Saturday, May 23, 2015

Nine Weeks In - DHwRF

Today marks the end of Week 9 on my elimination diet!

I didn't do an update post for Week 8, so I will cover both weeks in this post.

Week 8 I reintroduced milk.  I felt fine the first couple of days, but by the third day or so I could tell that I was feeling more fatigued and tired, and I also got a heavy feeling in the front of my head. Almost like a headache, but not quite.  Kind of like when I take Benedryl, but without the loopiness. I didn't seem to have any brain fog with it.  It was rather weird, unlike any symptoms I'd ever experienced before.

I assumed the head weirdness was from the milk, but then I stopped the milk and my head progressed to get worse into Week 9.  Simultaneously, my eyes had a reaction to something - I believe my mascara - and became inflamed, painful, and itchy.  It hurt to have my eyes open or to try to focus on anything, and as a result my head got worse and worse.  At one point I experienced the closet thing I've had to a migraine.  My head hurt so bad.  I could barely function, all I wanted to do was climb under the covers in a dark room and lay in quiet. That was on Tuesday.  From Wednesday on, the severity of the headache lessened and would even leave for short bits.  Several days later now, it's still hurting off and on but for the most part isn't affecting my daily life anymore.

And so now I don't know if it was a milk reaction or something completely separate.  I may have to do another milk trial and see what happens.  If my head starts hurting I'll know to quit immediately before I end up with another rough week like this one.  And if milk did cause all the head problems I experienced, then yikes. That would just be crazy.

Digestively, I've been pretty normal the last couple of weeks.  As usual, only bloating when I eat too much fruit.  Darn that fruit.  I reintroduced broccoli a couple days ago.  The first day, when I just ate maybe 3/4 a cup, I felt fine and didn't notice anything afterward.  This was very exciting, because last time I did an elimination diet, the broccoli reintroduction resulted in a lot of abdominal pain.  The next day I ate quite a bit more broccoli to see what would happen.  I didn't feel anything that day, but when I woke up the next morning I had some discomfort and gas pains.  So it seems that broccoli is ok in a single serving but I shouldn't eat more than that in a day.  

I also had a small bit of Coffeemate hazelnut creamer in coffee a couple times over these past two weeks.  (Yes, processed galore, I'm fully aware, but it was just a small amount and sometimes a girl needs a break.)  I was pleasantly surprised to find that although it still tasted good, it didn't seem near as delicious as it used to.  And in fact, in most cases, I found that I now actually prefer the taste of black coffee rather than the coffee with the creamer.  This makes me really happy - so much better for me!  I used to be so addicted to the creamer.

So to sum up the foods I'm eating now, here they are below (reintroduced ones in bold):

uncured bacon, ideally sugar-free
uncured lunchmeats, salami, and pepperoni (stopped eating salami and pepperoni due to nightshades in seasonings)

green beans
broccoli sprouts (no longer eating)
lemon juice, fresh
lime juice, fresh

coconut oil
MCT oil
olive oil
garlic-infused olive oil
Himalayan pink sea salt


kombucha (both store-bought and homemade)
unsweetened hot tea
La Croix (occasionally)

gelatin (Great Lakes grass-fed)
Monuka honey (not DHwRF-approved, but included to help fight possible h. pylori infection)

If you'd like to catch up on my past weeks, you can find them all below.

Digestive Health with REAL Food - Take 2
One Week In - DHwRF Update
Two Weeks In - DHwRF
Three Weeks In - DHwRF
Four Weeks In - DHwRF
Five Weeks In - DHwRF
Six Weeks In - DHwRF
Seven Weeks In - DHwRF

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

National Eosinophil Awareness Week: Greyden's Story

It was early morning, and we were headed to the hospital for the fifth time in the last seven months. Our sweet Greyden, just 2 ½ years old, asked where we were going, and we gingerly told him that we were going to see the doctor. He absorbed our answer for a short bit, and then, in his precious, innocent voice he asked, “Is the doctor going to fix me?”

I felt a bit of my heart break.

It’s been a long seven months in our house, ever since we discovered that our youngest son, Greyden, has various health issues with no clear cut answers. It’s been a trying time, full of life changes, confusion, anxieties, intense self-education (I now read PubMed in my spare time), monetary struggles, and learning to lean into our Lord and our support system of friends and family.

I now know, through various support groups online and through connecting with others, that there are many, many other families going through these same struggles with their own children. My heart hurts for all of us.

