My gut history (IBS, SIBO + more!) - Part I

It’s funny - my health and wellness journey began with my own gut issues, but over the last year or so I stopped sharing as much about digestive health, and focused more on general wellness, mindfulness and even have started coaching more around living a fulfilling life (ie career and life coaching).

It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking and teaching on gut health - I do! But I think on a subconscious level as my own symptoms started to come back and worsen, I began to become less confident in my ability to coach around something I clearly hadn’t figured out for myself.

Recently I started sharing more of my own journey (including the foods and healing modalities I’m trying along the way) and the response has been incredible. I get messages on Instagram every day from individuals saying how grateful they are for the recipes and tips I’ve been sharing, as well as words of encouragement.


Lesson for all my coaches READING THIS POST: You don’t have to have mastered, healed or fixed all of your own stuff before you can be of service to others.

The more I shared, the more questions came my way about my history and symptoms, what I’ve tried in the past, what’s worked and what hasn’t. I also had a lovely reader ask (via the community survey I sent out earlier this month!) that I put all my gut healing tips and recipes together in one place.

SO… I’m doing just that.

In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing all about my gut health history and journey thus far.

If there’s something you have a specific question on or would like to see covered in this series, please shoot me a message and I’ll do my best to address it here!

Today we’ll start with how it all began… when and how my digestive issues first came up, and the symptoms I’ve experienced along the way.

IBS SIBO history - Emily Nachazel.png

How it all started

I always say I’ve had digestive issues my entire adult life, which is true - I can pinpoint the day during my freshman year of college when my symptoms started. Some of you have heard the story, some of you haven’t so I will share it below but there are some other facts I want to bring into this post that may have a part to play in my digestive health history:

  • I was a super sensitive kid with picky taste. I was the one who always got her feelings hurt, who went home crying more often than the others. I also remember being a little picky about my food - not liking specific foods and eating my meals in a specific way (I didn’t want my food categories to touch and would eat one at a time).

  • In high school I contracted mono (yup, the kissing disease). This is also when I remember being more aware of my body and my weight. I had always been normal sized, not super skinny but average - then I lost a lot of weight running cross country as a freshman, and subsequently gained a bunch back when I was sidelined from sports because of mono.

  • High school (my sophomore year) is also when my friends and I started drinking alcohol. We drank anything we could get our hands on, often a combination of spirits siphoned from our parents’ liquor cabinets. This obviously continued into college where alcohol was WAY more available and a big part of undergrad life.

It was during my second semester of college that I had my first intense belly ache (which I’ve since coined l my “stomach attacks”). It had been a stressful semester, I was carrying a full course load and had joined a sorority, so I was partying more than usual. My motto was “work hard, play hard” - I definitely didn’t drink and go out as much as some of my friends, but still it was A LOT. I was also running and working out more. I had gained some weight my first semester (beer and unlimited ice cream at the cafeteria will do that to you) and wanted to lose it.

My mom was visiting and we went to the downtown mall for lunch (I went to college in Charlottesville and this was an outdoor mall with lots of cute shops and nice restaurants, a quick drive or bus ride off campus). We stopped into a deli and I ordered an egg salad sandwich - something a little strange for me as it’s nothing something I would usually get out (I was never a big fan of mayo). I ate it and then my mom dropped me back at my dorm to do a little work before we’d meet up again for dinner.

Back at my dorm I started to feel awful. I was having these intense pains in my stomach, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before - I curled up under my rainbow sheets on my XL twin bed and called my mom crying, not sure what was happening. It was so bad she almost took me to the hospital, but after a little time (and some Tums and Saltine crackers) the pain started to subside.

College = too much fun ;)

College = too much fun ;)

MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT GETTING HELP

I don’t remember having more of those intense belly aches throughout college, but I also chilled out a bit after freshman year. I do remember feeling like my stomach was sensitive, and I was particular about what I ate (healthy food, I cooked a lot even then!).

It wasn’t always easy for me to go to the bathroom (especially the more specific I got with my food and workout routine) and college is when I first experimented with using laxatives to help my body be more regular.

