My Health Journey
Let me start by stating that, by no means, do I have all the answers or the credentials to diagnose or recommend treatment for your specific illnesses or health issues. Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with the specific answer you may be looking for. However, what I can do and what I am doing in this post, is sharing with you my story. If there is a small piece that resonates with you and encourages you to seek professional help or try something different, than I am more than willing to share in order to help you along your way.
For those who have been following me for awhile, you know I have struggled with a plethora of health issues over the past 5+ years. Digestive issues (bloat, constipation, etc), appendectomy, hernia removal, SIBO (twice), shingles, food poisoning, a parasite, a pretty serious concussion, and, now, mercury poisoning... just to give you an idea. Hell, it was why I started this account in the first place. So fed up with having to explain my thousand different food intolerances to restaurants, I began cooking on my own. Now, here we are. It has been one hell of an emotional roller coaster and there have been plenty of days where the frustration and discomfort wins and I simply break down and cry.
To go from feeling like an incredibly healthy and fit person with a functioning digestive system to the lethargic, constantly bloated, and stressed person I became was an incredibly frustrating journey. After college, it became clear that something changed. I wasn't sure what it was exactly, but I was suddenly unable to digest anything and constantly suffering from bloat, constipation, and severe discomfort. I would like to think I have a high pain tolerance (hell, I went straight from a full day at work to the hospital to get my appendix taken out that night), but some of these flare ups were unbearable. With the digestive issues came the mind/gut connection and the never ending cycle of stress and anxiety over what I was going to eat, having a flare-up (partly induced by the stress), and then anger over feeling the way I did. Looking back, there were some dark times during all of this. A lot of anger, frustration, self-hate, and criticism. Why, all of a sudden, was my body failing me in the ways it was?
What began simply as bloat turned into a slew of medical diagnoses and treatments, all outlined below, which meant I was constantly seeing different doctors and trying to explain myself. I am very in-tune with my body and aware when something is off (sometimes, to a fault), and it was clear that there was something these doctors were missing. However, trying to explain this to the doctors of the Western medicine world we live in was seemingly difficult. There were so many doctors appointments where I was made out to feel foolish, crazy, and downright dumb because my labs did not show anything to support my claims. I cannot tell you the amount of times I left the office crying, officially feeling as if I was loosing my mind. If you've been there, you know what I'm talking about.
I am here to tell you to keep fighting. Keep tracking your symptoms and listening to your body. Keep trying to find the root cause and get to the bottom of it. All it takes is one doctor to actually listen to you, run a test that no one else has before, and figure out what is going on. Majority of the time, we are not wrong, its just a matter of figuring out what is causing the issue. While I wish I could provide the answer to all of you looking for one, I can unfortunately only tell you what has worked for me and encourage you to continue along your own path. No two stories or bodies are the same and no two roads to health are linear. Trust me, it is a journey, this is not an overnight fix. As you can tell by the video, my story, and the timeline below, this has been an incredibly lengthy one for me, and I'm sure its far from over. However, it is something I am willing to fight for. Don't give up or get down on yourself, this is all a page in your book.
My Top Tips for Someone on this Journey:
Consistently tracked my symptoms and medical files in one place. With every doctor's appointment, I felt I left more overwhelmed than when I had entered. There is always so much information being thrown at me (a lot of which, I don't understand) and different lab results. When receiving all this information, I made sure to take notes during doctor's visits and save all of my labs to one place on my computer. I also made sure to actively take notes to track my symptoms in order to provide accurate timelines when visiting with new doctors or to reflect upon.
Find a doctor that listens to you and actually hears what you have to say. There is nothing worse than having a doctor make you feel like you are crazy. I believe there is a time and place for both the Eastern & Western worlds of medicine, and that is why I keep my life semi separate. Yes, I still have a well regarded primary care doctor at a well-known hospital for the emergencies of the world (i.e. helping me get in immediately for my appendectomy and scheduling neurologists appointments for my concussion), but it was clear from the beginning he was not going to be the one to figure out what was causing all of my digestive issues. While not ideal, that is okay. I just had to find someone that was going to.
