Still unsure how the gut-brain axis relates to real-world issues?
After reading this courageous account of perseverance, I think you’ll understand much deeper how other people experience gut-brain symptoms. Also, there’s an unexpected benefit of reading a true account of health struggle and success.
As you read and relate to Eric, you’ll learn to do so more with your own body. The deep caring and curiosity you have for another will unlock things in your own journey. That’s why sharing stories and listening to them is so powerful.
Eric is removing the mask today.
And it’s going to feel so good.
Many of his closest people to him have no idea what he’s been through. And now hopefully, through this detailed and amazing revelation, they’ll connect with him better, understand him better and even be motivated to change their health.
Whether you have anxiety, histamine intolerance, hypoglycemia or have seen less than stellar results on a FODMAPs diet, low-histamine diet or others…
This piece might give you a new insight about the downward spiral of disease… as well as the upward spiral of health.
My Story Is a Bit Different Than Most Stories on This Site…
Because my major troubles were mental and with only a few physical symptoms. I did have occasional constipation, diarrhea and hemorrhoids but for the most part I had normal bowel movements one to two times a day. My struggles were with anxiety attacks and terrible insomnia. I’ve had anxiety attacks and insomnia since I was 16 that would come and go for months at a time. When they returned this past year (for the first time in a three years), I was determined to find out the cause and get rid of them for good.
My anxiety attacks usually happened around times of great emotional stress. However, this past year I experienced crippling anxiety attacks and insomnia that had no significant emotional stress attached. It was also the first time I made a connection with food as a cause. Over the past year, I had developed chronic bleeding hemorrhoids. In an attempt to alter my diet to try to fix my hemorrhoid problems, I added white rice to my diet, which I had been avoiding for the last 2 years.
Within the first two weeks, I developed terrible anxiety attacks after visiting my wife’s family for a family reunion. I’m a very introverted person and spending large amounts of time with large crowds is difficult. After three hours of socializing, I had a surge of panic as we were getting ready to leave.
I Was Sure I Was Going to Pass Out
We hurried and said our goodbyes and left. I was devastated that after nearly three years with no panic attacks they had returned. (At the time, I didn’t know that I would spend nearly all of the next year refusing to socialize and spend all my time indoors with my wife, or alone.)
I spent any free time I had researching the internet trying to find a reason for my anxiety attacks returning and how to stop them. Since I felt the attacks started after adding rice to my diet, I started there.
About 10 years earlier, I had been diagnosed with hypoglycemia (severe increases and decreases in blood sugar) after seeing a doctor for my panic attacks (though I was never given a proper blood test to check for hypoglycemia, my doctor made the diagnoses on symptoms alone). I tried to eat a low-carb diet to stop the effects of hypoglycemia. I didn’t last on the diet at that time because no matter how much I dieted low-carb and low-sugar I never saw any improvement.
However, I decided I would stick to a strict, low-carb diet and beat this hypoglycemia, once and for all. But after two weeks, my anxiety was worse and I was now developing insomnia – sleeping only 3 hours a night. Other terrible symptoms occurred such as low blood pressure, which caused dizziness and awful vertigo. The vertigo made it nearly impossible to go for a walk to the store without feeling like I was going to pass out or lose balance and fall over.
My Wife and I Decided it Was Time to See a Doctor
I saw my wife’s doctor as I was new to the area and they did several blood tests and found nothing. The doctor told me that all their tests came back normal and there was nothing wrong with me. He continued to tell me that the symptoms were in my head and asked if I had a history of anxiety. I was frustrated and humiliated but still focused on figuring out what was wrong with me, with or without the doctor’s help. He asked if I wanted anti-anxiety medication… which I refused.
My symptoms continued to get worse and I was losing a lot of weight from being afraid to eat anything but low carb. I wasn’t sleeping and my anxiety and vertigo were out of control. It was also nearly impossible for me to socialize with many of my friends and family.
Luckily, I work from home and was able to keep my work unaffected. However, work was the only thing that was not affected and I was very fearful the damaging effects my anxiety would have on my marriage and relationships. I spent every waking minute outside of work and time with my wife reading and researching diet and anxiety.
One big breakthrough was when I ate a hard-boiled egg before bed and experienced terrible insomnia and other symptoms such as hives, frequent urination and joint pain. One of the things my doctor told me to eat when I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia was to eat eggs for protein. However, I remembered the severe reaction I had after eating them 20 years before (terrible insomnia, anxiety and frequent urination). Having made this connection, I researched eggs and insomnia online and luckily found some answers on Dr. Judy Tsafrir’s blog on histamine intolerance.
Histamine Intolerance: A Phrase I Had Never Heard Before…
But one that would come to drastically improve my life. I read that the body needs histamine but can only handle a certain amount. If the body takes on too much histamine (specifically through food), it cannot break down/digest histamine properly and you can develop severe symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety attacks, rash, vertigo, low blood pressure and frequent urination. I had experienced nearly every symptom on the list over the past year (and off and on for most of my life).
