By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I wasn’t eating at school. It wasn’t that food wasn’t available, but that I was embarrassed from my bloating and flatulence. Even something as simple as an apple would make me look five months pregnant, and being in high school, people would notice and tease me. I’m here to share my story about my struggles to understand and overcome leaky gut, and why I have developed this website to help you, someone you know, or those who want to learn more through education, options, and also overcoming this often overlooked health problem.
One of the major culprits for leaky gut is stress, but that was just a given in my life. I didn’t get along well with my friends, and my parents were constantly fighting and threatening to divorce. I wanted good grades, but the homework was often busywork for me and I had trouble focusing in class. I was so fatigued after school that I’d take a two, three, even four hour nap when I got home. I’d only be up for two or three hours after, but mostly watched T.V. or stared at my homework. Sometimes, I’d stay up late if I felt “good,” but have to wake up at 6A.M. for school. In third and fourth period classes, I’d struggle to keep my head up and not fall asleep. I went to a school counselor about this, and they directed me to try a psychiatrist. I told the psychiatrist everything, and they prescribed antidepressants.
I felt worse.
Not only did I have more trouble sleeping and was even more tired, but my gut was in agony. I was constipated, the bloating was worse, and I had a higher appetite, but was too afraid to eat anything because of the discomfort and nausea. I’d have to nap right after any meal, and I’d take Advil to relieve pain in my body that frequently occurred after I ate.
I stopped the antidepressants, and went to several doctors to see what could be wrong with my digestion. They only prescribed antibiotics. The antibiotics only worsened my condition, as I didn’t know about good bacteria (probiotics) being wiped out too. The doctors tested me for allergies, and determined that I had allergies to wheat, peanuts, and corn. I was also told to avoid dairy as a precaution, which helped for just over a month before my symptoms returned.
The allergy to corn made life even more stressful, because I came across all the ingredients that corn was derived from. My parents were always frugal with grocery shopping. Even vanilla extract was completely artificial, and flour enriched and bleached, so home cooking wasn’t the most wholesome. But at that age, I didn’t know. I’ll never forget one doctor’s side comment about my health concerns that I would have to just “deal with it.” But the it was a mystery. Why and how did it happen? What, exactly, was it?
I was depressed and anxious for my health and future, but under no circumstances was I going back on antidepressants. My friends from high school and I grew distant, as they just thought I was being a drama queen. The only part about my life I could rely on was my desire to survive, and surviving meant learning more about my condition.
When I started community college, I could only go part time because my energy was so low in general. I took a nutrition class to see what more I could do for myself. I struck up a conversation with a classmate who’d always been interested in herbs and holistic health, but was in the same situation as me where we were raised on mainstream diet and lifestyles. We stayed up late one night researching all the potential causes, and found leaky gut was the most probable diagnosis. Now that I had a name, I could start healing.
My classmate, who’d become my best friend, was able to help me develop a healthy meal plan, point out ingredients to avoid completely, and have lunch with me to check out what my creativity came up with for recipes. I started keeping a journal to know which foods were irritating me along with eliminating certain ingredients for two weeks at a time.
After more visits to the school doctors, who at least knew something about natural health and recommended supplements like probiotics and multivitamins, my fatigue improved, but I still had bloating and gut discomfort. The multivitamin especially made me feel nauseous, even after I took it with food. I eventually found a whole-food based multi, which did not upset my stomach and provided the same energizing effects. I knew stress was problematic, and so I went on morning walks along a trail near campus, sometimes with my best friend, and found some meditation and breathing exercises online to do twice a day to better manage my stress, since activities like yoga were too expensive. I was able to sleep better, concentrate at school, and not feel as though I were going to pass out. By the time I was ready to transfer to a four year college, I was attending school full time.
Soon after I graduated, I experimented on my health with a grilled cheese sandwich: my favorite. No bloating. No fatigue. I danced in the street and probably looked like I’d just gotten proposed to. I’m still cautious when eating, but have control of my diet without being severely restricted. If I hadn’t taken a nutrition class or met my best friend who helped and supported my holistic approaches, I would still be struggling with misdiagnoses, stress and anxiety, digestive issues, and a suffocating diet.
It’s because of my journey to learn how to research my own health, develop ideas and lifestyle changes, have support from a friend, and stop having to pay thousands of dollars for guesswork, that I’m now starting this site to provide research and other resources in hopes that others will find help and success with their gut, and health.