“Life always has a way of working things out and bringing the best days back around again.” That’s how I finished my last post almost two years ago, and I believe it even more now than I did then. The best days are coming back around for me and I don’t think I will ever stop being thankful!

A lot has happened since August 2009. That fall I continued following much of Heather Van Vorous’ (Help for IBS) dietary suggestions for IBS and it seemed to help little by little. By December 2009 I was feeling significantly better. I still had symptoms (nausea, pain, etc) but they were not constant 24/7 symptoms and I was able to get out and do a lot more than I had in years. I went out grocery shopping and running errands on a regular basis with very few problems, and I even went out to eat several times which was a huge success for me. My husband was delighted to finally have a wife who he could go out with! I was so encouraged and happy to be feeling some relief from IBS, but frustrated that I wasn’t quite “there” yet and I still had some rough days (and nights) where I would just feel awful. I wanted to feel 100% better and I didn’t know what the next step was to getting there.

Then in January everything changed. I discovered I was pregnant with our first child and within a few weeks I was experiencing horrible morning sickness. Except for me it really wasn’t “morning” sickness, it was all day, and all night sickness. I felt incredibly nauseous all the time. By 10 weeks into my pregnancy, I was throwing up on a daily basis (how fun!) and losing weight rapidly. My midwife prescribed a high daily dose of Zofran (an anti-vomiting drug) and diagnosed me with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe, on-going morning sickness during pregnancy). I had to remain on the high dose of Zofran my entire pregnancy, until one week post-partum. I felt sicker than I ever had in my whole life… which you will know, if you have read my other posts in this blog, is really saying something. I ended up losing weight instead of gaining the first half of my pregnancy, and only gained about 10 lbs during the last few months of it. The Zofran thankfully kept me from actually puking, but I was in bed writhing with nausea and discomfort for the majority of the 9 months I was pregnant. It was horrible and I could not WAIT for it to be overwith. Honestly though, I didn’t really even know how much of the nausea was being caused by the pregnancy and how much was the IBS. I didn’t know how I would feel after the baby was born. Worse than before? Better than before? The same? I was really hoping the hormone changes from the pregnancy wouldn’t affect me like taking birth control had. (After I got married and started taking birth control for a couple months, my IBS got a LOT worse and continued that way even after I stopped taking birth control).

The Zofran made me incredibly constipated and after trying various things like Milk of Magnesium (yuck!) and Colace (made me even more nauseous), I tried a magnesium/calcium powder called Natural Calm. It worked incredibly well and kept me regular throughout my pregnancy. I took it every morning (about 2-3 tsp) in a smoothie, from the time I was about 13 weeks pregnant all the way through.

In September 2010, our precious baby was born. For the first week afterwards I still felt nauseous a lot and had to take Zofran every day. After that, however, the nausea faded and I started feeling “normal” again. And then I started feeling better than my “normal.” I seriously was ravenously hungry and eating did NOT make me feel nauseous! I could eat, at long last, without feeling like puking. I went about my day (and night) without feeling nauseous and didn’t experience any kind of IBS pain either.

It is May 2011 now (my son is 8 months) and I am honestly, thank God, after 5 long years of hell in this IBS pit of suffering, feeling 95% better. It is a RARE occasion when I feel nauseous or have any kind of IBS pain (cramps, spasms, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc). I can eat without worry, and go anywhere without even giving a thought to IBS or how I feel, because I feel pretty great. I don’t think of myself as “sick” anymore. It is an absolute miracle and I am enjoying every minute of it.

So what cured me of IBS? A lot of people have asked me this (my husband, my mom, my friends, people reading this blog). I honestly attribute it to 3 things. First, I give all the glory to God for healing me. Second, that magnesium powder (Natural Calm) is a miracle worker. I still take it nearly every day, and I really think it worked wonders at helping to regulate my whole digestive system in ways I didn’t even know it needed regulating. I have heard that magnesium helps IBS but I didn’t know that it turn it around completely. I think the thing is, is that it didn’t work right away. I took it every day for several months before I realized it was helping with the IBS. And lastly, for whatever reason, having a baby totally turned my health around! Maybe the hormonal changes actually helped in some way.

Anyway I just thought I would share a brief update to let everyone know I am doing very well now, as I am now feeling, hoping and believing that my five-year journey through Biliary-Dyskinesia-That-Turned-Out-To-Really-Be-IBS is at long last… over.

I turn 25 next month. I would like to spend the remaining 5 years of my 20′s actually living and enjoying life, feeling great and young and healthy the way a 20-something-year-old woman should. I have missed so much since I turned 20 and got so incredibly sick. I’m so grateful I get another shot at life now.

I wasn’t actually planning to write in this blog again after a major turn of events in the last 7 months, but the many, many heartfelt comments and messages I have received because of my story finally prompted me to do so. I didn’t realize I would gain such an audience :) I don’t want to leave everyone hanging, so here’s the sum of what’s been going on with me since December of last year.

My gallbladder plan didn’t really get me anywhere. For one thing, I never gained the self-control and determination in order to do it 100%, every single day. And for another thing, the amount of the plan that I was able to accomplish, didn’t seem to help me any. My symptoms did not improve and I was as sick as ever in January and February.

One day in March my mother-in-law called me exclaiming that she had just watched an episode of Mystery Diagnosis about a “girl who couldn’t eat.” (If you want to watch it, go to You Tube and search for Mystery Diagnosis “The Girl Who Couldn’t Eat”). My mother-in-law explained that the girl’s symptoms sounded exactly like mine.  The girl had ended up getting her gallbladder out, only to feel worse… and then the doctors removed her appendix, and she still didn’t improve… and then finally she went to see a specialist at Yale who diagnosed her with Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction (SOD). They treated her right then (surgically cutting a small incision in her sphincter that connects the bile ducts to the small intestine). And she woke up feeling 100% better. She never relapsed and she was perfectly fine from there on out. When I watched the show on YouTube, I literally cried at the end. She had been through so much and I really felt that I related to her experience in so many ways. I’ve dreamed for many years now of waking up one day and actually feeling well.

Anyway, the show made my family and me wonder if the problem wasn’t just Biliary Dyskinesia… maybe it was SOD as well. Or maybe SOD was causing the Biliary Dyskinesia. It made sense. It also made me want to see a specialist with more knowledge than my local GI doctor, since he had never even mentioned SOD.

During the same period, I was growing tired of efforts to “heal” my gallbladder since nothing was working. At all. I felt so sick, day in and day out. I wasn’t sleeping well at night because I would wake up for 2-3 hours every night in severe nausea. I was taking Dramamine once or twice a week, and a pile of ginger capsules every single day. It was horrible. I had to have improvement because I just couldn’t live like that. So I came to the point where I decided I would have my gallbladder out if that’s what it would take. But I wasn’t about to go down to my local hospital and have it done there. As great as they are, I wanted one of the top hospitals in the nation for digestive disorders. I didn’t want to end up with a surgeon who wasn’t thoroughly experienced. And I also wanted to see a specialist that would be well informed about Biliary Dyskinesia and SOD, so that I would feel 100% sure about my diagonsis before getting any kind of surgery.

I made an appointment in March to see a GI specialist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Maryland. Their GI department is rated #2 in the nation (I think the Mayo Clinic is #1).

The week before I went, I had a nerve-wracking nightmare about having my gallbladder removed while I was only partially anesthetized. I could feel everything the surgeon was doing (cutting, slicing, pulling, etc) but couldn’t say or do anything. I woke up from the dream in a pile of sweat. I was really terrified about the idea of surgery and having an organ removed. I was scared that the anesthesia wouldn’t put me completely out, or that I would never wake up from it, or that they would accidentally cut my bile duct, or that I would have a gut-wrenching recovery, or that in the end I wouldn’t feel any better.

With that in mind, I went to my appointment at Johns Hopkins with great trepidation, and yet great determination as well. I was ready to schedule surgery if that’s what the doctor told me I should do.

When my husband and I arrived at the appointment and the doctor came in, we were immediately impressed. The doctor had already thoroughly reviewed my case. He had read over my personal medical statement about my condition (a two page summary I had written and mailed in of what I’ve gone through the last 3 years), and all of my medical records, highlighting and underlining things. I didn’t have to explain anything to him because he was familiar with my whole story. He went over it with me to make sure all the facts were correct, and then I was on a table for examination. He listened to my breathing and palpated my stomach and abdomen. Then something surprising happened. When he pressed hard on my upper right quadrant, I felt some pain, but when he moved further down and pressed on my right abdomen a few inches away from my hip bone, I just about let out a yelp. It was really painful.

That specific place had been starting to hurt a little bit for a few months. It was just off and on, and never severe, so I never really gave it much thought. Now I wondered if I might have appendicitis or some kind of female issue!

