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Living with Chronic Digestive health Issues. A Case Study. Part 1…

Have you ever suffered from bloating, gas, heartburn or loose stool (or constipation)? Ha, trick question…whether it’s occasional or chronic, we’ve all experience one or more of these digestive issues in our lifetime.

Occasion digestive disturbances can easily be managed with drinking lemon water, a Senna tea or a little abdominal massage. But for those that experience digestive issues daily, weekly or monthly, additional support is needed, but few seek it out because they don’t know what their options are or who can help.

My role as a Holistic Nutritionist goes beyond meal planning and promotion of healthy living, in fact getting to the root cause of my clients’ health concerns are vital to how I work.

The most common digestive health concerns that I treat are:

  • Gas,

  • bloating,

  • loose bowels and/or constipation,

  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO),

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),

  • Crohn’s and Colitis,

  • cramping,

  • Allergies and intolerances (food, environmental),

  • And skin issues like acne, eczema, psoriasis, which can all be digestion related!

There are tried and true recommendations I make that have my clients’ feeling better in the short-term, but my goal is to get to the root cause of the issue and provide you and all my clients with in-depth guidance and problem-solving support for the long-term!

One of my more recent clients, who I will introduce you to below, calls this “Marissa peeling back the layers of the onion to get to the core” – what a fun (and yummy) way to look at problem-solving.

Why Root-Cause Identification is Critical?

Root cause identification is a core aspect of my work because digestion is the key to health and overall wellness in our body. It’s the way we assimilate, absorb nutrients and remove toxins we come into contact with on a daily basis. Our digestion impacts every aspect of our body, including our mental health – so it’s important that our incredibly powerful system of organs work together and at their best to keep our bodies and minds healthy.

In this, the first of a multi-part blog series, I’m hoping to shed some light on digestive health issues, possible causes, how I approach learning about my patients so I can build a smart plan to help them heal and feel better and how we work together to solve their health issues.

To demonstrate the process and experience, one of my current patients has offered to share her journey and on-going recovery with you…

Meet, the lovely, Erin.

I met Erin in the fall of 2019 in the Valeo Wellness Clinic – she was there for a business meeting with our Clinic Director, not actually seeking treatment for any aliments.

We were introduced and started talking about the clinic, which quickly evolved into a casual conversation between two women that felt an immediate kinship. We sat in my office with tea and shared stories, life experiences and our philosophies on holistic wellness.

During our conversation, Erin shared that she had been living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for over 30 years.

T H I R T Y Y E A R S!!

I felt so bad for her and I immediately asked her if she would be interested in my help.

“The first time I met Marissa I felt like we had been friends for a very long time. She was smart, outgoing, kind and easy to talk with. Within less than 20 minutes I found myself opening up to her with some of my health issues – not because I was looking for anything, but because I knew she would understand, and I guess I needed to talk with someone who would get it.
I had never considered any form of intervention because doctors had told me that my only option was to avoid foods that upset my stomach. As a working mom of two busy teens that is not as easy as it sounds, so I have done my best.
I have lived with the discomfort, pain and issues of IBS most of my life. In fact, I had resigned myself to the fact that there was nothing concrete that would help, so this would be my life. And with a close family member being diagnoses with Crohn’s less than a year ago, I know it could be worse.
And then I met Marissa. When she asked me if I would work with her, I didn’t know what to say. Mostly because I didn’t think I could be “fixed”, but if there was any chance that I could feel better, I had to try. And after speaking with Marissa I felt so connected to her and it was so clear that she not only was smart and passionate, but she really cared about me. I couldn’t say YES quick enough.”

Our First Official Session

When Erin and I sat down to discuss her digestive health in detail, I knew that 30 years of significant discomfort would require multiple stages of support. My first concern was to try and elevate her current IBS flare-up, which was already in its third consecutive week!

Three weeks of bloating, abdomen discomfort and loose stool several times a day. Erin had been living with lengthy flare-ups for the past year – clearly, her body was in need of an intervention.

As with all of my patients’, I reviewed Erin’s health history in-depth as I wanted to understand any and all of the variables that might be contributing to the challenges she was experiencing.

We met for an hour, where I did a deep dive into the nuances of her life up until that point in time so I could truly understand the “big rocks” (challenges) that Erin wanted to address as well as determine together how we would tackle restoring health to her body.

And with all patients, it’s during this meeting that if additional testing is needed to get to the root of the digestive disruption, such as bloodwork, allergy testing, hair analysis or any other diagnostics, would be discussed and whether we should collaborate with an MD or a Naturopathic Doctor. With Erin, I recommended a hair analysis to see if there were any specific foods, heavy metals, or other elements, that might be causing issues that we should be aware of as well as give me an idea which nutrients (vitamins and minerals) that could be out of balance.

“Marissa went through my responses to her patient in-take form and explored a few of my answers in depth. I was amazed at how thorough she was – some of the areas she explored I would have never considered as a possible area of concern, but she knew what rocks to turn over and where to go deep to uncover insights. As a strategist, I really enjoyed the process and watching Marissa navigate me – it was all fascinating and eye-opening.”

Immediately upon reading Erin’s intake form, I realized she has been struggling with bowel health and digestive dysfunction for many years and I immediately wanted to help her.

Through our initial session, I could see that Erin suffered from multiple symptoms of bowel dysfunction, she clearly had food sensitivities and food intolerances, as well as leaky gut adding to the myriad of symptoms she was experiencing. I was excited to help her, and I could tell from her energy that she was excited about any possible relief.

From the start, Erin was very much ready and willing to do whatever it would take to feel better. She was incredibly receptive to the information I provided her and the fact that we aligned energetically as well, which is really important for me when working so closely with people.

With Erin’s permission, below are some abbreviated notes from our conversation:

What were the key issues that were obvious?

Inflammation, Sensitivity to Dairy and Gluten, Low motility and extreme distress on gallbladder/liver

What were some of the issues that you considered, but needed to investigate further?

Autointoxication of the liver, gallstones, food sensitivities/intolerances, environmental allergies

Additional Testing Needed?

We need to do either blood or hair analysis to learn more about sensitivities and intolerances

Results of our First Session

Getting to the root cause and building her a program would require time and more information, so the first thing I recommended to Erin, which she agreed to, was a simple, whole food meal plan with the goal of feeling better as soon as possible.

Erin also agreed to a hair analysis to begin our journey to getting to the root cause of her bowel dysfunction and digestive health.

What Happened Next?

In a follow-up blog, I’ll share how we tackled her IBS flare-up over the Christmas holidays and the process and results of her hair analysis. I’ll share Erin’s reaction to the initial meal plan, and she’ll share her impressions, how she was feeling through the early days of the new program and how her family “dealt with” her – those are her words! LOL

What Erin shares in the next segment is very raw, emotional and honest – I hope you continue reading and we both hope that by sharing this experience Erin gets some of the healing she needs and that you find that solutions are out there, waiting for you.

I would like to thank Erin for sharing this intimate part of her life with all of us and for allowing me to openly share our sessions (including some of my notes) so that others know that there are solutions to digestive health issues that have been largely untreated by other health professionals.

I hope you keep reading this important series because you are not alone and there are alternative ways to restore digestive health and bowel dysfunction – Erin’s story is just one of so many.

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