Gut Heath Journey Part I discussed the terrible signs and symptoms I ignored, and then Part II, the rewiring my brain experienced in order to approach food differently. Since July, my daily routine has been turned upside down more than twice. I’ve discussed anxiety, weight gain, mood swings and distention…
You’ve probably been asking yourself, “what the heck did she have?”
The short answer is, I still don’t know 100% (insert even more anxiety and confusion!)
The longer answer is what we’re about to explore: I had SIBO, H Pylori, Leaky Gut, and Dysbiosis of the microbiome.
Let’s start from the beginning. You read about all the signs I ignored. The most chronic and prolonged malaise I experienced was constipation. I would go to bed at night worrying I couldn’t use the restroom the next day. I’d shutter at the thought of travel, and my weight would increase up to seven pounds as I suffered through constipation.
After begging to see a gastroenterologist, I thought I’d be healed upon seeing her. What actually happened? The doctor threw some antibiotics at me without explanation and sent me home.
I began taking them, under the direction that “these help constipation.” That they did. However, as over the course of the 21 day treatment, I felt flu-like symptoms, anxiety for the first time in my life, and felt like something had taken over my body. I didn’t feel like myself anymore.
Upon researching the drug, I learned it’s given to treat traveler’s diarrhea and SIBO; Since I had the opposite of diarrhea, I began reading about SIBO, which is short for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. The doctor said that testing for SIBO was no longer an option post antibiotic and that I was fine, and “probably didn’t have it.”
So what did I have?
I began to research myself and what I learned (and please know I’m shortening all of this and dumbing it all down), is that we all have tons of microorganisms in our gut (intestines) and certain things we put in our body, compounded by stress, can motivate the not-so-good bugs to multiply until everything is out of balance and the bad guys rule the roost.
When this happens, it can cause massive constipation and gas. In my case, severe distenstion (looking pregnant) and further more CRAVINGS (which I feel were the worst after the Constipation). Your motility through the intestines slows, and the consitpations occurs, while the bacteria multiply.
All of my symptoms were in line with SIBO and after learning that I could relapse, I began to take supplements to further kill the SIBO. Still struggling with anxiety, mood swings and distention, I knew my quality of life was not where it should be, but my primary care doctor (whom I sought out for guidance) also told me that “life is hard,” and I would be fine.
Taking random supplements that probably made me feel worse, and stress of the unknown, I was in rough shape, feeling hopeless and offering other infections in my body. Not to mention, every time I ate, I looked pregnant.
Trying to figure it out, day-by-day, I posted more about my journey. One day I posted about taking oregano oil and berberine (known anti-microbials) and an angel swooped down into my DMs (direct messenger of Instagram) and asked, “Do you think you have SIBO?” Her name is Bridgitte and you read about her in Part I.
From that moment on, I did a series of tests under Bridgitte’s guidance: breath test, stool test, H Pylori tests and more.
Here’s what Bridgitte helped me discover:
Due to my symptoms and the fact that the antibiotic Rifaximin helped cure the constipation, it is likely I had SIBO. To check and make sure it was all resolved, we did an at-home breath test. The result? Negative.
This was a huge win. However, in order to keep my gut from falling back into severe overgrowth I had to avoid sweeteners, figure out it I was actually Celiac, (and thus live a GF lifestyle) and cut back on alcohol.
Interesting fact: when you have SIBO, you can’t really fix it with simply taking a probitic. More interesting is that a probiotic or any fermented foods can actually make your belly bloat or have severe discomfort if it is not currently in good shape. If your gut bacterias are totally out of whack, just adding in good stuff won’t really help. I had to take several steps before that first. Next step? More tests.
A really affective tool used by functional nutritionists is a stool test. Everyone has a few certain bacterias in large amounts in their gut. They are both good and “bad” and the bad ones should be in there, just in the right proportions. The tricky part about the five most commons bacteria that live in harmony in your gut, is that there’s not perfect level in everyone. Your own “harmony” of gut bacteria is as unique as your fingerprint. However, as humans, just like we all have lines on our fingers and similarly sized thumbprints, our bacterias are typically between certain levels.
Upon reading my stool tests results, we saw that my regular bacterias were not in harmony, this is known as dysbiosis.
The stool test will also show you if you have any bad bacterias like H Pylori or E. coli or other pathogens. It can tell you about your intestines’ ability to digest food and the inflammation levels in your body.
My results showed that in addition to the anxiety and bloat-causing dysbiosis, I also came back positive H Pylori and severe levels inflammation, as well as the inability to digest most of my food (this means I was not absorbing much of the nutrients).
To fight H Pylori, (a really BAD GUY as far as bacterias go), most doctors treat it with an antibiotic. In my case, my terrible horrible gastro doc made me do a blood test (which is not the best way to test for H Pylori because it doesn’t live in your blood) before prescribing. It came back negative. Therefore she wouldt treat me for H Pylori. That was a hard day…
At the time this was devastating, because I didn’t want this pathogen in me. However, looking back it was a good thing because I could treat it with an all natural supplement prescribed by Bridgitee instead of prescription drugs. (More on this Part IV).
As for the dysbiosis, I had to take a supplement that I’ll describe more in Part IV, and several others to get my bacterias in the right levels and in sync.
As for the inflammation, I had to take a hard look at my GF lifestyle, the amount of exercise I was doing, increase my anti-inflammatory foods and avoid all processed items.
The thing is, it’s hard to tell if you have leaky gut. Not only is it hard to seeing an endoscopy or colonoscopy, but the Laculose test was not one I wanted to do. You see, after all the protocols I’d already started– it could’ve come up negative. The consensus with Bridgitte then, was that I most likely had it, and I need to continue to work to heal it.
So what is Leaky Gut?
Leaky Gut is essentially intestinal permeability. It means that proteins and food particles that you cannot break down leak out of the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. When toxic items and bacterias leak into the blood stream, it resonates in a serious inflammatory response, chronic fatigue, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, food allergies, arthritis (which I had issues with 6 months prior!), and eczema. I had all of these symptoms and these are only the most common ones!
Antibiotics and steroids are known causes of Leaky Gut, or issues that lead to Leaky Gut. Having been a sick little kiddo who took tons of antibiotics and steroids, I had tummy issues most of my life. However, upon took taking a month’s worth of antibiotics May 2016, I believe this may have been some of the causes of Leaky Gut. There are many ways you can develop this and it’s compounded by stress and lack of sleep (body cannot help without sleep or destress without sleep!).
The fact that I had a cough for four months, a yeast infection for three months and an ear infection, it’s safe to say my immune system was compromised (which is a sign of Leaky Gut). The other sign I had was brain fog; the brain fog was causing me anxiety and I knew if I could heal my gut, the brain fog would subside.
When you have Leaky Gut one issue you face is absorption of your food. This is why sometimes you have severe cravings and are unable to ever feel full after eating. On top of food cravings, if you experience fatigue like I did, my cravings were only exacerbated.
In order to restore my gut and alleviate myself from all of these symptoms, I had to get on a serious protocol dictated by Bridgitte. I’m going to go into the steps taken in Part IV, in order to help demonstrate what an intricate process this has been and how much dedication it has required.
If you feel you may be experiencing these symptoms, seek help! There is no one size fits all medication or approach to solving gut health. However, the sooner you get help, the sooner you will feel better. I’ve been on my journey now for six months and I will give myself 6 more months before I truly reassess.
If you need any help or a referral to a functional nutritionist, please email me email@example.com