This week is Eosinophil Awareness Week. It seemed like the perfect time to join in spreading awareness and share our own personal story with Greyden.

Greyden has been diagnosed with esophageal eosinophils (ee-sof-uh-jee-uhl ee-uh-sin-uh-fils), meaning that his esophagus (the long tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach) is inflamed and has many eosinophils in its tissues. The current estimated prevalence of this disorder is around 1 in 2000.

Eosinophils are white blood cells that are typically associated with allergies and are a normal part of certain body tissues. They are harmless and often helpful when they’re in places they’re supposed to be, and they’re generally bad when they’re in places where they’re not supposed to be. The esophagus, unfortunately, is not a place where they’re supposed to be.

In an overly basic nutshell, eosinophils are responsible for moving toward areas of the body where allergens (airborne or food-related) are sensed, and then once there they release toxins to fight the allergens. However, sometimes eosinophils show up where they shouldn’t be or show up in above-normal amounts, and in this case they can result in inflammation and damage to body tissue. This is what is happening in Greyden’s esophagus. The eosinophils are damaging his esophagus and causing it to become inflamed. An eosinophilic disorder of this type is not exclusive to the esophagus, and can actually also happen in the stomach, intestines, or any other body organ. The esophagus, however, seems to be the most common place for it to occur.

Common symptoms of esophageal eosinophilia in children are:

  • chest pain or heartburn
  • abdominal pain
  • poor appetite or refusal to eat
  • poor weight gain
  • failure to thrive
  • trouble sleeping
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • pain or discomfort while swallowing
  • food getting stuck in esophagus (food impaction, usually requires emergency surgery)
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Interestingly enough, Greyden does not show any of the typical outward symptoms of esophageal eosinophilia. He does not complain about pain or discomfort, he does not avoid foods, he does not vomit after eating, he is not suffering from failure to thrive or malnutrition. On the outside he appears to be your typical, healthy 2-year-old. He does have seemingly random vomiting episodes, which are actually what led us to discover that he had eosinophilic problems in the first place. However, most if not all of the doctors we’ve seen have believed his vomiting episodes to be a separate disorder, either cyclic vomiting syndrome or FPIES (which is a whole other blog post). Other symptoms he’s had, which may or may not have been related to the eosinophilic disorder, were unexplained chronic diarrhea and minor feeding issues, where he’d chew his food for up to 15 minutes and be unable to swallow it. Throughout the past several months, both of these issues have resolved.

In most cases, it appears that esophageal eosinophils appear as a delayed response to food allergens entering the body. However, prior to identifying an individual’s food allergens (if they are ever identified at all), there is a standard method of diagnosis that occurs in any patient with esophageal eosinophils:

Step 1: If there is the possibility that the eosinophils are caused by reflux (often referred to as GERD), then the patient is put on a trial of proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medications, which are basically drugs that shut down the stomach’s acid production and hence should eliminate reflux. Typically, patients with eosinophils due to reflux are those where the number of eosinophils counted per biopsy (biopsy of the esophagus collected during endoscopy) are below 15 and only occur in the lower esophagus. Since Greyden had eosinophils all the way up to the top of his esophagus, his eosinophil counts were 35 in the lower esophagus and 25 in the upper esophagus, and the eosinophils were not following the typical pattern seen with reflux, his GI doctor did not think this was the case for him.

Step 2: It has been discovered that there is a subset of patients with esophageal eosinophils, not apparently caused by reflux, who still respond to the PPIs. Research is still being done into understanding this disorder, but for some reason, the PPIs shut down the eosinophilic response and the patients heal. Therefore, the standard method of diagnosis requires that all patients with esophageal eosinophils go through a trial period of PPIs to see if they respond.  If they do, the continuing treatment for these patients, then, is to remain on PPIs long-term. These patients are diagnosed as having PPI-responsive esophageal eosinophilia, or PPI-REE.

Step 3: If a patient does not respond to the PPIs, then the patient is diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, or EoE (sometimes seen as EE). The only current treatment for EoE is an elimination diet to find the food allergens and/or use of steroids.

So where does Greyden stand on this crazy diagnostic ladder?

That’s where things get tricky.

