04 April 2007

The Good Doctor

Yesterday I had my first visit with the naturopath. I had many hopes for this visit: that I would be heard, that I would be taken seriously, and that I would be offered at least the hope of healing from my condition. I dared myself to believe that I could go beyond mere pain management and find my way back to good health again. As the time for the visit drew nearer, I feared that once again my hopes might be a tad too high.

Dr. Wessels' office is in a big house in the historical district of town, a good distance away from the hospital and the rows of whitewashed doctor's offices. The door creaks, as do the dark hardwood floors. There is a vase of flowers and a bowl of red grapes at the office manager's desk when I walk in. I smell several herbs in the air, their scents muddled. I already feel better about this visit than all the others, and I haven't even seen the doctor yet.

It took little time after finishing the paperwork before I saw the doctor himself (there is no nurse to act as an intermediary). He is a tall, lean man about my dad's age, with black rimmed glasses and a small patch of facial hair below his bottom lip. His office is more of a cozy study; open journals and notebooks are spread on his wooden desk, curtains adorn the window, and volumes of books (not all health-related) line the bookshelves in the room. He invites me to pull up a cozy blue chair, as if I had been invited into his living room. He sits across from me and we simply begin to talk. I can feel the sun come in through the blinds and warm my cheek.

I tell him all that brought me in: my history of stomach issues, the pain of the last year, losing sixteen pounds (he is the first doctor I have seen who finds this even remotely alarming), and the frustration resulting from my most recent experience with the gastroenterologist. I told him about the several useless prescriptions tossed my way, and he chuckled about the most recent: an anti-depressant for stomach pain? Because if a young woman's stomach hurts, she must be depressed, he chuckles (finally, someone with a sense of humor. No one else I've seen has allowed an inch for humor). I tell him about the results of the endoscopy: the hernia and gastric mucosal atrophy, but later being told everything looks "perfectly normal & healthy" and promptly being sent on my way. He asks about other health items not directly relating to my stomach, such as concerns about my poor blood circulation. As we talk, he scribbles down notes, filling a whole page during our twenty-minute conversation.

It is only after this time that I am directed to the examining area. There is a small examination bed behind a folding partition. He checks my breathing, my blood pressure, and palpitates my belly.

We sit back down in our chairs and the discussion continues. He advises me that it is not the hernia that is causing me trouble; the hernia would likely only be an issue if I were obese and over 50 years old. He assures me that this kind of pain and weight loss is neither normal nor healthy in someone of my age and overall good health. He is concerned about the gastric mucosal atrophy; this is the primary cause of my discomfort. The atrophy tells me, he says, that your stomach lining has been severely damaged due to the mucous lining being chronically inflamed and it needs to be repaired (I am so glad he agrees!!).

He gives me an Intestinal Repair Complex that is comprised of herbs, amino acids, and enzymes that are specifically designed to restore a healthy mucosal lining. Unlike previous prescriptions that were only masking symptoms, this formula is specifically designed to promote healing and provide for factors essential to a healthy gastrointestinal tract.

I am also going to have extensive bloodwork done that will measure organ function, nutrient levels, and the levels of just about everything else that can be measured in a person's blood (the office manager advises me the report that comes back is 8-10 pages long). It is a fasting test, so I have to go in after having abstained from any food for 12 hours.

Additionally, as of Monday, I am on a 3-week Modified Elimination Diet. He tells me, I won't lie to you. Being on this diet stinks! "No" is the operative word in this diet, applying to the following: gluten, all sugars, caffeine, alcohol, red meat & pork, dairy, eggs, citrus fruits & strawberries, peanut products, or any foods containing any amounts of the items listed above (this covers more foods than I could possibly list; you should check out the link, just for kicks & giggles). Abstaining from these foods for this period of time will cleanse my body. Once these foods are reintroduced, we will learn if any of these foods are contributing to the damage done to the lining of my stomach. Some of these things are not going to be missed. With others, it will be difficult. Even the Gardenburger patties I love have gluten in them!

I will go back on April 30 to go over the results of the bloodwork and at that point, foods will slowly be reintroduced back into my diet.

