“Phillip, the tests are back, we need to talk.”
This was the voicemail I received last November from Dr. Kyle Chavers, my new functional doctor. In the early fall of 2016, I underwent a torrent of tests with Dr. Chavers to determine what was going on in my body that may have caused my Achalasia.
Worldwide, the question of how people develop this disease has doctors vexed. There isn’t even a known genetic link. My doctors at Johns Hopkins and The Mayo Clinic threw up their hands and told me: “it is what it is.”
These doctors see hundreds of patients a week. The pressure is on to treat one patient and then move on to the next one. If you find yourself depending on them to do anything proactively, then you should probably adjust your expectations. I get it now and I’m not resentful about it — just smarter.
Once I understood this, I knew I had to do more work on my own. Interestingly enough, after hours and hours of research, I found a huge clue that rang right and true:
A recent study suggested Achalasia could be autoimmune related. That’s when I dove in head-first researching root causes to many autoimmune diseases. One common factor kept coming up — unhealthy gut issues due to diet.
But, I told Dr. Chavers our call would have to wait. It was November and Election Day was quickly approaching. I was crushed with TV appearances (where, of course, I predicted the wrong things) and client work (where our company proudly won 82 political races).
The week after the election, Dr. Chavers and I finally caught up to discuss the test results (over 40 different blood, urine and fecal tests were taken in September and October). Believe it or not, the test results may have been more surprising and fascinating than those of the 2016 election.
I had a severe dairy allergy and overall, an unhealthy gut. Not only had I eaten some form of dairy pretty much every day of my life, but I also really ate anything I wanted, anytime I wanted. I always felt blessed with an extremely fast metabolism. But the results totally made sense, given that I was constantly bloated and lethargic. And in addition to dealing with Achalsasia, I was diagnosed with eczema in early 2016. I wondered: could this be related to my gut issues too?
I thought about the research I had done, my Achalasia and eczema diagnoses, my test results and it hit me — this has to be autoimmune related. It is my diet that’s leading me down a dark road. At that point, I had a realization, but no plan.
Dr. Chavers suggested we immediately address a few issues to improve my situation. These included an immediate cease-and-desist of all dairy in my diet. That was a gut punch — pun intended — but I accepted it. He also put me on probiotics, prebiotics, and gut friendly nutrient supplements. I went from eating meat 2–3 meals per day, to just 4–5 meals per week. It felt drastic, but necessary.
Within two weeks of starting my new diet plan, I felt a dramatic improvement in my body.
It’s funny, I never realized how much some foods were afflicting me until I cut them out. (*It would take six more months until I fully realized how many unhealthy foods I continued to consume that appeared to be healthy. I will explain in-depth in future posts). After these dietary changes, my acid reflux improved to the point where I could afford to cut my daily acid-reflux medicine in half.
As 2016 came to a close, I felt like I had made a major improvement addressing my ulcer, gut issues, and the root cause of my disease. I was positively progressing, but I felt rudderless on an overall proactive strategy (other than improving my diet). I felt incomplete.
Little did I know that 2017 was about to change everything for me and I was unknowingly hopping on a rocket ship that was about to launch.