It all begins in the gut...
One of the reasons I wanted to start blogging again was to write about my experiences whilst undertaking the Kultured Wellness six month gut healing program. For years I've experienced poor gut health and have thrown numerous different healing strategies at it. I had IBS in my teens and 20s, well, so the Dr said after numerous tests and surgical procedures showed up no medically recognisable issues. It's amazing how far gut health research has come in 20 years though, even if something like gluten intolerance is still scoffed at by the medical fraternity.
Eating a healthier diet during my late 20s and early 30s (thanks to my husband Derek who has never minded cooking lots of yummy vegetables for me!) meant a reduction in IBS symptoms. I feel that being settled in life and less stressed with Derek by my side also helped in reducing the IBS symptoms. When stress flared, so did my IBS symptoms. IBS has been shown in the research to worsen during times of stress. As you should all know by now, even conventional medicine is getting on board to some extent, there is the gut-brain connection and it goes two ways. For easy to read, evidence based readings check out Michael Mosley’s body of work.
Biologically, our guts contain numerous neurotransmitters that affect our mood. In fact, the enteric nervous system in our gut produces the most amount of serotonin in our whole bodies, even though it is also produced in the brain. Serotonin is our happy hormone (it is considered both a hormone (in the gut) and neurotransmitter (in the brain)) and it helps to regulate our moods, social behaviour, libido and sleep. Who doesn't want more of that going on in our lives?! If our gut is in poor health, things like our neurotransmitters, hormones plus vitamin and mineral balance can be affected negatively. It can affect us mentally, emotionally and physically. The whole is more than the sum of it's parts after all!
Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is when gut health is poor, it affects all aspects of our lives. When I was having conventional cancer treatment I suffered quite terribly with diarrhoea. It was horrendous and relentless. I lost a lot of weight and couldn't leave the house without taking gastro stop. If I knew then what I know now I would have taken psyllium husk or slippery elm instead! Psyllium husk is regulatory in the bowel, which means you can take it for both constipation and diarrhoea. Drink a teaspoon down a few times a day with lots of water for constipation and only a small amount of water with diarrhoea. My gut was in taters. I even underwent an endoscopy and colonoscopy to explore whether there was something more sinister occurring in my bowels and gastrointestinal tract. Truth be told though, it was the drugs I was on. So, as this treatment came to an end my bowels returned to a more "normal" state and my first focus of healing was using nutrition. Starting with nutrition in healing is always a wonderful first step due to it really being essential in making long term change to our health. It's been an interesting and satisfying ride to see where I've come from since back then, with a few hiccups along the way...
The gut was obviously a very hospitable place for pathogens because since that time, even though I had done lots of healing, I've had parasites, a candida overgrowth and more recently have found out I have a streptococcus overgrowth. Yes, the bad guys love partying hard together, in my gut. In that time though I've also managed to grow some of the good guys to fantastic numbers. Escherichia coli (E.coli) is a beneficial bacteria that is important in the production of CoQ10, vitamin K2, folate, amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and neurotransmitters. My naturopath tells me that she's quite impressed with my distribution of E.coli and that I should be proud of my efforts. It's probably why I actually cope quite well and my gut issues aren't all consuming compared to others who have similar issues but with low E.coli as well.
So, 2.5 years ago I found out I had two species of parasites in my gut and even though they weren’t causing me too many gut symptoms at the time, they were likely causing other issues like brain fog, anxiety and moodiness. Fast forward a month and the whole family had a gastro bug. Everyone got over it relatively quickly except for me. The parasites had taken their opportunity and grown in numbers while my other good bacteria were down and out. They are opportunistic creatures after all. My symptoms were horrendeous. On occasion it felt like I was in labour. And the full moon always brought about the worst symptoms. Did you know that parasites follow the lunar cycle? Just like women’s cycles do. So here I was, moving house, starting college on campus for the first time, doing two school drop offs, my eldest daughter (then 6) with major separation anxiety and also dealing with these vicious parasites. It was a very stressful time! Feeling so stressed would have only provided a more hospitable environment for them too as pathogens thrive in an inflammatory space.
At that time I threw everything in my power at the parasites, Diateomeba fragilis and Blastocystis hominis (and don’t forget the Candida overgrowth). I used herbs and garlic and different herbs and essential oils and different herbs again (using different herbs cyclically helps to stop the pathogens becoming resistant). I heard Mary from Good Mood Food speak on the Quirky Cooking podcast about her parasite protocol and semi followed that. I chatted to the naturopath at my local health food store and she and I together formulated an anti-parasitic herbal remedy (pomegranate, green tea and golden seal) which I used on and off with different remedies. I also did a colonic and some home enemas with garlic juice and probiotics in water towards the end of a six month period of suffering. In the end it was the colonic and enemas that pretty much stopped the horrible symptoms I was experiencing. Looking back I thInk I felt so bad because I wasn’t actually doing anything to remove the toxins from my body. Meaning I was killing the parasites and as they were dying they were releasing toxic material so this toxic material and the dead parasites were still in my system, not being removed quick enough by my system (think detox pathways, kidney pathways and digestive system). The colonic and enemas helped to move these pathogenic materials out quickly and stop creating havoc and inflammation in my body. I did another stool test a few months later and the Blasto was gone although the D.frag was still there but wasn’t causing me any gut issues.
So that was then and this is now. Towards the end of last year my gut started causing me issues again after doing so well for so long! I stopped eating cheese, except for goats cheese, all legumes (we’re not friends) and reduced my grain intake again (I’d eaten a strict Paleo diet for a while a few years ago). This year I had 4 colds that seemed to merge Into each other all by the end of May. My immune system was obviously struggling and my food intolerances getting worse. Mind you my stress levels had increased again (definite correlation there) having taken on a new job and three subjects at college.
Some health conscious friends whose values totally align with mine had alerted me to the Kultured Wellness gut healing program. I checked it out and was totally inspired by the thought of it. Could I take six months of my life and give it to doing some deep healing on my poor gut? I’d already given it so much love but like a needy girlfriend/boyfriend it obviously wasn’t enough and I was going to have to cut myself off socially to some extent in order to help heal it. That’s not a great analogy but it certainly feels like I have to go all in or suffer from niggley to bigger issues gut related for the long term. So I bit the bullet and signed up.
So that’s where I am now. One month in and things are starting to shift... it ain’t all roses though, let me tell you...
Me walking 18km around Cradle Mountain in Tasmania for my 40th in February this year.