How I healed leaky gut and a parasitic infection through a gut healing protocol and mindset. Advice for anyone in need of some healing.
Part two of my journey to heal my gut is all about a mindset overhaul. Healing from my parasitic infection and bacterial overgrowth was the easy part – dealing with what percolated up before, during, and after was the actual challenge.
Are you familiar with the metaphor that when you begin to tug on a string, soon the whole thing can come unraveled?
I found this to be true for my gut healing experience.
As I alluded to in my last post, my near decade of gut issues was more than just a set of physical ailments, but also psychological.
When I began tugging on my own string, and as my inner soul fibers began unraveling, I understood that everything that comes undone needs to be dealt with appropriately before I could move forward.
While I’m wrote this portion in my story with the framework of healing gut issues specifically, I hope it can be applied to anything that may be troubling you or keeping you stuck. Those who struggle with perfectionism, the need to control, low self-worth, and/or any chronic physical ailment may find something relatable in this post.
I mentioned in How I Healed My Gut, Part One: My Gut Healing Protocol that the psychological facet of healing can sometimes be more impactful than the medical actions you take. If you haven’t read the first part, you may want to jaunt over there before continuing here so you have a frame of reference. 🙂
My gut issues were worsened by my thoughts and behavior, and therefore alleviated by different thoughts and different behavior.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to healing an ailment.
For some, a simple elimination diet is all that is needed to get rid of a weird GI flair. For others, it is a full-blown healing protocol complete with a kill and re-populate plan. And for others still, it is a full-blown healing protocol and some hefty internal work.
You can probably discern based on these posts what my needs were 😉
“To recognize one’s own insanity is, of course, the arising of sanity, the beginning of healing and transcendence.” – Eckhart Tolle.
The main reason I love this quote is it alludes to the normalcy of lack of mental wellness. Insanity is the rule, not the exception. Transcending your own ego and allowing your mind, body and spirit to heal…that is rare and extremely challenging. It is the exception.
Has anyone else expelled a great deal of time and energy trying to convince others you’re completely stable, rational, awesome, smart & sexy, totally cool? What if we all accept we have a few screws loose, honor the human condition, and dare to break down the much coveted fortress we have built around our ego so that we may live without bounds, have the courage to let people in, and thrive from our hearts?
Our souls would be at peace. We as a species could unify based on our similarities rather than war over our differences. After obliterating our rigid, structured concept of reality and rebuilding a dynamic, fluid life of accepting what truly is, only then can we actually be…totally cool.
It took me a long time to realize I was attached to my illness. I identified with it, my mindset and actions exacerbated it, I didn’t know who I would be without it.
My stress, my need to be perfect, need to control, lack of sense of self all worsened it.
Let me tell you a story.
Re-Writing My Inner Dialogue & Manifesting.
A major turning point occurred for me in late 2018 when I began seeing a doctor. We’ll call him Max.
I never told Max about my symptoms, but I casually asked him on a chairlift when we were skiing what were his recommendations for his patients with IBS. His response surprised me and jerked me into an awareness I needed – his take on IBS was that it was a disease of the mind rather than the body.
Although I absolutely think that assessment short-changes those suffering with mystery digestive issues, a light switch flipped in me. Something about his statement resonated with me so I knew I needed to consider it.
I agreed there is a definite mindset element to any ailment, so I made a conscious decision right then and there:
“I’m not sick.”
I repeated those words to myself over and over for the following year. Sometimes I actually believed them. It was tiny glimmers of belief in wellness that carried me through the rest of my healing journey.
I could feel in my body that I had maxed out my ability to troubleshoot my mystery gut issues alone. I needed help in order for the statement, “I’m not sick,” to actually be true. So that is why I made 2019 the year of the doctor. But to be clear, not that doctor. He and I were just meant to be friends.
In addition to deciding I wasn’t sick, my acknowledgement of having disordered eating patterns that were potentially causing me harm was a major turning point. You see, for me, the goal of being small was tightly intertwined with my lack of health. I needed to take a very hard look in the proverbial mirror.
