The Road to Recovery (or "Something is working!")

Hieeeeee. I've been waiting to post an update. I wanted to live with some dietary changes and lifestyle habits before writing.

Shocking revelation: I've come to find, that unfortunately, there may not be one diet that suits me.

When i started the more recent part of this journey, the last 2-3 years or so, my goal was to have a very specific list of foods i could and could not eat. Dream scenario: I would just stick to that and my skin would clear up, my energy would return and i wouldn't look pregnant after eating. Well folks, I'm sorry to say that may not be in the cards for me. 

It's become obvious to me through all of these dietary changes, treatments and experiments that one diet for the rest of my life isn't realistic. Not only am I in a different phase of healing than i was 2 years ago but so many factors affect my digestion, energy and general sense of well-being.

 

Um, so what's the good news? Why should I even listen to you?

The good news is that I AM feeling better.

When i'm tired on the road (Dustbowl travels 200 days a year now(!)) i feel like a normal tired person. I don't feel exhausted or like "how could i possibly get up there and perform this show right now/get out of bed" (which is what a lot of the past 2 years felt like.)
I don’t feel tired all the time. it’s not a perfect result. If i have some FODMAPS, or too much alcohol or something else that inflames my system, i feel like going to sleep. (I often will sleep if I can and that’s what my body is asking for.) But overall I’m feeling more "tired like the average person on a tour that doesn’t get regular sleep".
I also don't feel cripplingly depressed anymore which is a huge relief.

My skin has improved dramatically. The only treatment that seemed to budge that symptom was doing chelation. While it was expensive (and I'm still paying for that year of medical bills, thanks insurance!), I believe it was very necessary for me to rid my body of those toxins. My skin is proof of that.

Digestion wise, my diet is still very limited. But, if i stick to food in my life being practically perfect (in terms of what makes me feel best and not "what I'd like to be eating") then I can get away with this crazy tour lifestyle of never sleeping at the same bedtime and experiencing light to moderate stress on a consistent basis. I have energy and I am more patient, pleasant and physically comfortable.

HSP/Empath

The last 3 years or so have definitely been more about food for me. A lot of self-searching, a lot of self-love practice (still a lot of work to do there) and self-acceptance practice has been instrumental for my physical progress. The more I do this internal work, the less likely I am to self sabotage by going "off diet" as a way to distract my heart and mind from what it's feeling.

A friend of mine suggested in the past month that I should read "The Highly Sensitive Person" a (self help) book about people who are easily overwhelmed by the world around them (stimuli) and their internal, emotional lives. I've been told my whole life "you're so sensitive" which, i often took as a criticism. That I should not be hurt or affected so deeply by everything. I always have been. I cried and almost threw up and had to run out of the movie theatre during the end of Edward Scissorhands (spoiler alert) when the town is chasing him. Similarly, I leapt out of bed to go bawl in the bathroom just this year when Brahm and i rented Chappie and (spoiler alert) the kids were throwing rocks, teasing and kicking him. And it obviously doesn't end with movies...

I've seen HSP lately all over the place, others confirming I'm not alone in essentially being shamed for operating from a place of feeling and intuition. It's real, I pick up on nuances that are definitely there and that not everyone picks up on in relationships, in conversation, in the temperature of a group. It's also called being an Empath which i think is seen as a little more woo woo. I'm beginning to let go of the self judgement that's been impressed upon me; it's gonna take some time.

I used to think this was a weakness. I realize now:

THIS IS MY (not so secret) SUPERPOWER.

Though annoying/eye rolling/tease-inducing to some, I think reading this book was one way for me to accept that yes, I am sensitive, but it's not something i need to hide or tuck away or PROVE myself out of. Being sensitive means that I have an explanation for the chronic empathy (or lastima as Katya would say) that i experience on a daily basis. I can revel in the emotions i feel while singing and then give that gift to our audience (or to myself if i so choose). It makes me a more intuitive friend and wife. 

I am still struggling with the New England work ethic i have, where i wrap up all my self worth in the job i'm doing and then harshly criticize myself for not being better. This whole life I've spent working to prove that i deserve a place on this planet. I wonder what it's like to feel like you're meant to be alive and not that you have to earn your keep.

