My freshman year of college I started getting sick, and couldn’t stop. About three hours in, I asked a friend to take me to the emergency room. The doctors hooked me up to an IV, and I rehydrated over the course of a few hours. They told me that a 250 pound man had just been in – he took one IV bag, I took two and a half. It was written off as food poisoning and after a few hours I was back to normal.
But not really. This cycle would continue for the next eight years. Crazy when I think about that now, that I allowed myself to think that I just had an uneasy stomach. I would go to some type of emergency service about twice a year with the same result – hooked up to an IV then sent home.
The cycle was interrupted in March of 2015 on our way back from Charleston. I started getting sick and we stopped at the hospital in Columbia. After two IV bags, the doctor ordered a CAT scan around 2am, and he saw something in my small intestine that made him believe maybe this is more than food poisoning. He wanted me to follow up with a gastroenterologist as soon as possible when we got back to Greenville. There would be two more trips to the emergency room as soon as we got back home. This was the worst it had ever been.
The next three months would be a series of poking and prodding – colonoscopy, endoscopy, blood tests, x-rays, CAT scans, you name it. I was told that I more than likely had Crohn’s Disease. The doctors were still trying to give me proof, but couldn’t quite define what was happening. That was just their best guess. When the doctor ordered another x-ray of a different area, we finally said enough was enough.
I made a self diagnosis of stress, and quit testing. I was tired of paying for doctors to guess what was happening with my body. But I knew something still wasn’t right. This time, the symptoms were not going away. I had constant nausea and a sharp pain that ran all the way across my stomach. I also had a metallic taste in my mouth that would only go away if I fasted for a day. I was miserable, to say the least, and my weight kept dropping.
Hope came when I met a new friend that had almost identical issues, except her symptoms came in respiratory form – wheezing after eating. She recommended that I visit Progressive Medical in Atlanta and have some testing done. Progressive Medical is a holistic based center that deals with a number of issues, including gastroenterology. I called and made an appointment, then made the trek to Atlanta for my three hour visit.
I sat down with Dr. Bouquette, and he recorded a full medical background. He ordered a few tests for me, then grabbed my iPhone, and hit record. What followed was incredible. Every small issue, every symptom, was related to my stomach, something called ‘Leaky Gut.’
Dr. Bouquette told me I had four different imbalances: my small bowel was inflamed (redness in my face called a butterfly rash), I was eating something I was allergic to (dark circles under my eyes called Shiners), I had a low functioning thyroid (feeling lethargic, cold hands and feet, thinning hair, slow heartbeat), and I had adrenal stress (painful to lay on my side).
He started with the first. As a woman, he told me, there are three things you can do to upset the balance in your gut – having babies, taking birth control pills for longer than two years, and taking antibiotics, steroids, and ibuprofen, I was guilty of the last two. I took so many antibiotics growing up for my sinus infections. While it killed off the infection, it also killed off all of the good bacteria in my gut. Eighty percent of the immune system is based off of your stomach. AKA not good news for me.
Problem two – I was eating something I was allergic to. There are two types of food allergies, immediate and delayed. Immediate takes less than twenty minutes for the symptoms to manifest. If you’re allergic to peanuts within twenty minutes your lips are swollen, you have a rash, you need immediate help. You would take an antihistamine, and avoid peanuts. These are the types of allergies that are found through a test of panels, usually done on your back. I don’t have any of these types of allergies. All of my allergies are delayed, with symptoms appearing 5-7 days after I eat the food.
So imagine eating an orange on Monday, and on Friday you don’t sleep well, you wake up with a UTI, or your stomach hurts. It’s hard to make the connection to a food you ate five days ago. So during those eight years of hospital visits I was guessing, based off of the food I ate right before. I eliminated beef, lettuce, and shellfish from my diet over these years, but nothing worked. This type of allergy can only be picked up through a blood test, which most doctors don’t perform.
The most common types of delayed allergies are eggs, dairy, wheat, soy, corn, coffee and aspartame. He told me that the quickest way to find out what someone is allergic to is to ask them what their favorite food is. When you eat a food, it goes from your stomach all the way through, but when you have ‘leaky gut’ like I do, particles of that food go into your blood stream. In the blood stream are little ‘PacMen’ antibodies that surround bacteria. It does the same with foods that you eat. When the food leaks out of your gut it activates your immune system, tying it up fighting battles with apples, for instance, instead of keeping you healthy. So say you were allergic to dairy, and then stopped eating cheese. Those little PacMen are looking for something to do. Your body will then start craving cheese, and it becomes what you’re eating most.
Problem three – low acting thyroid. Most of my life I have had dangerously cold feet and hands. On a winter day, my feet are a shade of purple. I knew I had poor blood flow, but didn’t think that there was much I could do about it. I’ve also had dry skin, but again, thought that was just my skin type. Your body should have 25ppm (parts per million) of iodine in your saliva, and 15ppm of iodine in your urine. I had goose egg. Zero. Nada.
Problem four – Adrenal stress. When you pit your hands on your hips you’re close to your adrenal glands. When I put my hands on my hips I wanted to cry. The pain I felt when I laid on my side or when Ron rested is arm on my hip was unbearable. The physical stress of what was happening in my stomach, along with the outside stress of life caused severe adrenal stress.
The solution – four tests including taking twenty vials of blood. I passed out as soon as they were done. The blood test is run against 96 for the most common foods to see how your body reacts.
My results came back with 21 negative reactions:
Casein (the protein used to make cheese)
I was also given a ziplock of supplements larger than any in Monica Geller’s organizational collection. Here’s the rundown.
XymoDine (one per day) – to replace my lack of Iodine, in combination with a prescription thyroid medication
Vitamin D3 (one per day), Biotin (one per day), Pure Omega (one per day) – used for the lack of vitamins and minerals in my blood
Capryl (two per day) – helps eliminate the build up of yeast in my body from my years of bread abuse. I also had to eliminate sugar, which added to the yeast growth in my gut.
Pro Adrenal (one in the morning, two at noon) – taken for energy throughout the day and to reduce the swollen adrenal glands, and adrenal stress
L-Theanine (two per day) and Natural Calm (one scoop at bedtime) – helps regulate stress levels, Natural Calm also helps with sleep (this one actually tastes good)
Biocidin (one in the morning, two at night) and Intestamine (one scoop in the morning, one scoop at night)- helps eliminate the bad bacteria in my stomach
Probiotic (four per day) – replenishes the good bacteria that has gone missing
Pre-Natal Gummy (two per day) – the best overall vitamin for my body, sans baby
Glutamine (one scoop per day) – fuels the cells that line my intestines, good for gut health
So with a combination of avoiding my list of foods, and taking my huge bag of supplements, it should take about 9-12 months for my symptoms to subside. It’s not easy, I used to kill a cheese plate by myself, but ending up in the hospital for the umpteenth time isn’t worth the gruyere.
It takes 9-12 months to heal leaky gut. Until then I’m on a paleo diet, very close to the ‘Whole 30’ with those exclusions above. More to come on what I actually eat, and how order off of a restaurant menu without looking like a total freak. Half of the time Ron will ask about ingredients for me to give me a break from being the one that gets strange looks. I have also started acupuncture, which helps with the healing process, and I’ll share more on that later. For those going through this same issue, I’m happy to answer any questions that may help you! Or just commiserate with how much you miss cheese…
Disclaimer: consult a doctor before taking any supplement or medication. The information above is a summary of my personal experience, and should not be directly applied to a person’s symptoms. This blog is not related to Progressive Medical Center.