We sat down with the  doctor (Johns Hopkins specialist, remember) after the examination and what he said completely shocked us. He told me that he didn’t think there is anything whatsoever wrong with my gallbladder. He said that CCK/Hida Scan test results can vary and that my gallbladder was probably just having a “bad day” when it was tested. He said that gallbladder pain is usually never constant or persistent. It comes and goes in “attacks” but doesn’t linger as a dull ache or a constant pain and source of nausea day in and day out. He also said that from the ultrasounds I’ve received, it’s obvious that my appendix is just fine, so there was nothing to worry about there. I then questioned him as to why I felt such sharp pain in the lower right quadrant when he had pressed on it. That led to his diagnosis…

He said that I have a bowel motility disorder. He explained that my gut has severe spasms, and that causes pain, nausea, bloating, gas and all of my other symptoms. He also said that my bowel motility is not functioning properly, and there are two places in my colon that are being directly affected by that — my upper right and lower right quadrants. Sorry if the following is too much information, but: He told me that because my bowels are not moving properly, fecal matter is getting built up in those parts of my colon and essentially forming hard clots and causing my colon to be distented. He said he felt the build up of, well, poop, when he had pressed on the lower right section. He said that’s why I am feeling the most pain in those specific two areas. He told me that there was no telling whether the bowel motility issue was causing the spasms, or the spasms causing the bowel motility issue, but regardless both are happening and they are the cause of all of my pain, discomfort and various symptoms. I asked him about the nausea especially, since it is the most common and severe symptom, and he explained that when any part of the digestive system is in distress, whether it’s the stomach, small intestine, or colon, that the body’s instant reaction is “STOP — DON’T SEND DOWN MORE FOOD!” because it thinks food will cause greater distress. And so the body creates nausea as a warning.

He summed it all up by saying that I should definitely not have my gallbladder removed, that there’s not a thing wrong with my gallbladder, and that all I have is a bowel motility problem. He said that some doctors would call it “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” but that the term was too broad so he didn’t want to use it. The problem with me all along has been crazy intestinal spasms and a motility issue that has my colon continually being lodged up with poop that shouldn’t be there because my large intestine doesn’t know how to move properly in those two sections (well first it was one section, then the lower section came into play this year).

His greatest recommendation was to begin walking every day. He said that he believes firmly in the ability of the body to heal itself, and that a gentle exercise like walking for long periods of time would relax my colon and get its focus off spasming and being in distress since it was clogged up. He said that most doctors would just want to prescribe anti-spasmodics and anti-depressants, but he understood when I told him I had already tried anti-spasmodics and the side effects were worse than my symptoms, and I’m not going anywhere near anti-depressants. He also recommended eating yogurt with probiotics in it every day, since taking probiotics seemed to help me a little in the past. But he told me over and over again that exercise was very important to my recovery.

I left the appointment feeling relieved, excited, surprised, encouraged… and scared, discouraged, frustrated, and annoyed all at once. On one hand it was so great to know that I wouldn’t have to have surgery! I could keep my gallbladder! My gallbladder wasn’t even sick to begin with! And I finally know what’s truly wrong with me — from the mouth of a Johns Hopkins professional! But on the other hand it was so frustrating to know that I was essentially being taken back to my first diagnosis. IBS. And while this doctor at least suggested two things that none of the others did (exercise and that my body could heal itself), I felt lost as to how to actually get well. I knew that exercise wouldn’t be able to cure me, because I have certainly exercised some in the last 3 years, and it only ever helped a little.

I got home and stopped my gallbladder plan altogether. Obviously there was no need for it anymore. Instead, I plunked down at the computer and for the first time thoroughly, extensively researched IBS and how to manage it. I came across Heather Van Vorous’ website “Help for IBS,” which I had seen 2 and a half years prior when I was originally diagnosed with IBS. The last time I had browsed her website, I didn’t feel confident that I even had IBS, and I didn’t have the motivation to actually follow her program or take her advice. Back then I hadn’t been sick for very long, after all, and I didn’t understand how IBS could be causing my symptoms since the doctors didn’t explain it very well at all. But this time I dove right in and consumed all of Heather’s IBS information. And I don’t think I will ever stop being grateful.

I ordered the full “Help For IBS” kit. I read both of Heather’s books and it opened up a whole new world of understanding for me. I finally understood why my body is acting the way it is, what IBS really is, and what can be done to manage (and stop) the symptoms. I started changing my diet, but not in a way that I thought I ever would. I always thought that in order to be cured from this illness, I would need to eat nothing but raw vegetables and an insanely healthy diet that no one in the world can stick to. But the diet that Heather suggests is so much easier than any diet I have ever tried. It’s based on soluble fiber found in freshly baked french or sourdough bread, rolled oats, rice, potatoes, etc. instead of the insoluble “trigger” fiber that is found in just about everything else (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, etc). Heather advises IBS sufferers to base every meal on soluble fiber, and to have a constant intake of soluble fiber throughout the day. She recommends Metamucil or FiberCon supplements to aid in getting enough soluble fiber. This kind of fiber acts as a “gel” in the digestive tract that dramatically reduces spasms and helps to maintain proper bowel motility, reducing both diarrhea and constipation (both of which I’ve suffered from).

So I started basing my meals more on soluble fiber foods, taking Metamucil first thing every morning, cutting back on fatty foods and dairy, doing my daily exercise as the doctor had recommended, and drinking 2-3 cups of Heather’s potent herbal tea (Peppermint or Fennel) every day. And I also got determined not to be an invalid anymore. So much so, that despite how I was feeling, for the first time in many, many months I started venturing out on my own to the post office, the grocery store, and to do other errands.

So I’ve been doing that for just a couple months now, and I have to say, for the first time in a very, very, VERY long time, I am actually starting to feel better. There have been a few moments in the last month or two that I have actually felt… good. Like, not sick. Not about to puke. Not in severe pain. Not even paying attention to how I feel. Granted there have only been a few moments like that, but still. To feel that way for the first time in 3 years is a huge deal, even if it just lasts for 10 minutes.

With the doctor’s “walking” recommendation and Heather Van Vorous’ program for IBS sufferers, I am actually, finally, starting to improve. I have been able to do weekly grocery shopping (on my own, with no one else there) for the first time since I got married a little over a year ago. (My husband is thrilled by the way!). I have been able to run errands by myself and drive up to a full hour away to pick things up or visit relatives, without my husband having to tote me around every time. It’s been very free-ing. I’ve actually started to become somewhat of an individual again instead of a 23-year-old invalid. And I like it. I really, really do.

I still suffer from all of my former symptoms but they are improving and becoming less severe, and less frequent. And I am learning to handle and manage them better when they do hit me (for example, when I get hit with bad pain, I immediately head to the kitchen and put a pot of water on for peppermint tea). I hardly ever find it necessary to take Dramamine anymore, and I don’t even take ginger every day… it’s probably more like every-other-day, but still, a day without needing ginger! Wowza.

I’ve come a long way, and I still have a long ways to go, but it’s the first time in 3 years that I am certain I am on the road to permanent wellness. They say IBS is incurable, but like the Johns Hopkins doctor said, I really do think the body has a way of healing itself. It just takes a strong determination to get there, and a real understanding of what is wrong in the first place.

My advise to anyone with genuine, continuing, debilitating digestive distress, whether Biliary Dyskinesia or IBS or something else altogether, is this:

#1. See a real professional. Don’t settle for your local GI doctor. Go to one of the top 5 medical institutes in the nation and get an accurate diagnosis from someone who has been trained by the best. Find a specialist who will actually study your case, listen to your entire story and read your personal medical statement (not just your test results). I highly recommend Johns Hopkins.

#2. Don’t get surgery or have your organs removed unless you have confirmed your diagnosis with a major specialist of this type, and even then, try every thing else you can before resorting to that option. You need your organs. There are a lot of people who regret having their gallbladders removed. If I had listened to my local GI doctor, I would be without my gallbladder now, undoubtedly experiencing side effects from that, and I still wouldn’t have even fixed the problem.

#3. Believe in your body’s ability to heal itself, and find a doctor and a support system (relatives, friends, message boards, etc) who believe the same thing.

#4. Find someone like Heather Van Vorous who has experienced your illness and conquered it, and if their plan makes sense, try it and see if it works for you. If you can’t find anyone like this for your particular illness, then strive to become that person so that others in your condition can learn from you. It’s harder when you don’t have someone leading the way (believe me I’ve been there), but you have to just keep trying new things until you find something that works. And keep studying your illness, what it is, what caused it, what it does to your body, and how things like food, supplements, herbs, stress, lifestyle and exercise affect it. Just because a doctor says something is incurable doesn’t mean that it is.

#5. In those really, really hard, sucky, awful and hell-like days when you are unbearably sick and you wonder if you will ever actually get well or if you will feel like this forever, remember how far you have come in life, remember that you were not always this way, remember that miracles take more than a day or a year sometimes, remember that there are a lot of people out there feeling even worse than you do and you could just as easily be in their place, remember to be grateful to still have a shot at life no matter how grim it might seem in the moment, and remember that you were once well and carefree and that in the end, life always has a way of working things out and bringing the best days back around again.

I wasn’t actually planning to write in this blog again after a major turn of events in the last 7 months, but the many, many heartfelt comments and messages I have received because of my story finally prompted me to do so. I didn’t realize I would gain such an audience :) I don’t want to leave everyone hanging, so here’s the sum of what’s been going on with me since December of last year.