The ability to distinguish between my priority to be tiny and my clear cut medical diagnosis is what led me out of illness and into healing my leaky gut. Reconciling the two was probably the most challenging part about my experience, because I was severely addicted to a very stringent and obsessive lifestyle I had formulated.
So now you can see where pulling on the thread can really unravel the whole system. But when my inner dialogue unraveled and I had broken open completely, I got to choose how I wanted to put everything back together.
If you have an awareness that once you start tugging on your own thread, everything you thought you had control of will break apart in front of you, and for that reason you’re scared shitless to start, it’s okay. Control is an illusion and you actually don’t have it.
Life is but a game, none of us get out of here alive, and the time is going to pass anyway. So you might as well pass it learning about yourself, growing, and finding your own truth.
Just know that you can put it back together. And if you can, you must 😉
Fear and Chronic Illness:
The fear that went through my mind while I was sick was astronomical. If I eat this, will it cause x? If I do y, will it set me back in healing? Is the parasite gone? Is the h. Pylori gone? Is my gut lining healed? What caused all of this in the first place? If I don’t do everything perfectly, will I infect myself with something new?
I was a complete basket case.
The transition between being sick and getting well was difficult because I couldn’t see (or control) what was actually happening. For this reason, I was afraid, anxious, depressed.
It took multiple attempts at trusting myself and the protocol I was following to finally eliminate the fear. Once the fear was minimized, much of my anxiety lifted and rather than trying to micromanage my body, I could just lean in to life and experience it with joy.
“There is no greater illusion than fear, no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself, no greater misfortune than having an enemy. Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe.” – Lao Tzu
If you feel afraid or helpless, lay on the floor on your back and look up at the ceiling (just do it). Take deep breaths in through your nose, exhale all the air and tell yourself you are safe. You are exactly where you need to be in this very moment, and not all moments in your life will be the same.
When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.
Stress and Chronic Illness:
Good stress, bad stress, physical stress, emotional stress…stress is stress. We need stress in order to grow, to improve, and to heal. But only to a certain extent. Temporary stress is crucial to human existence.
I truly believe struggle is important. But when you make stress your daily mantra and you push too hard without giving yourself a break to recuperate, your body has no other option than to not heal.
Therefore, infections can be put on the backburner when your body is in constant fight or flight mode and is just trying to stay alive. There are many scientific studies on this. Read more about the effect stress has on your body in this article: Life Event, Stress and Illness from NCBI.
All of this is not to sit on a perch and tell you not to be stressed. It is to relay the cyclical thought patterns I went through that kept me stuck in unwellness rather than allowing myself to graduate to wellness.
Those who live with an ongoing inflammatory medical issues usually experience their flair ups during times of extreme or chronic stress. Stress management is not only important in healing, but also crucial in maintaining overall health.
Some of the things I do to de-stress are:
- Lay on the floor on my back, stair up at the ceiling, and take deep breaths in through my nose and out through my nose or mouth. I tell myself any of the following, “I’m okay, “I’m going to be okay,” “This is not forever,” “I am right where I’m meant to be,” “I am and do enough,” “What I’m experiencing is a gift and it will make me stronger,” …these types of things.
- Go for long walks
- Listen to podcasts
- Read an empowering book
- Talk to friends and family
- Eat a big ass nourishing meal with lots of color, complete with plenty of fiber, starch, and protein
- Go for a jog
On the flipside of doing too much or striving to constantly be the best version of ourselves, not doing enough can also cause stress. I do believe an idle mind is a dangerous mind. When we don’t continuously challenge ourselves and keep ourselves occupied, we are guaranteed to fill that space somehow.
While I tend to be a busy body who has a difficult time relaxing, I do find I’ll create problems if I do go through a period of a lot of free time.
What is Real?:
The human mind is tricky. We get a thought in our heads, we give it a great deal of value, we allow it to mature and ferment, and suddenly, it’s a part of us like that mole on our back we forget is there because we aren’t constantly looking at it.
