“All disease begins in the gut.” — Hippocrates
My Journey to Healing My Gut
Ever since I could imagine, I was constantly dealing with an upset stomach and bloat. Even after eating the healthiest meal, I would still have pain and feel terribly uncomfortable. I honestly thought I was the only person who dealt with these awful symptoms, but I have learned that this is one of the number one issues in America. People are constantly seeing GI (gastroenterologist) doctors for the same issues, constipation/IBS symptoms. Unfortunately, most people are constipated but don’t even know it. If you aren’t going after every meal or within 30 minutes upon waking, then you are considered constipated. (Clean Gut by Alejandro Junger).
During college, I started getting into health and wellness. I was doing yoga and barre everyday. I love the way it made me feel. For once in my life, I felt good about my body. In college, I began experimenting with cooking. I was never really into cooking but I was living with my friends and found that I loved to cooking for people. I think getting into wellness sparked my interest to learn about foods and flavors. I soon became in love with cooking and now I find cooking very meditative and soothing. I have learned a lot of cooking techniques from my sister, Emily. I started going to a local yoga studio in Fort Worth, TX called Urban Yoga and loved the way it made me feel. Urban yoga was truly a community and everyone was friendly, uplifting, and easy to talk to. I met a dear friend of mine at UY, Danae Fentie, who introduced me to further loving health and wellness. Danae and I would frequently visit and discuss health. She is one of the most knowledgable people I know and I still always ask her for advice. Danae has helped me a lot along my journey to healing my gut. At the tail end of college, I was introduced to a new workout called Lagree, which completely changed my body. I had gone down about 4–5 sizes from high school to college. I thank Lagree for how much my body changed. I felt longer and leaner!
After college, I was feeling the best I had ever felt in my life. For once, I felt confident in my own skin. I moved to Austin, TX with my high school sweetheart, Morry. We dated in high school and throughout most of college. We got married last June and he has been there for me every step of the way. I can’t imagine how life has been living with someone who feels this way, he has been a serious trooper. Always making me laugh and smile. I studied Early Childhood Education and in 2015 I started teaching fifth grade. Once I started teaching, some of my stomach problems resurfaced. I figured it was stress and the start of a new job, new city, and new lifestyle. I thought my body just needed to adjust. After a year of living in Austin, my stomach issues got worse. I tried Whole30, Paleo, Vegan, and Vegetarian diets. I could tell something wasn’t right, especially when I was eating extremely clean foods.
Just recently, I went on a trip to NYC with my husband. My parents just recently moved there and we love finding and eating at new healthy restaurants. Prior to the trip, I was bookmarking organic, paleo, and healthy restaurants for us to eat. On some of the days we ventured off our typical healthy eating and indulged in some cookie dough, dairy filled lattes, and the best NYC bagels. Towards the end of my trip, I was in severe pain and agony. We were on our flight home and I could barely sit up. The next day, my husband said it was time to see a doctor. It was Sunday and most doctor’s offices are closed so we went to a nearby clinic and they said they were unable to run blood work and recommended we go to the ER. If anyone knows me they know that I am deathly afraid of needles. As a child, there would be four or more nurses holding me down. We checked into the ER and ran blood, which was awful. After waiting for about two and a half hours, the doctor finally saw me and said blood work was fine and prescribed me a pill for the pain. It helped but deep down I knew this pain wouldn’t go away for good. He also recommended taking extra fiber. In my mind, I was annoyed and furious. I knew this wasn’t just a lack of fiber, I knew there was an underlying issue. What frustrates me is that most (not all)western doctors, know how to fix the symptoms but rarely know how to cure the root issue or even care to find out what is causing the issue.
I set an appointment up with a GI doctor, which made me more furious and a huge waste of time. You would think someone who has background in the gut would be more knowledgeable and helpful. First of all, he was just plain rude and unfriendly. Like the doctor from the ER, he told me I have IBS and that I will most likely have these issues the rest of my life. He also recommended a fiber drink. (As you can imagine, I was livid). The next few months, I lived in pain. I contacted my friend, Danae for some advice. She told me to start having celery juice in the morning and to start drinking more herbal teas. We went over the supplements I had been taking, she told me to eliminated certain ones that probably weren’t helping my situation and recommended new ones. Danae is an expert in Quantum Physics and biofeedback (if you have never heard of QP or biofeedback I highly recommend it). She ran tests on me using biofeedback that gave me some really helpful feedback.
I also saw a great western doctor, Dr. Sakina H. Davis, MD, in the Woodlands, TX. She is more than a western doctor. She knows the research behind the gut and specializes in women’s health and wellness and is willing to figure out what is causing pain. Dr. Davis ran several blood tests to find out more about my thyroid (she runs more than just your TSH) most doctor’s offices only run a couple thyroid tests when they should be checking more. more info on thyroid/hashimotos and more here ).
