Thursday, February 15, 2018

Probiotics and the Immune System


I attended a seminar about Probiotics, Food, and the Immune System presented by the Institute for Natural Resources. This is just one of the many topics INR Seminars provides for healthcare professionals. The material is written by an expert and then presented by various educators. This particular seminar's syllabus was written by Dr. Nikita Katz, M.D., Ph.D. and was presented by Dr. Laura Pawlak, Ph.D., R.D. emerita.

This 6 hour seminar covered an intense amount of information about how the immune system works and is affected by foods and probiotics (healthy bacteria) with a specific focus on pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory influences. I will not be going into as much detail as the seminar provided.


Dr. Pawlak began by explaining that in the big picture there is a reciprocal interaction between food and environment on the immune system and on an individual's microbiota that then may affect the brain. The particular focus was placed upon the effects of pro or anti inflammatory properties that may protect or hinder the body as genes become expressed and diseases occur. Food and the probiotics that are found within our food or through medicinal supplements impact these protective or harmful factors and how our immune system functions.

Probiotics are commonly recommended for individuals with digestive disorders or diseases to help maintain a healthy gut flora that is easily disrupted by digestive disease. Probiotics are also recommended to be taken following the use of  antibiotics in order to help replenish the good gut bacteria that is stripped away by antibiotics. To understand the importance of probiotics, it helps to have an awareness of the effects of microbiota on the body and interaction with the immune system.


Our immune system is made to protect us against threats that are not considered "self". Typically, immune responses are elicited from viruses, bacteria, and parasites that cause infectious diseases but can also be prompted by our own cells that look different than expected, such as cancerous cells. Immune responses are aggressive and must be controlled as the immune system has the capability to kill the identified organism, or person, itself.

The human microbiota is a combination of microorganisms that includes bacteria, fungi and archaea. Some microbiota found within humans are beneficial to the body whereas others may be harmful. There is a delicate balance required for human microbiota and its essential role for a healthy immune system and various neurobiological functions.

The Human Microbiome Project found that there are thousands of bacterial types found within an individual and different body sites have their own distinctive bacterial communities. The specific bacterial makeup for a given body site varies from person to person by type and abundance. Due to each part of the body having a different microbial arrangement, different probiotics will target different areas. Not every probiotic will be helpful to every part therefore this needs consideration when selecting food and medications specifically for their probiotic benefits.

It's estimated that 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria live in the human gut. Gut flora has the largest numbers of bacteria and the greatest number of bacteria species in comparison to other parts of the body. These gut bacteria are predominately Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes but others present also include Proteobacteria, Verrumicrobia, Actinobacteria, Fusobacteria, and Cyanobacteria. The gut flora is established within one to two years after birth which is enough time to allow for the intestinal epithelium and mucosal barrier to support the gut flora and provide a barrier to pathogenic organisms. Probiotics help protect the mucosal surface barrier from inflammation. When this barrier weakens due to inflammation, resistance to malignancy is reduced and cancer and inflammatory disorders may occur. With weakening of the barriers, we risk microbiota leakage or absorption in between cells where we do not want absorption. The brain receives every nutrient introduced to the body and probiotics activate the vagus nerve that reaches from the abdomen to the brain. The blood brain barrier allows nutrients to reach the brain while limiting harmful substances reaching the brain. However, with weakening of the barriers due to inflammation, harmful substances may pass through the blood brain barrier.

Depending on our food choices, certain foods can help keep good microbiota alive and bad microbiota down and vica versa. Fiber and oils promote the good whereas sugar and fats promote the bad. You may notice this when constipation occurs as bad microbiota likes constipation. Once the diet falls apart, so does the immune system. Diet also influences the type of microbiota present. A healthy diet promotes healthy microbioata whereas unhealthy foods promote harmful microbiota. Nutrients are vital for efficiency of the immune system.
Typical and Unusual Types of Probiotic Bacteria for Healthy Gut Flora


Foods that naturally contain probiotic bacteria include:

Fermented cruciferous vegetables, fermented root vegetables and legumes, and sour milk products such as:
  • Yogurt, recommended to be plain yogurt with no added sugar and labeled with live and active cultures. To sweeten, add fruit. Avoid adding sugar, artificial sweetners, or honey
  • Kefir
  • Icelandic skyr
  • Swedish filmjolk
  • Buttermilk
  • Acidophilus milk
  • Crème fraiche etc.
Non-dairy foods:
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Green olives
  • Tempeh
  • Szechwan vegetable
  • Indian pickle
  • Mixed pickle
Another method for delivery of healthy probiotic bacteria is the Fecal Microbiota Transplant (Stool Transplant) to aid in restoring healthy colonic microflora by introducing healthy bacterial flora from the stool of a healthy donor by means of an enema, orogastric tube, or an oral capsule. This has been shown to be effective for C. Diff infections and is being used experimentally for treatment of other GI diseases including colitis, constipation, IBS and neurological conditions.

