Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Healing Process

I've been pretty tight-lipped about my health on here during the last couple years because I've been on a constantly evolving treatment plan with no real promises and an uncertain end.

Prior to 2011, I was disabled for about 6 years with what doctors categorized as "collections of symptoms" - POTS, IBS, multiple chemical sensitivity, and chronic fatigue syndrome. No one could tell me what was really causing all of this or how to fix it. Prescriptions were written for some of my symptoms. I tried a beta blocker, fludrocortisone, birth control pills, melatonin, midodrine, but I was so sensitive to the drugs that I often ended up with severe side effects and not much improvement. The coping methods of salt, fluids, exercise, and compression hose were detailed in my 2011 series of "Living Better with Dysautonomia."

But ultimately, I desired something more than living better with my symptoms. I wanted to heal. So several years ago, I sought out an integrative medicine doctor. She explained to me that my symptoms were caused by damage to my digestive system resulting in intestinal permeability, or in plain terms a "leaky gut."

Over 2 years ago, I committed to a long journey of trying to heal my leaky gut naturally. I'm not completely cured, but the change in my level of functioning has been nothing short of remarkable. I sometimes stop in the middle of an activity and am struck by the wonder that I am standing without needing to sit, or that I can cook a meal and then clean up the kitchen.

For the next few posts, I plan to write a series about some natural supplements, products, gentle exercises, and diet changes that have helped me the most. I am not a doctor, and I am emphatic that I am not giving anyone medical advice. However, I will share in general what has helped me personally. My intent for this series is to share hope for healing leaky gut, along with potentially helpful ideas to discuss with your doctor.

Here is a preview of what I intend to cover in future posts:

Triggers I try to avoid:
  • mold/water damage
  • pesticides
  • herbicides
  • bug spray
  • scented candles
  • perfumes
  • air fresheners
  • scented laundry soap
  • commercial hand/body soaps
  • antibiotics
  • birth control pills
  • steroids
  • NSAIDs

Products I've added:
  • all-natural: soap, shampoo, deodorant, lotion, toothpaste, makeup, dish soap, hand soap
  • non-toxic cleaning products

Foods I try to avoid:
  • SUGAR!
  • gluten
  • dairy/lactose
  • peanuts
  • soy
  • corn
  • processed foods
  • non-organic produce, especially "the dirty dozen"
  • refined white flour
  • sweet drinks like soda, fruit juice, sweet tea
  • alcohol
  • caffeine/coffee
  • chemical additives and dyes
  • artificial sugar substitutes

Foods I've added:
  • organic vegetables (especially green ones)
  • vegetable juice/lemon and lime juice
  • extra virgin cold-pressed organic coconut oil 
  • extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • organic coconut milk
  • unsweetened almond milk
  • avocados
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs
  • wild-caught fish
  • organic eggs
  • grass-fed beef
  • organic turkey and chicken with broth
  • almond, walnut, or cashew nut butters
  • milk thistle tea, ginger/licorice tea, green Rooibos tea
  • almond and coconut flour
  • iodized salt
  • raw honey

Supplements that have helped:
  • olive leaf (extract, ear drops, and nasal spray)
  • oil of oregano
  • l-glutamine powder
  • digestive enzymes
  • probiotics
  • gelatin (still testing)
  • calcium+vitamin D
  • B-vitamins
  • vitamin C
  • whole food multivitamin

Stress-reducing techniques:
  • Bentonite clay baths
  • Epsom salt baths
  • magnesium gel
  • vitamin C lotion
  • Tai chi/qigong
  • yoga

Through all of this trial and error over the last 2.5 years, I've had some miserable failures too. I've found that certain products that helped others remarkably actually made me much worse. I've learned that certain foods I thought I could tolerate (quinoa!) actually seemed to irritate my gut. I'm still learning what works and what doesn't, so I don't consider this a comprehensive or final list. If you're particularly interested in something, please post questions or personal experiences in the comments. Additionally, please comment if you have tried something not listed that has helped you. I am always reading, researching, and looking for new ideas in my own healing process.

"He realized immediately that his power to speak on behalf of God to others in the midst of their unpleasant lives depended on his speaking from the midst of his own unpleasantness."
- Larry Crabb