My gallbladder plan didn’t really get me anywhere. For one thing, I never gained the self-control and determination in order to do it 100%, every single day. And for another thing, the amount of the plan that I was able to accomplish, didn’t seem to help me any. My symptoms did not improve and I was as sick as ever in January and February. But then…

One day in March my mother-in-law called me exclaiming that she had just watched an episode of Mystery Diagnosis about a “girl who couldn’t eat.” (If you want to watch it, go to You Tube and search for Mystery Diagnosis “The Girl Who Couldn’t Eat”). My mother-in-law explained that the girl’s symptoms sounded exactly like mine.  The girl had ended up getting her gallbladder out, only to feel worse… and then the doctors removed her appendix, and she still didn’t improve… and then finally she went to see a specialist at Yale who diagnosed her with Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction (SOD). They treated her right then (surgically cutting a small incision in her sphincter that connects the bile ducts to the small intestine). And she woke up feeling 100% better. She never relapsed and she was perfectly fine from there on out. When I watched the show on YouTube, I literally cried at the end. She had been through so much and I really felt that I related to her experience in so many ways, and I’ve dreamed for many years now of waking up one day and actually feeling well.

Anyway, the show made my family and me wonder if the problem wasn’t just Biliary Dyskinesia… maybe it was SOD as well. Or maybe SOD was causing the Biliary Dyskinesia. It made sense. It also made me want to see a specialist with more knowledge than my local GI doctor, since he had never even mentioned SOD.

During the same period, I was growing tired of efforts to “heal” my gallbladder since nothing was working. At all. I felt so sick, day in and day out. I wasn’t sleeping well at night because I would wake up for 2-3 hours every night in severe nausea. I was taking Dramamine once or twice a week, and a pile of ginger capsules every single day. It was horrible. I had to have improvement because I just couldn’t live like that. So I came to the point where I decided I would have my gallbladder out if that’s what it would take. But I wasn’t about to go down to my local hospital and have it done there. As great as they are, I wanted one of the top hospitals in the nation for digestive disorders. I didn’t want to end up with a surgeon who wasn’t thoroughly experienced. And I also wanted to see a specialist that would be well informed about Biliary Dyskinesia and SOD, so that I would feel 100% sure about my diagonsis before getting any kind of surgery.

I made an appointment in March to see a GI specialist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Maryland. Their GI department is rated #2 in the nation (I think the Mayo Clinic is #1).

The week before I went, I had a nerve-wracking nightmare about having my gallbladder removed while I was only partially anesthetized. I could feel everything the surgeon was doing (cutting, slicing, pulling, etc) but couldn’t say or do anything. I woke up from the dream in a pile of sweat. I was really terrified about the idea of surgery and having an organ removed. I was scared that the anesthesia wouldn’t put me completely out, or that I would never wake up from it, or that they would accidently cut my bile duct, or that I would have a gut-wrenching recovery, or that in the end I wouldn’t feel any better.

With that in mind, I went to my appointment at Johns Hopkins with great trepedation, and yet great determination as well. I was ready to schedule surgery if that’s what the doctor told me I should do.

When my husband and I arrived at the appointment and the doctor came in, we were immediately impressed. He had already thoroughly reviewed my case. He had read over my personal medical statement about my condition (a two page summary of what I’ve gone through the last 3 years), and all of my medical records, highlighting and underlining things. I didn’t have to explain anything to him because he was familiar with my whole story. He went over it with me to make sure all the facts were correct, and then I was on a table for examination. He listened to my breathing and palpated my stomach and abdomen. Then something surprising happened. When he pressed hard on my upper right quadrant, I felt some pain, but when he moved further down and pressed on my right abdomen a few inches away from my hip bone, I just about let out a yelp. It was really painful.

That specific place had been starting to hurt a little bit for a few months. It was just off and on, and never severe, so I never really gave it much thought. Now I wondered if I might have appendicidis or some kind of female issue!

We sat down with the  doctor (Johns Hopkins specialist, remember) after the examination and what he said completely shocked us. He told me that he didn’t think there is anything whatsoever wrong with my gallbladder. He said that CCK/Hida Scan test results can vary and that my gallbladder was probably just having a “bad day” when it was tested. He said that gallbladder pain is usually never constant or persistant. It comes and goes in “attacks” but doesn’t linger as a dull ache day in and day out. He also said that from the tests I’ve received, it’s obvious that my appendix is just fine, so there was nothing to worry about there. I then questioned him as to why I felt such sharp pain in the lower right quadrant when he had pressed on it. That led to his diagnosis…

He said that I have a bowel motility disorder. He explained that my gut has severe spasms, and that causes pain, nausea, bloating, gas and all of my other symptoms. He also said that my bowel motility is not functioning properly, and there are two places in my colon that are being directly affected by that — my upper right and lower right quadrants. Sorry if the following is too much information, but: He told me that because my bowels are not moving properly, fecal matter is getting built up in those parts of my colon and essentially forming hard clots and causing my colon to be distented. He said he felt the build up of, well, poop, when he had pressed on the lower right section. He said that’s why I am feeling the most pain in those specific two areas. He told me that there was no telling whether the bowel motility issue was causing the spasms, or the spasms causing the bowel motility issue, but regardless both are happening and they are the cause of all of my pain, discomfort and various symptoms. I asked him about the nausea especially, since it is the most common and severe symptom, and he explained that when any part of the digestive system is in distress, whether it’s the stomach, small intestline, or colon, that the body’s instant reaction is “STOP — DON’T SEND DOWN MORE FOOD!” because it thinks food will cause greater distress. And so the body creates nausea as a warning.

He summed it all up by saying that I should definitely not have my gallbladder removed, that there’s not a thing wrong with my gallbladder, and that all I have is a bowel motility problem. He said that some doctors would call it “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” but that the term was too broad so he didn’t want to use it. The problem with me all along has been crazy intestinal spasms and a motility issue that has my colon continually being lodged up with poop that shouldn’t be there because my large intestine doesn’t know how to move properly in those two sections (well first it was one section, then the lower section came into play this year).

His greatest recommendation was to begin walking every day. He said that he believes firmly in the ability of the body to heal itself, and that a gentle exercise like walking for long periods of time would relax my colon and get its focus off spasming and being in distress since it was clogged up. He said that most doctors would just want to prescribe anti-spasmodics and anti-depressants, but he understood when I told him I had already tried anti-spasmodics and the side effects were worse than my symptoms, and I’m not going anywhere near anti-depressants. He also recommended eating yogurt with probiotics in it every day, since taking probiotics seemed to help me a little in the past. But he told me over and over again that exercise was very important to my recovery.

I left the appointment feeling relieved, excited, surprised, encouraged… and scared, discouraged, frustrated, and annoyed all at once. On one hand it was so great to know that I wouldn’t have to have surgery! I could keep my gallbladder! My gallbladder wasn’t even sick to begin with! And I finally know what’s truly wrong with me — from the mouth of a Johns Hopkins professional! But on the other hand it was so frustrating to know that I was essentially being taken back to my first diagnosis. IBS. And while this doctor at least suggested two things that none of the others did (exercise and that my body could heal itself), I felt lost as to how to actually get well. I knew that exercise wouldn’t be able to cure me, because I have certainly exercised some in the last 3 years, and it only ever helped a little.

I got home and stopped my gallbladder plan altogether. Obviously there was no need for it anymore. Instead, I plunked down at the computer for the first time and thoroughly researched IBS and how to manage it. I came across Heather Van Vorous’ website “Help for IBS,” which I had seen 2 and a half years prior when I was orginally diagnosed with IBS. The last time I had browsed her website, I didn’t feel confident that I even had IBS, and I didn’t have the motivation to actually follow her program or take her advise. But this time I did. And I don’t think I will ever stop being grateful.

I ordered the full “Help For IBS” kit. I read both of Heather’s books and it opened up a whole new world of understanding for me. I finally understood why my body is acting the way it is, what IBS really is, and what can be done to manage (and stop) the symptoms. I started changing my diet, but not in a way that I thought I ever would. I always thought that in order to be cured from this illness, I would need to eat nothing but raw vegetables and an insanely healthy diet that no one in the world can stick to. But the diet that Heather suggests is so much easier than any diet I have ever tried. It’s based on soluble fiber found in freshly baked white bread, rolled oats, rice, potatos, etc. instead of the insoluble “trigger” fiber that is found in just about everything else (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, etc). Heather advises IBS sufferers to base every meal on soluble fiber, and to have a constant intake of soluble fiber throughout the day. She recommends Metamucil or FiberCon supplements to aid in getting enough soluble fiber. This kind of fiber acts as a “gel” in the digestive tract that dramatically reduces spasms and helps to maintain proper bowel motility, reducing both diarrhea and constipation (both of which I’ve suffered with).

So I started basing my meals more on soluble fiber foods, taking Metamucil first thing every morning, cutting back on fatty foods and dairy, doing my daily exercise as the doctor had recommended, and drinking 2-3 cups of Heather’s potent herbal tea (Peppermint or Fennel) every day. And I also got determined not to be an invalid anymore. So much so, that despite how I was feeling, for the first time in many, many months I started venturing out on my own to the post office, the grocery store, and to do other errands.

So I’ve been doing that for just a couple months now, and I have to say, for the first time in a very, very, VERY long time, I am actually starting to feel better. There have been a few moments in the last month or two that I have actually felt… good. Like, not sick. Not about to puke. Not in severe pain. Not even paying attention to how I feel. Granted there have only been a few moments like that, but still. To feel that way for the first time in 3 years is a huge deal, even if it just lasts for 10 minutes.

