I would like to preface this post with the obvious but necessary- I am not a doctor, I am a young woman learning to coexist with my longtime frenemy, celiac, and a newly discovered casein allergy along with a whole slew of fun GI problems that I have accrued over the last 6 months. I have always been invested in healthy living and I am an individual who has spent an enormous amount of time researching symptoms, picking the brains of some of the people I trust most, and experimenting with nutrients to bring out the best in not only my athletic performance but my mental capacity as well. Over the years I have racked up endless doctors visits, blood panels, and a variety of tests. This blog is meant to function solely as a resource to those who feel lost, to those of you who feel like no matter what you have tried your body isn’t giving you the feedback you want. If you are dealing with similar symptoms I am here and happy to share a part of my journey in the hopes that it may shed some light on a tactic you’ve yet to tackle. This being said I am by no means a physician and while I encourage experimentation and self-efficacy this is in no way meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. If you are suffering please seek the knowledge of someone in the medical field you trust. If you reside near Scottsdale, AZ or Portland, OR and are looking for a new doctor or a second opinion I have several I can recommend that have helped my family and I over the years so please don’t hesitate to ask.
I will start with my current physique; I am 5’2″ and weigh 120 lbs. Ideally, I would like to weigh closer to 125 lbs. but my current health problems have put a stop to the gains and I have had a hard time fighting to keep on the 120 lbs. I have now. This downhill slide started in January of this year. I was feeling tired, lethargic and my weight fluctuated quite a bit day to day which was a massive detour from the high I had been riding coming out of 2017. Just a few months earlier in the fall of 2017 – I was shredded – I was eating 2200 calories a day, working out 6 times a week, and still had energy to work and write and run on the weekends. Now, I could barely make it through a circuit without wanting to take a break. If you’re like me and you love pushing your limits, you know how devastatingly frustrating this can be, your will is trapped with every intention of breaking out but the energy to do so is no where to be found. I tried to remedy this with large amounts of caffeine and pre-workout but as I’m sure you can guess this stopped working after a time and I’m sure my burnt out adrenal glands detested me for it. Four months in, after a few doctors visits and tests, we had confirmed my celiac was causing some pretty uncomfortable gut issues but it was hard to pinpoint what the underlying cause of my gastrointestinal distress was. My doctor and I decided to remove all dairy. I had previously been on a very strict Ketogenic Diet (which I loved and I still adhere to a fat based diet now) but I was consuming huge amounts of dairy, mostly cheese, to up my fat intake which was a terrible mistake on my part. My poor intestines were now so irritated that no matter what I ate, carbs, protein, or fat, my digestive system couldn’t handle any of it. I would end up with a 6 month old food baby 15 minutes after any meal leaving me unwilling to eat the rest of the day (but of course starving). This in turn left me very agitated and my poor boyfriend and dog had to deal with my “hangry” mood swings around the house every night (sorry guys, lol).
Fast forward to present day, May 9th 2018 and I am going on month five of feeling miserable and now I am at the end of my rope. I reached out to several local fitness gurus trying to find someone struggling like I was; someone with any advice or suggestions, but I really didn’t have any luck. I finally reached out to a new doctor, referred by my present doctor, who has me scheduled to come in for a GI panel in mid-June. I have kept a pretty detailed food journal over the last few weeks in order to note when I feel most sick, tired, or bloated and after I sent my symptoms to her via email she suggested in the meantime I look into SIBO and Dysbiosis. I quite literally spent the following 6 hours on Google learning everything I could because while self-diagnosing based on internet forums and blogs can be dangerous I am 99.9% sure that the cause of my GI distress is rooted in an overgrowth of bacteria.
Back in March of 2017, when my Instagram first started to gain some traction, I was receiving all kinds of messages from women asking me what I did for bloating. Bloating? WTF is that? Seriously, I had no idea what they were referring to and it wasn’t something that until this very moment was anywhere on my radar. I would help research online and pass on good sources when I found them but I really didn’t have any solid answers since I had no sense of what they were actually dealing with. I kept seeing blogs and health advocates cite that “apple cider vinegar can be the cure all for bloating and indigestion” but I found an equal amount of evidence to the contrary and from my own experience it did very little, if anything, for me other than taste atrocious. There were all kinds of “remedies”; eat more veggies, eat less veggies, eat 6 times a day, eat once a day. How on earth is anyone supposed to figure out where to start? Now that I am in the thick of the problem I can tell you – GET TESTED – I don’t want to hear it’s too expensive or you don’t have time. If you can go out on the weekend to have drinks or get dinner or buy those new shoes then you can skip a few of those things and put that money towards finding out whats making you feel so terrible. Because what good is that burger and fries or Taco Tuesday with your best friend if you feel like you weigh 10,000 lbs. after?
