My gut healing journey
I was first diagnosed with SIBO and leaky gut syndrome by my functional doctor in May 2017. Since then I’ve been on a gut healing journey.
how it all began...
I'd suffered from digestive issues (bloat, gas, constipation, diarrhoea) for most of my life.
I was always having to loosen my trousers right after a meal, or would go days without going to the toilet to then be hit by a bout of stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
Unfortunately because digestive problems are so common, they're often looked at as normal. But in my eyes they're anything but normal. It's your body's way of saying something is out of balance.
Fast forward to 2012. I'm 21 years old and experiencing stressful triggers in various areas of my life;
I worked in a fast-paced advertising agency where I'd do 10-12 hour days and felt constantly wired.
My diet was high in gluten, refined sugar and dairy, which can all cause excess stress on our body's functions.
I had toxic people in my life who would often tear me down, resulting in a lot of negative self-talk.
I would binge drink, stay out late on weekends and was constantly sleep deprived.
I experienced the lose of someone I loved dearly, which resulted in shock, pain and grief.
All of this physical and emotional strain played havoc on everything.
The digestive problems I had, started to get worse. I would have a burning sensation in my stomach whenever I ate, and bloating like I'd never experienced before.
I would have severe chest tightness and was unable to take full breaths, which would often lead to panic attacks.
My menstrual cycle was all over the place and when I did get a period they'd be extremely painful.
I was also suffering from atopic eczema, where my skin would swell, become severely itchy, crack and even weep. It was so aggravating that it would disrupt my sleep most nights.
I lived with those symptoms for over 5 years.
How stress affects our health
I'd been to several doctors over the years, sharing my concerns and issues with them. Each time I was given a new pill or another cream to reduce the symptoms, without ever getting to the route cause of my problem.
Each time I expressed my desire of using natural medicines and food to cure my symptoms. Fortunately, I finally found an amazing doctor who put me in touch with a functional medicine practitioner who could help me heal the natural way.
After running some in depth tests my functional doctor was able to confirm that stress, and stress inducing foods like gluten, had taken a toll on my gut.
When we're under high stress for a prolonged period of time, it can effect the gut's natural environment. This is because elevated cortisol (our stress hormone) levels can weaken your immune system, allowing parasites or bad bacteria to get into your digestive tract.
For my entire life I'd never taken care of my emotional wellness and in hindsight, problems and worries I'd been holding onto were actually manifesting themselves into skin, digestive and menstrual issues.
How I'm healing
1. Remove the triggers
To start the healing process, I began by removing the common food allergens from my diet;
I also suspected that eggs and black pepper were causing issues for me so I removed those as well. Every time I would eat those foods an immune response was sparked, and within minutes the skin rashes, bloat, nausea and anxiety would appear.
My body was attacking itself, and I was well on my way to an autoimmune disease.
2. Supplementation + diet
Following the removal of my food triggers, my functional doctor prescribed high strength herbal supplements to clear the bad bacteria before replenishing with new, friendly ones.
My diet also needed some work. I was set the challenge of incorporating 30-40 different types of fruit and vegetables into my diet weekly. That's right per week. But this step was necessary for me as I had to re-build the diversity of microorganisms of my gut.
The types of fruit and veg I eat are:
Brassica veg (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy)
Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, lettuces)
Bitter greens (rocket, mustard greens, nettle tea)
A variety of herbs (coriander, dill, basil, parsley)
Bright colours (tomatoes, aubergine, bell peppers, beetroot, squash)
3. Stress management
As I've already mentioned, stress management was particularly important for me. Practicing supportive techniques daily was vital in order for me to reduce my cortisol levels and replenish my nervous system.
Stress management techniques I use:
Aside from dietary changes and utilising natural medicines, I've also found these restorative practices really effective for minimising stress and leaky gut symptoms.
Stretching - especially around the hips!
Movement that you enjoy
Re-connecting to yourself
Making self-care rituals no negotiable
Putting my needs first
Eating nourishing food
Saying 'no' more
Listening to personal growth/self help podcasts
I now focus on stress management above all else, and make sure I do the above every single day.
Next steps on my gut healing journey
The truth is, healing a gut imbalance is a long road but it's so empowering too.
Regaining control of my health and curing myself naturally is one of the most powerful things I've done - and I want to encourage you to do the same.
This experience has also helped me gain a better understanding of my body and emotional health, which is something that will stay with me forever.
If you think any of your health concerns could be linked a leaky gut please share your story with me in the comments below x