For the growth and activity of probiotics, prebiotics are necessary. Prebiotics are typically non-digestible fiber compounds in foods such as chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, asparagus, wheat bran, whole wheat flour, and bananas. There is not a broad consensus on an ideal daily serving of prebiotics but recommendations typically range from 4 to 8 grams for general digestive health and up to 15 grams for an individual with a digestive disorder.

There are diseases and syndromes linked to bacterial imbalance and immune dysfunction. These imbalances can occur in various parts of the body where the microbiota has deranged. In such instances, the normally dominating bacteria species become underrepresented and the normally outcompeted or contained species increase to fill the void. This dysbiosis, or microbial imbalance, is most commonly reported as a condition of the GI tract, particularly when there is an overgrowth in the small intestine of bacteria or fungi. This has been reported to be associated with illnesses such as periodontal disease, IBD, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, and colitis. It may be important to note that patients treated with PPIs to reduce stomach acid tend to have a higher frequency of small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

Microbes within a tumor can affect cancer growth and spread. Microbes and microbiota affect cancer formation by altering the balance of tumor cell life and death, immune system function regulation, and influencing the metabolism of foods and pharmaceuticals.
Mucosal surface barriers within the body require rapid repair, once these barriers are breached then microbes can elicit pro-inflammatory or immunosuppressive programs thereby allowing cancer and inflammatory disorders to occur. Probiotics can help protect the mucosal surface barriers against inflammation.

Inflammation is a biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli and a protective response. Inflammation functions to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, remove necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and start tissue repair. The typical signs of inflammation include heat, pain, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation may be acute or chronic. Prolonged inflammation can lead to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the inflamed area. Inflammation can cause disease related genes to be expressed and is linked to most chronic diseases including arthritis, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, IBD, and diabetes.

Of the dietary components tested thus far on the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) for pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties, the top anti-inflammatory components include Turmeric, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Fiber, Genisten (protein found in soybeans). Turmeric should be taken with fresh ground black pepper in 10 parts turmeric to 1 part pepper for optimal absorption. the DII has a long way to go still as only a handful of dietary components have been tested for their pro and anti inflammatory properties.

When thinking of maintaining a healthy immune system, we must take in consideration not only the foods we ingest but also our exposure to environmental factors. With the advance of technology, we are now exposed to chemical compounds that were not naturally occurring on the planet previously and we are now exposed to chemicals normally hidden within the ground that are now exposed through mining and manufacturing. Heavy metals exposure causes significant alterations to the immune system by increasing the body's pro-inflammatory and decreasing anti-inflammatory responses. Air pollutants, pesticides, phthalates, PCBs, and perfluoralkyl substances exposure are also associated with medical conditions.

To help reduce one's susceptibility to immune dysfunction associated with such environmental influences, it's recommended to choose phthalate free personal care products, fresh foods rather than processed foods, and reduce exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, and air pollutants as much as possible.

To help lower inflammation and maintain a healthy microbiota balance, it is recommended to eat healthy, fresh foods, ingest probiotics, obtain adequate sleep , exercise regularly, and reduce stress. Exercise secretes proteins that are anti-inflammatory and remaining in the stressful fight or flight crisis response mode increases inflammation.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Lasik - Eye Surgery



Disclaimer: I will be sharing my experience with Lasik eye surgery and may be a trigger for those who are sensitive to medical descriptions.

I've dealt with nearsightedness for years. I required eyeglasses by the time I was in high school so that I could see the blackboard and once I started driving. It seemed as though with each annual eye exam, my nearsightedness worsened but I hate wearing eyeglasses or contacts on a regular basis. I feel as though I can't complete everyday activities outside of driving with my eyeglasses and wearing contacts was more effort than I found worth it on a daily basis except for special circumstances. Also, with contacts I had to be mindful of late activities as the longer I wore contacts in a day, the more bothersome they would become and of course I couldn't fall asleep wearing contacts.

As an additional benefit, my employer offers a discount on Lasik procedures to correct vision. With my health stabilizing once again and no scheduled medical procedures for the year, I decided this was the year to finally undergo Lasik.

With any type of procedure, my PTSD becomes triggered and I experience severe anxiety. I spoke with several individuals who previously underwent Lasik and each person reassured me that the procedure is not painful at all. I was informed that the eyes are numbed with drops and the laser surgery itself takes mere seconds.

After completing a qualifying exam, I scheduled my Lasik. I was provided a single Valium to take upon the completion of paperwork the day of the surgery to help ease my nerves. The last time I took Valium for a procedure was in 2009 when I underwent a 6 month follow up procedure to ensure that the Essure procedure I had underwent was successful. At this time, my anxiety was so severe that even with two doses of Valium, my nerves wouldn't allow the Valium to take effect until after the procedure was completed. I feared this would be the case again now but I repeatedly reminded myself that Lasik would be a painless procedure.

Lasik is completed with the use of a laser to reshape the cornea after a flap of corneal tissue is created. Lasik is an outpatient surgery that takes about 15 minutes to complete. It is such a quick procedure, that Lasik centers are able to schedule several patients in a short amount of time. There are risks to any procedure that can be serious and should be thoroughly discussed with the surgeon.

After completing paperwork, I was directed to a waiting area to join other patients awaiting eye surgery. When it was my turn, I entered the room with my toy kitty that I take with me to medical procedures for added comfort. The surgeon joked with me and notified me that they actually keep a stuffed toy in the operating room for patients to hold on to if they so wish. I was provided a blanket for extra comfort and situated myself upon the operating table. A nurse stood next to me the entire time and walked me through every step of the surgery. She notified me that an instrument would be used to create a flap in my cornea and she turned on the instrument so that I could hear what it sounded like so that I wouldn't be caught off guard. This particular instrument sounded like a drill used by a dentist. It was a terrifying sound when considering that this would be used on my eyes. Drops were inserted in my eyes to numb my eyes. Tape was used to pull my eyelids back to open my eyelids enough for an eye speculum to be inserted to keep my eyelids open. I had no ability to close my eyelids even if I had tried. This was not painful at all although it sounds as though it might. My eye was cleaned with a swab and I was told that a device would be placed on my eye to create suction, I would notice some pressure but no pain. This device was placed on my eye and pushed down - I felt the pressure, but no real pain. This suction ring stabilizes the eye and lifts and flattens the cornea. She told the surgeon it was "building, building, stabilized" and the pressure stopped as the suction was completed. The nurse notified me the drill sound would be starting. Even with this alert, the drill sound startled me and I couldn't help but slightly move my head backwards more into the table. I couldn't see the drill or anything unusual, I could just hear it. I didn't feel anything...the sound was just unnerving as it sounds as though I should see and feel something, but I didn't. My vision remained clear until the surgeon did a swiping motion to move the cornea flap and my vision became extremely blurry and hazy. I was told to stare at a green light that was previously concentrated but now was a blur. I stared at this light for a few seconds, maybe 5 seconds, and then the flap was placed back in the correct position and my blurry vision returned to normal. Several drops of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory eyedrops were placed in my eye. It was time for the next eye and the same procedure was completed. And it was over. During the procedure, in order to calm myself I had to repeatedly remind myself that I wasn't experiencing any pain, this would be over soon, and to think of it as looking through a camera - not through my actual eye itself.

I was taken to another room and another doctor examined my eyes to ensure the cornea flaps had sealed and my eyes looked appropriate. As I waited for the doctor to start his exam, I noticed that I could clearly see letters on the opposite wall that I wouldn't have been able to clearly see previously. The doctor reviewed the instructions for prescription eyedrops for the week and all the dos and don'ts to follow and answer any remaining questions I had. I was provided ice packs, sunglasses, and three boxes of preservative free eyedrops for moisture and told to try to sleep for 4-5 hours and to keep my eyes closed for that period.

The numbing drops were starting to wear off on the ride home. Even with the sunglasses, I was finding any amount of light to be extremely painful upon my closed eyes. My eyes were beginning to feel dry, like sandpaper but I couldn't rub my eyes as this would cause damage to my eyes and risk regression of my improved vision. Once home, I tried to sleep but the Valium had worn off and I was so bothered by the sandpaper feel that I was barely able to sleep. I could barely open my eyes, the sandpaper sensation was so intense. When I did manage to slightly open my eyes, they would immediately tear up and tears streamed down my face. This actually provided some comfort as it moistened my eyes. I had set my alarm to insert the eyedrops as directed and found this extremely challenging on account of the difficulty to open my eyes enough to insert drops. I began to question why I had decided to undergo Lasik. If I could just sleep until this passed, I would have been much more comfortable. I was only able to doze for brief periods through the sandpaper sensation. Finally, over the course of time the sensation began to lessen and my comfort increased. After about 5 hours, the sensation had ceased and I was able to comfortably open my eyes and clearly see things that were previously blurry to me.

I was instructed to use the prescription eyedrops four times a day for a week and to use preservative free artificial tears every 1-2 hours for the next two weeks. I wasn't allowed to wear make up for a week and no eye make up for two weeks. Aerobic exercise was prohibited for a few weeks. I was advised to not rub my eyes ever again, to take Omega 3 fatty acids, drink 5 glasses a water a day to help protect my vision from regression.

Two weeks later and my vision is 20/15! Extremely close objects in front of my eyes are blurry whereas they weren't previously but it isn't enough to interfere with anything and I normally don't have anything extremely close to my eyes anyway. I'm told that my vision should continue to improve over the next 6 months as my eyes continue to heal. I haven't driven at night yet to know how my vision is affected by lights at night. I'm told to expect halos and glare at night from lights for a few months although every individual is different. A second follow up occurs after 2-3 months and a final follow up around 6 months.

I'm pleased with my present outcome of the Lasik eye surgery. At times, I'm not certain if I would elect to undergo Lasik again but I am enjoying no longer requiring eyeglasses or contacts and the ability to see long distance for a change.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Reviewing Young Living Essential Oils for GI Symptoms


"I have been given this product as part of a product review. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company." 

With worsening GI symptoms of chronic bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea interfering with my quality of life and a lack of improvement with prescription medications, I decided to try Essential Oils to address my bothersome symptoms. Rachel, with Young Living Essential Oil, provided a sample for my symptoms. 

I was skeptical of oils being able to help with my pain but with desperate times come desperate measures. Prescription medications were no longer managing my bloating, pain, and nausea to my satisfaction. However, I have used peppermint oil by itself before to ease my nausea. Oils can be applied topically and some may be ingested. 

It's recommended to apply peppermint oil to the soles of the feet or on the abdomen. I previously
applied peppermint oil to both locations without any improvement to my nausea. However, as long as I was able to smell the peppermint oil my nausea was subdued. I decided to resume using peppermint oil by rubbing a couple drops under my nose and reapplying as needed. In the case of severe nausea when I've been unable to tolerate visual movements such as watching tv or even reading, I applied a large amount to my abdomen and a small amount under my nose with noticeable improvements to my nausea. With the nausea relief provided by the peppermint oil, I decided to give DiGize Essential Oil a try for my bloating and abdominal pain. 

DiGize is a blend of oils that can be used topically or ingested as a dietary supplement and includes the following oils all used to address heartburn, bloating, nausea, stomach cramps:
  • Tarragon
  • Ginger
  • Peppermint
  • Juniper
  • Fennel
  • Lemongrass
  • Anise
  • Patchouli
I'm not comfortable with ingesting oils as a dietary supplement, although I believe the oil would be more effective ingested versus topical application. Due to this discomfort, I was instructed to apply 1-3 drops to my abdomen or the soles of my feet and I could reapply as needed. 

The first time I used the DiGize was the second consecutive day I had been feeling well after two completely miserable days due to my chronic bloating, pain, and nausea. For these two days, I had been tolerating food decently well and even was able to enjoy a night out with friends. However, this first night to try DiGize was after I decided to eat a snack without any of my other medications. Although my bloating and pain were not severe after this snack - they were bothersome. 

I have a midline scar and scars on each side of my midline from my previous ostomy stomas. Due to my scars being a thicker skin, I decided to apply about three drops of oil in between my scars on both sides of my midline scar equaling about six drops. I waited approximately 10 minutes with some improvement to my bloating and pain before applying a second dosing of the same amount to the same spots. After about another ten minutes, I noticed a greater improvement to my symptoms to my satisfaction.

I started using the peppermint oil regularly to combat my chronic nausea and saved the Digize for when my stomach became bothersome or remained bothersome even with the medications I take with meals. I've found that my nausea is no longer a daily nuisance anymore after more than two years of enduring it on a daily basis. The combination of my meal medications with the Digize has been a promising combination as the Digize provided the final push my symptoms needed to significantly reduce in severity.

