Friday, 18 October 2013

Surrendering to Chronic Dis-ease

Aka – letting go of something that won’t let go of you.

On the couch, again, all appointments, work and arranged catch ups cancelled for the next 3 days – and on it goes. This has been the cycle for the last 9 months. It gets to you after awhile – I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. This is why when I have a good day, its full steam ahead. Trying to fit in a week’s worth of exercise, catch up with 3 friends, run extra errands and get to work an hour earlier than expected. I take advantage of feeling good by perhaps having an extra coffee, some chocolate, skipping a meal and getting by on a little less sleep; pretty much acting ‘normal’ for someone in their early 30’s. Then a few days later, like clockwork, I wake up with what I call ‘cotton wool head’. Can hardly open my eyes, my ears feel weird and I feel like something is pressing against my skull from the inside out. Soon after when wakefulness kicks in, joint pain, headaches, fatigue and the aforementioned everything I was looking forward to, cancelled. Not to mention the battle against depression that’s constantly peeping over my shoulder.

It’s hard to let go of the urge to fight back, to say ‘fuck you body’ I’m getting on with life anyway – but that’s what got me here in the first place, an incessant need to do. Not heeding to the little symptoms and suggestions through my body that perhaps I wasn’t living in the most optimal way. To release that urge to supplement or caffeinate myself  out of it, to instead sit still and trace back to what brought this on, and in the process let go of the resentment of not being able to be even a little bit reckless without major consequences.

Although I have yet to get a full diagnosis, I know something isn’t right, this 2 days on 3 days off cycle is getting tiresome and my ability to ‘keep going’ quickly draining. I’ve stopped researching all my symptoms like a full time job – I’ve done all the tests I can at this point, taken pills and have a long list of others tests and pills to pop that I’ll get to when the money comes in. Right now, in this moment, I can’t fight back or run away from my symptoms anymore. So what’s left? Surrender.

Chronic – persistent or long lasting in its effects and lasting longer than 3 months. It’s not going anywhere in a hurry so I need to learn to make dis-ease my friend – a warning sign that I’m heading off balance and not a foe that’s consistently getting in my way. Perhaps these debilitating days of forced relaxation are preventing something greater within me busting a fuse. Maybe the forced day off work I curse is really a blessing in disguise. I certainly don’t pay attention to the subtle things anymore: changes in digestive patterns, waking up with the shakes, muscle twinges, dark circles under my eyes, loss of appetite, weight loss, rashes and break outs, constant headaches and that feeling that I really need to sleep instead of watching one last show in whatever mindless TV series I’ve downloaded or spending yet another 30 minutes on facebook before bed.

"The simple intention to surrender your control is all you need to experience miracles". – Gabby B. Surrender – to stop resisting, to hand over... Something bigger than my will to solider on and be a ‘doer’ is at play here, and the more I fight it, the further away I get from any answers. It won’t let go of me, so I have to let go of trying to control it. I need to stop, sit and listen before I get to this point. 

I need to surrender to the early signs of being run down instead of waiting for the next day I’m immobilised by fatigue. I need to stop compensating for lack by trying to add more… More coffee does not add up for less sleep, more facebook time does not add up for lack of connection with real people, more doing of unimportant stuff does not make up for the lack of meaning I get from my job, more TV does not add up for the lack of purpose I often feel. More does not make up for less. Surrender. Let go of what I can’t control. Pay attention. Shift the things that take away my energy and fill that space with simple things that give more back. Maybe, this time, I’ll catch on.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Breath Testing for SIBO, Fructose Malabsorption and Lactose Intolerance

In my quest to find the elusive roots to my daily stomach discomfort, headaches, brain fog, energy dips and general roller coaster nature, I opted to try the breath testing route for SIBO, fructose malabsorption and lactose intolerance. I have a suspicion SIBO will come back positive (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) as many of my symptoms are listed under descriptions of the infection, and despite 2 heavy doses of antibiotics to eradicate helicobactor pylori and 2 parasites… symptoms continue. I suspect fructose malbsorption due to the pain high FODMAPs foods generally cause me, as well as random spurts of nausea. I chose to test lactose out of curiosity - as while I don’t have dairy as a rule, I am a fan of grass fed butter and haven’t narrowed down if/how it affects me.

