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Determining the Root Causes of My IBS

Learn about my first appointment with a naturopathic doctor in NYC and the tests and questions we reviewed to determine the 5 root causes of my digestive disorder.


Meeting with a New Naturopathic Doctor


About a month ago, I met with a new naturopathic doctor in New York City to heal my IBS and Candida overgrowth. For the past three years, I have been struggling with IBS symptoms, including constipation, diarrhea, gas, severe bloating, brain fog, anxiety, acne, and more. I set out to find a naturopathic doctor who could heal the root problems of my IBS, and not just my symptoms.


When searching for a naturopathic doctor, I asked them 6 fundamental questions to see if they may be the right practitioner for me. After our setting up our first consultation, I sat down with them for an hour and a half call, which is not abnormal to naturopaths! They really want to learn about your life in its entirety: Your symptoms, when they started, what they look like now, what tests you’ve done, your current lifestyle habits, and more.


Prior to my call, I sent the office all of my past medical records, including blood work and gut microbiome tests I have previously completed. This information, along with a new-patient questionnaire, allowed my naturopath an inside look into my current status prior to our call.


The First Half Hour of Our Call


When we started our call, I gave her the wholeeee spiel about my IBS journey. I started from the onset of symptoms after my study abroad program in Italy, to the last diet I tried to get rid of Candida overgrowth. We walked through three years of my IBS history and went even further back into my childhood.


When determining the root cause of an illness, it’s important for naturopaths to tap into your lifestyle growing up, because that can still influence your body today! Overuse of antibiotics as a kid, the way you were birthed, and years-long dietary habits can affect the development of your gut microbiome. Combining this history with current lifestyle factors, including diet, sleep, water/caffeine intake, exercise, and stress, allows naturopaths to draw a deeper understanding of what systems in your body may be impaired.


The Questions


For full transparency on my history and current lifestyle habits, here were some of my answers to the questions she asked me. I hope this helps you with determining the root cause of your IBS and which stage you may be at!


  • Did you take a lot of antibiotics when you were a kid?

    • Yes, I probably took over 10 rounds (and that’s being conservative)

  • How were you birthed?

    • I was birthed vaginally. This interestingly has a huge influence on the beginning stages of your gut microbiome.

  • What was your diet like when you were younger?

    • I ate a lot of processed foods, high sugar, and high fat. This changed when I went to college and I have significantly shifted to a more whole foods-based diet over the past 3 years.

  • Were you ever on birth control? How does your current menstrual cycle look?

    • Yep, I was on the pill for about 8 years and recently switched to non-hormonal form of birth control with the Paraguard IUD. I originally got on the pill to help regulate my cycles and reduce PMS symptoms.

    • At the time of the consultation, I just received my IUD 3 months prior. My body was still adjusting to it, but for the past year I was birth-control free. Over the last year, I began to understand my cycle for how it truly was. I have a longer cycle (lasting 32-35 days), would have 2-week long PMS symptoms, hormonal acne/bacne, was often irritable, bloated, and just lowkey a mess.

  • What does your typically breakfast, lunch, and dinner look like?

    • Breakfast: Eggs or oatmeal with coffee

    • Lunch: Salad for lunch with some type of protein (chicken, shrimp, salmon, etc.)

    • Dinner: Protein (chicken, beef, salmon, etc.) with a complex carbohydrate like rice or sweet potatoes, and vegetable like broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, etc. I will sometimes add a small salad and ALWAYS finish with 72% dark chocolate.

    • Snacks: yogurt with berries, almond butter + fruit or rice cakes, protein bar/protein smoothie

    • This diet will fluctuate around weekends (of course!) and I will indulge on pizza, tacos, pastas, sushi, steak, and dessert. I am not a perfect person and try to maintain a 80/20 split when it comes to healthy v. junk food.

  • How much water are you drinking?

    • I try for 80 oz. a day, but realistically it’s like 50 oz.

  • How much caffeine are you drinking?

    • 1 cup a day in the morning + decaf in the afternoon if I am feeling like it. I drink a lot of herbal teas too.

  • Do you work out?

    • Yes! About 5-6 days a week I will strength train or do yoga. I also live in a city so I naturally walk a lot and on my off-days still find myself walking 3-5 miles.

  • Do you sweat?

    • Not as much as I should. I strength train, but don’t get my heart rate up all of the time. I really dislike cardio, but find myself doing a vinyasa flow that gets me sweating.

  • How is your sleep?

    • I have a hard time staying asleep and used to have a hard time falling asleep. Now, I am in bed around 9 and I wake up at 5, aiming for 7-8 hours a night.

  • How are your stress levels?

    • Now this question…I have always been more on the stressed side. I find that I can often get overwhelmed with work and life, and often find my mind running at night and the first thing in the morning. Stress will sometimes power my workdays, which is great for productivity but horrible for burnout. I will try to combat this by physically writing down my to-dos, taking a walk mid-day, and lowering my caffeine intake.

  • Is there a time of day where you find your body is crashing?

    • Right after my workout in the morning before my coffee around 7:30 AM, I get a wave of exhaustion. I feel it again around the afternoon (2-3PM), and I crash REALLY hard during dinner sometimes. My energy is pretty low during the day and even worse before my cycle. As I mentioned, I think my body runs on stress.

