Today I’m sharing a very personal story. It is one that I’ve questioned whether it belongs on Pineapple Courage. After some thought, and seeing those around me struggle with similar health issues, I believe it does. In my opinion, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be your best for others. Taking care of yourself goes beyond eating healthy and keeping active. It also includes being your own advocate for your health and not accepting that you need to live with aches and pains, chalking it up to “stress”. It also means we can’t live in the victim loop using excuses to why we can’t improve our lives.
In July of 2019, we returned as a family from a wonderful three-week vacation to California and Hawaii. Well, it wasn’t a full 3 weeks off as I worked some of the time while in California, but Jake and the kids came along so we could explore and have some fun along the way. About a week after our return, I started having some strange feelings in my abdomen – pulsating, spasm type feelings. There wasn’t really any pain, but it was intense enough that I noticed it often. I ignored it for about a week and then decided I better get it checked out in case it was something to be concerned about.
I went to my doctor and tried to explain what I was feeling. She asked a lot of questions but really had no clue to what might be going on. She ordered some blood tests and also sent me for an ultrasound. The tests yielded no clues. Next, she ordered a CT scan, but I couldn’t get in for a few weeks. During the time that I was waiting, I started to have some pain in the same area I was having the strange pulsating feeling. It was so bad one night that Jake took me to the ER. They ended up running a CT scan, more blood work and gave me some IV pain reliever. After all of that, they also found nothing substantial but said I should go see a gastroenterologist. They also prescribed me three different medications to take. I declined because the medications were only to cover up the symptoms I was having.
I continued my journey to the gastroenterologist where he ordered an endoscopy, celiac and SIBO tests. Again, everything came back with no smoking gun. He prescribed me a heart burn medicine just to try. Again, I didn’t fill it as I didn’t want to take something to cover up a symptom and that would not really solve the problem.
By this time two months had passed. I started to feel a bit hopeless and frustrated that the doctors couldn’t find anything. The good thing was that they felt as they had ruled out anything life-threatening, but I still felt bad every day. I was tired of feeling sick all of the time. I was missing a lot of time at the office, working from home because I didn’t feel well. Eventually I realized that if a change was to be made, I was going to have to change my thinking and become my own detective. I was not going to sit around and let this continue.
That change in mindset spurred a memory of a really good friend who had also dealt with unexplained changes in their health. Their changes were different than mine, but their “cure” was found through a blood test to check for food sensitivities. I also discovered a co-worker’s daughter had a similar story of unexplained pain and changes that also went through a blood test to identify foods that were causing inflammation in her body. In both cases, once diet changes were made for a series of weeks, their symptoms completely went away.
I decided to investigate how I could get a test done. If you search the web, there are several options out there. I decided to go with the same company and test that our good friend had taken based on his testimony. In my case, the company shipped me a blood collection kit. I went to a local lab to get the blood draw completed and the samples were shipped back to the laboratory for testing of about 400 different things – foods, vitamins, molds, food additives, herbs, etc. The way it was explained to me is that they expose your blood to each item and then measure your white blood cells reaction to the specific item to measure your level of sensitivity – Red (bad), Orange, Yellow and Green (good). It wasn’t cheap, about $700, but at this point, I felt it was completely worth it for the possibility of feeling better.
I received my results in about a week, and wow, it was eye-opening. Foods that I identified as healthy – like tuna, green beans, cucumber, onion, almonds and asparagus were on my no-no list. These can be healthy foods and part of a healthy diet – just not for me individually. Coming off of our vacation in Hawaii I had consumed a lot of sushi, poke and tuna specifically which probably explains why I had a stronger reaction at that particular time. I also had given up dairy as part of a Whole 30 diet and switched to almond milk, consuming it almost every day.
Along with the results I received a couple of free virtual sessions with a nutritionist to help with how to adjust my diet and to be able to ask specific questions. If you don’t already know, I’m a food scientist by degree and I’m pretty passionate about nutrition. These conversations with the nutritionist were very valuable. I learned so much, like you should not eat the same food every day because your body can build up a sensitivity to it. To be honest, the first two weeks trying to adapt to this new way of eating sucked. I literally cried a couple times over frustration of what I couldn’t eat and how to rotate foods. My old habits had to be changed and things I thought were good for me were no longer on the menu, so I had to learn new ways of eating.
Within two weeks of following my individualized eating plan I started to feel better. The pulsation went away. Within four weeks I also realized some other unexpected, positive changes. I was not getting headaches 3-4 times per week, some of them migraines that would last for days. I used to think that was normal and just attributed it to stress. I had more energy than ever before. I was not fatigued and actually slept through the night. One of the most unexpected changes was in hip pain. In my early 30s I started to have pain inside of my hip joint. It hurt so bad any time I had to rotate the left hip and sometimes the right hip too. At the time I attributed it to over-use from working out or running. I even got cortisone shots (into the hip joint with a very long needle) at 32 and again around 35 to try to fix it so I could continue my active lifestyle. The change in diet has completely eliminated that pain.
It was unbelievable that the foods I was eating were causing inflammation in different parts of my body that were then showing up in different ways. This test and changing my diet has completely changed my life. I still follow my eating plan 95% of the time. I can occasionally eat some of the foods on my no-no list without feeling negative effects, like tuna or pork. Gluten however affects me every time I eat it so I’ve learned it is just not worth it unless I want to have a headache and stomach issues. I’ve fully adapted to eating in a healthy and moderated way that is custom to my body’s needs. It’s amazing to see the application of science to positively impact our lives.
The moral of the story is this. If you are not feeling great every day, there is hope. Do not accept that it is just “getting old” or “stress from work”. Dig deeper. Be your own advocate and don’t take what the doctors say as the final word. I have nothing against doctors and they definitely should be consulted to rule out things like cancer and serious conditions, but most traditional medicine is looking to treat symptoms and not necessarily find the cure or the root of a problem. Because of this, most traditional doctors will not recommend a food sensitivity test (which is different from a food allergy test). Doctors who lean toward the natural and wholistic side of medicine tend to believe in these types of tests if you want to work with a doctor through the process.
If you have specific questions about my journey, I am more than happy to share. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. I also would be interested to hear of any similar situations or results you have seen in changing diet to improve your overall health and wellness. Comment below! Lastly, if you know of someone who may be going through something similar to my story, please share so that they can find health and happiness too!