In 2004, I moved to Los Angeles.
A year later, I started working in advertising which marked the beginning of my career working in tv and film production. I was auditioning and performing at night and on the weekends. I was stressed out and fatigued. (Normal-ish for this job and town) My skin still fluctuated despite being on the pill.
I gained some weight from indulging a little too much in my newfound adulthood. I dabbled in Weight Watchers, learned about not overeating fried foods with little nutritional value. I tried Yoga, it made me cry. (Literally I'd be in Warrior 3 and i'm like shaking and tears are leaking out my face. I was like FUCK THIS!) Instead, I started running, i started spinning, anything super cardio related. I ate "healthy foods" like salad and vegetables and lean chicken and 100 calorie this and that. I liked the way I looked. I was limiting certain foods, but not entirely. (Really, i was just trying to look good.)
I "got fit" but didn't feel my best. I was still playing the calorie game. I still had terrible gas depending on what I ingested. I still got bloated, I was still anxious, I occasionally "rashed out". I started looking into alternatives. I remembered back from my teenage years learning about candida (and how i probably had it but WHATEVER). My symptoms fit with those I'd heard about so i figured I'd try out the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, coupled with the candida diet.
I'd heard about SCD (as they call it) from the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle, intestinal health through diet. By Elaine Gottschall.
MY HEAD EXPLODED. this was a game changer.
I did this diet for 30 days, no sugar, no fruit, no starch. (i actually stuck to it. So, point taken will power.) I felt AMAZING. I felt joyful, energized, rested. (I mean, i missed sugar, the sweet things i was eating were bell peppers and carrots, but for the time being it was worth it!) I don't know if i ever had Candida, i didn't get tested for it, but i did feel great on this diet. This book explains a lot about starch, carbohydrates and their digestion in relation to issues like Crohn's, IBS, and other intestinal based issues. I responded very well but I didn't commit to this diet after the 30 day intro.
"Eating Healthy" around that time still involved lots of lean meats and salad and tidbits I'd picked up from Weight Watchers. I'd run a couple half marathons, i got up to exercise before work despite my energy levels that day. I felt fit but I was still tired. Since i didn't really commit to any lifestyle whole-heartedly I'd sort of bounce between feeling good and feeling like crap. I was also getting older. It felt like my body was trying to say "can you figure this out please?"
6 months before my wedding, i went off the pill. I had read a lot of new information about the pill and what it does to your body. I felt there were better alternatives for me, to prevent pregnancy. My skin was clear. I still indulged in certain foods out at restaurants but for the most part didn't keep them in the house. I drank mostly wine, tequila or potato based vodka, no beer (or rarely beer). I tried to stick to what I thought made me feel best.
After 6 months off the pill, my skin went FUCKING NUTS. This wasn't normal acne, this was like adult, cystic, hormonal or gut influenced acne. It was terrible and painful. I went to a dermatologist (a holistic dermatologist, this time) recommended by a friend with similar skin symptoms, who now looked amazing. Dr. Hunter introduced me to the GAPS diet and had me use some of her holistic products.
The GAPS diet is a diet that addresses the connection between your gut health (levels and symbiotic relationships between bacteria and how healthy the lining of your intestines etc are) and your psychology. The SCD diet is similar in structure but some foods are allowed that aren't on the other. Being on the GAPS diet meant i was being "good" consistently again. But my skin did not improve enough to keep me eating in this restricted manner as a lifestyle. Dr. Hunter was a great resource, but I hadn't gotten to the root cause yet.
in November of 2009 i committed, hardcore, to being grain free. I was really over the back and forth and just wanted to feel better. I began meditating. I felt overwhelmed working full time and performing whenever i was free. My body was trying to tell me something needed to change and now my mind was too.
It was clear that everything I'd done up to this point put me in the exact position I was in:
- Antibiotics kill bacteria in our bodies, not just where we want them to and I'd been on them, on and off from childhood through adolescence. Read about the effect of antibiotics on gut flora, here.
- Eating a Western Diet was not agreeing with my system and I ignored all the physical and mental symptoms, so i could eat what i wanted. This, coupled with stress and other factors is probably what led me to develop leaky gut.
- Leaky gut is the weakening of the tight junctions in the bowels; it can leak food particles, etc. into your blood stream. This can elicit an immune response and cause a host of symptoms which can lead to chronic illness. Symptoms of Leaky Gut.
