My Health Journey
My gut health journey started in the summer of 2010 with a college mission trip to Vietnam.
I was advised to protect myself from Malaria while I was over there, so like any well-intended person would do, I went to my doctor and told them where I was headed.
I walked out of that appointment with a 6-week prescription for doxycycline, an antibiotic that can also be used to prevent Malaria, and started taking it a few days before my two week long trip.
While in Vietnam, I naively ignored the warnings against drinking the tap water, and indulged in more than a few dragonfruit smoothies from various street vendors (y'all, they were so good!). So, by the end of the trip I found myself with a not-so-fun case of traveler's diarrhea.
After returning to the States, I spent the rest of my summer vacation at home with my family, recovering from my trip. I remember feeling so tired for a few weeks after I got back, but just thought I was still a little jet-lagged.
My family had a tradition of indulging in a bowl of ice cream every night before bed (looking back, we ate very healthy overall, but we definitely had our moments and this was one of them!). I noticed that I could no longer eat my bowl without feeling extremely bloated and sick. Definitely the beginnings of my first GI symptom, lactose intolerance (which often comes secondary to Celiac Disease).
After heading back to college for my sophomore year, my digestive symptoms really started to pick up. After most meals, my stomach would get so bloated, my heart would race, and I would feel extremely sick.
I remember at the peak of it, I had to leave in the middle of one of my classes and lay down on the bathroom floor (gross I know, but I was desperate), because I thought I was going to pass out from my heart racing.
I played a lot of my symptoms off as stress and anxiety from school, but I definitely knew there was a food component to my symptoms as well.
Ironically, I had been doing enough research to pinpoint my symptoms to whenever I ate gluten, but with no one in my family diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I thought there was no way I had that... until a few months later when I found myself at my GI doctor getting the test results of my blood test for Celiac Disease.
My results came back as a strong positive, and so I began my life on a strict gluten-free diet. (Do note that the gold standard for Celiac Disease is a biopsy of the small intestine. I was content with the diagnosis from the blood test alone, but some doctors won’t give you a Celiac diagnosis without the biopsy.)
Despite a few slip ups (who knew some chocolate ice creams have gluten in them??), I was able to cut gluten completely out of my diet starting in the fall of 2012. All of my symptoms went away and I was able to get my health back to where it was prior to getting sick.
Fast forward to the fall of 2014, a few months after my wedding. I was on hormonal birth control, had just taken an antibiotic for a UTI, and was going through a stressful period at work... and you guessed it, my health took another nosedive.
My symptoms this time were extreme bloating, constipation, intestinal cramping, and not being able to sleep through the night.
I was able to do enough research by myself to know that I should go on a low-FODMAP diet. So I cut out all FODMAPs from my diet (goodbye avocados and broccoli, so sad), and my symptoms slightly improved.
But, I finally found an answer when I decided to start working with a Nutritionist, who was able to diagnose me with SIBO and general dysbiosis.
The SIBO treatment road was definitely not easy, and looking back I think my gut was just too much of a mess for any of the antimicrobial treatments I tried to do much good.
After spending about a year or two trying to kill the SIBO overgrowth without much success, and maybe three years on a low carb diet (definitely not recommended!), I found myself waking up every night, and not being able to go more than a few hours without eating (results of what I now know was a messed up blood sugar response from undereating and eating too low carb).
Being a researcher, I found the ketogenic diet and thought that getting myself into ketosis might be able to get me low carb enough to starve my SIBO while helping me sleep better at night.
But, oh man, was I in for a keto adventure. Don’t get me wrong, keto was so so so good for my gut: I could eat all the FODMAPs without nearly as many symptoms as before.
But, being in ketosis pushed my already stressed out body (from eating low carb and not enough food for years) to the brink, and I totally crashed. Not to mention it was so difficult to start re-introducing carbs back into my diet in order to get out of ketosis (thanks to the insulin sensitivity I developed from years of low carbing).
I definitely don’t regret my keto experience, but I’m still recovering over a year later.
So, currently, I eat a high-carb Paleo diet complete with white rice, sweet potatoes, buckwheat and other carby starchy foods that I’ve found my body needs to feel its best.
I’m still journeying on to completely heal my gut and my hormones, but I am so much improved from where I began.
Currently, I'm working on identifying some underlying issues that could potentially be keeping my gut from fully healing. It's a slow process, with many setbacks, but I am confident that I will eventually reach a place of complete healing.
I am so grateful for my journey, in that I have learned so much about myself, grown my faith in my ultimate healer, and have gained so much knowledge that I now get to pass on to you!
So, friend, I thank you so much for coming along this journey with me, and I hope that I can encourage you and provide you with some helpful information as you travel on your own road to complete health.