It extends to physicality as well. If I weren't so sensitive (HSPs are statistically more likely to have digestive/autoimmune issues) who knows if I would have made all these changes to my life and ended up in a healthier, happier place? I've been eating "so clean" for so long that I can really feel the difference if I introduce a food that doesn't agree with me now, or if i over do it with booze (which takes much less, than It used to). It helps keep me on track because I don't want to feel like crap, i'm better at avoiding foods because it's usually not worth it for the "cheat" experience. 

 

 

Things I'm doing now to continue healing

You can follow what those meals look like on tour with my instagram hashtag  #howdoyoueatontheroad  and food I eat in general with my instagram hashtag  #feelsgoodblog    
You can follow what those meals look like on tour with my instagram hashtag #howdoyoueatontheroad and food I eat in general with my instagram hashtag #feelsgoodblog
 

DIET

I was focusing on SCD + Low FODMAP for a couple months and still experienced bloating. I started looking into the Fast Tract Diet (which does a Weight Watchers style points attribution to foods based on their "fermentation potential") to see if that would help. I believe it did to a point. However, for cases like mine that are a little more difficult to pinpoint and mitigate, Dr. Norm Robillard (author of The Fast Tract Diet) suggests limiting carbohydrates to 20g> day. His app doesn't account for that so I switched back to using My Fitness Pal where you can control macros you're tracking very specifically. I knew if I was going to limit carbs by that much, I'd need to up my fat intake. Essentially putting me in the ketogenic diet basic framework. Once I became vigilant at carb counting. I noticed that if could stay on track i was sated, my bloating reduced substantially and that overall, the diet generally agreed with my system (for now).

This means i'm aiming for percentages of 5% (specifically 20g> of carbs a day), 80% Fat and 15% Protein. I am not currently testing to make sure I stay "in ketosis" but I am concerned with the carbohydrate number as carbohydrate malabsorption and gut fermentation seems to be the more prominent reasons I keep bloating and feeling zapped of energy.

The foods I'm eating are very similar to what you've seen me list before, i'm just tracking how much I'm having now. Eggs, Pasture raised animal fat (no, i'm not worried about cholesterol ), Greens (wilted at home, usually a salad on the road), Pasture raised/organic meats (the fatty-est ones if available) and limited dairy (hard cheeses, experimenting with heavy cream in coffee etc.) I am allowing alcohol (red wine and tequila/soda mostly). I am very aware of the irritating and inflammatory effects and try my best to be picky of quality and not overdo it.

It's working for now; so I'll do it until I don't, just like everything else.

 

SUPPLEMENTS

Under the supervision of Dr. Ruscio, my functional medicine doctor in SF,  I'm on supplement rather than pharmaceutical treatment for Crohn's Disease: Curcumin from Turmeric for anti-inflammation, Vitamin A, Digestive Enzymes, Betaine HCL, three types of probiotics as well as self-prescribed/leftover from past doctors: Concen-Trace Minerals, and chlorella (to continue chelating until my skin is blemish free).

This is working out well for me. We talked about FMT as a last resort if the heavy probiotic therapy doesn't rebuild my gut microbials enough but we're not there yet.

SCOBY facial! also note how clear my cheeks are yahoo!

SCOBY facial! also note how clear my cheeks are yahoo!

SKINCARE

I use FATCO religiously at home and on the road. Their oil cleansing method of feeding my skin from the outside while I'm working on changing the inside with diet has made my (non broken out) skin look so healthy! I am so hooked on using organic, conscientious skincare as I think that part of my problem in the first place was just chemically treating symptoms my whole young adult life. Their face cream is so damn soothing, I recommend all of their products (at least to try) to everyone.
I've also been doing SCOBY facials at home as well as organic peels, exfoliation and hydrating masks to keep the skin looking and feeling healthy and to prevent any breakouts from traveling/stress/not sleeping/dehydration. They look weird but the acid from the SCOBY really does a number on eating away dead skin cells and keeping my complexion bright. I do one RIGHT when i get home from tour and right before i leave again. As soon as I take it off I use these tools if i need any blackhead extraction while everything is moisturized and right at the surface, then i tone with FATCO toner + rose water

 

SLEEP/MEDITATION

It's very difficult for me to get proper "what is recommended for a normal adult" sleep on the road. We never go to bed at the same time and rarely get 8 hours consistently (listen to this podcast to learn more, see also page 17 of the transcript for shocking info on bed time/sleep amount if you're not going to listen to the podcast.)

