Taking a Holistic Approach
Fiona has lived with gastrointestinal issues since she was a teenager. At just 16 years of age she was under the care of a gastroenterologist for severe indigestion, heartburn, and inflammatory bowel disease. In the years that followed, Fiona was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hernias and, in 2017, eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).
Fiona was raised on a “typically western” diet that included lots of bread, pasta, wheat, and dairy; however, about a year before her son was born, she began to react differently to many of these foods. At first, she thought it was an intolerance to wheat and lactose. Fiona started cutting out wheat and looked for lactose-free options to dairy, but her symptoms persisted and increasingly food was becoming stuck in her throat.
Fiona’s worsening symptoms coincided with a move to a new house, which they later discovered had a mold problem. Fiona felt certain that both environmental factors and food played a part in her growing symptoms.
“I found living in a house with mold impacted my energy, digestion, and gut health. My health was already compromised with a leaky gut, then by throwing myself into an environment with mold, I had a domino effect of symptoms.”
As Fiona’s symptoms intensified, she went back and forth to her gastroenterologist looking for answers. She described having “a tight throat” and repeated incidences of food becoming lodged. Increasingly frustrated with the lack of answers from her doctor, Fiona realized she needed to take things into her own hands.
“I remember sitting on a couch one night with my husband… sobbing and saying, ‘this is my life now, I can’t eat, I’m utterly fatigued. I don’t know what to do!’”
Taking Control of EoE and Discovering a New Direction
Using her well-honed research skills, Fiona began an elimination diet starting with two food types —gluten and dairy. Fiona saw an immediate and significant difference. She rethought her health management and relationship with food, proving to be a real turning point in her condition.
After taking reflux medication for 20 years, Fiona began to see if she could gain more control by focusing on managing and educating herself on dietary solutions and environmental factors.
Also, Fiona saw positive effects from switching to natural alternatives for household and skin cleaning products.
Since making these changes, Fiona is no longer reliant on medication and currently manages her EoE and bowel condition through diet and environment control alone.
Fiona scoured the internet for support groups to better understand EoE and its effects, discovering Facebook to be a great way to connect with others. This was an important step for Fiona because it allowed her to find “people like me” with real lived experience she could learn from.
“We bounce off each other… I’ve been really lucky that I’ve met amazing people and formed lasting friendships … that’s the beauty of social media.”
Fiona found an approach that works for her and continues to devote herself to this practice. She has undertaken nutritional studies and now offers health coaching to support others, where she helps others gain knowledge and skills about their diet and lifestyle. Through her Facebook page and Instagram blog, “Me, My Gut, and I”, Fiona helps others solve the missing pieces of their health puzzle. This teaches them to take back control as she has done.
Looking to the future, Fiona would like to see increased and targeted education aimed at medical professionals on the important role food and nutrition play in gut health. Her hope is to see individuals feel empowered and supported, enabling them to make healthy, informed choices around their diet and the environment to help them manage EoE and other gastro diseases.