My Gut Health Journey & Love for Wellness

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This will be an overview of my story, but it’s still long; ha-ha! Buckle-up! 

The original inspiration for Jessie Girl came from my struggles with gut-health issues. I was frustrated, looking for answers, and I thought if I could make one person feel less alone, that would be amazing because, frankly, I felt alone for most of my journey.

My journey began back when I was an infant. Yes – seriously! My parents and grandparents often describe me as a very colic-y baby. Colic is defined as when a baby cries for a very long time for no obvious reason. I was a joy, ha-ha! But, colic may be due to digestion problems or a sensitivity to something in the baby’s formula or that a nursing mom is eating. 

I would suffer from bouts of severe constipation from elementary to middle school (sorry if this is TMI for some, but we are going into all the things on this blog). I remember crying about that too. 

In 2013 (high school) – I started suffering from chronic stomach pain, which we couldn’t figure out why. I grew up in a very health-conscious home. My mom was ahead of many health trends and is a fantastic cook. She has always cooked very clean, healthy, and delicious meals. So, through research done by mom – I started to eliminate dairy. Diary is a very common irritant as we get older because we stop producing – or produce less of – an enzyme in our small intestine called Lactase, leading to lactose intolerance. 

The dairy elimination seemed to help, but the pain never completely disappeared. I struggled with stomach pain and bloating throughout high school. It seemed to get worse as I got older each year. I communicated with my primary care doctor about my stomach issues over the years, so he was aware. 

In 2015, I was off to college, and this is where my stomach issues escalated. My bloating became severe, as well as my stomach pain. 

I remember my stomach would be fine in the morning and then slowly expand throughout the day. The best way to describe it is like my stomach was a balloon slowly being filled up with air as the day went on. Additionally, my stomach pain would feel like knives stabbing me daily (sorry for the visual).

I began to feel swollen all over (i.e., ankles, wrists, and face). I look back at pictures and cringe at how inflamed and puffy I looked. Constipation is still going strong. 

I always felt like no one ever understood how miserable I felt.

In 2016, our family doctor had me take Metamucil daily and suggested enemas. If you have never had an enema you are very lucky, lol – but alas, those suggestions did nothing for my symptoms. After that, in 2016, I was prescribed Linzess for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome); however, this did not relieve my symptoms either. 

In 2017, I had an ultrasound on my abdomen, which showed my intestine was full (obviously because I was constipated since birth, ha-ha).

I had my bloodwork taken to check for thyroid issues during this same timeframe. I started to believe I had an under-active thyroid, which would explain many of my issues. An under-active thyroid can affect constipation, mood, energy levels, etc. The test came back negative (which means my thyroid was fine). 

I believed there was something wrong with my thyroid. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are relatively common complaints found in people with a normally functioning thyroid gland, so it can be hard to decipher if the symptoms are related to the thyroid.

In the summer of 2017, I met with a Gastrointestinal who scheduled a colonoscopy. For reference – you typically do not need a colonoscopy until you are around 45 years old. The day before your colonoscopy, you drink a giant jug mixture that is supposed to make you go to the bathroom a lot to clear your bowels. Sadly, I only went to the bathroom once… and it was so much liquid I almost threw up. But, of course, my colonoscopy came back fine. 

At this point, I felt hopeless. 

In 2018, I started to work with a functional medicine practitioner. In hindsight, this sparked my interest in holistic medicine. I had bloodwork taken and a breath test. The breath test revealed I had a condition called SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).

I was excited because up until that point; everyone was telling me I had IBS – I never believed it.

SIBO is when you have too much bacteria in your small intestine. If the “good” bacteria that help you digest food can’t keep up with the harmful bacteria, the “bad” germs can multiply too fast, leading to an imbalance.

Additionally, the blood work indicated I had a food intolerance to dairy and gluten. After the test results came back, my doctor immediately put me on an elimination diet that I begrudgingly adhered to (read more about an elimination diet here). I also took a ridiculous amount of suggested supplements which changed weekly/monthly depending on symptoms. 

