Hi everyone. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much my health has improved over the past 5-6 months and I’ve recently realized it has everything to do with my Gut Health. I wanted to share my story in hopes of helping someone else with their pain/discomfort/poor health. The health of the gut is directly tied to our overall health. I understood this logically before I understood it fully in my own body, and to understand something with your brain versus knowing something with your flesh and bones are totally different, the latter being much more convincing. But before I get started telling you how I’m healing, I wanted to share a brief history with you so as you read you have an idea of what I’ve been dealing with.
All my life I’ve struggled with chronic upset stomach. Even when I was a kid I had constant stomach aches that were exacerbated by stress and certain foods (although I didn’t realize this until adulthood). Of course I thought this was normal and since this is how things were for me, this must be how they were for everyone else. I had very bad stomach cramping and pain. I had frequent diarrhea as well. Besides these issues I was a healthy child that gained weight and maintained weight normally. I never had any issues with eating disorders and I’ve always had a healthy relationship with food – I was just chronically in pain.
Around age 10 I saw a doctor for my chronic stomach pain. I collected stool samples for them and they ran tests and found nothing unusual. I remember this quite well because the doctor was very kind and asked me about my home life and if I was under any stress. I was honest, as far as I can remember, and told him yes. He then offered for me to come talk to him if I could find no one else to talk to. I can’t remember his name, and barely remember his face, but I do remember his kindness. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he knew what I didn’t – that my problems were exacerbated by stress.
The other issues I’ve struggled with have been chronic yeast infections and chronic UTIs when I became sexually active at 17. To be fair, I think I have a genetic predisposition to more frequent UTIs. This isn’t a medical diagnosis (as far as I know), but my mom and sister also have had problems with frequent UTIs. My mom had such an issue with them that when she was my age she was given a low dose of antibiotic to take after sexual activity (don’t get me started on the dangers of that!).
Chronic vaginal yeast infections are a sign that you have an overgrowth of yeast elsewhere in the body – typically. This overgrowth is called Candida. Here is an article with a bit more info on Candida. Not only have I had frequent vaginal yeast infections, but I have had a yeast infection under my breasts twice – once in college, and once recently after I spent the day in the ER for abdominal pain and had to drink an iodine contrast (for a CT scan) that completely cleaned me out and killed my gut bacteria. This last time that I had a yeast infection on my skin, I also had a vaginal yeast infection. I have also struggled with chronic fungal infections of the skin on my hands during winter when the air is cold and dry (also due to lots of handwashing with antibacterial soap). This stopped a few years ago when I began to incorporate probiotics into my diet (and stopped using antibacterial soap), but I still struggled with vaginal yeast infections.
To give you some context, I used to suffer from 3-5 UTIs/year and probably 6-8 yeast infections/year. Now I assume some of you may be thinking I must not be drinking enough water, peeing after sex, or in general are just not a clean person, but I can assure you that none of this is true. I stopped drinking soda in January of 2013 and do not consume sugary drinks. I also have been in a monogamous relationship with my husband since February 2007 so the infections are not due to multiple partners/condoms. All of these issues are really symptoms of poor intestinal health. Yes, I said symptoms. I have treated, treated, and retreated these symptoms repeatedly only to have them return because I did not fix the root of the problem – which, surprise, is poor gut health.
Diet & Gut Health
Changing my diet has been a journey unto itself. It has been long and winding and began when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2010. The seeds were only starting to be planted however, and truly started to sprout in 2011 when I learned about Monsanto, GMOs, fake food, and the dangers of it all. I started to realize the proverbial wool had been pulled over our eyes when I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. Without going into too much more detail, it took until sometime in 2013 for me to have completely overhauled the way we eat, and I’m still working on it. During all of this my chronic upset stomach and pain was still present (I had already drawn a very clear line from stress to the amount of time I spent on the toilet), but I started to notice when I ate less processed foods the pain was less.
In 2013 I started taking probiotics (from Target) and treating my upset stomach with peppermint tea instead of Pepto. Since then I have switched to the refrigerated version of probiotics with millions or billions of living cells (available at your local health food/supplement store) instead of the mostly dead ones that are on the shelves of normal stores. I have also cut out 98% of processed food out of my diet and have very minimal amounts of excess sugar besides what occurs naturally in fruit and veggies.
Ear, Nose, & Throat Infections
The common cold/sinusitis/Upper Respiratory Infection/Laryngitis, etc. I’ve had all those different infections at one time or another as I’m sure most of the rest of you have as well, but the thing I’ve struggled with the most is laryngitis. This also something I believe I inherited from my mom who gets severe laryngitis 3+ times a year. When I started eating healthier, the laryngitis became less severe and less frequent. Now that I’m eating healthier and my gut is healing I have gotten sick far less than I normally would have, especially for the winter months. Now when I do feel something coming on I take care of myself with natural remedies instead of turning to fever reducers and chemical cold suppressants.
In Part Two I will detail more info on specifically what I’ve done that has helped me have more regular bowel movements, lessened my daily abdominal pain to only rare occasions (when I eat from my list of avoidable inflammatory foods), and overall improved my health! Join me back here for Part Two soon!
Click HERE to be taken to Part Two!
Other Links of Interest
This one from Natural News about Candida and cancer is definitely worth a read.
This post has lots of information on gut flora and Leaky Gut Syndrome.