HAPPY MONDAY friends!
Hope you all had a happy and relaxing weekend.
So… I promised on my Instagram last week that I’d write a full blog post on my story. This is probably the one I’ve been most nervous to do – the idea of airing all your ‘problems’ to any man and his dog is terrifying enough – which I’ve made significantly more challenging for myself by trying to write this the day after a wedding, still wearing fake nails; which I may add, I’m really struggling to get off…. any ideas?!?!?!
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I would say that my true quest for health started in January this year when I was run down with ‘glanj’ (glandular fever). I’d always been a ‘sickly child’ growing up, “the runt of the litter, despite being breast-fed” – a classic Jean/Mum comment – so was very much used to getting 3/4 infections a year, recurrent colds/stomach bugs etc., but it wasn’t really until 2017 when my I would seem to get ill a lot more frequently and it really started to affect me.
I’d always been a sickly child, the runt of the litter
In 2017 I must have had more than 20 infections (predominantly UTIs with the occasional bout of tonsilitis, a chest or tooth infection for good measure), been on countless long, short and ‘preventative’ courses of antibiotics, other medication for tension headaches, endless blood tests and doctors visits, which usually resulted in me leaving feeling even more confused/disheartened/embarrassed/all of the above.
After a chest infection in December followed by a pretty boring Christmas at home, unable to join in with the festive merriment of mulled wine and Baileys without what seemed to be the onset of yet another UTI, I came down with glandular fever in January 2018. This was the tipping point. There was something about being housebound and unable to cook myself dinner without bursting into tears that made me realise it was time for action. So, after a pretty sh*tty start to 2018, I decided that I was going to educate myself on health.
The Gut & The Body
After talking/crying to a very good and knowledgeable friend one day in Waitrose cafe (I promise I do other things than cry), she suggested I take a probiotic. I didn’t really understand at this point why that had anything to do with recurrent UTIs, but was so frustrated and just grateful for some direction that I reluctantly signed up to a 3-month course of Symprove probiotics.
To my surprise, I noticed a significant difference in my energy after about a month of taking Symprove. Some of my other ‘mystery’ symptoms also started improving and even my UTIs became more infrequent. This led me to research more into gut health and the impact the gut can have on the rest of the body. I had experience some digestive issues before – the less I go into them probably the better – but my UTI symptoms were definitely the lead stars of the Sophie Show.
I decided to educate myself on health
By this point, I had been seeing a urologist for the best part of a year. He had performed some tests and diagnosed me with recurrent UTIs, even though my urine wouldn’t always show infection when analysed. I had had several courses of antibiotics over the year, including short courses (3-7 days worth), 2 x 3-month longer courses and also prophylactic antibiotic use, which I was advised to take each time my boyfriend and I…held hands.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
My research into the gut led led me to believe that my health issues could be stemming from what is holistically described as ‘leaky gut syndrome’: a damaged and porous gut lining that allows toxins and other undigested food particles to pass through the bloodstream and trigger the immune system, causing inflammation in the body, and a whole host of unpleasant symptoms with it. Persistent in my quest, I decided to see a gastroenterologist.
Initially dubious by my theory, the gastro doctor said he wasn’t expecting to see results because I “looked well”, but due to my friendly insistence he proceeded with tests, of which the results would show inflammation and ulcers in the small bowel: aka a leaky gut, or more commonly known as Chron’s Disease (in my case, or Ulcerative Colitis in others, depending on the location of ulcers & inflammation). The Doctor was surprised by the results, but assured me that this could account for most of my mystery symptoms over the past couple of years, except.. the UTIs.
Reading more upon the link between IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and UTIs, I found that those with inflammation of the bowel are more likely to develop inflammation in the lining of the bladder, a condition called Interstitial Cystitis, or IC. Symptoms of IC are much like those of UTIs – except when the urine is tested, there is no infection present.
Going back to my urologist with this new information and my results from the gastro tests, the urologist then performed another cystoscopy and biopsy, to find inflammation in the bladder, and diagnosed IC, not recurrent UTIs. IC isn’t treated with antibiotics, as there is no infection present to kill, so the year’s worth of antibiotics I had taken were for no reason, and did nothing other than no doubt exacerbate the inflammation in my bowel and bladder, in fact making my symptoms worse.
After finding out about Chron’s and IC I started to research them: what caused them, common triggers, foods to eat/avoid and holistic ways of improving symptoms. I was offered medication for both, although understanding that these would most likely be long-term once started, I discussed with my doctors the possibility of me first trying to undo the damage by making significant changes to my lifestyle and diet.
By this point I had already read up quite a bit about the gut and the impact its state has on other organs and the body as a whole. I was convinced that following a wholesome, natural diet and holistic lifestyle that I could combat both Chron’s and IC. I had decided to gain more structure to my education and by April this year I had signed up to a 10-month Holistic Nutrition course with the Academy of Healing Nutrition.
I’m now 6 months on (where does the time go?!) and have learnt so much – the more I learn the more I want to and I have managed to control my symptoms quite dramatically. I’m following a very clean diet (there have been setbacks, I am human) and I understand there’s a lot of damage to undo; it’s changing my lifestyle after all, not a diet!
Disclaimer: This post is in no way aimed to discourage people with ongoing health conditions from trusting advice given by your doctors. I appreciate everything Doctors do and have done for me: I wouldn’t have found any of my health conditions without them. They have just a few minutes to try and solve a medical puzzle that you may have been suffering from for months. That said, don’t be afraid to question your doctor’s advice or make suggestions. If they’re not listening – make them! Trust your gut instinct – only you feel how you feel.