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Intestinal Health Institute

by Robin Leebardt and Sheila Shea

Sheila Shea asked me if I would share my reproductive health issues, the steps leading to the discovery of my uterine fibroid tumor, and what I'm doing now. I thank Sheila for giving me the opportunity to write this because I realized how connected my past issues are to my present. I hope as you read you find you aren't alone, or that you have your own story you'd like to write. Many therapies will be mentioned. If you wish to read more about them, please visit the websites or write me at [email protected].

During my first semester at college in 1989, I had my first ever urinary tract infection. I learned from the campus doctor that I should be sure to urinate whenever I needed to and not hold it in. And that after intercourse, a trip to the bathroom would help flush out any sort of unfriendly bacteria from my urethrea.

In the spring of 1990, I had an encounter with an ovarian dermoid cyst. It was attached by a foot to my right ovary. It made itself known to me, apparently, by wrapping itself around my ovary. The pain was so excruciating, I could not unwrap myself from a fetal position for nearly 3 hours. A sonogram a few days later confirmed what the emergency room doctors suspected when they saw me at the hospital the few nights before.

My gynecologist wanted to remove it. I refused. He told me that if I left the dermoid cyst alone it might rupture and flood my reproductive system with toxins. I still didn't feel comfortable with the idea of being sliced open so I asked the chances of the cyst coming back if it were surgically removed. He said that there would be a 60% chance of it returning. After that revelation I knew my answer was a definite "no" to surgery. I didn't want to spend 60% of my life in a hospital. I was only 19 years old.

I was fortunate that my mother was training as a masseuse and had many teachers and contacts who believed in holistic medicine and alternative methods of healing. After talking to several of them, I began to understand that physical maladies are the body's way of talking to us. It is our body's way of telling us to shape up or else!
Visit for information about alternatives to western medical thinking.

I also consulted with naturopaths, massage therapists, Reiki therapists, and going through guided visualizations. I started to:
* practice meditation/visualization exercises,
* examine my relationships with my family and friends,
* decide to get out of a bad relationship,
* change my diet, and
* supplement my daily meals with herbal formulas and extracts.
Visit for more info on Reiki.

During my journey of healing from my dermoid cyst, my chiropractor, Dr. Christine Berju, advised me to receive colon hydrotherapy sessions, a gentle way of flushing out the colon of impacted fecal matter. She reasoned and understood that reproductive area growths are related to intestinal toxicity, especially in the colon. The perfect environment exists for cells to mutate for the worse when the intestines are plugged up with fecal matter and pathogenic bacteria and yeast. Dr. Berju asked me how often I had bowel movements. My answer was 1 every 2 days, sometimes 1 every 3 days. She immediately informed me that a healthy intestinal tract eliminates at least twice a day if not 3 times.
I never knew I was constipated!

I called the hydrotherapist that my chiropractor recommended. She charged $45 per session and all new clients signed on for at least 4 sessions done over the course of 7 days. The hydrotherapist explained that one session did not flush out the colon completely. Sometimes even by the fourth session, the colon was not completely free of impacted toxic fecal build up. However, it was a step in the right direction for optimal health. I understood what she was saying and why my chiropractor wanted me to do this, too. However, I did everything except the colon hydrotherapy. One reason was the money and the other - I was scared of the procedure!

Dr. Berju also indicated that diet has a significant impact on creating a sluggish colon and a predisposition toward "coagulation of cells, living and dead." She advised me to eliminate dairy products, refined flour and sugar products, caffeine (that included chocolate), estrogen-pumped meat, increase my intake of water (not from the tap), eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly. Eliminating milk and almost all cereals I had grown up with and avoiding chicken and beef was quite challenging for a 19 year old! Eliminating caffeine was a lot easier. I found decaffeinated varieties of tea and drank caffeine free soda. To my surprise, after I stopped eating chocolate, I no longer craved it. I also developed an exercise regimen that made me feel great.

1991 -- FALL
My new gynecologist, who knew and supported what I had decided to do, happily told me that my last sonogram (the 4th one) showed my cyst disappeared/dissolved. I had successfully discovered my cyst's message,

'Take care of yourself first! Love yourself and treat yourself with respect.'

I had significantly changed my outlook on life for the better and adopted healthy habits. I was beginning my junior year in college and felt ecstatic beyond words. I lived the next 8 years in relatively good health.

