I remember learning about nutrigenomics for the first time as a dietetics student nearly 10 years ago. The idea that an individual’s genetic makeup affects how the body responds to specific nutrients really fascinated me, but “personalized nutrition” seemed so far off.
And after pursuing a career in food marketing, I never really got the chance to delve any further into this topic. Until it affected me personally.
You see, for the past several months I’ve been suffering from a host of GI symptoms. I spent months bouncing around from internal medicine practitioners and gastroenterologists to allergists and integrative dietitians. Some might find it odd that I would invest in seeing a dietitian since I am one myself, but you have to recognize when a specialist is necessary, and in my case my symptoms went beyond my expertise.
I’ve never been one for eliminating foods from my diet unless absolutely necessary. So when my gastroenterologist shrugged my symptoms off as stress-related IBS, I thought things might improve once I graduated from the MBA program. But that didn’t happen. I had been hearing a lot about the LEAP/MRT test for food sensitivities, so I decided to give it a shot. What was most interesting about my results though, was that the typical triggers e.g. gluten didn’t seem to be the culprit. Plus, I had already received a negative blood test for Celiac (although, this is not a definitive test). The foods that I did test moderately-to-highly reactive to were foods I was eating frequently e.g. avocado and cherries. This was a red flag that perhaps I had leaky gut, which basically means the junctions in your intestines are becoming more permeable due to inflammation in the body. It can also lead to malabsorption, which I expressed symptoms of despite having completely normal blood panels from my last physical.
We decided to embark on the LEAP protocol by limiting my diet to only 25 foods – those that I was least sensitive to such as lettuce, lamb, lemon, etc. It was a very limiting diet, but I was ready to try anything to feel better.
I followed the diet religiously for 3 days until I started noticing what I thought was a rash developing while I was at work. A few short hours and an urgent care visit later, and I had a full-on case of hives. While I still don’t know definitively what caused my hives, I have a sneaking suspicion excess histamine could have been at play, because nearly every food on my “safe” list was high in histamines.
Of course, my RD was out of town when this happened so the only thing I could do was stop the diet and wait out the hives (while taking antihistamines), which lasted about 5 miserable days. Unfortunately, this was also right when I started my #100DaysofHealthy, and I couldn’t work out at all. Let’s not even talk about the panic attack I had while out to dinner with my family while on Benadryl. They should put a warning label on that stuff. Oh wait.
Once my hives settled down, I scheduled an appointment with an allergist who administered a skin prick test, and again no allergies popped up. It was at this time that I was SO GRATEFUL to be seeing a doctor in Boulder, because she was very in tune to holistic dietary approaches. Nearly at the same time we came to the conclusion that I might have SIBO, a bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. This was confirmed with a breath test and I went through one round of antibiotics while on a daily dose of probiotics. Unfortunately, my symptoms came back pretty quickly after finishing up the antibiotics, which is normal. So my plan is to go back on a second round of antibiotics.
The problem is that SIBO has a high incidence of recurrence and it’s not really a diagnosis. It’s a symptom of an underlying issue, which still has yet to be identified. So, there is still a lot of learning to be done, but I am feeling more hopeful that I have an actual path to follow. That being said, I will likely have to make some pretty drastic dietary changes in the near future. When you’re on the antibiotics for SIBO, you’re supposed to eat as you normally would because the bacteria feed on sugars, etc. so if you eliminate those foods, the medicine really can’t do its job. Currently, I eat pretty gluten and dairy “light”, but those are always the foods that I crave whenever I’m stressed, celebrating or whatever the occasion. Starting this week, I’m going to completely eliminate them from my diet before going on round 2 of antibiotics. From there, I will need to work with my allergist and RD to come up with the appropriate dietary plan – whether that’s low FODMAPS, specific carbohydrate diet, GAPS, or some combination. I won’t go into too much detail about any of those diets, until I know which one fits my needs.
I wanted to share this story, because I KNOW there are so many people out there struggling with health issues and no diagnoses. It can be a frustrating (and lonely) process, and I’m only just beginning. I hope that by putting this out there I will get to meet other people who share a similar health journey and we can relate!
Until then, here’s my current reading rotation:
Any other books or recipe sites you would recommend?