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  • Cheryl Ferris

My GI & Bowenwork Journey

Updated: May 21




Hi! I’m Cheryl.


For my very first blog, I would like to share why and how I found Bowenwork (a gentle, whole body, and holistic manual therapy) to help my GI issues. I was so excited that it helped me, I then decided to learn it so I can help others.



Let’s talk shit, literally.

💩


It’s a long story but will try to keep it as brief and helpful as possible. Please remember, it took me decades to get to where I am today, and even today is maintenance, not the finish line.


I’ve battled GI issues for most of my adult life and also struggled with low back pain and other musculoskeletal issues over the years. If you do not have GI issues, my goal is for you to perhaps have a greater understanding of what someone with GI issues goes through on a regular basis, perhaps daily for quite some time. And if you do have GI issues, I hope you find this helpful and amusing.


Here’s the overview:

  • Possible family history of unknown GI issues

  • Beer/alcohol = no bueno

  • Mostly morning diarrhea that lead to all day diarrhea and thankfully nothing that caused interrupted sleep; in the thick of it, the porcelain palace and I met over 10x a day

  • Nuts, skins of grapes, nightshades (peppers), etc. = wasted money down the drain, literally

  • Colonoscopies cleared out the contents/altered the microbiome and I had a reprieve of symptoms for a while

  • Low back pain

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

  • Mental health decline (80% of serotonin, the happy neurotransmitter, is in the gut)

  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, sluggish spleen

  • Gut noises all times of the day and night

  • Introduced to Bowenwork!

  • Got reprieve and recovery!!!!

  • Re-occurance of GI issues, but slightly different

  • Th1 dominant immune system - if not in maintenance, it can lead to autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes, Hoshimoto’s disease (thyroid), Celiac disease. HEELLLLLOOOOO family history!

  • Lymph and vagus nerve issues

  • Exercise is a stressor; Geee, my main form of exercise then was running!

  • Food choices are definitely warranted and helpful but GI issues can be helped beyond food

  • Circadian & grounding connection - Light bulb!



 

Let's Begin

This is a long, complicated story and will do my best to highlight the important parts.


For starters, “pull my finger!” is a common family tradition going back to my grandfather. (Clue! Family history?) That didn't cross my mind while I was in college, when I found that alcohol, mostly beer, caused diarrhea the day after and as time went on, alcohol didn't work well with my system at all. (Clue! Alcohol is not great for the GI.)


During my first and second jobs, I couldn't figure out why I was experiencing diarrhea every morning and as the day went on it didn't happen. This led to my first colonoscopy and meds that didn't work. I did my best to figure it out like stay away from foods I found floating in the bowl undigested, such as nuts. (Clue! Pay attention to what you discover is not digested.)


FYI - bathroom anxiety is a thing!


Thankfully pregnancies were okay - maybe it was the prenatal vitamins and hormones (Hmmmmm, interesting), but then years down the road the daily diarrhea came back and was more severe, like 10x a day. Thus, I had the second colonoscopy and was prescribed a Pepto-Bismol protocol, which I tried on my own before it was suggested and it was unsuccessful. Surprisingly this time after the colonoscopy, I was much better and normal for months. (Clue!)


Over time the symptoms started again. And as humans do, when they feel better, they go back to old habits, so I ate the restricted foods and the symptoms started again. Regaining control was hard and I was lost and confused because the patterns were blurry.


I became vitamin and mineral deficient, had awful noises coming from my gut that was like a gremlin having a party in there at all hours of the night, and every few hours through the night there was a massive waterfall noise and feeling. (Clue! - Chinese clock)


Also, it’s true about leaky gut leading to leaky brain, because my mental health was negatively affected, and in combination I had zero energy. I pushed through trying to work, raise kids, and exercise. (Clue!)


At this low point, I knew I had to take a different approach to figure this out so I saw a naturopath doctor, who suspected SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) and a sluggish spleen. (Clue!) I took a breath test which confirmed my methane was off the charts. Before “gut microbiome” was a household word, I knew what it was and yikes was mine unhappy. I changed my diet again but this time more specifically (gluten free, dairy free and eventually grain free, which seemed to help tremendously) and I did the other Naturalpath suggestions.