- Anxiety (fear) puts your body in fight or flight. I had been anxious since high school on a consistent basis. Even on medication, it was a natural response for me. Being in fight or flight shuts down your parasympathetic nervous system (the one responsible for "rest and digest" as they say). It reduces motility in your guts and halts digestion. Improperly digested food in your gut can lead to bacterial overgrowth, immune responses (food intolerances, allergies, toxic build up that can affect your brain).
- Over Exercising can be a stressor on your body. Exercise can be a great mood lifter and is excellent for keeping your body and mind in shape, over doing it can have detrimental effects. Cardio can be especially stressful on a stressed out system.
I had inadvertently stacked the deck against myself. There was no one cause, and probably no one cure, as I was figuring out. I needed to learn what the root cause was and figure out how to heal myself. I stopped doing so much cardio, I re-introduced yoga and low impact exercise like walking and hiking to chill out my system. I did some cross fit. Since I had symptoms of Adrenal fatigue; I was being cautious.
I felt swollen and bloated all the time after anything i ate, even after committing to being grain, dairy and legume free. I was still tired MOST of the time, despite sleeping 9-10 hours a night. I worked with a friend of mine who is a nutritionist and had me food journal for a week.
My foods were something like this:
- smoothie for breakfast: (VegaOne protein powder, kale or spinach, apple cider vinegar, coconut milk)
- Chicken and vegetables for lunch (organic roast chicken breast/leg whatever, skin on, full fat, broccoli, root vegetables) or a salad or something
- and then something similar to lunch for dinner. (also ate organic lamb, grass fed beef other sustainable, bio available meats)
- I woke up tired almost every day of the journal and remained tired during the day.
- I was still bloated.
- My skin was bad In the cheeks and chin/neck area, areas linked to digestive/hormonal issues
- My neck was really sore and constantly needed adjustment (a sign of inflammation in my body)
- I had brain fog, confusion, memory loss, depression, anxiety
- I was irritable and moody, sporadically and sometimes unexplainably and or uncontrollably
- My stool tended to be loose rather than normal
I was baffled. How could I be eating "so healthy" and feel so sick and tired all the time? What was I missing? Those close to me could see the symptoms too.
I began exploring paleo...
All of those sites are GREAT resources. Eating Paleo can help improve symptoms like I was experiencing. A lot of people have felt better by implementing this diet as their lifestyle. But for me, paleo wasn't enough. As you can see above, i basically already WAS paleo and I was already committed to organic, sustainable meats and pesticide/GMO free vegetables. I still had the symptoms listed above. Besides having trouble digesting food, signs pointed to leaky gut as well. (especially with all the mental symptoms!)
Auto Immune Paleo
Sometime in 2013, Brahm told me about the Auto Immune Protocol. I resisted it for a while, spouting all the usual "i've DONE elimination diets before." If I was going to figure this out "once and for all" I was going all in on "the last" elimination diet. Eventually I was ready to try, I did AIP for a week and felt the same. Under the Auto Immune protocol you can go really strict and remove FODMAPS as well, depending on how sensitive your body seems to be. I removed Kale and removed FODMAPS, after a week I felt I had more energy. After two weeks i wasn't bloated, AT ALL. (I don't think that i've ever experienced zero bloating before, as far back as I can remember.) I knew within 2 weeks that this was the right track, I was excited, committed and energized.
I felt 80% better on this diet. I did it for 3 months and saw great results. I also prioritized sleep, meditation, stress management, low impact exercise, REST, I left my job, I joined a band. I really felt like I was making my health and well being a priority. AIP and Low FODMAP is a pretty restrictive diet, If i was going to eat this way, I wanted to feel 100% all the time. Or at least have someone confirm I'd ruined my body and was destined to only feel 80% forever. (kidding!) I knew from reading success stories on blogs over the past couple years that I could do better (and eat more foods, without discomfort!)
To Be Continued...
#sorrynotsorry that this seems like a narcissistic bikini pic. This is the best example I have of the slight difference externally but the HUGE difference internally of AIP vs Paleo for my system. Left Picture: Before AIP, eating paleo 80% of the time but not feeling great. Right Picture: On AIP (no booze) a small physical difference but more joy, lots more energy, less stress and "craziness", better sleep, less anxiety. I felt like i was "almost there" in terms of finding what's best for me, to implement as a lifestyle.
Side Note: I almost forgot to mention that in 2009, I accidentally got bit by my dog and through a series of mis-diagnoses and incorrect treatments ended up with a nasty infection. For 6 weeks i had Picc Line that pumped antibiotics (super broad and strong) into my heart 4x a day. I took probiotics during this time but this drug wiped out ANY bacteria that I had. So as of June 2009 i was essentially starting from scratch with gut bacteria.