I’ve struggled with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for over 8 years now with symptoms ebbing and flowing throughout that time. Passing foul smelling gas, pregnant looking painful bloating and alternating between diahorrea and constipation have all been ‘normal’ for me. In an ongoing effort to heal my gut health, I’ve worked with GP’s, dietitians, gastroenterologists and most recently, nutritionist Jessica Cox from The JCN Clinic. I understand most people don’t talk about these embarrassing conditions but the reality is that many people struggle with IBS, (1 in 4 actually). So, I just want to share what I have learnt and tried to help other’s who might also be battling an unhappy gut.
Experience with a variety of health professionals
Prior to Jes, the most helpful experience I’ve had was working through the low FODMAP elimination diet. Like most gut health remedies, it was time consuming and required a lot of effort adhering to a specific diet, so it’s not an experience I would recommend doing without the support of a nutritionist or dietitian. I discovered onion and garlic are a no-go for me and I needed to limit my lactose intake. I also noted the impact stress had on the severity of my symptoms.
I can’t say I had much help through the GP or gastroenterologist, other than ruling out any medical conditions like irritable bowel disease or coeliac disease. I was basically told I have IBS, no one knows the cause and you just need to do what you can to manage the symptoms. Believe it or not, a gastroenterologist told me if I am busy and stressed during the day, to just do what she does and don’t eat anything all day, only dinner at night when you’re relaxed.
Jes and I met a few years back when we went to Cobram Estate in Victoria. She’s very down to earth so we got on very well and stayed friends. Hearing about her work I had thought many times, I really need to book in to see her! But to be honest, having spent so long working with other professionals I thought I had done most of it anyway. Elimination diets are bloody hard work so I didn’t want to sign my self up for that while life was stressful (hubby was deployed and travelling overseas with the army a lot for two years straight so it was the kids and I alone for that time which was hard work!).
Decided to bite the bullet
Finally, we were posted to Queensland and Reis had a position that involved less travel and life was looking like it would be slightly more balanced, so I decided to start working with Jes on my gut – which was a real mess again.
Defining causes not just managing symptoms
What I LOVED the most about working with Jes was that she is committed to using reliable testing sources (ie. in a controlled environment of a laboratory) to determine what is causing the IBS symptoms you’re experiencing. Whilst the stool sample testing was costly (around $500 with no health fund rebate) and gross, I decided that having suffered long enough it was a worthwhile investment in my health. I was not disappointed and it was actually fascinating to get an insight into my gut health.
The results and goals post testing
The testing results were so extensive – they were 20 pages long! I was impressed with the detail it went into and the explanations provided for things outside of the normal range too. I won’t bore you here with names of various bacteria etc (feel free to contact me if you’re really keen on the details), but here’s the four main things the testing showed that was abnormal in my gut:
- Inflammation and permeability of the gut lining (low levels of Sectretory IgA and certain important bacteria to keep the gut lining health at low levels);
- Overgrowth of some bacteria;
- Low levels of some bacteria; and
- High yeast presence.
Issues in the gut can affect your mind and other areas of the body
What surprised me the most is that these results explained things like:
- my achey finger and toe joints (caused by permeability in the gut lining)
- my poor gut lining was also contributed to by low levels of certain bacteria. This bacteria is important because it produces short chain fatty acids (SCFA) for keeping you gut lining healthy.
- my ridiculous amounts of bloating, wind and systemic fatigue/brain fog could be explained by a high yeast presence.
- My poor mental health could be partially contributed to by the overgrowth of bacteria in the gut.
If you’re interested in the specific research that has been conducted around each of these areas – please contact The JCN Clinic.
Treatment and management post testing
Jes prescribed me a combination of a dietary protocol and a range of supplements to be taken at various times throughout the day.
- We utilised anti-microbials and anti-fungals to reduce the dysbiotic bacteria and yeast.
- Other supplements to:
- support the beneficial bacteria growth in the large bowel to create a healthy environment for microbiome,
- reduce inflammation of the gut lining and support increase of secretory IgA
- The initial dietary protocol was low reactive and low in starch, sugars and fructoligosaccharides to ‘starve’ high levels of more adverse bacteria and yeast.
- Food reintroductions slowly occurred to identify tolerability, increase diversity in the diet and support low growth bacteria.
Tell me healing supplement names and more dietary details!
For those who have gut issues that seam similar, you might be wondering which specific supplements or dietary protocols I followed. I have decided not to share in depth because I’m passionate about people using qualified health professionals to heal their issues, not Dr Google or Dr Health Blogger. Every person is different and it’s important to have a professional nutritionist specialising in gut health walk through this process with you.
A health professional is important for support too
Make no mistake, this healing process is hard; it’s lengthy, somewhat emotional and time consuming while you learn a new way of cooking and eating. This is just another reason that you need a qualified nutritionist to walk this journey with you. The pep talks and the tweaks in dietary prescription to suit your lifestyle are essential to you seeing success. It would be near impossible to do this alone from a support perspective but also to give individual flexibility to your plan you need detailed knowledge of how the gut works and responds to varying nutrients and external factors.
Individual health needs to consider
You also might have health issues that change your prescription, for example, I was breastfeeding. For this reason, it also meant my healing process took longer as we decided to start on lower doses of lower strength anti-fungals and anti-microbials. The increased length of time meant Jes’ encouragement and check ins were essential to keeping me on track.
The current outcome
Six months into this journey I am SO PLEASED to say that I’ve not had offensive gas for over 4 months (going out without being worried my gut will explode is so nice). ver the last month my bloating has significantly reduced and I can even see abs again! My gut hardly ever feels tender and sore now either and most surprisingly, my aches in my finger and toe joints have disappeared too!
We are presently testing and reintroducing foods now that my gut lining has strengthened and my microbiome is more balanced. I do notice a flare up of bloating still if I have a combination of stress and high inflammatory foods like gluten (however it’s never at the point of ‘need to be in bed’ bloating pain levels). Hopefully this will ease as we continue to support the building of gut lining and reducing the yeast presence.
A huge thank you to Jes Cox Nutritionist from the JCN clinic for your positive attitude and wonderful support throughout my journey to gut health healing. Jes’ clinic is based in Brisbane however both she, Carissa Mason (another beautiful nutritionist I would recommend) and the JCN Clinic team of clinical Nutritionists offer skype, zoom and phone consultations too. You can book in with one of the girls at the clinic here. I promise you, it’s worth it!
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