Maria's Journey: Chronic ill health reaches a climax!
Background, March 2011:
Lying in a cubicle in Accident & Emergency, again, for the ‘nth’ time in 6 years, sweating, shivering and vomiting uncontrollably from the acute abdominal pain surging through my body, I decided things were going to change, enough was enough. I could not continue with these acutely painful episodes, being rushed to A&E, leaving my children on the door step, worried not knowing how long Mummy was going to be in hospital this time. Only to have doctors tell me that they could not find anything wrong from gynecological perspective, with a perplexed muttering between themselves “it must be mittelschmerz”. Twenty-four hours later after painkillers and being on a drip, again I was released none the wiser. After which I routinely booked in to see my doctor, only to be told she was on holiday and there was a new female doctor at the practice. The Universe/God/my higher self, whatever we choose to call it, heard my call for change because this doctor had a completely different approach; she looked at my history, and me, with ‘fresh eyes’. Within 5 minutes of my recalling the events leading up to the painful episode she proposed that the issue was coming from a gut health/food allergy perspective, rather than a gynecological one.
Tests confirmed some evidence of intolerance or allergies to gluten, which resulted in an immediate elimination, or so I thought. In the short term I faced the challenge of eliminating foods from my diet. As a single Mum raising two children, three part-time contracts and completing a Masters degree, for speed I would buy ready-made sauces and curries. I also fooled myself into thinking that I was still doing the right thing by making home-made casseroles and soups and adding flavoring, like packets of soup mix. What I didn’t realize was that gluten was in so many products, it took a good six months of reading food labels and learning other names for gluten. I learned the hard way and although my health had improved a little I was still getting acute abdominal pain.
During the elimination process I began to see a colleague, who was convinced that while gluten was the ‘silent’ problem for me, dairy was the main culprit of the acute pain. It’s funny but at the time I almost refused to believe I could be allergic to both. Coming from an Irish heritage, bread and cheese were a staple part of our diet growing up, how could I, me, possibly be allergic to both! After all I had never been this over weight in my life and never been so sick…well not ‘never’.
On reflection, as a child I had always been “poorly”, never one hundred percent healthy and while the weight problems were never as bad, the weight and health had fluctuated, interesting. One of the longer term hurdles faced were that of my friends and family’s response to my being allergic to dairy and gluten. I would be invited over for dinner assured that the meal had been cooked without dairy or gluten; only to be presented with a lovely creamy homemade curry, or a rich thickened homemade spaghetti bolognaise or even the traditional roast dinner smothered with thick and creamy gravy. This presented another challenge that took longer to overcome, learned behaviours and feelings around food. In the early days I would feel guilty that people had gone to so much trouble and as they said, “after all it’s only a small amount of cream and cream is so good for you, how can it possibly be harmful?”. But time and time again I suffered the consequences.
My health reached another turning point in December 2012, when a gastro specialist said he didn’t feel the need to perform a CT scan or a colonoscopy, tearing shreds off of me for gaining 8 kilograms in 5 months. I refused to leave his office until I had a proper diagnosis. I told him I could ‘bring on the pain’ if he wished in order to see exactly what would happen, he agreed to my eating dairy and gluten over the next few weeks. Ten days later again I was rushed into hospital. In the March 2013 a CT scan was performed, the diagnosis being acute inflammation to part of the transcending and sigmoid colon. In April 2013 a colonoscopy was performed, confirming the inflammation and diagnosing chronic diverticular throughout the colon. The pathologist, to this day, has been unable to provide a diagnosis of the inflammation. Since the diagnosis in early 2013 I have worked with my colleague and my doctor. I have stuck to the programme religiously. I have not had a painful episode or been rushed to hospital once. My energy levels have increased, foggy brain gone, B12 levels are normal.
Fast forward Jan 2016
Since I have not had any painful episodes or been rushed to hospital, however, I am still in the obese weight range and as I approach 50 I would really like to be in a healthier range. Hence my visit to my friend, Phil Dowling, Clinical Nutritionist and Naturopath.
In the first session we established that while I have been busy eliminating gluten, dairy and sugar, and liver and bowel cleansing, I have not repopulated the gut with the right balance of bacteria’s. Phil explained about microbiome and the relationship to weight. So the plan is to continue taking the Bio-Botanical Biocidin to kill off the bad bacteria and repopulate with prebiotics and probiotics. I am to continue taking the supplements that I have been on l-lysine, viral defense, b-complex and stress and stamina formula. Phil also talked in detail about the foods that have natural pre and probiotics. I over the years I have been and felt the healthiest on the Fit for Life Diet (Diamond & Diamond,1985). This way of eating incorporates natural hygiene as a concept through the correct combining macronutrients; an intake of fresh, uncooked fruit all morning, carbohydrates at lunch and proteins at dinner, minimising flesh proteins, incorporating lots of fresh vegetables (organic where possible), beans and legumes, which contain pre and probiotics, fibre among other vital nutrients.
While my overall goal is better health and wellness I am aware that my current weight range is not improving my health. I will need to lose about 40 kilos to get back to my ‘normal’ pre baby weight but for now, as a guide, I would really like to get out of the obese range on the BMI chart which means loosing 21 kilos. Phil suggests 1 to 1.5 kilos every two weeks. Which feels slow, but as Phil said slow and steady wins the race. I guess that’s the challenge patience and commitment, we are so busy wanting it all right now. So I am really glad that I will have a follow-up every two weeks with Phil to keep me on track.
Here goes…Maria from Auckland