So I made another drastic change to my diet and started eating fresh, low-histamine foods as well as a low-carb hypoglycemic diet (a wonderful list of histamine foods and levels list can be found here. Though my diet was very limited and I was still losing weight (I was down to 165 lbs at 6’5 tall which was becoming dangerously low), I was having a major breakthrough. I was now sleeping nearly every night. I was also experiencing less anxiety and able to leave the house more often, though I was still unclear on how histamine intolerance started for me and why it seemed to come and go.
While I was excited about my new path, I continued to struggle with my chronic hemorrhoids and was now experiencing heavy gas. Through my searches online and reading, I discovered the FODMAPs diet and started to follow a list of foods for that while staying low histamine. I had pretty dramatic improvements and had less hemorrhoid flare ups and almost no gas. I was thrilled and moved away from a hypoglycemic diet that didn’t do anything for my symptoms (and I’m fairly convinced I never had hypoglycemia but did have severe histamine intolerance and was misdiagnosed).
I was making great progress and became more confident in the foods I could eat. Since sugar and grains (and milk on the histamine food list) were okay on both histamine and FODMAPs food lists, I decided it was safe for me to introduce these things back into my diet. With my insomnia mostly gone, my anxiety improved, blood pressure normalized and vertigo was disappearing, I thought I had found my cure. However, this was only the start to more problems.
We Had Pizza, Homemade Chocolate and Ice Cream (For My Birthday)
I felt I had been starving myself and now I was celebrating not only my birthday but my new found health. Adding all this sugar and lactose into my diet instantly caused major problems. Two days after this meal, I experienced the worst constipation of my life.
I had the tremendous urge to go while being completely inflamed and unable to pass my bowel. I struggled for nearly 20 mins before I thought I needed to go to the hospital. Eventually, I was able to pass the movement but not without major pain and what felt like tearing in my stomach and right side.
The following day my, wife made an appointment for me to see a gastroenterologist. After being inspected, I was told that I had an anal fissure and given suppositories to use in the evening and morning. A day or two later, I developed what I felt was a bladder or prostate infection. The doctor gave me a prescription for Cipro.
Almost instantly, the Cipro gave me terrible side effects. The first day I took it, I had a terrible swelling feeling and pain in my right side. I thought the pain was from the infection and never thought it was a symptom of Cipro.
I stayed on Cipro for a week; the prostate pain was gone but now I was having terrible pain in my right side. I stopped the Cipro and thought the effects would go away on their own. But over the next few weeks the pain got worse and I developed terrible new symptoms.
Once a Week, I Had Watery Diarrhea…
Mostly after eating fruit. The pain in my right side was so bad I had to sleep on my left side and I was developing nausea. Nearly every week, the pain, diarrhea and nausea got worse.
I went to see a different doctor who took stool samples to test for C. difficile or other bacterial infections, blood tests and a CAT scan. All his tests came back normal and they never found anything abnormal in the CAT scan. He never gave me any advice on diet, no medication, but instead suggested I see the gastroenterologist again. I was very frustrated.
The pain in my side seemed urgent, I had diarrhea 5 to 6 times a day and couldn’t go anywhere without a trash can nearby, for fear I would throw up. Even with all the mental trouble I experienced, nothing compared to not being able to get a minute’s relief from all my physical symptoms.
I was truly in hell.
I made an appointment with the gastroenterologist who ordered new blood tests and scheduled me for a colonoscopy and endoscopy. Again, all his blood work came back normal and the colonoscopy was two weeks away. I was terrified my symptoms would rapidly get out of control and I seriously wondered if I would make it to the colonoscopy without having to go to the hospital first.
As with the other doctor, I was never given a diet to eat, medication to take or any advice on what I should do. The only thing the doctor mentioned was that I may have Colitis or Crohn’s, so I spent the next two weeks searching online again. And while I was on a forum someone suggested that I could maybe have SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) caused by the antibiotics.
The first information I found on SIBO was on Dr. Allison Siebecker’s site. I also came to learn about the great SCD Lifestyle website (Jordan Reasoner and Steve Wright) and listened to Podcast #25 with Dr. Siebecker and Jordan called How to Tell if You Have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and What to Do About It. Both sites also underlined the importance of finding and reading Elaine Gottschall’s book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, on the SCD diet.
I Read and Listened to As Much About SCD and SIBO As Possible
I felt that the Cipro must have given me some kind of infection by wiping out my already weak gut health. I started taking Dr. Siebecker’s herbal antibiotic treatment with garlic, oregano oil and Oregon grape supplements three times a day.
I was very frustrated that every doctor that I had visited failed to mention any type of diet or herbal supplement. Most of the contact with my gastroenterologist was through a nurse (who wasn’t able to give me any answers). However, with Dr. Siebecker’s SIBO herbal treatment, my bowels had returned to semi-normal, my pain was greatly reduced and my nausea was reduced all within 48 hours.
