#234 My Struggle With Gut Health

should you exercise on an empty stomach?

This one is a personal post and is for all of the other women who have issues with food intolerances, gut health, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. I want to share my story because it took up a large chunk of my adult life and caused me so much pain. I hope that by sharing this, other women having similar issues will get the right treatment early, and avoid going through the pain (and learning curve) that I did!

This might get pretty long so I apologise in advance :) Please only continue reading if you have an interest in or are having issues with gut health.

Where It All Started

To this day, I still don’t really know what caused my gut issues, but I think it started with getting sick on overseas travels. I got a stomach ulcer when I was in the Philippines in 2008, and I think that was the start.

Little sis and I in the Philippines back in 2008!

Little sis and I in the Philippines back in 2008!

I went to the US for 6 weeks when I was 23 and was extremely sick, and it all went downhill from here. I put this down to the fact that I was drinking most days and also eating terribly (probably didn’t help!). When I came back, my skin had full blown acne and I was lactose intolerant.

Diagnosis 1 – Irritable Bowel Syndrome

I did the normal thing and went to see a doctor, who ran a series of tests to see if I was coeliac or had any other issues such as iron deficiency. Turns out all my tests were great and sounded like I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I was told to manage it using the FODMAP diet.

I followed the FODMAP diet religiously, kept a food diary, kept a track of when I felt sick, eliminated foods one by one. After all this, I was even more confused. The FODMAP diet didn’t really work for me. I was still lactose intolerant (to the point that one tiny (1cm big) piece of cheese would give me diarrhea. But all different foods were making me sick and I couldn’t work out why.

I went back to the doctor and they referred me to a gastroenterologist. Because I didn’t have private health, I was on a waiting list which took around 9 months. In the 9 months, I slowly got worse but tried to manage it myself with my diet and just eliminated everything (gluten, dairy, sugar and other foods that would make me sick).

I finally went to see the gastroenterologist and he said that it didn’t seem bad enough to do a colonoscopy and that it sounded like I had IBS and to manage it through diet.

At this point, I should have sought a second opinion. But I accepted it and tried to do my best. I actually let this carry on for another few years until I got worse and worse.

Symptoms

These are just some of the symptoms I was experiencing:

  • Waking up with diarrhea and stomach pain every morning
  • Waking up feeling sick / nauseous
  • Extreme bloating
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Moodiness
  • Lethargy / lack of energy
  • Acne
  • Psoriasis / eczema (I have always had eczema but it gets worse when my gut is not well)
Psoriasis - this is not me (mine didn't get as severe)

Psoriasis – this is not me (mine didn’t get as severe)

Overall, I was feeling pretty sh*t! It wasn’t until I accidentally stumbled upon a photo on Facebook of psoriasis and I was like “hey I have that!” I didn’t know what it was at the time, but the photo looked exactly like this rash thing that had started developing on my thigh. Anyway, I clicked on the photo which took me to a blog post about dysbiosis (imbalance of the gut bacteria).

This is the long version, so if you’re interested, please keep reading. If you just want to get to the end, please skip to the “Diagnosis 3” section :)

Self Diagnosis – Dysbiosis

I self-diagnosed myself and decided that I had dysbiosis and I needed to start taking probiotics. I started taking inner health plus and in 1-2 days I felt a million times better! I was going to the toilet normally, I dropped weight really quickly and starting feeling better overall. But for some reason this only lasted about 2 weeks and the probiotics stopped working…

I was at my parents’ place when the probiotics stuff was happening (around December 2015) and they saw how sick I was and convinced me I needed to go back to the doctor. I was very reluctant as I know what they had told me previously and I thought it was a complete waste of my time. But I went back to the doctor and they ran another series of tests (including stool samples). Everything came back normal and I was referred to a gastroenterologist (again!).

Diagnosis 2 – Dysbiosis

I went to see the gastroenterologist who told me that it sounded like I had dysbiosis (I was right!!!). He told me that there was no treatment and to manage it through my diet. He said that it was common for women my age and one treatment was to issue antidepressants, because most women who he saw were completely in tears over it and depressed. I was feeling depressed but didn’t want the antidepressants.

He also told me that he’d never seen this in women once they have a baby – for some reason, pregnancy just stops it. But he couldn’t explain why. So my options were – antidepressants, manage it through diet, or wait until I get pregnant. Great.

I went home and started researching dysbiosis specialists who might be able to help me. I found a few naturopaths who specialized in dysbiosis and booked an appointment.

