Follow your Gut...

 

I did it, I did it, I did it. I showed them, the doctors, I am not crazy; I pushed for more answers, I searched for a doctor who would listen to me. After receiving the news I had Collaganeous Colitis I wanted to find a doctor who would help me on the journey to discovering why and what was causing the inflammation in my gut. I drove to Portsmouth NH to see Dr. Aguiar, a Naturopath who had been recommended by a friend. He sat and listened to me for 2 hours. When you are so sick of being sick having someone listen without judgment or trying to fix it, it is a gift. I think many doctors today miss the importance of compassion.

After our tw- hour appointment he decided to run a couple of tests and off I went to the lab. The hardest part about most of these tests are two things 1) They are not covered by insurance and 2) They take a month to come back with results… so the waiting began.


A month later still struggling to get through the day, not sure what was triggering me I got answers. I was diagnosed with Lyme and SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth). Sounds bad right but I was relieved. Now I could treat the cause and not the symptom. I was moving forward. I knew both diagnoses weren’t great but it could be worse.

I thought of everything I was going to do: who I was going to call, who I was not going to call, I might post it facebook, twitter ( I don’t even know how to tweet) instagram, like a big screw you  to my GI doctor I was right. But then I remembered the rule, the golden rule, give it 48 hours at least. My husband and I learned that early on as parents, don’t send an angry email right away to a coach, teacher etc give it 48hrs. So I am going to sit and wait.  I call my husband ready eager to share the news, so excited I feel like I am telling him I am pregnant.  I know it’s strange to be so excited about being diagnosed with bacterias but it’s been a long road. I finally have an answer.  I am so glad I followed my gut.

Stay tuned to watch my story unfold...

38 Calls Later...

People don’t like to talk about their shit, both literally and figuratively. I am 46 years old and I have been diagnosed with collagenous colitis. It’s not cancer, I know, but it’s no way to live. My 76 year old mother has as well, one would say I am genetically predisposed.  My 12-year-daughter said recently after I had been sick for 4 months (being honest with myself I would say it has been a 5 year struggle) “ Mommy I think you are sick so you can help other people”...and so again she teaches me. I write this post for all the people out there too young and old to be suffering. I write this post to build awareness and offer hope to those who suffer. #vulnerability

How could this be happening? I am am the healthiest unhealthy person. I eat well, I am gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, coffee-free and alcohol-free.  A boring 46 year old is what I am, finding myself in the bathroom 12 times a day. I take enzymes, probiotics, vitamins for women over 40 (reality check: I am over 40), fish oil and I am still sick. I am exhausted physically and mentally. I take naps almost every day and I am freezing all the time. I take 1-3 baths a day, so the bathroom has become my place to retreat for comfort.  It has become my haven to cry, where I find quiet. It’s lonely. #insidemyhead

I went to the doctor after having diarrhea, cramping, bloating etc for a month. I had tried many alternative routes over the years but I hit a dead end. Actually, my alternative practitioners said “you need to go to the doctor.” The doctor suggested the obvious, a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. Already being so physically fragile, I requested to use magnesium citrate and coconut water in preparation for the procedure, but he flat out told me I couldn’t. I so wish I had....I did not think things could get worse but they did.

Google colonoscopy and immediately it’s an advertisement for miralax and gatorade. Question, why is it that a person who weighs 250 pounds takes the same amount of miralax (240 oz) and gatorade (64 oz) as a person who weighs 105 pounds? (how to naturally replenish electrolytes, miralax dangers, miralax linked to mental illness and disease). I was told the colon and intestines are the same in each individual, hmmm. I reluctantly obeyed desperate, scared and probably a little intimidated - follow your gut. Even though it went against everything I felt. #research #followyourgut

I needed help, I needed support, I needed someone to understand. What I really needed, I didn’t get.  My doctor briefly came in before my procedure and said so far my test results from my blood work and stool sample were normal. I know normal is good but when you have lost 8 pounds and can barely eat, you need to know why. So I asked him in my vulnerable state (lying naked in my Johnnie) what do I do if everything comes back normal? His response was “take imodium.”  “Are you fucking kidding me?” is what I wish I had said. But being raised to be polite, I didn’t. Clearly something is going on and it’s not going away and this doctor’s only solution is to take “IMODIUM.” That is what he gained after 4 years of medical school. #speakyourtruth