In August 1999 I sensed an internal mass in my abdomen. I noticed it first needing to urinate more frequently yet a miniscule amount of urine coming out. I thought it strange that if it was a urinary tract infection, the usual symptom of a burning sensation was not present while eliminating.

Another clue of internal mass in my reproductive area was a definite movement of my internal organs during intercourse. This was an odd feeling, not painful at all, but the sensation of something poking around under the surface of my skin.

1999 -- FALL
Finally, I decided to get a check-up to determine the cause of the sensation I was experiencing with urination and intercourse. I knew what my doctor would say - that my right ovary was enlarged and I was to make an appointment for a sonogram at a local hospital. What did I do? I ignored this new "development" hoping it would disappear. In essence, I became an ostrich. I buried my head in the sand. Eventually, I made a sonogram appointment at the end of October.

What were the findings? I had a fibroid tumor attached by a stem to the top of my uterus. It was about the same size as my uterus. So, I had two pear-sized objects in me where before I only had one. I felt hopeless. Why again? I had a good life; I was happily married (still am), loved my job teaching band at a middle school, and practiced living a healthy lifestyle with good food and exercise (so I thought). I just didn't understand it. Didn't I work out all my bad habits 8 years ago? I became despondent. Apparently, my body had another message to tell me. In order to understand why the fibroid was there, I needed to do some soul searching and life-style changing, again.

My mother came to my rescue and gave me a gift certificate for 5 shiatsu sessions (a Japanese form of massage) to help me get started on my new healing journey and she shared an interesting tidbit.

My mother had her own fibroid just before she became pregnant with me. Once she had me, the fibroid disappeared.

2000 -- APRIL
During April, I started to keep a close eye on my fibroid. I would lay flat on my back in bed and gently massage my belly. I could feel the fibroid changing size, shape and location. I discovered that it grew and shrank depending on where I was in my menstrual cycle. When I was menstruating or ovulating the fibroid would enlarge. All other times it would decrease in size. I did a little research on fibroids which told me that they thrive on estrogen. That was why it grew and shrunk with my cycle. I started to write in a journal and sketch my fibroid's shape and location.

I still hadn't changed my diet that much and exercising was sporadic. Teaching kept me quite busy. I had received 3 shiatsu sessions by now and my shiatsu therapist told me that I had a couple of weakened meridians (gall bladder and liver) and I had a bundle of energy lodged in my abdomen. By opening the meridians, energy paths of the body, she helped to rebalance me. However, my fibroid had not changed significantly or disappeared.

I was mad at myself and my fibroid a lot of the time. The shiatsu practitioner reminded me that just as a child would not respond in a positive way to anger, my body would not respond positively to rancor. She suggested that I lay in bed at night with my hands over the fibroid to be with it and to be curious and open to the message(s) my fibroid wanted me to hear. I did a lot of guessing, but nothing really seem to ring as truth. Eight years before, my ovarian cyst's message was that I needed to pay attention to myself. I was always taking care of others and neglecting myself. I was a human doormat. This fibroid was not delivering the same message.

* Maybe it had to do with wanting a family?
* Maybe it was telling me that I was still quite toxic and not eating right?
* Maybe I had issues with not letting myself be creative, after all that is where creation begins, right?
* Maybe I agonized too much about my past, fantasized too much about my future.

Ah, now that felt closer to home! I began to realize that I was not paying attention to what I was doing NOW. I started to make "To Do" lists. I left school work at school. I added yoga to my exercise regimen. I made Tuesdays "No Television Day." My husband and I started to cook together, play board games together and just take walks in our neighborhood together. All these changes felt right.

I was beginning to get in touch with all aspects of my fibroid's message; the physical, the mental and the spiritual.

During the summer, while I was on vacation from school, I decided to dive head long into taking care of myself. July was the month for major life changing awareness; I wrote everyday in a journal, made a list of books I wanted to read, a list a movies I wanted to see, and made a conscious effort to rid my cabinets and refrigerator of chemical-filled food and re-stock them with all natural whole foods, herbal teas, fresh fruits and vegetables.

The knowledge that my body was full of toxins was the motivating factor for pursuing a total body cleansing. In the book The Handbook of Alternatives to Chemical Medicine by Mildred Jackson ND and Terri Teague ND DC, I found a seven day juice diet that was geared to eliminating cancerous and non-cancerous growths from the body. The juice diet would cleanse my blood and help my gastrointestinal tract as well as strengthen my lungs, liver and kidneys. I began (again) a schedule of regular exercise and started to consult different books on women's health. While detoxifying, it is essential to exfoliate the largest organ of the human body, the skin. I arranged for a full body exfoliating massage.

