Customer Story

This college runner battled GI distress and feelings of anxiousness before racing.


When Hailey found Ixcela, she was a busy biology major in the third year of her collegiate long-distance running career. Since high school, Hailey had struggled with intense nausea and stomachaches before every big race and after eating. Although she had seen doctors about her GI issues, she hadn’t yet found a solution. She suspected that her symptoms stemmed from nerves and the prospect of letting her coach and teammates down. Hailey knew that her body needed more fuel for performance and recovery, but her GI distress made her hesitant to eat anything before racing except fruit gummies and water. She would push herself to compete, even if it meant her nutrition practices would suffer.

Juggling her roles as a top runner on her team, dedicated student, and lab technician put Hailey under a lot of stress. She often struggled to find time to prepare balanced meals, take care of herself, and get a good night’s rest. Her reduced food intake had started to affect her hunger cues, and she found that she would often go an entire day without eating a balanced meal, even on practice and race days. Hailey was excited to learn about her Ixcela results so she could start feeling better, maintain her position on her team, and prepare for future seasons. Fortunately, knowing what was going on in her gut was just what Hailey needed.


Hailey’s Ixcela results showed that she had a gut bacterial imbalance and her serotonin was below optimal levels. Her Ixcela Registered Dietitian explained that about 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, and serotonin plays an important role in:

  • Feelings of well-being and the ability to manage stress.
    Hailey knew many of her struggles were related to stress, but she had no idea that her gut was part of the problem.
  • The ability to fall asleep and get a good night’s rest.
    Hailey often had a hard time falling asleep after a stressful day.
  • Consistent digestion and how well food moves through the gut.
    For years, Hailey had tried everything to manage bloating and stomachaches after meals.

The bacterial imbalance was also an important part of understanding Hailey’s gut health. A balanced gut is necessary for nutrient utilization, which supports recovery and maintenance of the cells that produce serotonin. Hailey and her Ixcela dietitian discussed how a balanced gut microbiome would support her athletic performance and help with:

  • GI distress that could interfere with her goals.
  • Anti-inflammatory processes and faster recovery after training.


Before her Ixcela results were posted, Hailey assumed her test would show that her gut microbiome was imbalanced and causing her GI distress. She was not aware that the gut is also connected to emotional health, physical stress, sleep, and inflammation. She was excited to learn that Ixcela could also help her improve her emotional balance, recovery from exercise, and sleep quality. She was relieved to finally know what she could do to start feeling better.

During Hailey’s results review session, she and her Ixcela Registered Dietitian discussed how focusing on nutrition and recovery habits to support her serotonin levels and gut microbiome could help her reduce GI symptoms and better manage stress.


Hailey and her Ixcela dietitian messaged weekly to make small changes in her current routine. These targeted changes would help Hailey balance her gut bacteria and support her serotonin levels during her 90-day program. Because her schedule was already packed with school, work, and athletics, she needed realistic goals.

During the first 6 weeks of her Ixcela Program, Hailey worked to include the following habits consistently:

  1. Take her recommended Ixcela supplements:
  2. Include protein with breakfast every day. Examples that worked well for Hailey included:
    • 2 scrambled eggs
    • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
    • Protein bar or protein shake
    • 2 high-protein waffles
  3. Replace processed foods like ramen noodles with balanced, nutrient-dense meals. Examples that fit her budget and schedule:
    • Breaded chicken with steam-in-bag vegetables and pasta
    • Fish with steam-in-bag vegetables and pasta
    • Chipotle chicken burrito bowl
  4. Include habits to ease her nerves:
    • Listen to motivational speeches
    • Talk with teammates
    • Get outside for a walk

During the last 6 weeks of her Ixcela Program, Hailey worked to consistently practice the following habits:

  1. Continue eating balanced, high-protein meals to support performance and recovery.
  2. Prioritize getting at least 8 hours of sleep, even when her schedule varied from day to day.
    • On the nights before an early-morning practice or class, she would go to bed early.
    • When she needed to stay up late due to traveling or studying, she would allow herself to sleep for an extra hour.
  3. Include an electrolyte supplement like Liquid I.V. daily to support hydration and recovery.
    • Include a second serving of an electrolyte supplement on days of outdoor training.


Hailey’s Ixcela Experience BEFORE Ixcela AFTER Ixcela 90-day Program
Stomach issues outside of training Every day, 7 days a week ~1 day per month
Feeling nauseous before racing Every race No races
Sleep ~ 6 hours per night ~ 8+ hours per night
Energy Had to set several alarms to get out of bed Got out of bed with 1 alarm
Getting enough protein 0 days per week 5 days per week

After six weeks, Hailey’s sleep and energy improved and her nausea decreased! Because of Ixcela testing and weekly guidance from her dedicated Ixcela dietitian, Hailey had the targeted plan and the support she needed to feel better during and outside of training.

After her first session with her Ixcela Registered Dietitian, Hailey felt motivated and excited. She finally understood why she was feeling the way she was, and she had the action plan she needed to improve her symptoms.

Hailey’s second test results showed an improvement in metabolites that reflected the population and diversity of her gut microbiome. Her data also showed improved serotonin levels. These improvements helped her understand that small, consistent nutrition and lifestyle habits make a big difference in energy levels, motivation, and GI distress.

When Hailey put more effort into preparing balanced meals, she began to feel better, which gave her more energy and supported her training. She noticed that her hunger was increasing and she was able to better fuel her training and performance. With her increased hunger, she also noticed the nausea that she had felt daily after eating had diminished, and she rarely felt nauseated after eating.

Hailey had understood the importance of sleep before working with Ixcela, but she thought that she could make up for lack of sleep on weekdays by sleeping more during the weekends. Hailey’s efforts to get at least eight hours of sleep each night paid off and she noticed that it was easier to wake up in the morning and maintain her energy levels throughout the day.

Note: Hailey experienced the Personalized Accountability Program with Dedicated Ixcela Expert Support.

Here's what Hailey said:

I was having gut issues and Ixcela was recommended to me. My goal going into this was to figure out why I was having GI distress after eating. I also wanted to be able to recover better from workouts. The testing data helped me learn how much stress can impact the gut as well as the ability to recover after workouts. The reason I recommend Ixcela is because you can find out so many things from a simple blood test that can improve your quality of life. Ixcela helped give me the answers I’ve been looking for after seeing so many doctors that said there was nothing wrong with me.

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