Note: If you do not want to read about digestion issues or if reading the word “gas” makes you cringe…today is not the post for you 🙂
This is a post I wanted to share once I had figured everything out.
But truthfully, over the past year, my digestion issues have taken a turn for the worse.
I have struggled with digestive woes for years. When I was in college, in the prime of my high anxiety from school, binge drinking every weekend and living on fiber one bars, diet cokes and occasionally an entire box of Milk Duds (I was still far, far away from discovering intuitive eating). My. Digestion. Sucked. (As did my relationship with food.)
I went to the doctor, got diagnosed with IBS and was given a prescription for a “spastic colon”. Oh, and told to not eat lettuce (wtf?). That’s the extent of the help I got from that doctor.
My entire college years were full of intense fear of not making it to the bathroom in time (because that legit happened too many embarrassing times to count), constant diarrhea and it got so bad at one point I refused to go on road trips with friends or go on school trips out of fear of not having a bathroom nearby.
When my husband (then boyfriend) and I picked up and moved to Florida almost five years ago, I slowly started experimenting with eating real, whole foods. I discovered the blogging world, and it taught me to love food and what eating real food was all about. Not only did it help improve my relationship with food, but my digestion also vastly improved.
While I was no longer constantly fearful of making it to the bathroom or constantly having bouts of alternating constipation/diarrhea, I still had pretty unusual bowel movements and consistent gas, pain and bloating. But it was manageable. Around the time of my wedding (April 2014), I was pretty sure I had “solved” my IBS and was good to go.
Unfortunately about a year ago, things took a turn for the worse. I made the decision to get off birth control as it no longer aligned with my beliefs about what we should put in our bodies. I had no idea how difficult it would become to regulate my body once off of birth control and it took an entire year to get a normal cycle back after 12 years of non-stop birth control. (I will do another post explaining steps I took to get my cycle back soon!)
Here is where things got like real, real weird. For the past year, since I got off birth control, I have had the most intense, painful bloated stomach. It started off with just a day or two out of the month, and then it started to become an every week occurrence, and then every few days and then for at least 3 months (maybe more) I was literally. Seriously. Bloated. Non-stop. All the time.
I know someone is going to comment on this and say have you tried (insert here)? Yes, yes I have. I did it all. I have done many, many awesome things to help improve my digestion (I would be happy to elaborate in another post). But I still had issues. I find the digestive system SO INTERESTING so much so that my business partner and I are going to niche market in digestive health (and intuitive eating). But it baffled me that I could not figure out my own digestive system.
I tried every food, every supplement, while being careful to not do too much at one time. I eliminated every food possible and did literally every single thing I would recommend to a client.
But I was still constantly, miserably bloated. As well as experiencing symptoms I had never had before like indigestion, belching and pain each time I ate.
Right when the issues first developed I immediately went to see a GI specialist (November of last year) and explained that this has never been like this before. We did a colonoscopy (that was fun…ha. ha.) and everything looked normal. The only help I got from this doctor was learning about taking peppermint capsules (which I do continue to take and highly recommend!) He basically laughed at me, said I was fine and sent me on my not-so-merry way. I am not writing this to discourage ANYONE AT ALL from seeking help from the medical profession. Heck I work in the medical profession! But what I do want to say is that you know your body better than anyone else. And I knew, knew so hard that something was off.
At this point, being aware of the FODMAPs in food (the current diet recommended for IBS) was no longer helping and I had gotten to a point where everything I ate was causing pain.
You know how you are sometimes most resistant to the things you actually need to do?
I was totally being resistant to what I needed to do.
I knew I needed to follow a gut-healing protocol but was resistant at first because I didn’t want to create strict rules with myself (because of my history of past dieting).
