Here we are, Dec 31 2014, closing out the year.
As I reflect back on this year and think of all the struggles I’m so grateful for my dedication to my health and for everything I’ve learned along the way. Sometimes we need to really push for answers. You know your body best, don’t forget that!
If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that I suffered for almost a year with an array of strange symptoms that left the doctors confused. By November I had a diagnosis – a Parasite! – but the road to feeling better wasn’t that easy. This blog post is all about that journey.
Last year at this time I was probably in the best shape of my life, not necessarily my leanest but the best shape with the most balance. I was at a place with my physique that I liked with my nutrition and training being sustainable, maintainable and enjoyable.
In January I committed to a photo shoot in March and upped my training intensity a notch and decreased my calories a tad. Nothing drastic as I wanted to maintain the balance I had and wanted to show up at my shoot with a physique that was a realistic representation of something completely attainable. Everything went well until I started suffering from some indigestion. At first I thought it was just from having less food in my belly. Sometimes that can mess around with digestion. I added in some digestive enzymes and kept going. I also noticed I was a little more fatigued and sore but again chalked it up to being in a caloric deficit and higher intensity training. I’d been seeing a naturopath and we decided to add in some adaptogenic herbs to help with the added stress from training and dieting and things seems to even out a bit. March came and went and I did two awesome photo shoots and ended up also competing last-minute just for fun with my photo shoot body. I was really proud to step on stage with my ‘everyday’ body. A body I had obtained without depleting water or taking fat burners or doing endless cardio or any of the other crazy things that I’d done years and years ago (whole other blog post). Anyway all in all I felt pretty good.
After the photo shoots I started slowing increasing my calories a little and really started to notice a lot of stomach pains. I started suffering with sharp pains, extreme bloating, distention and trapped gas. I also started noticing mental fog, fatigue and major muscle and joint pains.
By April I was suffering with a complete blockage in my upper abdomen. I couldn’t swallow anything. Food and liquid would get stuck in my throat or just under my ribs and wouldn’t go down. Often it would come back up right away or hours later. By this time I had been to my family doctor and had been referred to see a Gastro specialist. While I was waiting for that appointment my Naturopath and I tested for low stomach acid. It turned out that I did have low stomach acid so I started on a protocol for that. It really helped and food started to go down again. I was still suffering with a lot of bloating and distention though and because of that I started an elimination diet to determine if it was any specific foods. That takes about 4 weeks and based on those results I ended up cutting out dairy completely for quite a while. I would go through spells where something would work and I’d feel better and then it would all come back again.
During this time my training suffered, I couldn’t get through more than 30min at the gym without a stomach attack. Serious pain, bloating and major fatigue. This is coming from a girl who’s been killing it in the gym since probably 1996. It was driving me insane!
To top that off because of the inability to digest my appetite was totally off. I wasn’t hungry but I couldn’t get full. I never felt satisfied while eating even though I felt overly full. It was like there was no room to put food in there but my body wanted more nutrients. That said I gained weight. Not just weight as in fat but I also started suffering with major edema ( swelling). I’d blow up overnight and I’d wake up 5-8lbs heavier and so swollen everywhere. My face, arms legs, abdomen, everything. In the morning my hubby would say what the heck happened to you? This went on for months.
My symptoms included:
- inability to wake up in the morning
- mental fog/fatigue/lethargy (including mega writer’s block!)
- muscle soreness/joint pain
- constant new injuries
- back pain around my lower ribs from my belly pulling
- dry brittle hair, hair breakage and loss
- dry skin
- skin irritation – I could no long wear any earrings at all, even the gold studs I’d been wearing for 5 years
- more intense teeth grinding
- change in menstrual cycle (severe PMS and cramping)
- strange body odour
- strange smelling breath
- extreme hunger but can’t get full cycling with no appetite
- change in bowel movements (not feeling empty)
- increased food sensitivities
- increased digestive issues
- severe stomach pain
- severe bloating/distention
While I was waiting to see the GI specialist I started working a lot on my digestive system and I completed a 4 week gut healing protocol. Leaky gut can cause many of my symptoms and because I have celiac it was completely possible I have a compromised gut lining. Again the seemed to help but only a small amount.
The next protocol I did was one for adrenal fatigue and it was amazing. Again I felt better but still not 100%. A lot of this protocol is very much about reducing the intensity at the gym and allowing your body to heal through low impact cortisol reducing activities. I did a lot of walking, meditation and short slow steady weight training sessions. I really enjoyed this protocol but I was missing my training in a big way. That was another 8 weeks or so.
