This week I got some news that I've been waiting four years to hear. "You have candida and a leaky gut." While it was a weight off my shoulders and I felt the guessing game was finally coming to an end, I also got a knot in my belly knowing that there was more to come.
Before I jump into what I went through this week & what's to come for me in the next 3-6 months, I'd like to take a few steps back. I think you'll only truly understand where I am and where I'm going if you know where I've been. So let's go back, waayyy back, back into time.
In 2012 all of my gut issues began. Back then I had no idea what was going on. I thought I had just 2 too many black bean tacos or I overdid it on the broccoli for the fourth time that week. I was just beginning my journey to a healthy lifestyle. I was coming off of a journey that was filled with fast food, way too much alcohol and not enough exercise. I was ready for a change. I was ready to stop feeling bad about myself and start loving who I was internally & externally from the inside out.
That process started with food for me. I had always known that nutrition was at the heart of living a healthy lifestyle, no matter how often you chose to work out or not. And thankfully I really love vegetables. Back then, it wasn't uncommon for me to have a salad every day with dinner, a green smoothie for breakfast or a few veggies as a snack. I wasn't the person with which you had to force vegetables, I'd gladly take them. But, after a few months, the stomach pains started to rolling in.
It was every day or on any sort of rhythm that I could pin down. Sometimes I could go a few days without a flare up, and other days I would have stomach pain from sun up to sun down. After a few months to a year of this, I was starting to get really frustrated. I really enjoyed cooking & eating food but, these stomach pains were making all of that a little less pleasurable. I was starting to look at food as evil to an extent because it would continue to cause me a lot of pain.
The symptoms I was feeling were extreme bloating, sharp pains & excess gas. I didn't have any issues with pooping (sorry, there's really no easy way to say it and we're all adults here) which I am grateful for. Everything I felt began and stayed in my stomach. The bloating and gas were so extreme that it I would look a few months pregnant or couldn't fit my clothes properly. Needless to say, leggings were my BFF.
We're at about 2014 now when I decided that I no longer could deal with this amount of pain and that I needed to see a doctor. Something you should know about me is that I'm not the biggest fan of western medicine but, I was desperate. But unfortunately, this doctor proved me right when he told me to stop eating the foods hurting my stomach, shrugged his shoulders at a diagnosis and called in a prescription of some sort. This isn't how I operate. I don't want to be tossed a bottle of pills, I want to treat the condition from the inside out. I'm okay with taking the foods out but, I need to know WHY my body isn't properly digesting the common everyday foods.
I went to see one more doctor in 2015 before I decided that I was going back to my own methods and did a Whole30. This was the most success I'd had with helping my gut that I'd seen since Day 1. But unfortunately, after the 30 days were up, so was the calm gut. And I was back to a bloated belly full of gas. I still couldn't figure out what the culprit was to pain. And at this point I'd removed quite a lot of foods from my diet. No beans (of any kind except green beans), broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts. cauliflower & carbonated drink. I lessened my intake of garlic and onions too. Still no relief.
It wasn't until 2017 when my friend recommended I go see a functional medicine doctor at the Cleveland Clinic did I truly start to get some answers. My first appointment was heaven. Truly, it was. My doctor didn't look at me as if I was crazy or making things up. She took what I was describing seriously and to her, it all made sense. During that first appointment, she was able to narrow down all of my symptoms down to a few causes.
After telling her everything I'd been going through and some life history stuff too, she finally shared that my gut began tearing down due to stress, antibiotics, birth control & my diet. I was floored! STRESS?! The way she explained it was that when your body determines something as stressful (a death, breakup, mental issues, struggling with body issues, weak work/life balance, over exercising, etc.) it kills the good bacteria in the body. The antibiotics & birth control also kill the good bacteria. And then a diet high in sugar and carbs feed the bad bacteria and they grow like crazy.
After speaking to her I was directed to a nutritionist who suggested I do an elimination diet for 4-6 weeks to find out which foods cause me the most problem. I was also directed to take several blood labs (like 24 of them) to narrow down the condition. After doing both, feeling better but still not having distinct answers as to which foods cause me to flare up I was feeling frustrated again.
And here we are, to May 16th when I finally hear the words "you have candida & a leaky gut." Finally, an actual answer that I can understand and begin healing. And so, what does that healing process look like?
I have been asked to do a more strict elimination diet for 12 weeks that consists of no dairy, gluten, legumes, sugar, starchy vegetables, alcohol, caffeine, high-sugar fruits or high carb meals. I know it may sound a bit crazy but on the flipside, I'm able to have protein, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats & low glycemic (sugar) fruits. In addition to the diet, I'll also be taking supplements to help feed the good bacteria and get them to grow while starving and killing off the candida from the elimination plan.
The next 12 weeks will be a bit of a challenge but, thankfully I know my way around the kitchen. :) And I have an end goal in mind. My doctor reassured me that I won't always have to eat this way and that we're now on the road to recovery.
If you're still reading this & possibly going through a similar situation I urge you to find a physician that you trust and not try to deal with things completely on your own. There is a lot of information out there but your symptoms are unique to you.
Have you experienced any gut health issues? If you feel comfortable share your story in the comments, you never know who it might inspire.