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.

How Do You Eat on the Road? (Spring 2016)

When talking about my digestion challenges and diet people often ask “how do you do that while touring???”

Burger Salad! Bacon, Avocado, lettuce and a burger patty.

Burger Salad! Bacon, Avocado, lettuce and a burger patty.

This series of posts is how I’m currently doing it.
I’ll try to post when things change so you can see the tweaks!

Spring 2016 Edition –
Diet: SCD + Low FODMAP
Purpose: Reduce Inflammation and control Bloating/mental symptoms

Breakfast:
Coffee!
Vital Proteins Pasture Raised Collagen Peptides (or Bulletproof Upgraded Collagen)
Powdered Coconut Milk

 

Lunch/When I get hungry/Snacks:
Any combination of the following:
-1 Can of Sardines (Trader Joe’s)
-1 small head or ½ a regular heart of romaine lettuce
-1 small container of organic blueberries or raspberries
-Salad with Protein, no dressing.
-Burger patty with cheese and bacon and avocado on lettuce, no dressing.
-Avocado.

Dinner:
Usually the venue serves us dinner. I request something like a burger patty or another piece of protein (salmon, steak, chicken thigh etc.) on lettuce.

If I do eat out… I order: Meat and lettuce
Eg.
-       Chipotle: chicken and lettuce
-       Outback: Steak and greens (spinach or side salad)
-       Any Café USA: Salad with a protein on top.

Touring is expensive because eating out is expensive. I travel with a bag of foods I can eat to help subsidize the cost.

I also travel with a small cooler bag and ice pack, which go in a freezer over night (either in my room or with the front desk at the hotel). I keep my probiotics in this.

You can follow along on Instagram with my hashtag #howdoyoueatontheroad

OMG, IBD? (and my experience with the Elemental Diet)

I wrote in February how I'd done 9 rounds of Chelation, for Mercury and Lead toxicity. I've since stopped getting IV treatments and (at the suggestion of my budget conscious Doctor) am currently taking supplements to continue chelating in a less expensive, yet effective way. 

The plan was to go back on the diet that had made me feel best in the past. My experience had shown that would be the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol, combined with a Low FODMAP diet. However, this time around I remained symptomatic. I was still bloated after 2 weeks on that diet (strange, for me). I was also still very tired most of the time, something that usually improves on this diet. The one improvement I DID (very happily) notice that improved after chelation was my skin! My acne has really diminished from 8 breakouts a month to maybe 1 or two spots.

I had spoken to Dr. Ruscio and Dr. Lalezar about the diet not bringing about similar results as it had in the past. Dr. Lalezar suggested we re-test for SIBO as there is a chance that it had come back. She also tested me for leaky gut, (an Array 2 for you test savvy readers) to get a sense of how permeable my gut is right now. Dr. Ruscio suggested, prior to me going back on AIP + Low FODMAP, that one option would be going on the elemental diet (an easily absorbable liquid diet) for a time to see if giving my guts a rest on breaking food down would improve my tolerance.

The other option would be to treat me for non-clinical IBD. This is a potential diagnosis for me. That I have an IBD (likely Crohn's due to my presentation of ulcers) but it doesn't present normally. This could be why the Gastrointestinal MD (Dr. Shaye) was hesitant to diagnose me with Crohn's after seeing my blood panel but thought it was likely that I had Crohn's after seeing my colonoscopy. Treatment for that would include a natural protocol of anti-inflammatory supplements/tinctures and making sure that I'm on the right diet for an IBD. (Dr. Ruscio is a "food first" doctor" he believes that for any of the natural/holistic methods of healing to work, you have to dial in food right for YOU first, then treat. I, clearly, am also very much on this train.)

 

My (Semi) Elemental Diet Experience

Of my own volition (because I hate waiting for doctor's for results and am trying to minimize costs) I decided to first try the elemental diet. I am familiar with three options for this diet: Vivonex Plus, Absorb Plus (which is a semi-elemental diet) and Homemade. The difference between elemental and semi elemental is protein and fat content and the size of the molecules you are absorbing for nutrients. Unsurprisingly, the larger the molecules get the more flavor improves. (I did Absorb Plus because apparently Vivonex tastes like the glue on a postage stamp (is made by Nestle, not the greatest track record for providing us with whole foods) and the homemade one you have to take like a shot because it tastes so bad.) For 6 days I drank a shake that tasted like the milk after a bowl of Kix cereal, not terrible. I remained bloated during the diet but that's not uncommon. It's still giving your guts a rest, even if that occurs. I had some reservations about it as the protein in the shake is from Whey and I don't do dairy on a regular basis. However, I don't have an allergy and despite any symptoms it would still be improving inflammation by reducing digestive work. (See the FAQs here about the soy and whey in the product, they calmed my fears.) This diet can also be used to effectively get rid of SIBO, but you have to take it for weeks at a time. I previously successfully treated my SIBO with anti-microbials, prescribed by Dr. Ruscio.

Things I noticed while doing the Absorb Plus semi-elemental diet:

  • I wasn't hungry but I would get very hungry if i didn't continually sip my shake. Dr. Ruscio's suggestion for me was to sip slowly throughout the day rather than DRINK a shake at mealtimes. This would help keep my blood sugar from spiking since I don't seem to do well with sugars or carbohydrates. This was a personal precaution but I think i could have probably taken it normally and be fine. I didn't have a problem with energy or anger the whole week (sometimes an issue with me and carbs!)
  • I did find some Casein Curds in my stool. I thought perhaps I'd swallowed a chunk of undissolved powder (that's what it looked like) but after a couple of these appearing and some intense internet research, I found that it's actually "casein coagula." I haven't been able to gather any information on why or how your body makes these little thumb-tip sized curds but it seems clear to me that my body was just trying to protect itself from the dairy and expel it. I noticed this happened again after having a raw milk latte at Mission Heirloom for my Birthday. I avoid dairy on a regular basis so this was a new experience and after I wasn't alarmed by it any more, I was more interested in the function. I can't wait to hear what Dr. Ruscio and Dr. Lalezar say about it. I'd never seen one before, and within this diet and one latte, I'd seen 3 over the course of a week.
  • I didn't weigh myself but I'm sure i lost a little weight. My pants felt less tight and the idea was to reduce bloating. I did feel like overall the diet was a good "break" for my intestines, to reduce inflammation and I was able to go back to AIP + Low Fodmap feeling like it was more tolerable and with less bloating.
  • I suspect that the treatment for chelation was very agitating for my system. I was symptomatic the entire time and was not strict about diet (more paleo than AIP or low FODMAP). This elemental diet was a good way for me to "reset" my system. Also, if my stool test comes back positive for SIBO again, it will also have been a good jump start to getting rid of it.