Dr. Davis also suggested that I take a food sensitivity test (igG food antibody test), which are pricy, but I felt like it was my only option. When my results came back, my thyroid was fine but she noticed I was almost sensitive to everything listed on the test. She was surprised especially since we discussed my lifestyle of clean eating and healthy living. It came back saying I was HIGHLY sensitive to pineapple, banana, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, and buckwheat. Other foods I was sensitive to included casein, cottage cheese, cow’s milk (no surprise there, pretty sure that is what landed me in the hospital after NYC), yogurt, blueberries, sweet potatoes, lemon, lettuce?!?!?, strawberry, cucumber, coffee (that was a shocker!) salmon, the list goes on and on. The foods that came back with no sensitivity included turkey, beef, chicken, pork, lamb, sardines, grapes, cheddar cheese( I was ok with this, cheese board ya’ll), white potatoes (hell yeah!), pears, apples, and raspberries. THAT’S IT! Afterwards, she assured me that I was going to feel better soon and that although these results were both alarming and overwhelming, she had a plan for me.
Based on my results, she said I have what is called leaky gut. Leaky gut is basically increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability. That could happen when tight junctions in the gut, which control what passes through the lining of the small intestine, does not work properly. And can let substances leak into the bloodstream (WebMD). They don’t really know what the root cause is but some suspect that is can come from diet (especially one filled with wheat and alcohol), cooking foods at high temperatures, overuse of ibuprofen and/or aspirin, and is most often found with people who suffer from Crohn’s, IBS, Colitis, or Celiac disease and often linked to autoimmune diseases. I had heard of leaky gut when I was conducting my own research and learned that when other parts of the body are failing it is most likely linked to poor gut health.
Dr. Davis recommended several things, first and foremost doing a 6-week yeast free diet. Basically, eliminating fruit for the first two weeks, all grains (brown rice, buckwheat, corn, even gluten free products etc)., all salad dressing (they contain vinegar which contains yeast), starchy vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, beets, etc.),all dairy products, as well as the foods that came back as highly reactive. You are basically consuming mostly veggies and meats. Thankfully, she allows hummus and avocados on the diet. The avocado is what has made this easy and manageable.
Dr. Davis also found something incredibly interesting in my bloodwork she found that my magnesium levels were at an all time low. It was crazy to hear this news, because I had been taking magnesium every single night before bed. It helps with sleep, stress, and sore muscles. (more info on magnesium). She told me that there are many types of magnesium and each help with something different. I was getting plenty of magnesium citrate but was lacking the other crucial types of magnesium. Studies have shown that a lack of magnesium can trigger constipation and other similar symptoms. At this time, I was also experiencing, anxiety and depression which can also be linked and causes by low levels of magnesium. thinking back to my NYC trip, I believe many factors contributed to my gut issues -stress, foods, hormones, deficiencies in minerals including a big one- magnesium, environmental pesticides and chemicals. Our soil is not filled with rich minerals like it used to hundreds of years ago so we need to start supplementing. See below for more information on supplements I have been taking, Just because I am taking certain supplements doesn’t mean you need to. I highly suggest you consult with a trusted doctor or healthcare specialist before taking anything.
The Foods to Eliminate:
- All dairy (cheese, milk, goat, etc.)
- My highly reactive foods (see above)
- All fruit (however, this is the first thing you bring back in your diet)
- Salad dressings due to the vinegar added
- All grains (but occasionally GF oatmeal or quinoa)
- Sweet potatoes, beets, root vegetables
- All sugar and artificial sweeteners (honey, sugar, brown sugar, dextrose, you would be surprised how often these show up in our foods, there are a million names for sugar)
The Foods to Eat:
- Hemp, Almond, Cashew, and Pumpkin Milk ( Be sure to switch up your nut milks and butter to ensure you don’t grow a sensitivity)
- Grass-fed meats
- Organic Chicken
- Beans (even hummus)
- Occasionally Organic Eggs (I think I may have a hard time digesting these, this might be the case for you, eliminate eggs for about at least three weeks to determine if this is an issue for you)
- Lettuce, arugula, collard greens, artichoke, zucchini, cucumber, etc.
- Hot tea and occasionally coffee
- Salads (skip the dressing, ask for guac or avocado, lemon and olive oil are good too)
- Probiotic (at least 50–100 strains)
- Vitamin C
- Digestive Enzymes (taken 30 minutes before each meal)
- Chlorophyll Tablets
- Reacted Magnesium
- Iodine (my bloodwork came back low)
- Gut Revive
- Vitamin D (almost everyone is deficient/be sure your doctor continually checks for this, most don’t)
Things to Consider Adding into your Regimen:
- 2–3 Brazil Nuts (helps with thyroid)
- Bone broth (1–2 cups per day, great to start and end the day with it)
- Turmeric lattes
- Magnesium (if you don’t already!)
Lee from America (Lee’s blog introduced me to the amazing book, Woman Code)
I will say I am still a learner on this journey and continue to find ways to improve my health and I hope this helps anyone struggling with these same issues. I know how frustrating it can be to not be able to determine the cause of your digestive problems. If this is the case, I recommend finding a trustworthy doctor, dietitian, or other health care specialist to decide what may be the contributing factors to your digestive issues.
Dr. Sakina H. Davis www.woodlandswellness The Woodlands, TX
Danae Fentie @missnutrish www.danaefentie.com Fort Worth, TX
Tiny Taiga @tinytaigaaustin www.tinytaiga.com Austin, TX
People’s Pharmacy @peoples_rx www.peoplesrx.com Austin, TX