In the beginning.

Eight years ago, following emergency surgery and an extended stay in the hospital, I couldn’t eat any food without extreme bloating and pain, requiring a potent pain reliever. I spent months on bone broth and didn’t have the energy to walk beyond my driveway. Eventually, I was able to add organic eggs, raw milk, and pineapple. Unfortunately, these limitations meant I couldn’t travel because I needed access to these foods. My world became very small.

After six months, I began seeing medical specialists, including gastroenterologists and neurologists. They had no answers, and because they had no answers, they blamed me for my symptoms, even saying they were all in my head – something that is often said to women when experiencing unexplained medical symptoms.

Out of ten doctors, only one didn’t yell at or berate me. He said no doubt I was alive because of my knowledge about food and the digestive system. He was researching a bacteria thought to be prevalent among poor people due to cheap low nutritive, starchy food, causing an imbalance of gut bacteria. Some researchers theorize antibiotics cause it. Coincidently, I had done poverty research and learned that even though this overgrowth seems prevalent among the poor due to cheap, starchy, low-nutritive foods, they aren’t usually tested or treated because of the cost. I was fortunate I could pay for the hydrogen and methane test and specific cure, although it proved to be only a tiny piece of my issue.

Researchers are now labeling this specific SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) as a condition called IMO (intestinal methane overgrowth) not caused typically by bacteria but by methanogens, part of the Archaea kingdom that can grow in the colon as well as the small intestine. According to Commonwealth Diagnostics International, it causes belching, bloating, stomach pain, heartburn, anxiety, fatigue, unexplained weight gain, and gas – most of which were my symptoms.

Over the last eight years, I’ve had suggestions from well-meaning friends and even those, not well-meaning who said I was being dramatic. Eventually, because people were uncomfortable socializing with someone who couldn’t eat or drink, I stopped getting invitations to social engagements. When the worst happens, that’s when you learn who your real friends are. Someone who had seen the movie “Miracles From Heaven” said, “Lil, the movie is exactly like what you’re going through.” My husband and I sat in the theatre with tears running down our eyes. Finally, we knew others, even children, were experiencing similar circumstances.

Everyone on a medical journey has a different experience and should follow what feels true for them. At Massachusetts General, the last doctor I saw listened to nothing I told him, including telling him I had gained weight despite eating fewer than 900 calories daily. He said, “If you weren’t lazy, you wouldn’t gain weight.” My husband was furious. While crying all the way home, I told my husband I’d rather die than be abused by any more doctors. I meant it. It was the beginning of a new life journey of healing and self-discovery.

Determined to find a cure, I pursued holistic healing—more of this story to come.