IBD info...

My miracle anti inflammation drink. Homemade bone broth and juiced turmeric.

My miracle anti inflammation drink. Homemade bone broth and juiced turmeric.

My follow up with Dr. Lalezar for my SIBO and Array 2 results are in later this month. In the meantime, I had the fortune of coming across this podcast that Dr. Ruscio did on IBD! In it he speaks with Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis about his approach for IBD: supplements and diet etc. They discussed that the most useful diet for IBD, in their opinions, is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (which I've mentioned here) combined with a Low FODMAP diet. They also talked about some supplements/nutrients that I take occasionally but not regularly, like curcumin (the anti-inflammatory component found in  turmeric root).

I've been doing AIP (cross referenced with SCD, GAPS, low FODMAP) for the past 2.5 years. So scaling back to just SCD and Low FODMAP would mean re-introducing some foods that I had an instinct weren't causing an issue for me but I wasn't quite sure and was too nervous to truly re-introduce them. I did not do what would have been the most thorough method, which would have been to try one food for 3 days to see how I react. I just jumped in. 

It's important to mention that during Chelation I was not super strict. Since i was so symptomatic from the treatment and chemicals floating around, I ate more liberally, fodmaps and some non-AIP friendly foods that I thought "were fine". I also think, that my wishful thinking about eventually being paleo in the future (which is so much easier than any of these diets, in my opinion) that I wasn't seriously considering FODMAPS my main issue. I think now, that I was wrong.

Last week, I converted over to SCD combined with Low FODMAP, the IBD specific diet. The symptoms of IBD really resonate with my experience and it seems like if that is the real underlying issue (now that mercury/lead are removed as toxins) then this should be the right track. I also had experiential evidence that tomatoes and spices had never really caused a reaction that I'd been aware of. So this was worth a shot.

Within two days, I wasn't completely not bloated but I definitely felt a difference. My pants felt lighter/less restricted, even after eating. My exhaustion didn't disappear but it receded (by about 2hrs less sleep). It seems like, FODMAPS and really focusing on fermentation in my gut could be the key to healing my leaky gut and also figuring out the "right for me" lifestyle and diet. I also noticed a new symptom that I hadn't before, either because it was lumped in with general un-wellness or I was confusing it with my monthly cycle. Intestinal cramping is happening to me if i have FODMAPS, like onions in my Chipotle Guacamole for instance (which, if you know me, is a TRAGIC symptom to discover). It feels like period cramps, despite not being on my period.

Over the past week I've been able to hone in on some things that are true for me, right now:

  • I cannot have any FODMAPs, even Avocado
  • I must stay strict on SCD (no starches of any kind that aren't "legal")
  • I can tolerate tomatoes
  • I can have (approved) drinks ONE night a week, two is pushing it, three is fully symptomatic.
  • I can only have dry farm wines right now, if at all.
  • I can have tequila or potato/corn vodka ONLY as liquour
  • Eggs, on occasion may be fine. Not pushing it.
  • I can have ONE glass of Kombucha a day
  • I can have coffee if I dilute it but 1 or 2 a day max
  • I definitely still have parasites. Doing another cleanse in april. Organic Olivia's is out now!

I do think I mentally blocked fermentation and FODMAPS as being the true possible culprit. For me, it's way easier to just eat tons of vegetables and proteins rather than a Low FODMAP diet. SCD already doesn't allow starches: grain is out, potatoes are out, sweet potatoes are out. Low FODMAP cuts out a ton of fruits and vegetables. This diet is very similar to what I'd already been doing but I can add back in things like: Eggs! Seed Spices! Some Nightshades! In hindsight, my GI doc, prior to my colonoscopy, mentioned they tried to get patients with Crohn's to go on a low FODMAP diet but it's hard for people to stick to. The podcast I linked to above also talks a lot about the science behind the digestive system, IBDs and FODMAPS/fermentable prone foods. Like AIP, this doesn't have to be forever! It can be a tool to help heal up the inflammation/ulcers and then you can re-test (by careful introduction), if over time you can tolerate more FODMAPS.

AIP, SCD, Low FODMAP, GAPS and Paleo friendly dinner: Kabocha Squash, Duck, Wilted Chard.

AIP, SCD, Low FODMAP, GAPS and Paleo friendly dinner: Kabocha Squash, Duck, Wilted Chard.

So, with renewed vigor (and a little bit of disappointment about avocados and Chipotle). I am committing to SCD and low FODMAP. It's my way of doing field research before paying someone to tell me what to try next. Beyond that, I'll circle back with my Docs (and possibly may even re visit my GI doc to check in) to see about how to move forward with treatment. 

UPDATE 3/30/16

I spoke with Dr. Ruscio today and followed up with Dr. Lalezar this past Monday. The plan going forward is to focus on IBD therapy. That will include a specific probiotic therapy protocol, changing up the digestive enzymes that I take with each meal, experimenting with a semi-elemental diet from time to time (see Absorb Plus, above) and some other Crohn's/ IBD support supplements. In a month we'll check in to see how it's going. I'm also to experiment with a low fiber diet and see how I fare. Some people with IBDs have a hard time with insoluble fiber (see the podcast mentioned earlier for more info). We talked about FMT being a sort of "last resort" but it exists as an option and has been proven to help many people with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. That's a little further down the road at this point.

