I knew I was sick from the minute the polluted river fish microbes crumpled me into an agonized ball on the sand floor of the lopsided Guatemalan hut. Everything had been going so well: we were volunteering to help set up the town’s first library, practicing permaculture for a new SYI retreat location, the company who would be sponsoring my yoga teacher training in two months’ time. I should’ve had a smile plastered across my face, but on this day I couldn’t even manage a grin. The others were worried, but there weren’t any doctors for at least 60 km. Not that I wanted to resort to that anyway. Kombucha and bentonite clay were all we had, so I sipped and swallowed the stuff and gained enough strength to at least partake in the daily activities, despite the discomfort and persistently horrifying bowel movements I was having.
The yoga teacher training was going to take place at Lake Atitlan, so on the way we stopped for a week in Guatemala City to take advantage of some medical services. The doctors took one look at my partner and put him on IV antibiotics for an infection that none of them tested for. They brushed me off with a treatment for parasites and sent us on our way.
A week into my yoga training I was really feeling the effects of my gut problems. The parasite treatment had done nothing so I decided to take the antibiotics given to us by a travel clinic before we left Canada: a two-week treatment of Ciprofloxacin. Its hard to say whether the treatment helped; all I noticed was an ever more exaggerated reaction to many of the foods I was commonly eating. I was meditating and practicing yoga twice a day at this point, so I decided to apply mind over matter in addition to eating a Pescatarian Diet and taking down a jar each of live sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and ginger beer every few days or so (much gratitude to Love Probiotics for the consistent deliveries!).
I taught yoga for two more months at Lake Atitlan before moving on to the next leg of our journey. Being the stubborn 24-year old that I was, I was determined to keep up with our adventure and travelled Central America for another year after that, using surfing, yoga and probiotic foods to try and manage my symptoms. Stress free living goes a long way!
By the time we were on our way home from traveling, I knew something had to be done about my health and started reading and listening to podcasts to learn everything I could. I had some guesses about what was up with my health and had been learning about the type of testing that should be run. However, when I arrived home and started my inquiry, my family doctor and local doctors disagreed. They wouldn’t run just any test on me as they “ran the risk of being audited” and “all that stuff about the microbiome”? “There just isn’t enough research to show it plays a role in health.”
A few months later after trying various Doctors and Naturopaths, I was now down to having two to three hours of energy a day and enveloped in a constant fog. Something had to give so I expanded my search beyond what I considered local. I found a clinic run by a doctor and nurse practitioner with Functional Medicine training. They were two ferries and a bus ride away, but it would be worth it if I could get the proper attention. And I did at first. They ran enough testing to discover I had Hashimotos, Candida and a number of other creepy resistant infections.
I was put on anti-bacterial/fungal herbals and regular IV infusions. A good portion of my fatigue and brain fog was immediately lifted, and I was under the impression I’d be back to my old self in a few months. But, I was wrong. It would be over two years before I was able to remotely digest carbs again and ongoing experiments with thyroid medications before I had enough energy to work full time. I would go through multiple SIBO protocols, Limbic System retraining, be diagnosed with CFS, go to counselling, be diagnosed as being under “spiritual attack,” fast for 14 days at a time on multiple occasions, use enemas and try multiple diets. I was sent to specialists who told me that it wasn’t possible to lower my thyroid antibodies, despite the proof on my lab tests sitting right in front of them. I spent far too much money on supplements, some directly from my ND, that triggered reactions and autoimmune flares on multiple occasions. Other than providing the testing I asked for, I realized that all of these health practitioners who I idolized (naturopaths and Functional Medicine doctors included) were still stuck in the “Band Aid solution” mentality, even when working with natural remedies. No one looked further than the symptoms I presented with on the days of my appointments and not a second of research was put into my case outside of those appointments. And most of all, they were more comfortable leaving me to my own devices regarding diet and lifestyle, despite the fact that those were the two things that made the biggest difference. I had already decided I needed to find a way to become my own practitioner so when other people dealing with chronic illness began to reach out and ask what I was doing I realized I had better commit to the path.
As I am now, I still experience symptoms or flare-ups, but they don’t dominate my every waking moment, and as time goes on, I get to watch certain symptoms fade into the past. I sometimes feel as though I lost or missed out on a whole section of my life but if I can use my experience to help prevent others from going through the same thing, or help others get the testing they need and have a more efficient recovery, then it will have been worth it.