Photography by Danika Miller
As many of you know, the past week has been very stressful for me in terms of my health. So much went on that I don’t even know what to cover first. I think a little background information is where I’ll start, though.
Also, if you’re not comfortable talking about digestion or with me being totally blunt and candid, this post is probably not for you. (Honestly, I’m probably not for you…)
Almost exactly a year ago, I went through treatment for SIBO, a number of food intolerances, and a number of bacterial overgrowths in my gut. Long story short, it was a rough road, but about a month after my treatment, I felt amazing for the first time…ever. I wasn’t bloated, my bowel movements were regular, I had amazing energy, I didn’t have stabbing pains in my stomach, I wasn’t fainting from carbohydrates, and so on. I thought, WOW. Is this what regular people feel like?!
There I was, feeling fabulous and happy as a clam for a few months. Slowly, though, problems started to arise again.
Let me start off by explaining that I’m very aware of my body. I know when my body is telling me that something is off. For those of us with gut issues, a passion for healthy living, or who are highly sensitive people in general, it’s pretty common to have this hyper-awareness when it comes to the way our bodies should be working.
Let’s talk symptoms. First of all, my bloating came back. This really bothered me because it made me so physically uncomfortable, and it was the main thing that tipped me off. And it’s not regular bloating. It’s beyond pregnant bloating, with pain attached. Jeans are a torture device to me. Then, my digestion got screwed up. I basically stopped having bowel movements unless I had a reaction to something. IBS-C, I do not like you. I also started to have strong reactions to carbs again. Whenever I ate fruit, I would get stabbing pains in my stomach and intense cramps that literally made me cry sometimes. A similar thing would happen to me with starchy carbs. I would curl up in a ball after eating a sweet potato because it felt like a knife was inside of my intestines. There were times when I ate carbohydrates and became dizzy and nauseous, which scared the crap out of me. I used to faint anytime I ate carbs, and I was so afraid that was going to start happening to me again. When it came to sugar… don’t even get me started. It was a shit show. Literally.
Then, my sugar cravings came back. This was a huge sign for me. When I crave sugar that intensely, I know something is wrong. It’s not a normal craving. It’s an obsession and a ravenous, out-of-control, fake hunger. I started to feel sluggish, and my skin started to break out. The skin breaking out is another big sign that something is wrong with my gut – I’m talking about those deep, painful cysts. Not regular old zits that go away in a day or two. I also started getting rashes on my body whenever I ate anything that wasn’t plain protein or a non-starchy veggie. I would get nauseous and break out whenever I added spices to my food.
Something else that I have struggled with for about a year is that I’m generally in a constant state of hunger. My friends and I joke that my stomach is a bottomless pit, but it’s really true. I’ve always had a big appetite, but recently it’s been getting worse and worse, and my doctor agreed with my thought that it was probably because I’m not absorbing/digesting my food properly. This is what we call.. MALABSORPTION. My hunger/fullness signals are practically nonexistent. When I say I’m starving all the time, I really mean it. I have never met someone who can eat more than I can, truly. I honestly can’t keep up with how much food it takes to somewhat satiate me, and even then, I’m still hungry. I am a poor college student and I can’t afford to go through a jar of coconut butter a day. Sorry.
Additionally, eating the obscene amount of food I need to eat every day in order to be remotely satisfied is really not easy on my gut, and it just makes my digestive issues worse. I cannot function if I feel hungry, so I tend to just eat a ton of food and grimace through the digestive pain.
I have also been having other health issues that are concerning me. Mainly, I haven’t gotten my period back since going off of the birth control pill. I have a lot to say about the pill and how strongly I am against it, but I’ll save that for another post. While my doctor isn’t too concerned about my period, I am very concerned and want to get to the root of the problem.
That being said, recently my gut issues have honestly felt completely unbearable to me, and I started to feel really desperate. Because I now know what it feels like to feel “normal” after those few glorious months last summer, I’m very motivated to get back to that place. I know that nutrition is a key factor in all of this, and unfortunately my doctor doesn’t fully understand that aspect of it. He recommended I reach out to someone who had “healed” one of his patients with carbohydrate intolerance, which I apparently have, even after my doctor tried everything he could think of.
Fast forward, and I found a new NTP (Nutritional Therapy Practitioner) with an amazing track record. I heard stories about her helping people heal when no one else could, and I also agree with all of her nutritional philosophies and am very much on the same page as her. There are not many people who I trust when it comes to nutrition advice, but I feel like if anyone can help me, she can. Actually, I kind of feel like she’s the only person who can help me.
The past few months I underwent a whole other “round of testing,” as I like to call it. I’ve done this many times before, but I don’t always do it all at once. That usually only happens about once a year. But I did the whole shebang again, and I really suspected that my SIBO was back or that I had Candida again. I also was worried about my hormones – my thyroid, my cortisol, etc.
I also took another food sensitivity test, the MRT. My doctor doesn’t use the MRT. My NTP, however, is a big believer in the MRT, and she only uses the results in the context of the results from other lab tests. I had mixed feelings about the MRT based on my own reading about it, but I fully trust in my NTP, so I decided to just do whatever she said and trust in the process. What I did last time obviously didn’t work longterm. After having taken the MRT test now and after having done a lot more research, I am now a believer in it. Obviously I will need to wait until the end of this whole process to really say that, but I realized that most of what was written about the MRT isn’t very true, and the success stories I’ve heard with it have really impressed me. (However, every food sensitivity test needs to be taken with a grain of salt! There is no test that is 100% accurate.)
