Gut Health, Health Magazine

Title:Gut Health

Author: Chelsea Burwell (G’16)
Date Published: November 3, 2020
sketch with butterflies and a blue rope
Illustration by Elisa Morsch (G’20)

Gut, be my guide

I don’t think I ever recall not being nervous as a child. Incredibly shy and mild-mannered, I wouldn’t even eat in public or play with relatives my age, and this unusual behavior definitely worried my mom. Chalk it up to my introverted nature or lackluster charisma, but when attention would turn to me, the visceral signs would kick into overdrive: warmth behind my ears, prickly heat sensations on my back and underarms, and a rumbling in my gut.

In those anxiety-inducing moments, my gut ping-ponged between two states: butterflies and knots, especially when I was the center of attention, whether for good or bad reasons. Butterflies were like giddy vibrations that came after acing a pop quiz or receiving praise from a supportive teacher, but knots nearly turned me to stone and were immediately followed by hot palms and the sting of tears to come. I was the epitome of a hot mess.

Fast-forward to my 20s when I garnered advice from the important women in my life, who advised me to trust my intuition, my inner voice, my gut. But honestly, I didn’t even know what that meant. Where and what was this gut I was supposed to turn to when faced with a big decision?

Writing this now, the answer is clear. After yet another month of living in a pandemic world, another year of raising a little Black boy in America, and another life season of making difficult decisions for my own growth, I see I’ve been letting my gut lead the way. Through self-reflection and research, I’ve learned the gut is just as spiritual and ethereal as it is scientific and actual. I’d even assert the gut should be trusted with just as much certainty as your head and heart.

From pesky acne and lethargy to chronic disease, manifested symptoms can signal us to the condition of our gut and offer us answers to our deepest health questions. In this issue of Georgetown Health magazine, readers will meet experts in this field who delve into the wonders of gastro health and share why the gut is key to wellness, particularly for underserved populations, cancer survivors, and all who are looking for ways to boost immunity in the time of COVID-19. Plus, our featured faculty and alumni examine the gut’s close relationship with the brain, oral health, and why it’s best to turn back to basics for gut-healthy diets and lifestyles.

As obscure and figurative as the gut seems to be in reference, that’s what makes it so amazing. It embraces diverse microbiomes and flourishes accordingly when given some probiotic TLC. It is transcendent and clairvoyant, reading the body’s state of well-being, even before physical symptoms manifest. The gut truly knows what it’s doing. So, whether butterflies or knots, consider giving your gut more credit and taking heed of this sixth-sensory organ.

Take care and be well.
Chelsea Burwell (G’16)

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