See, let’s back up for a minute, and discuss me. If you know me personally or have been around this blog recently, you know I have a slew of health issues, and most of them are autoimmune issues that stem back to food or digestive issues. Due to all the self-education I’ve been doing for myself, I know that there can be negative effects from long-term PPI use due to the resulting lack of acid in the stomach. This made me incredibly wary about putting my 2-year-old on PPIs. When I heard that we were expected to put him on a high-dose of PPIs (Step 2 above), I couldn’t help but feel the hairs bristle on my neck. Honestly, justified or not, it made me freak out inside. Panic. The effects of digestive issues were so raw and upfront in my own life, I couldn’t handle the thought of predisposing my child to them through medications. If medications were the only option, then yes, I would have used them. But I knew that eosinophils in the esophagus are often believed to be triggered by food allergies, and so I knew there was more than one path to try to heal him. And so I wanted to skip the PPIs and try the elimination diet (typically saved for Step 3) first.

Fortunately, my wonderful husband understood my concerns and fears and was willing to agree to my plan.  It was a rather complicated process with some purposeful and accidental decisions, but we skipped the PPI trial and went straight to diet changes. But this, unfortunately, means that Greyden does not currently have a clear diagnosis. We don’t know whether he has PPI-REE or EoE. I’ve been willing to accept this unclear diagnosis as long as we were allowed to try to heal him through diet prior to using medications. I’m not completely against medications, but I want them to be the last resort, not the first.

So rather than following the typical plan for eosinophilic esophageal disorders, we’ve followed the below path:

Step 1: Endoscopy #1: Find out Greyden has eosinophils in his esophagus. Lower count was 35, upper count was 25.

Step 2: Try an elimination diet recommended by our GI doctor: removal of gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, and beef. Eat this way for 2-3 months. Note that his vomiting episodes (supposedly unrelated to eosinophils) have seemed to stop, suggesting a possible issue with one of the foods that has been removed.

Step 3: Endoscopy #2. Discover that Greyden still has eosinophils in his esophagus. Lower count was 50, upper count was 20.

Step 4: Do some research, and decide to take Greyden to allergist who specializes in working with eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders, nearly three hours away, to have allergy testing performed. Through skin patch testing, discover that Greyden has delayed allergic reactions to wheat, soy, milk, beef, chicken, almonds, peanuts, and green beans. Remove all additional foods from his diet, so he’s now avoiding gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, beef, chicken, peanuts, tree nuts, and green beans. Eat this way for 2-3 months. Experience one vomiting episode in the middle of this time period, which unfortunately means the cause for vomiting has not been completely resolved. After the vomiting, he sometimes begins saying during or after eating that he needs his bucket to throw up (but never actually does). On a positive note, however, his chronic diarrhea has stopped and he has normal stools for the first time in his life. His incessantly runny nose has stopped running. Also, he no longer chews foods for long periods or refuses to swallow them. We all feel hopeful.

Daddy found a recipe for plantain pizza crust that Grey could actually eat.

Step 5: Endoscopy #3, which was last week. Discover that Greyden’s number of eosinophils in his esophagus have nearly doubled. Lower count was >50 and upper count was >80. Cry and seclude self from the world for a couple days to adjust to news as a concerned mother. Pull self together, start reaching out to others again, talk to some doctors, and write this blog post. We’re taking him to see his allergist and dietitian this Friday, during which we’ll discuss potential paths moving forward. We’re also looking into finding an integrative pediatrician to take him to, who can help us navigate the world of diet versus medicine in dealing with this chronic health condition.

At this point, my concerns about the state of Greyden’s esophagus are now outweighing my concerns about PPI use, so I expect that we will probably be putting him on PPIs within the next week or so. The official decision will be made after we talk to a few more medical professionals, but we need to stop the current trajectory and get his little body to start healing. Whether or not PPIs will help with his healing, however, is completely up in the air; it is estimated that only around 30% of patients with esophageal eosinophils respond to PPIs.

And if the PPIs don’t work, which is apparently around 70% likely, where does that leave us?

In a mess, it seems. We don’t know.

At minimum, I believe we will have to remove more foods from his diet. He may need to take steroids to calm his inflammation. There is the possibility that he will end up on elemental formula, meaning he will have to drink all of his food in a special formula and will not be able to eat any solid foods. As difficult as this diet sounds, over 95% of patients heal when they follow this regimen. Then, one by one, they proceed to add foods back into their diet and see which ones they react to. It’s a long, tedious process, but sometimes it’s the only option.

Fortunately, he still shows few if any outward symptoms of his eosinophilic disorder, which I don’t understand. It seems that he should be in pain or discomfort. During his second endoscopy, his poor little esophagus was so swollen that the GI doctor could barely get the scope down his throat. But when we ask him if anything hurts, he always replies with a “no.” This is complete blessing at this point, and I am so grateful for it. We don’t have to deal with a child in daily pain and distress, as I know so many parents do. However, this symptomless freedom won’t last forever. His GI doctor said that if we don’t get the disorder under control soon, he is going to start hurting, and he assumes it will happen within the next six months to a year. This puts pressure on us to figure out a remedy soon.

