As we were about to begin the phase of removing wheat from my diet, I applied to become a contestant on the reality show Survivor: The Australian Outback. Throughout the selection process, I hid my symptoms from the producers, saying nothing about the stomach pain that I was experiencing. As I went through extensive physical exams, I was amazed that no one could tell that the inside of my body was a complete disaster. I held back tears during one exam, which entailed the doctor pressing on my stomach. I held my breath as the doctor told me I was "good to go"...secretly counting the seconds until I could race to the bathroom.
Early the next morning, miraculously enough, I was picked as a contestant on Survivor, and so off I went, pain and all, into the Outback. My Australian adventure was nothing short of life-altering. It was an incredibly rich, rewarding time—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Not surprisingly, it was the most physically grueling experience of my life. I was also given the most wonderful opportunity to investigate how my body works. Though exhausted on every level, I felt awakened. I learned how to live off the earth, to respect its boundaries, to work and bond with strangers, and to get by without any creature comforts. I also learned what mattered to me most, and what I relied on in extreme circumstances. One other remarkable thing happened to me Down Under, too: For the first time in about three years, I felt no pain in my stomach.
I remember thinking on multiple occasions, "Even though I haven't showered in thirty-nine days, I feel clean and pure." I was fairly certain that this sensation had nothing to do with my skin or hair or scent, and everything to do with my internal system. I was completely detoxified—without pain, without cramping or bloating, without any intestinal symptoms at all. I felt like I had before I had checked into the college infirmary so long ago. That person seemed to be nearly forgotten.
Shockingly, it took starving in the outback of Australia to feel like myself again. I remember joking that "I must be allergic to the United States." That was not the case.
I had lost about twenty pounds, but though my belly was empty, I left Australia full of answers. I left knowing that without God, I had nothing; that my family was the most incredible source of support; that I never again wanted to be away from Tim. I left knowing that for the past three years, my body had been fighting something that I was eating at home, and that if I didn't take it upon myself to figure out what that food was, no one else would do it for me.
Once I was back home, the scope of my quest narrowed.
Energized with the sense that I was on the trail of the culprit at last, and with a clean slate, I decided to reintroduce one item at a time back into my diet. But after thirty-nine days in near-starvation mode, I was absolutely ravenous, and I wasn't about to give up my favorite foods without a fight. Soon, despite my best intentions, I had returned to my pre-Australia diet, and the consequences were dire. After the relief of having had my gut repaired, now I was suddenly feeling worse than ever, spending day after day in my room, unable to get out of bed, except to race to the bathroom.