Friday, 16 May 2014

The Importance of Experts

This journey began nearly a year ago, with a distressed, desperate email to a stranger, begging for help. This is that email:


Lucy Patterson is the founder of Southville Nutrition, a complementary therapy service offering one to one consultations, guidance and treatment using Nutrition Therapy. She also works closely with a Hypnotherapist to help with anxiety and emotional wellbeing. I'll write about my experiences of hypnotherapy in another post. Right now, I want to tell you all about the woman who changed my life!
As you can see from the email, I was at the end of my tether. Utterly stressed out, not eating properly, ill, dealing with/hiding erratic bowel movements and generally wandering the planet thinking 'why me?'
I would eat a meal, and the meal would pass right through my system immediately. 
I was embarrassed and appalled by it. I was taking the over the counter drug Imodium everyday. I felt very isolated. I visited the doctors many times and was mostly treated for my anxiety surrounding my symptoms. I was firmly of the mindset that my brain was in the driving seat. It wasn't until I wrote the email to Lucy that I began thinking of the bowel as a separate entity, something that wasn't on the same 'team' as me. I wrote 'I feel like we are enemies!'
In a way, I wasn't far wrong. Not in the fact that we were enemies, but that we were definitely not working together. And the fault was all mine. I hadn't been listening. There is something wrong with diarrhoea everyday. It is not how your body is supposed to work but unfortunately it had become my 'normal.' I wasn't listening to it as a warning signal any more. I wasn't hearing the distress call. I just kept thinking 'why are you doing this to me!?' Like my embarrassment was it's ultimate goal.

With Lucy, I worked through a myriad of lifestyle questions. In my first consultation I filled in a huge health questionnaire and also answered many more face to face. She kept asking a series of questions, and then repeating those questions but for the year before, working backwards. Until she asked the question 'have you ever been on antibiotics?'
I had never given this a moments thought.
'Yes, I have. In 2008'
'How long were you on antibiotics for?'
'Um... five weeks in total. Two different antibiotics for the same infection.'
Bingo!

She explained the role of antibiotics in the body, that they are non-selective and kill bacteria. Good for infections, not good for the balance of flora in the gut. Antibiotics for five weeks is an awful long time.
We decided to get some serious lab tests done. I was putting my health first and I wanted answers. I had decided when I got back from Ireland that health came first, money came second. The tests were expensive, but they would give me a massively accurate picture of the health of my organs and my digestive system.
The tests were stool samples and saliva samples and would test for nearly everything except cancer!
My results were very shocking to me and very sad. I don't know why I was so shocked, since I was living with symptoms that so obviously proved something was wrong.
There, in black and white, was the evidence that proved Lucy's suspicion that the antibiotics had played a major role in my health complaints. My count for probiotics was given a score of 'scant.'

scant
skant/
adjective
    1.
    barely sufficient or adequate.


Without probiotics, good bacteria, in my gut, bad bacteria was having the run of the mill.
In all the years since the antibiotics I had made mistake after mistake. Cutting food out, erratic eating habits, developing stress and anxiety. It could have all been avoided if just one of the three doctors I saw for the same infection had given any clue that five weeks of antibiotics were detrimental to health in some ways and requested I follow up after my course to talk about taking probiotics afterwards.
Ever since these results, Lucy and I have been working our way through the formula of starving excess bad bacteria - killing excess bad bacteria - reintroducing good bacteria.

We have been treating SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth.) It has taken many months and has been extremely difficult emotionally.
I completely cut out sugar, dairy, grains and most carbohydrates in order to remove the overgrown bacteria's food source.
She explained the SCD diet. What the low FODMAPs diet was. A little of the GAPS protocol. 
She designed a completely tailored plan just for me, taking theories from all three of these different courses of dietary treatments. 
Lucy gave me meal plans, recipes, lists of foods I could have, focusing on the good. She was always at the end of an email, even when I moaned and moaned that I wanted Easter Eggs (in October!)

She was thoroughly knowledgeable, consistently explaining the process of certain foods in the body. She overwhelmed me with scientific names at first, but always tried to explain it in a way I would understand. At the time, I might not have understood and would go home confused and frustrated because I wanted to be like everyone else. I felt hard done by. But in the time since I have grown to adapt to my new eating habits. Inventing new dishes, making recipes of my own, throwing everything in a pot and hoping it works, and mostly eating seemingly random things in a lunch box. I struggled with not being able to pop into a shop and pick something off the shelves. I struggled with travelling away from my kitchen. I dreaded staying with friends.

But I have found ways round these! I cook at friends houses, sharing my food with others and laughing about my guts has helped enormously. My boyfriends family have accommodated me time and time again, always going above and beyond to learn what I can eat and helping me feel included. Infact, I stayed with them for Christmas and felt just that! I had a pecan and banana loaf for dessert whilst everyone tucked into their Christmas pud and I was happy and proud just to be surrounded by family.

Everytime I've had a 'blip' on my tracker, Lucy has figured a way through it. Whether that was changing supplements, or working out that combining proteins was tough for me to handle, or recognising that I had a problem with fruit in the evenings! She's an expert at spotting patterns where I am adamant there are none! I'll save the importance of keeping a food and symptom diary for another post!

When I first started my diet for SIBO she had weekly consultations with me to make sure I was doing well. I could not have done this without her.

I have since become nutrition mad and she recommended some text books for further reading! She's very happy for me to consider theories of my own, to try and work things out for myself. She's set me off on an exciting path with a bunch of tools, tons of reading to do, new knowledge, new habits, new found thirst for health and a zest for life! I've gone from having an extremely unhealthy relationship with the process of eating to consistently eating three times a day! This is such an important difference. I have gone from avoiding food altogether on days when I know I would be in a new place or travelling somewhere, to packing adequate lunches and eating them regardless! I no longer have a panic attack when I hear the bathroom door shut. I am now fully confident that no matter what I'm doing or where I am I will be able to handle it and even control my bowels! I remember the first day I needed the loo, but waited until I got home. Oh the sweet, sweet feeling of choice! I stopped taking Imodium last July, something I had relied on for years.

I have travelled on a plane to another country when once a day I had to practice getting on a bus through Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
I gave a talk at a convention!
I bought my first car!
I have discovered my most favourite vegetable of all time is the celeriac!

If you have health issues you feel aren't being addressed, you have nothing to lose by looking for further advice.
I can not recommend seeking out an expert enough.





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