Fast forward to after graduation when I entered the “real world” as an auditor at a Big 4 Public Accounting Firm. I loved my job, but after my first year it became more and more stressful. Not necessarily because of the work, but because I was a high performer and I took on a lot, and didn’t always know how to ask for help when I was over committed.

I started running a LOT more consistently (ie every day). I got more and more healthy (and also more and more extreme) with my diet, eventually becoming vegetarian and then vegan. I swapped the laxatives for “more natural” fiber supplements.

But despite all I was doing for my body and for my health, I regularly felt bloated and constipated, and pretty soon my stomach attacks started coming back.

I finally decided to see a gastroenterologist at the urging of my mother. He did a routine examine and tested me for the major digestive distress culprits at the time: gluten and lactose intolerance, and I believe Celiac’s as well. Everything came out negative.

The gastroenterologist told me I had IBS (Irritable prescribed me anti-anxiety medication and sent me on my way.

I was 22 at the time. I didn’t think I was anxious (I was). I knew some people who were on anti-anxiety meds and I thought “That isn’t me.”

And it’s true - I’ve learned since then that my anxiety manifests more inwardly (literally IN my organs), versus the frenetic restlessness and lack of focus I saw in others. But at the time I refused to take the drugs and instead decided that I would get to the bottom of whatever was causing my pain on my own.

This interaction also left me with a bad taste in my mouth with Western medicine - it would be almost 10 years before I saw another doctor for my gut health symptoms again.

The more I had stomach issues, the healthier I tried to be. Yes I’m cutting the fat off chicken breasts here

The more I had stomach issues, the healthier I tried to be. Yes I’m cutting the fat off chicken breasts here

MY SYMPTOMS

Over the years, my symptoms have ranged, but here’s a summary of what I’ve experienced. I’m also defining some terms below so that you can start to asses if symptoms you’re experiencing are worth further exploration. For example, I’ve had clients that didn’t realize going to the bathroom only 1x every 3 days wasn’t normal until speaking with me, and after some shifts in their diet and routine they were able to have daily BMs (bowel movements!) and feel so much better.

  • Pain in abdominal area - As described above, these “stomach attacks” have been a recurring issue for me. Sometimes I’ll have them as often as every day, or every week, sometimes I’ll go weeks or months without having an issue. Usually it feels like sharp, pain on the left side of my abdomen, combined with a sour feeling in my insides and extreme bloating.

  • Bloating - Bloating is something I’ve dealt with regularly also. This is an interesting symptom to look at because it’s cause can be so many things from eating too quickly, to food intolerances to body image issues (yep, disordered body image can totally result in bloating, or thinking you’re bloated all the time). We’ll dive more into the why of bloating and specific tools to decrease bloat in another post, but for now I simply want to share that this is something I’ve experienced regularly for the last 10+ years. And it sucks because no matter what the rest of you feels like, when your belly is bloated you feel uncomfortable and unattractive.

  • Constipation - Constipation is defined as “a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels.” This can mean you go for days without a bowel movement, but you can also be constipated even if you’re pooping every day but you don’t feel like your bowels are fully emptying. Back in college and my earlier 20s, I experienced a lot of traditional constipation. I dealt with this by using laxatives, fiber supplements and drinking a lot of coffee, which helped in the short term but I believe this also contributed to my longer term issues. This is improved now, but there are still a lot of time where I go but it doesn’t feel complete.

  • Diarrhea - Diarrhea is loose, watery stools, and professionals will say you have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. I usually have a bout of loose stools before one of my stomach attacks.

  • Rashes - This has been the least frequent of my symptoms, but quite a few times I’ve broken out in strange, hives-like rashes on my back, neck and face. Often (but not always) the skin will reflect what’s going on inside our bodies so rashes, breakouts and acne can be a symptom of gut issues.

