As I began school with Functional Diagnostic Nutrition in 2016, I entered this deep-dive into root cause.
I started asking myself what MY root cause was.
Unlike many people who started feeling sick in their 20's or 30's, or maybe as a child, I was sick at birth. So, tracing my root cause led me to asking questions about my birth... and then even further back to what might have happened in utero.
My mom had a very happy, uneventful pregnancy. She was eating vegetarian, which might have meant she had some iron or B12 deficiencies, but otherwise, was healthy.
My mom fought to have a natural, drug-free, vaginal birth with both me and my sister, despite many of the doctors and nurses acting like she was nuts.
It was unheard-of in the mid 70's!
So, there I was, born vaginally. I was immediately cuddled by my mom- crying. Then I was placed in a warm bath and massaged by my dad. I stopped crying and relaxed.
Calm, serene, warm, womb-like...
But, something wasn't right.
I immediately broke out in eczema all over. Somehow, the doctors tested me and found out I was allergic to every. food. on. the. planet!
I was also IgA deficient so I was in an immune-compromised state. The mucous layer that was supposed to line my GI tract, protecting me from pathogens and the outside world, was not there.
There was talk of needing to put me in a bubble. My mom wouldn't have it.
My mom could only eat 5 foods to breastfeed me.
At 6 weeks, I began having ear infections and was put on antibiotics continually until about 6 months. I was also put on Benadryl and it would keep me up for 24 hours straight, at times. My mom was miserably sleep deprived.
Each attempt at a food introduction resulted in anaphylaxis.
Since I couldn't tolerate any food, I was put on Neutramogen- a synthetic non-food formula with 60% sugar. I became addicted to the stuff and remember sneaking into the cupboard to eat it dry, by the spoon full.
At 18 months, I was diagnosed with asthma, but that wasn't when my breathing problems began. I was rushed to the hospital 3 times prior, unable to breathe, with blue lips, yet got little treatment, because doctors didn't believe asthma could occur at such a young age.
From 18 months to 3 years, I was in intensive care with severe, uncontrolled asthma and unable to eat much. My future was looking bleak.
Me at age 5
So, given all this history, I began wondering what happened.
Throughout my training with FDN, we are always linking back to the gut. Almost any symptom, disease manifestation, or disease process is first caused by an unhealthy gut and gut microbiome.
I began to wonder about my microbiome. Since I was sick at birth, I believe my microbiome was compromised... and since we inherit the microbiome of our mothers, I know something must have been imbalanced with my mom's gut. I also learned that my mom suffered from a virus for the last month of her pregnancy. She couldn't shake this cold.
Recent research has shown that maternal viruses late in pregnancy can alter the baby's immune system. So, I wondered if the viral infection somehow transferred to my immuno-compromised state.
In general, my mom was always quite healthy, but she often had gas, she struggled with depression, was very hypoglycemic, had seasonal allergies and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in her late 30's. All these symptoms can be linked back to the gut.
So, I believe I was born with a bad set of genes plus a compromised microbiome. This, and especially having low IgA made me susceptible to gut infections. I lacked the protective mucous coating that should be lining the GI tract from mouth to anus so any pathogen I came across likely had easy entry into my system. This also likely made me more susceptible to Celiac because my gut was compromised, it was less able to handle the damage caused by gluten and the gluten proteins were easily passing through the endothelium and into my blood stream. Low IgA is also a hallmark sign of Celiac Disease so it's possible I had Celiac at birth (though was not diagnosed until age 27).
In my late 30's when I began testing for GI infections, I learned I had Blastocystis hominis (parasite), H pylori (bacterium in stomach), SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), Klebsiella (pathogenic bacteria- autoimmune trigger), Citrobacter (pathogenic bacteria- autoimmune trigger), and a yeast overgrowth.
Initially, when I began testing my gut, I had almost non-existent Secretory IgA. I believe the number was a 5. It should have been in the 300's. This shows a chronic depletion of the immune system.
I also ran a Ubiome test to look directly at my microbiome. I had very low diversity- at 11th %ile. That means that 89% of the US population has more diverse varieties of bacteria than I did. That's bad news for me when you consider the lab is comparing my microbiome to US microbiomes and we know, the US microbiome has lost 60% of its diversity.
A diverse microbiome is what dictates health and the ability to tolerate this world. I could not tolerate this world!
As I addressed these pathogens, it became clear to me that I needed to restore my microbiome.
Initially, I faced this conundrum.
I knew WHAT to do (in addition to addressing the pathogens): eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, eat resistant starches, eat fermented foods to populate my gut with beneficial flora and take a probiotic, again to populate my gut.
The problem was, my gut was infected.
I had SIBO, which is an overgrowth of flora.
All the above solutions made my symptoms astronomically WORSE and intolerable. I first needed to bring down these pathogenic populations and then slowly introduce beneficial microorganisms.
In addition to using herbal antibiotics, I began eating a low-carb version of the Autoimmune Paleo Diet. This simultaneously removed all of the gluten cross-reactive foods that were inflaming my body AND began starving out the pathogenic bacteria, yeast and parasite.
I found MegaSporeBiotic, a spore-based probiotic well tolerated with SIBO and S boulardii, a beneficial yeast that is also well-tolerated with SIBO and helps to grab onto pathogens and pull them out of your system.
I also introduced 1 teaspoon per day of live sauerkraut juice before a meal. I did this for months!
Very slowly, I increased the amount until I was eating to 1 tablespoon of kraut per day. Around this time, I also began tolerating 1/4 cup of Kombucha. Any more and I would have terrible gut pain and gas!
Now, I can drink an entire 12-ounce bottle and it makes me feel great!
I recently ran another gut test called the GI MAP. It is a very sensitive stool test looking for the DNA of pathogens, along with beneficial flora and gut health markers.
I was happily surprised to see my beneficial flora was all in the normal range. Plus my IgA had increased to a healthy 1811 ug/g- on this test the normal range is 510-2010 ug/g. Surprisingly, I had no gut inflammation.
This was beyond good news, showing that all of the hard work to heal my gut was working.
It's been a long road. I am not 100% well, but am about 80% better. When you are chronically ill and in chronic pain, 80% better means having your life back.
The other day, as I finished a yoga class and lay in Savasana, I started to cry.
I wasn't sad, depressed or in pain.
I was crying because I was so happy to be in this body.
I was so happy that I get to help people like me with chronic health conditions. People like me who cannot be truly helped by conventional medicine.
I felt completely grateful to be living this life and having received so many lessons to share with the world!