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  • Writer's pictureTara Vaughan

My Journey With Gut Health

​​This journey started in the early summer of 2017 when I decided to make major lifestyle changes to achieve a healthier, and happier me. My journey truly started as a child, I ate a highly processed diet (pasta, sugary foods, minimal vegetables, you name it, my diet was awful) until my mid-twenties. I was however, lucky, that I only drank water, hot chocolate (occasionally) and alcohol. Honestly, no sugary drinks, no fruit juices, only water, hot chocolate maybe a dozen times a year if that and alcohol, well, when does one normally drink alcohol?!

In 2017 I slowly began to change my eating habits, began working out more regularly, and began learning more and more about health and nutrition. Prior to this, I was constantly frustrated with how I was feeling both physically and mentally. When I hit the point of my gut health getting in the way of daily activities, I knew I needed to do something about it.

While I’m not a nutritionist and have zero ground to stand on in the medical community, my years of research and journey with my own health has resulted in enough knowledge to have a reasonably informative conversation about digestive wellness. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, follow your gut and seek a nutritionist! While so many ailments can be alleviated through a careful diet, nutrients and vitamin supplements definitely have their place in treatment and I will talk about them in another blog.

My symptoms, for those that are interested (if not skip this paragraph) were: constipation, periodical intense lower abdominal pain or upper abdomen pain, loose stool, bloating, fatigue, and really bad gas. We’re talking gnarly. And non-stop. And this continued for about two years. The gas could be a family thing... I feel sorry for both my brothers wives.

Last year I figured out that something I was doing was causing damage to my gut lining and causing me to not properly absorb my food, which was why in spite of eating a healthy(ish) diet and exercising, I was still perma-tired, depressed, and generally had a negative outlook on life. I booked in to see my acupuncturist, who is fabulous and he diagnosed me with an Ileo-Cecal Valve leak.

The Ileo-Cecal valve is a small muscle located between the small and large intestine. Found on the right side of the body, this one-way check valve allows our food to pass into the large intestine for further processing. The proper function of this valve is to open and close upon demand. When this muscle sticks in the open position it causes a backwash from the large intestine into the small intestine, allowing fecal matter to be used in the making of blood. Fermentation also takes place, which in my eyes means that I was making alcohol and was permanently pissed. How true that is I'm not sure, you'd have to ask a doctor. This has great consequences as the small intestine is where the process of creating the blood/fuel to feed the body begins. When this muscle is stuck closed, the process of eliminating waste will be hindered. Both of these conditions are very toxic and can cause a problem anywhere in the body there is blood. My IC Valve was stuck open.

I had to go in once a week to have accupunture and to get my IC Valve re-trained and I was put on a special diet for six weeks. No raw foods. No sugar. No roughage. No bran. No alcohol. I was told that I would notice a difference in my energy levels within two weeks.

On the evening of day four of my diet, I had a horse fall on top of me. I got away lightly with whiplash, a dislocated rib, a concussion and I was also winded. I was put to bed and wasn't allowed any chocolate to make me feel better - my lovely boyfriend, Hugo, gave me a few pieces when my mother wasn't looking!

On day eleven Hugo, who I was moving in with, broke-up with me. So much for me feeling more energised in two weeks. Instead, I was lying in bed suffering with a concussion and a broken heart. And thoroughly confused about what had just happened because of the concussion. Note to everyone - DO NOT break up with someone when they have a concussion! It's mean and unfair. And if they're anything like me they wont remember why.

I stuck to my diet, however difficult it was. All I wanted to do at times was drown my sorrows and eat copious amounts of comfort food. Instead I found that I didn't eat and only sipped at a little water for four days straight. I slowly started to drink more water, perhaps a glass a day but I still wasn't really eat - picking at this and that but never a full meal.

Ten months later and my gut health has improved drastically. I no longer fluctuate between constipation and diarrhea with periodical intense lower abdominal pain or upper abdomen pain. I do go through fazes of not eating, usually when I’m in a server low or grieving. And I have been throwing up a lot these past few months but that’s nothing to do with my gut, that’s all in my head. I have been seeing a nutritionist for the past six months now and she has helped immensely.

I will be writing a blog on gut health and how it can affect your mental health in the next week or so. It has been fascinating reading about food and mental ill health, how it can affect you and how it can heal you.

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