Why I Didn't Eat for 2 Weeks: Struggle & Triumph
The Kate Show | Episode 17
As you likely surmised from the title, this episode is a personal one. I'm excited to share with you the results of my recent diagnosis (after over a decade of illness) and the immediate treatment I received.
Side note: I recently mentioned my treatment protocol in my Facebook group and received many prayers and concerned responses. Just know that I'm doing really well and that I appreciate your support. The tricky thing about chronic illness is that it doesn't always debilitate a person. To the naked eye, they might not even appear to be ill. Such is the case with me. I don't share my story because I need help or want pity. I have a team of medical / naturopath professionals who are guiding me, and I'm still able to mentally and physically work. I'm sharing this because anyone with IBS, colitis, Crohn's, celiac, dairy / gluten / egg intolerance, and other autoimmune diseases also have this disease. In fact, my disease is the cause of most autoimmune diseases. If this disease is treated, the other diseases will be healed. More people need to know about this!
Listen to the Episode
Twelve years ago, I started feeling...not right. I was fainting a lot and felt like I constantly had the stomach flu. No one could pinpoint what was wrong with me and offered to cover the symptoms with prescription meds. Thankfully, we didn't go that route. It would have made my current recovery all the more difficult.
At the time, I was 14 years old and lived an active, incredibly healthy lifestyle (think farm-to-table, gardening, canning, the whole midwestern thing). I became quite skinny (no, this was not ideal weight loss plan), and my day-to-day was unpredictable for many months. After that, I was able to manage most of the symptoms for over a decade...until 2017.
Last year, everything got worse. I developed severe food allergies, nausea, skin issues, fatigue, and a frustrating "down in the dumps" feeling that I couldn't shake despite my best self-care and self-awareness practices. Each symptom would come and go at whim. A few months ago, my naturopathic doctor ordered the test that would change everything. When the results came back, her suspicions were confirmed.
I have SIBO, and let me tell you, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is nothing to joke about. While not immediately life threatening, it is often the cause of most autoimmune diseases (Crohn's, colitis, celiac, etc.) and its presence often indicates a fungal / parasitic infection as well. In short, my body is currently an apartment complex for foreign invaders.
SIBO means I have tons of bacteria living in the upper part of my GI tract. This bacteria is stealing the nutrients from the food I eat long before my body gets a change to use them (in addition to causing nausea, fatigue, depression, weight loss, food allergies, skin issues, joint pain, migraines...) and it is also creating small holes in my intestine, allowing certain foods to directly enter my bloodstream. For me, those foods are dairy, eggs, pineapple, honey, and string beans. I immediately feel ill if I eat even the smallest amounts of these foods.
SIBO can be caused by a number of things, the most popular being...
The use of strong antibiotics for any length of time
Poor gut motility (aka: your food moves through the GI tract too slowly)
Once we knew what illness I had, my doctor presented me with three treatment options to kill the bacteria before they could cause permanent nerve damage to my GI tract:
Antibiotics (35% cure rate)
Herbal supplements (45-50% cure rate)
Element Diet (80-85% cure rate)
I chose the Element Diet, which meant that I had to give up 100% of food for 14 days (potentially 21, but let's hope not) and live entirely off "medical food," which is a powder containing essential nutrients my body needs in order to survive. I mix this powder with water and drink it three times per day for the duration of my treatment. (At the writing of this, I am currently on day 11).
Life After SIBO
After this protocol is complete, I will able able to eat plain meat and specific vegetables. Nothing else. After a week, I can add fruit and rice to my diet, complete another round of testing, and pray that the results come back negative. Because my SIBO has the ability to return, I have to avoid all carbs, dairy, and sugar for at least 3 months after I'm cleared.
But, hey. It's worth it to feel good again! I'm hoping and praying that these two weeks of starvation successfully kill off the bacteria and that it doesn't come back. It's possible, but it takes work. I still dream about ice cream and cupcakes and mashed potatoes. I still drool over pizza. I miss chocolate. (And for the record, medical food tastes horrible. Just saying!)
...but oddly enough, I've learned that I'm okay. In fact, I'm still cooking and grocery shopping for my family while on this fast. Why, you ask?
My Family Has a History of Being Tough
My in-laws have a history of health complications, death, and triumph. They are my inspiration to stay positive and keep going despite how hungry I feel or how strong my cravings get. My father-in-law spent over 20 years as a paraplegic and the last six years of his life as a mute quadriplegic. He never once complained--even when his only form of communication was subtle eye movement.
My mother-in-law took care of him, all while working, raising two boys, acquiring a brain tumor that left her blind in one eye, and contracting multiple sclerosis. Despite all of this, she is the happiest person I know. Her faith doesn't waver. She would do anything she could for anyone, simply because they exist.
My husband was a year old when his dad became disabled and doesn't have the sweet memories that many men do of hunting, fishing, or fixing things around the house with their fathers. He was able to do a few of these things with his grandfather and uncle, but both men died, unexpectedly, the year he turned 18.
Despite having missed out on even the most normal and "expected" aspects of childhood, my husband is incredibly giving and dedicated. He and his family history remind me that, if they can do that, I can do this. (And I don't need to complain about it, either.)
What does this mean for you?
It means that I want you to know...
We might look like we have it all together, but we don't always--and that's okay.
You can choose to be happy within the struggle.
You will reach your strongest point when you are reduced to the basic parts of your being.
While we can't control disease or death, we are in full control of how we react to it and of whether it has any hold on our personal lives or our businesses.
You are strong enough to get through whatever trouble you're facing right now. Don't let it win.
I'm so grateful I have this platform to share the personal side of life. Please don't be afraid to share what is going on in your life with your followers. You are your brand, and your brand should be authentic.
Post Treatment Update as of 5/7/18
I feel so good! I've been eating food for two days, and I seriously feel like the Energizer Bunny. I haven't felt this way since...I don't know when. I will undergo another round of testing next week to determine whether the bacteria is gone. If it is, I will then be treating for any ensuing fungal infections and will keep my diet strictly to meat, certain vegetables, and fruit. Once the holes in my intestine close up (damage done by bacteria), my dairy and egg allergies will disappear.
I can't wait to eat ice cream. (Yes, it will be a few months to a year, but it's worth every ounce of willpower.) I love knowing my health will be fully authentic and not simply a case of masked or suppressed symptoms. Naturopathy for the win!
Thank you all for your support and prayers. I'm nearing the end of this 14 year journey.