What 2015 looked like, in $$$$.

I know some of you have been waiting to see what 2015 (healthcare) actually cost me.

Keep in mind that my discovery started in 2014 when I met Dr. Ruscio for the first time and had already done AIP/Low FODMAP) for almost three months on my own with only an 80% improvement.

So, In order to set myself up for maximum progress in 2015 I consulted with our insurance broker (a life saver, truly) and set up an HSA health care plan. I knew 2015 was the year of probably hitting my deductible. So, I wanted to chose the plan that would provide me the most coverage at the least expense. Since the health care plans in our budget were roughly the same premium with pretty crappy benefits, we chose an HSA plan. With an HSA you can deposit money pre-taxes to be spent on specific medical costs that may fall outside your insurance coverage. (see how an HSA works here)

Here's my breakdown by general category:

Healthcare Premiums: (this only counts mine, not Brahm's)

$2,349.00

I have the Bronze HSA plan. Which gives you a $4,500 deductible and a $6,500 (after meeting 40% co-insurance) out of pocket limit. It does, however, actually grant you discounts on things like lab work and expensive tests, which I knew I'd be getting a lot of.

Lab Fees: (after insurance, what I paid)

$1,058.93

This includes: Blood work, SIBO breath tests and re-tests, Stool Tests etc.

Doctor Fees: (after insurance, what I paid)

$7,930.81

This includes: Doctor visits, fees for surgery, Chelation treatments (paid for at the Doctor's office), tox screens (paid at the Doctor's office), supplements (also ordered via their office).

Pharmacy Fees: (after insurance, what I paid)

$1,871

This includes: prescribed supplements by a healthcare professional, integral to my healing process and other prescriptions.

Total: $13,209.74 (this was roughly 40% of my income)

Just for reference: According to this article in March of 2015 average healthcare costs for Americans last year were $9,596. With the average income in 2014 at $53,657, that's healthcare accounting for 6% of their income.

 

This number doesn't include what we spend on food, which is critical (in type, source and amount) to the healing process and also damn expensive.  

I did end up hitting the deductible on my plan, but not hitting the out of pocket maximum til the very end of the year. Out of network doctors or procedures aren't covered at all and therefore don't contribute towards your deductible. (I'm looking at you Chelation.) They also don't get a discount when you hit your deductible and then pay 40% co-insurance until you hit your Out of Pocket max. The HSA came in handy up to the part where we'd spent it all ($3,350 is the individual limit you can claim in a year) by June. The rest we're figuring out as we go. 

 

Insurance Qualms:

Having insurance is like buying into a discount club. You pay per month to obtain special pricing between you and the doctor/lab etc. There's no documentation from your insurance company OR doctor explaining the calculations but you end up paying less than you would if uninsured. It's one of the problems I have with the health care industry. While I love a discount, I think all the prices should be up front, explainable and reflective of actual cost to the provider. (I also don't agree with healthcare being a for profit system but that's something else.) The insurance adjustment is just the discount, not what insurance PAID the doctor for the service, it's just a special-for-them discount. It leads me to believe that the numbers are made up to either recoup cost from uninsured or non-paying customers or perhaps just to make a profit. Southern California Public Radio has been doing an on going report on costs of services.

If the entire country is required to have insurance (which I think is a great start), then it should be affordable and cover things that make us well. That last one, unfortunately, is a subjective topic. For example, Acupuncture is now covered pretty widely on most plans (with a limit, depending on your plan). Therapy, however is not universally covered, neither is chiropractic care. I could have spent another 15 years going in circles with general practitioners (who are covered by insurance) or I could have gone the natural health route (with some assistance from Western Doctors) and learned what I (finally) know today. So, what would end up to be my path towards wellness wouldn't have come from an MD (and therefore not covered by insurance) unless my body had deteriorated far past what I was already noticing as abnormal for me. But I digress, this is about finance and not about preventative care.

Here are some confusing and irritating examples of the agreements between insurance pricing and doctor pricing. Please keep in mind, if I didn't have insurance, I would have been responsible for the TOTAL amounts below.

Surgery Center Facility Fees for the Colonoscopy/Endoscopy: $15,000

  • Adjustment by BS of CA (blue shield) $-14,400
  • I owe: $600

My Doctor Bill for the Colonoscopy/Endoscopy on the bill was $10,370 

  • "insurance adjustment" was $-9609.42
  • I ended up paying: $760.58

My Capsule Study (swallow the pill, it takes pics all through you) was $7,200.00,

  • insurance adjustment $-6514.15,
  • (as I'd hit my deductible by June of last year, they also owed co-insurance)
  • Insurance Paid: $411.51 and $276.94 (Separately, as I asked them to re-run the claim. They didn't pay in full the first time.)

These are the "grandest" examples I have. With my plan, any Doctor fees are the patient's responsibility until you hit the deductible is met, so I just paid all of those. OR, if it were for Dr. Ruscio, I just paid it out of pocket because he doesn't take insurance.

Prepare if you can, and take it all with a grain of salt.

The point is, this journey can be expensive. I did my very best to prepare for what will (hopefully) be the most expensive medical year I ever experience. (Not counting the time in 2009 I didn't have insurance and was hospitalized twice but that's another story completely and I learned my lesson. ALWAYS have insurance.)

Do your own research. I've had plenty of practitioners recommend prescriptions to me that I ended up waiting on actually purchasing or taking. Those items, while prescribed with good intentions, may or may not be right for you. You hold the most information about your body and how you feel. Lab work isn't perfect. Don't be afraid to ask questions, stick up for yourself, wait to take medications or have procedures, get second opinions and ask for discounts!

 

 

How I changed my life and became a Rockstar*

I've been meaning to write this post for a while. I think how I became the Lady Lead of Dustbowl is a pretty zany story. It certainly wasn't all easy but it's been so rewarding emotionally and creatively, that I love telling it to people in the hopes that they're inspired to follow their own intuition as well.

