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The Gut Repair Program: My experience

I make no secret of the fact that as a nutritionist I treat myself as a human guinea pig. If my clients are doing it, chances are I’ve already done it myself!

The Gut Repair Program is no different.

My (back) story.

With my clinical experience I didn’t think I’d be a candidate for such a program. No real digestive complaints, no extreme bloating, infrequent gas – usually triggered by the common culprits – regular bowel movement and so on. I had been working with a number of clients on this program, sending them away to do stool tests and being genuinely taken-aback by the results.

So I thought, I want to know more about what’s going on in my gut. I want to see what I can’t see from the outside. So I decided to do a stool test.

Once you move past the experience of pulling a part a piece of your poo, you come to be quite grateful for what information you can get from this test.

My results

Here is a snapshot of my results…

  • Positive for the parasite Dientomeba
  • Positive for bacterial infection with Klebsiella and Citrobacter
  • Negative for Yeast

Funnily enough, the thing I thought I would be most likely to have was candida (yeast infection) and I was shocked to see I had a parasite infection!

Before the gut repair program, this was a typical day in the life…

  • Wake up – bulletproof coffee, with butter and MCT oil
  • 10:30am – Breakfast, oats with protein powder and berries
  • 1pm – lunch; rainbow salad with chickpeas or leftover stir-fry with rice
  • 7pm – dinner; Stir-fry with rice, curry with quinoa etc.
  • 8pm – dessert; 2 squares of Lindt dark chocolate

(keep in mind this was winter, hence all the heavy, warm, cooked foods)

Looking at this you’d think, well that’s exactly what I’d expect from a nutritionist. Well balanced, nutrient dense. What’s wrong with that? One this is for sure, I was satiated, I snacked very little BUT I craved something sweet after lunch and had the perception that I needed some form of carb with most meals.

Well little did I know, but this lifestyle was not suiting my gut or my PCOS symptoms – something we will come back to.

The gut repair program was a catalyst for so much more than restoring my gut… keep reading because I’ll explain how. But for right now, I want to take you through a month-by-month recount of the program. This is my journey, and it’s something you can expect for yourself also.

After the results, comes the work.

Here were the rules. For three months…

  • No carbs. None.
  • No alcohol. Fine.
  • No coffee. Ouch.

At the time I was shifting away from an animal based diet, incorporating more plant-based proteins. This immediately had to be put on hold. With most legumes and grains being my plant based protein source, they also become a high carbohydrate source. Keep in mind, I have successfully worked with vegans and vegetarians on this program – so don’t shy away based on my experience!

***A slight interjection here. Through all my studies and clinical experience I KNEW that a higher carb diet would have a negative impact on my hormones and PCOS. But I never had the balls to truly commit to eliminating carbs. Despite reversing my PCOS being my biggest priority, I couldn’t shy away from what I knew…

Not all carbs are bad.

But what I came to learn was…  Maybe not everyone is meant to have carbs.

This was one of my biggest learnings through the gut repair program.

Getting organised.

Let me set the scene. Its late June of 2018. In two short weeks it’s my birthday and I’ve planned a little get away with my partner to the Grampians. I knew this would be a big test for me, and it was a pivotal point in my program.

I knew I had to be 110% committed to this. I told everyone I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it. I needed the support of my friends and family to ensure I stayed on track.

I got organised when it came to my meals, I experimented with other ways of doing the things I had already been doing.

Currently I was eating oats. That quickly became my fibre filled porridge recipe.

No coffee, no problem. I went COLD TURKEY! And surprisingly I had zero withdrawal from it. I actually started to feel my stress and anxiety melt away. The calmness I felt was second to none and now it’s too good, that I’ll never go back to being a regular coffee drinker.

I switched coffee for chai lattes and embraced all the changes I was preparing myself to makes.

Avoiding carbohydrates wasn’t too challenging. I didn’t eat bread anyway, although I loved croissants (and still do). But when I started I told myself, it’s temporary. Short term.

The first two weeks.

Surprisingly the first two weeks were the best two weeks of the entire program. The supplement rotation was really working for me, I felt cleansed. I felt things shifting within me.

No coffee became really enjoyable and I as I’m not a big drinker avoiding alcohol wasn’t really a problem.

I felt my energy improve, my bowel movements became more regular and I managed to lose 2kgs.

Keep in mind, I was the girl that could NEVER lose the last 5kgs. I felt fluidy and jiggly. And after a recent trip to Greece I was starting off at my heaviest weight in over 6 years.

To keep things in perspective, the 2kgs I lost was entirely water weight. Which is still a really positive thing. Letting go of the excess water my body didn’t need is very important!

My first test

Towards the end of my first two weeks, I was getting ready to go away on that birthday weekend. I knew we’d be drinking, and we’d probably want to be relaxed with my eating, but I was really nervous and apprehensive. I didn’t want to undo all my hard work and I started to fear returning to “normality”. I felt so good, I did want to stuff it up!