But after some deep thought, I realized that I had to stop trying to figure out what the one thing was causing my issues and realize that something was off with my entire digestive system and it was more than just a food sensitivity. From there, I knew I needed to make a change. I decided to use food truly as medicine, listen to my intuition about what I was tolerating and let go of the need to feel like I needed to eat a balanced meal. I think carbohydrates are so, so vital to the body. I would never encourage someone to cut or eliminate carbohydrates unless medically necessary (yes for me) and my body was telling me to do this (yes again).
Let me explain…
I have thought for some time that I have had a leaky gut. I believe this has shown up throughout my life through IBS but also psoriasis, eczema, asthma and allergies. Those with leaky gut and IBS are more prone to get small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Getting off birth control I feel was the ultimate blow to this and caused a full blown out-my-bacteria-is-not-where-its-supposed-to-be-in-its-body-thing. I have NOT been tested for this (not many doctors do test for it) so I am choosing to follow a gut healing protocol without an actual diagnosis. Even without a true diagnosis, I know my body and feel comfortable with trying nutrition protocol I would recommend to any client experiencing the same issues I was experiencing. [Added: I later found out I also had Candida, too.]
After spending hours upon hours researching gut healing protocols, I’ve developed my own gut healing protocol that incorporates things like FODMAPs, GAPs/SCD, ketogenic/paleo, meal timing and meal spacing and really focuses on real, traditional foods and making you feel your best.
So what am I eating right now…
I am focused on very easy to digest foods. A lot of meat and eggs (local and sustainable and meat that is fed a proper diet). A lot of cooked vegetables. A lot of fats (coconut oil, ghee, butter, olive oil, full fat dairy). A lot of bone broth and collagen (to help heal my gut lining). Probiotics in foods like kimchi and homemade yogurt. Some carbohydrates like rice and potatoes. (Note, this is not an inclusive list but just an idea. Read my most recent WIAW posts to get a better idea).
Nutritionally, this is a lot of fat and protein. Not a lot of carbohydrates. The idea behind a gut healing protocol is to support your body in healing. Temporarily taking out all irritating foods, focusing on easy to digest foods, not giving food to bacteria (FODMAPS and carbohydates), slowly reintroducing probiotics in the diet and properly spacing meals out to allow the migrating motor complex time to do its job and allow the microbiome to relax and reset. Slowly with time reintroducing back the foods eliminated, but this time in an easier to digest way. There’s so much more to this- and I’ll elaborate in another blog post soon!
Within a day or two of starting this, I started to feel immensely better. I feel like I can breathe again. I feel like my intestines are not constantly inflamed. And while I am most definitely not eating this way all the time, I know that this is what I need to do right now. I could tell something was ‘off’ in my body when foods I naturally crave and feel great eating were making me feel sick, bloated and in pain. One day, when my digestion has improved I can go back to eating more nourishment from carbohydrates, but for now I am okay with this. I plan with time to re-introduce soaked/sprouted grains and legumes, sourdough bread and my beloved sweet potatoes.
The path to healing can be difficult and learning to listen is often the most difficult part! I had to allow my body to tell me what it needed, even if that meant my version of Intuitive Eating changed. Letting go of my own judgement of how I should eat has helped me begin my journey to healing my gut. I firmly believe that this, coupled with supplements I am taking and working on stress management have been critical in helping my digestion heal.
If you struggle with digestion, I promise you- I get it. Unless you have had the same struggles, you will never understand how painful it is nor how uncomfortable it can be. I get you. I feel you. And that’s why I want to help you. Interested in learning more to help heal with your gut? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My private practice is open (!!!) and will be taking clients locally in St. Petersburg, FL as well as virtually.
Disclaimer: Food protocols discussed in this post are for diagnoses like SIBO and leaky gut. If you suffer from IBS this type of gut healing protocol may not be necessary for you, it varies for each individual. If you think you may have SIBO, I highly recommend reaching out to a GI doctor. Often times a diet approach has to be combined with antibiotics and/or herbal antibiotics. If you have any questions about this please feel free to reach out to me!