This option isn’t necessary for everyone, and I dare say it’s expensive at $130 per test plus a control test, but I haven’t had success on a traditional elimination + reintroduction diet. Many of my symptoms are also subtle and seem to be disconnected (sometimes extra dairy gives me break outs, sometimes not, sometimes I notice pain after eating onions but seem to be ok with garlic, sometimes sugar makes me bloat, sometimes not etc). This is also the only real way of testing for SIBO and I’m the kinda girl who needs to see something on paper before she decides to eliminate ALL carbohydrates from her diet to heal her gut completely.

The procedure is pretty straight forward: you eat a restricted diet for 2 full days before testing, fast the night before the test, drink a super sugary solution then for the next 3 hours you have to blow into a little silver bag every 20 mins and avoid all food and liquid. Unfortunately said solution can make you feel a bit crap, especially if it’s a solution for something you can’t tolerate! (Fructose was the worst culprit for me). There are also a few extra guidelines around pre-test avoidance of probiotics, antibiotics, colonics, supplements and pain killers. This is what a test kit looks like through Stream Diagnostics

I opted for this company as it was a little bit cheaper than the place here in Perth and I could also order the kits to do the testing in the comfort of my own home. Spending 2 hours fasted and cranky in some sterile health office didn't seem too appealing. As far as I know they send internationally and their customer service is exceptional with prompt email replies and a hotline you can call up until 10pm EST with any questions.

From their website:

At the start of each of these breath tests, you will be given an inflatable bag to create a ‘baseline’ breath sample. This sample is processed and the amount of methane and/or hydrogen in it will be recorded. You will then have a sugar drink, after which you will create further breath samples at 20 minute intervals for the next 2 hours at minimum.
As you will have followed the diet for a full 2 days before each in clinic and Home Kit test, this will have lowered the level of bacterial activity in your digestive tract to as close to zero as possible. The diet is designed to lower bacterial activity through a lack of sugars which may be causing you symptoms – namely Fructose, Lactose and Sorbitol.
The baseline breath reading before your drink will provide your ‘resting’ hydrogen and methane content. Then, when you have the sugar drink, this travels through your intestinal system over the next hour or so. If the sugar passes through the small bowel with minimal or no absorption through the gut wall, it will carry on to the large bowel, where the bacteria will begin feeding on the sugar, converting it in part to a gaseous response, which is able to be read via your exhaled breath content.
I sent my first lot of tests away on Thursday, so with any luck I’ll have more clarity by the end of the month :-)


SIBO basics
Pre-Test Diet
Stream Diagnostics

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Acceptance - A Quote for the Tough Days

This is what I remind myself when I feel like giving up and surrendering to this constantly feeling like *shit*. “Today I accept the true purpose of my body. I am here to use this body as a learning device through which I become more connected to love. My physical healing offers me energy to be of higher service. I accept my body as a vehicle for sharing more light with the world” – Gabby B

I remember my younger self, 15, pulled out of school and in hospital as a day patient to recover from an eating disorder. The pain I saw in my fellow 'in mates' was heart breaking, I wanted to reach out, to help, to shake them back to their senses - for their family, their children, their lovers, their friends. I wanted to stand on the table where we were all forced to remain for 30 minutes during feeding sessions and scream, "Why? Why have you all given up!?" To jump up and down on the couch in the room we were then confined to for a further 30 minutes and ask, "What made you give up? Who hurt you so bad you just want to fade away!? But then I looked down at my own fragile frame and fragmented sense of self... Oh. Ouch.

That's when it hit me - to help others I first must heal myself, then, and only then, will I be able to help others do the same. 17 years later, I'm closer, but still not there. While my body image and weight have been healed, daily repercussions of my past actions are apparent. Reading Gabby's quote reminds me why I continue to battle, to look for answers, things that work, and why, one day (hopefully soon) all this will make sense.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

When JERFing isn’t enough…

As amazing as JERFing is, for those of us with leaky gut or auto immune disease, sometimes it’s just not enough. It’s a common story to start eating paleo/primal expecting miracles to happen and when they don’t, hands get thrown up in the air and we wonder why we bothered. This was me several times over before I found out what I’m about to share. 

