After announcing my job on social media, something interesting happened…
About a week ago, I announced on Facebook that I work for a digestive health company. Since that day, 9 people have either messaged, called, or struck up an in-person convo with me about their digestive “issues.” Most of them are people I haven’t seen in years—one not since college and a few not since high school! What compelled these acquaintances and old classmates to share their digestive health struggles with me? I’m not a doctor, not a medical professional at all, in fact. I have a communications degree, a far cry from a PhD in gastroenterology. These people KNEW this before reaching out. And these weren’t just superficial, surface-level talks either. Folks were going deep—like descriptive, okay? (Ever heard of the Bristol Stool Scale? Well, google that and you’ll understand the title of this post.)
Did I find it strange that within just over a week 9 people, some of whom I don’t even see or speak with on a regular basis, wanted to share their bathroom habits and food struggles and overall gut health problems with me? Yeah, I kinda did. But here’s the thing: I kinda loved it, too. Reading about fascinating statistics and information is one thing, but seeing them play out in real life is very cool. Let me explain…
The company I work for, Vivante Health, was founded on the realization, through research and indisputable data, that gut trouble in the US is a widespread problem (HUGE, like, way bigger than you probably think). Most of us don’t realize it’s so widespread because most people really don’t want to talk about it. And that makes sense. Say to a room full of people, “Raise your hand if you have asthma.” A few hands will shoot up. “Raise your hand if you wear contact lenses.” Several more hands, maybe more than half the crowd. “How about allergies?” Depending on where you live, maybe a few. If you live in Austin like me, probably the whole room. Either way, people are pretty open to share when they’re under the influence of cedar or ragweed pollen.
Now, what if you asked, “How many of you are dealing with diarrhea or loose stools? How about gas or hemorrhoids or constipation?” Ask these types of questions to a group of people, and you’ll find folks start to shift their eyes around the room, giggle, shrug, squirm. Maybe one or two brave hands will rise, but for the most part people will be uncomfortable. We don’t like to discuss our digestive issues. It’s understandable. But the thing is, three-quarters of American adults are walking around dealing with gut trouble of some kind on a regular basis. One in three adults have a chronic digestive disease that can be debilitating, literally affecting their ability to work, exercise, socialize, even leave the house to grab coffee with a friend. Because no one really talks about it, though, we don’t realize just how many people are suffering. It’s a pretty safe bet that my 9 Facebook friends who reached out represent a far larger number who were just too embarrassed to ask.
A recent survey sums it up well:
74% of American adults have digestive symptoms, but fewer than half are willing to even talk to a doctor about it.
Part of my job is to sort through data, read articles, and turn the research compiled by our team of digestive health experts into small, bite-sized knowledge nuggets. Since I started working with this company, the amount of research I’ve seen about how big (and costly) a problem digestive diseases are in the US is insane, like, jaw-dropping. Millions of people are searching for solutions. But here’s the bite-sized info nugget:
For people with chronic digestive symptoms, nothing exists to help them in a way that makes sense for them.
Doctor visits, waiting to see specialists, insurance drama, food confusion, medications, struggling to make it through the day without an embarrassing incident—it’s a lot to deal with. For someone with a full-time job, it’s impractical to try and connect all the dots on their own and nearly impossible to develop a realistic and effective care plan without help.
This is one of the reasons I love my job—because Vivante Health saw this need and did something about it. A team of digestive health experts, along with some tech geniuses, have spent the past three years developing the first and only program of its kind as a practical solution for the millions of people searching for gut help. It’s called GIThrive.
As I mentioned a bit ago, it’s a pretty safe bet that the 9 people who asked me about Vivante Health and GIThrive after my Facebook update aren’t the only ones curious; they were just the only ones comfortable enough to speak up. Maybe they felt okay asking because we’re friends (even if just the Facebook variety). Or maybe it’s because in my job announcement I mentioned how fascinating I find the data and research and science-y bits, so they figured I wouldn’t judge them for their condition. Maybe they hoped that knowing someone who works for a company dubbed “the digestive health experts” would get them the inside scoop on how the hell to finally deal with their nagging symptoms.
Whatever the reason they decided to share their gut health issues with me—poop descriptions and all—I’m glad they did. I can’t give medical advice, but I was able to share a bit of what I’ve learned and at least point them to some valuable info. For anyone else who’s curious, here are some things I shared with my 9 friends who asked:
- I don’t sell anything.
- Vivante Health doesn’t sell anything either. Well, not to individuals. Vivante’s GIThrive gut health program is an employer-sponsored health benefit. (Basically, if you have health insurance through your job, you’re probably eligible for free-to-you wellness programs that address diabetes, weight loss, mental health, even addiction, but there’s nothing to help you make sense of your gut health. GIThrive is the digestive program that’s been missing.) If your employer offers the GIThrive benefit, you qualify for the full program and all its features for free. It’s 100% covered, no cost to you. Find out from your HR department at work if GIThrive is offered by your employer.
- If your employer doesn’t offer GIThrive yet, that’s okay. Vivante is working on a way right now for individuals to be able to access the program with a limited-feature freemium version. It will be available soon. (Okay, in all honesty there is a free GIThrive app available now for iOS, Android and web. BUT it’s being revamped because the first iteration is kind of just a placeholder. We know it needs work. I mean, you can try it. It’s not going to hurt anything. Just don’t judge the whole program by the first draft, ya know?) In the meantime, though, here’s some good digestive health info: • Gut Health FAQs
• A rundown on Chronic GI Conditions
• Also, follow Vivante Health on Facebook for links to helpful blogs, articles, tips, ideas, gut-healthy recipes and more.
- Did I mention I’m NOT a healthcare professional? My role at the company is communication director. I could talk with you about this stuff all day and really enjoy it—especially the “food as medicine” concept, the microbiome, and the research aspects—but I do not give medical advice.
- Care Teams. Care Teams made up of real human beings who are digestive health whizzes are what really make the GIThrive program special. If you have a chronic digestive condition, you might see a lot of specialists who give conflicting advice. You might have very confusing and side-effect-heavy Rx drug regimens to follow. You might feel overwhelmed on a daily basis about what’s safe to eat and what’s going to cause a symptom flare. Vivante gets it. Care Teams specializing in pharmacy, nutrition, and life-work balance guide members through the program, one step at a time. They look at all aspects of your condition, take into account all your symptoms, and even care about things like your food likes and dislikes. Based on all this, plus some insightful personality profile-type quizzes, your Care Team will work with your providers to develop a plan around you, focused on helping you get relief quickly. There’s really nothing else like it.
The GIThrive program isn’t available directly to individuals, at least not the premium version with Care Team access, clinical nutrition programs, and all the other program features to simplify gut health. The only way to get the full program now is through your employer or health insurance. If your employer doesn’t offer GIThrive yet, ask them to! Shoot an email to the powers that be in HR, or if you’re at a smallish company, email the manager or owner directly. Let them know you want GIThrive. In the meantime, follow us on social media. This is where you’ll see the latest updates about the freemium GIThrive version, along with other tips and ideas that can hopefully help you start to make sense of your digestive health.
By: Tonya Rodriguez, Communication Director, Vivante Health
About Vivante Health
Vivante Health is an innovative digital healthcare company reinventing the way chronic conditions are managed, starting with digestive disease. Our all-in-one gut health program, GIThrive, empowers people—through brilliant technology and advanced science—to spend less time worrying about their digestive symptoms and more time living life.