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.
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.
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
- Lethargy / lack of energy
- Psoriasis / eczema (I have always had eczema but it gets worse when my gut is not well)
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 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
What things did the naturopath recommend
Rachael recently had her baby, so she is with her and this is one of her girls writing. :)
It is suggested that you go to your specialized doctor, because all gut-related problems are different, even if the symptoms are the same.
So it will be best if you’d check out with them what’s bothering your metabolism and how should you solve it. :)
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.
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
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 :)
You’re welcome lovely,
We’re happy to help and we wish you a fast recovery!
Also good luck with the naturopath :) xx
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! ?
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
Can you please tell me what they prescribed for you
Hi lovely, 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 xx
Hi Rachel, I started following you on instagram, but I’m happy to have found your articles. This one especially has inspired me to find a specialist to help with my similar issues. I haven’t been able to eat/live normally in many years. I’m 27 presently, but around age 20, I got very sick with depression/anxiety via a traumatic relationship that greatly affected my gut responses and my diet (subconscious extreme calorie deprivation). This lasted a few years, but now as I’m older, and my body has changed, I am suffering the effects of that part of my life even more obviously. It’s challenging and frustrating and while most people probably identify me as ‘thin,’ I do not feel my best self when I’m bloated or constipated. Thank you for sharing your tips, workouts, and your story. I needed to hear it. God bless.
Hi Ashleigh, oh I’m so sorry to hear this. Having gut health issues really affects ALL of your health, it’s so crazy how linked it is to depression / anxiety. I’m very happy to hear that my story has inspired you to seek help from a professional. I hope you get back to your best very soon! I didn’t think I would ever get better, but I did, so it’s possible – good luck! xx
I think my wife has leaky gut. Can you refer me to the naturopath that helped you.
Hi Gerry, I saw Sally Broadhurst at Vibe Natural Health in Brisbane. I wish her all the best!
Thanks so much for this article. I too believe in the benefit of natural medicine. However last year my regular stomach “issues” reached some a bad level that I began seeing doctors and specialists. After over a year of testing and medicines, they have come to very little conclusions, and decided it must just be IBS. Every medicine they put me on caused other outside problems. I have quite running, lost 25 lbs and all muscle, and feeling very frustrated.
Now I am just wanting to start over. I found your website wanting to rebuild my body and muscle. I feel as though I have had to figure out my health on my own to a great extent. This is so unfortunate. But I am glad to hear your information with a naturopath. I think this might be a benefit to help in my healing process. Thank you for your willingness to share your story and help the rest of us!
Hi Kate, I’m really sorry to hear this. When my gut health was really bad, it was probably the worst time in my life. It really affects all aspects of your life. I hope you’re doing OK. I definitely think getting that testing done at a naturopath can help – it really changed everything for me. With the right treatment, I recovered pretty quickly after being sick for years. So I hope the same can happen for you. Wishing you all the best! And I hope you recover soon xxx
I’ve been struggling for years. It started when I was 7 years old. I woke up nauseous everday,I throwed up almost everyday. Sometimes for a whole week. The doctors sayed nothing was wrong,until I hit puberty it got better.How? I began with skipping breakfast then lunch(cuz I thought it wasn’t necessary to eat if it came up again). Which lead to ED at age 15,continued to age 18. At age 19 I was fully recovered,but all this became IBS. I’m 24 years old now,still struggling with bloating,nausea,anxiety,depression,social-phobia. Working out have always been my nr.1 escape door,from everything. I used to be more motivated,but the last 2 years have been hard. I lose weight easily,and IBS make it worse (loss of appetite). Anyways I try to take it easier,working out and eat less(heavy foods,dairy,sugar/everything white,protein included),but frequently.
Hi lovely, OMG I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles :( Have you been to see a naturopath about your IBS and gut issues? I think they could really help. Having good gut health is SO important to your overall health, and can cause things like bloating, nausea and depression. I hope you start feeling better soon. All the best to you xxx
I struggle with some of those symptoms – bloating, depression, lethargy – no rashes or acne. What would you say is the first step when you have a limited budget? I am already doing colon hydro therapy and the elimination detox and it’s helping me to feel better. It seems getting testing to find out what’s wrong is very expensive, any suggestions?
Hi Beth, I’m sorry to hear that. That’s a tough one because everyone is different. You really need to go and get tested – I would say it’s more important than the colon hydro therapy, as you will get an actual diagnosis and the proper treatment. I would save up and go see a naturopath to get tested! xx
Hi Rachael, thank you so much for writing this post! I have been looking for a good probiotic and I’m wondering if you could share the brand you take and anything else you took that helped you. Thank you for your inspiring posts and fitness advice!
Hi Shauna, you are so welcome! I am using Life Space probiotic as it is high dosage (you can get some that are 110 billion bacteria per capsule). And they are multi strand meaning it has lots of different types of strains of bacteria, rather than just the main 2 (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis). If you can’t find Life Space, I would try to find one that has at least 8 strains and at least 60 billion bacteria at a minimum. I hope that helps! xx
Thank you SO much!!!
Rachael, this is one of the most real articles you’ve ever shared! Wow, I can’t believe the journey you had to go through to find a cure for your gut issues, but I’m so glad you’re better now. Western medicine is amazing for so many treatments, but curing chronic issues (like gut health, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and hypothyroidism in my case!) are too often treated with medications without determining the root cause. Hopefully someone reads this and is really helped by it!!
Thanks Andrenna! I’m sorry to hear about your hypothyroidism – I hope you’re better soon! Thanks for reading :D xx