With the doctor’s “walking” recommendation and Heather Van Vorous’ program for IBS sufferers, I am actually, finally, starting to improve. I have been able to do weekly grocery shopping (on my own, with no one else there) for the first time since I got married a little over a year ago. (My husband is thrilled by the way!). I have been able to run errands by myself and drive up to a full hour away to pick things up or visit relatives, without my husband having to tote me around every time. It’s been very free-ing. I’ve actually started to become somewhat of an individual again instead of a 23-year-old invalid. And I like it. I really, really do.

I still suffer from all of my former symptoms but they are improving and becoming less severe, and less frequent. And I am learning to handle and manage them better when they do hit me (for example, when I get hit with bad pain, I immediately head to the kitchen and put a pot of water on for peppermint tea). I hardly ever find it necessary to take Dramamine anymore, and I don’t even take ginger every day… it’s probably more like every-other-day, but still, a day without needing ginger!Wowza.

It’s Almost A New Year

December 23, 2008

Well I do apologize for not writing for so very long. I got discouraged after being on my Plan for a couple weeks and not seeing much improvement, (I know, I know, it takes time! But I’ve been sick for so long that waiting is HARD) so I stopped writing in my blog. It was kind of like I got swallowed by a huge gray cloud of discouragement, and I’ve spent the last two months (since my last post) working hard on my health/diet half the time, meanwhile spending the other half of my time feeling depressed about it all, wondering if I will EVER feel well, and occupying myself with housework, pets, work-at-home jobs, and anything else I can find to get my mind off the fact that I feel ill. So all in all, I’ve been sticking to my Plan roughly 50% of the time… that is, as far as the juicing and taking vitamins part is concerned. I have been eating a low-fat diet 95% of the time.

As I was thinking about my health yesterday, it occurred to me that I do actually feel better than I did a month or two ago. What led to this revelation was actually when I was eating mashed potatoes the other day. They were just plain potatoes mashed with salt and pepper, but they gave me the worst “gallbladder attack” (if you can call it that — since I don’t have stones) in a LONG time. (I don’t know why, I must be potato sensitive or something, but the point is my gallbladder HURT and I felt SO nauseous!). And then my stomach woke me up in the middle of the night, feeling so nauseous I had to take a Dramamine. That’s when it hit me… the gallbladder pain and intense, stomach turning nausea felt slightly foreign to me! I’ve been going without Dramamine for up to 2 weeks at a time, and I’ve even been taking ginger a lot less often. My nausea is still pretty persistent, but much less severe. And I have not had nearly the pain that I used to (eating potatoes reminded me how bad the pain used to be!). And I have gone out shopping or to pick something up every day the last 4 days! Granted, my husband drove me, but STILL. Four days in a row. A couple months ago I would not have been able to do that… in fact, riding in a car even for a few minutes made my stomach turn and my mouth start salivating like I was going to puke. But the last few weeks, I’ve gone out a lot more, with a lot less severe symptoms. I even drove myself up to the post office once. And that IS encouraging.

I am still far from where I need and want to be, but healing takes a lot of time (especially when you’ve been sick for years like me), and I am just so gosh darn happy to not feel absolutely like puking 110% of the time!

The new year is about to start, and with it, I am hoping to transition into a new kind of Plan.

For one thing, exercise has always been a key to my health (I’ve suffered when I haven’t had aerobics as part of my daily life), and it’s been a huge thing missing since I got married. Mainly because the type of exercise I like best is walking/running, and we don’t live in an area that has space to walk much or run at all, and I haven’t been able to afford a treadmill. But I’ve been saving up and am hoping to find a used treadmill next month, and start using it! My mom is giving me some exercise videos for Christmas (cheesy, I know, but I’ll try them anyway) and a mat to put on my floor for stretches. I really believe that moving my body, sweating out toxins, and getting my lymph system moving is going to drastically help my gallbladder and my overall health.

I also want to try some vegetable/fruit/juice fasting and detoxing. That’s mostly what I eat anyway (vegetables, fruits, and veggie or fruit juice), but I do eat a lot of breads and grains as well, and I think that takes away from the detoxing that raw, fresh foods could provide. My mom got me a book the other day called Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life (by Cherie Calbom) and I want to try her 5-day liver/gallbladder detox program because it seems gentler than most gallbladder cleanses.

I also want to adopt a more Gillian McKeith diet overall. She has the show, “You Are What You Eat.” (Her website is http://www.gillianmckeith.info if you want to look it up). I watched that show all the time last spring, and then dared to try her 8-week program… only to quit on day 5 because it was hard and I got a cold and who can eat well when they have a cold? Haha. But during those 5 days I had a lot more energy, and I really did start feeling better. I was getting up every morning and running, getting fresh air, eating really healthy vegetables all day long, juicing, drinking smoothies… it made me feel quite alive. In order to get completely well I think I’m going to need to stay on that kind of program, and live that kind of lifestyle, for more than 5 days! :) Maybe 5 weeks, or 5 months.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Regardless of the fact that I’m still not feeling very well, I am still glad to have my gallbladder. I’m glad that I’ve chosen to keep it, and I have a strong feeling that in just a little while I’m going to be completely well, and, looking back, will be even MORE glad of my decision to heal my gallbladder rather than cut it out.

No, I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth. But it has been a while since I’ve written anything. Officially it’s “Day 18″ now… and here’s an update on how I’m doing.

The first week or so of my Plan, I actually noticed some teenie tiny changes… being able to eat a lot more raw vegetables than I have in many months (for some reason they would really make me nauseous), being able to eat more in general (larger meals), and overall not feeling nauseous quite as much… taking Dramamine less (like once a week instead of 2-3 times). They were tiny changes but VERY encouraging nonetheless.

And then the weather got cold. And we can’t afford to heat the house right now, because it’s oil furnace heated, and that’s expensive, and my husband lost a huge part of his work last week due to the economic situation in the country. So money’s a real bummer right now, and my hands and feet and everything else is freezing because we can only afford to use a couple small space heaters. I don’t exactly live in Antarctica but it has been really cold outside, and inside, lately. It’s hard to do much of anything when I’m cold. Going into a freezing kitchen and washing dishes, peeling carrots, making juices and cooking healthy food with numb fingers is just plain HARD.

So I ended up veering off my Roadmap a little. Not completely… oooh no. But I’ve slacked a little in the last week in regards to juicing and making “green smoothies,” and I haven’t been quite as consistent with the vitamins/supplements. And I’ve been paying for it. Definitely not feeling as well as I was a week ago. I know that I need to pull myself together, bundle up, and continue to do what I can to heal myself even in the frigid cold. Yesterday I did make carrot/beet/apple juice, and today I went out (with my husband) and got some greens for smoothies. So I’m getting back on track. I have to.

I’ve been identifying some meals that my stomach (and gallbladder) seem to handle really well. They include:

Breakfasts: Van’s 97% Fat Free Waffles with pure maple syrup and fruit. Cooked oat bran or oatmeal with cinnamon, agave nectar, lecithin granules and fruit. Whole wheat or whole grain toast with jelly (I like grape or apple jelly) and fruit.

I have tried making egg-free, dairy-free, fat-free pancakes… and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. Ewww. I’ve been rotating the above 3 breakfasts so things don’t get too boring. I still miss pancakes and scrambled eggs and bacon like crazy though.

Lunches/Dinners: Spaghetti with zucchini, onions, tomatoes and artichokes in a dab of spaghetti sauce with herbs and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Sandwich made of bread, hummus, herbs and raw veggies. Baked corn chips with homemade guacamole. Homemade vegetable soup with toast or crackers.

Desserts/Snacks: Fresh dates. Fruit.

I’ve been struggling a bit with finding fruit because all my favorites have gone out of season (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines… *sigh*). However, today I bought a pomegranate. I had forgotten about pomegranates. I love them. I can’t wait to have oatmeal with pomegranate seeds tomorrow… yummm. Ooo and I bought I coconut today too. Coconut is one of my favorite foods in the whole world. Not quite up there with cheese and chocolate, but a passion nonetheless.

Anyway, I’m getting 100% back on the plan, and hope to be posting some positive results soon. I’m still very glad to have my gallbladder… and I’m still very hopeful to heal it completely. My mom keeps reminding me that I’ve been sick for almost 3 years, and I can’t expect to magically get well in 3 weeks from something that has been ailing me for so very long. I mean, realistically it did take my body 6 months to go from being ultra healthy to hitting rock bottom a few years ago. There were pivotal points in those 6 months that made things worse, but it was definitely a gradual decline (from the day I arrived in Canada in Spring 2006 to the day I dropped out of college in Fall 2006). If it took me 6 months to get sick, and I’ve stayed sick for 2 years after that, and now I’ve only been on the Plan to getting well for (not even) 3 weeks… obviously I’ve got a ways to go :)

Stay tuned.