My feelings following this appointment are completely the opposite of those I had following the appointment with the specialist just last week. For the first time since all this started, I feel like I am being heard and taken seriously. Instead of trying to numb me to the pain caused by having a damaged stomach lining, I am being given a supplement that will assist in its healing and restoration. For the first time, dietary factors are being addressed to see if any of these foods are contributing to the damage (because what is the use in healing the damage if you don't know what causes it in the first place?). Additionally, the bloodwork will give him a good view of my overall health and will possibly reveal other contributing factors to my condition.

In nearly a year of being in and out of doctor's offices, he is the first one to order any kind of bloodwork or to address the possibility that something in my diet could be causing the damage. It occurred to me yesterday how wildly experimental all that modern medicine was, giving me medicine after medicine for an unknown condition. I was offered pain relief; not a single doctor I saw attempted to pin down the source of all the trouble. My only regret is I didn't go to the naturopath any sooner! For once I feel hopeful, empowered, and like my future maybe, just maybe, will be one where I have a healthy and normally functioning digestive tract.

I am thankful to have the godly people in my life who encouraged me to pursue this alternate course of treatment. I want to thank those of you who have been slogging through all these posts for caring and for the prayers offered up on my behalf. Some of you have never even met me and yet, you pray for this wordy, ranting, curly-haired stranger from a far-off corner of the country. I cannot adequately express how humbled, encouraged, and loved I feel. The Body of Christ is at work, even through a blog. Amazing.

No one but God knows what the outcome of all this will be, but I have faith that the Lord will ultimately use this for good, as He often does with the things in our lives that we find unbearable while in the midst of them. Our God is great indeed.

Many thanks and many blessings.


  1. It is so amazing what can happen when one actually uses one's ears. I am so glad someone who can help is listening to you. I am hopeful that Dr. Wessels will get you back to feeling good.

    I checked out the link for the Modified Elimination Diet. I was getting rather depressed, wondering what in the world you could eat. Then I got to the chart at the bottom of the page that lists the allowed foods as well as the foods to avoid. There's a lot of good stuff in the allowed column. However, I am wondering, will we soon be reading "non-citrus herbal tea & rainy days"?

  2. Yeay, Kirsten! I'm so happy to hear your report!

  3. kirsten-- this post made even me feel wonderful and hopeful. your description of your visit to dr. wessel was such a far cry from regular doctor's visits. i DO hope and pray that you will find the answers and healing you need through this route. good luck and strength to you!

  4. Kirsten, what an encouraging post! I am so happy that you have finally found a doctor who is interested in ALL of you and seems to really care about restoring you to health, not just covering up the problem. I have had several friends who have had to do the elimination diet. One lady I know had severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and was nearly bedridden, but after going through the diet, she has identified several irritant foods and is now in surprisingly good healthy. The RA isn't gone (that sort of disease doesn't just go away) but she has learned how to help her body fight against it.

    I will continue to pray for you! Thanks for keeping us updated.

  5. Thanks, everyone!! This doctor's visit was SUCH a far cry from the others, I couldn't believe it - the treatment I received seemed almost too good to be true.

    And yes, Christin - I think I may need to change the name of my blog! I've cut way back on the lattes already (no more than 1 per wk), but some of the other foods I'm worried about. Even in natural/health food sections of the store, many of the gluten-free foods have "forbidden" ingredients in them (some kind of sugar, strawberries, citric acid, etc.). But - I am far from the first person to be put on this diet, so I know I will learn quickly how to feed myself. It's just a matter of changing my routine. :o)

    Jess - thanks for stopping by! It's great finally to feel like we're making progress here ...

    BMM - Thank you so much for your well-wishes! I cannot tell you how much encouragement it gives me.

  6. Thanks, Rebecca! You snuck in your comment there right before mine. :o)

    Even the office manager was telling me how amazing it is what you learn when foods start getting reintroduced. I am very hopeful that this process (and the blood test) will help pin down exactly what is going on.

  7. I, too, am sooooo encouraged by thi news -- congratulations! It made my heart so light and happy and full of hope for you as I read these words. It has been a joy to "walk" this path with you, if even through encouragement and prayer.

    By the way, I love love love your description of this doctor's office, from the bowl full of grapes to the bookshelves lined with not-just-doctor-type-books. Great description work here.

    I had to read the section about bloodwork and diet out loud to Kirk. I cannot believe no traditional doctor did bloodwork! Nor that they didn't ask after diet issues, especially after seeing so many doctors.