Origins

I came to LA for acting. I went to an awesome college in Virginia for theatre and was really well prepared to jump in and start auditioning professionally. I did a bunch of commercials (mostly), some short films, some theatre and worked a "day job". For the first couple years, I babysat for family friends and friends of their friends. It was really flexible and I love kids. After a while though and having nothing to do with the sweet children I was looking after, I needed a change of pace. I started working as an assistant to the owner of an advertising agency. I did that for about 3 years and it got me hooked on production. For the next 6 years, I worked as an associate producer in television and film, while acting in projects and performing with the Satin Dollz

Working in production is like a drug. You're in the trenches with your coworkers, you are making shit happen that should NOT be able to happen due to financial and time restraints. It makes you feel like a super badass and every other job that you have to interact with seem like "WHY can't you make that happen TODAY?"  I loved my job(s) when I did this, I miss the camaraderie sometimes. 

What happened for me was a gradual ignoring of what my deepest self was asking for. I love performing, I love acting, I do not love filming. My favorite part of theatre is the shared discovery of rehearsal. The very nature of the medium is that the performances change every night, while still having the same skeleton of a show. I think that when I moved to LA, I was convinced that what I did and should want, was to be on TV. I worked and worked towards that and even did it a bunch, but I never wanted to put in the leg work to make it happen on a consistent basis. I wasn't driven to create that. I didn't want to spend my weekends filming. I counted the hours 'til I could leave set. This was an intuition i ignored and lied to myself about, for 7 years. 

I think i was concerned with failure. That if I acknowledged my dream had changed, it meant I had failed at the original goal. All my other friends were still working hard to be tv and film actors, clearly that meant I should want the same thing. Right? We're so similar. But, if that were the case, why didn't i want to do all the things to make it happen?

Things started shifting. Instead of the pace of production being exhausting yet exhilarating, it was just starting to be exhausting. I was becoming more stressed out and was unsure why I had this nagging dissatisfaction in my life. I was making great money, I was performing, I loved my co workers.  I should be REALLY very grateful. So why am I feeling guilty for not wanting this anymore?

I changed tactics, I started doing more live performance. The Satin Dollz were working more. That was a nice creative outlet, every gig was different in style, numbers and location. I started working with the acclaimed Troubadour Theatre Company. It felt right.  My dear friend and boss at the time was going to sign up for a meditation class and she prodded me to take it with her. I bit.

(Side note: working in production as your "day job" is not a thing. I somehow proved to the people I'd worked with that I could do it all. Always get my shit done so that i could leave for auditions (and come back) or be out for a shoot day or for a performance. I still don't really understand how it happened but I'll be forever grateful that I was able to do it.)

And then my life blew up.

For someone like me, who's mind and emotions run on anxiety, adrenaline and stress 100% of the time, meditation can be like driving at 60mph into a brick wall (or so my therapist told me.) I do not regret it now but taking that meditation class was like opening Pandora's box. Everything that I'd stuffed down deep inside myself via food, exercise and work, from stress, career pressure, family pressure, relationship pressure, came furiously bubbling up to my consciousness and was VERY present, basically all the time. I started crying at work. (Not usually a thing for me.) Cry after work, in my car, sure. That's sort of par for the course in that line of work. Crying AT my desk or having it be just right there at the top of my throat, ready to come out in meetings (read: all the time) was TERRIFYING. I felt so out of control. My face was just leaking emotion that was trying to work itself out of my body and mind and I was no longer able to slam it back in and lock the door. I kept meditating, I actually took the class twice for 12 weeks instead of 6. I think I even emailed my teacher about what was happening. I started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist. I went back on some anti-anxiety medication. It was becoming really clear that I had some issues to work on. I felt like i was in the middle of a forest and I couldn't tell which way was out or where I was in it. I'm a do-er I just wanted to know what to DO to feel better. I couldn't tell if it was work, should i leave my job? Was it just me? The stress of the idea of leaving work, (how would we survive making less money? Wouldn't people be mad at me?) would make me feel trapped and hopeless. I would wake up (exhausted) and just cry about having to go into the office. Every (free) weekend was spent with me trying to fill the void with dinner or drinks or mini vacations. I fantasized about having a baby because I thought maybe that would feel like a break from the stress. I felt so lost and like i wanted something to change, but I didn't know what it was.

A couple other friends were in a similar transition. One was working a day job she hated and found monotonous. The other was stuck in a day job where she felt over worked and under appreciated. We all felt trapped; we all didn't know what we wanted. Some friends of ours had all done The Artists Way as a group. (It's a creative workbook that's really for anyone, not just "artists". We're all creative people even those of us who don't see our jobs or passions that way.) They found it really helpful to allow yourself to think outside the box of what you think you should do or want. You cultivate this more receptive state of self to receive gifts from the universe. I know, it sounds woo woo, keep reading! The three of us decided to give it a shot. We'd meet once a week having read that weeks chapter and completed the questions or prompts at the end. We'd talk about what resonated with us, what didn't, what we noticed in our "morning pages" (3 mins of stream of consciousness writing, integral to the process.) i think it really made us ask ourselves what we really wanted and encouraged us to answer honestly. This is sometimes easier said than done. 

Around Christmas, I got a gift from a friend that was a 5x7 piece of artwork. It was an illustrated Steve Jobs quote that said "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." I cried. It felt so appropriate and like a sign to just TRUST myself and what would come would be right.

As we finished The Artists Way, we didn't have any huge revelations. We did start slowly, just making one choice in the direction of what felt better than where we were at. One friend started planting the seeds of a new business, one was reaching out to a potential new employer and I was focusing more on live theatre. I kept my commercial agent but stopped submitting for film and TV projects. I was set to go back on tour in the UK with the Satin Dollz early in the spring and I was looking forward to that.

This is the crazy part.