However, I was still a bit nervous about the colon hydrotherapy sessions. I knew that my cleansing process would be complete if I flushed my colon. So I made my first colon hydrotherapy appointment. (Right on, Robin! SS)

Before my first session with Sheila Shea LMT, I was nervous. However, I read her web-site about colon hydrotherapy so I knew what to expect. Since I had never done it before, I was still anxious.

My first session with Sheila was during the 8th day of the juice fast. I knew the colonic would enhance the vibrant health I was enjoying just after 8 days; I no longer had rank body odor or rank breath, I had energy to sustain me throughout the day even though I was only drinking vegetable juices and eating raw fruits and vegetables, and I had a general overall sense of happiness. I told Sheila about my fibroid and efforts to rid my system of toxins. I felt that removing the physical toxins would be an integral part of dissolving the fibroids. However, they were not the only cause.

She understood completely and was supportive and at the same time interested in my observations of my fibroid. She knew several women with fibroids. Some kept them until they disappeared (after menopause). Some had them surgically removed like her sister-in-law. The important note in all of this is that every woman dealt with their fibroids in the manner they thought best and I was no different.

Sheila was relaxed, friendly and answered every question I asked. That first session was at 5 pm and over the course of an hour she did about 10 in-flows and out-flows. She massaged my belly to help the water come around to the ascending side (right) and to help the water flow out. A viewing tube was clearly showing various amounts of fecal matter leaving my body; sometimes there was a lot, sometimes just clear water. On my way home I felt much relief at having had my first colonic. I did not feel dramatically lighter but I definitely felt good.

About 2 hours later while comfortably watching a movie at home, I had the urge to go to the bathroom. What came out of me was amazing - water. It was all water. I thought it strange that all the water from the session did not flow out of me. My next appointment with Sheila was in 3 days. I'd tell her about it then.

The night before I was to see Sheila again, I'd gone out with some friends to break my juice diet with a "healthy" Chinese dinner. Instead of celebrating my new found energy and excitement for life, within two hours I felt sluggish and drunk. I was not having an allergic reaction, this much I knew. Instinctively, I knew my system was soaking up chemicals and by-products which had been eliminated from my body not 5 days before. The most interesting thing happened later that evening; my fibroid, which had indeed shrunk over the course of the juice fast, grew to gargantuan size by the time I laid down to bed.

The next day, I was thankful for my colonic. First, I told Sheila about the water coming out of me after our first session. She speculated that it could have been:
* muscle fatigue (no peristaltic movement) by the end of the session, or
* mineral imbalances that prevented muscles from releasing, or
* pockets of impacted matter that held the water in me or
* muscle spasms or constrictions that prevented water from passing out until they relaxed later.

Then, I told Sheila about the Chinese dinner the previous night. There were several possibilities for the drunken feeling and the enlarged fibroid.
* Soy products had estrogenic properties. Ah! I had tofu!
* The vegetables and sauces may have had refined sugar, cornstarch, wheat and/or monosodium glutamate (MSG): all products that the body would have a hard time digesting.

Not only did my fibroid feast on the tofu, but my intestines were bloated with products nearly impossible to digest. Sheila said in retrospect, I could have given myself an enema to relieve the bloatedness. After our colonic session, the bloatedness went away. Ever since then, I've watched what I eat to see if I become bloated and sluggish again.

To complete my series with her, I saw her one more time that week, and had one session in August, September and October. After my 4th session with Sheila in August, I started to have one bowel movement a day. My personal view of colon cleansing is that it is essential to have one's colon cleansed when regular and complete bowel movements are not happening. If the body cannot rid itself of waste, the body will re-uptake a variety of toxins and cause all the other systems of the body to work overtime in a polluted environment. The body wants to heal itself when we're awake or asleep.

Who are we to impede our body's mission with a bad diet, a bad attitude, and bad habits?

Sheila suggested that I take a look at Elaine Gottshall's book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle which talks about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I visited her website and found an incredible network of information about diet and health. I have adopted some of her suggestions because I feel that my intestinal tract likes a certain kind of food or flour better than another. I still keep track of what seems to hard for me to digest and then avoid those foods. Or I eat them in moderation knowing the consequences and take steps to deal with the aftermath.