Before going into the scopes ( the painful procedure where they take a closer look at the intestines) they have you sign your life away and tell you that immediately following the procedure, the doctor will come give you the results. Furthermore, they state you may not be able to respond but you will be able to hear him-WTF. So what this really means is that I will have … no ability to ask questions, advocate, and no follow up appointment?  Am I being roofied? The icing on the cake was when the procedure was done, the doctor came in briefly stated that everything was “normal” to which I couldn’t respond because I was sedated. He left just as quickly, then the nurse arrived and asked if I am ready to get up. I respond “I need a minute.” I hear two other nurses say “just tell her she needs to get up and you want to go home.”  Thankfully, she didn’t, she waited probably the extra 5 minutes I took.  What is wrong here? Why are patients being spoken to while the are still under sedation and rushed out? #educate #advocate #compassion

A week later I received a phone call from the nurse, NOT the doctor, that I had collagenous colitis, an inflammatory disease of the colon. This is routine for him, but not for me. Honestly it felt somewhat like a death sentence as I watch my own mother suffer.  The nurse explained how they would like to put me on a steroid 3 times a day and what the side effects are.  At some point I stopped listening, I said, thank you I was not interested. Again no follow up just fix it, why is my colon inflamed, what’s causing it? I am thinking, SCREAMING in my head can we talk this through and what are the other possible choices? Nothing. I am on my own, unless I want to take steroids. You know what steroids do “they suppress the infection deeper into the tissue.” #askwhy #treatthecausenotthesymptom

I have no judgement if one chooses to use steroids because some days I am so desperate, I think, screw it. Maybe my next post will be “I had to take them” but first I will do my homework and ask why,  examine the pros and cons? Some days I want to call in the script because I can’t get out of my own way. I go to bed at night thinking tomorrow is a new day. I wake up in the morning sometimes going to the bathroom 5 times before 7 am.  I am so thankful for my children because without them I don’t know if I would get out of bed. That’s my new normal. I have learned ways to clench my butt together to get through a conversation without shitting my pants and sometimes I don’t make it. I am trying to stay positive that, 38 calls later, I will find the person to help me, to talk to me, to treat me as I deserve, to answer questions without judgement or a demeaning response… Do I have a parasite, bacteria, Lyme?  to care enough if not for the profession of helping others, but out of interest and study. Are we no longer interested why people are sick? #gratefulformyfamily

Four months later I am left with no new answers and no change. I was still rushing my children out of the car at school for fear of making it to the bathroom in time…I am 46 years old. Friends say “Oh I know my grandmother or my mother had/ has that”  and I would think, yeah but I am 46 years old, I have my life to live, I am in my prime, I have 4 kids, I want to travel with my husband and nothing is sexy about shit. Truthfully, it makes you not want to do anything, never leave the house for the fear of not feeling well. Am I going crazy? #mynewnormal

GI issues are becoming an epidemic. There is a reason they call it the “gut brain”  because our gut directly connects to the brain. Some people believe the gut is actually the first brain(Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut and travel to the brain). So it is not surprising that  you become anxious and depressed. My mother was first diagnosed with colitis, then a few years later she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and now dementia - gut to brain. Of course being on so many medications cause side effects: including constipation and diarrhea. WHY are we so sick? Why are we overprescribed? #gutbrain #overprescribed  

Tomorrow is a new day. I will wake up and the sun will shine. I will be grateful for the day. I will take my kids to school, walk the dogs to return to my new job, sitting down to tackle the various phone calls to the various doctors, and the insurance company trying to find a needle in the haystack. I may look normal on the outside but I feel like I am dying on the inside. #resourcesforcolitis #noregrets

Dr. Tracy's Article, "Fixing your Hormones with Fiber"

Dr. Amanda Tracy, ND, is one of Wellness Connect's naturopaths. She specializes in women's health, particularly perimenopause and the body's shifting hormones. Below is an article written by  Dr. Tracy discussing the link between nutrition and your hormone balance

Seize the opportunity to hear Dr. Tracy speak September 27th as she presents her workshop, "UNDERSTANDING YOUR HORMONES IN PERI-MENOPAUSE"... click here for more info

 

Fixing your Hormones with Fiber
Dr. Amanda Tracy, ND

Most of us think of dietary fiber as a way to maintain regular bowel movements and may have heard about fiber’s possible role in preventing colon cancer but did you know you can balance your hormones using fiber? Fiber helps to regulate levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in multiple ways involving your digestive tract, liver, ovaries and blood circulation.