An additional concern is the number of times we are putting our child under anesthesia. Each time we try a new diet or treatment with him, we have to put him under anesthesia and perform an endoscopy to check his esophagus and assess his progress. He has been put under four times in the last seven months, one of which was deeper anesthesia during which he had to be intubated because it was for surgery. (Yet another separate health issue, fortunately now resolved.) I have honestly not read the research about the implications of multiple episodes of anesthesia for young children, because at this point we don’t have a choice. I am aware that there are implications, but I don’t want to know about them right now. I’ve decided that the knowledge is not worth the anxiety it will cause. We are trying to spread out his endoscopies as much as we can, but at the same time we need to get him healed and assess his progress. Unfortunately, many times we’re being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, I’ve mentioned a lot of doctors, specialists, hospital visits, and specialized diets in this post. If you see the dollar signs racking up, you are correct. This disorder is anything but cheap. Balancing expensive diets and medical bills has become one of our new fortes.

So that’s where we are for now. In summary:
  • His eosinophilic disorder continues to worsen at an unfortunately fast rate.
  • He interestingly enough still shows few, if any, symptoms of his eosinophilic disorder. He used to chew foods indefinitely and refuse to swallow, but this is no longer occurring. He occasionally tells us that he needs to throw up in the middle of or immediately after eating, but he never actually does.
  • He tested as having positive delayed allergic reactions to many foods, the worst of which were wheat, milk, and beef. Even though removal of all positive foods did not heal his esophagus, removal of them did lessen his number of vomiting episodes, allowed him to have normal stools for the first time in his life, and stopped his runny nose. What do we do with this knowledge moving forward? What do we do with his diet?
  • We will likely now need to try using PPIs to see if he responds to them in an attempt to find anything to stop the current trajectory.
  • Unsure if we will be doing further food eliminations. If his disorder is very possibly a reaction to food allergens, do we want to continue to pursue what those allergens might be?
If you know anyone around you with eosinophilic disorders or with family members who have an eosinophilic disorder, give them a hug this week. Especially those who are experiencing a lot of pain or other symptoms, or who are on huge food restrictions. I can’t attest to the pain that I know many people experience with this disorder, but I can speak to the difficulty of completely changing your child’s diet. And I’ve also completely changed my own diet for health issues, so I know what it’s like to go through personally as well. It’s hard. I have to send food with Greyden everywhere. At birthday parties, he has to watch the other kids eat cupcakes while he eats something I’ve brought for him. He can’t partake in pizza parties or have macaroni and cheese for a quick lunch. The foods he can eat are only available at various stores scattered throughout the area, so I oftentimes have to drive to four different stores to collect everything for him, and then the food is incredibly expensive. I have to cook all the time. We can never eat out, or at least we haven’t been brave enough to so far. If I forget to send a snack to school or church, that means he doesn’t get to eat and has to watch all the other kids munch down on food while he just drinks water. Halloween and Easter are not the fun candy free-for-alls that most kids experience. We have to constantly watch him, make sure he doesn’t touch allergenic foods, make sure other kids don’t reach into his safe food using contaminated hands. We have to instruct his teachers and caregivers on how to work with him, and tell them to wash all the kids’ hands if they do a craft using Cheerios or Fruit Loops, and to watch Greyden like a hawk to make sure nothing enters his mouth. He can’t play with play dough because it has wheat in it, and we have to check his body care products to make sure they don’t contain allergens that could end up in his mouth. Every time I drop him off with anyone besides me or Dave, I feel a bit of angst inside, wondering if the temporary caretaker will remember all the ins and outs of protecting him, because I know it’s a long, difficult list of dos and don’ts.