So far I have found that certain wines (alcohol) affect my fibroid. Whole wheat is not so great for my digestion. And of course, anything with estrogenic properties (like tofu, soy sauces, hormone pumped meats) affects me so that I look like I am 4-months pregnant the following days.

I learned from another great website Sheila suggested I explore. Dr. Julia Chang focuses on the importance of having a strong liver and gall bladder because these organs detoxify the circulatory (blood) and lymphatic systems. Most ailments will heal with a healthy colon, liver and gall bladder.

Stories the Body Reveals
I am still on my journey. In October, I had an opportunity to receive a Cranio-Sacral session with a woman whose life is dedicated to helping others discover the messages and stories locked in their bodies. These therapists work with the rhythm of the cranio-sacral fluid in your spine in order to help the body to heal itself of whatever ails it. I knew that she would help me tap into the spiritual and emotional aspect of my fibroid.
Visit for more information about this wonderful therapy.

During our session, two stories came to light The first one is connected to my beloved dog, Bear, who my mom and I decided to euthanize in 1994. I somehow still feel responsible for his death. Is this why my fibroid has attached itself to my uterus? Maybe its message is about life - giving and taking it.

The second story is related to a period of 4 years of my childhood when I was sexually abused. Ambivalence about love emerged. I wanted to be loved but I didn't want to be abused. Yet, I could not say yes to one and no to the other. I thought the two were inseparable. This ambivalence has shown itself in my adult life in past relationships that were abusive.

I know there are probably other stories and messages that I need to remember and deal with in the very near future.
* I plan to continue eating chemical-free foods, fresh fruit, fresh
vegetables, continue with colon hydrotherapy as well as shiatsu and
cranio-sacral therapies.
* I am taking the steps to help myself lead a healthy and rewarding life.
* I am working on all three levels of being human: the physical, mental
and spiritual.
* I live each day doing the things that are important to me and
* I know the fundamental law of life is change.

Appearance and Reality
It really was quite dramatic the way my body changed with the fibroid's appearance. At first I had a difficult time with my belly rounding out. Up until the late summer/early fall of 1999, I had a flat abdomen. When it rounded out, I couldn't stop thinking about it or looking at myself in a mirror with disappointment. I realized that the days of sporadic exercise and poor eating habits had to go.

I began to do a lot of abdominal exercises and found that yoga demanded a lot of strength. I also learned that weak abs can be an indicator of a weak back, so I incorporated back exercises into my workout regimen. It took me one whole year to stop worrying about how my belly looked, about how I looked. I see now that my body is changing and have learned to accept it instead of fighting it.

Life at 30
I have just turned 30 and the events in my life, good and bad, have helped me to become the person I am today, physically, mentally, and spiritually. With self-reflection and meditation I am aware of the fact that I still fall into the valleys of procrastination and self-doubt, but with a positive mental attitude, as well as the love and encouragement from my husband, family, and close friends, I know the peaks of joy and self-contentment are always attainable.

To everyone who reads this, begin today with this thought: imagine yourself healthy and vibrant, be flexible and flowing, be open to the new and changing, flow with life easily and effortlessly. Every thought you have is creating your future. Here's to a loving and meaningful future for all of us!

1. Northrup, Christiane MD, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing (New York NY: Bantam Books rev. ed. 1998) p183

2. Weil, Andrew MD, Natural Health Natural Medicine (1990) pp328-9

3. Weed, Susun, Menopausal Years (Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing 1992) p11-12

4. Feinstein, AD, "Conflict over Childbearing and Tumors of the Female Reproductive System: Symbolism in Disease," Somatics, Fall/Winter, 1983.

5. Weed, Susun, Menopausal Years (Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing 1992) p.11-12

6. Northrup, Christiane, MD, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing (New York NY: Bantam Books, rev. ed. 1998) p189

7. Naturopathic Handbook of Herbal Formulas, a Practical and Concise Herb User's Guide (Ayer, MA: Herbal Research Publications Inc, 4th ed 1995) p17

8. Herbal Handbook of Herbal Formulas, 4th ed (Ayer, MA: Herbal Research Publications Inc 1995)

9. Jackson, Mildred ND and Terri Teague ND DC The Handbook of Alternatives to Chemical Medicine (Novato CA: New World Library, rev. ed. 1997) p34-35

10. Weed, Susun, Menopausal Years (Woodstock NY: Ash Tree Publishing 1992) p12

© 2001 Sheila Shea All Rights Reserved
© 2001 Robin Leebardt All Rights Reserved

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