One of the principles of Functional Medicine is finding and treating the “root cause.”
But sometimes, it isn’t as simple as finding one root cause and getting rid of it. Most of my clients have multiple health concerns – and multiple causes behind them. Helping them is about peeling back the layers and addressing each one as we go.
For my client Jane, peeling back the layers was exactly what we needed to do! She came in because she was experiencing tightness in her chest caused by acid reflux – and we wound up working through multiple gut infections, addressing vaginal dryness, and putting interstitial cystitis (a condition that causes chronic bladder pain like a urinary tract infection) into remission.
Every time we treated another “layer” Jane felt better than before.
Today, Jane wants to share her story in her own words. If you’re considering pursuing help with a Functional Medicine Practitioner like me, I hope this story helps you better understand the process of working with a practitioner.
About three years ago, I started dealing with some bloating. Then, I’d occasionally have constipation – not all the time, but enough that I noticed it. I had a colonoscopy and the results came back normal. I started taking a probiotic. The bloating and constipation just became kind of a general annoyance I was living with.
But then I started feeling tightness and pain in my chest. That was really scary. I went to the doctor right away, but the tightness and pain weren’t heart-related. That’s when I realized they were actually a digestive issue. I decided to go see a physician at my regular clinic, and they told me it was acid reflux, prescribed Prilosec, and referred me to a GI doctor.
Luckily I had read enough about Prilosec to know I didn’t want to take a proton-pump inhibitor. Instead, I decided to get a second opinion from a Functional Medicine Practitioner – that was Brie.
Working With Brie
From the start, Brie was very thorough. She took a really detailed history that helped me connect some dots about what had started all my digestive symptoms in the first place. The past summer, I’d had a urinary tract infection and taken a course of antibiotics. Then in the fall, I went traveled out of the country and had to take a course of the antibiotic Cipro for traveler’s diarrhea. That’s when the bloating and constipation became worse and the other acid reflux symptoms started.
But she wasn’t just interested in the acid reflux – Brie asked questions about my overall health. When I told her I was experiencing vaginal dryness, urinary pain, and low libidio, she took me seriously. My doctor had diagnosed my with interstitial cystitis – basically pain in my reproductive organs for no reason.
Brie explained to me how the antibiotics had killed the good bacteria in my gut as well as the bad. She recommended stool testing and a breath test for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), as well as hormone testing. She also recommended I cut out dairy and gluten temporarily to give my system a break, since those foods are common gut irritants. She also recommended some supplement that would soothe my gut and help with symptoms until we got the test results back. All this happened at our very first meeting!
The Test Results Came In
The test results came back a few weeks later – they showed low cortisol, low estrogen, H. pylori, low beneficial flora, and a few overgrown bacteria (citrobacter, pseudomonas). Plus, I had both methane and hydrogen type SIBO and was under-producing pancreatic enzymes.
It was a lot to take in and I was so glad I had Brie to help me understand what the results meant. She saw how everything was connected.
Brie explained that the H. pylori infection was likely causing the acid reflux, and that the SIBO was probably the cause of the constipation and the bloating. My hormone problems were tied in to all of it and causing the vaginal dryness, urinary pain, and low sex drive.
It was a relief to know there was a reason I was feeling the way I was feeling – especially because my symptoms had gone into a flare as we waited for the test results. I remember going to visit a friend for a few days and having to come home early because I was just so uncomfortable.
Brie started my on a supplement protocol for 6-8 weeks for both the H. pylori and the SIBO. I kept avoiding gluten & dairy, too.
After I finished the first supplement protocol, we re-tested. The H. pylori was gone! The SIBO levels had come down, but it wasn’t completely gone. On the second stool test, I also had positive results for some other common gut infections and parasites, including candida overgrowth. Brie explained that all of this was normal – the first protocol of supplements had helped destroy the “biofilm” – the protective cover the bad bacteria use to protect themselves and hide. With the biofilm gone now, we could see other parasites and better treat the SIBO, too.
By, then my acid reflux was totally gone and I was feeling pretty good gut-wsie. But I was still struggling with the vaginal dryness and hormone symptoms. And, what I initially thought was a bladder infection turned out to be Interstitial Cystitis. The “UTI” pain didn’t respond to normal treaments, and the pain turned chronic.
Putting Interstitial Cystitis Into Remission
My hormone symptoms were slowly improving as my gut healed – but Brie also suggested using a plant-based bioidentical estrogen replacement. She also had me use vaginal DHEA, a vaginal probiotic, and some herbs. Those helped me feel better right away.
Brie also explained that two of the bad bacteria that the tests had shown were overgrown in my gut – proteus and citrobacter – were related to the Interstitial Cystitis, too. As we treated those, my symptoms disappeared completely.
Brie suggested I work with a pelvic floor therapist, too. That helped me relax some overly tight muscles that were contributing to the pain.
Changing My Diet
Brie suggested I follow a gluten and dairy-free, low-FODMAP diet. It helped me a lot in the beginning, but I was anxious to reintroduce more foods as soon as I could.
After a few months, I was able to reintroduce beans and some other legumes, which I hadn’t been able to tolerate for years, and I really missed. I am now back to eating all fruits and veggies, and I can even add in a little gluten here and there. That makes me feel good!
Where I Am Now
After working with Brie, I feel great for the first time in years.
I came to see her because of the acid reflux – but she opened my eyes to a lot of problems I had been writing off as “normal” or just “part of getting older.”
Gut-wise, I am feeling so much better now! After having given up gluten and dairy for years, I’m finally able to experiment with adding them back into my diet again now.
The interstitial cystitis pain is gone now, too. I didn’t realize how much the pain held me back from enjoying life – I even cancelled an overseas trip because of it!
I’m so happy to be where I am now with my health. I’m following a maintenance protocol now and continuing to meet with Brie occasionally to make sure I’m doing the right things moving forward.
Working with Brie has made a huge difference for me, and I wish more people could have access to it! I hope my story helps to spread the word.
Do You Need Help, Too?
Jane had amazing success – she cleared multiple gut parasites, fixed her digestion, reversed interstitial cystitis, and was even able to reintroduce foods she hadn’t eaten in years.
Why was she so successful? Because she dedicated herself to working through the process of Functional Medicine. She didn’t give up even when it got complicated – and neither did I!
I hope reading Jane’s story has helped you understand better understand the process of working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner like me.
If you’re inspired and ready to start your own journey, you can book a free, no-obligation Prospective Patient Interview with my team. During this 20-minute appointment, we’ll learn about you and discover if you’re a good fit for working with us.