I dipped my toe in healing my gut through mindset when a reader suggested I check out Byron Katie’s Loving What Is. At first, I was super resistant to it (a sure sign I needed it), but the more it sank in, the more I realized I had created my own dialogue about my health and my relationship at the time.
Rather than noticing my thoughts and emotions, I was fully immersed in them. The book gave me the discovery I needed – to not be married to my thoughts and emotions and ask myself, “Is this true?”
Is is true that I’m a failure because I can’t eat perfectly enough to heal my gut? Is it true I’m unloveable? Is it true that I’m destined to be sick the rest of my life, so I might as well just see it as my cross to bear?
Obviously the answer to all of the above is no.
So asking myself what is real and what is true is something I do regularly when I find myself trapped in a cyclical thought pattern or when my emotions flair up and I feel consumed by them. It can be difficult at first to stop yourself and give yourself the time to perform this introspection, but it becomes easier and easier AND identifying when you need to have a real chat with yourself also becomes your nature.
What Helped Me on My Healing Journey:
Making Space for Wellness: Sometimes those who are chronically ill form a dis-ease neural pathway. They begin to believe illness is a part of them rather than a part of existence. When this happens, it is then possible to become addicted to the illness. Without intending to, a person may identify his or her SELF with with the disease.
Once I decided I was sick, my actions manifested that mindset, and I believe I kept myself ill without even realizing it. I believe this is why I didn’t seek out the right medical professional sooner, as my mindset was trapped in the belief that I was my illness and vice versa.
I had a sneaking suspicion that I was getting to that point or even past that point, as my behavior and mindset were destructive and negative. When taking a step outside of myself and observing my own thought patterns and emotions, I realized here was an individual that went off the rails with her condition.
Once I made room for the belief that I could be well, I was able to crowd out my old thoughts and opinions, which allowed me to make every decision with the end goal of health in mind.
During the time that I was both ill and healing (there’s definitely a transition phase), I read a lot of self-improvement books. I read the book, Ask And It Is Given, which reaffirms the power of positive thinking and helped me believe manifesting a desired outcome is, indeed, possible.
There are some portions of that book that are a little off in the weeds (in my humble opinion), but the concept that we vibrate on a certain frequency and we must put ourselves on a different frequency in order to experience change is something I do truly believe.
Psilocybin: If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can look it up yourself. Know that I am not recommending this as a cure, but simply relaying to you what helped open my mind to see where I was harming myself, and what I could do to help myself. Psilocybin has been powerfully healing for me, as it puts me on display for myself to unfuck. It makes lying to myself impossible.
Surrender: We fool ourselves into thinking we can control everything and that controlling everything will help us. False. I notice the harder I push in life, the crappier I feel mentally, emotionally and physically. It can be difficult to let go and allow life to just happen, but I find the less I force my way through life, the better I do.
Whenever people talk about healing of any kind, be it from an illness, loss of a loved one, or letting go of trauma, there is always a spiritual element. Once I put faith in the universe that I am meant to be well, I was able to surrender and allow my body to do what it needed to do.
Love: What brought me from doing well to doing great! Love is a very important part of human existence in its many forms. Having my partner, his wisdom and encouragement, inadvertently made me level up in health. Because of him, I learned I could break my obsessive behavior around heath and still be loved. I learned the physical ailments I thought were unique to me are actually just part of the human experience.
I feel so fortunate to have a tribe of loving, real individuals who care deeply about doing the right thing.
In the reverse, unhealthy relationships can do catastrophic damage to our health. I was in a long, serious relationship with a man I loved dearly, but it was simply not the right fit. We tried to force it to fit for years and in so doing, I was not living my truth. Acting out of alignment with your true self can cause physical damage, as your body experiences your thoughts and emotions on a deeper level than you realize.
Letting out Trapped Emotions:
Perhaps you have heard or read the following statement many times from many different sources: We store trapped emotions in our organs. Look, I don’t know if this is true. What I do know is I spent years burying my emotions only to let them out at very inopportune moments when I couldn’t hold them in any longer.