I actually created a printout to give to caregivers or people who want to serve Greyden food. Here it is below, in case you’d ever like to babysit. ;)

Greyden’s Foods
** Please read all labels for any items that come in a bag, box, or can (including canned veggies, lunchmeats, and even bagged frozen fruits and veggies).  You’d be surprised what they sneak into seemingly basic foods.  We have been instructed by the dietician to treat all of his “no” foods as if they were so dangerous that they would send him into anaphylactic shock. **
OK to eat
NOT OK to eat
  • turkey (turkey breast, turkey bacon, lunchmeat, ground turkey, turkey pepperoni, etc.)
  • pork (ham, bacon, ground pork, pork pepperoni, etc.)
  • fish
  • all fruits
  • potatoes
  • rice
  • quinoa
  • rice noodles
  • corn noodles
  • oats that are labeled gluten-free
  • seeds (sunflower, hemp, chia, flaxseed, etc.)
  • sunbutter (sunflower seed butter)
  • corn
  • popcorn
  • coconut
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • “butter” spread that is free of dairy, soy, and all other items listed in the list to the right
  • Daiya “cheese” (dairy-free cheese replacement)
  • salt, pepper, spices, herbs
  • chicken
  • beef
  • venison
  • green beans
  • gluten (wheat, barley, malt, rye)
  • oats that are not labeled gluten free
  • soy (including edamame)
  • eggs
  • dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, butter, cream cheese, etc.)
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.)
  • any item which has an ingredient list that includes any of the above
  • any item which has an ingredient list that has an allergy warning or says “may contain:...” for any of the above
  • any item which has an ingredient list that says underneath it, “Produced in a facility that also processes…” any of the above items

Yes, its complicated. It’s confusing. But ya know what, we’re doing it. And even if it hasn’t healed his esophagus so far, it’s fixed other health issues for him, and that brings me at least a small bit of satisfaction and hope as his mother. I’ll be curious to see what his allergist and dietitian say on Friday regarding how to move forward with his diet...nothing seems simple anymore.

I hope this blog post helps clear up some confusion that I know friends and family have over Greyden’s disorder. I also help that I’ve helped raise some awareness to the effects that eosinophilic disorders can have on people’s lives. There are many children and adults affected by these disorders, and they all have their own difficulties and struggles, whether they be similar to or very different from Greyden's.

We're going to get through this I know, but we still love and appreciate all support and prayers from friends and family.  Thank you to all of you. :)

God bless.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Seven Weeks In - DHwRF

This past Saturday marked the end of Week 7! (Catch up on what I'm doing here: Digestive Health with REAL Food - Take 2.)

This week I made a homemade hazelnut creamer for my coffee and used the creamer to reintroduce hazelnuts. The creamer was SO DELICIOUS. (Recipe here.) Like seriously, so amazingly yummy. So I proceeded to drink a lot of it over the next few days.  I honestly thought nothing of it and wasn't watching my symptoms very closely, because I didn't expect that there was any possibility that hazelnuts would bother me.  I'd never had any reaction to nuts in the past that I'd been aware of.

I started drinking a small amount of the creamer on Sunday night, and proceeded to drink a decent amount once or twice daily every day after that.  Monday I was fine and was traveling for work. Tuesday I seemed fine also, but by Tuesday night on my way home from the work trip, I was dragging and seriously struggling to stay awake despite plenty of sleep the night before. Wednesday I woke up and found my body to be achy, tense, and fatigued.  I chalked it up to the traveling the two days before.  Thursday was worse than Wednesday.  My body felt like I'd been hit by a truck.  I was exhausted and began losing my ability to concentrate.  My eyes started feeling dry and burning more than normal (an autoimmune symptom for me).  My whole body hurt and ached.  I started getting a headache as well. I thought to myself, gosh, this feels just like when I'm having a severe autoimmune flare. And then it clicked.  Oh my gosh.  It felt like an autoimmune flare because it WAS an autoimmune flare.  The hazelnuts must be making me sick.

I went back and forth in my head.  No way, surely not the hazelnuts.  But then I was like, what else could explain these horrible symptoms?  So I decided to stop drinking the hazelnut creamer.  My last beverage with it was Thursday afternoon.

Friday morning I woke up feeling absolutely horrible, but expected it.  Fatigued, body aches, headache, eyes burning with dryness. I dragged myself out of bed and had some decaf coffee WITHOUT creamer.  Wondered how long it would take for the symptoms to subside.

Fortunately, by Friday afternoon, about 24 hours after the last consumption of the hazelnut creamer, my headache had faded, my muscle aches were less noticeable, and my fatigue had lifted quite a bit. I continued to get better and better after that, and by Saturday evening I felt like a normal person again.

I'm still a bit shocked by the whole thing.  I'm flashing back now to the number of almonds I was eating before starting the diet seven weeks ago.  It was a lot.  I was making and drinking homemade almond milk and creamer regularly, and I was using the almond pulp to make homemade Lara bars which I was eating on a very regular basis.  What if I react to almonds the way I react to hazelnuts? What if it was the almonds making me so sick??

