Hello everyone! I've been a little TMI recently, but I'm still alive and kickin'...and slowly but surely getting stronger! Quite a few of you have been messaging me BEGGING for a good old update, mainly a dietary update, but this will be more than just that...
Before I begin, I turned 22 yesterday (see pictures below). Felt majorly blessed this year...this birthday definitely wasn't certain (and for a while there, even probable), so it was a very special day spent with those I love most. God is good!
Since changing my diet a few months ago and starting to eat animal products again after 6 years (!!! check out this post for more on that, I have seen unbelievable healing and progress in my health in a very short amount of time, all things considered. I am successfully able to eat two meals a day WOO! More solid food than I've consumed in almost a year. So as far as my pancreas goes, I'm doing tremendously better (NOTE: I know without a doubt that my cutting way back on fruit sugar has helped my pancreas to calm down and heal. I encourage you to check out this article for more info on this). However, as is the case with most CF patients, my gut issues go beyond just pancreatic problems (unfortunately). I've continued to undergo numerous tests trying to figure out what else is going on with my GI system and giving me such a horrendous time eating and digesting food. Oddly enough, although I have MULTIPLE certifications in Plant Based Nutrition, Raw Food Therapy, and Cellular Detoxification and have LITERALLY been preaching that "meat will ferment in your body if you eat it" nonsense, I digest meat amazingly well (yup, I said it. I eat meat now, people. It's saving my life). On the other hand, when I consume even 1/2 a cup of green peas, my guts explode inside my body and I have to go back to all liquids for days at a time to "reset" my system (like I explained in this post). I had a VERY long test two Thursdays ago, and I finally have some answers. Turns out I have a pretty severe intestinal infection, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). My case is...pretty bad. We're not sure how long I've had it (most likely a loooooooooooooooooooooong time...) but we DO know that spending a year as a raw foods made it horrendously worse (thus the reason near the end I was quite literally FORCED into doing all liquids only--the bacteria feed on fibers, especially cellulose, or indigestible plant fiber, so a diet rich in plant matter is literally a breeding ground for SIBO). There are a couple different risk factors/root causes to be aware of when it comes to developing sIBO...and as luck would have it, I have ALL OF THEM. Yes, I know. Like I said, lucky me. (NOT.) Curious? Here we go...a little SIBO/gut health lesson!
SIBO Risk Factors/Root Causes
-Low HCL/stomach acid: your stomach NEEDS to be very acidic. When it's not, your food is not properly digested and it passes into the small intestine undigested. Food should pretty much be liquified once it passes into the SI after being incinerated by in the stomach by the acid, which is supposed to have a pH between 1 and 3. However, there is an EPIDEMIC of chronically low stomach acid in individuals these days...did you know acid reflux is actually a symptom of NOT ENOUGH stomach acid, not TOO MUCH as we're all told? I'll do a separate post on stomach acid soon...back to SIBO for now...anyway, a very low protein diet is a recipe for low stomach acid. The body does it's best to maintain homeostasis, and when protein isn't coming in to be digested (protein stimulated HCL production), then HCL is not being produced, and other foods are not getting properly broken down. Fun fact: low stomach acid is thought to be the cause of over over 85% of gut diseases/issues. Think about it: when step 1 in the digestion assembly line has an error, none of the other steps will go smoothly either. This is one of the primary reasons why a vegetarian or vegan diet is NOT a good idea for gut health (don't believe me? Read more stories like mine. So pulling this altogether, low stomach acid means food doesn't get properly broken down into the stomach, therefore passes into the SI undigested and begins to ferment and attract bacteria (there should not be any bacteria in the SI...or at the MOST very, very few. Our bacteria should be in our COLON, not our SI. When we have bacteria in our SI, they can damage the villi which are how we absorb our nutrients...which is how SIBO can cause malabsorption and malnutrition).
-Chronic pancreatitis and/or Pancreatic Insufficiency: I happen to have BOTH CP and EPI...thanks, CF. But basically when the pancreas isn't secreting the necessary enzymes to digest the food you're eating, it doesn't get properly broken down...so like the stomach acid saga, that food sits there and ferments, attracting nasty bacteria to try to clean up the mess.
-Overuse of antibiotics: Antibiotics are a wonderful, lifesaving invention and are essential...at times. But antibiotics are WAY overused these days...did you know the human body can only tolerate about 2 courses of antibiotics in an entire LIFETIME?! Yes, it's true. Anyway, antibiotics are very effective and do their job well: they clean out the bacteria...ALL the bacteria, good and bad (ABX's don't discriminate). Wiping ALL bacteria out of your system, even the good guys living down in your colon (these are the good guys that help you extract the maximum amount of nutrients from your food, helping you survive!) is bad...because that means the next bacteria that enter your system start colonizing in your gut...leading to repopulation of bacteria...but NOT the ones you want to repopulate with. Are you following me? I know it can get confusing...hang in there.