We try to protect the people we love from our emotions, because we are afraid of the fallout. We’re also afraid we’ll seem too extra, too needy, weak, unlovable, uncool, someone with issues. We’re afraid we’ll lose the esteem of the person.
What ends up happening is those trapped emotions ferment into something wildly more toxic. In my experience, they end up hurting us and those same people we were trying to protect.
Learning to validate my own emotions without the need for outside approval has given me the confidence to speak my truth regardless of the possible outcome.
I still think about my feelings before I spew them from the mountain tops, because I do think delivery is important; however, the very act of letting out my feelings is cleansing and creates a deeper trust in myself to know my boundaries and to have my own back.
What Set Me Back On My Gut Healing Journey:
Disordered Eating Patterns: This is a complex topic for a different blog post (which I truthfully may never write), but adding a hiccup to my healing process was my uncanny dedication to being skinny. I would eat as little as I possibly could for way too long, which likely threw off my hormones and my ability to heal. It may have also caused my hypothyroidism since my body was in a state of fight or flight the majority of the time.
Micromanaging my aesthetic became such an obsession that I made the choice over and over again to put my physical appearance before my overall well-being. The most interesting part about this is I truly attribute this addiction as a manifestation of my need to control. Feeling like I needed something to grasp onto and having no solid footing jettisoned me into making decisions that go against my true nature.
It took me deciding that my health, happiness, and future is more important than the 5-10 pounds I was constantly trying to keep off before I was able to distinguish which of my health issues were coming from gut dysbiosis and which of my health issues were coming from me being an asshole to my body.
Over-Exercise: Exercise is marvelous for you…but only to a certain extent. It is important to exercise just enough to cause a small amount of damage to stimulate healing. If you are constantly exercising too hard and are not replenishing your body with the proper food, you are doing more damage than your immune system can handle, which then throws off your hormones and immunity.
Exercise is one of my addictions, so it is something I have needed to be more cognizant of throughout my healing process. I’m still not great at balancing food and exercise appropriately…but I’m getting there! If this sounds similar to you, it is again one of those decisions you have to make on your own – what is more important? Your health, or your need to control?
Trauma & Body Dissociation: Trauma is a hot button topic. We all seem to carry some for one reason or 20,000. When we go through a traumatic experience (or chronic trauma), our mind/spirit/soul can decide it is safer to be outside of our body than live on the inside. For this reason, it is possible to have body dissociation wherein you’re unaware of what is happening inside of your body because you have taught yourself to tune it out. Essentially, you have reversed your intuition because the real you is living outside of yourself.
For a number of years, I constantly felt as though my spirit was outside of my body, and I was completely out of alignment with myself. It took a lot of grounding and healing to learn how to come back to myself and to listen to what my meat suit was saying.
Listening to your body is a difficult pursuit when you’re highly skilled in…not.
For me, learning to honor what my body tells me took months…I’m still not perfect at it, and I still fall back into obsessive exercise and disordered eating patterns from time to time, but it’s a work in progress.
As you can see, for me, this healing process was not just about healing from an infection. There was deep spiritual work that needed to be done.
Neuroticism About Health:
The rabbit hole was where I lived. Constantly listening to podcasts and reading articles on gut health, trying too many things at a time, not giving my body time to adjust to changes, and also not giving my body enough rest to heal.
You’ve heard it a million times, but too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. At one point, I was intermittent fasting daily (for months on end), exercising HARD daily, not eating enough out of fear I would eat too many inflammatory foods and cause an IBS flair, and doing coffee enemas and colon hydrotherapy regularly. Sometimes each of these things are useful, but when all put together for months on end, you can really deplete yourself of your lifeblood…not to mention, nutrients.
To add to this crazy rigamarole I was on, I wasn’t having any fun because I was too wrapped up in trying to micromanage both my gut issues and my physical appearance to relax and spend time goofing off. I was isolated because I work from home and spending time with people meant threatening my much coveted routine of starving myself and passing out at 9pm.