So hazelnuts are out, and honestly now I'm terrified to try any other tree nuts.  The good news is that I do not have a noticeable reaction from one or even maybe two exposures.  It's when I eat them several times in a row that I start experiencing negative effects.  So I suppose I could still have them once in a while without anything horrible happening.  But after the way I felt, I don't want to touch them with a ten-foot pole.  I felt like POO.

I've actually decided now that I'm going to try to reintroduce (cow's) milk and see what happens.  I want so badly to have some type of "milk" in my diet;  nut milks are now out, and I'm not a fan of the taste of coconut milk which is the typically recommended "safe" milk.  I had about a cup of cow's milk over the weekend, after I was feeling recovered from the hazelnut incident.  Nothing noticeable stood out to me afterward.  I did feel a little icky the next morning, but it didn't seem like a normal autoimmune reaction, and Dave was feeling icky also so I think it might have just been some type of bug going around.  I'm waiting a couple days to make sure nothing happens with one exposure, then I'll try drinking it several days in a row to see what happens.  I LOVE milk in my coffee, and I've always assumed that it was triggering symptoms for me, but now I get to actually find out.  If it does cause an autoimmune flare for me, I'm hoping that knowledge of the symptoms will be enough to keep me away from it and kill my desire for it, as seems to be the case with the hazelnuts.

On a less exciting note, I also reintroduced kale this week after removing it one or two weeks into the elimination diet.  Everything went fine with kale. :)

And as for my other symptoms, there wasn't too much exciting on the digestive front this week. Same ole, same ole.  Occasional pains and bloating after I'm stupid and either eat too much fruit or too much in general.  No obvious reflux symptoms this week, yay.  We covered the autoimmune symptoms above - they were horrible.  And as for cravings, I'm now craving chocolate, so I may try reintroducing that after I figure out the milk. :)

Alrighty, that's all this week!

If you'd like to catch up on my past weeks, you can find them all below.

Digestive Health with REAL Food - Take 2
One Week In - DHwRF Update
Two Weeks In - DHwRF
Three Weeks In - DHwRF
Four Weeks In - DHwRF
Five Weeks In - DHwRF
Six Weeks In - DHwRF

Saturday, May 9, 2015

H. Pylori: My Remedy

In my super exciting blog post yesterday (it was super exciting, right??) I shared the story of how I determined that some of my digestive issues were likely the result of an h. pylori infection. Then I left you hanging, wondering how on earth I remedied the situation.

Today I will share my secrets.

Now, I want to start off by saying that I am not a doctor, nor have I seen a doctor for this, so please do not use what I’m sharing as medical advice. If you want medical advice, please go see a medical professional.

And now that that’s out of the way, let me also add where I got my information that I’m about to share. I read the book Helicobacter Pylori Vanquished by Oliver McPherson. As I mentioned in my last post, it wasn’t a perfectly groomed book. There were typos and misspellings. It was a little choppy at times. But it was full of exactly the information that I needed. The author basically scoured the internet and gathered all the tips and tricks he could find for beating h. pylori and for healing a damaged stomach lining, and then he put them in a small, inexpensive eBook so he could share what he found with others. It was pretty kind of him, if I do say so myself.

I’m not going to share everything that was in his book, because a) that would be as long as a book (ha!) and b) that wouldn’t be fair to him. However, I will share with you the pieces of his research that I chose to implement in my own healing journey.  I'm not going to share the "why" behind each of these, because once again, that would lead to a very long blog post.  However, if any reader is interested in understanding the "why" behind these foods and supplements, you could always look up "h. pylori and supplement or food" on the internet, and I'm sure you'd find your answers.  Or you could read McPherson's book.

Alright, here’s what I ate and the supplements I took:

Kara's Natural Remedy for H. Pylori


  • Raspberries
  • Kombucha
  • Broccoli sprouts
  • Manuka honey, UMF 10+ or higher, 1 tsp or more per day (see more details below)
  • I also ate a lot of coconut oil and cinnamon as a part of my elimination diet, and those two foods are recommended in the book as well.

Supplements, all taken twice daily:

  • Probiotic - 1 pill (McPherson lays out many specific suggestions for probiotics in his book.  I didn't actually take any of the brands he recommended while trying to remedy my h. pylori, but if you'd like specific recommendations, they are available.)
  • Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) - 2 tablets (760 mg) (I took the "no fructose" version) (You can find the brand I took here.)
  • Mastic gum - 1 pill (500 mg) (You can find the brand I took here.)
  • Neem leaf - 1 pill (480 mg) (You can find the brand I took here.)
  • Pepzin GI (zinc canosine) - 1 pill (You can find the brand I took here.)

