This Woman's Story Of How She Gained 50 Pounds In Three Months And Was Told By A Doctor That Her Bloating Was "Psychosomatic" Has Gone Viral On TikTok

·4 min read

Kalista Dwyer is a 22-year-old content creator who recently documented her journey with extreme bloating and weight gain on TikTok.

In the video, Kalista explains that she'd inexplicably gained 50 pounds in just three months, experienced intense bloating and pain every time she ate, had swelling in her hands, and was fatigued. After six ER visits, two colonoscopies and endoscopies, and a gastric emptying study, one of the doctors treating her concluded that her symptoms were simply, "psychosomatic."

BuzzFeed reached out to Kalista, who said that her symptoms began last November, when she spent two weeks visiting Costa Rica. "While there, most would've lost weight. I was eating super clean and fresh, hiking miles a day, surfing, swimming, etc. When I came back, I had gained almost 10 pounds, and my stomach was swollen like a balloon."

A mirror selfie of Kalista's stomach
@kalistadwyer / Via tiktok.com

Doctors were quick to ask Kalista if she'd consumed any gluten, since she's been diagnosed with celiac disease since she was 11 years old, but that was quickly ruled out. From there, Kalista began a harrowing and stressful journey to figure out what was wrong with her gut. As she moved through multiple doctors and procedures, all without an answer, she gained a total of 30 pounds between February and April, and was gaining roughly 5 pounds a week. "I was asked on multiple occasions in public (and online) if I was pregnant. The public asks hurt the most."

  @kalistadwyer / Via tiktok.com
@kalistadwyer / Via tiktok.com

On her sixth ER visit, Kalista saw a doctor who basically told her it was all in her head: "He told me it was psychosomatic. He said, at this point, all we could do was treat the symptoms. I was on eight prescribed medications at this point (for acid reflux, colon movement, etc.). I was taking 10 Tums a day, and nothing was relieving the pain. I left crying. I felt defeated. Defeated that I had to live like this. At that point, I weighed 180 pounds. In a year, I'd gone from 120 to 180 pounds [and changed nothing about my diet or lifestyle], and no one believed anything was wrong with me."

Things finally began to change when Kalista visited a holistic doctor, which she considered her "last shot" at figuring out what was wrong. After listening to her concerns for a full hour, the holistic doc decided to test for food intolerances and run a GI-Map test. It took a full month to receive her results, but in the end, Kalista tested positive for helicobacter pylori, SIBO, candida, and leaky gut. She also tested positive for mild to severe food intolerances to rice, potato, corn, avocado, almonds, milk, beef, pork, broccoli, baker's yeast, tomato, and asparagus.

A mirror selfie of Kalista with the caption "my gut is leaking (found in both blood & samples)"
@kalistadwyer / Via tiktok.com

Since finally receiving a proper diagnosis, Kalista has been working with her doctor to slowly recover. "I'm on a pharmaceutical and many supplements. We're trying to heal as naturally as possible due to all the medications my body has been put on this past year. I've had to completely change my diet, which has NOT been easy, but will be SO worth it. I already feel such a difference cutting out all those foods." After just two months on the right medication and with a modified diet, Kalista told BuzzFeed that she's already lost 20 of the 50 pounds she originally gained.

I reached out to Dr. Supriya Rao, MD, a board-certified physician in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and obesity medicine, to learn more about Kalista's symptoms and find out how common they are. Dr. Rao told BuzzFeed, "Food intolerances can definitely play a role in bloating. Foods that have fermentable sugars (also known as FODMAPs) can lead to severe bloating. SIBO is the abnormal increase of bacteria in the small intestine — patients often have chronic diarrhea and malabsorption. Meanwhile, H. pylori is a bacteria that can be found in the stomach and can cause ulcers."

For anyone else who might be in a situation similar to Kalista's, Dr. Rao recommended working with a GI doc and dietician to work out a long-term plan. And she said, "Regardless, advocate for your health."

As for how Kalista feels about sharing her journey on TikTok, she tries to drown out any insensitive and negative comments, and instead focus on the positive. "I have to remember all the people I have helped. I get so many girls saying they're crying watching my video, because they're going through the same thing and don't know what to do. If anything, the response has shown me how neglected women's issues are. Bloating is horrible and really impacts someone's life, and it needs to be taken more seriously."

  @kalistadwyer / Via tiktok.com
@kalistadwyer / Via tiktok.com

"People can say whatever they want, but YOU are the one living it. It's your body, and you know what feels 'normal.' If you don't feel normal, FIGHT for an answer."

You can follow Kalista's health journey and recovery on TikTok and Instagram.