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Gut Guru Heather Van Vorous

By Kay Daly

Intro | Trial And Error | Reaching Out | Healthy Career

Heather Van Vorous was 9 years old when it first struck.

“It was summer vacation and I was at a friend's house,” Heather recalls. “Suddenly, I blacked out with pain.” Heather remembers being completely immobilized by a searing ache in her gut. She tried to call her friend's name but couldn't form the words.

Her parents sought medical attention immediately, but Heather's pediatrician didn't share their concerns. After a cursory examination, the doctor told Heather it was all in her head, and instructed her to “stop whining.” The crippling pains recurred, and Heather returned to the doctor again and again, only to receive the same dismissive response. Despite her parents' pleas, the physician refused to refer Heather to a gastrointestinal specialist, and because her family belonged to an HMO, they couldn't seek a second opinion.

It was seven years before anything changed. At age 16, Heather was able to leave pediatric care and graduate to a general practice doctor. Her new physician took her concerns seriously and gave her a diagnosis: Heather had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Heather was initially relieved. Her ongoing pain was real, and it had a name. But as with most IBS sufferers, Heather's suffering was far from over. It would be years before she learned how to get her IBS under control. But in doing so, she would pioneer a whole new treatment approach and create a successful career as an IBS expert and author.

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