  • Chest and back pain - I’ve had my share of chest and back pain over the years, more recently it’s been mostly in my back on the lower left side. There are a few explanations for this pain: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), caused by stomach acid splashing up into the esophagus, can cause a burning sensation or a tightness under the sternum. In addition, gas occasionally produces intense pain that makes the entire abdomen feel full and tender. This pain can radiate to the back, causing back pain and bloating. Other GI issues can also cause muscle pain. This can happen after straining to have a bowel movement or repeatedly vomiting.

  • Weight loss, and weight gain - My weight has fluctuated quite a bit over the years. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been “normal” sized - not super skinny but not heavy by any means either. When I first started having digestive issues, I lost a lost of weight and got to a place where I was very, very thin. More recently I’ve gained quite a bit. Both sides of the scale don’t feel good, I’d love to be at a more balanced place with my physical weight and I know this will happen naturally when my gut is also balanced. Weight fluctuations can absolutely be linked to digestive issues for so many reasons - your appetite can increase or decrease depending on other symptoms. In addition, if your microbiome (the billions of bacteria that live in and on your body, especially in your digestive system) is out of whack, this can result in unhealthy weight gain and/or loss.

  • Anxiety, depression and disordered body image - Alright here’s where we go a little deeper, and where I share some things I haven’t shared very publicly before: over the years I’ve struggled with a disordered body image (especially with my belly), anxiety and depression. Our brains and our guts are intricately connected - there’s so much research being done proving that our guts are in fact our “second brains” and play a huge role in so much more than digestion. The state of our bellies impacts how we feel (energy and emotions) - we get butterflies in our stomach before going on stage or when chatting with someone we have a crush on, we know that sinking feeling in our bellies when we’re about to hear bad news, and it’s like our insides are tied in knots when we have a tough decision to make. On an energetic level, our guts are the center of our beings. It’s where our third chakra is located, and this is the chakra that connects to self confidence and our personal radiance (the third chakra is called manipura which translates to ‘bright jewel’). Sometimes physical digestive issues can be the result of emotional issues such as anxiety, depression and feeling meh in your body, and sometimes it’s the other way around. I’ll be sharing more about the energetic and emotional side of the gut and how I’m working to heal myself on that level, but for now I want you to know that these “symptoms” can in fact be linked back to the gut.

Note: I know you know this BUT I am NOT a doctor. On this blog I share my personal stories, and what has helped me and my clients over the years. If you think you have a serious condition - digestive, mental health, or otherwise - I encourage you to consult a trained professional. Please see my full disclaimer here.

Real life - me a few weeks ago, mega bloated before yoga.

Real life - me a few weeks ago, mega bloated before yoga.

WHAT TO DO

Whew! This post ended up being way longer than I expected, but I hope this provided you with some useful information about my history and symptoms.

Personally, it’s been helpful for me to hear others’ stories and symptoms as it 1) makes me feel less alone 2) dissipates some of the shame we feel around our bodies, especially with our bellies and bowel habits and 3) allows me to more clearly articulate what’s going on in my body. Like I shared about my client who wasn’t going to the bathroom, sometimes it takes hearing another’s story to realize what we’ve been experiencing is not normal, or there’s something we can do to improve our current situation.

In the next post in this series, I’ll be sharing more on what I’ve done over the years to manage my symptoms and get to the bottom of what’s going on with my gut.

Please feel free to message me your questions, or leave them below - as much as writing this series is to be therapeutic for me, I also want it to be interesting and useful for you!



Above all, whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re experiencing I want you to know you’re not alone and there IS HOPE. And even if there is no magic fix, no one diet or supplement that will wash away all of your digestive woes, you can and will feel better.

I believe in you. I believe in me. I believe in the power of our bodies and their desire to heal and function optimally. It may take time, and a lot of experimenting, but there is a better, brighter reality.

The best advice I received recently

Recently my gut has not been happy.

By recent I mean things haven't been quite right the past year, but the last few months I've been in a LOT more pain and discomfort. I tried to "fix" things myself - eliminating different foods, taking supplements, trying this and that healing diet, meditating more, doing more yoga - but nothing seemed to help. At all.

Which left me feeling frustrated, annoyed that I couldn't figure this out myself and honestly pretty angry at my body. Here I was eating so much healthier and being so much more careful with what I consumed than so many people, yet I was still in so much pain.