Unfortunately, many of the most innocent and natural foods can cause a flare up of symptoms: inflammation, nausea, stomach pain as well as achy joints, insomnia, skin reactions, headaches, digestive distress and mood disturbances. Often times we are so used to feeling like crap we don’t even recognise that we are having such reactions. Certain compounds in foods cause the body to go into overdrive, recognising these compounds as invaders, it attacks. Not only the offending compounds, but eventually its own cells too – that’s how leaky gut, if left untreated, can progress to an auto immune disease. 

Enter, The Autoimmune Protocol. 

This starts with a traditional paleo diet - taking out all grains, including so called health grains like quinoa, all flours and gluten free treats. Ditching legumes (and probably a lot of extra gas), taking out all dairy as well as anything in a package with a long shelf life and a whole list of weird ingredients you can’t pronounce. This is strict paleo, no cheats. But wait, there’s more, those offending compounds I mentioned? Let’s explore… 


Potato, tomato, eggplant and sweet/hot peppers (including paprika and chilli powder)…These bad boys belong to a family of foods called nightshadesThere are over 2000 plant species in this family but the list here is so small because most of them are poisonous, deadly nightshade and tobacco being two common examples. Nightshades should be avoided due to their high content of lectins (a sugar binding protein which is a protective mechanism in a plant that resists digestion), saponins (a glycoalkaloid that stimulates an already overactive immune system) and capsaicin (a very strong stimulant - ever rub your eyes after cutting chillies!?)

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds have a few things going against them, lectins (mentioned above), pyhtates (which are binding and effect digestion), they’re high in omega 6 (too much omega 6 without omega 3 is inflammatory) and they’re commonly known as one of the top allergens (people with leaky gut and auto immune disease are more prone to allergic reactions and food sensitivities).  Many nuts are high in FODMAPS too (see below) which can be problematic for those with ailing tummies. It’s important to note that seed based spices, coffee and cocoa are in this category as they are seeds *sad face*.

Excess Fructose/High FODMAPs

Frementable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols, FODMAPs, are short chain carbohydrate molecules that are often implicated in IBS. Many people with digestive distress have absorption issues with these compounds. They provide a feeding ground for bacteria in the intestine and also decrease the amount of water in the colon. This can result in gas, pain, bloating, cramping and a change in bowel frequency. If the gut is already compromised breaking down FODMAPs will be harder, and the symptoms more pronounced. Here's a great paleo friendly list if you want to explore FODMAPs. Even if you don't have leaky gut, reducing FODMAPs in your diet could help with other digestive issues.


What’s for breakfast? Unfortunately it’s not eggs! Eggs are also one of the top allergenic foods. The egg white provides protection from microbial attack as the embryo grows, and it does a whole host of complicated things to ensure its safety. (If you want to geek out on this process head over here). The main compound is lysozyme, this very easily crosses the intestinal barrier of even the healthiest people heading straight into the blood stream where it binds to other proteins and gets up to mischief.


As if all that wasn’t enough to drive you crazy, you’ll need to ditch the alcohol too if you’re serious about your gut health. Long story short alcohol directly increases your already leaky intestinal wall and damages the gut lining - tough love, no ways around it.

It’s not easy but there comes a time when continuously dealing with symptoms (which vary from person to person) finally out weigh the pleasure we get from eating our favourite foods. Sarah Ballantyne over at Paleo Mom is a superstar in this arena, and what I’m briefing for you here she covers in much greater detail on her siteShe’s the scientist after all, I’m merely a self-experimenting, health challenged researcher.

For amazing print out guides on what to eat and what to avoid you can go to the lovely Mickey Trescott’s pageIncidentally she also has a brilliant e-cookbook that I refer to often (and don’t benefit from if you purchase it). If you’re new to this, I understand it’s a lot to take in; feeling overwhelmed at first is common. But read, play around with your diet and see how it feels. Eventually you’ll find your place of ‘just right’.

Big Love xx 


JERFing in a nutshell (Just Eat Real Food)
What is A Leaky Gut
What are Nightshades?
Spices on the Autoimmune Protocol
Pros and Cons of Coffee
FODMAPs Cheat Sheet
Why not Eggs?
The Paleo Mom
Autoimmune Print Out Guides
Autoimmune eCookbook