All I want is to wake up and feel better. Then I open my eyes and it’s back to reality.
It’s probably best to take a few minutes and explain why I’ve been away for awhile.
Since I discovered it two and a half years ago, I’ve been a huge proponent of the many benefits of the keto-paleo diet. I achieved fast and massive success towards my health goals by adopting this way of eating. I quickly discovered all the symptoms that I had before I transformed my diet started melting away. Brain fog? Gone. Hot flashes? Vanished. Hunger and cravings? Disappeared. Insomnia? MIA. Joint pain? Departed. Seventy pounds of excess weight? Obliterated.
Even better, I rectified many of these health issues in a matter of a month or two. The weight loss took a little over six months, but I’m fine with that. Considering the yo-yo’s and plateaus my scale has seen over the last 18 years, this was a critical breakthrough. I shattered the plateau that I kept stalling at before eating this way, which was almost 30 pounds higher. I was thrilled!
Then, inevitably it happened. The dreaded plateau arrived, just like always. Here I was, convinced I could comfortably lose another 30-40 pounds. Still, no matter what I did, my body or the scale would not budge any further. Looking back on it today, I might have wanted to bask in the glory of maintaining that weight for a full year after the initial loss. To no avail; just like many of you, when I have my mind set on a specific goal, anything less is not good enough. There’s another huge lesson there, something I’ll touch on in another post. For now, I’m focused on my relapse.
Yes, I said it. The big hairy cat is out of the bag, its claws out, ready to attack. After all the time I spent trying to break through my new weight set point, all the manipulations I could do to my macros, my workouts, my natural supplements, my mindset, my stress, none of it mattered. Suddenly my body was on strike. In fact, it outright revolted.
Over the course of three and a half months, I packed 40 pounds back onto my petite 5’ 3” frame while eating and working out the same way I had the last year and a half. Even worse, every one of nagging symptoms returned. To say that this new development had everyone I knew, including my own holistic nutrition coach, incredibly concerned is an understatement. I was in an outright panic. All that time I had spent on meditation, stress reduction, emotional mastery, and loving myself exactly as I am went flying right out the window like it was caught up by hurricane winds. I mean seriously, how was I supposed to continue endorsing, writing about and believing in this way of eating if THIS is how my body was going to respond?
It was time for extreme measures. After a little research, I found the only local functional MD around to get some answers. I spent a good couple of hours before my office visit completing my health history and intake questionnaires. I figured this was exactly who could help me find the answers I was seeking about my body. Hell, nobody before could give me the answers. My doctor, trainers, weight loss counselors, friends, family, life coaches and nutritionists all came up empty. I certainly hadn’t figured it out myself. Maybe it was just time for a fresh perspective on things.
Once I sat with the functional MD to discuss my symptoms and history, he decided a complete lab work up was in order. I was actually relieved and finally felt validated. I spoke to so many people in the past who dismissed my growing number of troubling symptoms and maintenance of a healthy weight as strictly a diet and activity related issue. Believe it or not, I exercised as much and most definitely at a higher intensity level at my obese weight as I did when I was very fit. Orthopedic injury and adrenal fatigue were just a couple of the results of this brilliant solution to my weight loss resistance. Stay tuned, I will definitely be addressing this topic in another post.
All of my lab results arrived in a couple of weeks and it was time for my follow up appointment for the results. My doctor explained the reason for all of my symptoms in detail. First and foremost, I had a gut related issue known as SIBO, aka small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. That explained the bloating and constipation and feeling as if I couldn’t ever completely empty my bowels. Sorry for getting a little graphic here, but it’s entirely necessary. These results came courtesy of my lactulose breath test.
Next on the list came my adrenal fatigue diagnosis, something many mainstream physicians don’t entertain as a true disorder. That seems especially callus to me considering almost every doctor around will tell his or her patients that they really need to learn to manage stress levels. A traditional doctor may be approaching it from the idea that high stress leads to heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, depression or potentially suicide. Basically, aren’t these doctors preaching that constant stress will diminish the quality of your life? No matter how it’s labeled, adrenal fatigue, depression or cardiovascular disease, it’s all pointing to a life with less enjoyment because of symptoms. My adrenal fatigue diagnosis came from a saliva test.
