By Rebecca Drew
MEET the young woman who is in training for her first bodybuilding competition after being struck down by a dangerous bacterial overgrowth which saw her weight drop to just six stone and left her housebound for four months.
Receptionist, Alyssa Mercado (19) from Ronkonkoma, New York, USA has always been naturally slim and looked on as her friends transformed into curvy young women. It wasn’t until she reached senior year in high school that Alyssa started suffering with digestive symptoms that made her sick, fatigued and depressed. Her weight plummeted to just 6st 1lb and she had no energy to get out of bed in the morning.
After undergoing countless tests, Alyssa was diagnosed with small intestine bacteria overgrowth which sees bad bacteria steal food’s nutrients, causing stomach upset and rapid weight loss. Alyssa had already started a gluten free diet in an attempt to control her symptoms and was prescribed medication which helped her get her life back on track and reach the healthy 7st 9lbs she is now.
“I naturally have an extremely fast metabolism so putting on weight and even just maintaining my weight has been a struggle ever since I was young,” she said.
“Ever since I could remember, people would comment about my weight saying, you’re so skinny, asking do you eat and telling me that I should eat a hamburger and put some meat on your bones because I was skin and bones. It has been my biggest insecurity since I entered grade school.
“As I got older I watched all my friends blossom into beautiful curvy women yet I remained the skinny friend.
“Things really took a turn for the worse my senior year of high school. I rapidly began losing weight and struggling with severe digestive symptoms that made me sick to my stomach, fatigued, and depressed.
“By the end of September 2015, I was so sick that I was unable to go to school, go to work, or even leave my house. For the next four months, I was confined to my house and received home teaching. I didn’t see my friends, missed out on senior year activities, and fell behind in a lot of my school work.
“During this time, I felt so alone and so hopeless. I kept questioning why me, as I continued to see social media post after social media post of my friends and classmates going to parties, enjoying senior year activities and just enjoying everyday life. There were so many times I even found it hard to get out of bed in the morning.
“I decided to try a gluten free diet to see if it would alleviate some of my symptoms. After a few weeks on this diet, the majority of my symptoms began to subside.
“A few weeks after this, I was diagnosed with small intestine bacterial overgrowth. This overgrowth of bad bacteria in my small intestine was stealing the nutrients from the foods I would eat resulting in my rapid weight loss and stomach upset.
“I was prescribed medication but before I even started taking them I had felt cured. Such a small change in my diet had made such a huge difference in my health and in my life. I was in awe that I was able to heal myself from months of suffering through nutrition. This is what sparked my love for the health and fitness industry.”
The main purpose of the small intestine is to digest and absorb food into the body. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is when abnormally large numbers of bacteria are present in the small intestine. Symptoms include, excess wind, abdominal bloating and distention, diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain.
Alyssa trains five to six times a week and fuels herself by eating between six to eight meals a day packed with lean meats, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
She hopes to compete in her first NPC bodybuilding competition next season and hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams.
“I thank God for every struggle that I went through during that time because it has made me into the woman I am today. It has allowed me to become a stronger individual and find my passion in life as well as allowed me to use my experience to help others struggling in their own endeavours,” she added.
“I have learnt to be grateful for each day and to love myself for who I am. I am always growing through this process not only physically but mainly mentally. You can choose to let trouble and despair define you or you can choose to let it strengthen you.
“I have big plans for my future both long term and short term. For example, I hope to compete in an NPC bodybuilding show early next season. I will be entering the bikini category.
“For me this competition will be so much more than just a placing or a trophy. To me this is about strength, discipline, focus, goals, and doing what I love.
“My overall goal is to reach out to other struggling with health issues, self-esteem issues, and self-doubt. I want to inspire others to follow their dreams, love themselves, and accept that everything happens for a reason.
“Use trials and tribulations as a lesson to grow from and take it and run with it. I hope when others view my journey and Instagram page they are not only inspired to take control of the reigns on their lives and their health but to also spread and radiate positivity, love, and support to others because our world needs more of that.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/alyssamercadofit