Fair warning to the audience, I will be discussing some graphic details (i.e bowel movements)
This story starts noticeably later than my struggle with obesity. However, I could claim that several things disadvantaged me from an early age. First, my mom gave birth to me through Caesarean section (C-section). Already, I had missed out on beneficial bacteria.
Second, I was breast fed for less than 6 months before I was switched to a soy formula. After a month of not handling the soy formula well, I was put on Nutramigen. As you can see, 3/4 of the Nutramigen formula is processed garbage mostly comprised of corn and other oils.
Lastly, you’re probably aware that my childhood diet was not ideal; As an adolescent, I prided myself on having an iron stomach. I rarely threw up. I loved spicy food. I wasn’t a picky eater and would try most foods. During this time, I didn’t seem to have an issue with digestion. But to put this in perspective, I was a chronic asthmatic and severe allergy sufferer. I was constantly getting sinus, eye, or ear infections and colds. This resulted in round after round of antibiotics throughout my youth.
HEAD IN THE SAND
In July 2009, I began to have a strange pain on my tailbone. This turned out to be a pilonidal cyst. I don’t suggest googling it. A pilonidal cyst, once infected, becomes a very painful and large abscess. This cyst would subside for a couple of years but return with a fury in early August 2012. The reappearance of the abscess in 2012 was so painful I went to the hospital to have it lanced. I was given a prescription for antibiotics and went about my life as usual.
Less than 2 months later I wasn’t feeling so great. I suspect this is where things may have tipped. My asthma, allergies and skin were starting to get worse. I began to have trouble with my digestion and bowel movements. I was worried my wound may have gotten infected. So, I scheduled an appointment to see my doctor. My doctor assured me the wound did not look infected. But based on my symptoms, he shared his concerns that I may have autoimmune related issues and required I get bloodwork. In hindsight, most of my bloodwork looks normal from that day, Sept 26th, 2012, with two exceptions. My vitamin D was an abysmally low 12 ng/mL. And, my eosinophils, white blood cells that help fight infections, were at a high of 2,613 cells/µL (normal <400). The doctor suggested that my eosinophils were probably just my chronic asthma and allergy problems causing this elevated blood count.
It’s easy to look back on this and smack myself on the head. I really wasn’t being pro-active with my health. Instead, I had let my symptoms extend to frequent passing of blood in my stool, sleep apnea, and constant dizziness, just 5 months later. After a worrying amount of time and symptoms not dissipating, I walked into emergency care. The doctor was only able to confirm that I didn’t have hemorrhoids (not fun), but suggested I follow up on these issues. But again, I didn’t; work was busy, and it was much easier to focus on anything other than my failing health.
TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN
Several months later I would begin my journey into dietary interventions with a paleo diet. I did find some temporary gut relief with each dietary pivot. I suspect this was due to the removal of most junk in my diet. However, my skin would flare up, my asthma seemed hard to kick, and astonishingly my mental health seemed to be getting worse (future post). As time went on, I started discovering more food sensitivities to whole foods. I could no longer eat most fruit without acute skin or breathing issues. This pushed me further towards Keto.
Again, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a protein-sparing modified fast. During PSMF, I was filling up on fibrous or low-calorie foods like broccoli, spinach, celery, mushrooms, chicken breast, spices, egg whites and guzzling enormous amounts of electrolyte-supplemented water; My gut hated me for it. Most of this time my gut was in pain. I was either extremely constipated or a ruptured pipe; never solid or painless. Being in public was a nightmare and emergency trips to the bathroom were frequent. My gut was in such poor health that during a workout at a park a sharp intestinal pain caused me to faint and have several ambulances called to take me to the hospital.
But still I persisted, I had weight to lose and what’s a little health for the sake of vanity. A little over 2 months later – September 2016, I had a serious, life-threatening scare. After going out to eat Colombian food with a friend, I began to feel ill. Shortly after I had left his house and arrived home, my gut was fully distended. I was having trouble breathing and breaking into a cold sweat. The pressure in my gut kept building. I ran a fever. I couldn’t vomit. I could not pass gas or relieve the blockage. This event opened me to investigating the issues with doctors. However, most of them wanted to know why I wasn’t eating fruit or other carbohydrates and insisted I was doing this to myself. Trying to explain to them that my health issues were much worse with the inclusion of carbohydrates was futile. Most wanted me on medication to treat symptoms and thought I was foolish to try avoiding symptoms with food.