Speak up and trust your voice. It is easy to be persuaded into believing what you're feeling is not correct and to not speak up when in a doctor's office. I get it, they know a lot more than the average person. But you are your biggest advocate, don't forget that! Speak your mind, ask questions, and trust yourself.
Test out different realms of medicine. Medicine doesn't need to only mean prescription pills. I explored the realms of visceral manipulation, reiki, meditation, herbal supplements, acupuncture, and many other forms of treatment. Explore, figure out what works for you, and keep doing it.
Manage your stress. It is really fucking stressful to deal with something like this. More than most people can imagine. Unfortunately, stress does not help the healing process in any way. Find ways to manage your stress and make that a priority just like you would taking your prescriptions.
My Post College Health Timeline:
May 2013: graduated college
July 2014: appendectomy and hernia removal
Majority of 2014 spent extremely bloated
November 2014: severe bloat over Thanksgiving
August/September 2015: very short of breath, especially when going to sleep
September 2015: when I noticed I couldn’t yell across the room at a wedding because I was so short of breath
October 2015: first diagnosis of SIBO, treated with Xifaxin
October 2015-January/Feb 2016: did low FODMAP diet and figured out some triggers. Cut out garlic & onion for following 3 years
November 2015: had an upper endoscopy. Have focal intestinal metaplasia – cells that look like intestinal cells found in my stomach. Focal is the key word, wanted to track that to make sure it didn’t grow
September 2016: went to South Africa and got food poisoning
November 2016: had a second upper endoscopy. Found focal intestinal metaplasia but it hadn’t grown since last time
June 2017: shingles on my neck
August 2017-April 2018: worked with a functional medicine practitioner for all of this
November 2017: tested positive for Cdiff and Giardia (parasite). Wasn't treated because spent next 4 months back and forth fighting with doctors over different stool tests and results
April 2018: left my corporate job
July 2018: began going to Parsley Health
July 2018: began working with new acupuncturist and visceral manipulation practitioner
September 2018: second diagnosis of SIBO (any change in hydrogen over 20ppm is SIBO and mine was 96). Treated with Xifaxin and an antifungal natural remedy
September 2018: got bloodwork done and heavy metal levels were high, but put off further testing because of wedding
October 2018: got married and went away for our honeymoon. Surprisingly my SIBO symptoms were at bay by the time of our wedding.
December 2018: got urine test done for heavy metals and came back extremely high for mercury. Supposed to be <4 and my level was 110
January 1-10 2019: did the metagenics 10day clear change metabolic detox program to prepare liver
January 14, 2019: began chelation therapy through DMSA pill form
January-Current: chelation therapy, sauna, visceral manipulation, acupuncture
People/Practitioners That Have Helped Me Along the Way:
Functional medicine: I believe this is the future of our medical industry. I used to see Anne Lemons over FaceTime (she is not based in NYC) and now am a member of Parsley Health. They were the ones to discover my mercury poisoning and treat it thus far. Truly do not believe I could've figured this out without their help.
Gastroenterologist: I highly recommend making this your first stop if you are dealing with digestive issues. I recommend Dr. Caterina Oneto in NYC
Acupuncturist: not only can this help with the specific symptoms you may be suffering with, but it also is an incredible tool to help manage stress, which you are likely suffering from. In this post I include a list of recommended practitioners from you all.
Therapist: talk that shit out. We all need to vent, and this is the perfect tool to do so to open, well-trained, ears. In this post I include a list of recommended practitioners from you all.
Meditation: from a stress-management standpoint, this practice has changed my life. I went to Ziva for a four-day in person course to begin my practice and it was an incredible experience. If you are not in NYC or LA, they offer an online course as well.
Visceral Manipulation: more of my "woo-woo" practices that I firmly believe in, this hands on physical therapy for your organs has truly helped my healing process. I have spent time with both Jim Harwood and Delia and enjoyed them both
Photograph taken by @carlylandoltphoto