A phone photo that I just love from the cornfields.
Hi, hello! It’s high time I give you another health update. Buckle up because this is going to be a loooong one (or just skip this and come back next week for the regular outfit posts).
My last health update was almost two months ago. We left off with my acupuncturist giving me a Chinese herbal formula to soak my hands in that was improving my hand eczema, although it tints my skin yellow. My acupuncturist also gave me a juice recipe to try with mung beans, celery, bok choy, bitter melon, and other good stuff to clear heat/inflammation. I tried just the tiniest amount of the juice and got a terrible stomachache the next day, so my body definitely wasn’t ready to introduce all those new foods. I tried eating gluten-free steel cut oats (cooked in the crockpot—oh my goodness they taste so good cooked in the crockpot!) and didn’t get any tummy aches or bloating, HOWEVER, I started getting eczema on my arms and ears, so I quickly stopped eating the oats. The eczema on my ears disappeared just as quickly as it appeared overnight, but unfortunately, the eczema on my arms got worse. The eczema on my hands was starting to get worse again too. It was time for a second opinion.
My appointment with the new doctor, the gastroenterologist, was in late-June. He listened to my symptoms, took one look at my skin, and said I probably have a very bad case of leaky gut caused by dybiosis (an imbalance of good bacteria to bad bacteria in the gut). Which is odd because that’s exactly what my nutritionist told me two years ago during my first appointment. Isn’t that what we were trying to heal these past two years??!! The gastroenterologist gave me probiotics with 20 TIMES more bacteria than what my nutritionist had me on. That explains why my improvement under the care of my nutritionist was gradual and it seemed after a while, my health plateaued. (Not to say my nutritionist was bad at all. I love her—she’s amazing and extremely knowledgeable. My health issues just needed someone who could prescribe a more aggressive treatment.)
The gastroenterologist I saw is older and extremely thorough. He asked my mom, who was with me, when was the first time I received antibiotics. We traced it all the way back to my birth, which was a complicated C-section because I was 2.5 weeks late and got meconium aspiration pneumonia when my mother had labor induced. The problem with a C-section is it doesn’t expose the baby to the essential good bacteria that the baby would be exposed to in a natural vaginal birth. I’ve had an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria right from the beginning. Add to that the antibiotics the doctors at the hospital gave me to clear out my lungs from the meconium aspiration and the fact that the family on my dad’s side has a long history of allergies and you have one bundle of autoimmune issues: me.
To rule out the possibility of any more serious underlying health issues, I got an endoscopy, ultrasound, blood work, and a stool sample. I had a follow-up visit with the gastroenterologist a few weeks ago. None of my test results raised red flags. The endoscopy showed I had a small hernia on my upper stomach. The ultrasound showed I had a few small cysts on my stomach and liver, and the blood work showed my liver was a bit enflamed, which could mean I have autoimmune hepatitis. The stool sample came back fine. The hernia and small cysts sound more severe than they actually are—they will most likely go away on their own once my gut heals. I have to get additional blood work done for my liver so the doctor knows how to further proceed with that.
Me right after my endoscopy. HAAAYYY.
Right now, I’m on a strict probiotic regimen. Twice a day, I drink a mixture of heavy duty probiotic powder formula with two kinds of lactose-free kefir, apple cider vinegar, pomegranate juice concentrate, organic, local honey, and turmeric. I’m also taking fish oil and vitamin C supplements and eating lots of sauerkraut and pickled beets—fermented foods have high concentrations of probiotics. I used to (like up until four months ago) be able to eat mainly fruits and some veggies—sweet potatoes, yams, beets, and most other root vegetables—but now I get stomachaches and extreme bloating from sweet potatoes which makes me not even want to try the other vegetables I used to eat. Currently, with the exception of my probiotic cocktail and fermented vegetables and fish oil supplements, I’m only eating fruit. Helloooo smoothie bowls and huge servings of banana ice cream. It’s kind of fun because it’s like eating dessert all day but a little variety would be nice!
The top two photos show the inflammation of my hands/arms last month. The bottom two photos show my hands/arms earlier this week.
What have I noticed? Improvement! My hands are still very dry, shriveled up, and will quite often crack, but the reptile-like inflexible skin is gone. I have movement in my fingers now! The itchiness has gone away in my hands and arms. My arms still have scabbiness, but they’re not all bumpy and enflamed. I can take outfit pictures again! Even though I have to Photoshop a lot of my rashes out but it’s not terrible! Yay! This is the first time I’ve ever healed my eczema without taking a prescription steroid ointment, so I’d consider this a small victory.
I never realized how important probiotics are, but they are absolutely positively 100% essential to a healthy gut microbiome, which is the key to every facet of your health. Every ailment I’ve ever experienced/am currently experiencing—including and not limited to insomnia, fatigue, weakness, eczema, joint pain, muscle stiffness, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, stomachaches, gas, brittle nails, and bruising is related to my dysbiosis and leaky gut. Which means if I can heal my gut, I can be a (somewhat) normal, functioning human being! While my nutritionist was puzzled at my lack of improvement and unofficially diagnosed me with Celiac disease, this new doctor says I don’t have Celiac disease and my gut is still leaking. Had all this knowledge on good bacteria been more widespread when I was born, I’d probably have been given probiotics as an infant to combat the negative effects of the antibiotics.
Which leads me to the #1 question people always ask me: What do you eat? I eat a mainly fruitarian diet with tons of probiotics and supplements. I eat TRUCKLOADS of fruit—as in probably about 15 bananas a day, as well as other fruits, like mangos, blueberries, peaches, plums, strawberries… THE WORKS. I know it seems like an unbalanced diet, but my doctor told me if these are the only foods that don’t irritate me at the moment, then eat them! It’s okay for the time being and who knows what my diet will look like in the future as my gut heals?
A mango feast!
I’m still getting my acupuncture treatments done a few times a month, soaking my hands/arms in the Chinese herbal formula, and moisturizing A LOT (shoutout to my Drifter Organics bbs—I’ve been using Basic in case you’re wondering!). I’ve stopped seeing my nutritionist and am seeing this gastroenterologist instead. I see a chiropractor regularly because I’ve throwing out my neck, back, and shoulders a lot lately. When I asked my gastroenterologist why this was, he said my joints and muscles were inflamed from the leaky gut and this will heal when my gut heals (AKA the answer to everything!).
I talked to someone yesterday who went through the same health issues as me (cracked hands and all!) and she told me it took her 4-5 years to completely heal her gut. I’ve still got a long road ahead of me, but if I see more improvement already, I am positive I will continue to get better.
My next appointment with the gastroenterologist is next month. We’ll see how much MORE I improve before then, the results of my further liver blood work, and where we want to go from there.
Have you dealt with dysbiosis/leaky gut/other autoimmune diseases? WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER!
PS Read my other Stomach Diaries posts to get up to speed to where I am now.