So I had to poop in a cup…if that doesn’t grab your attention then I don’t know what will!
I can remember reading the book Everyone Poops “as a child.” My family was not particularly shy about the subject in general, but mostly through potty humor (admittedly I do have the same sense of humor as a 12 year old boy). And yes, although my family was not shy about the subject, they were uneducated on the subject for sure. It was not something that I ever considered part of “general health” or a way for your body to communicate with you…and well, I’ve recently learned that my body has been trying to communicate with me for a long time.
I have had off and on bouts with diarrhea (yes, we’re going there), bloating, and stomach issues for years…years! I had mostly attributed this to stress until it was no longer linked to just stressful times. When I mentioned in my previous post how lows became my new baseline, this is one of those areas. I had become used to the unpredictability of loose stools, uncomfortable bloating, stomach pain, brain fog after eating, and feeling lethargic.
Control is my drug of choice. I have worked hard to become less of a control freak and to hold things loosely in my hands, but it is an ever evolving work in progress. Not having control over how I physically felt each day was and has been maddening. I am a problem solver to my core – I enjoy the entire process of researching, talking things through, learning, and thinking creatively. To not be able to figure out what was making me feel downright awful all the time and with no predictability, has been frustrating to say the least.
I tried so many things. I even went completely dairy free for 1 year to no avail. My symptoms remained the same, despite the assumption that removing dairy from my diet would solve all my problems. Did I feel 15% better when I didn’t eat dairy? Sure. But that percentage wasn’t enough for me to feel like the problem was solved. This felt like such a sacrifice and adjustment to settle for just 15% better…so I gave up. The thought of making large lifestyle changes for minimal results put me into an apathetic state. I still didn’t have control and if I couldn’t have control, it felt easier to numb out and “not care.” So I did.
Fast forward to my initial assessment. As I shared my hopes and goals with Anya, I assumed the first thing that would need to be addressed was my hormones (PMS symptoms, my age, acne, etc.) but I was surprised when she said she wanted to focus on gut health first. I had heard the phrase “second brain” (I mean, it’s all over TikTok), but had not had it explained to me before or been given the “why” gut health should take top priority. And while I love getting info from TikTok (tell me I’m not alone?!), my full trust is being given to the experts:
“The gastrointestinal system, ‘the gut’ for short, has something called the enteric nervous system that acts to regulate the gut functions and communicates with the big brain in our skull,” explains Anya Wallace, PA-C “The enteric nervous system is also known as the ‘second brain’. You know that feeling in your gut when you’re nervous or anxious? Yep, your second brain did that. Whenever something in the gut is amiss, signals are going back and forth between the brain and your gut which leads to downstream effects in the body. If your gut is angry, you won’t get the nutrients your body needs, you won’t metabolize hormones correctly, and your mood will be affected because your neurotransmitters aren’t being produced correctly. (~95% of your serotonin and ~50% of your dopamine is produced in your gut!).”
After my initial assessment, I was given a kit with verbal and written instructions on how to collect a sample for my GI Map test (aka collecting stool in a paper tray). As our nurse Stevie loves to say, “you will never look at a hot dog container the same ever again” (IYKYK).
I then started to stress on when would be the best time to complete “my first assignment.” However, it’s not all that complicated and even though it is something I never envisioned doing, let alone writing publicly about, it was like any other afternoon and a blip on the map of life. The hot dog thing though, that will stick around in my memory forever (like I said, humor of a 12 year old boy).
I am hopeful that this unique experience will give us clues into the ultimate problem to solve: my health. The gut is the foundation for us to build upon, and it feels good to finally have a direction in which to head when I have been aimlessly wandering for so long.
I am also anxious about the results. I am nervous to hear news that could force me to make major changes to my current lifestyle, and I say “force” because I will no longer be able to claim ignorance to the root of my problems. I will actually have the data to back things up with, and ultimately, I know it is in my best interest to implement this new information. I am repeating to myself that “knowledge is power” and that change is not an “if” but a “when.” At least this change I will have control of – I deserve better and I am choosing to pursue better.
Feelings this week: Anxious about GI map results but excited to start building momentum forward.
Favorite moment from experience: The hot dog container and telling all my friends about the poop/stool experience.
Something I am currently loving: The last few days of blissful ignorance and eating gluten/dairy.
This is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute any practice of medicine or professional health care services of any type. The use of information on this blog is at the user’s own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, for diagnosis, or for treatment. Please seek the care of your health care professionals for any questions or concerns.