Blog Post by Coach Julie
**Please Note: This is my journey. The protocol that I am following is individualized to my situation. I am not a doctor nor am I offering medical advice. Should you wish to seek coaching for your individual situation please fill out the coaching call application and Coach Kayli or I would love to help you.
This is going to be the beginning of a blog series that will also have podcast episodes and social media posts to supplement it. This series will be a case study and a documentary of my journey to better gut health. I have been on a mission since 2008 to figure out what was wrong with my gut and fix it so that I could have a better quality of life. I had not been successful finding answers regarding what was wrong with my gut so that I could start the process of healing and getting better. Now, in 2022, 14 years later, I have the answers I need, the coach to guide me and support me and the protocol that will hopefully put me in the place of healing and a normal functioning quality of life. Through this series I will outline my journey. What we are doing, why we are doing it and how I am doing with the process. At this point, not even I know if the method I have in place will work, but I’m going to document each step and any changes we make along the way.
Let me start by giving you the backstory. In 2008, I started having severe diarrhea. It was so bad, I couldn’t control my bowels. I would have diarrhea as soon as I woke up and it would continue until almost dinner time. It didn’t matter what I ate. I was always sick. My doctor at the time ran a bunch of lab tests to try and diagnose an issue. All labs were normal. I was negative for Crohns’, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac, etc. They couldn’t find anything abnormal. There was nothing they could do. I couldn’t function at a normal capacity. I couldn’t work and I had to do my college coursework via email. This persisted until around 2011.
In 2011, after a procedure by my chiropractor to close my ileocecal valve, the diarrhea stopped. The ileocecal valve is a valve in your intestinal tract that can get stuck open and cause what’s called “dumping syndrome.” After the diarrhea stopped, I began feeling a little bit better, but I had started having nausea. I returned to the doctor. The doctor had previously run abdominal sonograms and ultrasounds but found nothing of note. At the time she had mentioned a test called a HIDA scan to check the function of the gallbladder. This test requires you to lay still on a bed for an extended period of time, which I knew I would not be able to do without getting sick. Now that the diarrhea had resolved, I asked if we could discuss the HIDA scan again. We decided that would be a good course of action. The test showed that my gallbladder was only working at 7%. The gallbladder is usually removed at 50%, it should have been removed a long time ago, but since I didn’t have gallstones and I wasn’t full of sludge and uninsured, I wasn’t an emergent case.
I knew part of the key to feeling better would be removing the gallbladder. I borrowed money from my grandmother to pay for my surgery. In December 2011, I had my gallbladder removed and I asked for an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy at the same time to check for other issues. While they were removing my gallbladder, it actually ruptured. It was actually full of sludge.
Coming out of surgery, I felt much better. I had to avoid certain foods but I felt much better than I had in a long time. I was able to proceed with a better quality of life than I had the 3 years prior to. I also used this as an opportunity to stop smoking.
In 2015, I had a flare up of diarrhea again that wouldn’t stop. I was even hospitalized and given strong medications to help the condition, but instead of healing, I ended up with C. Diff, which is a horrible bacterial infection in your bowels.
I sought help from a GI specialist. Without running any tests, the doctor handed me a prescription for a very high powered anti-diarrheal medication and told me to be careful. He said some people end up with obstructive bowels after using that medication. I decided I would start with half a tablet per day and slowly increase until I found the dose that worked for me. That seemed to work ok. But I wasn’t satisfied with using a pill to mask a symptom. Something had to be causing the diarrhea. I sought the help of another GI specialist in 2016. He completed a colonoscopy and found nothing of significance. He found a had a tortuous colon, which means that I have a sharper bend in my colon than most people so things sometimes don’t move through as smoothly as they should, which can cause pain. Again, an answer but not quite the answer.
I finally was able to get into a specialist program at KU. I was pretty sure that would be my ticket to wellness. KU is supposed to be the gold standard of treatment. On the day of my appointment my doctor came in and said that I had IBS and I needed to continue to use the medication for the diarrhea but because it was causing a little bit of constipation, I needed to add a laxative to that as well. That was not an answer. Those medications counteract each other. I left very displeased.