What i do to "do my best" is go to bed ASAP after a gig, I wear amber glasses to cut blue light as soon as i'm in the hotel room (and i use night shift on my phone). I wear a sleep mask and earplugs while sleeping and I do a guided meditation every night. I sleep as long as long as my body allows and when we are off the road i try to go to bed around 10p as frequently as possible to recoup any sleep deficit. 

 

EXERCISE

Let's be honest, i'm not really exercising. I try to walk as much as possible at home and on the road. I have grand plans to do yoga but usually spend off tour times trying to get rested and chill for a minute before we go back out. Yoga though, not cross fit or spinning like the old days, is what I think would benefit my nervous system right now. I just need to motivate...

 

Revelations

I think I had to acknowledge I was ill to realize that I'm happier knowing I'm not perfect and don't need to be and stick to a lifestyle that makes me feel well.

Accepting that my body has trouble digesting and that I'm sensitive is part of my solution. There is no one diet for me, there is just what I'm tolerating right now. Of course, It's hard for a type A person like me not to have a "fix". To not be able to get to "normal". (What does that even mean? Be able to eat crap food and feel fine? To have a flat stomach 100% of the time? To have perfect skin?) Maybe I was presented with physical circumstances as a method of accepting myself, as a way of learning to let go of shit that doesn't matter and be a more patient, loving and positive person. I certainly think it's a good lesson to learn before I bring any children into this world. It helps me strive to be a better partner, friend, co-worker, self.

2015 was the year of "give no fucks", during which I gave entirely too many fucks about so much bullshit. I think 2016 is the year of letting go (dare i say, actually giving no fucks?). I've made a lot of progress in setting boundaries for myself (both work wise and also personally). I'm listening to myself and adjusting the plan of action as needed. I'm trying to be present in every moment and take everything i can from those experiences (whether pleasant or not). I'm sure I'll have to switch up what I'm doing again soon. It seems that going with the flow is the point.

The hard stuff (my story part 4)

Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Maybe Food is not the (only) Answer?

After my success with AIP and Low FODMAP i was sure that with proper nutrition, I could save the world. On this journey, I have found how very important it is to be your own health advocate. All doctors take different approaches, come to the table with a different set of tools, want you to take different supplements. Its up to you to do research on your own, make a note of how you feel, stick to the program (or not) to make progress. 

I still believe that food is medicine. There are plenty of people out there who've gone this far down the rabbit hole and are living much happier, healthier lives. There are people who feel that way from just switching to all Organic and non-GMO food! My story is just a little more involved. I still believe in food being the foundation, for everyone. It's just about finding what makes you feel great, and eating that. Beyond that, sometimes we all need a little help.

I made a hashtag while traveling with the band #howdoyoueatontheroad which is what people ask me when they find out I'm doing AIP low FODMAP, here's some examples, lots of food bags in the van and stops at the grocery store!

Functional Medicine

I met up with Dr. Ruscio in September 2014. He's a functional medicine doctor located in Walnut Creek, CA. I told him all my prior symptoms, my family history of IBDs (Celiac, IBS, Diverticulitis etc.), my current symptoms, the elimination diets I'd tried, what worked, what didn't. He ran the gamut of blood tests. (my labs are up on another post for reference). We did stool tests, everything. I wanted to check for lyme disease, epstein barr, parasites, ANYTHING that could be holding me back from feeling 100%.