I was at work one day, taking a break on Facebook and came across a Rumi quote that someone had posted. Something similar to the present I'd received around Christmas struck me, something about following your heart, taking advantage of your one life, doing what you love instead of what you think you have to do or something like that, you get the idea. In that moment I asked myself what would make me happy. My heart responded with singing. I'd really like to be singing more. I do it all the time already in my car, at home, at work sometimes. That would make me feel more creatively fulfilled.

This is not how life works. (OR IS IT? because this is exactly what happened) I googled "session singing work in Los Angeles" hoping to find a gig doing studio work or backing vocals for someone. This is the equivalent to moving to Hollywood and typing "acting jobs" into google and actually hoping for work. I didn't think it'd come to anything but I thought it would be a start and i could resource my way to an actual conversation with a person. I'd told Brahm once that I thought I'd like to be in a band but I never really did anything about it. So anyway, the second link I click on is some forum for bands to find musicians. At the bottom of that page is a band looking for a lady singer. I clicked it. I really didn't know anything about what they sounded like, the forum website was a bit archaic, I couldn't send a hyperlink I had to just copy and paste a youtube link of Dollz performances I'd done and bragged about "harmonizing like a MoFo" or something like that. That day I got an email from Zach telling me about the band, The Dustbowl Revival. I told a couple of friends about the band and my potential audition. Both friends, separately, had heard of Dustbowl and thought it was a great fit. I went down to the residency they had that month and took my friend Levi (who also knew the mandolin player, Daniel, thinking that'd be a good "in" to have). They were good. I was sold. I introduced myself to Zach, told him it sounded great and that I just wanted to make music and have a good time. He said "isn't that what it's all about?" Two weeks later he came over and I officially "auditioned" with two existing Dustbowl songs, What you're doing to me and National Geographic. He offered me the job on the spot and I got to learning the ONE ZILLION existing songs they had. 

The rest is sort of history. I was still in a Troubie show at the time so I'd go to work all day, then rehearsal for the play for 3 or so hours and then would try to catch the second set of whatever gig DBR was playing and sing whatever songs I'd learned at that point. I told people at work I'd joined a band and they asked if we toured. I honestly had no idea, I didn't really think about that. Unbeknownst to me, DBR was scheduling their first east coast tour, a 3 week excursion that would start the DAY after I got back from my 2 week tour with Dollz in the UK. It became obvious that the day had come where I could not sustain the production career AND the performance career. It was a bittersweet (and stressful overhaul) to leave that company. I knew it was right for me but I did have a lot of self imposed guilt about feeling like I was letting people down or being selfish. I was also scared. Who knew if this was going to work out? Or if it was what I really wanted? I just listened to my heart and leapt and so far, it's been the best thing I've ever done.

Dustbowl Great American

A tip for those who are afraid to take the plunge: When I stopped spending all my money after bills on food and drinks and weekends away to de-stress myself.  It became easily possible to live on a lot less. I find that I'm so content to just BE. Be home, take a walk, ride my bike. I rarely go out to eat or for drinks now because I don't need to. I do on occasion but for me (health stuff aside) I just need less to feel "full" emotionally and creatively. A ladies' night in with wine and chatting takes the place of brunch at a restaurant. Netflix and chill takes the place of dinner and a movie. For me, following my heart meant an automatic adjustment of my needs and I don't really miss it.

It's Not Over Yet...

We just got back from tour yesterday evening. I had a follow up with Dr. Lalezar this morning to see if my metals were completely chelated (Kee-lated) after 9 chelations and 3 tox screens. I followed up with Dr. Ruscio before I left to fill him in on the Parasites/Metal state of affairs.

The Bad News

The tricky part about chelation is that when they test you for metals the numbers aren't 100% accurate. Mercury stores in your tissue and lead in your bones, so to get it out they give you a challenge test. As you chelate, you pull more and more out (hopefully, until it's gone.) As I've tested and re tested and chelated my numbers have gone down. However, what it's looking like is that the numbers were still higher than originally anticipated. I still have a 5.9 in Lead (up a tenth of a point from the last test) and 7.1 in Mercury (up a full point from last test). 

Dr. Lalezar said that she'd be comfortable with me stopping IV chelation at this point if I felt better. The issue is that even back on AIP + Low FODMAP i'm still symptomatic. This is confusing and frustrating to say the least. I'm doing everything that I KNOW WORKS... and it's not working this time.

The Good News

I don't have to continue IV chelation. I'm going to use supplements like N-Acetyl Cystine, Chlorella and foods like Cilantro to naturally detox the rest of the way. 

The Part where I could Cry with Frustration

I haven't really gone into it yet but THIS SHIT IS SO EXPENSIVE. I plan on eventually detailing what last year cost me because a lot of practitioners don't take insurance, or if they do the treatments often aren't covered. It's important for people starting on this journey to be informed about the cost. So, while we've made progress since 2014, every move I make now puts me in the hole. (Being in a band isn't the most lucrative job decision I've ever made, even if it was the right choice for me.) Chelation is $1300 for every round of 5 treatments, each tox screen to see your levels is $350, you get the idea...

Beyond price, it's utterly confounding that AIP and Low FODMAP isn't enough to reset my system any more. I was still bloated and exhausted this past tour. When I spoke to Dr. Ruscio prior to leaving he agreed that going back on the diet hard core was the best plan and we'd check in in 30 days. After that, if I was still having trouble reintroducing foods we had two routes to try. We could do an Inflammatory Bowel Disease protocol of supplements with probiotic therapy. (Not a bad idea since it's possible that i have an IBD like Crohn's but i'm not "deteriorated enough" to test positive for it.) Or, we could try an elemental diet, which is a liquid diet of absorbable nutrients that gives your guts a break from breaking anything down for a period of time.

With AIP+ not working, I'm ready to try anything. Dr. Lalezar ordered a leaky gut test to see if the antibodies for broken gut junctions are present. She also ordered a stool test so we can make the next move with more information. Perhaps there's some persistent SIBO, is one of her concerns. I've ordered one jar of the elemental diet "absorb plus". It's made for people like me that can't tolerate ANY foods. I also know people who've been directed to consume this to help starve out their SIBO as well as heal their digestive tract. One friend stated that she felt like her old self again while on it because it completely eliminated all the symptoms food and toxic byproducts were causing in her system.