As mentioned in my last post, prior to starting the above remedies, I could not take a betaine HCl pill or an enzyme pill without intense burning and nausea, sometimes to the point of vomiting.  After a month and a half on these foods and supplements, I decided to try a betaine HCl pill again and see what would happen.  I wanted to know if I was indeed healing my stomach lining.  And yes, I was nervous.  I took the pill in the middle of a high-protein meal, and then sat back and waited.  To my thrill, I didn't experience any burning or nausea!  Praise the Lord, I was healing!!

Now, I must say that I did feel a smidgen of discomfort.  It wasn't burning or nausea, and it wasn't intense, but I could tell that I had taken it. So I knew I still had some healing to do.

And that's where Manuka honey comes in.

For the first month and a half on this remedy, I ate 10+ Manuka honey that I found at Trader Joe's. As I said, I did manage to heal, but I could still feel the presence of the betaine HCl pills.  At that point, I ran out of my Manuka honey, and I couldn't find it at Trader Joe's any longer.  So I decided to order some online, and this time I ordered UMF 30+ from here.

Holy camoly, get yourselves some 30+ Manuka honey, people.

The 30+ WORKED.  I ate it daily for a week and a half, 1/2 tsp stirred into my tea in the morning and in the evening, and after only a week and a half I could no longer feel the presence of betaine HCl pills at all.  So then I got even riskier.  I took a betaine HCl pill and an enzyme pill together.  This would have been stomach suicide two months earlier.  And guess what.  Nothing.  I felt nothing. Couldn't tell at all that I had taken the two digestive pills.  I was stoked!!!

So, I have to say that my favorite of the above remedies is the Manuka honey.  McPherson goes into the details of the honey in his book, and of course I was skeptical until I tried it myself.  But the stuff works, and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone who has issues with burning in their stomach.  It definitely helps with healing.  But make sure you buy 30+.

So that's what I did and what I'm still doing.  Although I feel healed, I'm continuing the regimen for probably another month or so.  As my supplements run out, I'll let them run out and see how I feel. Other than the probiotic, which I plan to take long-term, for reasons other than h. pylori.

I really hope this information can help someone.  If anybody has any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. :)

Friday, May 8, 2015

H. Pylori: My Self-Diagnosis

As we all may know around here by now, I’ve had a whole slew of health issues going on that I’m on a mission to conquer (celiac disease, SIBO, fructose malabsorption, etc.). Then, a couple months ago, I discovered yet another health issue that was holding back my progress on everything else:

Helicobacter pylori.


Helicobacter pylori (h. pylori) is a type of bacteria that lives in your stomach. There are estimates that ½ to ⅔ of the world has h. pylori inhabiting their stomachs, but it only causes issues in a small percentage of those people.

Wouldn’t you know I’d be the lucky one.

H. pylori is now believed to be the cause of most stomach ulcers. The little buggers destroy your stomach lining, and then stomach acid gets into the holes in your lining and viola! you have an ulcer.

Now, I can’t say for sure that I had/have h. pylori. I did not go to a doctor and get diagnosed (more on that below). So why am I so sure? Well, it started with thinking that I had low stomach acid. Which of course begs the question, why did I think I had low stomach acid?

First, I had undigested food particles coming out of my body. That’s not normal - the foods should be broken down into liquidy paste in my stomach. I should not be able to tell what I ate by looking in the toilet. So that suggested that my stomach wasn’t doing its job; i.e. I had low stomach acid. I also had other symptoms of low stomach acid: my sphincter between my esophagus and my stomach was “gaping open” according to my January endoscopy, and also according to my January endoscopy I have slow stomach transit (there were remains in my stomach during the endoscopy, loooooooong after there should have been anything to see). Other symptoms of low stomach acid which I was also experiencing were bloating, indigestion, and an abnormal feeling of fullness in my stomach after eating.

Now, a common remedy for low stomach acid is to take betaine HCl with your meals, which increases levels of acid in your stomach. Sounded easy enough. So I tried it. And much to my chagrin, every time I took a betaine HCl pill, my stomach would burn horribly and I’d get incredibly nauseous. Enzyme pills, which are also supposed to help with digestion, did the same thing. I even vomited from the pain a couple times. It was perplexing.