I reintroduced foods slowly from June to December for the elimination diet, except for gluten and dairy.

Shockingly and excitingly, from June – to December, my body swelling decreased and my stomach pain diminished, but the bloating remained. So for this, I did a stool test, and those results came back normal. So then, my functional medicine doctor tried only having me drink a liquid concoction for 48 hours, but I still became severely bloated even though I didn’t eat anything. 

At this point, instead of continuing with more tests and supplements, I decided to end my time with my functional medicine practitioner in full transparency because, sadly, functional medicine is not covered by insurance, so this was costing thousands of dollars. 

I am forever thankful to him for getting rid of my stomach pain and opening my eyes to holistic practices. 

Next – basically from the second half of 2019 to the first half of 2020, I was frequently sick. 

In 2019, I went to a new Gastroenterologist, and I decided to see an Endocrinologist (in simple terms: a hormone doctor). I was praying the Endocrinologist would find something wrong with me – anything that would explain why I still felt like crap all the time. But – alas – after so much blood work – I was in perfect health. Every single time I went to a doctor, they always told me everything looked perfect. I know – not something to complain about – but I just wanted an explanation for what was going on with my body. 

The Gastroenterologist doctor decided to do an Upper GI Endoscopy on me; an endoscopy procedure involves inserting a long, flexible tube (endoscope) down the throat and into the esophagus. A tiny camera on the end of the endoscope allows your doctor to look at the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of your small intestine. This allows the doctor to see if there is any swelling, ulcers, blockages, etc. 

It came back perfectly fine! 

Next – the doctor put me on the most potent medication I’ve ever taken (I need to go back in the records and look up the name). The doctor warned me it would be intense, but I was not prepared for how horrible I would feel for the next two weeks. 

It was supposed to cure my bloating. 

It did not help. 

After that experience, I decided I was done with medication for my stomach.

At this point, it’s 2020. I want to reiterate that I have not had severe stomach pain since 2018 (thank you, miracle holistic doctor). However, I am still dealing with extreme bloating, sluggishness, constipation, and a mildly swollen/inflamed body. 

Additionally, I want to say always be an advocate for your body. You know your body and how you are feeling better than anyone. 

Things did start looking up in 2020.

At this point, I typed up an extremely long list of all my symptoms and went to my primary care doctor, who finally put me on thyroid medication (after years of bringing it up) for an under-active thyroid. BIG WIN!! 

Next, I moved home in August 2020, which was a major blessing in disguise. At the time, I was not happy to be moving home, but it helped me focus on my health and eliminate unhealthy habits. 

This is where everything shifts. 

Looking back… I think my gut health issues skyrocketed when I got to college because of change, extreme anxiety, social media (no joke), increased alcohol consumption, diet changes, and denial. I was never happy with how I felt or looked, but I wasn’t actually willing to put in 100% effort. I wanted a magic pill to heal me, but there wasn’t one. 

This is where I may sound crazy to some people, but I genuinely believe you cannot heal a body that you hate. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know my health issues existed, but external factors compounded them. 

Once I started to heal my relationship with food, actually do proactive exercises to manage my anxiety, find exercise I enjoyed, drink less, implement holistic remedies, and take full responsibility for how I was handling my body – I began to heal. 

My stomach issues aren’t 100% resolved and I am still a work in progress.

But, I started this new journey in 2021, and I am finally starting to feel like MY true self in 2022. 

Some things I do now: 

I listen to my body – I know when I get stomach discomfort, I’m very stressed. 

I handle my anxiety – I don’t cover it up with other things (work in progress).

I nourish my body – I fuel it with nourishing foods. I don’t restrict or binge. 

I love my body – I’m kind to it now – not spiteful. 

All of this to say – this blog post only touches of the surface of it all – but this is why I am so passionate about overall well-being. I genuinely believe in the gut-brain connection, and that food can heal. 

If you made it to the end of this blog post – THANK YOU! 

I’m excited to talk about all the things with you. I can’t wait to discuss many of these topics more in-depth in other blog posts. 

Lastly, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

xoxo

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