Between September and December, I was regularly becoming impacted and relying on enemas to help relieve the blockage (NOT ADVISED). By December, I finally had an appointment with a gastroenterologist. She was insistent that I needed to make carbohydrates a staple in my diet. However, her first step for me was to clear the fecal impaction I currently had. She wanted me to take Purelax (CVS brand Miralax). Purelax was the final straw. Initially when I took Purelax, I didn’t notice any laxative effect. I had been asked to take it for 4 days, so I continued taking it. I should mention that prior to this my asthma had been in remission (probably due to the caffeine and ephedra I was regularly consuming on PSMF); that was until day 3 of Purelax. While away from home, I began to have one of my worst asthma attacks. My gut began to distend, and my face had become bright red and my skin was flaking off. My friend rushed me home for my rescue inhaler. I immediately stopped taking the Purelax, but it was too late. I became bedridden, depressed, my gut pain was unbearable, I couldn’t breathe, and I was rapidly gaining weight. I was going through 2 to 3 rescue inhalers a month. I had to rely on a nebulizer too. This asthma persisted from December 2016 until May 2017 when I began a carnivore diet.
ALBATROSS AROUND MY NECK
When I first went carnivore in May 2017, I found remission from the breathing issues and lost some of the weight I had regained. However, I was now more sensitive to food than ever before. If I ate lactose, I’d have GI distress. Casein or eggs resulted in asthma and skin issues. Conventional pork would give me a headache and make me nauseated. If you had asked me then what I thought was wrong, I would have guessed I had a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) that was thriving off the plants that used to be in my diet and now I needed to repair my gut.
To my surprise, 4 months into the carnivore diet, September, I began to pass candida. At first, I had no idea what was going on. I figured I had caught the flu. I had a fever and I felt weak. A couple days later, my GI was in massive distress. It had me rushing to the bathroom every 1 to 2 hours for a bowel movement. This persisted for 36 hours with little time for sleep. After several trips to the restroom, it became apparent that I was no longer passing fecal matter but what looked like knotted and balled up, frayed, yellowish yarn; This was candida. These flare-ups would arrive every 3-6 weeks until February 2018. They became less frequent and shorter in length with each one.
I really began to hope that this was it. It was the last hurdle I had to cross. My digestion seemed to be improving. Like all the times before this was short-lived. The GI issues came back subtly at first. A small amount of blood in stool, some GI discomfort, or narrowing of stool. This pushed me towards experimentation and hoping to cure my ailment with raw dairy and some cured meats. The raw kefir did seem to help digestion when it was present in my diet, but the effects immediately subsided if it was removed. Unfortunately, kefir had other negative consequences like weight gain and skin issues.
The leaner I ate, the more volume was required to sate my hunger. This was an unsustainable situation for my gut. I began to pass blood or have constipation daily. I was discouraged that I felt like my GI health was regressing on a diet that had proven so effective at treating many of my other chronic issues and even putting my candida infection into remission.
A BIRD IN THE HAND
My gut health was the only reason I upped my fat. I wasn’t trying to lose weight or boost my mood – although those were unexpected and wonderful bonuses. The decrease in volume by increasing fat intake did in fact help. It took my issues from bleeding more than three times a week to bleeding once every couple of weeks. My current record is 19 days with no incidence of blood. However, that’s not to say my gut is healed. Far from it. I still experience intolerance to normal, healthy animal foods. I still get GI distress, although I rarely get constipated eating this way.
These issues prompted a more thorough investigation into my health. I decided to have blood drawn. I discuss changes in my lab work at Cholesterol Code. Several bloodmarkers significantly improved, but my lipids, ferritin, and CRP had worsened. I spoke with Dave and Siobhan about these changes. They felt further follow up with a doctor might be helpful to figure out what was going on. Dr. Paul Saladino was someone who’d recently helped me organize my thoughts in preparation for my bipolar interview with Tristan. Paul is extremely knowledgeable and eats a nose-to-tail carnivore diet. He was someone I felt comfortable consulting with. Given my symptoms and bloodwork, Paul suggested we start with a gastrointestinal microbial assay (GI-MAP) to further investigate my health before resorting to something more invasive and less telling, like a colonoscopy. Here were my results:
In hindsight, it made a lot of sense to see that I had a clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection. C. diff is a large intestinal bacterial infection. It causes inflammation and narrowing of the colon. These are issues I’ve long been dealing with. While I’m not out of the woods yet, it has been a huge relief to have something to work towards fixing. I am going the antibiotic route, since that’s what my insurance covers. I do find this unnerving, especially since I suspect the last round of antibiotics in 2012 were the cause of this infection and gut deterioration. I’m hoping this will put my final issue to bed and I can get on with my life.
As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve started my round of antibiotics (May 29). It’s not been a fun time. I will be writing a Part 2 update to this in the near future. Perhaps I will include a further examination of my labwork and ketone and glucose readings experiments. Let me know in the comments what you think. I’ve also added some Keto Animal Food apparel options to the shop if you would like to support the blog or just get some cool KetoAF gear. Thanks for reading!