My Health Journey - Part 2 (GI)

Ok, so when we left off (if you're reading these in order) I was pretty distraught. Alotta problems. No real answers. Here are the other parts to this wonderful series of the decline of my health: My Health Journey - Part 1 (Overview)  // My Health Journey - Part 3 (Adrenals) // My Health Journey - Part 4 (Thyroid). So during this whole onslaught of bad news and not having a clue what to do about it, I was working full time at a health insurance company (ironic, but handy), newly married, and simultaneously getting my wedding photography business off the ground. Oh, and feelinglikeIwasdyingeveryday. So the holistic Dr. who initially did the bloodwork that started all this chaos, thought we should address GI problems first, considering GI can pretty much be the source of most problems in the body/immune system. So here's what we found out. 

Intestinal Hyperpermeability. WTH is that? Well, it is commonly referred to as Leaky Gut Syndrome. OH, thanks for the clarification. Again, WTH is that? And while you're at it, could we possibly think of a less unattractive/creepy term for a medical condition? Because I don't even want to admit I have it. Like, it sounds as if my stomach might fall out of my body, no?  So, I got this diagnosis considering I had several indicators: vitamin deficiencies, low stomach acid, had signs of chronic infection, and I wasn't digesting proteins well. Also, if you have leaky gut, you will test positive for food allergies. Simply put, leaky gut is is where the stomach lining gets irritated and the tight junctions, which keep nutrients in and bad stuff out, start to get compromised. Eventually, undigested food particles get into the bloodstream and your immune system attacks them - which it should do because they don't belong there - and you develop antibodies (allergies) to certain foods. Usually, it's the foods you eat most often, which makes sense; but what doesn't make sense is these are allergies you cannot see or feel. They are strictly internal. Not only does this cause GI problems, but a whole chain of immune system reactions and is believed to be one of the major causes of autoimmune diseases. If you're interested in the science behind leaky gut, Google can steal your life away with endless information on the topic if you choose to let it. Which I did. But here's a thorough explanation of leaky gut from Sarah Ballantyne, PhD.

Food intolerances. As referenced above, these aren't the kind of allergies where your throat closes up and you can't breathe. These are internal reactions, determined by a specific IgG blood test, that identifies antibodies your immune system has created against certain foods that have gotten into the blood stream because of leaky gut. My test revealed 18 allergies. The first step in healing leaky gut is to remove the foods your body reacts to but also the ones that cause the most inflammation.So, in the midst of everything, I was told that I had to give up 18 foods I regularly ate and also axe the "big 8 allergens" --  gluten, soy, nuts, corn, eggs dairy, and so on. Now if any of you have ever tried eliminating even ONE of those foods - you are well aware they are in EVERYTHING. To say this was overwhelming doesn't begin to describe it. I'm Italian, first of all. And second of all, refer to point one. I've written out my current diet in detail here. And you know what is even more fun than explaining that you have Leaky Gut? Explaining that you suddenly have a billion foods that you can't eat, which you were just eating last week. 

This is not my image, believe it or not. So my thanks to HOllywood, or Germany?

This is not my image, believe it or not. So my thanks to HOllywood, or Germany?

Polyps. Aside from trying to heal leaky gut, we went ahead with an endoscopy to see if I had any damage down there, including the big "C" - Celiac. Of course, I'd rather have that big C than the other one. Endoscopy is that simple little routine test that killed Joan Rivers. They "consciously sedate" you and shove a tube down your throat into your small intestine. Translation: YOU ARE AWAKE AS THEY SHOVE A TUBE DOWN YOUR THROAT. Pretty sure I had about 7 panic attacks in the waiting room at Mayo. If you're scared to get this done - you should be. And the last thing I'm here to do is comfort you. It's freaking scary. The results were: I had no signs of ulcers, acid reflux or esophageal irritation. I did, however, have multiple gastric fundic polyps (well that doesn't sound good) and it was inconclusive whether I had Celiac or not. This could be because I was already on a gluten free diet for several months - which is why there are a lot of misdiagnosed Celiacs. They found elevated leukocytes (white blood cells) as well. We later did the genetic Celiac testing and it did not indicate I have the gene.

Lactulose Breath Test = fasting + drinking straight lactose and doing a breathalyzer every 20 minutes for half a day

Lactulose Breath Test = fasting + drinking straight lactose and doing a breathalyzer every 20 minutes for half a day

SIBO. This is the most recent development, as I just found it out in February 2015. After I had been on this journey for almost two years, a GI doctor thought my symptoms were indicative of SIBO (as did I) and I did a Lactulose breath test to determine if I have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. And I do. Well great. SIBO is when you get an overgrown of bacteria (good or bad) in the small intestine. It can be from a variety of different causes, but usually a malfunction of a valve leading into the colon. This is not only a very hard thing to get rid of - if possible at all - but it also contributes to my other issues of leaky gut/food allergies/compromised immune system in a cyclical manner. On top of that, this is sort of just gaining attention in the GI world and doctors are inexperienced in treating it because there hasn't been an approved antibiotic for it yet. And if you know anything about the medical world, if they can't prescribe a drug for it then they aren't interested. That being said, SIBO is now attributed to be the underlying cause of almost 80% of all IBS cases. So you'll be hearing a lot more about this in the upcoming years. In the mean time, I've sought out a Dr. on the west coast - which translates to: very expensive. The upside: things finally make more sense. The biggest one being why after being on a gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar free diet for two years I still have continual bloating and intolerance to foods. Well, that's SIBO. And when I say bloating - I mean, "Hi, I'm 6 months pregnant!" bloating - not just the kind you get on Thanksgiving.

Parasite. It was also discovered I have a microscopic parasite called Endolimax. Hmmm.  An homage to all of the worldly travels of my early 20s? Perhaps. Or that ex boyfriend who owned a bird? Maybe. All we know is it's difficult to treat. There are herbal protocols that try to treat this, but are usually unsuccessful and hard on the body. Unfortunately, if you have a parasitic infection going on - you will most likely never resolve the rest of your GI issues as it creates constant inflammation and taxes the immune system. So you see where this leaves me. In a big, tangled mess of problems that are all cyclical with one another. 

So, that's what's going on as I sit here writing this. I'll be writing a more detailed post on what interventions, supplements, consults, and action steps I'm taking to crawl out of this tangled mess of GI problems. And there's a lot of stuff.

By the way, here are the other parts to this series: 

My Health Journey - Part 1 (Overview)  // My Health Journey - Part 2 (GI)  // My Health Journey - Part 3 (Adrenals) // My Health Journey - Part 4 (Thyroid)

Wondering who's the mysterious wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation.