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When Canadian TV personality Sangita Patel first experienced painful bloating, she says her stomach was swollen to the point she looked like she was six months pregnant.
After returning from a trip to Africa, the swelling persisted for two weeks. She then found out from a doctor it wasn't a parasite that she picked up during her trip, but a bacteria that was now feeding and causing flare ups.
That was about five years ago.
This year, Patel, a host for "Entertainment Tonight Canada" and HGTV's "Home to Win," became determined to heal her gut and share her journey with her more than 200,000 Instagram followers.
"I've been dealing with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) on and off for five years. I haven't eaten an apple in five years, and I think because I ate a pear recently, it flared it up," Patel opened up to Yahoo Canada." It was so bad, it got to the point where I said, 'I need to do something about this.'"
I finally started to focus on getting to the root of the problem. No more putting a band-aid on it.
Patel has done the DUTCH, GI and blood tests to try and get to the root of the problem.
According to the DUTCH Test website, the test provides a complete assessment of hormonal health. On the other hand, the gastrointestinal (GI) exam examines the GI tract, including a person's esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and rectum, as stated by the Cleveland Clinic.
"I finally started to focus on getting to the root of the problem. No more putting a band-aid on it," wrote Patel in an Instagram post in May, that captures a "before and after" of a healthy and an unhealthy gut.
Patel told Yahoo Canada she posted that, "hoping it was going to help somebody, at least one person."
'Nobody wants to talk about gut health'
After posting the photos, she woke up to over 800 direct messages from women who say they are dealing with bloating.
"It's something that people don't really talk about… Nobody wants to talk about bowel movements. Nobody wants to talk about gut health," said Patel.
This is something that stays for weeks at a time and I'm in pain.
Despite the majority of people leaving positive comments on the post, she claimed there were some who pointed out that she still looks small bloated, but to her, that's not the point.
"This is something that stays for weeks at a time and I'm in pain. I'm constipated," Patel admitted.
Being bloated and in pain isn't something that women should ignore "because it adds up, especially in your 40s," she added. "It really is an internal issue that you really need to take care of... because they say your second brain is your stomach."
In the midst of healing
In order to take care of her "second brain," the "E.T. Canada" host said she got rid of all the vitamins and probiotics she was taking — for now — as she learns what's going on with her stomach. She's also only eating cooked vegetables.
Patel has also started doing a colon cleanse, which flushes out a large portion of the bowel system.
"I am constipated consistently, so now I’m doing that process once a week for three weeks… It's such a relief," she said.
What "sucks" though, she added, is that she's not allowed to have coffee right now.
"I'm drinking tea… but I'm still eating my chocolates. I'm trying not to, so I'm in the midst of healing."
The healing journey is long, she said, and she's not doing it all perfectly. But, Patel said she hopes that's not the focus.
"I don't change everything right away… I adjust. For example, (I started having) seven days of no sugar, so I take it very slowly. I never overwhelm myself with it. Because if you do, you're more likely to stray off course right away," said Patel.
She recommended people start slow and not cut everything right away.
"Making 'no salad' mean eating cooked vegetables — I'm okay with that, I cant start with that. Slowly taking a step-by-step is very important."
I don't change everything right away… I adjust.
Patel also added bloating issues are common, and are bound to happen to most people. Triggers might differ, but it's important to get to the bottom of the issue, she claimed.
"When you go to Italy, for example, and eat bread there, I don't have the same response that I do when I have bread at home. I don't know what it is exactly, something in the way it's processed," she said.
"But I know where my trigger came from and that was five years ago. So since then, I have just been struggling with this cycle.
"You have to get to the root of it and it's going to be a process — but it's worth it."