Well, I’ve been doing pretty well with my Roadmap to Healing the last couple days. I’m going to mark the beginning of this new diet/lifestyle as officially started on October 10, 2008… although I’ve been adjusting to the new diet and supplements for 2-3 weeks now, so it wasn’t an instant overnight “going on a diet” thing. I wouldn’t recommend that. I do better with slow adjustments, and I would imagine it’s easier that way for just about anyone. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, the hardest part of transitioning into a vegan-like, almost fat-free diet for me has been letting go of cheese and chocolate. Yesterday I did have a tablespoon or two of parmesan cheese, and a couple Hershey kisses. I don’t really consider that a form of failure, however. I actually think I’ve been doing really, really well with this radical new diet. I’ve been juicing and making green smoothies every day, taking my huge heaping load of supplements (outlined in my previous posts), and eating lots of rather unsatisfying health-nut food. And other than my parmesan cheese and tiny bit of chocolate, I’ve been avoiding all the foods I should not be eating.

Yesterday morning my husband had bacon and eggs for breakfast and I about went crazy.

It’s a strange thing that even though I feel nauseous all the time (literally), I also feel hungry a lot of the time… not just a stomach hungry, but a deep, insatiable hungry… like my body is malnourished and starved, and I would need to eat 1,000 meals to ever feel strong and satisfied again.

It’s been over two years since I’ve eaten a meal and not felt nauseous before, during and after it.

At any rate, it’s “Day 3″ of my plan and I feel miserable. My stomach is burning right now. I have a minor headache. I’m tired. I was sniffling and sneezing earlier, but I don’t think I really have a cold — it could very well be due to my body detoxing. Of course I feel nauseous. My gallbladder hurts off and on… not really bad, but enough pain to remind me that it’s there and it’s feeling as miserable as I do. My back is sore; not sure if it’s from my gallbladder or from having to sleep propped up on two pillows every night to avoid acid reflux or additional nausea. My body kind of aches all over. And I just feel weak, energy-less, unmotivated. Like I feel most of the time.

I’m not really expecting instant results with my gallbladder healing plan. Diet and herbs can take a good while to kick in and start the healing process. I am hoping I will feel at least somewhat better in a month, by November 10th. I’m not sure how long it will take to feel completely well. I guess I’m hoping that in two months I’ll be feeling well enough to actually go out on a date with my husband, and be able to enjoy Christmas dinner this year (that would be so amazing). I am confident that in a year I will be 110% better. I have to be. I can’t continue living like this forever.

I have so many dreams to accomplish that have been put on hold the last few years due to this awful sickness. Somehow I did manage to meet my wonderful husband and marry him through it all (he has been my greatest supporter and comforter, next to God of course), but so many of my other dreams are out of reach until I fully recover. I want to travel the world. Italy, especially. But the rest of the world, too. I want to take a cross-country road trip with my husband. I want to actually be able to enjoy being married, and be happy and carefree like newlyweds are supposed to be. I want to open my own restaurant or diner. At some point in my life I want to own a pet store, a bookstore, a bakery, a coffee shop and an inn. I might want to go back to school. And I want to have five wonderful, healthy, amazing children. I want to home-birth them and home-school them, and I want to teach them how to eat right so they never have to go through what I am going through now.

Those are just some of my dreams for the future, and I sincerely hope I will have the health to accomplish them. I’m doing all that I can to get there. I hope it will be enough.

Some Things to Add

October 12, 2008

Some additional supplements I will soon be adding to my routine include:

2 Standard Process A-F Betafood with each meal
1 Herbal Extract Plus Gallbladder Support Blend twice a day

I also wanted to mention that I am trying to eat apples or drink apple juice daily. I’ve heard this is good in cleansing the gallbladder. I am also incorporating artichokes into my diet as much as possible.

My Roadmap to Healing

October 9, 2008

Now that you’ve read my story, you know what I’ve been going through the last two and a half years, and where it is brought me. Even though I’ve been diagnosed with biliary dyskinesia (a low functioning gallbladder) which is deemed “incurable” by the medical field (except through the removal of the gallbladder which very seldom “cures” the problem), I am determined to keep my gallbladder and heal it through natural remedies, diet and lifestyle. My mom is a former naturopathic doctor, and I am drawing on her knowledge, internet and nutritional book resources, as well as my own knowledge and experience to form a plan to heal myself.

The goal is to get my gallbladder functioning as it should again. I’m going to need to enhance my liver health and function to accomplish that, because the liver greatly affects the gallbladder. The bile that is produced in the liver flows into the gallbladder, and the two organs are connected. What affects one, affects the other. That’s why you’ll see some of my supplements and diet directed specifically at the liver.

So far my plan consists of eliminating 95% of fats (leaving only a very small amount of “good fats” like olive oil, coconut and avocado) and eliminating all meat/dairy, taking supplements to support my liver and gallbladder health, drinking fresh vegetable and fruit juices, consuming “green smoothies” (more details later), and sticking to a diet of about 50% vegetables, 30% fruit, and 20% whole grains or beans.

Here is my day-to-day plan, from morning to evening:

Fiber Blender Drink
This consists of a banana, 4 ice cubes, 1 tsp honey, 1-2 tsp Kyo Green powder, 1/2 tsp EarthRise Spirulina, and 1 heaping tbsp Dr. Natura Colonix Internal Cleanser.

Supplements taken with Fiber Blender Drink:
8-10 small Chlorella tablets
1 New Chapter CoEnzyme B Food Complex (B Vitamin)
2 Garden of Life Living Multi (Multi-Vitamin)
1 Source Naturals Systemic C (Easy to digest Vitamin C)

Just before breakfast:
1 heaping tsp LivaTone Liver Tonic powder mixed in a glass of water

Breakfast
Breakfasts include things like:
Fruit (main ingredient in any breakfast)
Hot oat bran or other hot cereal – with pinch of salt, cinnamon, agave nectar (similar to honey but healthier), and 1 tbsp lecithin granules.
Whole grain toast with apple butter, jelly, agave nectar or honey.
Insanely healthy muffins or pancakes — made with applesauce rather than oil, no eggs or only egg whites, whole grain flour (preferably oat or spelt flour), liquid lecithin, fruit, and anything else healthy I can throw in).
Fruit smoothie.

Supplements taken with slow, drawn-out Breakfast:
1-2 Enzymedica Lypo Gold (Lipase Enzyme)
1 Unikey Health HCL+2 Digestive Support (Hydrochloric Acid)
1 Sandra Cabot MD Magnesium
1 New Chapter Turmeric Force
1 Himalaya LiverCare

Throughout entire day every hour or two:

Fresh Vegetable/Fruit Juice
Focusing on carrot, beet, cucumber, celery, apple juice… all of which is healthy for digestion and the gallbladder. Freshly squeezed in my Champion juicer. Takes a lot of work but this is a HUGE healer. Sounds gross but it doesn’t taste all that bad really. Make sure to strain and serve with ice.
Additional vegetables/fruits to juice include things like: red bell peppers, cabbage, spinach, grapes, pears, ginger root.

Green Smoothie
Mixed in my VitaMix, I blend a banana, some ice cubes, a pinch of cinnamon, 1-2 tsp agave nectar, pure vanilla flavor, occasionally a tsp of coconut oil (to get a small amount of healthy fat into my diet), a splash of liquid lecithin, and the main ingredient, greens! Greens include fresh kale, parsley, spinach, beet leaf, romaine, and anything else green and healthy that you can think of :) This really sounds gross, but it ends up tasting something like a chai tea with the cinnamon in it. Greens are extremely healing to the body.

Note: It’s easiest to make a big batch of the vegetable/fruit juice and the green smoothie in the morning, and store individual “drinks” in the refrigerator to drink throughout the day. I store mine in 8 oz canning jars… just the right size, and they close well to keep the drinks from oxidizing.

Lunch/Dinner
Homemade Lunch and Dinner options include:
(Remember: no oils, dairy, butter, meat or added fats!)

Vegetable Soup (with whole grain bread or crackers)
Bean/Lentil Soup
Potato Soup
Cooked Vegetables (with salt/pepper/spices or soy-ginger sauce):
Baked Potato or Sweet Potato
Green Beans
Corn
Broccoli
Yellow Squash
Zucchini
Spinach
Peas
Raw Vegetables with hummus and baked chips
Veggie Sandwich made with whole grain bread, hummus spread, black pepper, spices, and raw veggies
Rice with vegetables (with salt/pepper/spices or soy-ginger sauce)
Pasta with “ratatouille” type vegetables in healthy tomato sauce
Boca burgers on whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato and other veggies

Supplements taken with Lunch:
1-2 Enzymedica Lypo Gold (Lipase Enzyme)
1 Unikey Health HCL+2 Digestive Support (Hydrochloric Acid)
1 New Chapter CoEnzyme B Food Complex (B Vitamin)
2 Garden of Life Living Multi (Multi-Vitamin)
1 Source Naturals Systemic C (Easy to digest Vitamin C)

Supplements taken with slow, drawn-out Dinner:
1-2 Enzymedica Lypo Gold (Lipase Enzyme)
1 Unikey Health HCL+2 Digestive Support (Hydrochloric Acid)
1 Sandra Cabot MD Magnesium
1 New Chapter Turmeric Force
1 Himalaya LiverCare

Optional Desserts
Fruit and fruit smoothies
“Ice cream” made from fruit or coconut
Fresh dates
Something concocted with young coconut, raw chocolate, agave nectar, dates and/or avocados

At some point during the day:
1 heaping tsp DandyBlend mixed in hot or iced water (coffee-like drink made from dandelion, which is very healing for the gallbladder. Tastes really good, too!)
Fruit snack
Fruit smoothie
Some progressive and active form of exercise (this is difficult to do with 24/7 nausea but my body needs to move in order to heal)
Prayer and Bible reading… because I believe that by Jesus’ stripes I am healed. I believe that God has already provided my healing for me, and it is by faith that I receive it. Having daily prayer and Bible reading will help to build up my faith and thereby see my healing from the Lord.
Saying aloud that I am well and healed, and picturing myself as such. There is healing and creative power in words (God created the world by speaking it into being, after all), and positive thinking influences the body.
Laughter. Good medicine :) Goes along with positive thinking.
Sunshine! Including direct sunshine on my liver/gallbladder area.
All day long, water, water, water. Bottled or well water, never city water.

