My digestive issues started at birth. I was colicky and intolerant to certain foods from the start. I was a C-section but luckily breastfed! I grew up eating the Standard American Diet, and it was common for me to run to the bathroom mid-meal. We joked about it as a family. On our way home from eating out, I would always be sick. I’d say, “T-minus 15 mins until I blow! Drive fast!” The only way I knew how to cope with these issues was through humor.
At 18 years old, I saw a Gastroenterologist who ordered a colonoscopy and CT scan. The doctor said everything was fine. I just had IBS, and I should eat more fiber… sound familiar?
When I was 22, the symptoms became unbearable, embarrassing, and debilitating. I was experiencing chronic stress. I had just moved to NYC to pursue a career as a professional dancer, and trying to survive was tough, to say the least. I had no friends or contacts, and my job was INCREDIBLY stressful. I worked at a comedy club in Times Square as a waitress, with NO previous serving experience (I may have embellished my resume a bit), and the work environment was terrible. I was also in an emotionally abusive relationship with an older, possessive and, controlling man. I still have nightmares about this time. Needless to say, I was in rough shape, and so was my gut.
I had bloating, gas, and diarrhea starting at 5 pm every day. It lasted all night and was so painful. I had a very high tolerance to pain from all the years of digestive discomfort, but this was next-level stuff.
I hesitated to go to the doctor for fear of the useless IBS diagnosis. Finally, I decided to see a gastroenterologist in NYC and took a breath test. My hydrogen levels were through the freakin’ roof! She diagnosed me with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and prescribed the antibiotic, Rifaxamin.
She was a busy doctor, like most doctors, so she could not spend much time with me, but I wanted an explanation. “What does SIBO mean?” I asked.
She was lovely and took the time to draw the gut on a piece of paper and try to explain what was happening with my body. She talked about the Low FODMAP diet and told me to download a handy app.
But things were still very unclear.
Why can’t I eat these foods?
Why can I eat broccoli stalks but not broccoli heads?
What are oligosaccharides?
Are carbs sugars?
What is this antibiotic doing? I thought antibiotics were bad?
I had so many questions, and when I typed them into Google I was led down a rabbit hole of more uncertainty.
But the Rifaximin (antibiotic) worked! I felt so much better!
Then about a month after the two-week treatment, symptoms came back. I went back to see her, and she prescribed more Rifaximin. This is how it went for a few years.
I thought I’d keep taking the antibiotics. I’ll hoard them. I’ll go back to the doctor as much as possible and get as many prescriptions as I can. I’ll hoard them, so I’ll always be stocked. She mentioned that it might NOT be a good idea to be on the antibiotic for a while because it’s a new drug that hasn’t been studied long term, but I didn’t care; it was my savior.
I lived relatively asymptomatically, eating whatever I wanted for a few more years. I loosely followed the Low FODMAP diet so that I could limit my symptoms. I continued to relapse after each antibiotic treatment.
After about five treatments I was not able to get this drug anymore so I started looking into natural remedies. Google was not giving me much useful information but podcasts were.
That was the beginning. I found several podcasts that absolutely changed my life. I was introduced to Functional Medicine. I would listen to doctors, scientists, and researchers talk about how the human body works, the microbiome’s importance, and how new research shows some unbelievable correlations between the microbiota and our health.
This was a revelation! I discovered that I had way more options than I thought. I had so many more resources and started to feel in control of my health. I not only understood why I felt the way I did, but I learned what may have caused my SIBO (heavy antibiotic use, c-section, poor diet, chronic stress). This was HUGE. I understood that education was the answer. The more I knew about my own body and the healthiest practices, the closer I would get to healing and preventing relapse.
I decided I wanted to learn how to help others heal themselves too. I enrolled in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition’s® health coaching course. I realized that the conventional medicine model does not leave room for education. This is not the fault of the doctors. It’s not in their business model. There is a void that educated health coaches can fill. I can provide clarity and perspective about an individual’s health by using a holistic model rather than the Conventional Medicine model. It is about investigating and addressing the root cause or underlying issues rather than symptom treating.
Throughout this year of discovery, I went through a lot of trial and error cycles. I would try magnesium, L-glutamine, vitamin D, intermittent fasting, fermented foods, prebiotics, probiotics, antimicrobials, vegetarian diet, carnivore diet, anything! Every day was something new.
It wasn’t until I got further in my health coaching course that one essential thing became clear—the difference between symptom treating and getting to the root cause of your health issues. I learned about physiology and how I can support the systems of my body. I no longer have SIBO or the GI issues I had my entire life. I have more energy and can focus on important goals. I am a work in progress, but I no longer look to Google for medical advice (unless researching). I now know how to help myself.
As a health coach, I can spread the philosophies of holistic healing. I can teach others how to take care of themselves and understand their bodies. Prevention and reversal of disease are possible! It takes self-responsibility and willpower, but with the right person by your side, it may be easier than you think.