-Food poisoning: Much like overuse of antibiotics, food poisoning is another big cause of SIBO. When we eat contaminated food that's swimming with bad bacteria (whether plant or animal foods), it does a number on our GI systems (as I'm sure those of you that have had food poisoning in the past can relate to...ick). And unless our flora is super strong and functioning optimally (which, let's face it, most of ours ARE NOT...), then the bad guys can easily take over.
-Ileocecal Valve Malfunction: Okay this one is another technical one, but I'll be brief I promise. The ileum is the veeeeeery end of the small intestine. The ileocecal valve is this little tiny (but uber important) flap that connects the small and large intestines. This valve is very smart--it opens when food is ready to pass into the colon for the last stage of digestion, and closes the rest of the time, so as to prevent fecal matter and BACTERIA from passing up through the ICV into the SI (see where this is going?). However, due to injury, structural abnormalities, or unknown causes, the ICV can "malfunction," and either stay open or closed for extended periods when it's n to supposed to be. When it stays closed, food can't pass into the colon, so again, it ferments and attracted bacteria. When it stays open, the bacteria from your colon start swimming up into your small intestine. Fun fun. (More like nasty nasty.)
-Chronic slow transit constipation/slow motility: I have CF to NOT thank for this one, yet again...this one's pretty self explanatory, too. When food moves too slowly (PARTICULARLY foods high in fiber, as you'll read in a moment), it ferments and attracts bacteria that attempt to clean up the mess.
So how did my raw vegan diet cause/exacerbate my SIBO? SIBO feeds on CARBOHYDRATES--both simple and complex--and FIBER, especially plant fiber...in fact, cellulose (indigestible plant fiber, like in, ahem, GREEN PEAS and other fruits and veggies) is SIBO's favorite food. Humans do not have the ability to digest plants/cellulose--in fact, NO LIVING THING does...except BACTERIA, which is why cows have 4 stomachs literally SWIMMING with bacteria and humans have a stomach filled with HCL for protein digestion, with a wee bit of life-sustaining bacteria in the colon, to digest any plants we do choose to eat, ensuring we get the maximum amount of nutrition out of every mouthful of food we consume...how cool is our body? How AWESOME IS OUR CREATOR?! (NOTE: I will be sharing more research on this as time goes on...especially in my BOOK--yes, I'm writing a book...so exciting!--but for now, enjoy the Cliff Notes version!) So I finally get it, now that I have a diagnosis of SIBO, why I was having SUCH a miserable time on raw foods. Cooking veg breaks down a lot of that cellulose, but it's still a bunch of fiber and carbohydrates, which is still feeding those bugs. So, in a desperate effort to keep my guts from exploding even more than they already have, I have done a complete 180 with my diet and am definitely feeling better. I began treatment last week, and it is hitting me HARD--but it's working, so that's good news. Progress at last! But it's a painful and long, hard process...but I'm hopeful and confident because, for the first time in a LONG time, I can FEEL and SEE myself getting better. I've definitely put on muscle (which is saying something because I normally do NOT build muscle easily...) and have much more energy. I've even been able to exercise again (which is making me SO HAPPY I can't even tell you...AH!) I've been rebounding, taking walks, and doing some bodyweight training. It feels SO GOOD! Also just the sheer fact that I can eat is a huge praise. Good things are happening...one step, one day, one moment at a time. Keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus is what keeps me going!
I AM still dealing with immense total body pain (including pain in my guts--literally--from the SIBO treatment), from my back to my neck to everything else, but one step at a time. My pain has DEFINITELY improved overall since changing my diet...I have been doing quite a bit of research on this (and other things I've seen/noticed) and can't wait to share some truly jaw-dropping SCIENCE and research with you all in my book :)
I'll share as I'm able, but like I said, treatment is ROUGH and is taking a lot, lot out of me most days (I was sick ALLLLL day yesterday and today). Continued prayers for strength and healing are so very much appreciated. Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support. Don't hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns!
Lastly, I'm not taking new clients right now as I really need to focus on my own health so I can get myself over this infection, but I will inform everyone when I am taking new clients again. I do have a waiting list though, so please email me if you would like to be added to that list.
Until next time...Happy Wellness Wednesday :)