I wanted to share my full health story with everyone, so here today, I am going to get a little vulnerable and tell you about how I got here…
It was June 2013 when I first decided that I could take it no longer, that my life needed to change. I was lying on the bathroom floor when I woke up. I had passed out. How long for? I have no idea. I was alone and I got scared. “What was going on with me? What just happened? Do I need to call for help? What if something so serious was happening to me that I died here on my bathroom floor?!
Now of course, this is going to the extreme but my head did go there. When you pass out from pain, your head sometimes goes to the worst possible scenario.
For years, I had been experiencing intense gut pain. It had started maybe 7 years before this moment and to begin occurred just once. Naturally, I excused it and thought that it was connected to period pain. Then it happened again and I thought, “I didn’t eat anything out of the ordinary and I don’t have any allergies.” Then, over the years, it started occurring more frequently until it was occurring every month, then every couple of weeks, to a few times a week. It was particular in its occurrence. It woke me up at night between 2 and 5 am. I would always be dreaming. When the pain was approaching, in my dream whatever I was doing, to whomever I was talking, I would start to grab my stomach in pain. Then I would wake and I was literally rolling from side to side, trying to find a more comfortable position to help ease the pain.
It would quickly gain in intensity and I would pick myself up and go to the bathroom. I would sit on the toilet in hope for some relief…there was usually none. I would then go through a myriad of other more challenging symptoms: I would start to get really hot and sweaty, I felt like I needed to vomit and had the most intense of stabbing in my large intestine. In addition to this, my limbs would get tingly and I would feel weak. I never knew quite what to do but with the energy I had, I would try different things to alleviate the pain. I would start with massaging my gut, trying to move whatever was inside or at least cause myself enough discomfort that I could cope with the stabbing pains (masochistic much?!). I would try to go to the toilet, although that usually took too much energy so I often ended up laying down on the cold tiles of my grubby rental house and just close my eyes and breathe (and cry) until it passed.
The exhaustion that I would feel the next day was unbearable. I was unable to function at a normal capacity, surviving on strong and frequent espressos and the leftover ache in my belly felt like someone had taken to my guts with a baseball bat. Focusing was a challenge, working was a challenge, being on my feet was a challenge…and I am high school teacher (and introvert…lol).
So the episode that was so intense it made me pass out was my turning point/wake up call/light bulb moment, call it what you will. It was the moment that propelled me to make a change. It was time to figure out what was going on, as surely this was not normal, not something that other people experience too?? Or is it?
I booked myself an appointment for the gastroenterologist; a gut doctor who would surely know what was wrong with me. However, I left that appointment over $100 poorer and feeling really hopeless, not to mention embarrassed for having cried in her office. The verdict according to the doctor after listening to my story and poking my belly for a bit: “You have IBS. You need to eliminate food and see what is triggering your symptoms.” She also recommended a colonoscopy to make sure I didn’t have bowel cancer or another digestive issue (Cancer?! Wtf?!). She also recommended food allergy tests. I experienced a myriad of emotions during that 30 minute session but one feeling I hadn’t anticipated that came on when I walked out her door was anger. Her diagnosis (and solution) of IBS made me furious: furious that she was just going to plonk me into a notorious gut problem group, furious that she told me that I would have to live with this for the rest of my life, that I would just have to eliminate food and then avoid those foods forever. Not to mention furious that she scared me with the word ‘cancer’. Now in addition to her bedside manner being absolutely terrible, this gastroenterologist, with what I know now, was so bad at her job (diagnosis and suggestions) that I wonder how many other people have walked through her door, distressed and she has done the same thing to them.
That said, I wanted answers. So, I did it all.
I had a colonoscopy (which I told everyone was a gastroscopy because the idea of people knowing that someone was putting a tube up my ass was far too embarrassing!). I also had allergy tests for two of the most common allergens: lactose and fructose.
The results of the colonoscopy were clear, no problems (no cancer). Great.
The results of the allergy test were not clear. I was lactose intolerant.
Next logical step: eliminate lactose.
I went about life feeling better knowing that my problem was lactose. Finally, I had an answer. I unwillingly cut lactose out of my diet, switching to (gross) soy in my lattes and very sadly (I’m pretty sure I literally cried), got rid of cheese…my favourite food group.
The pain continued. There was no slowing down of it or stopping. It was still occurring several times a week.
Frustrated, I took myself to a dietician. Surely this woman would know what to do, after all, she was ALL about diets. She listened to me talk about my diet and said I ate very healthily. She told me all about FODMAPs and the common triggers people have to food and gave me a stack of reading. She asked me to keep a food journal and was very positive that she could heal me of my symptoms…symptoms she said she had never heard of before (I felt really confident after that – who says that to a patient?! No fake it before you make it?!).