Trying to Go it Alone: This is self-explanatory. I tried troubleshooting my health by reading articles on the internet for way too long. If I could do it all over again, I would have sought medical attention sooner.
Sick People Sick Together:
We humans crave solidarity. It is the basis of our cultures going back to the beginning of civilization.
It is okay to crave, need, want the presence of others. It is okay to want someone where you’re at, mirror your emotions, and to be seen.. It is normal to want to be held (either literally or metaphysically).
Where we need to be careful is when we get carried away in banding together through our ailments. Finding people who are going through something similar can be such a relief, but I find it doesn’t take much more than a quick conversation to get what you need and move on to a different topic.
It is when you marinate in your illness with a friend that you can begin to hold each other back without realizing it. The bond can be a game of who has it worse, so it is important to keep the friendship light and uplifting and encourage each other to move forward to heal.
Remember, you attract what you are.
My Unsolicited Advice For Healing:
- Ask yourself what is in your way.
- Decide you aren’t sick. Tell yourself you aren’t until you actually believe it.
- Ask for help. If you don’t hit it right on the first professional, ask another one. And then another. And then another…until something works.
- Make sure everything is backed by lab tests rather than telling yourself a story about your condition. Take the GI Map (not a standard stool test!), take a food sensitivity test, and if necessary, test your hormones.
- Put your trust in the individual you choose to know what is right. Give their protocol a fighting chance…let’s say at least 2 months. If you don’t feel better after 2 months, maybe discuss a different protocol or consider adding in another person’s point of view.
- Know that healing isn’t linear and perfect health doesn’t exist.
- Keep your mind in check. Notice your emotions, recognize when you are burning out, and try to avoid marrying an inner dialogue that you aren’t 100% certain is true.
The Role of My Mindset in Healing My Gut:
When I was unwell, I had the vehement need to be right. And the need to be believed. I was so steadfast in convincing others I had problems that I wasn’t allowing my problems to resolve themselves…and was often overlooking the resolutions.
Back then, I would rather be right than happy. Loosening my iron grip on other people’s opinions and assigning them less weight allowed me to focus all that energy inward, where I needed it most.
My biggest mindset shift came when I stopped believing I needed to convince others I was unwell and began believing I could heal.
I turned, “I’m smart enough to figure this out by myself,” into “It’s okay to ask for help.” This was above my expertise and there are others in this world who are better qualified to troubleshoot this effectively than me.
Instead of looking outward and seeing myself as I related to the world around me, I looked inward and made the choice that I wanted to become whole.
My Only Problem is That I Believe I Have A Problem
At one point just before I began The Year of the doctor, the words, “My only problem is that I believe I have a problem” popped into my head.
X, y, and z issues only have weight in my equation if I assign them weight. The fact that there are critters I can’t control living inside of me matters only if I give them attention. While I was going through the kill portion of my protocol, I asked a friend of mine what I would do if the parasite didn’t go away. Her response: You try again. And if that doesn’t work, make friends with it.
Make friends with it.
Acknowledging My Spirit:
The process of “becoming whole” took much more than just a gut healing protocol. It took therapy, self-help books, a breakup, many travels, and the utter refusal to allow myself to get stuck in my ways. It also took self-acceptance. It took falling in love.
Here are some of the books I read to boost my confidence that I could, in fact, heal my gut:
Ask and It Is Given – Esther Hicks & Jerry Hicks
Loving What Is – Byron Katie
12 Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson
A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
Mating in Captivity – Esther Perell
I’m Fine…And Other Lies – Whitney Cummings
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
In This Moment –
Breathe – James Nestor
If You Don’t Know Where To Start:
If you’re lost in a sea of information and everything is noisy both internally and externally, ask yourself one question:
What is in my way?
Just ask and see what comes up.
More On Gut Health:
- My Journey With Gut Health
- How to Improve Your Digestion, Part One
- How to Improve Your Digestion, Part Two
- 8 Natural Remedies That Relieve IBS Symptoms