This same saliva test also revealed an imbalance of my sex hormones, specifically that my progesterone levels were extremely low. Likely causes of this include hormonal birth control use for almost 30 years combined with my age. I do have a plan of action in place to try to right that ship. I’ll dive further into that discussion in another post.
Aside from some markers for inflammation, my doctor really didn’t say much more about my stool test results. I discovered more about what I should do to diversify my gut flora to make it optimal for the digestive process by doing my own deeper dive into the lab markers.
Another few contributing factors to my symptoms surfaced in my complete blood and thyroid panel numbers. The results included extremely low Vitamin D levels, low Vitamin B-12 levels and borderline hypothyroidism. I was starting to see a pattern here that I definitely did not like. In fact at this point in the conversation with my doctor, I believe my relief to having some “names” for the causes of my symptoms switched to concern for figuring out what the hell I was going to do to reclaim my health.
While all of these perspectives were indeed welcome, it was finally time that I took a stand for me.
That’s when the real conversation began. While I left the office a few hundred dollars lesser due to purchasing the herbal antimicrobials he recommended to start treating my SIBO, I also felt that the dietary advice he gave didn’t seem right for me at all. You see, he suggested I follow a Mediterranean style diet full of fresh and nutritious foods, yet one that still contained grains and dairy, two groups I specifically told him I had sensitivities to and hadn’t eaten in a couple of years because of it. I also told him I had followed that diet for at least a year in the past and never felt great on it either. He said I should do it anyway because combining the herbal treatments would help the diet work much better this time around.
That’s when it finally hit me, over the head, like a ton of bricks. I was paying this doctor to be my advocate for better health. I was giving his advice a place of reverence on the altar of knowledge over my own, over what I KNEW didn’t feel good for my body. Why? If I was giving his advice priority over the advice my own body already had via my symptoms, I knew I would never heal. Wasn’t this doctor just as guilty of ignoring my input as any of the other health care providers I hired to be my advocates before? That’s when the real work began.
I hit the internet running, so to speak. I hunted and searched for every bit of advice I could find from both the traditional and holistic medical approaches regarding SIBO treatment, diet and lifestyle. I’ll just admit it was more than a little confusing. No wonder I left my doctor’s office feeling so conflicted. Nobody in the health community could seem to agree on the best approach to the treatment of SIBO. What I did find was a series of interesting case studies and various plans of action.
While all of these perspectives were indeed welcome, it was finally time that I took a stand for me. I would no longer accept that this was it, this was how I was going to be my entire life. Struggling with excess weight that clearly makes me feel awful is not going to be the story that defines me. It’s going to be the story that uncovers my purpose. You see, in all of this I put together a plan for treating my body that resonates with me. It’s based on my in-depth research and by observing my body after each strategy I try.
Ultimately I am being called to heal my body, to figure out the perplexing mystery of why my body has lived in a state of failure for the last couple of decades. As I discover what is working for me, I know it is my duty to help others solve their own seemingly impossible weight loss mysteries. I’m starting this journey where I wholeheartedly believe all the solutions to my problems lie, in the gut. My first set of tasks is to treat the symptoms of my SIBO. Removing the overgrowth and discovering the underlying cause should thwart all attempts at a recurring bacterial onslaught.
You see, SIBO has two not so pleasant labels. First, it likes to come back to visit if you don’t get to the root cause. In other words, it has a high level or recurrence. Second, it’s notoriously difficult to treat when left unabated for awhile. In my case, I’m sure SIBO has been around for quite some time, possibly even decades. The problem is, I never knew that a test even existed for it.
If you choose to follow along on my journey, you’ll find a number of posts regarding each of my conditions. As I uncover the research, the methods for treatment and the strategies I try, I’ll share them with you. More importantly, you might discover new strategies to discuss with your own health care advocates once you see how they affect my recovery. I get to play scientist and specimen at the same time, and you get a front row seat at my biology lab.
In case you haven’t already figured it out, my first series will be all about my SIBO plan of action. The first of seven steps I’ll address is one that people miss for far too long, DIAGNOSIS.
Ultimately I am being called to heal my body, to figure out the perplexing mystery of why my body has lived in a state of failure for the last couple of decades.