If you're interested in trying any of the oils, I encourage you to contact Rachel for guidance on recommended oils specific to your bothersome symptoms. You may also find her on Facebook or purchase oils here with international shipping available.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Grasping at Straws with New Medicine


I feel as though my health has started upon a roller coaster gradually building over the last two years to now. I've been on a search for managing worsened chronic abdominal pain and the addition of chronic nausea since 2015 after an unexpected hospitalization. Since then, my health has increasingly worsened this year through intestinal blockages and culminating in a C-Diff infection.

Based on my symptoms worsening to include extreme early fullness after my latest intestinal blockage in August of this year, I'm led to believe that I must have developed a C-Diff infection around the same time. Upon completing a round of antibiotics, my early fullness ceased. I continue to have chronic abdominal pain, severe bloating, and chronic nausea however.

With the urging of others amongst the chronic illness/bowel health groups, I spoke to my doctor about trying Creon. Creon is a medication that helps with digestion by replacing pancreatic enzymes to break down food. It is be taken with every meal or snack and varies in dosages available. My doctor agreed to let me try Creon with a dosage of 24,000 USP capsule to be taken one capsule three times a day. This dose contains 24,000 USP units of lipase, 76,000 USP units of protease, and 120,000 USP units of amylase. It is a delayed release capsule and it isn't absorbed in the GI tract but rather is excreted through stool. It is not to be crushed or chewed and online forums advised not to keep it in your mouth for long as it will burn your mouth. Due to my commercial prescription insurance, I was able to download a savings card and obtain the medication for $5 for a 30 day supply at my local retail pharmacy. Without this savings card, it would have cost me $50 for a 30 day supply.

Creon capsules
I took my first dose prior to eating my first bite of my evening meal. My usual abdominal pain and bloating occurred as it has been regularly occurring. I did start to feel better with reduced bloating and pain approximately three hours later. This would become the norm I discovered - Creon didn't ease my symptoms with the meal that it was taken with but rather hours later and into the next day. Although I'm not certain, I believe if I were to take this as prescribed three times a day, it would remain in my system and have a proactive effect for next meal.

I went to bed feeling hopeful about this new medication. I woke up about 1:30 am to use the restroom, as is normal for me. However, I experienced severe burning when I went to the restroom. Butt burn is common for those with ileostomy reversals as we tend to have frequent loose stools that are acidic. I have Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) so I am accustomed to have 15+ bowel movements a day of typically watery stool. I use Calmoseptine ointment after every restroom use to combat the butt burn and for the most part, my skin isn't painful although it is highly sensitive. The butt burn I woke up to though was different from the run of the mill, occasional butt burn I get from a flare of my SBS. This was a butt burn so sudden and severe that I was reminded of the same type of sudden, severe butt burn that I experienced from prednisone when I was in high school. With each dose of prednisone taken, the butt burn worsened in timing and severity. The butt burn this night would last for several hours with unceasing pain that made it difficult to sleep and was severe no matter what I did - ointments and changing positions in bed were of no help. I was almost in tears the pain was so intense.

I decided to let my backside heal from this painful night before trying another dose of Creon. I realized I needed to at least try Creon a second time to see if the pain was reoccurring as my skin is sensitive and I do experience butt burn periodically due to the Short Bowel. My stomach though did feel incredibly better the next day after a dose of Creon the night before. I was able to eat lunch the next day with very minimal bloating or pain. My hope was strengthening that Creon was the answer but only if the butt burn wasn't a side effect. I waited a couple more days before trying Creon again prior to eating an evening meal. That night I did have mild butt burn but nothing like that first night. This was a tolerable pain that didn't interfere with my activity or sleep.

With this improvement, I started taking the Creon once per day in the evenings as I was leery of taking it at work in fear that the intense butt burn would return. I finally braved it and took one capsule at lunch and a second at evening and managed well with minimal pain for a couple of days. I had the intention to add the third capsule with something small to eat at breakfast time but never made it this far. The pain would start to increase as one day I took a capsule mid morning and a second at lunch time. I believe the capsules were taken too close together resulting in pain and so I skipped the evening dose. The following day I again took a capsule at lunch with the intention of taking a second at evening, however, the pain was too bothersome to follow through with a second dose that day. And so I decided to give my bum the weekend off from the Creon.

Around this time, I noticed that I seemed to be having more bloody stools. Again, this is not uncommon for me as I have intestinal ulcers that won't completely heal even with medication. The ulcers are unable to fully heal on account of my Short Bowel and are worsened if I become constipated as the stool has more time allowed to irritate the ulcers. Since the Creon is not absorbed in the GI tract and excreted through stool, it would make sense that it would also irritate my intestinal ulcers.

