I'm infuriated with my intestines.
I despise my digestion.
My stomach makes me sad.
|A page out of Bagels, Buddy, and Me. Sick villi lie flat and can't digest food properly.|
|This scene has been on repeat at my house lately.|
See? This is why I don't like writing about this. "Stool" and "Candida" are such yucky words, let alone substances. The reality is, though, that lots of people - male and female - develop this issue, and I'm thankful or those who have written about it. (Though I have almost NONE of the typical symptoms.) So, what follows is a bit of my history and current battle.
When I was 8 years old I was hospitalized for stomach ulcers. Evidently, they were sprinkled all over my stomach. I've had several "upper GI" x-rays that included delicious barium drinks since that time. (Thankfully no "lower GI" x-rays and barium "drinks" for that - yet.) My mom's answer to me having chronic stomach pain was to make me drink lots of milk. "It coats your stomach lining," was the medical wisdom of the day. She even required the nurse at my small town elementary school to come and pull me out of class mid-morning EVERY DAY of first and second grade and sit in her office and drink a small carton of milk. I was also put on the "Ulcer Diet." One thing I remember from that list was "grapes, but not the skins." As if eating grapes was worth the trouble of peeling them. Spicy food was also off limits, and when you grow up in Texas, that's kind of a big deal.
(My parents also divorced when I was 8, but I wasn't able to make the probable connections that had to my stomach issues until much later in life.)
Later, dinners out with friends often ended with me lying down in a car somewhere. Regular birthday celebrations and meals at "Miss Riggs'" apartment (our favorite teacher!) all throughout high school often sent me to the couch for a while afterward. Once, on a journalism trip to the University of Texas with my yearbook and newspaper crew I asked my journalism teacher to drive me through the Wendy's drive through for a baked potato, not being able to eat what everyone else was eating due to having a terrible stomach ache.
I got off the pill two years later in order to get pregnant with Kory, and never took it again. I hated taking it, and dislike taking pretty much any prescription meds at all, but at times it seemed like the only option. And this was long before the internet and abundance of information on natural health and natural family planning.
My stomach and intestinal issues (pain after meals, bloating, diarrhea) worsened with each pregnancy. By the time I was pregnant with Kayla we did have internet, and the very first things I searched were "irritable bowel syndrome", "pain after eating", etc. Part of me thought these things were just a normal part of life and eating, that everyone's stomach hurts and blows up like a balloon after meals, but Robert would assure me that this was not the case. I can still cause him alarm by protruding my "9 months pregnant belly" after a meal. And just when he thought we were about to be empty nesters...
|Turmeric: a natural anti-fungal|
Last winter/spring though, I had an episode that sent me back to the doctor searching for other potential issues. I ate a gluten free, all-tapioca flour roll (I do cheat on the Paleo diet occasionally!) from Whole Foods with some soup. Cue severe intestinal distress for two days. (The Candida monster loves to be fed high carb, high sugar, so I think the tapioca starch made him really happy!) I ended up doubled over after a women's retreat planning meeting at my friend Ashleigh's house. She was sweet enough to bring me some essential oil in water to settle the pain and let me snuggle on her amazing, oversized bean bag until I could get in my car to go home. There was also the tiniest amount of blood in my stool, and that's always a sign to see the doctor.
|Goat milk kefir, store bought bone broth just in case, probiotics, ginger, good pastured butter, ginger root|
and cider doughnuts...sadly, for the family we were delivering a meal to that night, and not for us!
GAPS diet. I've known about this diet for years, heard tons of success stories, and even sent the book to folks I knew would benefit from it. I never really considered needing it myself, but it was becoming clear that my villi and enterocytes still needed the restoration that the GAPS diet promises.
The diet begins with a lot of bone broth. Then it progresses to bone broth with cooked veggies and then added meat. I've been drinking lots of it or eating it like a soup or blending it with veggies to change it's presentation. Sometimes I add a little coconut milk for excitement. The only other thing really allowed is no-sugar yogurt (or kefir) and lemon-ginger "tea." I wasn't supposed to drink any black tea or coffee because of a mold sensitivity and also because caffeine suppresses the immune system and wears on the adrenals. Broth, goat milk kefir, and lemon-ginger water. That's what my diet consisted of last week - and for most of the two weeks prior with some additions because of travel and other responsibilities.
|The makings of GAPS "tea."|
Those were helpful words.
|Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.|
Sweet potatoes, red potatoes, quinoa, winter squash, and steel cut oats are the carbs she helped me settle on. Fearing I wouldn't make it through my appointments yesterday - PSAT and babysitting jobs for Kayla, appointments with two young women from church, seminary assignments, errands etc., I began eating my way through the day. Fried eggs and hash browns for breakfast, an almond milk latte at the UMASS campus center, a smoothie from The Works where I had picked up Kayla's post-PSAT lunch, some chili from my favorite South Hadley restaurant, and a grain-free peanut butter cookie from The Woodstar Cafe as well as some (real, black) hot tea with honey. I could literally feel the infusion of energy making its way through my body. Yes, I (and all of us) need SOME carbs and sugar. Anti-fungals + super powered probiotics + a strict GAPS diet was taking a toll on me.
Here's a few pics from this past weekend. Robert and I did a little breakout session on dating and marriage at a collegiate conference where I could not eat anything at all in the boxed lunch that was provided. I made a fast dash to Whole Foods between sessions for chicken soup and then grabbed this appetizing meal for later when we stopped at Five Guys for Robert to get some nourishment before making the trek back home from Cape Cod.
|See? He won't do the bun anymore - unless they have a gluten free version.|
Have I mentioned my love for cheeseburgers and fries? (Insert sad, crying emoji here.)
In hindsight, I probably should have thrown the fish out and gone for a Five Guys meat patty and veggies (and stolen a couple of Robert's fries), but I felt bad about throwing away food I had paid for. At least it would have been warm. My fish dish was about 2 hours cold. Double yum.
I was feeling pretty desperate on Tuesday before my Western Mass eating spree on Wednesday, so I scoured the internet for a GAPS-Candida-Legal muffin. I just really needed something that was not broth.
These probably don't look very appetizing to the untrained eye (or stomach), but to bone-broth-veggie-kefir-girl they were a glorious sight. Pumpkin, coconut flour, flax meal, coconut milk, and a bit of honey. I could barely wait for them to come out of the oven. When Robert stopped by for lunch that day he asked if he could have one, and I have to admit not wanting to share this warm and newly created treat. I warned him that he would not like them, but he was undeterred.
I wish I could say that I am better today. The symptoms I called the nurse about yesterday are worse, and so I've really cut back on the antifungals and probiotics for the time being. I've incorporated some carbs and healthy sugars, but am still waiting on the turn around. It's discouraging, because I actually felt much better when I was living with the symptoms that led me to this current journey. So while I do believe things had to get a bit worse before getting better, I'm really anxious for moving past the "getting worse" part.
Oh, and running! Two weeks ago I was able to run my usual 20 miles per week - or a little over 6 miles three mornings a week. It's a Monday-Wednesday-Friday morning routine that Robert and I hardly ever break. Last week I was down to a very slow 5 miles on those days, and yesterday I only made it two miles and had to turn around and walk home. I was too weak and depleted, which is also a sign that things aren't quite right, but movement is always beneficial in the healing process, so I wanted to keep getting out there.
Some morals to this story:
- Don't take antibiotics unless it's absolutely necessary.
- Or oral contraceptives. (But really all contraceptives mess with hormones and gut health.)
- If you do have to take these things, be sure and take a probiotic to replenish good bacteria.
- Really, you should just go ahead and take a probiotic anyway, or make sure you eat a lot of local, grass fed yogurt and fermented veggies. (Or make your own, which I'm about to embark upon. Yogurt, that is.)
- We definitely eat too many processed carbs and sugars in this country, but eliminating all carbs and natural sugar is not the way to go.
(Sadly, I have also come to hate preparing and drinking all types of bone broth at this point. Oh, I'll probably choke some down in the next few weeks, because it is so good for you, but still.)
A stomach of strength and stamina.
And dreamlike digestion.
The final puzzle piece in my gastrointestinal saga?
This is my hope and prayer.
(Did you read to the end? Thank you so much for your interest and kindness. I would really LOVE to hear from you, but could possibly get embarrassed by public Facebook comments. So, if we could keep the sympathy and bodily function mentions to a minimum? Private messages? That would be so nice. Thanks, friends.)
(Oh, and I know so many of you Plexus reps and about how wonderful the product is. I'll most likely move to that regimen when this course is finished. For now though, I think it's best if I stick to doctor's orders and tweak his suggested routine as needed. Don't worry, Plexus peeps, I'll be calling you!)