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My Gut Health Journey

Healing SIBO, candida and leaky gut has certainly not been easy! It has been a long, hard and tiresome road, requiring extreme resilience and many self-pep talks but I hope that sharing my story empowers you to keep fighting your own health journey.

You are not alone, I know how you feel, I know you have tried everything and I also know that you are very close to giving up – please don’t!

What was actually ‘wrong’ with my gut?

January 2021 marked more than 10+ years of being constipated. With constipation comes a whole raft of health issues such as chronic fatigue, acne, compromised immune system, bloating, gas and nutrient malabsorption, just to name a few. Regular pooping is actually a very important bodily function, one which I will never EVER take for granted. If waste is not being cleared from the body, it not only becomes toxic but it also creates a breeding ground for bad bacteria to live, multiply and take over. This means good bye balanced microbiome, the bad is here to stay and ruin your life!

I should note, I did not just wake up one day constipated. I actually think I have had this issue for most of my life but I can’t quite remember and probably didn’t realise as a child/teenager.

When I finally noticed that something was wrong, my main symptom/complaint was bloating. Bloating every single day to the point where it felt like my skirt zipper was about to burst open and shoot out a light bulb with the zipper. I remember feeling like I could not breathe, like my gut was exploding while trying to finish a day of work.

The Doctor (GP)

Local Doctor sent me away to get an X-ray and some laxatives from the pharmacy. The laxatives didn’t really work, I got the x-ray returned to the Doctor and was told I had faecal impaction. Essentially I was quite literally full of sh*t, not figuratively.

I was told to purchase 3 different laxatives, a packet of at home enemas and was sent on my way.

Eventually, things got moving but of course the issue returned and unsurprisingly my doctor was not much help.

The Dietitian

Eventually made the link between what I put in my body and what comes out (or in my case, doesn’t). I researched to see what sort of practitioners were available in my small rural town and found there was a dietitian, who may be able to help me.

She was lovely, she gave me hope and she seemed to understand my symptoms, I felt a small amount of relief. She explained FODMAPS to me and sent me on my way with a low FODMAP diet to implement for 3-6 months until I started feeling better and then the plan was to slowly reintroduce foods.

Flash back to 2011, a gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, low FODMAP diet was NOT easy. I tried it for about 6 weeks, my bloating was a little better but I was still constipated. I decided it was too much effort for too little reward.

Dr Google and the Community

I turned to Doctor Google many, many times as well as my community of friends and family over the years and if I had $1 for every time I was told to “drink more water and eat more fibre” I would honestly be a millionaire.

I tried drinking Metamucil every day, someone’s mother told me psyllium husk was the secret to her glorious morning poop, I drank nothing but water constantly, I became quite health conscious and was exercising 5 times per week with the hope it would help to ‘get things moving’, I started my days with warm lemon water and honey. Pretty much any natural remedy for constipation you can think of, over the course of the following 6-7 years, I tried it. Nothing worked, in fact Metamucil, psyllium husk and any increase in fibre seemed to make my symptoms worse!

The Naturopath No.1

I looked up a naturopath near my offices, made an appointment and went to see her. Upon arrival I explained my issues and she suggested I complete a food intolerance test, proceeded to prick my finger for a small blood sample and said I was intolerant to dairy (not lactose, there is a difference).

I convinced myself that I was intolerant to dairy because her test ‘said so’ yet I was still constipated.

The Emergency Department

I went to work in the city as per usual one day and started to feel some very uncomfortable stomach pains but nothing I hadn’t experienced before so I figured it would just go away. The pain got worse, I quietly took myself to a meeting room, closed the door and laid down on the floor clenching my stomach.

Soon, I was paralysed. I couldn’t get up and I started dry reaching from such intense pain. The receptionist found me lying on the floor and called an ambulance which took me to the nearest emergency department.

Many tests and scans later, Doctors and nurses came by to tell me that everything looked normal. The pain had reduced to waves and then eventually, it just stopped. I felt like a crazy person. I could barely look the nurse in the eyes to tell her that all of a sudden, the pain had just completely disappeared. No one had an explanation and they told me I could go home.

This awful moment in my life was actually paramount in my healing journey as it was the moment I decided I was never going to give up. The feelings of embarrassment and shame fuelled a determination inside of me that was not going to stop until I had some answers.

The Gastroenterologist No. 1

“Gastroenterologists are doctors who are trained to diagnose and treat problems in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and liver” – taken straight from Google.

I asked my Doctor for a referral to a Gastroenterologist, I knew which one I wanted to see, I had googled her, knew that she consulted in my area and was highly regarded. There was a 3 month wait until her next available appointment but I told myself it was worth it.

I took a huge sigh of relief when she said “I think I know what is wrong, but we need to do tests to confirm”.

I completed a colon transit study over the course of a week. On day 1, I drank a radioactive fluid that would stick to the waste inside my body and be monitored at the exact same time for the next 5 days. I attended hospital every day that week for a scan which tracked the radioactive marker in my body. On day 5, I had 80% of the marker inside of me (most people have around 8% on day 5). This test confirmed what I had been telling everyone for years, I was severely constipated.

Next, I was booked in for a colonoscopy and endoscopy with a two-week preparation phase on heavy laxatives. I had expressed concern that the usual colonoscopy prep might not work. Lucky, because I was right! I had heard so many horror stories of people drinking movi-prep solution and being stuck on the toilet for hours. I, on the other hand, drank the solution and waited, waited, waited and eventually went to bed because nothing happened.

Diagnosis: slow transit constipation. I was told there is no cure, something I would need to live with for the rest of my life and I would always need to take laxatives. The specialist explained that if things get really bad when I’m older, then I may need to have my colon removed. Wow did I cry.

The Gastroenterologist No. 2

I wanted a second opinion and sought out another highly regarded Gastroenterologist in Sydney. $400 later I was given the same diagnosis and advice as the first Gastroenterologist, except this guy scared the living day lights out of me by explaining the process and side effects of having your colon removed. No thanks mate.

The Naturopath No. 2

I decided I was not done with the natural route despite that idiot telling me I was dairy intolerant, I knew there was a better way for me to navigate this issue.

I found a Naturopath/Nutritionist who specialised in gut health and after reading many of her published articles, I made an appointment to see her – another 3 month wait until her first available appointment.

She sent me off to do a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) and SIBO Breath test. The tests confirmed I had Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Candida and leaky gut.

She provided me with a protocol, loads of supplements and a list of foods to avoid. It was a windy road and took about 6 months but eventually I was going to the bathroom more regularly. I was still drinking Movicol about twice per week but this was less than ever before and my bloating had improved tenfold. I kept going back, we kept trying to improve but I wasn’t getting anywhere despite spending loads of money on new supplements after each visit. 12 months and a lot of money later, I decided to save my money and get on with life.

Blood Work Analysis

Slowly, over time my symptoms began to creep back in. I continued to research gut health and listen to podcasts on the topic. I found a couple of people on Instagram sharing really insightful information and a message that really resonated with me and the functional medicine approach I was comfortable with.

I signed up for blood work analysis and a 12-week protocol to see where my health was sitting. I received the most comprehensive, in depth analysis of my blood work in my entire life. My SIBO had definitely relapsed, I was suffering with negative gram bacteria and leaky gut as well as extremely low iron.

18 weeks on an extended very personalised protocol, during which I was not once allowed to touch laxatives, I completely rewired almost everything I thought I knew about health. To now be able to say that I am now going to the bathroom every single day, almost makes me cry. I was literally told this would be impossible without the use of laxatives.

There were many gaps in this journey and of course I lost hope and gave up at times, but eventually I got going again and it was so worth it! I feel like I have my life back after years of suffering!

If you are suffering with digestive health issues and desperately trying to find answers, you must keep going! Please don’t give up. It is possible to heal!

If you are going through something similar, please feel free to reach out if you want more information on my experience with blood work analysis. The best way to contact me is through my Instagram @feedthatblonde

And if you’re in the dark because you’re ditching sugar to improve your gut health, then you need this amazing gut friendly sweetener, it has honestly changed my life!

With love and good guts,
A xoxo

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Alicia xox

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