Not okay. Debilitating. Agonizing. Miserable. I want to give up but I can’t. I do NOT have to live like this. I AM DONE.
Those are the thoughts that were running through my head a couple months ago. I stopped everything. Stopped reading. Stopped writing. Stopped blogging. Even stopped eating most of the time. Nothing was worth it. Every daily task was a monumental chore because of the basketball in my stomach. That’s what it feels like. A basketball, pushing on your gut relentlessly, ruthlessly, cruelly. It was ruining every part of my life.
Years of tests at the doctor. Endoscopies, colonoscopies, barium swallows, gastric emptying, MRIs, CT scans, pelvic ultrasounds. “Your test results are normal.”
THEN WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH ME?????!!! Would you please just FIND SOMETHING so we can FIX IT?!
Several weeks ago a Facebook friend posted a blurb on my wall about a natural healthcare center. “Free Phone Consultation,” it said. I scrolled on by. A few days later I went back and looked at it again. “Our two doctors have a combined 34 years of experience helping people with chronic, unresolved health conditions.” Okay, maybe I’ll consider it. What do I have to lose with a simple phone consultation?
So I called. The consultation was scheduled and the doctor called right on time. I told him my story, from the very beginning. He listened. And he heard. He got what I was telling him. He was clearly no stranger to this kind of thing. The clincher was towards the end of the conversation when he said, “We got this. No problem.”
Dr. F strongly advised me to bring my spouse to the first appointment. We dropped Alyssa off at Grandma and Papa’s and continued south to the clinic. In the span of two hours, Dr. F asked a few more questions and explained to us how treatment worked there. He emphasized how very much everything in the body is intricately connected and how every single function of the body starts in the brain. It was amazing and way more interesting to me than it should have been. His approach was profoundly different than the medical doctors I had seen, a complete 180 from the tests that I’d had and the medications I’d been prescribed.
My mind was BLOWN.
My treatment officially started the first week of July. At the first appointment Dr. F took me through a list of the lab tests he ordered for me based on my symptoms and issues. Then I met Dr. I, the functional neurologist (I call him “the brain guy). He tapped my knees and tested my balance and ran a stick down the bottoms of my feet, among about six dozen other things, all the while writing notes on his clipboard. This was my brain evaluation.
The next week was the blood draw. A phlebotomist named Lou took several vials of blood for several different tests.
The other tests were ones that I would do at home – kits that I would UPS overnight to the lab. These included a stool test, a hormone test and a SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) test. There’s something very humbling about filling six vials with your poo. I’ll spare you the collection details. The hormone test was easy. It was like taking pregnancy tests at specific times of the day or evening. They can tell a lot about your hormones from your pee. The SIBO test was a breath test. I had to fast for 12 hours before starting, then drink a sugar solution and proceed to collect my breath in tubes every twenty minutes for three hours. Thank goodness for Netflix. A “Pretty Little Liars” marathon got me through that.
Dr. I charted out the results of my brain eval on a piece of paper that showed a diagram of the right and left brain and brain stem. It turns out all of my imbalances are in the right side of my brain and brain stem. Nothing in the left side.
Results started coming in.
The chem panel test showed that I was deficient in vitamin D and potassium. The food intolerance test showed various foods that I’m sensitive to. The stool test showed that I have two types of bacterial overgrowth in my gut. The hormone test showed that my estrogen was way too high. The leaky gut test showed that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my gut is quite leaky. And the SIBO test? Ohhhh WOW, do I have SIBO!
Do you see what’s happening here? Read that last paragraph again if you have to. Not one of the tests came back “normal.” Dr. F did not look at me and say, “Nothing’s wrong with you. Have a good day, buh-bye.”
These tests (most of them ones that medical doctors don’t do…ever) showed a LOT of RESULTS! Things that are off in my body. Imbalances. Things that need to be fixed. And these doctors know how to fix them!
Let me talk about food a bit. A few weeks ago Dr. F introduced me to what is essentially the AIP diet. AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol. Friends, this has not been easy. This diet has, on more than one occasion, transformed me from a nice, cheerful lady into a wretched, green-faced, wart-nosed witch with a B. Guys, I love pizza. I love COFFEE! I can’t have either. And there are sooooo many other things I love that I can’t have. The term “comfort food” is a real thing. SUCH a real thing. Many of the foods that give me great pleasure and comfort are off limits now. But I have to heal my gut. So I’m doin’ it. No grain, no dairy, no nightshades. Did I mention no grain and no dairy? None.
The amount of time and energy I have expended going to five different stores to find things like palm shortening, fake cheese, and ghee (to mention just a few obscure products) – plus the recipe scouring, meal planning and cooking and baking – has me plumb exhausted. I am TOAST. Getting reacquainted with my food processor and blender has actually been kinda fun, but holy hannah, this diet thing is a full time job.
Today I cried to Dr. I. Literally. Ugly, red face, puffy eyes, crocodile tears. I bawled in front of the brain doc. I was fine at first. He was explaining how much longer it takes to raise organic turkeys than it does to raise conventional turkeys and suddenly all my defenses came down and I burst into tears. Through flooded eyes I looked at him and asked, “Will I EVER be able to eat a piece of pizza again??” Oh God, make me stop. Please make me stop.
Dr. I has followed this diet for six years. He listened compassionately and told me a lot of things that I needed to hear. The one that impacted me the most was something along the lines of this:
Say you’re sitting with a friend eating lunch. He’s having a bacon double cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake. You’re having a typical AIP meal. Which one of you do you think is gonna have chronic pain in ten years? Which one will hardly be able to walk in twenty years?
He’s right. We are eating the way God intended us to eat. How is that a bad thing? It’s a very, very good thing. A healing thing. And it will get easier. And eventually I can add a few favorite foods back into my diet and indulge on occasion. But not until my tummy is healed. Not a moment before it’s healed.
You should see the line of supplement bottles I have on the kitchen counter. And three up in the bedroom that I take at night. I could build a tower to rival the Eiffel with these bottles. It’s okay. These are vitamins, herbs, plants, enzymes that my body needs to get in healthy balance. I have chocolate protein shakes for breakfast. I’d much rather chew my breakfast but it’s alright.
Anyway, treatment is done methodically and gradually so as not to be TOO overwhelming. So in about three weeks we’ll start treating the leaky gut and SIBO. Right now the supplements I’m taking are balancing out the vitamin deficiencies, the estrogen, etc. Oh, and the digestive enzymes I’m on have obliterated my continual constipation! My digestion is improving hugely! Dr. I gives me brain exercises to do at home every day to balance out the parts of my brain that are wonky. It’s really quite amazing. Treatment should take about six months total.
This clinic is over two hours from my house. I thank God that my family is in Wheaton because it’s a great pit stop. All summer, Alyssa and I have been going down to mom and dad’s in Wheaton, staying overnight, and then I drive another 35 minutes south to my appointments. The weekly packing and driving sometimes gets to be a bit much, especially when I’m feeling really crappy. But God has given me the strength to do it every week. Alyssa starts school next week so I’ll be making the little trips by myself from here on out.
Hopefully I’ve brought you up to date on this journey. It really is a journey. Step by step. Day by day. Funky recipe by funky recipe.
There is no doubt that God has brought me to this journey – to these extraordinary holistic doctors – to teach me. To strengthen me. And, of course, to heal me. To give me my life back. Friends, there is SO much I want to do! Soon I will be able to jump into the “SO much” with both feet!