Occasionally I might have other healthy foods/drinks that are not on this list, but for the most part, this is my plan. Now it’s just a matter of getting on it and sticking to it…

Thus far I have been in a “transition” stage since my diagnosis a couple weeks ago, trying to figure out what I should do and slowly adding in healthier food and supplements as I get my plan laid out. Now it’s time to really get on this program and begin an intensive healing process.

The hardest part for me so far has been transitioning out of DAIRY products. I am in love with cheese. And butter. And ice cream. And anything with milk in it. I’ve never eaten a LOT of dairy, but up until a week or two ago, I had at least a little cheese, butter and milk every single day, in one form or another. But in the last week… *sigh*… I’ve had to depart from my beloved dairy products. They contain far too much fat for my gallbladder, and lactose isn’t especially good for the digestive system. I hope I can return to the land of dairy someday (soon!) in the future.

Chocolate is another weakness of mine, and I am really going to need to figure out some way to make a really tasty treat using raw chocolate and no dairy/oil/fat.

I’m not sure how much longer my “transition” period will last, but it needs to wrap itself up here pretty quick. I am desperate to feel well, and so tired of being sick. I will post again in a new category entitled “The First Month” when I’ve successfully completed my first day of the plan I’ve laid out in this post.

My (Real) Diagnosis

October 7, 2008

(Continued from my previous post, “How It All Began”)

After suffering through almost two and a half years of abdominal pain and nausea, with (what I felt was an inaccurate) diagnosis of IBS, I became absolutely desperate for an answer. All of my symptoms (the constant, horrible nausea especially) were keeping me bedridden most of the time, and I couldn’t live like that. (What 22-year-old married woman wants to lie in bed with terrible pain and nausea all day?) I was not happy with my diagnosis. I never really felt like I had IBS. People with IBS generally have some constipation, diarrhea and maybe some abdominal cramps now and then. After the diarrhea calmed down in the first few months of fiber and supplements, my main symptoms were nausea and pain in one specific place — my upper right abdomen. That didn’t sound like IBS to me. And a few weeks ago I got absolutely fed up with the idea that doctors diagnosed me with such a vague, cop-out illness. My husband and I went online and looked up the symptoms “24/7 nausea” and “pain in right upper abdomen.” We found bazillions (okay, not quite bazillions… but a lot) of results for gallbladder disease and gallstones. I had considered the possibility of gallstones before, but through minor research had determined that my chronic nausea and pain didn’t match up with gallstone behavior. Researching it deeper with my husband, we found that my symptoms did align with gallbladder disease very well, and partially with gallstones.

I was at the point where I could not stand another minute of nausea and pain (it was, and is, really that bad). I had my husband drive me to an urgent care center. I went in and told the nurse practitioner, “It hurts really badly RIGHT HERE, and I have so much nausea ALL the time. What is wrong with me?” She said it sounded a lot like gallstones and referred me to a local gastroenterologist (the same one, actually, that had told me two years ago in ten minutes flat that I just had IBS). I took the GI appointment and waited a week for it to come.

In the meantime, I went to see a natural practitioner who does live blood analysis. (In a live blood analysis, you’ll have your finger pricked gently and the blood dropped on a few slides, and then the slides are put under a microscope connected to a viewing screen so you can see your own live blood cells – along with anything else that is floating around in your blood. It is really fascinating!). I had done this a couple years ago when I was first diagnosed with IBS, and had discovered yeast, parasites, undigested proteins and fats in my blood (basically confirming that I was not digesting or absorbing my food sufficiently, and had some parasites that had not shown up on any other tests). This time there were no parasites, yeast or undigested proteins (all those fiber cleanses really cleaned up my colon!). There was, however, an enormous amount of undigested fat present. I was not eating a high fat diet (I never have, with the exception of my time in Canada – which is how this whole saga began). The practitioner said it looked like I had just eaten a Big Mac right before coming into the test. Well I had only had a banana/fiber blender drink that morning, and it had been hours since then. Conclusion: I’ve hardly been digesting my fats at all!

The liver and gallbladder are what enables the body to digest fats. Bile is the body’s tool in fat break-down and digestion. The liver produces the bile, and the gallbladder stores it and is supposed to secrete the appropriate amount of bile into the upper small intestine whenever anything is eaten. If stones, disease or distention is present, the gallbladder may cease to eject bile sufficiently (or even at all), leaving fats undigested and causing a whole host of symptoms.

I was excited to be getting somewhere. It looked like my gallbladder could very well be the culprit. I couldn’t wait to confirm it. I found myself hoping it would be gallstones so I could just do a flush or get sound wave therapy to break down the stones and eliminate them from my body.

I went in for my GI appointment and told the specialist the same thing I had told the nurse practitioner at the urgent care center. “I have pain RIGHT HERE, and nausea, ALL the time.” He immediately signed me up for an ultrasound to check for gallstones. There was no mention of IBS. Not a word.

I had the ultrasound, and it came up negative. No gallstones. They did, however, find a small 3cm low density area in my liver. The doctor ordered an MRI to check it out further. He then determined it was just an hemangioma, a benign tumor or blood vessel, which apparently wouldn’t cause any symptoms, harm or further investigation (according to my doc) especially since mine is so small.

Hearing of others with sluggish gallbladders, I then requested that my gallbladder be tested for function. My doctor agreed and ordered a CCK ultrasound. They injected a hormone called CCK into my bloodstream that triggers the gallbladder to eject bile as if I had just eaten a really fatty meal (like a steak or a hamburger). A normal ejection fraction is 40% or more. Mine was only 18%, and it made me feel more nauseous than I already felt. They doubled the dose and injected it again. This time it recreated all of my worst symptoms in one horrible wave… I felt intensely nauseous, dizzy, flushed, light-headed, and had very bad pain on my upper right side. Even with such a concentrated dose, I only ended up with a 35% ejection fraction. The technician concluded, “Well, you failed.” I was never so happy to flunk a test :)

Finally, after two and a half long years, I was really getting somewhere… I was finding out what was actually wrong with my body.

I returned to the gastroenterologist and he diagnosed me with an abnormal gallbladder. He said according to my low ejection fraction and how the CCK recreated my symptoms so strongly, it is obvious that my gallbladder is not functioning the way it is supposed to. He said that basically my gallbladder is not contracting appropriately, therefore bile is not flowing sufficiently into my digestive tract, which means I am unable to digest fats properly. When I asked how a sluggish gallbladder could cause so much pain and nausea, he explained that any organ with distension or abnormal spasms can trigger nerve endings and cause those symptoms.

I asked about treatments and the doctor said that surgery is the only known treatment, and could help to reduce or eliminate my symptoms. Having already researched and read hundreds of stories of people who had their gallbladder removed and either felt worse, the same, or had lingering symptoms for a lifetime after surgery, I told him that I wanted to opt out of surgery for the time being and try diet and lifestyle changes. He agreed with me that there is a significant chance that surgery would not eliminate all of my symptoms, since there is no guarantee. He said that he has had other patients before who chose not to have surgery, and that in my case there is no harm in postponing or avoiding surgery other than dealing with my present symptoms. He recommended a very low-fat diet and said that it may help reduce symptoms, but would not ultimately fix my gallbladder. He concluded that, “We in the medical field have no way of actually making an abnormal gallbladder start functioning correctly again.”

I smell a challenge.

The doctor gave me two options: have surgery and get my gallbladder removed, which may or may not actually help; or try to maintain a low-fat diet and deal with my symptoms indefinitely. I choose neither option, thank you very much. I want to keep all my organs. I want to have a complete working digestive system. I don’t want to be on medications the rest of my life for the many negative effects that surgery could have on me, and even more medications to regulate my digestion and bile flow (that’s what my gallbladder is for!). Even if surgery actually went well and I had no ill side effects and no long-term symptoms, not having a gallbladder puts a strain on the rest of the digestive system and it’s not the definition of “healthy” to live the rest of my life without all of my organs. Maybe if I were 122 I’d be willing to do that, but I’m only 22. I have a very, very long ways to go before I want to start cutting out body parts. (Not that I ever really want to, but you get my point – it’s not like I’m a rotting vegetable that could do just as well without an organ or two).

So I’ve pretty much reached the end of my doctor’s help. He was great with ordering tests, delivering an accurate diagnosis (THIS TIME!), and explaining some medical terms. But beyond that, he really can’t be of much more help to me or my health. I can find more information on how to heal my gallbladder online or in nutritional books than he could ever offer me.

