I hope the lessons I relearned while healing my husband’s leaky gut, over these past few months, are helpful to you.
It’s definitely ironic that my husband, who’s always had an iron stomach, got sick as I was starting my digestive health coaching business.
It added extra stress to my life, worrying about him. But it was also pure grace that I had the knowledge and skills to help him.
Had he gone to a doctor (you know how that goes)…. he would have gotten medication for his bloating and daily diarrhea. The medication would have made it worse in the long run. Or he would have gotten an IBS diagnosis, a shrug and no real help.
But luckily, he had me. And I’m pretty fierce when it comes to healing. I make it a priority.
You can read about the cause and treatment of my husband’s leaky gut here. The short version: it was due to a combination of heavy pain meds (NSAIDs), antibiotics and stress after a freak bike accident.
My poor hubby has suffered enough, so I’m happy to say he’s healing nicely. Even though his symptoms are mostly gone, we’ll continue with his healing protocol for a few more months to make sure he heals fully.
I’m not going to say it was easy, but it helped that I traveled this road before personally. I knew how to keep him on track no matter what happened.
Here are the big lessons.
1) My husband believed that he would heal
Healing starts in the head. My husband trusted that I could help him. He witnessed my own recovery almost a decade ago, so he believed it was possible. This made him completely open and available for healing. His head was aligned with his body.
Faith can keep you going. Knowing you’re in good hands allows you to relax into the healing experience. This was a crucial part of his healing formula.
2) It took a lot longer to heal than we expected
It took about 5 months to see solid results. There wasn’t a lot of improvement at first and it was discouraging to both of us. When I healed, I experienced improvement right away, but my circumstances were different.
I didn’t have much stress in my life. But my husband works full time in a demanding job. That’s why it took longer to heal.
He stuck with it despite minimal improvement at first. It took him 3 months to have a normal poop. And those good poops were sporadic at first. Sometimes they were worse and sometimes better for no particular reason.
We kept going. Perseverance is a KEY superhealer trait.
3) He got worse before he got better
I learned this lesson from personal experience as well as watching my husband. The healing progress is not linear and makes little sense. I always assumed that healing meant you would feel a little bit better everyday. The reality is different.
Some days you feel better and other days you feel worse. Even much worse. For no obvious reason. It can drive you crazy. But if you accept that healing is an ebb and flow process, like the tides and waves of the ocean, then you get much less stressed.
This is how healing actually happens: two steps forward and one step back. It’s a law of nature.
Back when I was healing from IBS, I had good days and people told me my skin glowed. Other times my face broke out in boils and I was hit with inexplicable fatigue. A classic symptom of liver detox.
My husband and I also experienced crazy detox symptoms recently. For a month we both did a strict low-FODMAP version of the Paleo diet. No nuts, no Paleo baked goods, no chocolate, no dried fruit, no sweeteners of any type.We mostly ate soups and stews with tons of bone broth.
As a result, we both had flu-like symptoms. We were tired, woozy and cranky. There were intense cravings for bread and pizza (I usually don’t crave these..I think it was bacterial die off). We were both much gassier than usual, despite eating easier to digest food.
Even more bizarre, the area of my back around my kidney, became tender to the touch. No fun.
But it paid off.
My husband improved a lot shortly after our cleanse and I was able to visit a friend at her beach house without allergies to her cat. Previous times, my allergies were severe. It showed me, there’s always more healing to be done.
Getting worse before getting better is called a healing crisis. I read online that a healing crisis shouldn’t last more than 3 to 5 days. We suffered for about 3 weeks, then it suddenly stopped. There are always exceptions to the rules.
We took care of ourselves through the worst of it by going to bed early, taking baths with epsom salt, resting and taking it easy. Watching funny or sad movies also distracted us. And we had each other to complain to.
4)The best way to make healing changes is slowly
Because my husband was not incredibly sick, I didn’t start him off on a strict Paleo diet.
First, he went gluten and dairy-free and then a few weeks later I started removing grains. Then I told him that he had to stop drinking alcohol. It was done in stages.
Doing it slowly was less shocking to his system. This way we were able to build up to a month-long, low-FODMAP, broth-based cleanse eventually. It took us months to get there, and I think that’s where most of the healing happened. If I started him out on this way, he probably wouldn’t be able to work through the detox.
This spring, I transitioned back to Paleo in baby steps. This prevented my body from having massive cravings, a nasty detox or a dramatic backlash (binging). I even taught myself to like broth (I used to hate it) by adding it slowly into stews and soups where I couldn’t taste it as much. If I tried to force myself to drink a mug a day, I would’ve been disgusted and quit.
Discipline and forcing yourself will backfire. Training your body gently, like you would a puppy, is the way to go.
5)Prepare for the challenge of social events.
This was the most challenging part for me.
It’s easy to control what you eat at home. But going out into the world poses so many challenges.
There’s temptation, people’s comments, and asking the waiter a million questions.
Because I knew that the healing process was temporary, I decided to stop going out to dinner for a few months. But if you can’t avoid going out, here’s a blog post to make it easier.
We still went to dinner parties and birthday parties, but I always brought a main dish to make sure we had something to eat.
Dealing with people’s comments and questions is harder. But my husband has it down. He just smiles and says “no thank you”. If people ask him why, he says that he’s avoiding it for a while because he thinks he might have an allergy.
If people pressure him, he just keep smiling and saying no politely. Sometimes he changes the subject or offers them some food we brought.
People may not make it easy on you, but it is their issue, not yours. Your only job is to eat healthy, you don’t owe them an explanation.
I’m an example of what not to do. I get snippy and defensive if people get pushy. But I’ve learned from my husband that you can smile and be polite. Laugh it off. It’s more effective.
Over Xmas and New Years, we lightened up on our restrictive diet, and my husband had some fish and chips at a seafood restaurant and my homemade Paleo carrot cake without relapsing.
It was a little test after months and months of hard work. Because he didn’t react to the little bit of gluten, I could tell his gut was sealing up. Had he reacted, we would have gotten strict again.
The moral of the story is…
Healing is a bumpy ride, not an overnight fix. It’s often uncomfortable, but definitely worthwhile.
Deprivation is not forever. The point is to get your body to a place where it can tolerate more foods. How long it takes depends on a million factors, but you’ll intuitively know when it’s time to start testing.
Some foods might have to be avoided forever, in the case of serious gluten or dairy sensitivities, but I was able to fully reverse all my food allergies after one strict year.
And a month of recent cleansing was enough to rid myself of cat allergies. Healing is a miraculous process. Once you experience it, it will change your life and what you think is possible.
No supplement or food will make as much difference in your healing as taking the right approach, which involves….
Putting your health first.
Expecting bumps and steps backwards.
Not expecting everyone to understand. But also…
Finding supportive people who do.
Knowing that it may take longer than expected.
Working with someone you trust to help you through it. (That’s what I did.)
Remember, you are the healing vehicle. The path may wind, you might hit traffic or go in reverse or get lost. Just keep going. Don’t give up. The finish line is ahead.
Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.