My Healing Journey
My health journey started with a quest for a diagnosis in my childhood after years of vomiting, stunted growth, stomach pains, and many signs of malnourishment. Sick with worry, my parents were seeking answers for their five-year-old daughter at the Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado. After puking a rainbow of the Fruit Loops I had eaten for breakfast that morning, doctors were starting to piece together that the kind of food I was eating might be the root of my problems. Through a small bowel biopsy, their hypothesis was confirmed and we were finally given answers—I had tested positive for celiac disease.
While celiac disease is more commonly diagnosed now, the autoimmune disease was rarely tested then. I spent my pre-K years visiting multiple doctors testing for a variety of gastro-intestinal conditions to no avail. I was even tested and treated for giardia. Some of these doctor visits occasionally eased the vomiting and bloating for a few days, but my symptoms would always come back with a vengeance. After being diagnosed with celiac disease and removing gluten from my diet, I instantly started to thrive! My mother was relieved as she watched me grow two shoe sizes in a matter of months. As a young child, I first handedly witnessed the powerful effect food can have on our bodies!
"No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means"
My diagnosis seemed to be the light at the end of the tunnel, but it was never enough. I ate a lot of processed, gluten free goodies in my new lifestyle change thinking these were good options for me. I had frequent tummy aches throughout my childhood, developed shingles at the age of 12, and learned I was lactose intolerant in my teens. My immune system always seemed to be a step behind.
My sub-optimal health caught up to me in college. As a two-sport athlete, there were many long days of multiple practices, school, and late-night study sessions. I was silently worsening my gut without a clue that I was beginning to spiral downward into another health hole. A shoulder injury required surgery, and during my recovery, I developed another case of shingles and randomly acquired scabies. The treatment for these newfound illnesses? Say hello to rounds of antibiotics and steroid treatments, wave goodbye to the good bugs in my gut! My digestive system was destroyed; diarrhea, constipation, severe stomach pain, bloating. You name it, I had it all.
Rather than seeking help and embarrassingly describe all of my unfortunate bowel movements, I ignored all of my digestive issues. I experimented with different fad diets and turned into an irritable insomniac with nasty brain fog and terrible anxiety. I lost 20 pounds very quickly and my menstrual cycle disappeared. In desperation, I went to 15 different doctors and gastroenterologists. Several of them advised that I was likely consuming unknown sources of gluten. Many told me I had IBS and I just needed to manage the symptoms. One doctor completely undermined me by suggesting this was all in my head. Frustrated, I did my best to ignore my digestive symptoms and “manage my IBS”.
I was able to manage my anxiety and insomnia by expending energy in the outdoors, but years passed by with my gut continuing to wreak havoc on my everyday life. I was exhausted of trying to find a solution when my mother encouraged me to see a nutritionist. I was hesitant, but I didn’t want to let my biggest supporter throughout my health journey down. I’m so thankful I made the commitment to see a nutritionist as it changed my life forever! We spent two and a half hours talking during our first consultation. I felt like someone was truly listening to me and treating the root problem, not the symptoms.
"The greatest medicine of all is teaching people how not to need it."
Within 3 months of working with my nutritionist, I got my menstrual cycle back, I started to absorb nutrients again and I gained some weight. I completed loads of functional medicine testing to uncover some unfamiliar gut conditions; H.pylori, parasite infections, candida overgrowth, and SIBO. No wonder my gut was so wonky! Even though uncovering these new illnesses were helping me get better, I still had a lot of work to do. All of the time I spent living with an upset gut also meant that my hormones were out of whack. Through my work with my nutritionist, schooling, and my own learning, I am continuing to improve these conditions today.
Needless to say, my recovery process has been a long battle. It’s difficult to think about the amount of time I’ve spent on restrictive diets, the lifestyle changes, the tears, anger, pain, and frustration. It has been the hardest thing I’ve had to physically overcome, and it will always be something I continually work on. However, I would not change my experience because it has fueled me to continue my work and education in nutrition. I aim to help clients recover from their own health battles; to start or continue their own health journey.