Okay, let’s talk about the plan. Basically the plan was to get all of the test results back and then put me on a strict “protocol” to get my health back in check. I’ve done “protocols” before, so I felt like I could handle it. When I say protocol, it means that my doctors tell me exactly what to do for X amount of time, and I have to be very diligent about it. No cheating, no half-assing. We hit the issues hard and intensely.
A few things showed up on my labs that need to be addressed, but overall they weren’t that bad. They were much better than any labs I’ve ever had before, which is good news. There were definitely issues in the gut department, though.
Basically, we are focusing on healing my gut, and then hoping that some of the other things will fall back into balance. My NTP thinks that healing my gut could bring my period back naturally and might naturally balance out my thyroid as well. Plus, healing my gut will hopefully get rid of the main symptoms that are really physically bothering me right now.
Touching on the thyroid, I’ve had low thyroid numbers for as long as I can remember. I was once diagnosed with hypothyroidism and put on thyroid medication that I should not have been on, and it completely destroyed my health. Long story. Anyways, every time I get bloodwork done, I’m told that something is weird with my thyroid, but that they need to “keep an eye on it” to figure out exactly what’s going on. Basically, wondering if I actually do have hypothyroidism? I don’t think I do, but still need to keep an eye on that.
They’re also wondering if I have PCOS, which is polycystic ovarian syndrome. Even if I have it, though, I already do everything I would need to do to manage it. Sooooo that’s also at the bottom of the list of things to worry about.
There are also some relatively uninteresting, random things that I’m addressing – carnitine deficiency, amino acid balance, DHEA levels, MTHFR defect, etc. Well, they’re interesting to me, but probably not to most people reading this. Sometimes I feel like these tests tell me too much about my body. Moving on.
Another big issue, of course, is my cortisol. My cortisol levels are pretty damn high, as usual. Honestly, though, my stomach issues are a big player in that, and so is being in school. I’m hoping that graduating and working on my gut issues will lower those cortisol levels. However, high cortisol levels also cause gut issues. It’s a chicken and egg type situation. I really have too much to deal with right now, though, so I’m just trying to focus on one thing at a time. Right now, that’s my gut. In the meantime, I’m taking a few supplements that my doctor thinks will “calm me down,” since I have refused his suggestion of medical marijuana.
What exactly is wrong with my gut? Here are the important takeaways…
First, my liver and gallbladder need support, because I’m not digesting my fats properly. I eat a lot of fat, but my body isn’t using it properly or efficiently. This is also at the root of my malabsorption issues, and therefore my constant state of hunger. We need to get my body to digest and use those healthy fats in the right way, so I’ll be taking a number of supplements to do so.
Second, I have extremely low stomach acid. I have battled with this for a very long time, and I’m a little worried because my supplements should have had an effect awhile ago. I take 7 hydrochloric acid pills with every meal to give my stomach the acid it needs to digest foods properly, and I’ve been doing so for over a year and a half. My body should be making its own stomach acid by now. I recently switched HCL brands and I’m hoping that in a few months, my stomach acid levels will start to increase.
Third, my microbiome is very unbalanced. There’s a lot of bad bacteria, and low to no growth of key beneficial bacteria. I have stayed away from probiotics for a long time because of my SIBO, but now that it’s definitely gone, I can safely add probiotics into my routine. I have to do this very systematically because I have such extreme reactions to probiotics – slow and steady wins the race. And with the RIGHT strains.
As I mentioned, my SIBO is NOT back, thankfully. However, the labs do show that I have an overgrowth of yeast. We aren’t sure exactly what strain of yeast, but it doesn’t really matter. My NTP is putting me on a Candida protocol to address this. I’ve been on a Candida protocol before, so I’m not worried about it at all, really. If you don’t know what a Candida protocol typically looks like, I will explain it in my next post. The worst part about treating Candida is usually the detox reaction, but since I’ve had it before and don’t eat a diet high in sugar now, I don’t think I’ll get that strong of a reaction this time.
Lastly, my gut immunity is elevated. This shows that it’s actively engaged in something, but doesn’t tell us exactly what. My doctor and NTP explained that it’s most likely all of my food sensitivities combined with the yeast. My body thinks it’s under attack. Not good.
So, yes, the MRT came back with quite a few food intolerances… to foods I eat a lot of every single day. Honestly, it all makes sense to me now. I’m going to explain exactly what I’m sensitive to and how I’m going to address it, as well as everything else mentioned above, in my next post. THE PROTOCOL, as I’ve come to call it, definitely requires a full post of its own.
I know most of you just want to know what the protocol is, but I want to make sure you understand why I’m doing what I’m doing for the next six months. I explain in passing what’s going on with my health all the time, but I’ve never laid it out quite so clearly and bluntly as I am right now, and as I will continue to do moving forward. This isn’t meant for you to start freaking out and feeling like you need to diagnose yourself or be paranoid that things are wrong with you. I have been struggling for some time, and I need to get to the root of it so that I can start living my life a bit more normally. Gotta do what’s right for ME, no one else. 🙂 Hopefully, if you have similar struggles, this can help you in some way.
Stay tuned for part 2!