I also started a strict SCD diet with no milk, grain, or sugar – with recipes from Elaine’s book and Jordan and Steve’s website.
Eventually, I had my colonoscopy and endoscopy and all that was found was a small inflammation in my cecum at the start of my small intestines. The biopsy came back normal and I was told I simply had a flare up of IBS and that no other appointments were needed. Again, I was never told about supplements, or why the supplements I took were working or even what diet I should be eating. With nothing else to go on, I stuck with the SCD diet and the herbal treatment for one month and then one month of all three supplements once a day.
I’ve Made a Huge Amount of Recovery…
After just three months on the SCD diet and herbal supplements. I have mild to no pain in my side, rare cases of diarrhea and minimal trouble with constipation and hemorrhoids. I put back nearly all the healthy weight that I lost (and a little more with a variation I made with the AMAZING SCD ice cream recipe from Steve and Jordan’s blog. I no longer take any supplements and my insomnia, anxiety attacks, blood pressure and vertigo are gone.
This past weekend, my wife and I made the 5-hour trip to NY for a four-day wedding celebration with nearly 100 of her family members. I spent the day of the wedding – nearly all 8 hours – on my own since my wife was in the wedding party and I never had one hesitation of a panic attack. This would have never been possible a year before – when I struggled to be driven 20 mins down the road to see a small group of family for an hour. It was that difficult for me to leave the house. Now, I’m taking 5-hour road trips.
SCD Fixes Histamine Intolerance?
I have a theory on why the SCD diet worked for me. I believe that my previous diet that was high in sugar, milk and grains caused a severe gut bacteria imbalance. Without proper gut health and balance, I was unable to break down the histamine that was building up to dangerous levels in my body. Once the histamine levels were out of control, I started experiencing horrible symptoms of histamine intolerance, such as sudden severe drops in blood pressure that gave me terrible insomnia, vertigo and panic attacks.
During my many hours of research online, I came across this amazing podcast conversation with Dr. Janice Joneja and the “Low Histamine Chef,” Yasmina Ykelenstam, that gives so much insight into what I was going through. (This is a must-listen for anyone going through the symptoms that I had.)
“Histamine has many functions in the body. One of the functions it performs is that it is a vasodilator, which means it widens blood vessels. With the widening of the blood vessel, what happens then is that there is less resistance to the heart pumping blood through the body – it’s like widening a hose and you get less resistance to the water as it’s pumped through, so the heart speeds up in order to get the same volume of blood through these widened channels. So you get a tachycardia, but first of all you get a drop in blood pressure, so that’s first in the histamine response, a drop in blood pressure, increase in heart rate, and then as the blood courses through the body, you get flushing and a rise in body heat and so on and so forth, reddening, and, of course, this triggers that panic attack feeling in a person and I’ve had people go to the emergency room thinking they are having an anaphylactic reaction, thinking they’re having a heart attack – all sorts of things. And actually, it’s excess histamine because of the widening of the blood vessels and the increase in the heart rate – and on a low histamine diet, the panic attacks have gone away.” ~Dr. Janice Joneja
I’ve Been Able to Eat Much Higher Levels of Histamine
With the SCD diet, I’ve also been able to eat much higher levels of histamine with little trouble and my tolerance for histamine gets better and better every day. My custom SCD diet has streamlined my digestion and gut health so much that my body has transformed into a histamine burning machine.
I hope my story can be shared and it will give others the piece of information they need to make a change. With a huge amount of the US population on anti-anxiety/depression medication and antibiotics, I wonder how many of them are simply struggling from a histamine intolerance caused by an imbalance of healthy gut flora? How many lives can be helped by simply switching to the SCD diet and making overall digestion on the body easier? I may not be able to get back the past 20 years of my life, lost to pain and suffering, but if I can help even one other person save years of struggle in their life then it will be just as good!
My Life Has Positively and Dramatically Changed…
Because a special group of people took the time to help others around them: my amazing wife Kristina, who gave me her constant love, support and patience; Dr. Allison Siebecker, who took the time to create an amazing herbal antibiotic for treating gut infection; Elaine Gottschall and her amazing SCD diet and book Breaking the Vicious Cycle; Dr. Janice Joneja and the “Low Histamine Chef” Yasmina Ykelenstam, for an incredibly helpful explanation of the damaging effects of histamine intolerance.
Most of all, I’d like to thank everyone at SCD Lifestyle for their informative podcasts, amazing free recipes (SCD ice cream literally saved my life!), other personal success stories. Through all of this and their incredibly supportive emails and blog replies, I’ve been able to gain much needed hope in my long, difficult journey.
I’m so grateful to be living normally and confident again, thank you!
Thanks Eric for going there, for revealing so much, for helping us.
And now you, the reader, it’s your turn. Cheer Eric on in the comments below – let him know what insights you had or thoughts this turned up for you.