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Although acupuncture definitely seemed to be helping me, I wanted to do more. I knew my body was still not functioning at its fullest potential, so in 2015, I decided to dig into my health a little bit more. I went through my first round of testing with a Registered Dietician and Integrative Nutritionist. We did test after test--blood tests, thyroid tests, an IGG Food Antibody Assessment, and more. Eventually I got the results back: I had a sensitivity to a few specific foods, however I was not deficient in anything. These results led to a new, modified diet plan - the FODMAP eating plan. I cut out the foods that apparently irritated my body and listened even more closely to my body when it told me it didn’t like a certain food I ate. For a while, this worked; I was feeling better and was happy. I began working with Katie Simmons, a classically trained chef that also specialized in plant-based menus and food sensitivities to keep my food options fresh and appealing. Things were going well.
Unfortunately, it all broke down in late 2016. I began to experience these awful phases of distension in my abdomen. My abs and belly area would become rock hard and cause extreme pain. Often, this would get to the point where I could barely drink water without experiencing discomfort. Again, I knew this wasn’t normal. However, the doctors diagnosed it as gastritis, telling me I just had to wait for it to pass. At its worst point, I recall having to boil my food down to mush in order to consume it. Everything I ate was bland and tasteless, but after three-to-five days of consuming what was basically baby food, I could eat normal, human food again for a short period of time.
This process continued for a bit, broken up by intermittent hive breakouts. Once again, I began paying extra close attention to how my body reacted to specific foods I ate. Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t figure out where the problem was: I could eat one food and break out, but eat it again at a later date and be completely fine. Eventually the frequency of my hives outbreaks began to increase. This, coupled with my belly distension, bloating, burping, and shortness of breath, forced me to acknowledge that I was still not healthy. I knew I needed to reach out for help again.
This time, I went to a new functional medicine doctor. With my past test results in hand, I explained my crazy amount of stress, inability to sleep, irregular menstrual cycles, and food struggles. Once again, my doctor put me through all sorts of testing. As you can guess, at this point, I was highly untrusting of any test--not many had given me any type of helpful results after all. I still did as my doctor instructed, crossing my fingers for something better. My wishful thinking didn’t seem to provide the results I wanted, though. The first round came back with more frustrating answers (or lack of answers). According to the tests, I had no glaring deficiencies and appeared to be the epitome of a healthy individual--something I definitely was not.
Thankfully, my new doctor didn’t stop there this time. She understood that I did not feel well, that there had to be something else going on within my body. After a few other tests, my doctor ordered a stool test. The result of this one in particular was the first “bad” test result I had ever received--and I couldn’t be happier. Finally, I felt like I was on a path that was going to give me answers. Up to this point, I had been taking vitamins and supplements that you read about helping a person's body (i.e. probiotics, digestive enzymes, etc.) However, the test results showed I barely had any good bacteria present in my gut to properly digest food. Instead, I had what my doctor called “squatters”: bad bacteria, including a yeast that is normally used to preserve wine and other food. With this knowledge, and after a few more tests, we came to the conclusion that my entire gut biome (the control center of your immune system) was completely out of balance. My digestion was suboptimal at best operating at incredibly low levels and I had lots of inflammation in my system not to mention leaky-gut.