So I finally asked for help.

I went to see a GI and he's been sorta helpful. He ran some tests and suggested I give the low FODMAP diet a serious try, which I've been doing with some success.

But the best (and most surprising) advice I received around my current gut stuff came from Robyn.

We work together closely so she's seen me going through all of this.

 

 

After a particularly bad week I lamented TO HER:
"I'm tired of having to care about every little thing I eat. I'm tired of being more sensitive than everyone else. I just want to be normal."
Robyn's response?

"You ARE normal Emily.

There's just this one piece of you that needs a little extra care and attention right now."

 

She went on to suggest that I think of this piece of me (my gut!) like a baby and that I (the rest of me) needed to care for, protect and love this piece of me like a mother fiercely cares for, protects and loves her child.

This simple advice totally shifted my perspective.

First, I realized I was blowing things out of proportion.

Yes, my gut has been unhappy but my energy, my sleep, my skin, my mood and so much more have been good (for the most part). I'm not totally broken, there's just one piece of me that needs some extra support right now.

Second, it gave me a new way to look at my gut and how I needed to take care of it.

How does a mother treat a crying newborn baby? Well most often she tries to soothe the baby and would do anything in her power to find out what her baby needs to stop crying - out of fierce love, not just to quiet the cries (although I haven't been a parent and can guess that sometimes you do just want to quiet the cries...but that's not the point here).

 

 

Instead of being angry at my digestive system and avoiding certain foods as punishment, I'm looking at my gut like a little baby that I need to care for, love and protect like a mother would CARE FOR A SICK OR HURT child.

 

This shift has been profound for me.

Part of being an adult is learning to "grow up" - most of us are taught that we should get a job, pay our bills and be a law-abiding citizen, but there's more. Emotionally we must learn to take care of ourselves from a deep sense of self love. How (I assume) a mother or father feels for a new born baby. Unwavering, unapologetic, protective.

No matter how many loving parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, friends you have in your life, YOU must be your own best caretaker.

You must learn how to nurture, soothe and protect yourself, both physically and emotionally.

At 30 years old, even after a wonderful childhood and years of personal development, this is something I'm just learning. While there are still days where I feel frustrated with my gut for being bloated after one bite of gluten or having a stomachache so painful all I can do is curl up in a ball on my bed, I'm grateful for the piece of me for ultimately being my biggest teacher.

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Is there an area of your life or health that could use some unconditional love? A piece of you that maybe, like me and my gut, has been a point of prolonged pain, discomfort or chronic illness?

How can show that piece of you more care and love? Instead of judging, shaming and trying to fix yourself, how can you be your own best parent and nurture yourself?

<3 <3 <3

Instant Pot Bone Broth

Fact: bone broth is good for your gut (more on that in this post: Bone Broth 101).

Fact: store bought bone broth can be hella expensive.

Fact: making your own bone broth can be messy and time consuming.

Most important fact of this post: making your own bone broth in a pressure cooker is 1) easy 2) cheap and 3) doesn't make a huge mess or take a lot of time.

About a year ago I heard that you could make bone broth in an Instant Pot in under 3 hours. Previously, I had only made my own bone broth when I was at home at my parents with their massive Crock Pot and spacious kitchen. Needless to say I was intrigued about this Instant Pot.

 

 

What is an Instant Pot anyways?
Instant Pot is a multi-cooker that does the job of a slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, and warming pot.

I did my research and found not one but MANY sources confirming that yes, you could make bone broth easily in the Instant Pot and yes, it was just as nutritionally rich as traditionally made broth.

I was sold.

This is an Instant Pot!

This is an Instant Pot!

I bought my Instant Pot on Amazon Prime Day and eagerly awaited it's arrival. To be honest, it took me a few weeks to actually TRY this device (it can be a little intimidating!) but I finally did and was impressed. I had quarts of delicious bone broth ready in just a few hours, and the clean up was way easier than my experience making broth in a CrockPot.