The worst thing that will happen is that i try this liquid diet for a couple days and it doesn't agree with me and I go back to AIP+. The best thing is that it DOES agree with me and I get a brief moment of mental and physical break from all this. oh, and food too... (side note: it's $61.50 a jar and each jar has just over two days worth of food in it. So, that's the hold up. Here's hoping It works but I only use it for a bit of time.)


Current Mood

Current Mood

 

Today is a challenge. I'm exhausted (physically from being on the road and mentally from still not having any answers). Brahm is rightly so keeping his distance as I'm not the best version of myself today. I'm still hopeful. I hear about people like Meghan TelpnerMickey Trescott and Chris Kresser who've had "incurable" or "undiagnosable" ailments that have completely turned their lives around. I look forward to being the person most people see when i'm "putting it on" outside of my home, all the time. 

 

Guest Post: STANK STOP: AKA My Never-ending Search for Natural Deodorant That Doesn’t Make Me Cry. (Spoiler Alert: I FOUND IT!)

Guest Post by Becca Murray of Becca Brain

The Impetus

In September 2014, Beebe was helping me unpack my new apartment. Upon opening my bathroom box and seeing my Dove Clinical Strength deodorant, she flipped her shit. "OMIGOD YOU USE THIS?" She proceeded to give me a lecture about how I’m so crazy about what goes in my body, how can I be so flippant about what goes on my body, etc. I’m not a smelly person, but I’m a sweaty person. As a performer, this can be an issue. Hot lights, a little bit of nerves, sweaty pits. Not a good look. But I decided to give it a go. 

 Nope Nope Nope

For Christmas that year, Beebe got me a tub of Fat and the Moon deodorant cream, a highly recommended natural brand. I began using it and immediately broke out in a rash under my arms. I’ve never been one to have sensitive skin, so I freaked out but tried to push through it. About a month later, I quit and regifted the present back to Beebe. (She loved it & still uses it to this day, so it was definitely a me issue, not a product issue. Much love to Fat and the Moon!) Over the past year-ish, I’ve tried several brands and even tried making my own. Every single one of them has made me rash out. It looks like acne and it hurts like a bitch and after a month of pain, I always go back to my old (cancerous) standby. This year, I decided that I needed to figure out the problem and go natural no matter what. I read this post that suggested an armpit detox. Seriously, it’s a thing. A friend had just given me a Dead Sea mud mask from his trip to Jordan, so I decided to give it a go. I only put on my deodorant – Lavanilla, at this point – a couple times a week, always at night. I’d have flare-ups, but kept using it to see if my reaction was lessening with the detoxing. It wasn’t. I did notice that the bumps would reduce after the mask, but I’d break out as soon as I started sweating or applied deodorant again. UGH. I also read that magnesium can reduce your need for deodorant. I already take magnesium before bed to help me relax, but I began using a magnesium spray (that I already had on hand for muscle/joint pain) under my arms every day. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t really seem to help, either.

FINALLY

Last month, after regaling Beebe with my whole saga (which I’d somehow kept all to myself this whole time), she gave me the remains of her Stank Stop. She had switched over to Fat and the Moon – better consistency, for her skin – and had most of a tub sitting unused in her medicine cabinet. She is a HUGE fan of Fat Face Skincare and suggested that I add this to the list of products I’ve tried before throwing in the towel completely. I used it with zero expectation. THE NEXT DAY, MY RASH WAS GONE. I’m not even kidding. She gave it to me on a Wednesday night, I used it on a Thursday morning and on Thursday night, I realized that the rash had disappeared. I’ve now been using it for about a month. My rash has not resurfaced AND I haven't sweat through a single shirt. (It’s warm in LA, you guys.) In the words of buddy the elf "I'M IN LOVE, I'M IN LOVE AND I DON'T CARE WHO KNOWS IT!"

Check out Becca's Site Here! She's an amazing photographer and artist as well as a brilliant performer and Jill of all trades.

 

Editor's Note: I DO LOVE Fat Face! Not only was it created by and is owned and run by a woman (mega bonus!), but their "intro" on the blog SOLD me from day one. (Hint: it has to do with DIET affecting your skin.) See for yourself. It's an amazing (and growing!) company.

I have their cleanser, healing and anti-aging face oil, moisturizing cream, fat stick and toner. 

Also, I'm trying not to lecture people anymore (see post one), especially Becca.

Chelation is a Bitch.

Today is (fingers crossed) my last chelation treatment! It's DMPS which binds with Mercury in your system so you can pee it out. That means I'll sleep a ton tonight and wake up late and tired tomorrow and probably the next couple days. Aside from the sterile, medical, literal part of this journey, there's the part where you actually have to do the work, walk through the fire.  It sucks. Day to day, it sucks. I've talked a bit about the usual gastrointestinal symptoms, which are annoying. Those are definitely around for Chelation (for me). It was the same during killing off SIBO. Regardless of my practically "perfect for me" food intake, I was super tired as well as bloated and waterlogged. I was SO moody. I sometimes don't feel like "impatient" and "frustrated" do justice to describe how terrible a version of myself I become. I'm just not nice, to myself, to others. I'm snappy and exhausted and sometimes downright mean or vindictive. Meanwhile, my real self, my true self, is inside me, hearing and seeing me be such a jerk and then judging that behavior and feeling terrible that I'm not trying harder to not be a jerk. It takes so much energy and patience to be the best version of myself and when those energies are depleted I'm a real snarky pill. The second month of treatment for SIBO, it was less of the physical stuff and all of the mental stuff plus anxiety and big depression.