I decided to read a book on natural remedies for heartburn, hoping to find the cause of my burning stomach. And, thank the Lord, hidden within that book was one little section of text that gave me the answer I needed. It said that if you have the symptoms of low stomach acid but experience severe burning or nausea with only one betaine HCl pill, then that means that you probably have a compromised stomach lining, likely from an h. pylori infection, and that you need to kill the h. pylori and fix your stomach lining before you can progress any further in your healing.

That was it!! That was me!!

I was sooooo excited. I felt like I finally had an answer. I immediately quit reading the book and began my search for a natural remedy. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I decided not to go to a doctor to get an official diagnosis for several reasons: a) it costs money b) I wouldn’t want to take the conventional remedy for it, rather, I’d want to fight it naturally and c) I just flat out don’t like doctors much right now which d) suggests I need to see an alternative practitioner, which I definitely can’t afford.

And this left me trying to heal myself on my own. But I was willing to take on the challenge.

I did some reading and found an inexpensive eBook that basically summarized all the remedies for h. pylori that you can find on the internet. It was a simple book with grammatical errors and typos, but it gave me the info I needed. Using it, I established my own remedy and put it into practice.

And what happened??

Drumroll please…..

It totally worked! Two months later, I can now take betaine HCl pills and enzyme pills - at the same time, mind you - and have no burning, pain, or nausea whatsoever. I’ve healed my stomach lining and can now move forward with increasing my stomach acid and using enzymes to digest my food better - which means a whole lot of other wonderful things for my health (actually getting nutrients from my food, not sending undigested food through my already compromised small intestine, less susceptibility to food sensitivities, etc. the list goes on and on).

Since this post is already getting long, I’ll share my personal remedy in the next blog post. It's been a long journey, but it worked and now I'm slowly tapering off the supplements and foods that I've been using.

And whattayaknow, I actually healed something in my body. Success. Yay. :)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Six Weeks In - DHwRF

Six weeks in!! (Wonder what I'm talking about? Read here: Digestive Health with REAL Food - Take 2.)

The coffee and strawberries I reintroduced last week have seemed to be A-OK. Yippee! (Especially for coffee.) This week, I tried out the most non-fake coconut-based coffee creamer I could find in Whole Foods. I decided that rather than trying to reintroduce each ingredient in it, I would just give it a whirl and see what happens. It was a no-go. Both times I drank it, I felt off, and felt like it bloated my stomach and made me really uncomfortable. I have no idea what part of it made me feel sick, but I'm dropping that one and don't plan to try it again. I've found a homemade recipe for hazelnut creamer, so I'm going to let hazelnuts be my next reintroduction and see if I can make a healthy non-dairy creamer at home. I also reintroduced romaine lettuce, which I don't expect to give me any issues. So far I don't think it has.

Here's the roundup of my symptoms for the week:

Digestive symptoms:  I've been feeling "off" after some meals, with a few jabbing pains and some bloating, even though I'm eating the same safe foods that I've been eating for six weeks now. The pains and bloating aren't so severe that they limit me in any way, but I'd rather they be gone nonetheless. I'm not sure what's going on with that...I don't understand why they haven't seemed to go entirely away yet. I've also had some "off" days in the bathroom this week. When times like this happen, I never know if I somehow got cross-contaminated with gluten (I've learned that I am INCREDIBLY sensitive to trace amounts of gluten) or if I'm reacting to foods I've been eating.

Reflux symptoms: I really haven't had any reflux issues this week. Hurray. :)

Autoimmune symptoms: Autoimmune symptoms have been great. I still have occasional issues with word recall, but otherwise there's no noticeable brain fog. For sleep, I'm finding that I can get by on less and less...I got 7.5 hrs a couple nights this week and was totally fine. The alarm clock had to wake me, but I wasn't dragging through the day or anything. Unfortunately, last night I only got six hours, and I'm really struggling today. So six hours of sleep is not an option.

Cravings: I still really crave sugary foods. A lot. I'm simply a sweet food lover, and I don't know how to change that. I usually fill my cravings through banana chips, raspberries, or strawberries, all of which bloat me if I eat too many. And it's really hard for me to stop before I've eaten too many. It's a daily struggle. If anyone has any tips, please share.

Alright, that's all for this week!

If you'd like to catch up on my past weeks, you can find them all below.

Digestive Health with REAL Food - Take 2
One Week In - DHwRF Update
Two Weeks In - DHwRF
Three Weeks In - DHwRF
Four Weeks In - DHwRF
Five Weeks In - DHwRF