Here is my current hypothesis- I started the Ketogenic diet back in the Spring of 2017, I typically stayed below 20-40 net carbs a day and I would guess I was somewhere around 1800 calories a day. While being in Ketosis had me performing on a level I didn’t know I had athletically I wasn’t taking any precautions to protect my internal flora. I simply didn’t think I needed to. I stayed in a pretty consistent state of Ketosis until December of 2017 when I decided to carb-cycle in order to try to increase my muscle mass. I know now that I did myself more damage than anything else and I ended up finding myself bloated, tired, and uncomfortable by the New Year. Now, while I don’t yet think that “going keto” altered my internal flora so much so that I am suffering solely because of that but I did find a few sources noting that individuals had experienced similar symptoms after sticking to a long term Ketogenic Diet, usually 6 months or more. While maintaining a fat based diet may have sped the process up for me, I still believe my celiac is they key culprit here. When my new doctor brought up SIBO this week everything clicked. The bloating, the discomfort with any type of nutrient, the headaches, fatigue, all of it just made sense. A person with celiac inherently runs the risk of developing an overgrowth of bacteria in their gut and in fact a study done by the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that 66% of the participants who maintained a strict gluten free diet were also found to have a bacterial overgrowth like SIBO. This floored me because I have had celiac for years, since I was a teenager, and yet no one, friend or professional, has ever mentioned that celiac may drive a need for extra precautions with diet and probiotics aside from just “staying away from gluten”. And again I am going to hold myself accountable for this, I should’ve done more research. I have known for a very long time that my body does not tolerate gluten and I’m sure, had I done some diligent homework, that I would have discovered that earlier. I take general studies and statistics like this with a grain of salt but there are 3 million people in the US diagnosed with Celiac according to the UC Celiac Disease Center and another 15-20 million people are suffering from a gluten intolerance. Even if you don’t have celiac, there are a slew of other conditions that are precursors to accumulating unwanted bacteria, Crohn’s disease, IBS, Diabetes, Cirrhosis, Pancreatitis, just to name a few. So if over half of the participants in the study just pertaining to those with Celiac were reporting this problem just imagine how many Americans are suffering everyday with symptoms of SIBO or Dysbiosis or some other type of bacterial infection and simply choose to accept the symptoms as a way of life?
Since I cannot get tested until mid-June, I have taken a few proactive steps (another experiment) to see how my body reacts to a few changes that may alleviate my symptoms and guys, I am five hours in as I write this and I feel better right now than I have in months so things are looking GOOD. Listed below are a few of the changes I’ve made:
- Removing all foods that are high on the FODMAP chart (keep in mind there is some variation from chart to chart, better to do some homework if you are curious), really the only items I had to remove right away were cashews, asparagus, cauliflower, and garlic. (Garlic infused oil is allowed so I use this as a cooking substitute.)
- Including more items that are low on the FODMAP chart, although adhering to a fat based diet has me eating most of them anyway.
- Consuming more fermented foods such as sauerkraut and probiotics like coconut yogurt. (I did find a few FODMAP charts that listed sauerkraut as an item to avoid but I think the postive outweighs the negative in this case)
- Instead of the two or three large meals I was consuming within a 5-6 hour feeding window, I consume 5-6 small meals within an 8-9 hour window (this has helped immensely, I think mostly because I am giving my stomach less to work on more frequently instead of throwing it into overdrive).
- CHEW YOUR FOOD. This is in all caps because it’s so easy to say yet so difficult to actually put into practice. I am very guilty of scarfing down my meals since I’m always on the go and this had made a huge difference (when I remember to do it, still a work in progress!).
To be fair, I still haven’t been diagnosed. This is all speculation from my own deductive reasoning and the notes I’ve kept on my symptoms over the last few months, including what I’ve learned from various doctors but the changes listed above seemed low-risk to me and worth playing with on my own prior to my GI panel in a few weeks (I am still keeping a detailed food journal for medical purposes). I feel like I am on the right track now and I feel that of all the women (and a few men) who have reached out to me on social media about bloating or dietary issues over the last year may find this to be worth diving into. To everyone who has supported me on social media this last year, I just want to say thank you so much, I love talking with you all and I love all the feedback! I am going to continue to document my health journey on this blog, and I am working on getting a Youtube channel up for my workouts. In the meantime please feel free to leave any tips, feedback, or questions below or find me on social media.