If you’re lucky, you’ve run into Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey of Gastrointestinal Health, around town and talked food, travel, art, South Carolina roots, kids … and possibly gut health! We caught up with Elizabeth, a gastroenterologist, and asked her some health questions and fun questions. As you’ll see today, she’s a total delight and someone we love having as part of our Nashville community.
We keep reading about how so much of our health starts in our gut. As a gastroenterologist, what exactly does this mean?
That is definitely a question we could take in so many directions — I think dissertations and textbooks have been written about this question!
The medical community has only begun to scratch the surface of understanding the complexity of the gastrointestinal tract. About 80 percent of one’s immune system resides in the GI tract. A great deal of attention within the research world is being directed at understanding this layer of defense, how it breaks down and then what this effect is on the rest of the body. Also, in our gut we have a “microbiome,” which is made up of trillions of bacteria. Our microbiome is an army of microbes that help break down food, release energy and protect us against germs. I think the future of understanding non-GI illnesses lies in understanding the microbiome and the immune system of the GI tract.
But to answer your question a little more figuratively, if we define our health as how we just feel overall, our gut plays a huge role in that. I meet patients daily who report symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, alterations in their bowel habits. Oftentimes (luckily!) these symptoms are not related to an objective illness, but rather more commonly to food and stress. What we eat and more importantly how our bodies respond to what we eat (happy, satisfied, full, bloated, guilty, pain, diarrhea, constipation, etc.) plays a role in how we feel overall. With regard to stress, there is a complex highway of nerves between our gut and our brain and what goes on in your brain, i.e. stress, anxiety, depression, oftentimes is manifested as gastrointestinal symptoms. But that is where I come in — I can help alleviate these symptoms (and hopefully identify what is triggering them).
Is there one change that you think we all could make to stay healthier?
I think that the one thing that people could do, if they are not already doing it, to promote generalized good health is exercise — it is fabulous for your GI tract! Movement promotes movement! And any and all exercise counts — walking, swimming (great for people with joint pains), dancing! In addition, obesity and the complications from obesity currently dominate and are likely to continue to dominate all areas of medicine in the years to come. We all have to take on some responsibility to try to prevent it on the front end.
If you could expand/change your career into another direction, what would it be?
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a gastroenterologist! I love talking about gas/bloating, diarrhea and constipation … seriously! But I do get a lot of pleasure from digging in the dirt. In another life, I would love to be a landscape architect, or maybe own a nursery and help plan gardens. Nothing gives me more pleasure and serenity now than walking in a lovely yard enjoying flowers, herbs, trees, birds.
Is there a quote or piece of advice that you have relied on that you can share with our readers today?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I believe that in order to be truly successful in any career, not just medicine, and in any relationship, you must have empathy. I try to think about this every time I discuss symptoms with a patient, a procedure with a patient, a terrible prognosis with a patient — all things that I have done and said a thousand times but that he/she is likely hearing for the first time.
Name another Nashville woman who you admire and tell us why.
Wow … there are so many. I have to name a few! I am surrounded by the most intelligent, organized and thoughtful women I can imagine — from Dawn Beaulieu, who by day is a national expert in inflammatory bowel diseases at Vandy but never forgets your birthday or any occasion, always makes it special and throws a fabulous, unique party just for you; to Liz Willers, a pulmonologist, who likely just resuscitated a patient at the ICU before arriving, on time, to the soccer game (which she never misses!) that both of our kids are playing in (that I am late to!); and then all the women in my running group (including several who have fought breast cancer while continuing to run!), who get up, run, make it count every day and provide me with some serious therapy while they are at it. I am not worthy of any of these ladies for sure, but they inspire me constantly to be a better doctor, mom and friend all of the time.
Do you have any fears?
Choking. I have whacked my children on the back many times when they have just coughed or looked at me funny before! I know the Heimlich and luckily have never had to use it for real.
Is there someone who you consider a mentor?
The person I consider my true mentor is my husband. He is the most positive person I know. He rolls out of bed happy every.single.day. He is dedicated to our children and his career fully and never complains. He is the calm; I am the storm that always overreacts and gets hysterical. He reminds me constantly to savor the moment, don’t sweat the small stuff and “you only live once.” At the same time, he has a level-headed, rational approach and solution to dilemmas at work and curve balls that life throws us. He is loyal as the day is long, and reminds me what it takes to be a good friend. He sets an example I am so grateful for and try to live by daily.
What books are currently found on your nightstand or e-reader?
- The Road to Character by David Brooks
- Both of Jenny Lawson’s books (I feel a little crazed at times like she does!)
- Janelle McCulloch’s book on Paris – it’s so beautiful (and loaded with great, out-of-the-way places to visit)
We know you love to travel. Do you have a favorite city to travel to?
I am totally a product of my parents on this one — they love to go back to the same places over and over and become regulars. I have become that person! I say New York City is my favorite without one second of hesitation and will find any and every reason to go there. In general, I am not an exotic traveler — I love every nook and cranny of London, Paris and Rome.
Tell us one thing that people might be surprised to learn about you.
I play the violin.
- Where was your last best meal? Peasant in New York
- Favorite tourist attraction in Nashville? The Hermitage
- Favorite women’s boutique in town? Hard one — I’m a devout Zara fan. But there are so many in town: J.McLaughlin, Perfect Pair, Hemline, The Mill and a good sale at Jamie or Gus Mayer!
- Best dessert in all of Nashville? Caramel cake from Dessert Designs
- Song you can’t get enough of right now? Any and all by Sam Hunt and Eric Church
- Movie you plan on seeing next at the theater? Reserved seats at the upcoming Star Wars movie a la my husband. I did not complain!
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
- Frizzy, curly hair care products (I have an entire drawer devoted to them! I’m searching for the perfect one — help?!!!)
- Red Michelin restaurant guide books (Obsessed! I’m not a Zagat or Yelp person.)
Thank you, Liz!
And, special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s gorgeous photos!