But in reality having the break when I did was the best thing I could have done for my body. In my first two weeks I didn’t experience the keto flue (I’ll come back to this). I experienced it much later. My body was thriving on this type of lifestyle but it’s important that we jolt our body out of the ketosis process and it was also a great opportunity to see how my body would respond to some of the foods I had been avoiding.

I still chose low or no carb options when I could but I drank wine and had some cheese and bread and dips with crackers. What I noticed was some bloating and discomfort. Something I hadn’t experienced in a what felt like forever. And it was good to reminder to myself why I was doing this, pull up my socks and get back on track.

End of the first month

One month in, 4kgs down, abundant in energy, my mood had shifted and even my hormones seemed to be humming along a lot happier!

What I failed to realise at the time (and what is so evidently clear to me now!) is that my hormones WERE a SYMPTOM of my GUT HEALTH. Let that sink in.

Your gut health can be reflected in so many areas of the body.

The gut itself, your skin, your mood, your hormones, your immunity… the list is endless.

So even if you were just like me, thinking, my gut is fine, stop to think about all the other ways your body is not. Chances are there’s something going on in your gut.

Hippocrates once said “all disease begins in the gut”. Truer words have never been spoken.

By the fourth week though, the keto flue hit me. Which is a big sign to me that my body adapted really well to eliminating carbs and, realistically, that my diet was already pretty low carb to begin with. I felt very lethargic one night, weak, tired and like I was getting sick. I listened to my body. What did I really want in that moment? The answer… pasta. So that’s what I had. To be honest, it wasn’t much (about 45g) with a very basic tomato sauce and within 15 minutes I felt like a new human.

Another big lesson. All good things must come to an end. Carbohydrates need to break the cycle. Even in a low-carb eating lifestyle, you sometimes needs carbs, in a really healthy way. For more on that, read my blog post on cyclical ketosis.

Month 2

By the second month, I felt fine with my new eating lifestyle. I didn’t miss carbs, I realised I didn’t need them and they don’t serve me.

Yes I missed croissants and knew that I would definitely be having those again, but on the whole I didn’t need them like I thought I did.

I had my first coffee in 6 weeks, only because I missed the taste, not because I needed it and realised that one every now and then wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
The supplements were serving me well. Some supplements felt more therapeutic than others but overall things were going well.

By this stage it was a matter of going through the motions. Showing up every day, listening to my body and serving it well.

My cravings had completely subsided. I no longer felt like I needed something sweet after lunch and that desire for the evening chocolate completely went away. Which begs the question – part dietary, part habitual? Can’t deny that we are habitual creatures!

The weight loss plateaued– which I knew it would! Water weight and then some loss in body fat but for the first time in a long time, I felt like I had hit the mark perfectly. I didn’t want to lose weight, it felt easy to maintain and I wasn’t getting my monthly fluid retention which was AMAZING!

Things felt balanced. And that’s a pretty spectacular place to.

Month 3

I knew my program was drawing to a close. So around week three of the third month I started the process of removing myself from the supplementation rotation. My gut had been so well supported, with gut healing nutrients, herbs and probiotics. So I knew I had to be delicate.

I did feel my bowel movements shift and change over this period, but it corrected itself pretty quickly!

I made the decision to continue on with my relatively carb-free or low carb diet indefinitely. But I knew I would need to reintroduce some foods and see how my gut would handle them.

Post program. Time to reintroduce.

I sat back and thought, what definitely doesn’t serve me and what am I open to?

Gluten and gluten-containing foods; a definite no-go. They just don’t serve me. The only exception would be the occasional croissant because I love them. And if a good gluten-free one is ever created then sign me up!

Legumes were also pretty high on the no-go, particularly chickpeas and lentils. They just don’t sit well. Bummer but I had to trust my inner wisdom on that one.

Rice was a bit on the fence. I kind of didn’t see the point of it with some meals, maybe except sushi. It just didn’t add much and I knew that I would be full and satiated without it. But I wanted to test how I went with it.

So what I wanted to reintroduce was…

  • Sweet potato
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Rice

I trialled them one at a time and found they didn’t aggravate my gut at all. No bloating or discomfort. So I figured I would have one or two of these one to two times per week. And that really works for me.

So what’s my life like now?

Well my hormones are far more balanced. My cycle became more regular, along with ovulation.

I easily maintain a low-carb lifestyle.

I have coffee 1-2 x per week.

And I generally feel like I’m showing up for myself in the best way I can. This feels right for me and that’s the main thing.

  • Breakfast is usually a smoothie bowl or my fibre filled porridge or bircher muesli (without oats).
  • Lunch is still stir-fry veg (just without the rice) or a salad of some kind
  • Dinner is a burrito bowl or zoodles with Bolognese or pesto sauce.
  • I still indulge with a little dark chocolate and when I’m socialising I’ll have some crackers and cheese. Because life is too short not to be lived fully!

I hope you found my personal experience with The Gut Repair Program informative! If you think you might be in need of some gut repair, book in for a free 20 minute evaluation. I’d love to chat you through it

Annalise

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