  • Multiple symptoms and medical conditions are the result of hormone imbalances and here are some examples:
  • PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, mood changes, headaches and bloating are worse if you don’t have enough progesterone to offset estrogen.
  • Acne and unwanted facial hair can be caused by too much DHEA and testosterone in your system.
  • Peri-menopause symptoms like heavier menstrual bleeding, shorter menstrual cycles and spotting between periods can be the result of an imbalance between estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
  • Uterine fibroids and endometriosis can be made worse by too much estrogen.
  • Your risk of breast, thyroid and prostate cancer is higher if you have excess estrogen in your body.
  • Menopause symptoms such as hot flashes are caused by decreasing estrogen levels.

So how does fiber balance our hormones?

Our liver is responsible for processing excess hormones and in doing so prepares extra estrogen to be released into our digestive tract to be eliminated in our stool. If we suffer from constipation or do not have enough probiotic bacteria, the estrogen can be reabsorbed and go back into circulation. A special kind of dietary fiber called lignin, present in flax seeds, beans and lentils, binds to estrogen in the digestive tract to ensure it is eliminated and not reabsorbed into our system.  Dietary fiber also feeds the beneficial probiotic bacteria living in our gut and keeps them healthy. These probiotic bacteria are important because they can also prevent estrogen being reabsorbed from our colon back into circulation. In this way, fiber and probiotics work together with your liver to reduce your risk of breast, thyroid and prostate cancers and reduce PMS and peri-menopause symptoms.

The fiber present in all vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds also helps to regulate testosterone levels by increasing the production of a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). This protein binds to testosterone in the bloodstream, rendering it inactive, which is helpful in women to reduce acne, reduce facial hair, regulate ovulation and improve fertility. This also improves estrogen: progesterone balance because excess testosterone is converted to estrogen if it is not bound to SHBG.

Dietary fiber enhances blood sugar control. This action of fiber helps to reduce your appetite, reduce your risk of diabetes, and improve ovulation which reduces PMS symptoms especially for those with PCOS(Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). By improving ovulation fiber helps to rebalance estrogen and progesterone, a key factor in reducing peri-menopause symptoms.

So now that you’re convinced you need more fiber in your diet, how are you going to get it?

 While the dietary fiber recommendations for adults are between 30-40 grams a day, however, the average American diet includes between 12-15 grams of fiber a day. If you have any of the symptoms or conditions I discussed above, your goal would be between 40-50 grams of fiber a day. Here are some helpful tips to get you to your goal:

When introducing fiber to your diet, it is best to increase it slowly to reduce gas and bloating that can accompany eating too much fiber.

Drink plenty of water. Water and fiber work together to improve bowel function and balance hormones.

Do not take calcium, magnesium or a multivitamin with a high fiber meal (over 10 grams). The fiber may bind to these minerals and reduce their absorption.

Do not take fiber supplements to reach your goal. Most fiber supplements only contain 1-3 grams of fiber per serving so they are not worth their cost and not getting you closer to your goal.

High fiber foods include all beans and lentils, blackberries, apples, pears, dried apricots, prunes.

Be aware if you are on a gluten free diet. Most gluten free products are very low in fiber and high in starch and refined carbohydrates. Make sure you are meeting your fiber needs with beans and vegetables.

A word of caution, don’t just buy something because it has “fiber” in the name.  I do not want to specifically denounce any products her but if it says fiber but it’s drizzled with caramel, coated in chocolate,  neon colored or something you would otherwise only eat on your birthday...it’s way too processed to be considered food, do not eat it.