Two weeks later I returned with my food diary. She looked through it for about 5 minutes. “Hmmm…” she said “…based on when your attacks have occurred, I think that the only real triggers here are garlic and onion. So, for the next fortnight, I would like you to continue your food diary and cut out all onion and garlic.”
I almost laughed out loud. This is how it’s going to be, I’m going to have to cut foods out of my diet and figure out what’s triggering these attacks. Soon all I’ll be eating is lettuce and it will probably be a good thing as I’ll be broke from seeing my dietician every fortnight. Yep, my attitude was being challenged. I was beyond frustrated.
Needless to say, I didn’t return. I thought it was time to take matters into my own hands. After all, my dad had been having many gut issues of his own so I started sharing everything with him and we started learning together, sharing things we learned along the way.
In July 2013, I went overseas. As I returned home, I had a stopover in Sydney. With time to kill and nothing to read, I went to the bookshop and found a book called “I Quit Sugar” by Sarah Wilson. (You’ve probably heard of it, she’s published all around the world now.) I opened it and started reading. The things she said made sense. I figured I had nothing to lose so bought it and read almost the whole thing on the plane ride home. I was convinced. First thing Monday, I would quit sugar and do her 8 week program. Piece of cake, right?! (I was really healthy after all)… but no, it was not easy (and I could no longer eat cake) but little did I know that this book purchase would change my life forever…
Fast forward 6 months and I had successfully quit sugar! Yay! (Thanks Sarah Wilson!) I had also discovered and was taking colostrum tablets (my dad had recommended them as they were helping him). I had pretty much done a 180…no more attacks. None. Not one.
In February 2014, my brother visited Australia bringing the family together. As always, we talked about exercise and diet (a common family topic) and my dad shared yet another thing he had come across: Low carb, high fat (or LCHF). Now this one was interesting… but purposely eating fat at every meal…hmmm, not sure if I can do that. After all, fat is BAD, even worse than sugar… I have been told so my whole life. But after much discussion, I started to understand what this meant and how to incorporate fat and why it may help me. The thought of giving up pasta and bread did not excite me but I always loved a challenge and I loved being different. So I embraced it. Literally as soon as I got home, I started to read and read and watch video after video about LCHF and decided to do it. I wasn’t sure it would be sustainable or good for me but I was on a health mission that had only just begun and I wanted to roll with it. In addition to this, I also decided to take my last contraceptive pill. I had learnt that this was really bad for my body and after 16 years on it, if I was going to try to get healthy, I should probably eliminate all chemicals from my system.
So with that said, I stopped the pill and I ditched the carbs (which went along with all that processed crap and sugar I had previously ditched). I also changed from colostrum to a high quality probiotic and away I went. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next and there were still lots of health problems that I had to work on – no “body” is perfect, after all, we are all quite damaged with our sugary, carb and processed heavy diets nowadays…I mean think of all the cases of disease, allergies, mental illness, cancer and don’t forget metabolic disease like diabetes, obesity and heart disease! There’s gotta be something going on if we’re all getting sicker and sicker…no?!
But I got better and I keep getting better. My weight, my skin, my hair, my nails, my hormones, my headaches, my moods, my energy. I attribute all this to a few things:
- Quitting sugar
- Starting LCHF (so all pasta, bread, rice, starchy/sugary foods gone)
- Healing my gut
(N.B I put my gut third but this was probably my whole problem to begin with – my gut microbes were out of balance because of my health history, genetics and diet which lead to an overpopulation of bad bacteria and my attacks. Cut out the food, no more feeding of the baddies. Introduce new good bacteria and feed them with my great diet and we have more good guys and less bad guys… but that’s just my guess.)
I think back to how far I’ve come from that moment on my bathroom floor. That moment that propelled me to change. I know that many people don’t have the same extreme situation of pain that I had, maybe you’re just a little overweight or have bad hay fever or get acne/pimples still and are well into your 30s, or bad PMS…? It’s worth thinking if there is something about your health that you would like to change…?? It may even be something like your hair greying early or your skin looking old or bags under your eyes. All of these things, I believe, can be improved or changed with diet and good gut health. You can give every cell in your body a better chance to survive and thrive and you will feel better for it.
Or, you may actually be visiting my site (thanks by the way) because you’re looking a solution to a problem, like I was. Whatever your motive, I’m glad you’re here, I’m glad you want to give it a go.
Feel free to comment below and share why you’re here today.
Love (and healthy fats) Bianca x