SIBO

My tests came back to show that I had SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and Candida. Over the next two months, we treated the SIBO with anti-microbials for two months. You can also treat SIBO with antibiotics. I'd been trying hard to rebuild my gut microbiome and didn't want anything else wiping it out so we went this route. My symptoms were awful. Month one, it felt like I was off AIP (despite sticking to my protocol): Bloating, irritation, fatigue, it was a super bummer. Month two seemed to have all the mental symptoms but none of the physical. Bloating went away but I was super anxious and depressed and moody for that month. Once it was gone, I was back to square one. I felt just as great with NO SIBO as i did WITH SIBO. Still on the same diet, still at 80%.

Dr. Ruscio and I followed up. We re-tested for SIBO twice just to make sure it was gone. I wanted to get scoped. I thought that the rest of the symptoms I was having were linked to an IBD, my tests showed I have markers for Crohn's Disease, gut inflammation and low b12. My family has a history of IBD issues. I made an appointment the next day to meet a gastroenterologist. We scheduled an endoscopy and colonoscopy as soon as possible.

Crohn's?

The findings from the scope were that I had a hiatal hernia and ulcers in my intestines, mostly around my ileocecal valve (the junction between large and small intestines.) The hypothesis was Crohn's Disease. It would have made sense that AIP and Low FODMAP improved my condition as Crohn's is an auto immune disease, mostly manageable with diet. 

They wanted to do a capsule test and standard GI doc blood tests, to be sure. I swallowed a pill shaped camera that would take pictures as it traveled through my guts, to see what was going on in the stomach and small intestines, where the colonoscopy and endoscopy don't reach. I'm skipping a chunk of time here but basically the capsule test showed that that was all they saw. They also did a "gold standard" blood test for Celiac, and an IBD panel. They don't think that I have Crohn's definitively, based on that blood test, despite my genetic markers. They did want to re-test for SIBO again but I chose not to at that time.

In around July of 2015, I worked with a nutritionist briefly who has some really great information on digestion, here. I think this video series (which costs 50 cents) is SO SUPER AMAZING! Learn how your body actually breaks down food, the dangers of antacids and how important HCL and bile are to that process. It would be instrumental in improving your own digestion and it's basically free!

Parasites

I put in a consultation call to Megan Rand over at Ginger Newtrition. I found her through a skin care company i LOVE called Fat Face Skincare. Megan and I went over all the steps I'd taken so far with gut, diet, stress etc. and talked about how all my blood tests were coming back relatively "normal" yet i felt 80% and looked awful. I asked her if anything seemed like it was glaringly obvious, in terms of an option I hadn't tried yet. She asked if I'd done a parasite cleanse. 85% of her clients that are struggling with similar issues, passed large parasites on a cleanse. I followed the link she sent me HERE. I also checked in with Will (see nutritionist paragraph above) to see if he'd heard about it. He sent me to this site

I followed Dr. Hulda Clark's parasite cleanse and passed eggs, flukes, roundworms, pieces of worms. It was so crazy (and gross, but still cool). I ended up doing the program twice to be sure I'd gotten them all out. KEEP IN MIND THAT MY PRIOR LAB WORK SHOWED NO SIGNS OF PARASITES OR EGGS, AND THEY HID DURING MY COLONOSCOPY AND CAPSULE TEST. They burrow, it's gross.

No part of my condition improved after the cleanse but I was glad that however the parasites had been allowed to thrive in my body, I'd gotten rid of them. Being parasite-less frees up the energy my body to run more efficiently and work on healing rather than supporting other organisms. I suggest this for anyone who has any leaky gut, digestion, skin or auto immune symptoms. If you are experiencing those, your body has probably been compromised enough to allow them to grow from egg stage to adult stage.

Heavy Metal Toxicity

Fall of 2015 I saw another functional medicine doctor, Dr. Lalezar, located in Los Angeles.  Through her standard round of testing I found out that I have unsafe levels of mercury and lead in my system. We assume they were from amalgam fillings that I'd had since childhood. (I don't eat a lot of fish in general, or larger, mercury heavy fish. Though I could have gotten some from eating sushi occasionally.) Lead is also found in some municipal pipe junctions (via tap water, it can get into you). Her protocol is remove toxins, then work on rebuilding and healing the body. I'd been working on healing and re building with food but didn't know that I'd had this metal in me, preventing the healing. (I still check in with Dr. Ruscio, I think it's important to keep everyone in the loop so we can all learn from different experiences. Everyone presents differently, there's no right way to treat someone.)

