As a kid, I thought I was healthy because I was not fat. So untrue, but that is what I thought.
The Early Warning Signs in Puberty
My delusion did not last very long. Shortly after puberty hit, I started experiencing severe mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Just normal teenage angst, right? Also, minor incidents, such as bee stings that healthy bodies are typically able to heal, sent me to the doctor’s office and subsequently to the pharmacy for prescription steroids. This medication worked, and I did not question these magic pills or the reason why my immune system could not calm my swelling in the first place.
As a teenager, my mental health spiraled downward and I started going to therapy. It helped, but it wasn’t enough after I experienced a severe life-changing trauma that is tragically familiar to many women. I would later learn that trauma is intricately linked with autoimmune conditions because of its profound effect on the nervous system. But at the time I was unaware and seventeen years old. My resulting behavior alternated between screaming fits and refusing to get out of bed in the mornings.
Thankfully, I left town and went to college soon after. I majored in Environmental Science and learned how to eat. As I cooked more vegetables and practiced yoga regularly, I saw significant improvements in my health. I graduated with honors and was accepted into a competitive internship at Herb Pharm, the leading medicinal tincture company in the United States. I was cured! Or so I thought.
My Symptoms became so Obvious that I Could Not Ignore Them
It wasn’t long before a rash developed around my eyes. It started slowly working its way down my face and by the time I finally went to the doctor, I had a full, flaming, handlebar mustache rash. My doctor told me to stop eating wheat and sugar. “Your body doesn’t like cheese either, but don’t worry about that right now!” she called to me on my way out the door.
After about a month of completely abstaining from wheat or sugar, my rash cleared. I worked for a naturopath in Portland, Oregon at this time and impulsively signed up for her elimination diet class after a bad break up. I thought I was going to cleanse my body enough to eat wheat again. However, my reality was the exact opposite. When I started reintroducing foods, I reacted to practically everything! I thought yeast overgrowth was the cause and went on a related cleanse. I maintained this diet while I interned under naturopaths and medicine women on their organic farms around the world for about a year. It was essentially a very ill-informed low carbohydrate diet, but at the time I was so happy with how skinny and healthy I thought I looked! In hindsight, I realize I accidentally starved myself. The diet was so extreme that I bounced back to eating conventional foods because I was just so hungry. I jumped back onto the toxic food wagon and my mental and physical health started slipping again.
My Autoimmune Struggle
When My Man and I moved to Alaska, healthful food was not very affordable. I thought I could handle this reality, but I couldn’t. Alaska was where I learned how sensitive to food I really was. By consistently eating conventional and processed foods, I lost any aspect of mental health I had been struggling to hang onto. I had hives all over my body and swollen limbs. I could not string cohesive thoughts together and would occasionally have psychotic meltdowns. Some days I could not get out of bed. Autoimmunity had taken over my life.
The Gut and Psychology/ Physiology Syndrome (GAPS™) Nutritional Protocol saved me. Reading Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book about this matter taught me how physical and psychological issues were connected. It was a godsend. This book read like a mystery novel for me and my health issues started making sense for the first time.
I decided to go on the Full GAPS protocol as a birthday present to myself. Within two weeks of being on it, my mood and mental clarity improved, my swelling went down, and my hives started clearing. After barely being able to work four hours per day, I had the strength to work full time again.
My Path Toward Healing
Things were looking up. And even though the shift from a conventional diet to Full GAPS was intense for my body, I was detoxing profoundly. Detox symptoms can be overwhelming, so I encourage my clients to go slow with their diet change and to make space for rest in their lives while doing so.
When I felt adequately detoxified, I transitioned into the GAPS Introduction Protocol, which is a more intense healing version of Full GAPS. On this protocol, I ate only the easiest foods to digest and gradually added in new foods in a systematic and informed manner. During this time, I was living in a cabin in the Alaskan woods, monitoring salmon populations and fending off wild bears. I worried that I would not get enough nourishment and energy from GAPS Intro, but with a GAPS online course and support group, I received great direction and more physical nourishment than I had ever had in my life.
Within six months on GAPS Intro, I healed my egg and dairy sensitivities and improved my nut tolerance. I felt like I was glowing. Tyler and I moved back down ‘South’ in spirit of my health, knowing that I needed better access to quality food.