    I was with Christin in wondering what in the heck kind of foods you CAN eat. (I'm lazy and didn't check out the link, since I'm short on time tonight.) But you're right -- so many of the foods we consume have so many chemicals and not-real-foods in them. Like I shared before, I've been working on a number of health books at work these past few months, and I sometimes get discouraged by how pared down a diet I will really need to keep in order to be truly healthy and in good form. It's all about getting back to the Garden, at some level, I guess, though I was surprised to read you can't even eat some fruits and veggies.

    My esteem goes out to you for taking your health as seriously as you do and being willing to embark on this new path. It will take a lot of will power at times, I'm sure, but it seems the effort is worth the reward.

    And now I will end my very long comment here. :)

  8. Kirsten, what solace.... even though you are still in some ways at the beginning of the road.

    I would be happy to talk food with you, should you want recommendations, recipes, whatever. If you want, take a look at my 30-day Meal Plan on Green Inventions. Some of it will be off limits, but much will probably work, even if it means a little modification. Feel free to ask anything, okay?

  9. In fact, I just went and looked at the food list. You have a world of options before you... don't worry!

  10. Laura, can I just tell you how AWESOME you are?! You're all about resourcing people, directing them to the things they need. Such a blessing.

  11. I was just about to say the same thing!! :o) Yes, thank you Laura for your encouragement & offer to assist me with this!

    When I was told about going on this diet, I was remembering all the recipes I saw on Green Inventions, so I knew I'd have to check out the recipes there. I am a total novice when it comes to cooking with tofu, so I may be positing the odd question here & there over the next month or so. And I will most definitely be referencing the Green Inventions blog.

    I do eat fish, so that will be some help, but I knew I needed to find some other sources of protein since I must be Gardenburger-free on the diet. I look forward to being creative & inventive with my cooking.

    I think my greatest apprehension is with breakfast. I've got Cream of Rice cereal & can get creative with that, but I'm hoping to find some variety with that meal also. Any ideas or suggestions are welcome!

    What an adventure this will be!

  12. Two of my favorite foods are on the allowed list. A baked sweet potato needs nothing on it. It is delicious just as it is. Also, asparagus roasted in the oven with olive oil is oh so yummy. We never have leftovers of it. If there is any on the plate as we clear the table, my sis-in-law and I finish it off. In fact, many veggies roasted in the oven with a little olive oil are scrumptious - sweet potato, carrot, squash, whatever you can think of. Ooh, my mouth waters just thinking about it. I love veggies!

    Oh, I updated Adam on your continuing saga. He ranted a little about the ridiculousness of doctors. He is happy that you have found someone who is actually being helpful and getting to the source of the problem.

  13. Christin - you are indeed a woman after my own heart!! :o) I too am huge fan a oven-roasted veggies & consume them on a very regular basis (including baked sweet potato - you are right, it doesn't need anything)!! Asparagus is one of my favorites too (with olive oil, balsamic, & salt). My very favorite dish that my Mom fixes is oven-roasted veggies with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, & herbs. Completely delicious! Ooh, my mouth is watering already ...

    I am mostly in need of creative ideas for breakfast. Sadly, the internet is lax in this very specific area. I usually have oatmeal or Kashi & I know that is the food I will miss the very most. I bought some Cream of Rice cereal, but it doesn't look too appetizing. :o) I expect I'll figure that part out as I go along, like other Modified Elimination Dieters have before me!

  14. Oh my. The doctor gave you an anti-depressant for stomach pain? I am so shocked I can barely read the rest of your blog. Insane is an understatement.

    Perhaps the health insurance companies would like to know, and care for their pocketbooks if nothing else, just how much was wasted on all of your doctor visits, tests, and drugs that did not help but rather delayed treating the problem.

    I can tell you that this is more the norm than an anomaly. Depression is a default diagnosis for everything. It's lunacy. There is something really wrong with medical practice and training these days. There is something missing from their hearts. There needs to be a transformation.

    Anyway, I blogsurfed over here from bluemountainmama's site since the topic interested me, and I think I'll be back. Your blog looks really interesting.

    I hope the naturopathic doctor cured your problem. I'll go back to reading now and find out!