And while I've since made a handful of other recipes in the Instant Pot (many of which I'll be sharing here soon!), this device was totally worth it even if all I do is make this one recipe.

Look at that golden broth deliciousness!

INSTANT POT CHICKEN BONE BROTH inspired by this recipe

This recipe changed my life, and I don't say that about every recipe. Bone broth is gut healing superfood and using the Instant Pot to make my own bone broth has made it less expensive and easier to incorporate this elixir into my life.

Makes 2-3 quarts.

Ingredients:

  • Bones from 1 3-4lb. chicken (I use the carcasses from 1-2 rotisserie chickens)
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium parsnip, chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, skin removed and roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Water
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Optional: Handful of fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme and/or parsley)

Directions:

  1. Place bones, vegetables, herbs, spices and apple cider vinegar into the pot of your Instant Pot. Add enough water to just cover everything.
  2. Place lid on Instant Pot and lock into place.
  3. Flip vent valve to ‘Sealing’.
  4. Select ‘Manual’ setting and adjust time to 120 minutes.
  5. When cooking is done, allow pressure to release naturally.
  6. Allow broth to cool and then strain into jars for storage.

 

 

Purchase your instant pot here: Instant pot on Amazon
If you already have an Instant Pot, I want to hear from you! What's your favorite recipe? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Bone Broth 101

This post is long overdue. I've been drinking (and posting about) bone broth for awhile now, and consider it a key part of my wellness routine. I would even go so far to say that bone broth is one of my favorite foods, or superfoods, actually - it really is that awesome.

I've personally seen the following benefits as a result of drinking bone broth:

  • Stronger and more healthy hair, skin and nails
  • Fewer gut issues (pain, indigestion, bloating, etc)
  • Better energy (especially when I sip bone broth instead of a caffeinated beverage)

In this blog post I'm going to cover the following:

  1. What is bone broth and how is it different from stock?
  2. Why should I drink bone broth?
  3. How can I easily include bone broth in my diet?

Plus, I'll share my favorite delivery bone broth services so that you can get yourself some broth no matter WHERE you are and what your cooking abilities are.

 

 

Let's dive in!

What is bone broth and how is it different from stock?

Bone broth is made from simmering bones (and marrow, skin, feet, tendons and ligaments) over a period of days. This slow cooking causes these normally non-digestible parts of the animal to break down and release amino acids and minerals that are super good for you.

Making broth was the way our ancestors (and even our grandmothers and mothers!) made use of every part of the animal. However, nowadays many broths and stocks (especially the ones you buy in cartons from the supermarket) are made much more quickly. As a result, the bones do not break down and thus the broth is not infused with all those beneficial amino acids and minerals.

Technically, there's a slight difference between broth, stock and bone broth:

  • Broth is typically made with meat and small amount of bones. It's simmered for a short period of time (45 minutes to 2 hours) and is light in flavor and thin in texture.
  • Stock is typically made with bones and a small amount of meat.  It's simmered for a bit longer than broth - about 3 to 4 hours - and is a good source of gelatin.
  • Bone broth is typically made with bone and a small amount of meat. It's simmered for a very long period of time (anywhere from 8 to over 24 hours) and is a great source of gelatin, minerals, and protein.

Why should I drink bone broth?

Besides being delicious, bone broth is a nutrition powerhouse.

  1. Bone broth helps heal the gut. The gelatin in bone broth helps restore the lining of the gut and the good bacteria (probiotics) that live in your gut. In addition, drinking bone broth can reduce food sensitivities (like wheat or dairy) and supports healthy inflammation levels in the digestive tract.
  2. Bone broth is anti-aging. The collagen in bone broth helps form elastin and other compounds within skin that are key for maintaining youthful skin tone and texture. Studies have also shown that increasing collagen can decrease the appearance of cellulite.
  3. Bone broth is immune-boosting. It's estimated that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut (yep!!), so when you heal the gut, you're also increasing your immune strength, which means you'll get sick way less. Despite having a busy schedule AND living in a crowded city, I didn't get sick once this year. I know that keeping my gut healthy with bone broth and other superfoods was key to this.