My doctor did say that, while he thinks the majority of my symptoms are a result of my sluggish gallbladder (medically termed biliary dyskinesia), he would like to run a couple more tests to eliminate other possibilities before moving forward with surgery if I ever wanted to have my gallbladder out. He said he would like to perform an endoscopy to see if I might have an acid problem and a gastric emptying test to see if I might have a stomach emptying problem (called gastroparesis). I would have told him to order the tests right away if my financial situation were better. Unfortunately insurance hasn’t been paying for any of these tests, and my newlywed husband and I are struggling to pay off the ultrasounds and MRI as it is. We can’t afford two more $1,000 tests on top of that! (I wasn’t on insurance before we got married, so I was on a waiting period for insurance during all of this, and insurance is denying all my claims since this is deemed as a “pre-exiting condition”… blah).

As a side note, if somehow all of my efforts fail in healing my gallbladder, I have no idea where the money would come from to afford surgery since insurance would cover none of it. Gallbladder surgery must run close to $10,000 right? Yikes.

At any rate, regardless of whether I might have an acid problem or a stomach emptying problem, I know my gallbladder isn’t working right, and I really feel that all my pain and nausea originates from where my gallbladder is located. If I do have an acid or gastic emptying problem, my doctor said he could only offer me medications that may or may not help with that (and they are filled with side-effects). So the conclusion is the same. I have to be my own doctor from here on out.

In my next post I will write about the plan I have formed to heal my gallbladder and cure myself from biliary dyskinesia (along with anything else that might be ailing my digestive system!). I hope you’ll join me in the continuation of my journey from sickness to health.

How It All Began

October 5, 2008

Unfortunately for me, my story is not one of those simple “I had a weird pain in my gallbladder, went to the doctor, and they diagnosed me with gallbladder disease.” My journey to actually reach an accurate diagnosis has been hard, long and grueling… and that is such an understatement. The last two and a half years of my life have been shadowed (and oftentimes choked) by biliary dyskinesia. A 19-22 year old gal is supposed to be in college, having the time of her life, living out all of her dreams. My young twenties have been far from normal.

So how did it all begin? I remember it vividly…

It was March of 2006. I had just moved to Canada for a 4-month leadership school. (This is now probably the greatest regret of my life). I lived in a dorm and my food was limited to what the cafeteria served – which was far from fine dining. I worked in the cafeteria kitchen several times and what I saw appalled me. It was not a very sanitary environment, and the quality of food was just gross. To top it off, everything tasted very bland and rubbery. Most of the food was greasy and of no nutritional value. Lots of french fries, frozen hamburgers, oily chicken nuggets, eggs and hashbrowns, white rice, soupy mushy speghetti, that sort of thing. We were lucky to get an ice burg lettuce salad with pale tomatoes.

Up to this point in my life, I had always been a very healthy eater. Lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, with some natural meat and dairy products here and there. When I arrived in Canada, my digestive system was in perfect working order. I felt great.

Two evenings into my arrival at the school, I was struggling to sleep and my whole abdomen started gurgling and I had to run to the bathroom with diarrhea. I felt weak and almost blacked out returning to my bed. The next day I felt fine, and assumed it was probably just due to the change in atmosphere and food.

During the next 3 months, I had similar abdomen gurgling and diarrhea spells about every two weeks. Some times were milder than others, and it wasn’t a huge deal. For the most part I felt fine, and I attributed the diarrhea to the all the poor food I was having to eat. By the end of those three months, however, I was beginning to feel nutritionally starved. When I occasionally splurged my very limited budget and went to the grocery store or restaurant, I would chow down on fruits and vegetables. But that was a rare occasion. For the majority of the time, my budget and the school schedule kept me trapped to cafeteria food.

Then one day in June 2006, I sat down to eat a dinner of salmon and rice at the cafeteria (it wasn’t as good as it sounds, believe me). I never did like salmon, and we were served white rice nearly every day so I was quite tired of it. I didn’t eat much. Then about an hour later my stomach started hurting in an odd way. I left class early and walked back from the school to my dorm and felt a weird need-to-gag sensation.

For the next eight or nine hours the pain and nausea grew until I threw up twice. (The pain seemed to be most severe on the upper right side of my abdomen – to the right of my stomach – but radiated to the rest of my stomach area as well). I felt better then and I was able to sleep a few short hours. I spent the next day in bed, feeling very weak.

I didn’t eat anything that day, and hardly touched a bite the next day. I still felt sick. I was dizzy and nauseous. When I finally did start eating, I had diarrhea. I also had occasional discomfort in that same upper right part of my abdomen. These symptoms lasted about 2 weeks.

I diagnosed myself with food poisoning. It seemed to fit the bill since a flu wouldn’t last so long, and the food there was certainly gross enough to be contaminated.

(No one else got sick though, and they had eaten the same food.)

After the two weeks of diarrhea, I started eating regularly again but wasn’t feeling quite right. I felt nauseous occasionally and noticed that during a few meals I had to simply stop eating because I suddenly felt like puking. It was frustrating but I tried to ignore it, thinking it was probably some minor lingering effects of food poisoning (and maybe partially a mental thing since the memory of puking like crazy was still so fresh… I hate nothing more than throwing up).

A month after the “food poisoning” incident, I returned home to the good ol’ United States. Boy was I ever glad to see healthy food again. I returned to my normal diet of healthy things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, natural meats and dairy. The traces of nausea faded. I felt renewed energy the first couple weeks and malnourished feeling subsided. Then I had a bout of diarrhea…

Nothing abnormal, people get diarrhea sometimes. Right?

Then about two weeks later I had more diarrhea. Hmm.

My mom suggested that I might have picked up parasites. We had a doctor order parasite kits for several different kinds of parasites but everything came up negative.

At this time I started a temp job for the three remaining weeks in the summer before college started. The last week of this job, I was swallowing my first bite of lunch when I suddenly felt the urge to vomit. It was really weird. My stomach felt absolutely fine up until I started eating. I stopped eating immediately and I fought back the need-to-gag feeling.

I’m not sure why, but this incident alarmed me more than anything else. I guess my alarm probably came from the fact that I was feeling better, eating right, doing great (other than the biweekly diarrhea), and then WHAM suddenly I felt very, very sick… like something inside of me was wrong.

I gradually began feeling this way almost every time I ate. I would take a few bites, then nausea would hit me and I would have to stop eating. It didn’t matter what I was eating.

I started college (I was a third-year transfer student). I remember the first day I walked all over campus to my classes, feeling very weak and thin. I was having diarrhea and gurgling in my abdomen more often, and I wasn’t digesting my food properly. I was starting to feel nutritionally starved again. I noticed my pants were hanging low… I was losing weight. (I only weighed 120 to begin with, so losing weight wasn’t a good thing).

I made it through the first week of school. Somewhere during this time I began to feel occasional abdominal pain, mainly in the upper right portion of my abdomen (right underneath the bottom of my right rib). Sometimes it was just a pressure or dull ache feeling, other times it was an intense bend-me-over searing pain that was coupled by nausea and some pain all over my abdomen as well.

I started feeling a little dizzy and light-headed sometimes, and my heart began racing at weird times (like whenever I lay down to sleep at night or right in the middle of a boring lecture). A week and a half into school, I blacked out momentarily in class. I was just sitting there when my heart started pounding, I started sweating, got really dizzy, and then I literally saw everything go black for a second. I almost fell off my chair. I caught myself though, regained my consciousness, and the class ended then. I walked out and called a friend to drive me home. I knew at that point that something was seriously wrong.

I went to see our family doctor the next day. He ran several tests, including more parasite tests, coming up with nothing. He told me it sounded like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and referred me to a local gastroentologist.

I attempted to keep going to classes but it got to the point where I had to leave nearly every class halfway through to rush to the bathroom. I was having diarrhea constantly now. Honestly, some of the time it didn’t even look like diarrhea. It was so liquidated that it was basically dark brown water.

I was scared.

I felt so weak, so sick, so dizzy, and so tired. I lost 10 pounds in 3 weeks. After missing classes and watching my grades sink, I decided that I needed to drop out of school. This was a very hard decision because I was very driven to finish my degree.

My mom and I still suspected it might be parasites since my symptoms (the diarrhea especially) seemed to come in cycles and since there was so much nausea and dizziness associated with it. I went to an emergency clinic nearby and had them prescribe me Flagel for Giardia (a type of parasite that can easily go undetected on tests). I took the Flagel for about a week and the side effects nearly killed me… trouble breathing and swallowing, heart arrhythmias, and sending me into anxiety attacks.

Finally I was able to get a visit to the gastroentologist. They basically had me in and out in twenty minutes. No tests, no endoscopy, no colonoscopy, no nothing. The doctor said I had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), prescribed some anti-spasmatic drugs, recommended that I eat yogurt and fiber and take probiotics. He told me there’s no cure, but the drugs should help to cope with the symptoms. He said IBS generally comes and goes throughout your lifetime and that I probably wouldn’t have to deal with it very long before it goes away for several years.

I took the anti-spasmatics but they gave me blurry vision (a known side effect) and didn’t seem to help my diarrhea or nausea any. I stopped taking them. I started taking probiotics and that was fine but I didn’t notice any change. I read up on IBS and changed my diet to what IBS sufferers are supposed to eat. Nothing changed. Having people tell me that IBS is often “mostly in your head,” I tried relaxation and stress relief techniques. Nothing changed.

