Hello, dear readers... I hope you've been well. I have exciting news for you! An update on my digestion! I'll spare you the unsavory details, but not long after my last post on the topic I learned was not cured. Far from it.
Thankfully I didn't learn this on the bus or while in a meeting at work. But the bug came back, and all sorts of foods sent me running to the loo to evacuate. It's been quite an adventure.
In search of answers, I saw a "doctor" at One Medical - an FNP, I believe - who promptly referred me to a naturopath. It was one of the faster buck passings I've seen - I gave it an 8.5. I'm all for natural remedies, but I was ready for big antibiotic guns to kill this thing. I've heard doctors can prescribe those. I must have been mistaken.
But, a good sport, I saw the naturopath. She seemed willing to consider that explosive diarrhea could be a sign of a pathogen, but to be sure, gave me a fecal collection kit so I could send stool samples to Genova Diagnostics. I even agreed to pay out-of-pocket for additional tests to ensure we'd get conclusive information so she would know exactly how to treat it. You know, in case it actually was some sort of pathogen that a doctor-type professional might be inclined to treat, and not just a sudden case of intolerance to all foods other than bananas, rice, applesauce and toast...
I left feeling hopeful, but nervous about collecting my poop in the type of paper trays that are also used to serve french fries. As if to convince me to follow through, my plain turkey sandwich lunch turned on me just as I got home. Thank goodness for chewable Pepto tablets.
After a few days to clear the probiotics, digestive enzymes and Pepto from my system, I did a three-day sampling, collected exactly according to the instructions, and sent my poop on a cross-country adventure to Answertown. Then the fun really began.
The naturopath said it would take at least two weeks, sometimes up to three, to get results back. At the two-week mark I asked the lab if results were ready. They were, but only available to my doctor. I wouldn't be able to access them myself for another ten days. How helpful! But no matter... I emailed the naturopath to let her know results were ready. I received an auto-reply that she was out on vacation for the next three weeks. Neat! She never bothered to mention that when I saw her. Or when I exchanged emails with her the week before.
So, I emailed my doctor to ask if she could be of any help. Didn't hear back. Called a few days later to find out if anydoctor might be able to help. Didn't hear back. One Medical claims that their doctors are so accessible. What a steaming pile of stool sample.
I emailed again, this time cc'ing every contact email address I could find on their website. Finally heard back from a few people - my primary physician who apologized but had no useful information, an admin who promised to follow up with customer service, and another a naturopath with the information I'd been waiting weeks for.
My labs came back "normal," except for an elevated protein that can indicate... wait for it... inflammation. No shit. And? Parasitic infection. She recommended I take some good quality probiotics and eat sauerkraut.
I don't remember what I paid for those initial office visits, but I wanted every cent back, plus a lot more for punitive damages. I should have sent her a Costco-sized jar of sauerkraut to thank her for her thorough doctoring.
After a few more cathartic emails wherein I fired None Medical, I went back to doing my own research. Convinced it was cyclosporiasis from news reports I'd seen about outbreaks all over the country this year and the similarity of symptoms I'd been dealing with for months, I Googled the shit out of that and other parasitic infections. Stumbled upon pages that talked a lot about food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) and got a recommendation from a friend for VSL3 probiotics.
We already had DE - I'd bought it last year when we had a relentless ant infestation - so I put some of that into a cute little air-tight jar, then started with an eighth of a teaspoon every day, shaken up in a bit of almond milk, then after a week stepped up to a quarter teaspoon, then after another week, a half teaspoon. When the probiotics arrived, I started on those.
The first day I definitely felt weird. Maybe it was a Herxheimer's reaction - headache, mild nausea & stomach cramping, fatigue - but not terrible. Second day was fine. After a few days, I felt... different... Hard to describe, but I just felt better. Not as lethargic. I still kept to a bland diet, just in case, and kept taking the DE and probiotics. After a few weeks, I had a big salad and had no problems whatsoever.
One could say my feeling better was merely a placebo effect, but that would have to be a pretty powerful placebo, to suddenly go from explosive shitting to fairly normal toileting. And I doubt it was just the probiotics, as I'd tried that before with limited success. Since I started taking DE, I've not had a single urgent evacuation - none.
In the last week, I've been eating whatever I want and have had no issues, and all bowel habits have returned to normal. It's only been seven weeks, so to be safe I'm going to continue this regimen for another month or so. A half teaspoon daily seems to be plenty - no need to take any more than what will do the job.
Since I thought I was cured before, I'm hesitant to say I'm truly cured, but everything appears to be back to normal, 100%. For the first time in over five months, I'm no longer afraid of food. What a wonderful feeling. And I didn't have to take crazy strong antibiotics or antiparasitics.
The fun isn't over yet, however, as now Genova Labs is trying to bill me over $2,000 for tests None Medical told me were covered by my insurance. Genova won't disclose any pricing information or insurance coverage information on their website - if you use their services, you won't have any idea what it might cost or whether or not it will be covered.
That, coupled with the fact that the lab results were useless, leads me to believe None Medical, Genova and Anthem Blue Cross are in collusion to sell unnecessary, expensive tests to desperate patients, telling them they're covered, then bill them astronomical amounts of money for general results that look like clip art combined with an expense report. Highly suspicious.
If anyone thinks Obama Care has resulted in improved access to care and reasonably-priced coverage, I have an extra poop collection tray you can put that idea in to send to Genova Labs.
Links to more info:
- This is the DE I use.
- More about the health benefits of DE.
- Treating parasites with DE.
- Great little movie about gut microbiome.
- Excellent book on the Gut - READ IT. It's well-written, funny and more informative than anything you'll find online (or get from your "doctor").
Good news - turns out Genova labs wasn't trying to get me to pay $2,000 for shitty poop analysis... Even though they sent me bills - invoices that clearly state "PLEASE PAY THIS AMOUNT" at the bottom - they were, in fact, not bills. Go figure!
This is part of their billing charade / accounting practices. A lovely lady called me and explained that they have to send out two bills, 21 days apart, and then they're done. They know they're not going to be paid - or they shouldn't be - who knows how many people have gone and sent them a check for something that is intended to be shown as a write off for Genova.
Also, even though I sent my first invoice back with a letter explaining all the reasons I would not pay it, then sent a second letter back with the next invoice, I never heard back from Genova until I filed a complaint with the BBB.
So, if you use Genova to examine your excrement and you know it's covered by your insurance, if you receive invoices just call them. It would seem that they don't know how to read.