I'm in the process now of going through chelation, where they pull the metal out of your body. There are varying schools of thought on how to do this (oral, IV). It can be dangerous so you need to make sure your body is ready to go through it and that if you do have any metal fillings left, that you have them removed first. (I suggest finding a holistic dentist as removing amalgams must be done very carefully and specifically.)

It turns out that after 5 rounds of chelation and a re-test for levels, they higher than we originally thought. I am doing 2 more of DMPS IV chelation for mercury and 2 rounds of Calcium-EDTA IV for lead. She does this in conjunction with Glutathione which is an antioxidant that helps your body pass the metal quicker into your urine so as not to re-toxify you during chelation. It is exhausting, just like the SIBO treatment. I've had physical symptoms: bloating, fatigue, mood swings, loose stool, irritability during the whole process.  My hope is that metal toxicity could be the final key in unlocking the final part of my story. It causes the immune system to be weak, it causes leaky gut, one of the main side effects of mercury toxicity is fatigue and brain fog. 

Here's some information on Chelation:

Ben Greenfield's Podcast on Heavy Metals

Crucial Dos and Dont's about Heavy Metal Detox

I'll post again as I have an update!

For now I'm scheduled to chelate through Feb 18 when we retest to see where I'm at.

Skin Update

My skin examples, ON AIP, good days and bad.

It seems to break out just before ovulation. It's not yet consistent. It's gotten better with the chelation. It's seemed to start in my cheeks, heal there as i changed my diet. It inflames if i have any offending foods (sometimes by accident). It's sort of traveled down my face into my neck as I keep progressing step by step to feeling better.

Update 6/18/16
See my Road to Recovery post here!

Getting down to business (my story part 3)



Read Part 1 and Part 2

California Love

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.)

SCD

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?"

GAPS

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.

Clear skin 2011, calm before the storm.

Clear skin 2011, calm before the storm.

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.

AUTO-IMMUNE/PALEO

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)

Symptoms:

  • 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.

PALEO

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.

Being "Good" (my story part 2)

New to My Story? Read Part 1.

When I started college, I had the not so vague idea that grains didn't serve my body well. I still loved (and ate) pizza but tried not to consume them quite as much. I went off of the depression and anxiety meds I was on from high school. I was still on the pill and my skin was normal (occasional breakouts but mostly under control.)

New Symptoms

Now that my skin seemed to be doing better and I wasn't panicking all the time, i became more aware of my physical symptoms from food.  I had the most FOUL smelling gas. Totally awful, anxiety inducing and difficult to manage.

I also noticed i would get SEVERELY bloated. Within 20 minutes to an hour i could look 3 months pregnant. Of course, bagels and pizza would set it off but sometimes i'd be bloated from other foods too. The nickname we had for it was "buddha belly". I wish I had the opportunity to learn about digestion in school, we barely talked about it in biology.

It in college that i also discovered "alcohol flush reaction". One night we were at my boyfriend's apartment, playing some drinking game. I went to the restroom and noticed my face had totally "rashed out" under the skin, it was all flush on one side of my face and down onto my décolletage. Any previously healed blemish looked bright red (though not raised). I was like WHAT IS HAPPENING?! it looked like an allergic reaction. It faded after about 10-20 minutes. From then on I had my eye out for what would set that off. 

The summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year of college i did my second elimination diet. I was a lot more committed this time around, i lost weight from not eating all the crap and enjoyed not being super bloated most of the time. I had more energy, the circles under my eyes reduced, i was less "Swollen and inflamed" looking. When i got back to school, i tried really hard to stick to it. I was off grains and dairy (except for caesar salad dressing, no one's perfect). I was eating a lot of salads in my dorm and trying to just avoid the pasta bar in the dining hall. 

It didn't last. 

I spent all of college bouncing back and forth between being "good" for a while and i avoid foods that I know (or think) aren't making me feel healthy and being "bad" and eating whatever i want. It's a challenge to eat what's healthy for you when you're not sure what it is (exactly) and when everyone around you eats "normal food"! I was trying to be better about listening to my body and paying attention to symptoms, hoping to figure out a cause. I wasn't consistent enough with my diet (or my paying attention) to make significant progress. 