How can I easily include bone broth in my diet?

Here are a few easy ways to incorporate bone broth into your daily diet:

  • Drink a cup in the morning (in place of coffee, if you want!) or as an afternoon pick me up
  • Make my Bone Broth Breakfast Soup
  • Use as the base for any soup or stew
  • Swap for water when cooking grains
  • Add a splash to sauteing veggies for extra flavor

I've also heard that you can freeze bone broth in ice cube trays and then add to smoothies, but I haven't tried this... yet!

How to make your own bone broth:

Making bone broth isn't hard, but it does require some time and effort. If you're not ready to make your own broth - no worries! Broth shops are popping up all over the place (stay tuned for my guide to NYC's bone broth scene!) and you can usually find some sort of broth at your local health foods store. I've also included some of my favorite bone broth delivery services below so you can have the good stuff shipped directly to your doorstep!

There are two essentials you'll need to make your own broth:

  1. Quality bones
  2. A large pot with a fitted lid, Crockpot (or other slow cooker) or InstantPot

Where to get your bones: Your broth will only be as good as the bones you use, so you want to get quality bones! I've found bones at some health foods stores and some Whole Foods. You may also find them from your local butcher or farmer's market.

You can buy the bones directly (often the case for beef bones) OR you can use leftover bones from a whole roasted chicken or turkey (I did this after Thanksgiving last year and it worked great!).

Which pot should I use? It's really up to you. I've made bone broth in a slow cooker and am currently hunting down some bones to try it in my InstantPot. These two sure make the process easier, because you can "set it and forget it" for most of the process. If you choose to make it on the stove in a traditional pot, you'll want to plan accordingly so that you can be around for the time it needs to simmer.

In making my own bone broth, I've exclusively used the recipe from Go with Your Gut by Robyn Youkilis. There are plenty of recipes online, but this recipe is easy to follow and includes beef, chicken, fish and veggie options. The rest of the recipes in the book are pretty fabulous too, so it's worth ordering yourself a copy! Order Go with Your Gut on Amazon.

Me  checking out my homemade broth!

Me checking out my homemade broth!

Bone Broth Delivery Services:

  • BareBones - If you're looking for fun flavors and varieties, BareBones is your place. They have classic chicken, beef and turkey, as well as flavors like Tomato Spice and Rosemary Lemon. Currently their broth is shipped frozen, but I've heard that they will be switching over to shelf-stable broths soon. Order BareBones here.
  • BrothMasters - BrothMasters was started by a fellow Institute for Integrative Nutrition graduate and her mom! Their signature chicken bone broth is the most flavorful I've tried and is packd with organic onions, carrots, celery, garlic, lemon juice, parsley and bay leaves. Order BrothMasters here.
  • Kettle & Fire - Kettle and Fire was the first shelf stable broth (aka no fridge needed!) I discovered. They offer both beef and chicken variations that are delicious. Order Kettle + Fire Bone Broth here.
  • Thrive Market - I recently joined Thrive Market and was happy to see that they carry shelf stable bone broth. I was pleasantly surprised with the Thrive Market brand Beef Broth - it's rich in flavor and thicker (i.e. contains more of the gut healing gelatin) than many other shelf stable broths I've tried. Join Thrive Market here and receive 15% off your first order!
  • Amazon - YUP you can even order bone broth on Amazon! I've tried the Pacific Foods Organic Bone Broth - it's good and very affordable (I've also seen this at my local health foods store). If you don't have Amazon Prime already (fast, FREE shipping on all orders), use this link for a free trial membership: Try Amazon Prime for FREE Today!

Where can I get bone broth in NYC?

That's another whole post in itself ;) I'm actually putting together a guide, so make sure you're signed up for my newsletter list to be the first to know when this is available!  Sign up for my newsletter list here!

Additional reading:

And that's a wrap folks. I hope this post has clearly answered some of your bone broth FAQs and highlighted the awesome benefits of this superfood!

 

 

Got another question? Let me know in the comments below!
As always, I love hearing from you!