What about products labeled as a “Good Source of Fiber” or “High Fiber”?

Many cereals, bread products, granola bars and snacks use nutritional claims to market themselves. For a product to claim it is a “good source of fiber” it must contain between 2.5 grams – 4.9 grams of fiber per serving and labeled as “high fiber” must have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. To put these numbers in perspective before you pay extra for something with one of these claims, here are some examples of fiber content in a serving of common foods:

Apple, 5 grams
Pear, 6 grams
Kiwi, 2 grams
Sweet potato, 4 grams
Broccoli, 3 grams
Black beans, 8 grams per ½ cup
Hummus, 4 gram

More tips to replace foods low in fiber with foods high in fiber:

  • Use hummus or avocado instead of mayo in sandwiches.
  • Bean soup or lentil soup are good lunch options, especially in the winter months when we may have trouble digesting raw garden salads.

  • Adding two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to your oatmeal adds 4 grams of fiber.

  • Check your “whole grain” bread products for fiber content. Sprouted bread such as Food for Life brand has 3 grams of fiber per slice and their English muffins have 3 grams of fiber per half!

  • Choose better cereals by finding the highest fiber and lowest sugars per serving: Nature’s Path Optimum Slim cereal has 9 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugars per serving, Kashi brand Autumn Wheat has 6 grams of fiber with 7 grams of sugars per serving.

  • Anytime you are baking replace 1/3 of the called for all purpose flour with whole spelt flour or whole wheat graham flour, each has four times the amount of fiber of all purpose flour.    

 

Dr. Amanda Tracy, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and owner of Advanced Health & Wellness in Andover, MA. With over 11 years of experience as an integrative doctor focusing on women’s health and autoimmune conditions, Dr. Tracy combines medical knowledge with a holistic approach to use natural therapies backed by scientific evidence for her patients’ success.

 

Sibo Recipes

SIBO DIET RECIPES

Recently, I was diagnosed with  SIBO (Small Intestine Bacteria Overload), which is common in many GI diagnoses of colitis, IBS and chrones. I have begun to follow a SIBO diet, which is similar to paleo though a bit stricter, to alleviate and hopefully treat some of my symptoms. In short the diet allows, meat/fish/poultry, eggs, some beans, non-starchy vegetables, ripe fruit, nuts/seeds, honey and saccharine. Click here for more information on SIBO and SIBO diet.

 I have found several recipes in the past few weeks that both my family and I have enjoyed! Stay tuned for more recipes...

Contact cgwellnessconnect@gmail.com if you have any questions.

 

CASHEW CHICKEN

RECIPE

 

 

 

 

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APPLE PANCAKE

RECIPE

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BANANA PANCAKES

RECIPE

 

CARROT MUFFINS

RECIPE

LAMB STEW

RECIPE

Fear of Judgement

Recently, Wellness Connect had New York Times best selling author Laura Munson come and run a one-day workshop. It made me think about a writing I once did.

 

I am afraid. I am afraid to write. I am afraid to expose myself to the judgment and criticism. Society is really hard on us and women are really hard on each other. I am afraid I'm not good enough.

Where does fear come from? Where does it breed? How does it grow and how do we stop it?  

Having four children I want to help guide them to be confident individuals. We can only control so much.

My son George was born fearless. He was a risk taker the minute he was born. A firecracker, he ran before he walked and he barely crawled. We nicknamed him “Thud” because every morning he jumped out of his crib with a THUD and arrived by our bed with a very loud greeting "It’s time to wake up!"

He could undo his car seat which always led to interesting car rides. Fast and furious and fearless, I thought, until one day when he was 4. He was going to a Red Sox game with my sister and it was really cold outside. George had spent the entire year in a fleece frog costume - I mean hot summer days sweltering in his favorite frog costume fearless and fixated. So on this cold fall evening I insisted he wear his coat over his frog costume. He threw a fit... Finally I asked, "Why do you not want to wear the coat?"

Remember, he is in the frog costume with big googley eyes as his hood. He said to me, "Mom, everyone is going to laugh at me because my coat is too puffy."