Freshman Year

Freshman Year

Sopohmore Year

Sopohmore Year

Mental Stuff

I was still having anxiety, I had xanax as needed. I was scared of new situations (still) but pursued them anyway. I knew that anything i was fearful of, I had the most to gain from. My guts were in knots (basically) constantly. If i didn't have anything to worry about, my brain would come up with something. I hadn't made the connection between food and gut and brain at this time and was not helping myself at all by avoiding the offenders i was aware of.

I also was a CRAZY PERSON in my college relationship. Hindsight is 20/20, let me tell you. I would fly off the handle over stuff that was really not a big deal. I would also fly off the handle (but not break it off) over stuff that was important to me. We did not communicate effectively. Looking back, it's clear to see that it wasn't a good place for either of us. I didn't really trust him but I was so set on "making it work" that I stayed way longer that I should have (fear of failure? not wanting to let go of my first "big" relationship? any and all of the above?). (Spoiler Alert: Mood swings were a symptom.)

Put aside how anxious i just was on a base level as a person, when we would argue i would turn into a monster. Just like yelling and crying and shouting and even wanting to break stuff. I can remember what it felt to be like in that situation. It was terrifying, knowing that it was outrageous behavior and not being able to control myself. It felt insane, like a temper tantrum with adult awareness. Have you ever seen a 2 year old just work themselves up over something simple and not be able to chill out? It's like that but also with defensiveness and shame and embarrassment. I think the word rage is appropriate here. Our poor communication aside, I was also having TERRIBLE nightmares. In Hindsight, it's so clear to me my body was like STOP IT, whether that had to do with the food, the relationship, the stress (probably a combination of everything) my system was operating in overload and everything I was doing was exacerbating it. I take full responsibility for my behavior. I just wish I knew then what I know now about how my lifestyle was affecting me physically and mentally.

We broke up after my Jr year. The nightmares stopped (almost immediately) and I spent the final year of college trying (or not trying as the case may be)  to take care of myself. I had big plans, I was moving to LA.

To Be Continued...

 

 

 

How did this start? (my story part 1)

Looking outside Western Medicine

As a teenager, my step-mom took me to see my first naturopath doctor. Dr Hecht. I was struggling with terrible teenage acne and had tried the traditional route for a couple years. He looked at me and said "you are clearly allergic to milk". It had never crossed my mind that food and skin health were related.

Prior to seeing Dr. Hecht,  I had tried from either a dermatologist or general practitioner: tetracycline (antibiotic), minocycline (antibiotic), retin-a (synthetic vitamin a), accutane (another, very strong vitamin a derivative), benzamycin (topical antibiotic), differin (topical vitamin a derivative), birth control pills (yazmin, orthotricycline, loestrin, microgestin), and more.

Clearly, this wasn't a dermatological issue, it was a symptom that happened to be coming out my face. NONE of the above medications worked, and some wreaked havoc on my guts. 

Contrary to what Dr. Hecht said in our visit, I actually don't think I am allergic to milk. However, around that time in my life, my relationship with food changed. I went from eating whatever I felt like to an "I can't eat that" eater. (Now, I'm more of an "I choose not to eat that" eater.) While it's become an easier part of my life to navigate and one I've ultimately became grateful for, in the beginning it was a challenge. 

My step-mother suggested "try cutting out chocolate, don't drink dairy" and other foods that can exacerbate skin issues. After seeing Dr. Hecht, (and being on every acne medication ever) I reluctantly did my first "elimination diet". I felt terrible about myself with my skin as it was, I wanted more than anything for a clear complexion. I would try anything.

Elimination Diets

I cut out everything, Grains, Beans, Dairy, CITRUS, SUGAR. Basically, i was like "WHAT CAN I EAT?!" My favorites at that time were: pizza, french fries, sugared cereal and candy. 

