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My Journey with Nutrition and How I Am Trying to Overcome My Digestive Issues

Posted by on November 5, 2013 - I am in a relationship with food... ...and it's complicated.

Over the next several weeks, I plan to focus more on nutrition and how it relates to running. First, I would like to give you some background on my journey with diet and nutrition and my struggle to overcome my digestive issues.

In the past, I followed the typical runner’s diet of primarily carbohydrates and ate copious amounts of pizza, pasta, and bread. I let myself eat as much of those foods as I wanted reasoning that I am a runner and needed to carb load, plus I could just run it off. Around 8 years ago or so, I started developing some digestive issues. First, I had symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), then I developed the symptoms of acid reflux, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). I had all the standard tests, barium swallow, upper GI, ultrasound, etc. to confirm my diagnosis and was prescribed Protonix, a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), which essentially blocks your stomach acid and stops the reflux. Even on my medication, I still battled IBS and other somewhat obscure issues, such as eczema, joint pain, gas, acid reflux and indigestion even while on the medication, and just not feeling well a lot of the time.

Within the last year or so, I became more and more interested in nutrition and the possibility of curing my digestive and related issues with my diet. I wanted to get off my medication because I knew there were studies that had shown PPIs can cause issues of their own and were never meant for long-term use, despite what my doctor said. Not only that, but it made more sense to try to heal the root cause rather than just treat the symptoms. I read everything I could get my hands on about nutrition as it relates to digestive issues and learned about the dangers of genetically engineered foods or GMOs, preservatives, harmful food additives, pesticides, and meat and dairy contaminated with antibiotics and hormones. I realized I did not pay much attention to ingredient labels, and although I thought I ate pretty healthy, the truth was I did not have a clue!

I started adopting a real food diet by not buying food that is highly processed and buying local or organic produce and meat instead. We started purchasing fresh eggs laid by our neighbors’ chickens (and eventually got our own chickens); buying raw milk and butter, produce, and meat from the local farmer’s market; and even growing our own vegetables and herbs. I knew I could not go off my medication “cold turkey,” so I gradually reduced my dosage over the period of about two months. I was off my medication for about two weeks without any GERD symptoms, but then they came back with a vengeance.

There was no way I was going to go back on my medication after it had taken me so long to wean off it, so I went back to researching and trying to find a “natural” cure. I implemented the Special Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which basically cuts out all grains, dairy (except yogurt and aged cheese), starches, sugar, and processed ingredients, and adds nutrient dense foods, such as bone broth. The idea behind the diet, in the simplest of terms, is that digestive issues are caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria, so you starve the bad bacteria and replenish the good bacteria. The diet also enables you to determine what foods you have a sensitivity to as you add one food item back at a time. Generally, one needs to follow this diet for 6 months up to several years to overcome severe digestive issues like Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease. I did not consider my digestive issues as severe, so I followed the SCD diet strictly for a little over 2 weeks and then started adding in a few illegal food items to see how my body reacted. I discovered that I reacted the strongest to dairy, and specifically milk or cream. I also noticed that my symptoms lessened when I eliminated gluten.

In addition to the dietary changes I made, I also added some supplements that I had read could help, such as a strong probiotic, magnesium, DGL powder, digestive enzymes, and Betaine HCL. All these things have been shown to help with digestive issues and help heal the digestive system. As of now, my GERD symptoms have subsided and my IBS symptoms have lessened (although still not ideal), and my diet is currently similar to the Paleo Diet with the addition of aged cheeses (because I love cheese and it has not caused my symptoms to worsen). I am definitely not perfect with my diet and follow an 80/20 rule in which I try to follow the diet 80% of the time. So, the reason I’m telling you this whole spiel is so you understand where I am coming from in regards to nutrition. I am not certified in nutrition, and I think diet is highly individual to each person, but I am simply sharing what has worked for me so far.

In the upcoming weeks, I will share some of my favorite pre- and post-run meals and snacks and delve a little deeper into nutrition and how it relates to running on my blog. See you then!

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