Monday, 30 December 2013

My Healing Journey

For over three years now I have been struggling with stomach aches when I eat various foods- mostly nuts, seeds and soy but also other things like large amounts of dairy and cammomile tea. I consider myself very in tune with my body and was able to narrow it down to a few specific things and for the most part I managed to avoid eating them. After being diagnosed with Celiacs disease a few years ago I developed fructose malabsorption because my gut was really damaged. I went to a doctor that helped diagnose it straight away but it wasn't until I saw a naturopath several months later that I was able to begin healing it. It turned out I needed more protein in my diet and I was having trouble getting it because I couldn't eat nuts and seeds. A month or so on a high quality protein powder healed my gut and things became much easier again but I was still having problems with nuts, seeds and soy.
My liver then became over burdened with a digestive system that wasn't functioning and it caused problems with my pancreas. I endured a lot of pain with an inflamed liver and pancreas. I took a milk thistle supplement every day without fail for a year and my skin cleared and the pains in my liver and pancreas disappeared.
As the months turned to years I did amazingly at avoiding foods that gave me stomach aches but it began to wear thin and I was frustrated and felt like I'd tried everything. Now that I'm breastfeeding it started to become really difficult as a vegetarian to eat enough protein without eating nuts and seeds so I decided it was time to see a doctor. I'd seen a couple of doctors and tried alternative therapies through natropathy and traditional Chinese medicine but they all seemed to say similar things and not listen when I tried to tell them that it really wasn't just about healing my gut and rebalancing the good bacteria so I was reluctant to have someone say the same thing but I did my research and found a doctor that looked promising and made the decision that now was the time to really figure this out and fix it. Initially my doctor said the same thing as all the others but I protested and she referred me to get an ultrasound and some blood tests. A couple of months later, more tests and a waiting list to have doctors in the hospital probe me and we still were just as stumped as before. The blood tests had shown up a couple of deficiencies which were corrected very quickly after taking supplements for a couple of months.
While waiting for test results and my appointment with the hospital I came across an article on the internet one day about low stomach acid. The article talked about how if beetroot causes changes in your poo and wee you could have low stomach acid. This information sparked an interest and I decided to explore it further. I did a bicarb soda test which involves drinking some water with bicarb soda and timing how long it takes to burp. The normal range is between 2-3 minutes. By 5 minutes I still had not burped and I really felt like I was onto something.
I started taking betaine hydrochloride supplements and thought some digestive enzymes might help too. It took a few weeks for me to figure out dosage but I think I've figured it out now. After years of very carefully avoiding nuts I am now able to eat them again without being buckled over in pain. I'm a little nervous about trying sunflower seeds as last time I had some I was in so much pain I threw up, and I'm going to avoid soy for the time being but I am so pleased that I seem to have figured it out.
I estimate that I will need to be taking betaine hydrochloride for a year and maybe even up to two years in order for my body to correct the problem and begin making enough stomach acid on it's own again.
The reason I developed this problem is clearly because I had gone 25 years with undiagnosed Celiacs disease. My digestive system had taken a beating and was clearly not absorbing the nutrients it needed for my body to function properly. Despite living a healthy lifestyle and eating almost exclusively a wholefoods plant based diet my body couldn't overcome the problem because my food was not being digested properly and it became a self perpetuating vicious cycle. I'm a big believer in the body's innate ability to heal itself, if you provide your body with the things that it needs you can over come anything. So here I am on the road to recovery, in these last few years I have learned a lot about food, health and my body and I'm happy that now I can enjoy food again and share my story.

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