Nothing about the costume, it was all about the coat. Here was this little boy afraid of nothing except judgment ... Of course I thought, what have we done as parents to make him feel this way? Nothing. At four years old he had already decided he just wanted to fit in. The fear of not fitting in was scarier to him then going off a jump skiing, riding a 2 wheeler and falling or learning to surf. To this day that's my boy, fearless yet so afraid of what others will think. I try to instill in him there’s no need to fit in and the benefits of standing out.

It's hard because we always want to fix it for our kids but all we can really do is love and support them. This is his journey, not mine and he needs to decide when he will no longer worry if his coat is too puffy.

It took me 45 years and I am finally wearing the puffy coat proudly.  Recently I was talking to a friend about my fear of sharing my writing. I was so proud of myself for being vulnerable and admitting my fear that I missed something else that she pointed out to me: self acceptance. I was so proud that I had gotten over everyone else accepting me when she pointed out I wasn't embracing myself. She actually called me a perfectionist, which made me almost fall off my chair and become a bit defensive. Then I took a moment and listened. Shit, she was right –I didn’t want to take a risk for fear of failure. Here I was a perfectionist when all I preach is authenticity and vulnerability. I didn't want to be a perfectionist because it felt like a dirty word in my book. No one is perfect, which is something I tell my kids all the time yet I was striving for it.

She said "Remember Charlotte, your good is great." So I am putting on my coat, one arm at a time, proud to be me.

As George's mother I know his good is great, he needs to believe it too.


Where did the lazy days of Summer go?

Honestly summer takes a lot of patience and mostly practice. I like order and I thrive on efficiency.  This summer has been anything but orderly having four kids home with very little scheduled and trying to run my own business. As you can imagine I like schedule. So I practiced and tried to breath when the sink was full of dishes and wet towels strewn on the floor. I tried to take chaos and make it feel busy. I tried to remind myself that some day I would in fact miss the mess.

Wellness Connect headquarters was in my kitchen. My 20 year-old niece interned with four boisterous children arguing and cooking around her and 2 mischievous puppies demanding attention. As we sat down to work, I would often interrupt to say, “Oh god do you smell the cat pee,” or would jump up to find the puppies’ head in the cat litter. The humor and frustration of real, raw motherhood. The balance of raising children and pets while working during the summer.

I stressed about how I was going to have my thoughtful, sweet niece intern. I actually sweated over it thinking how the hell am I going to offer her anything? I have to teach her something but I have four children looming demanding rides, doing head stands on the couch, “hey mom look at this!”, laughing, making lunch right in my work-space, the hub of the house “our kitchen.” Recently, I said to Emily it’s like we are at Google as my seven year old insisted we play spoons with her so she could practice keeping her composure when she lost. It was a front row seat to the reality television show of my life, unedited.

 Emily showed ease and grace as she flowed throw my chaos.  I am grateful for Emily for many things that are obvious. She helped me immensely with my website, mailchimp, social media and really anything tech related but mostly I have gratitude for her ability to BE still in the chaos and not rise.

 I hope at the end of the day she learned something about my business but mostly I think she learned more about life. Truthfully I think I gained more from her quiet presence. The universe brings you what you need. We often assume in our society that the elders teach the youth but I think we have it wrong often many of my most valuable lessons are from the young. My niece has taught me so much this summer. We began the summer as employer:employee, aunt:niece,  adult:young adult. We have closed the summer as two individuals that have shared an experience. For me the days I have spent talking, traveling and learning from Emily have added value to my business and helped me grow as a person. Sometimes the smallest moments in our lives are overlooked right in our own kitchens. It’s ok not to have scheduled regattas and tennis matches.  This summer I have learned to flow and not push, to stop and play backgammon, bake blueberry cake and jump in the waves with my kids.

 I feel blessed to have had Emily. The end of summer brings a feeling of sadness for me. My inner child is reminded of returning to school wanting to hold onto to the lazy days of summer. The mother in me wanting to cry, feeling the conflict of emotions, preparing to have an empty, quiet house feels like the order I crave but the stillness makes me feel lonely. Transition is hard but when we are still and aware in our “own kitchen” we can see what we have right before us is a gift: the gift of family, of being together and not doing too much: the gift that each summer brings.