Fatigue

With any of these reactions (SIBO, Die-off, Chelation) I'm mostly just so tired. It feels like I haven't slept in days but I'm actually sleeping 9hrs minimum. Don't get me started on "maybe you're sleeping too much." That's not a thing for me. Let's just leave it there. Some people need more sleep than others regularly and then there's excessive sleeping. For me, (10-14 hrs) it's a sign that I'm trying to repair or recover from something. The problem is, I'd been needing excessive sleep for years but was on the go all the time so I wasn't getting nearly enough. Not even the 8-9 a night minimum at times. I slept all weekend, Monday's were the worst. (aren't they still?) I also experienced insomnia during chelation, not usually an issue for me. I'd lay in bed, meditate, use essential oils, take magnesium, take valerian root, I'd just lay there awake. One night last week, by around 6a I was like "maybe I should just get up and make coffee, by 7 Brahm will be up and then we can go for a walk". But at 6:30 i fell asleep and finally woke up at 11a. 

Fatigue is probably one of the symptoms that bothers me the most. I'm a pretty energetic person so feeling beat, despite eating nutrient rich foods and prioritizing a healthy lifestyle is soul crushing. I was working two jobs at one point last year, not a problem if I was feeling well. I would come off the road and directly report to the office. It was too much for me at the time (and would be still, if i was still there). I needed the extra money to pay for all the health costs but at the same time was stressing out my system by never having down time. It was a lose, lose situation. They weren't getting my best self and I wasn't resting enough to heal. I considered briefly whether I could apply for disability for income supplementation. The mental and physical exhaustion and inability to problem solve, complete thoughts and retain memories was seriously debilitating. I had a friend say that it would be hard to argue for that, if I was performing all the time. I understood that perception and it sounds logical but singing and dancing on stage for 2 hours or working an 8 hour day AND performing for 2 hours a night, are vastly different. Of course there's more work to be done than the two hours I spend on stage but the lifestyle requirements and level of work saturation per minute between the two jobs require different amounts and types of energy. Not to mention working for yourself and working for a company also vary in stress level/type of energy output. I never did apply but I did wish for something to give.

I could tell that the Chelation had turned a corner when the fatigue began to lift. I wasn't even close to feeling back at 80% but at least I felt 60%+ rather than 40% or so. After 5 Chelations and two tox screens I started to wake up feeling not tired. Not rested, mind you, but not tired. My mood was also lifting. As long as my food was dialed in, i felt more like my usual emotional self.

Depression

I had some serious bouts of depression last year. Usually while in the middle of treatment, or in between when nothing seemed to be budging. It's gotten pretty dark at times. I like to think of myself as a mostly positive person. I like to lead from a place of joy and positivity. I can be a total jerk (see above) just like anyone else. Though, usually if i'm healthy, i skew happy (maybe a bit more nervous than the average person). If i'd never experienced the 80% improvement in my symptoms and mental state prior to this depression, I'd have more seriously considered going back to prescription drugs for relief. However, I know now that I can get there without that kind of therapy. This was a huge revelation for me back in 2014/2015 when I realized that my anxiety and depression tendencies all but disappeared with the right diet and sleep habits. There was also a little bit of regret, a little bit of "if i knew then what i know now" about all the anxiety I'd experienced in the past. Of course, who really knows what factors (puberty, chemical imbalances, stress) were at work during those times? It's possible food wasn't the answer back then, but to know it could have been a helpful tool is hard to think about. I'd let that influence me so much back then. I'd said "no" to so many experiences. None of the diet changes I made back then, were quite enough to feel the relief I've experienced now.

image from instagram

image from instagram

So, anyway, full disclosure: i was borderline suicidal more than once this year. I say borderline because i was acutely aware that i didn't intend to take action. But, it's incredibly isolating and scary to feel that way, seemingly out of the blue. I knew it was important to talk about these feelings, just in case. I spoke with some close friends and my husband about it. i needed extra support. It's scary to bring up, to be that vulnerable, to feel "weak". I didn't want to scare them! Of course, a part of it is the disappointment in myself that despite my life being a beautiful gift, that I'm so thankful for, I can't live in a state of grace and gratitude. That feels like failure to me. "Oh, woe is me, I have an amazing husband, all my arms and legs, wonderful friends, a job and a roof over my head and i'm tired and can't eat what i want". One more thing to fret about, judging myself for not being grateful and joyful enough. There was a part of last year when even on stage i was having a seriously hard time. I'm familiar with depressions constant undercurrent, but being ready to cry while performing was one of the darkest times of my life. If I couldn't let it all go and be joyful in that environment, where could i?

I tried to sympathize with both parts of myself, just like i would with a dear friend. It's fair to be upset that I might not ever feel as healthy as i'd like. It's fair to have a pity party that I might live at 80% of where I'd like to be. It's OK to stay in and hermit to take care of yourself, if that's what you need. It's also OK to have a drink or eat a thing if that means you won't go completely off the rails mentally and emotionally. The better part of the end of 2015 was like that, bargaining with myself over food, reintroducing alcoholic drinks (at least), sleeping in, not exercising if I was too tired, leaving my day job, not trying to do all the things. I listened to my body and mind and heart and gave myself what I was asking for. I tried my best to just be caring and nurturing. I also don't accept that everything is OK if i'm feeling that despondent. Knowing what i've learned about my physical self over the past couple years, i deduced that it was due to the treatments. Toxicity, bacterial imbalances, diet, lifestyle were most likely at fault and I just needed to stay the course. I'm feeling better now, but I'm keeping a close eye on that to gauge my progress.

photo cred: @ckelso via instagram

photo cred: @ckelso via instagram

What's Next

I go in on Thursday of this week to take the next tox screen. It's a challenge test (the same one I got in the beginning to determine if I had metal toxicity). When I come back from February tour, I'll go in to talk to the doc about my levels and we'll formulate a "next steps game plan". In the meantime, I've started on high dose or "mega-dosing" probiotics. I've heard that Elixa is a good brand to use when recovering from SIBO. I wanted to wait until I knew my guts were in better repair (or more likely to continue to heal, once mercury was out). I just started taking some dissolvable leaky gut vitamins, beyond my normal routine of bone broth, some of these vitamins and nutrient dense foods like chard and grass fed liver. I'm hoping that after a month or so of AIP, Low FODMAP diet without mercury in my system, will allow my body to recover enough to reintroduce other vegetables. Glory hallelujah.  It's much easier to eat out while eating a Paleo or Primal lifestyle than it is AIP or Low FODMAP (not to mention while doing both.) But we'll see how I'm feeling and adjust as needed.

