Dietary Results: Round One

So you have learned (or haven’t learned) from my bio page that phase one of my path to feeling better was addressing leaky gut and a hormone imbalance. (The PTSD treatment will come later as that is complex and unique.)

Prior to that first doctor’s appointment, I had never heard of leaky gut. I thought my diet was well-balanced and happily filled out the food chart I was asked to take to the appointment. Turns out, the gluten, soy, dairy and corn in my diet were damaging the lining of my small intestine and letting bacteria into my blood stream. The bacteria then produced an autoimmune response in my body by not allowing it to absorb nutrients, screwing up my hormones and stunting the production of serotonin. Basically, the lining of the small intestine is as important as the more popular organs—heart, lungs, liver—yet we’re damaging it daily with delicious food and causing ourselves tons of ailments we treat with pills. It’s a crazy yet completely plausible concept. My doctor told me 80% of the population have it so there is a chance you have some level of it. If you regularly feel tired, foggy, grouchy, joint and back pain, migraines, gas, bloating, insomnia, crave sugar or carbs, have skin rashes, depression or anxiety it’s something to seriously consider. In my case, I had likely damaged my small intestine by slowly letting in more and more bad bacteria with each serious (hospitalization, IV’s) case of food poisoning. Other things like repeated steroid (prednisone, cortisone) use and regularly using OTC pain relievers can irritate the lining of the small intestine enough to trigger leaky gut. Years of poor eating habits can also do the same.

Treating leaky gut is done by rebuilding the gut lining through an elimination diet. The body treats a host of foods as toxic including gluten, dairy, and sugar. Then there are the actual chemical-laden foods, corn and soy, which contain tons of GMO’s, plus peanuts and coffee which are basically mold from being grown in a hot, wet climate. (See the Research page for more info on coffee.) I eliminated gluten, diary and peanuts immediately and limited corn and soy. In a time where everything, including the eggs at IHOP include soy, full soy elimination is nearly impossible. And not all soy is created equal as some organic soy proteins have health benefits. Next I had 7 different blood tests to get a better perspective on what was being absorbed and what wasn’t. One of my favorite parts about my new doctor is medical evidence. I’ve felt bad for so long that knowing why is almost as important to me as feeling better.

Within two weeks on the new diet I stopped feeling generally puffy. I hadn’t realized just how constantly bloated I was or how swollen my entire body felt. After a month, the ache in my lower back had disappeared. After 60 days, my mood on all days besides 2-3 hormonal ones were happier. My energy was higher, my skin was clearer, brighter, and my heart beat only elevated to a paniced level twice. Right now, I am eagerly awaiting the 90 day mark for the full host of improvements. I am at the point where I feel so good I can look at a basket of rolls on the table at Logan’s with disinterest. I have no desire to eat a piece of cake or scoop of ice cream at a birthday party. And as I approach the time where I can add things back into my diet, I probably won’t. I am becoming content with eating like this for the remainder of my life. I miss pizza and Indian food occasionally, but I’d rather feel amazing.

My blood tests showed low-average B and D vitamins, higher than normal yeast, negative for celiac, above-average kidney function and somewhat low magnesium. I now take a shit ton of supplements to aid in healing and address the deficiencies. I’ve made a list for reference:

1.       Thorne Research Basic Nutrients (multi vitamin) 2 pills

2.       Ortho molecular Ortho Biotic (probiotic) 1 pill

3.       Ortho molecular Orthomega (fish oil) 1 pill

4.       Metagenics Mag Glycinate (Magnesium) currently half a pill

5.       Now brand Aloe 1 pill

6.       Gabapentin 100 mg (prescription drug)

7.       Trintellix 5 mg (head med) 

The multivitamin addresses raising the B and D vitamins. The probiotic helps heal the gut, process foods and fights off illness. I cannot stress the importance of a probiotic and will write more on it in a future post. The fish oil and aloe heal the gut lining and promote good gut bacteria. Besides being a needed mineral for over 300 enzyme reactions, the magnesium aids sleep in combination with the Gabapentin. Sleep is also paramount to feeling better; your body must rest to heal and function properly. Gabapentin, traditionally a seizure medication, stimulates my GABA neurotransmitter to help with anxiety, overall calmness. (The development of rapid heart palpitations aka panic attacks and increased OCD are two things that told me something bigger was wrong inside my body these past couple years.) I take some of these supplements in the morning, some after dinner and some at night. It is a commitment.

The leaky gut diet also includes eating 40% non-starchy vegetables, 30% protein, 15% healthy fats and 15% carbs at least 80% of time, plus drinking half your body weight in ounces of clean water a day. This diet doesn’t include much sugar or alcohol. I’ve never been really into sweets, but I do love a microbrew beer every once and a while. Now I have an occasional cider or glass of prosecco. This diet produces weight loss regardless of whether you are trying to. I lost 10 lbs in two months and am already a petite person. The interesting thing is that I lost it from mostly my hips and waist, two places were fat loss tends to be stubborn. I’ve lifted weights for a decade and where I was lifting 4-5 days a week, I am now lifting 3 days a week as I become accustomed to maintaining weight and eating the right kinds of carbohydrates.

As for the hormonal imbalance, I did what is called a rhythm test to measure my estradiol, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. I spit in vials every few days which I stored in the freezer over the course of a month. I learn the results of the spit test, along with a home stool test which will address the high yeast, at the end of this month. I’m oddly excited like a child on Christmas morning to find out what else is broken inside my body because I am super motivated to fix this shit for good.

Since I waited for two years to get in to Parkview Integrative Medicine and felt crappy for even longer, I have been a very compliant patient. I was somewhat desperate to feel better having run out of options, so the lifestyle changes were welcome. Plus I’m cheap as hell, and although I have full coverage insurance the out of pocket expenses for doctor’s appointments, supplements, and labs add up. I want to get my money’s worth out of this treatment.

If you’re interested in making similar lifestyle changes, I recommend not half-assing it so you can experience the full benefits. Small changes are good, but they won’t produce the same results. Take 90 days, go balls out and see what happens. In the big picture of life, it’s not that long to try something that could potentially change everything.