I have been able to manage my condition so far with diet and exercise, but I still have cramping, pain, bloating, constipation, fatigue and just overall feeling of malaise. I have been living this way since 2016. I struggle with anxiety and depression which could very much be caused by this constant ill feeling.
Toward the end of 2020, I started pushing again to find the answers to my gut issues. My doctor and I ran so many tests. Finally a stool test showed that I had pancreatic insufficiency. I was elated. Finally an answer that wasn’t “it’s all in your head” or “it’s your anxiety.” They prescribed me a pancreatic enzyme to correct this issue. It seemed to work really well, I was feeling pretty good, but I started feeling more constipated than before. I decided to try and stop my anti-diarrhea medication. I was able to stop that and feel ok. No diarrhea returned and I was feeling ok, not quite great yet.
I saw another gut health specialist at KU in December 2021. This doctor hadn’t looked over my medical records that he required before he would see me. He had to ask me what lab testing had been done and after telling him what my test showed and my diagnosis he told me “that is a trash can diagnosis.” He wanted to put me under anesthesia to prove the other doctor wrong and that my pancreas was fine. He said you have IBS and I am going to give you medication for constipation but it may cause diarrhea. This time I actually spoke up for myself. I told him I wasn’t interested in taking another medication and ending up back where I was. I have been chasing my tail for over a decade now. His solution was to take peppermint oil, which I wasn’t super happy with but at least it was natural.
After this disappointing appointment, my wife and I decided to seek the help of a functional medicine doctor. I was getting nowhere so it was time to change the path. I saw the new doctor in January. She gave me a great plan of action but the testing was going to cost me around $700 out of pocket to figure out what was going on, but she thought I had a parasite. The issue is, the tests she wanted me to complete weren't for the gut. I wanted my gut addressed, I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to mess with everything else first.
I mentioned all of this stress to my nutrition and fitness coach, who, like Coach Kayli and I, is a gut health speciailst. He stated that he thought that he and I could do this together for less money and less invasive. I agreed. This is where we are now.
I ordered a GI MAP test online. The mail you the testing materials, you complete the stool test and mail it back to the lab. My results were back within 2 weeks. The results showed high inflammation, H.Pylori and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.) These are things that can be healed and treated. Brandon and I have come up with a protocol that we think will work. The protocol is coming from his experience and his wide network of other coaches and specialists that have completed this protocol before. The protocol I am following has also been reviewed by a functional medicine doctor and my primary medical provider. They approve of the protocol and are supervising me throughout this journey. This is very much a collaboration as everyone involved has been given the lab results and the protocol and knows where we are every step of the way.
The first phase of this journey that is required is the diet. Before we can do anything, we have to prepare the gut for treatment. Temporarily changing my diet will help reduce inflammation which will not only help me feel better but also make my gut more susceptible to the treatment. The diet changes I am implementing are moving toward gluten free and low FODMAP diets. We are also cutting out caffeine and alcohol, although I don’t drink. I will need to eat 3 to 4 hours apart to allow the gut time to recover and digest each meal.
I will also be reducing the amount of intensity and frequency of training. The body needs to dedicate the energy to healing the gut so I will be lifting 3 days per week and not exceeding 7 RPE/3 RIR. No high intensity cardio, only walks, yoga and mobility. I will also be taking 10 minute walks after meals to aid in digestion.
I have also started peppermint oil to help soothe the GI tract and Saccharomyces Boulardii. S. Boulardii is a good bacteria that acts as a probiotic in the gut. This is used to help boost intestinal immunity and also helps with diarrhea. I will also be starting a colostrum supplement. This will be used to help repair the gut lining and make it stronger so that it can treat the H.Pylori infection.
I have not received the colostrum supplement but I have received the S. Bouldarii. I started it on Saturday March 19th. I have tolerated it well. I am having some cramping but it isn’t terrible. No diarrhea or vomiting. My diet changes have started but I am not fully at gluten free or low FODMAP quite yet. It’s a gradual process and I had some groceries that I needed to finish so they didn’t go to waste. I seem to be doing well so far. I will start the colostrum as soon as I receive it. I will continue to move the diet toward gluten free and low FODMAP and will take the two supplements for 2 weeks. After two weeks, if I’ve handled the protocol well so far, we will progress to phase 2, but that phase will be dictated by my progress over these 2 weeks.