I am a wife and a mom,
a daughter and a sister,
an aunt and a cousin,
a grand-daughter and a friend.
My interest in health and nutrition was planted in me at an early age; I just wasn't paying attention. I was raised in a family that ate organic health food before "organic" and "health food" were as common phrases as they are today. We didn't have white sugar, white flour, pop/soda, or many packaged and processed foods in our house, and we only occasionally ate at fast food restaurants. My parents were runners. Not the marathon type or the "live to run" type, but they did run most days, and even started "fun runs" in our home town. I think for them the idea was "run to live". I myself wasn't an athlete in school. In fact, in high school I found numerous creative ways of getting out of gym class. I was on the basketball team for a few years, but it didn't stick. I was more interested in having big "80's" hair and looking made up than I was in being physically active.
As a teenager and able to spend more time away from home, I managed to find ways to indulge in "forbidden" foods whenever the opportunity arose. I ate healthy for the most part, but could never really say "no" to certain foods when the possibility to enjoy them came up. I paid the price for my indulgences in that my weight was higher in my sophomore and junior years in high school than it was when I was at the end of either of my pregnancies. I knew I was bigger than I should be, and I remember that I wasn't very happy.
In college, I did the "fat-free" thing; eating only foods that were labeled as such, then eventually switched to only "high carb" foods. I really had no idea what REAL health food was, and didn't know a whole lot about physical fitness either. I stumbled into exercise when I was a college freshman as a way to keep myself busy and not feel so homesick. Most days I would run, ride a stationary bike, swim laps, AND participate in an aerobics class. I thought I was being healthy, and I thought I felt good, but I didn't realize I was over doing it - big time! Thankfully, because I decided to study exercise science as part of my college degree, I learned that what I was doing was too much, and I found a healthy way to stay active and still feel good.
Once I became a mom, my approach to food and exercise changed. I cleaned up our diet as much as I could, making the healthiest choices possibly and avoiding too many processed foods. I also took a different, healthier approach to exercise. I knew that daily exercise made it easier for me to handle the stresses of raising young children, so my husband and I created a home gym in our basement. I was able to exercise before the kids woke up, or during their nap time, and doing so made me feel better about me. My husband began participating in triathlons, and I signed up to participate in a few myself. I despise swimming though, so I found that running events were more my style. After some time, the training for running events became a new source of stress in my life, and I eventually realized that I was happier when I kept my exercising just for me. It's been years since I've participated in an organized running event, but I rarely go a day without some sort of physical activity. I just feel better when I move.
In general I'm very healthy and am lucky in that I rarely suffer from colds or any sort of common illness. However, in early spring of 2012 I began suffering from severe and sudden onsets of joint inflammation, primarily in my fingers, wrists, knees, ankles and back. At one point my inflammation was so severe I couldn't hold a pencil, twist open a milk container or put my hair in a ponytail. Simple everyday activities were not only difficult, but painful to perform. Life as I knew it had dramatically changed, and my ability to be physically active was almost completely gone.
Over the course of several months the doctors tried everything to help me with my inflammation. However, they weren't so much interested in WHY I was suddenly suffering such debilitating inflammation and limited movement as they were to simply make it go away. At one time the rheumatologist I was seeing had me on a daily cocktail of thirteen different medications. Some were prescribed to make the inflammation go away; the others to fight the side effects of the original medications.
In a rather short time period, what happened was that not only did my inflammation NOT go away, but the medications I had been taking wreaked havoc in my digestive system, leaving it virtually destroyed. I still had the same inflammation in my joints I had initially been suffering from, but I had also developed leaky gut, a compromised immune system, new food sensitivities, as well as a slew of skin issues from scaly skin, to raised red rashes on my face, neck and limbs.
I was miserable. I cried daily, which I later found out only made things worse. The emotional stress acted as a secondary source of internal inflammation, especially on my face. I didn't want to go anywhere or see anyone because of the way the skin rashes were making me look, and simply moving about to go anywhere was difficult and painful. Like I said, I was miserable.
It wasn't until I took matters into my own hands that things began to turn around for me. I decided I needed to "break up" with my rheumatologist, and I was able to begin seeing a new doctor who knew I needed a different approach. She was a traditional Western medical rheumatologist, but she looked at a person and their illness and asked "WHY" something was happening and then approached treatment from a different angle.
While my blood work had always indicated that my body showed no signs of arthritis (go figure), X-rays did show major inflammation. My new doctor felt very strongly that what I was suffering from was a form of arthritis that comes about simply as a reaction to a foreign invader in the body. The body reacts to the foreign substance by creating an auto-immune response throughout the body, with most of the reactions happening wherever the body is most weak, thus becoming the most inflammed. What she suggested was that my body was most likely reacting to a food substance and had become highly sensitive to that food. She suggested I try an elimination diet where I would remove foods that are highly inflammatory to see how my body reacted.
To make a very long story short, together we determined that over time, my body had become sensitive to both gluten and dairy. It was the consumption of foods containing those two substances that was causing my arthritis. Since my body couldn't digest or utilize those foods the way it should, my body was reacting with an inflammatory response. For me, that reaction was primarily in my fingers, wrist, toes, knees and to a lesser extent, in my spine. Once I removed those foods, the swelling and pain almost completely disappeared.
The kicker was that due to the leaky gut that had also developed, small food particles of normally healthy and non-inflammatory foods were making their way into my bloodstream, and my body was reacting to those with an auto-immune response as well. That meant that aside from just gluten and dairy, I also needed to eliminate other foods from my diet until we determined which foods I was most reactive too. I began to address the issue of leaky gut, and I did that by further limiting my food intake to certain foods, drinking bone broth and taking minerals and herbal supplements that would help repair the damage done to my digestive system by all the medications. Over the course of three years, I was not only able to heal my leaky gut, but also determine which foods are inflammatory triggers for my body, and by avoiding them, have found a level of health that I've never felt before.
Now, several years later, I am almost completely gluten and dairy free. I am not perfect, but I do choose my times to splurge carefully, and I limit those splurges to special occasions. Since removing certain foods from my diet, my body is healthier and stronger than it was. If I do choose to consume a little gluten or dairy on a special occasion, I will not suffer as much inflammation as I used to, but it also takes a much smaller amount of each of those substances to trigger an inflammatory reaction within me. I plan my indulgences in advance, making sure to eat as healthy as possible for days prior to a special food event, and to really eat well afterwards to get my digestive system back to where it wants to be.
I continue to have issues with my digestive system and need to be careful, not only of the amount of food that I eat, but also which fluids I consume with my meals. Since my body doesn't digest food on its own very effectively, I need to take digestive enzymes with each meal. I also take probiotics and a few specific vitamins each day, all because of my compromised digestive system. When I don't pay attention to my body as much as I should, I am quickly reminded to get my head back in the game, as my body will react in several ways that make life less than fully enjoyable.
This new way of living is not always easy, but I feel so much better than I did when I was in the depths of my inflammation. I swear I will never go back to that way of living - ever! And I have total empathy and compassion for anyone who is currently suffering for unknown reasons like I did.
This journey has been difficult and challenging, but I know it was also very purposeful. Going through the struggles I have had with my food and digestive issues has made me realize how much other people must be suffering too. In so many ways the lifestyles that most of us are living are making us sick. It might not be food issues for everyone, but not knowing what is causing a specific health issue can be freightening and overwhleming. I have made it my mission to help people find out what is making their life less than they want it to be.
I am here for you, to help you find a NEW way of living your life, so that you too can feel abundantly WELL.