My Healing Setbacks
But times being what they were, a political shift rescinded my lucrative job offer due to a freeze in environmental funding. Scrambling in desperation, I moved to Colorado and took a job in ‘Vegetation Management,’ aka using cancerous chemicals to kill ‘weeds’ in the name of native ecosystems. I recently learned that exposure to these pesticides drastically sabotaged my healing process (You can learn more about how pesticides are #1 out of the top 3 gut killers on my You Heal Your Gut Video Channel). I commuted an hour and a half to work every day in mind-bending traffic. My hair started falling out.
Then I got a case of poison ivy that wouldn’t go away. It just kept spreading. That is when I became aware that there was something obviously wrong with my immune system. I went through three rounds of steroids. The poison ivy persisted. I was miserable and terrified. My doctor at the time did not ease these worries, confirming that there was something ‘seriously wrong’ with me. She tested me for Lyme Disease. It was negative. I went to multiple doctors and no one could find a diagnosis. I lied awake at night, running through all the awful diseases it could be, feeling like I had all of them. Thinking that if I could not count on my immune system, how could I ever count on living a healthy, normal life?
I ultimately had to quit my job, which was a huge blessing in disguise. I fell back on my herbal medicine education and entered the corporate world managing a supplement department while I went to school for Nutritional Therapy.
In effort to recover from the gut disruption caused by all of the steroids, I went on the GAPS Introduction Protocol for a second time. If you are wondering, it was so much easier the second time around!
My Seemingly Insurmountable Challenges
However, I got poison ivy again. I know. I found a naturopath with the best reviews and healed with turmeric and adrenal glandulars. How come no one had advised that in the first place?! I also tested positive for salmonella and strep and found out that latent infections are incredibly common in autoimmune disease.
After telling my naturopath about my struggles, he really wanted to test me for heavy metals. I obliged. To test, he intravenously chelated me, or stuck metal chelators into my veins with an IV. My results came back ‘off the charts’ in lead. Could it have been the lead water pipes, the toxic pesticides that I had to use for my vegetation management job? No telling for sure. And then my real issues started.
I developed a rash under my armpits, which hosted a fungal and a staph infection. One of my ankles swelled to the size of a balloon for no apparent reason. After much confusion, I discovered that by putting metal chelators into my veins, all the lead that had been safely stored away in my fat tissue had potentially redistributed into my organs and damaged my liver. I had to be on medication to control my rashes and swelling for almost a year after that. My egg and dairy sensitivities came back after years of being clear of them, and I became reactive to a plethora of new foods.
And now here I am. Going on Intro for the third time. I know there are so many possible actions I can take to heal. And despite all the setbacks, I know there is hope for me.
And I know there is hope for you. The healing journey is tough and convoluted. It is not linear, but circuitous. It takes mental and emotional strength. It requires support and practical knowledge. I sincerely wish I would have been working with a GAPS practitioner, trained to treat the body gently, who would have helped me build physical resilience in a natural way. But the past is the past, and that is also where I come in, as a guide so that you do not have to make the same mistakes I did.
And despite my mysterious chronic conditions, multiple rounds of steroids, antibiotics, and trauma, I am still miles ahead of where I was when I first started GAPS.
In the midst of all my physical and mental struggles, I climbed the corporate ladder, transitioned from being a corporate Nutritional Health Coach to running my own private practice, and received multiple certifications that have equipped me to engage in my own healing process. If I hadn’t been on GAPS this whole time, I would have fallen apart. GAPS gave me the nutritional resources to persist and be resilient. To keep going. And I know you can too.
I believe in a gentle approach. When we work together, we will not be going to war with your body. We will focus on shifting your internal ecosystem, so that beneficial microbes can thrive while pathogenic ones become irrelevant and shed off. We will strengthen your detoxification systems through healing and sealing your gut lining, and your body will detoxify when it is ready at a safe pace. We will nourish your body with food it can digest and nutrients it can use.
You are strong. Your body is amazing. You can do this, and I am honored to help.
- B.S. in Environmental Science, Graduated with Honors, University of Kansas
- Honors project: Studying Anti-Cancer Compounds in Native Plants
- Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Nutritional Therapy Association
- Certified GAPS Practitioner, GAPS Practitioner Certification
- Corporate Nutritional Health Coach
- Certified Herbalist, Herb Pharm