I was very skeptical as I thought naturopathy was a “hippie” treatment. But I was desperate. I met with my naturopath who asked a billion questions and then sent me home with a stool sample kit (comprehensive digestive stool analysis test). It was much more comprehensive than the ones that the doctor’s had given me. A few weeks later, I went back to get my results.

My naturopath walked me through my results and told me EXACTLY what was wrong with me – which is something that none of the doctors or gastroenterologists had been able to do.

Diagnosis 3 – Lack Of Gut Bacteria & Leaky Gut Syndrome

Turns out I had no gut bacteria (no good or bad), which is slightly different to dysbiosis (dysbiosis means you have more bad than good bacteria). Anyway, I was given a very strong multi-strand probiotic to help with this.

I also had “leaky gut syndrome,” which sounds pretty gross, like my butt is leaking or something haha. But what it actually means is that my intestinal lining / junctions have holes in them and are leaking. So undigested food, yeast, and other toxins that move into my intestine are leaking into my bloodstream. This causes inflammation and your liver and immune system fight your body. So basically your body/immune system is attack itself and if left untreated, can result in an autoimmune disease.

I Am Cured!

My naturopath gave me a few different types of natural medicine to help with this. After a few days on this medication I was starting to feel better already. After 8 weeks I was almost 100%! I was eating dairy (started in small amounts) and was not feeling sick in the mornings or after eating, I wasn’t feeling bloated and no longer had diarrhea. Overall I was feeling SO much better!

I can actually eat dairy without getting sick!

I can actually eat dairy without getting sick!

I honestly felt like it was a miracle because I’d struggled for more than 4 years with this and then within a few weeks after seeing my naturopath I was recovered.

I only wish that someone had told me to go and see a naturopath sooner, rather than struggling with doctors and gastroenterologists and trying to manage it myself with diet. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to see a doctor and gastroenterologist initially to make sure there is nothing majorly wrong. But if they can’t help you, don’t be scared of seeing a naturopath!

As I mentioned, if I can just help one person who is going through the same thing, then writing this blog post was worth it! Also please remember that I’m not a doctor or naturopath, this is just what worked for me.

Good luck to you! xx

Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

27 comments on “#234 My Struggle With Gut Health”

    sandra says:

    Hi Rachael,
    I’m glad you are doing so much better and thank you for taking the time to give us all this great information.
    I have been struggling with alot of the same issues you have.
    What medications did you take for your gut health that healed most of your issues?
    I’m currently seeing a naturopathic doc and a hormone doctor.

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      I’m so glad you’ve found this info helpful!
      The things Rachael used were – L-glutamine, high dosage multi-strand probiotic, slippery elm, and digestive enzymes before meals. Other things such as bone broth, collagen and fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kimchi, etc) are great too! But the most important are definitely L-glutamine and probiotics.

      Good luck at your doc and I wish you a speedy recovery! xx

      Love,
      Diana

    Olivia says:

    Rachael, your story is no joke almost identical to mine. I had a stomach ulcer 3 years ago and since then have been sick in and off with stomach and immune issues. Have had a gastroscope and seen various doctors with no results. You have convinced me to go see a naturopath. Thanks so much for sharing :)

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      You’re welcome lovely,

      We’re happy to help and we wish you a fast recovery!

      Also good luck with the naturopath :) xx

      Love,
      Diana

    Sasha says:

    Hello Rachael, I am 28 and have been diagnosed with sibo and celiac! Three years ago I work up with a lot of the same issues as you described! I have always struggled with acne! I am seeing a functional doctor and I hope I just get better like you did! I am intolerant to lots of foods as well! ☹️ Did your skin clear up after you fixed you gut? And what doctor do you recommend? Thanks for such a motivating post! ?

      Rachael Attard says:

      Hi lovely, I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through! Just know that you CAN get better though. I saw a naturopath so I would definitely recommend finding a naturopath who specializes in gut health (doctors weren’t able to help me). I also struggled a lot with acne and it got a lot better after I cured my gut issues. But then it came back due to hormone imbalances (that’s a whole different story). Now that I’m almost cured of the hormone imbalances, my skin has cleared up again. In terms of the gut health treatment, I don’t remember the exact things (I wish I did!). But I know I took a high dosage multi-strand probiotic (and still do to this day) and a few different things to strengthen my gut wall. I know I took L-glutamine, and then I took another mix of things that my naturopath made for me. I can’t remember exactly what it included but pretty sure it had magnesium. Good luck! I hope you make a speedy recovery xx

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