During this time I was waiting for my endoscopy scope procedure so the GI specialist suggested I try a prescription med for stomach acid ( the opposite of the low stomach acid I originally had) so I friend a drug called Tecta, it made things so much worse within days, my stomach blew up and all the pains ams back so she and I agreed and I stopped that and went back to what was working for me.
In the meantime my doctors kept running tests, I finally had an endoscopy a few months later ( scope where they look down your throat with a tube) and they took several biopsies – everything came back normal and actually even great, above average healthy gut- go figure.I also had so much blood work done ( one day I had 15 vials taken), my hormones checked, my cortisol checked, abdominal ultrasounds, food intolerance testing. I also saw a physiotherapist, massage and chiro for the muscle and joint pain.
The food intolerance test came back with 25 new intolerances for me in addition to gluten including dairy, nuts, squash, flax to name a few. I cut these out and started to feel better. I took it up a notch and started following an anti inflammatory diet. One that’s recommended if you have autoimmune diseases like celiac, arthritis, Hashimoto’s etc. This really helped and I started feeling better again but I still felt off.
At this point I was getting comments like maybe it’s stress, take some time off work, you look well, you are the best looking sick person I know and and blah blah. I’m a high strung, high energy person, have been all my life, this was not stress and thank goodness for makeup because I was not looking that good, common!
Finally in one of my visits to the GP I asked if we should do a stool sample, they are not usually done if your symptoms don’t include diarrhea and in fact they are not very accurate in Canada but she agreed and said why not at this point.
Because we didn’t have much faith in that test (and because it’s a pain in the ass (heheh) to do) I set it aside and forgot about it. About a month later I saw my naturopath again and we decide the next step was to complete a parasite treatment. We agreed to wait until I was back from travelling to start it but to go ahead and do the still test. Well you won’t believe it but when I got back from my vacation my results were in. Tested positive for a parasite called Blastocystitis Hominis! The fact that it showed up is actually such a blessing, I had some answers!
Not so easy though, the problem is that no one knew how to treat it so I had to wait. While I waited for my doctors to have their answers I researched the hell out of that thing. I scoured my nutrition text books and the internet. What I came up with was pretty fascinating. This parasite used to be considered non pathogenic was now being considered an issue and an issue for a lot of people all over the world! The problem is the medical community hasn’t quite caught up with the new findings.
So when I got the call back from the GI Specialist saying that they don’t consider it pathogenic and not to bother treating it I expected it but I didn’t buy it. With everything I’d read and because I was considered completely healthy except for that it just didn’t make sense not to look at this parasite as a potential issue.
Basically at that point I dove head first in finding out as much info as I could about this parasite and all parasites in general. I reached out to the Centre for Disease Control in Canada as well as other countries who deal with these issues more often and got some great information. Basically I was able to put together a treatment protocol and information to support it and went back to my family doctor as well as my naturopath.
We discussed it all in great detail and decided that treating it was worth a try. Some of the conventional medications suggested were not available in Canada so we came up with the close equivalents and she prescribed me a heavy dose of a double antibiotic for 10days. Those 10 days were brutal! Serious side effects like nausea, migraines, shakes, insomnia, yeast infections etc. Pretty nasty stuff.
I’ll write another post in more detail about the entire treatment protocol including side effects but essentially the antibiotics combined with homeopathic, oils and herbal remedies seemed to work. Within days I was feeling better, better than I had in over a year and within a month I was back to myself including back in the gym.
It’s been about about 7 weeks since I started the treatment and my first re-test result has come back negative. I have another due next month to ensure the parasite hasn’t returned and that we killed it in all stages of it’s life cycle. If you don’t it’s possible to become re-infected.
I jump out of bed in the morning, I’ve got energy and clarity and my appetite is finally coming back. I can almost see the outline of my abs again and and finding my strength in the gym.
I’m still suffering with food intolerances, a side effect of parasites as well a muscular issue with by abdominal wall from the extreme distention called a diastistis (often happens in pregnancy) and I’ve got about 12lbs to loose before I’m back where I was last year but I’m slowly working through those. My skin, gut and lady parts are still unhappy from the antibiotics and I’m working on healing from that too. Other that that I’m feeling amazing and am so ready to tackle 2015!
Now that my mental fog and writer’s block has lifted I’ll continue to write more about all of this in more detail but what I want to say how important it is to really be an advocate for your health. No one knows how you feel unless you explain. Everyone is different and it’s so important to listen to what your body is telling you. Chronic aches, pains and digestive issues are not normal. Nutrition and exercise are a huge component of your health so that’s where to start but keep pushing and strive to feel your best!
Happy New Year & cheers to health!