GI Health Update and Meal Plan

This week’s meal plan and grocery list are different than usual. This is because the lab results are finally in for the health problems I’ve had for the last 9 weeks, meaning I finally have a treatment plan. I’m starting a new journey and bringing you with me.

Quick back story

As previously mentioned, my recovery from my gallbladder surgery last fall was going well…until mid-January. The last day I ate a balanced meal was January 23, 2021. Since then, I’ve been unable to eat much at all. Homemade chicken bone broth and Multigrain Cheerios have kept me going. Some days, it’s difficult just to drink water, and I struggle to get in 400-600 calories. I’m down 25-30 pounds at this point, and I’m struggling with symptoms of malnourishment and starvation. It’s been rough.

Test results

Turns out, I’m high in 7 strains of bacteria, plus a strain that belongs on the skin has somehow worked its way into my gut. Furthermore, I’m also completely lacking the protective lining of my intestine wall; it’s just not there anymore. We’ve long suspected SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), so the SIBO Breath Test is being sent directly to me to get confirmation on whether or not these excessive levels of bacteria have worked their way into parts of my body that they don’t belong.

The biggest surprise, however, was that I tested positive for Candidiasis. Once my doctor said that, the puzzle pieces started falling into place. When I really think about how long I’ve struggled with certain symptoms, the more I think my Candida levels have been high for about 4 years. This combination of excessive bacteria and fungus explain a lot, including how I may have developed gallbladder disease and gallstones. This last year of exceptionally-high stress created the perfect storm for these things to take over my body.

Treatment plan

Tomorrow morning, I start a regimen of prescription antifungals, natural antimicrobials, a combo of pre- and probiotics, and several supplements that reduce inflammation, sooth, and restore function to my GI tract. This first several weeks will likely involve unpleasant flu-like symptoms as the bacteria and fungus begin to die off, but finally treating this and getting on a road to fix it permanently is absolutely worth it.

I’m also incorporating several lifestyle changes to encourage faster, more comprehensive healing of my entire body. I’ve been intermittent fasting to encourage balanced Migrating Motor Complex function. I’m also starting exercises to stimulate my vagus nerve to lower inflammation and encourage better gut motility function, as well.

Dietary challenges

This combination presents some big food/diet challenges. High bacteria levels are advised to follow a low FODMAP diet, while high Candida levels are put on a Candida diet. Many things that are allowed on one are strictly forbidden on the other. It makes for a pretty restrictive list of food I can actually eat. And I thought I was restricted before… (I miss coffee, chocolate, and cheese so. very. much.)

I greatly appreciate that my doctor takes a balanced approach to this treatment. Since GI disfunctions vary greatly between individuals, she believes that my body will tell us more than some printed list. She also believes that low FODMAP for too long can have negative effects on your normal GI function. So, moving forward, I’m taking these diets as guidelines, not rules. Most importantly, I’m listening to my body. If I’ve been able to eat a particular “naughty” food without a negative reaction, she encourages me to continue eating it. On the other hand, if there is something I’m reacting to that isn’t on these lists, I’ll cut back on it.

The only exception for this first week or so of treatment is, you guessed it: sugar. Candida loves sugar, so I need to keep it very low. Anything with added sugar, even natural sugars, or anything our bodies naturally convert to sugar. This means very few low-sugar-only fruits, very little honey, very few carbs, very little dairy, and clearly, no sweets.

This week’s meal plan

As a result, it took me four hours to create this week’s meal plan. Once I find a potential recipe, I check every ingredient against the most-restrictive Candida diet first, move onto the low FODMAP diet, and finally, I check the fat amounts for my gallbladder-removal recovery. I won’t lie; this is exhausting. I SO look forward to coming reintroduction phases!

Those who know these diets well will recognize that my list contains a few rule-breakers, foods I haven’t had a problem with through this entire journey. Some of those include blueberries, shallots, green apples, and a head of garlic I will use to make my homemade bone broth. On the flipside, some of the highly recommended foods are a no-go for me, including avocados, oats, eggs, and legumes.

Where to go from here

This journey will likely take significant time to get back to “normal”. I haven’t quite figured out how this is going to affect this blog. I will continue to make my favorite recipes for my husband, neighbors, and loved ones, so I might continue to share those. (For the record, cooking something delicious without even tasting it is a level of willpower I didn’t know I had before these health issues, but I still love creating tasty dishes for loved ones!) I might also create a GI-related series to help others navigating this difficult road. It will all depend on how my health continues to unfold. So stay tuned!

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