  • What supplements/vitamins/medications are you currently on?

    • Digestive enzymes, probiotics, and I take fish oil and zinc.

Reviewing Past Medical Tests and Previous Diagnosis


With these basic questions out of the way, we took a deeper dive into past medical tests I have taken and diets I have tried. Specifically, we looked into my previous diagnosis of Candida overgrowth. When working with a holistic chiropractor last year, I discovered I had Candida overgrowth in my gut. I was put on a variety of supplements and the Candida Diet to starve and kill the fungus. Since I did have relief from my candida symptoms when I was on the Candida Diet, we could determine that I probably have a few food triggers that are causing excess inflammation in my gut.


We also took into consideration past stool tests I have taken. On these tests, it not only showed I had Candida, but severe dysbiosis in my gut. There was a plethora of bad bacteria, including E. Coli, and not enough good bacteria, like Bifidobacterium. The imbalance of microbial species, and influx of harmful bacteria, we talked about the lack of diversity within my gut microbiome.


Asking the Holistic Questions


Additionally, we touched on my mental and spiritual well-being during this time. It can be quite draining to go through years of testing and doctors and being left with worsening digestive issues. I have taken a lot into my own hands, doing my own research on digestive health and the gut microbiome. I learned about the gut-brain connection and its significant impact on IBS sufferers. We dove further into this.


Meeting with a naturopath who could genuinely listen to my concerns about my digestion, mental health, and spiritual well-being was revolutionary. It’s not every day where a medical professional is willing to spend an hour and a half talking in detail about, your medical history, physical and mental symptoms, and your childhood. I always had an instinct that my lifestyle was connected to my gut health but could never determine which factor was the main determinant. Additionally, I always considered myself a healthy individual, so it was alarming when these symptoms arose in a seemingly healthy 21-year-old at the time.


My naturopath was able to provide a clear look into how my childhood, lifestyle choices, diet, and genetics have led a severe gut imbalance. This has in turn affected other systems in my body, including my detoxification pathways, leading to hormonal imbalances and mental health issues. I was finally beginning to find clarity through it all.


The 5 Root Causes of My IBS


Based on the initial consultation, we were able to determine the root causes of my IBS stemming from my gut microbiome.

  1. A weakened immune system from a long history of antibiotics

  2. Heavy drinking, especially during college and my study abroad program. Contrary to popular belief, having3-5 drinks multiple times a week will continue to affect your life post-grad.

  3. Chronic stress

  4. Consumption of processed foods for most of my life, even “healthy” packaged foods

  5. Birth Control

In result, I have dysbiosis in my gut causing severe digestive disruptions. The imbalance is blocking key detoxification pathways, triggering inflammation and transpiring through other symptoms, like severe PMS, acne, low energy, and anxiety.


In other words, the imbalance in my gut microbiome is triggering hormonal imbalances and brain-health disruption since my body cannot detox properly. The digestive system is how we are able to detox, and we need our liver and kidneys to support that function as well. Slow-moving digestion stirs up inflammation and blocks detoxification pathways, leading to other metabolic disruptions. And I don't have the right microbes in my gut to do their job! Makes so much sense, right?!


Those 5 foundational issues have led to a complete disruption of my gut microbiome. Antibiotics, processed foods, and chronic stress wiped my body of good, healthy bacteria, which caused an influx of bad bacteria and yeast to overgrow. Other things like alcohol and birth control put stress on my liver, so it could not detox properly. That's why I was diagnosed with Candida overgrowth last year and why I continue to experience flare ups of IBS. This could also lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome, inflammation in the body, and inability of my liver and kidneys to properly do their job of removing toxic buildup.


Funny how it all adds up, huh?


How This Did Not Happen Overnight


While I had a feeling that my previous diet, lifestyle, and medications triggered my IBS, I still could not pinpoint the root cause of my illness. It just did not add up as to why I feel so sick, even though I make healthy choices now. Hell, I get a tummy ache after eating a nutritious salad!


But, when you are health-conscious, eat nutrient-dense foods, take care of yourself physically and mentally and issues still persist, then there is a deeper issue at hand. So, on paper, I live a healthy lifestyle, but internally, the cellular functions of my body are at war. And when this seemed like an overnight occurrence, it had actually been several years in the making.


The good news is I am now armed with the next steps to repair my body on a cellular level, clear out the bad pathogenic bacteria and yeast overgrowth, and promote the growth of healthy, good bacteria. I have a greater, holistic understanding of my health journey and the changes I need to make.


In my next article, I will break down the exact protocol my naturopath has me on and where I am at now!

 

More information is found in my YouTube video below :)

I am not a medical professional and do not solicit any advice; everyone is built differently! I just understand that if I had a full look into someone’s health background and how they came to having IBS, it would greatly help my journey! So, I hope it helps you🤍

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Welcome! If you made it here, you are probably looking for answers on where to begin your wellness journey. I'm Jessica, and I started my gut health journey over 3 years ago. As an avid foodie and wellness enthusiast, I hope to inspire you on your realistic wellness journey.

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