That summer, I don't even remember what I did eat because I'm sure all i focused on was what i couldn't eat. I also don't remember if it even helped my skin. I was probably a brat about it. (A normal reaction to anyone's first elimination diet) I went back to boarding school that fall and caved with 2-3 weeks left of the diet. You're supposed to add each item back in, ALONE, and over a couple of days to a week to see how you react. 

My downfall: girl scout cookie season. I ate some tagalongs, thereby ingesting dairy, sugar and grains all at once. (the most common offenders, if you are having a reaction from food). I probably had a stomach ache to say the least, I can't remember, i just remember eating the cookies and then going back to life at school as usual. 

More than Physical Symptoms

Around my Junior year at boarding school, I started having terrible panic attacks, followed by depression (I also still had acne). It was pretty intense and came on suddenly. I basically was afraid to do ANYTHING outside my routine for fear that something might set off a wave of panic followed by inconsolable daydreams of irrational situations. I worried at all times. They started having me see a therapist at school. In addition to that I was on at one time or another: klonopin, zoloft, prozac, wellbutrin and lithium. Lithium and Wellbutrin after trial and error, seemed to be the one to get me through my last year and a half of school.

I was still eating whatever I wanted, despite my body and  mind freaking out and my skin not improving, i still wanted a pill solution.

Foods I ate frequently: white rice with salt and butter, omelets (on certain mornings) with white toast, turkey sandwiches on ski days (2-4 of them depending on hunger), pizza, chicken fingers, chicken mcnuggets, french fries, sugared cereal, boxes of swedish fish candy, soda, swiss miss cake rolls, you get the picture. I did eat fruit too but in no way was I eating a balanced diet. I was following the glorious food pyramid we were taught in the 80s, 6-11 servings of grains a day! (nailing it.) I think i ate some broccoli, i tried to like salad. 

I mention this list specifically because this type of food is referred to as the Western Diet. It's high in carbohydrates, processed and refined foods, low in vegetables, healthy fats and nutrient dense foods. It has been linked to: anxiety, depression, acne, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, limiting the variation of microbes in the gut, cancers, general inflammation and general chronic health problems, to say the least.

By the end of high school, i still had acne but the birth control had helped a bit. I ate terribly but was learning that more vegetables were probably a good idea. I graduated, still on lithium and Wellbutrin. I'd gotten into a good college and was going to study theatre. I had xanax as needed for when i had panic attacks. Things were looking up. I knew that food was connected in some way to my emotional and physical symptoms but it wasn't "bad enough" for me to actually make a lifestyle change. 

Middle School, pre drugs, (and puberty) clear skin.

Middle School, pre drugs, (and puberty) clear skin.

High School, normal teenage acne situation, on medication

High School, normal teenage acne situation, on medication

Seriously, a blog?

So, I am a talker. If you know me, you know this. I love talking, about food, about feelings, about my new favorite bank account (it's called simple i really do love it), about anything I've ever learned.

In my 20's I was an asshole about it. I would be like "oh I learned this thing, and now i'm a FUCKING expert on it" maybe in not so many words but i'm sure it came across that way. I don't want to be an asshole (i didn't then. It was an accident, I swear and i'm sorry).

Ask my dog! I read ONE book by Cesar Milan and i was running around dog parks being like "oh, you have to let your dog be a DOG, treat him like a DOG not a human". (I mean... read his book it is very informative, but I'm not a dog trainer so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Also, one time my dog bit me because I TOTALLY DID NOT TREAT HIM LIKE A DOG, I picked him up when he was in a fight and now I have a permanent left index "witch finger".)

Anyway, this is a blog. Weird. (Don't get me wrong, I love measuring my worth against other peoples picture perfect lives, I READ blogs, i just never thought I'd Blog.) So, the point of this is to tell you about health stuff. I've had a lot of weird stuff with food and health that has, at one point or another, resonated with someone else's life story/symptoms/what have you. And, since i love sharing information (see above, though now i'm 34 so hopefully less preachy) here's a place for me to do it. 

If sharing my experiences can help someone else feel better then I suppose that's what it's all about.

p.s. i'm not a doctor or a scientist, this is just what I've tried and how it turned out.

p.p.s. always do your own research and be your own advocate, it's probably how I am where I am now.