I started taking Dramamine occasionally for the nausea, and Imodium for the diarrhea. These were two things that DID help, though only temporarily since they’re not something you can take every day for long-term.

I went to see another doctor that specialized in helping people with digestive problems. He was both a medical and natural doctor. I was again diagnosed with IBS. He recommended yet another change in diet (which only made me feel weaker), a treatment for Candida (which made me too sick to take), and enzymes with my meal (which were fine but didn’t seem to do a thing), in addition to the probiotics and supplements like a multi-vitamin and vitamin C.

Even after trying all these things, I was still very sick. I was essentially homebound and bedridden. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t see friends, couldn’t go to school or work, had to quit everything and stay at home. I could barely take showers or prepare my own food.

At this point I was having severe abdominal pain and nausea (especially in the upper right portion, but it also covered the rest of my abdomen sometimes) nearly all the time. Often it was so intense that all I could do was curl up in a fetal position and cry, wishing that someone would cut my whole stomach and digestive system out and give me a new one. I eventually discovered that taking an Advil during these severe bouts of pain could lessen the intenseness or length of the pain. Still, it wasn’t pleasant. I was also having diarrhea, dizziness, bloating, heart arrhythmias, and other symptoms. I often felt like I was recovering from a stomach or viral flu… I would have body and muscle aches all over and a very mild fever.

I had heard that colon cleanses could help people with IBS, so I decided to give one a try. I did a cleanse for about two months and actually started feeling a little better. The nausea was still present but the pain wasn’t as severe or as often. It got to the point where I would only encounter severe abdominal pain attacks about once or twice a month, lasting about 10 to 24 hours, accompanied or followed by diarrhea, muscle aches and a slight fever. The rest of the time I generally had a dull ache in the upper right side of my abdomen, or simply felt nauseous.

I kept up with probiotics, a healthy diet, lots and lots of fiber, and supplements. Gradually the nausea lessened and I started to feel a little stronger. I gained my 10 pounds back and was able to eat more. I started to function as a human being again – I went out occasionally to see friends, went shopping, got out and exercised. I still felt nauseous often (especially when eating), and still had random bouts of stomach pain, but I was certainly doing a lot better.

It was great and frustrating at the same time. I wanted to be well. I wanted a cure. And I still wasn’t happy with my diagnosis. I wanted to know why I have pain in THIS specific part of my abdomen and how I can actually get to where I feel WELL. (What a concept).

It was at this point that things in my life got kinda crazy. It was a good kind of crazy, but not for my health. Basically I single-handedly planned my wedding in 6 weeks, and I was super busy. I ran out of my fiber and probiotics, neglecting to get more. I didn’t have time to exercise. I hardly had time to eat, so my diet became scarce and not as healthy as it had been. I also started taking birth control pills which I later learned can harm the digestive system in several different ways. I got married and a month later started suffering from all my poor health choices.

The nausea and pain started getting worse. I felt dizzy all the time. And despite making quick changes in my diet and supplement intake to get things back on track, my health kept declining from there.

So that basically leads me to where I am now. It’s been 4 and 1/2 months since my wedding, and I feel absolutely awful. I am unable to leave the house. If I absolutely have to get out to get something, my husband drives me AND comes in the store with me. I feel like passing out, fainting, and blacking out a lot of the time. I live with constant, horrible, 24/7 nausea. Often to the point of running to the bathroom and fighting the urge to vomit. (I never actually do throw up, but I definitely come close and sometimes start to gag — I fight it very hard). I carry a trash bag around with me in my purse whenever I have to go out because I literally feel like throwing up all the time. I don’t remember what it feels like to eat a meal and not feel nauseous from start to finish.

I don’t have diarrhea very often any more, but I do suffer from abdominal pain all the time. Specifically in the upper right portion just underneath my ribs. The pain varies from a dull ache that adds to my nausea, to long searing waves of pain that cripple me over and have me in bed for most of the day. Generally the episodes of more severe pain are accompanied or followed by muscle aches, diarrhea, and a mild fever. I’d say this happens every other week or so. But in-between I’m pretty miserable with the intense nausea I feel constantly. (I’m not sure if anyone else in the world understands what it’s like to feel like puking ALL. THE. TIME.)

I also have a lot of dizziness – I feel at least somewhat dizzy about 80% of the time. Sometimes it gets so bad that the room literally seems to be spinning.

In the last month or two I have felt very weak and almost shaky whenever I stand up.

I started taking Dramamine again a few weeks ago and that has been the only thing that has helped the nausea at all. (I also take ginger at least twice a day, drink peppermint tea and ginger ale, eat saltines, and do all sorts of things that actually used to help cope with the nausea but recently don’t seem to be working whatsoever).

I also have headaches, bloating, gas / intense bubbling in abdomen / gas pains, burping, heart arrhythmias, occasional diarrhea or constipation, “hot flashes” (aren’t I a little young for those?), mood swings, occasional panicky feelings, occasional acid reflux, a burning sensation in my stomach, fatigue, loss of appetite (I’ve hardly felt like eating at all lately), difficulty swallowing and occasionally difficulty taking deep breaths.

To recap, this is the story of how everything began, bringing you up to the point where, a few weeks ago, I decided I HAD to have help. Please continue reading in the next thread, entitled “My (Real) Diagnosis.”

Welcome :)

October 5, 2008

Hello and welcome to my (very unique) blog!

I am a 22-year-old woman who has been through hell in regards to my health in the last two and a half years. After being misdiagnosed for a little over two of those years by at least four different doctors, I have recently pressed a specialist to run several different tests and received a completely different (and dare I say, accurate!) diagnosis: biliary dyskinesia. In other terms, I have an abnormal, diseased, low functioning, sluggish gallbladder. You wouldn’t think that the malfunctioning of one little organ could cause years of pain and misery in someone’s life — especially someone so young — but let me tell you, it can.

I’ll tell you my whole story later, but for now, I would just like to explain why I am writing this blog and exactly what it is about.

I find doctors to be helpful for a few things (running tests, stitching up wounds, healing infections), but I have very little faith in their ability to help cure diseases. I have heard and read countless reports of people who have had their gallbladder removed (either due to gallstones or low function) only to end up feeling just as sick, or even sicker, afterwards than they did before. And then they keep those symptoms for a lifetime, staying on digestive medications to make up for the fact that they are missing an organ, and having to deal with monthly, weekly or daily pain, diarrhea, etc. Doctors will say that the gallbladder is an unnecessary organ, and you can be just fine and healthy without one, but that is simply not true. If you do your own research on the purpose of gallbladders and how digestion is impaired without one, you will probably start rethinking surgery.

At any rate, I want to keep all of my organs. I don’t want to end up being one of those people who regrets having their gallbladder removed. It’s not like I could just go to the store a buy a new one if that happened. I would be stuck, permanently, without an organ that my body needs. My doctor even agreed that gallbladder removal may not cure my symptoms and could make them worse. I’ve also read this on medical and surgery websites.

Upon diagnosing me with a sluggish gallbladder, my doctor (a gastroenterology specialist) could only offer me one solution — gallbladder removal, or “laparoscopic cholecystectomy.” I asked if there were any alternative procedures and he replied that in the medical field, “we don’t have a way of actually making your gallbladder start working again.” He suggested a low fat diet might help to reduce symptoms, but would probably not cure the biliary dyskinesia.

So this is where I am stepping in and becoming my own doctor. Rather than have my gallbladder removed and suffer the results, I am determined to heal my gallbladder through natural remedies. Growing up in a household that focused a lot on healthy, organic foods and having a mom who formally practiced as an ND, I am very familiar with healthy foods, herbs, and supplements, and how they can be used to actually cure diseases (not just the symptoms!). I have read hundreds of testimonies of people going on juice fasts and intensely healthy diets and actually curing themselves of cancer (permanently). If people can cure cancer through diet and lifestyle, I am sure that I can heal a diseased gallbladder by doing the same.

There are not many resources out there to help me out in this journey. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you’ve noticed the same thing. Look up gallbladder disease and all the websites, forums, and medical references will point to one “solution” — surgery. You have to really dig deep for alternative remedies and natural, lasting solutions. So that’s why I’m writing this blog… to keep a record of what I have done (and will do) to heal my gallbladder, and to encourage others with biliary dyskinesia (or any other gallbladder problem) that there is an alternative to surgery, a remedy that heals the gallbladder for life.

Part of my confidence in healing my gallbladder comes from the fact that I healed myself from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at the age of 15. I was getting colds every two weeks that would not go away, I was tired all the time, and I was miserable. I was diagnosed with Epstein Bar and CFS, both of which are said to be “incurable.” I went home from the doctor that day with sheer determination to heal my body and get as strong and healthy as I possibly could. I juiced carrot juice every day, exercised every day, and ate an amazingly healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables. All of these things I had never really done before. Within a couple months I felt 110% better. I became a huge fan of running and two years later I ran a 10 mile race (without stopping!). So that’s why I know that diet and lifestyle changes can and do work, especially for those “incurable” illnesses.

I hope you will find my blog encouraging. Please feel free to leave comments or ask me questions. Thanks for reading!

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