I decided to take a break from the Creon as I have come to the conclusion that Creon, although helpful, is not the right medication for me due to the increased frequency of bloody stools and butt burn. I might finish my prescription over a period of time, however it would not be as prescribed as my body is unable to tolerate three Creon capsules a day and at times not even one.

I searched online for remedies to help reduce the bloating as I believe my abdominal pain would be much more tolerable if the bloating was resolved. I already take Simethicone and Bentyl with every meal to reduce gas and intestinal spasms to reduce bloating and pain. Prior to the last intestinal blockage, these medications worked well to manage my pain. Now I've added Beano, Mylanta, and Essential Oils to my regiment as a new experiment to address the bloating.

Beano is an enzyme to help digest grains, vegetables, and legumes. Beano also produces another product Beano + Dairy Defense for those requiring enzymes to break down dairy as well as grains, vegetables, and legumes. I take two tablets prior to eating. When I'm home, if I feel like I need a bit more help I take a gulp of Mylanta before or after eating. When my stomach remains bothersome, I topically apply a few drops of Essential Oils. This combination in addition to my prescription medications seems to be managing my discomfort and symptoms well now thus far.

To further experiment and in an attempt to reduce financial burden, I decided to try replacing Beano with a food enzyme mixture called Digestabs by Puritan Pride. The cost difference is incredible. I was able to purchase 3 bottles of Digestabs with 60 tablets per bottle for $10. It follows the same rules as Beano - take two tablets prior to meals. Within an hour of taking my first dose of Digestabs, I started having butt burn even without using the restroom. I decided to further research Digestabs and found that these tablets include amylase and pancreatin. Pancreatin is composed of amylase, lipase, and protease - the three enzymes within Creon although at much smaller dosages. My body doesn't react well to one or a combination of these three enzymes. I discovered that Beano is composed of the enzyme alpha-galactosidase (a-GAL). I'm not sure the difference between these enzymes but my body definitely reacts differently to them.



I decided for my well-being I need to stick to Beano even if it does cost more.
Read next my review of the Essential Oils I've been using for further information and results.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Cleo Madison Clothing Review



I was nine years old when I had my ileostomy placed before I would be able to have it reversed six years later. That first year was full of surgeries and hospitalizations resulting in changing my schooling from public to home based. I wouldn't return to public school until I was 11. On top of entering the tween years, I also changed school districts where I would have to start over making friends. I entered my new school as an extremely shy girl who had just survived five major surgeries and was struggling with body images of having an ostomy. My priority for clothing was comfort, not fashion. I would soon be bullied for my clothing choices as I preferred baggy jeans and oversized t-shirts for their comfort and looseness around my ostomy and still recovering abdomen from my previous surgeries. Due to the bullying I endured, I would change my focus to more stylish clothing but comfort remains a priority as well to this day.

My health has been changing over the last two years and since my last intestinal blockage three months ago, I've been experiencing chronic excessive bloating among other symptoms. This bloating is easily visible and affects my choice in clothing. Often I'll choose an article of clothing that isn't too tight fitting for the comfort in my abdomen size as well as clothing that I can layer to reduce visibility of my torso. At times the bloating is so severe that I will wear a belly support band to help ease the discomfort.

When I was asked to review clothing, I thought this would be a great opportunity to discover new clothing that works with my visibly bloated abdomen. I have been given this product as part of a product review. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Cleo Madison specializes in modest yet stylish clothing for women. Clothing available includes dresses, skirts, tops, and swimwear with a range in sizes small to large with some extra smalls and larges and footwear ranging in sizes 6 to 10. First time buyers can enjoy a discount for signing up for a newsletter and US orders include free shipping.
Annie Floral Skirt

Cleo Madison was kind enough to send me the Annie Floral Skirt, which I decided to wear out for an evening celebrating the winter holidays with friends.

Upon receiving this skirt, the first thing I noticed was how incredibly soft the material is. The material was quite thin though requiring a slip to be worn underneath. The skirts and dresses are mid length and this skirt has a wide waistband that folds over. This folded waistband was helpful for added discretion to the abdominal area which I prefer due to my bloated abdomen but would also be beneficial for ostomates wishing to decrease any visibility of an ostomy appliance.

The skirt fit well around my waist without being too restrictive and was quite comfortable. Overall, I was very pleased with the skirt I received and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Cleo Madison styles.