The Health Journey - Edition One
So I should probably caveat this blog with a 'TMI' warning.... there is no real easy way to discuss this part of my health journey without probably sharing a few details.... Soz team!
Throughout my 20s, I never regularly moved my bowels - I would say once every two to three days and if I was at someone else's house then forget it, wasn't happening!! I don't really know where I learnt this phobia if you call it that but it followed me throughout my younger years and seemed to stick! Fast forward to somewhere in between the birth of Levi and the birth of Beckham it really became disrupted. I would become quite unwell in the tummy, not really being able to stomach most things without cramps, bloating, pain, on and off the toilet or going days at a time without being able to go - it's been a fun little ride. Also in this time, I found the fitness industry with all the supplements and began the taking of protein, pre-trainers, fat burners, BCAAs, sugar free this, sugar free that. Plus managed to pick up some weird pool derived parasite from one of my Bali trips - I have always joked that I have stomach of steel, not often getting full blown gastro but this is probably because it just couldn't make it through all the junk backed up in my stomach!
Over the years I would remove certain foods or food groups in an attempt to get it to settle down and it would work for short periods or enough for it to become a mild discomfort rather than painful as such. So in August 2019 or so it became really unbearable to live with and off I trotted to the Dr for help - we did the usual tests and nothing of note came up in these so she referred me to a dietician for 'IBS' and implementation of a low FODMAP diet. I couldn't implement this straight away as initial stages of low FODMAP are 4-6 weeks and I was heading to Ireland in September for two weeks - this gurl wasn't giving up her holiday foods for nothing! So I entered a period of weeks were I was really unwell, didn't go to the toilet for five days and really just felt so miserable and uncomfortable. By the time I returned, I was well and truly ready to give low FODMAP a crack! I went all in and it did work - for a number of months, my tummy was alot more settled overall and only flaring up when I ate something I knew was going to overload it.
These photos were taken within a week of each other - at the worst point I quite literally look as though I did when I was about 5 months pregnant with both my boys. So painful and distressing to be perfectly honest.
Then as 2020 started and the months passed, it became an issue again but I was also met with extreme, horrible and all consuming fatigue - this too had come and gone over the years. This wasn't the same tiredness I felt as a new mum, this was a heaviness about my muscles, joints and body. There were times it would really knock me about and so I continued to have blood tests over the years but nothing too nasty showed and so it was largely put down to extreme stress and exhaustion and I should 'rest'. Thanks that will be $467 for the pleasure of it all and you tell me to 'rest'!!!! So in May, I started feeling really off one week, sore joints, aching body, hands and fingers hurting and I just knew something wasn't quite right. My family Dr has been looking for some answers all these years so she fit me in and ran my bloods - it happened to be run the day I hit my worst. The bloods finally properly showed I wasn't imagining these feelings or just tired from life - there is an underlying autoimmune disease and the blood work showed it to be high enough to warrant further support and investigation. Also, my inflammatory markers were quite high, they are meant to sit between 0-5 and mine were sitting at 19. This might explain the muscle pain I was in by this stage. So I have been referred to a Rheumatologist and see her in September this year.
In between this, I knew diet can assist a great deal with autoimmune diseases particularly a lean diet with healthy fats and oils like fish etc to lower inflammation. And so I researched a nutritionist that specialises in autoimmune diseases. Well - in the short time I have known her she has been overhauling my life one day at a time. Firstly, after saying that I was struggling with fatigue post weights training she promptly informed me that chronic stress will eventually break down your body and it will lose the ability to even cope with the stress placed on the body from intensive exercise. And so I accepted that part of my life needed to change for now so in came the low impact exercise. My nutritionist also discussed with me the likelihood that I may be experiencing Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) that could be the cause of many of my stomach issues. A SIBO breath testing kit to measure hydrogen and methane in the body was ordered and a Microbiome testing kit. The SIBO test was the horrible prep diet and fasting before blowing into these little cylinders for three hours and the Microbiome test is a stool test (soz TMI) that is highly sensitive and checks for several things that could be causing discomfort. Well the results are back - my mind is blown!!
Once my nutritionist had run through the SIBO symptoms, I had started to suspect that this would come back positive, which has been the case. Great - basically got a whole lot of muck growing on my small intestine and the stool test has shown that I do in fact have leaky gut as well. This essentially means the lining of my intestines has holes in that are too large and is allowing food and bacteria to pass through in chunks and enter directly into my blood stream. One side affect to this is it can cause inflammation in system and the body/brain believes there is a foreign body in the bloodstream causing the immune system to inflame and attack itself. So there is a possibility this could be causing autoimmune markers in my blood, but this is yet to be fully known. As so my recovery begins, I start a diet specific to support SIBO - it is a mix between low FODMAP and also low in grains, no dairy, no garlic. I have been given lots of support resources to help with this including some recipes etc. My nutritionist has also indicated that initially she would like me to get my protein sources from vegetarian options rather than meat as it's easier for my system to digest. I am also starting a herbal style antibiotic initially to try and kill the bacteria a little more gently than a full antibiotic and the diet is to also starve the bacteria of what it wants. Where a stronger course could kill it within 10 days, the gentler one will take three weeks. It's a more supportive of healing my system holistically rather than fix one issue, create another. I will also be taking supplements to assist in re-generating the good bacteria within my body and all will help close up those leaky pesky gaps as well to stop food particles crossing into my blood stream - we all need small amounts to pass through but almost in a comical way - my test results fell of the testing scale - my dot was off the end. Greeeaaaattttt!!!!
All of this can be bought on by many things: child birth (C-Sections particularly), stress, bout of gastro, antibiotics but it's clearly something I have been living with for many years. I suspect things probably fell off the rails while I was pregnant with Levi, I had recurrent urinary tract infections and ended up having 12 courses of antibiotics throughout my pregnancy, then add in just a smidge of stress over recent years and my body has taken a bit of a hammering. So for the next 6 weeks I will be taking my antibiotics and following this eating plan to try and fix my issues. It will be alot of work and planning but if this can fix my issues and give me some physical peace then I am all down. One of the main things to ensure it doesn't return is keeping stress to a minimum so this will also be a lifestyle priority for me. After we have done this stage, I will be re-tested and see where I am at.
I will obviously still see the specialist in September and I will keep my chiro appointments each fortnight so my spine and nervous system is functioning at it's best. As I move into this new journey, I have been met with some overwhelming feelings about changing or 'missing out' but also really excited to have an answer, feel validated that I am not crazy (being reforming 'Type A' or perfectionist personality, I like facts in the form of science) and a sense of hope that I can live an energetic life where I don't feel crushed by fatigue functioning heavily off caffeine and power naps. It has taken me so long to be finally getting some answers that make sense and while I am not sure what the future holds in terms of my autoimmune issues, I, at least feel like I am on track to address my digestion issues and challenges. There is no calorie counting in this process whatsoever, reading nutritional labels is purely to know what is in something before I eat it so it's definitely a new kind of way ahead for me!
Anyway, this has been a huge journey and another challenge in life but I hope you have found it interesting to read overall.