Leaky gut - also known as intestinal permeability; happens when the gut lining or barrier between you and the outside world (after all we are one big donut) loses its integrity leading to compounds in your blood stream that should NOT be there. This can lead to various symptoms - GI issues being one of them - but can be related to fatigue, autoimmune disease, food allergies, skin issues, and more.


Microbiome - the ecosystem of microscopic organisms (mostly bacteria) that live on and in our bodies. These little things out number the amount of human cells (trillions) and for as simple as they seem, they do a lot!




Bodywork and other non-food related strategies can help gut issues.


A huge bonus was that I was so lucky and thankful to have found Bowenwork, a form of gentle bodywork. (Thank you my dear Susan!) I was shocked that my frequency of bathroom trips was cut in half after the first session, and half again after the second session a week later. It was almost back to normal and definitely manageable after the third session. I became certified in Bowenwork because of its profound assistance to quickly improve my symptoms. (To learn more about Bowenwork, check out that blog here.)


Bowen therapy applied to a young girl.
Cheryl, a Bowenwork practitioner, performs Bowen therapy on a young girl.


When you can trust a fart again, you know you are making progress!


Again repeating the pattern, thinking I can go back to eating more carbs and slacked on the other maintenance, the SIBO like symptoms came back again but it was slightly different than before in that the diarrhea was way more explosive and there were more not normal noises lower in the abdomen, and more food types were floating in the bowl. This time I had my microbiome tested (I just shipped my poop in the US mail!) and learned more about the immune system thanks to Functional Medicine Services (https://functionalmedicineservices.com) and Klose Training (https://klosetraining.com).


The more recent and past situations became more clear to me. I can confidently say that I was/am a Th1 dominant immune system and it manifests mostly as GI issues for me. (https://functionalmedicineservices.com/autoimmune/what-is-your-immune-type-th1-th2-or-th17/)


Please consider that if someone is “too thin,” or conversely, the opposite, there is likely more going on than calories in vs. calories out.  Humans are complicated, yet beautiful amazing beings with such incredible capability to compensate and attempt to self correct.  


Everything I figured out on my own over the decades and with the help of naturopaths and others is the exact treatment and maintenance for Th1 dominance. It’s possible that the recurrences and more severe reactions over time were because:

  • the colonoscopies cleared out my unbalanced microbiome and allowed a fresh start, but over time it became unbalanced again when I was not supporting it,

  • the way I was exercising (cardio - running; fascial restrictions/tightness due to visceral origins and unbalanced resistance training) was actually not supporting my immune system or GI,

  • my sub par lymphatic system is perhaps one reason why my poops, when formed, floated (not digesting fat), and

  • all of the other human factors like stress, low back pain (yes, that can be connected to GI issues), lack of knowledge, etc.


Here are some things I have learned along the way….


You may have been counseled to “come back when things get worse.” Please don’t wait until things get worse because from my experience that is when whatever is happening is advancing and whoever counseled you may really mean they have no clear cut answers or recommendations for you. I think back to my GI doctor visits…. if 80% of the immune system is in the gut, then why wasn’t there more exploration into my immune system and lymph system?


If you suffer from GI issues:

  • hang in there,

  • keep tabs on what helps and what doesn’t as best you can,

  • keep fine tuning,

  • get opinions from people who do NOT think alike if needed (ie. Get multiple perspectives),

  • trust that you know your body the best, and

  • what you are experiencing is real even though others may disregard your details.

For me, maintenance and moderation are super important because I need to keep my Th1 dominance at bay. It is as if the Th1 dominance is the accelerator and maintenance/moderation are the brake (as much as I do not like making analogies to non-biological objects, I can’t quickly think of a biological example). Maintenance and moderation look different to each of us. The less I brake, the more Th1 dominance takes over.


Beyond food choices, I know how important addressing the autonomic nervous and lymphatic systems (via Bowenwork and lymphatic massage) and circadian systems (light exposure and grounding) were to my healing in addition to changing my movement practices.


Keep on keeping on. You are worth it!

Thanks for reading!

Be well,

C


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