Mind Over Matter

There is a mental aspect to this whole "self-awareness, healing and health" thing. It's very important to me and I think oftentimes is seen as second fiddle to food. In my experience it's the other half of the solution. I have been trying to work on self love and acceptance for the majority of this journey and probably the majority of my life. It's hard to self examine. I don't like all parts of myself and it's a difficult to accept your whole self while still striving to become the best version of you. I have a complicated relationship with myself. I'm not always kind.

The body and mind are intrinsically connected. Stress, anxiety, negative thought, judgement (of self or others) can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Stress/anxiety especially will put your body in fight or flight which literally SHUTS DOWN your digestion. If digestion is shut down, all that food coming in is just going to go through whole (which incredibly damaging to the guts) or it's going to rot and ferment where it is. There are a host of different ways for this to manifest which i won't list here but you can read about. It's a fascinating thing and motivates me to commit to not doing more harm by ignoring my symptoms (most of the time.) Besides damage your guts, emotions will store in your body if avoided (or eaten, drank, used etc.)  When I started doing yoga, I would cry. I had stored all this energy and emotion in my thighs and when I was breathing and releasing that tension, all of that feeling came flooding back. I'm not making this stuff up, it's called tissue memory! 

I know that for me, anxiety and a western diet really did a number on my guts. I'm trying to be patient and love myself now by carefully choosing what i'm ingesting, or putting on my skin. I also need to remember that if i can't work on healing my heart and mind it'll never stick as my lifestyle. There's a reason why I still want to turn to foods that taste good but do NOT make me feel good, in crisis. I can only work on this if i really stop and listen and show up for myself, just like I would for those I care about. It is not easy to be honest with myself, or to be honest and then not self sabotage in spite of myself. I try to re-commit to being a priority every day. Some days, it's easier than others. Building a community of supportive and like minded friends has been so important for my own commitment. It's easy to be like "let's just order pizza" and commiserate. I used to do that, despite how both of us would feel afterwards. It's been such a blessing to have people come over and be like "let's do X instead and talk about what's really going on." 

I use some of the resources below to help keep me in line and on track with self love, forgiveness and growth. 

Mindfulness Meditation

My (recent) journey began with Mindfulness Meditation. I took a class a couple of years ago with a dear friend of mine and it completely shook my world and turned it upside down. (I actually then took the intro class again, for another 6 weeks.) The benefits of meditation have been scientifically proven. There's no getting around it: meditation helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, give space to respond rather than react to a situation, improve focus, increase immunity. Here's a whole list, someone already did this.

For me, it's physically important to keep meditation in my life so that my tendency to stew and fret doesn't hurt my body. It's also nice to feel chill, so an added benefit is general bliss. (Or, what i like to see as "how normal people usually feel".) I like to do it before I go to bed, quieting my mind as i'm going to sleep. If I have time I like to try and do it when I wake up, as well. I've listed some resources below. You can learn to meditate alone or you can try guided meditation if sitting quietly is too intimidating. Personally, I've found it helps me to be a more easy going human. Since my goal is to really learn to let things go, this has been instrumental in helping me do that. It's a practice, to really see the benefits, it's best to make it a habit.

Meditation Resources:

InsightLA -this is where i studied meditation in LA, i love Celeste.

My friend Christina Huntington is also a very gifted meditation teacher.

Oprah and Deepak Chopra - Every year they do a meditation challenge. It lasts 21 days and you get access to free guided meditation. 

YouTube - There are tons of free guided meditations or even music to meditate to, on youtube.

10% Happier - This book by Dan Harris is hilarious and reads like a biography, not a self help book. I found it very helpful in inspiring me to continue meditating when I would get lazy. It also has basic instructions on meditation for beginners. 

Going to Pieces without Falling Apart - Mark Epstein is one of the more "scientific" meditation proponents. He's a psychologist who has written books about the benefits of meditation and how he uses it in his practice. It's a little more digestible if you're not as into the tone of people like Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra. (If you are, I'm sure their books are great too!)

Therapy

I love therapy. I first saw a therapist as a kid, I must have been 8 years old. It was more of me playing in a sand box and someone writing down what it "meant" but I liked talking to her. Having that foundation was really helpful when I started having panic attacks as a teenager. I felt like no one had ever experienced what I was going through. I was just locked in fear, in my own body and no one else got it. Anxiety is pretty common, so the therapist i saw was like, "oh yeah, we know what this is". I felt less alone, at least. I went back to therapy in College when I couldn't figure out why my college relationship was driving me crazy. I would talk about my anxiety, trust issues etc. It didn't save my relationship but it made me feel better to talk to someone outside my friend group, about what I was struggling with. I've been since I moved to LA as well. It's helped me sort out issues in my relationship and also when i was transitioning from my job to my new career.

I can sympathize with people who think therapy is not for them. I'd like to think that with the right person, it could be for everyone. It's a good idea to shop around, do an initial session with someone to see if it's a good fit. You can generally do that for FREE. Also, there are tons of types of therapy based on the very fact that everyone processes differently: talk therapy, somatic experiencing, behavioral therapy to name a few. 

Energy Work

Energy work is a cool new (to me) tool I've started utilizing. There are a bunch of ways to try it. I've only delved into a couple at this point. It's not widely recognized as a traditional therapy in the western world but its gaining traction. Anecdotally I can speak for myself and my group of friends that it helps.

Here's a short list from Yin Yang House.com:

  • Qi Gong:
    Qi Gong is a broad term used to describe any number of forms of energy healing based on the theories behind Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Within these techniques the practitioner uses his/her intent and energy to stimulate acupuncture points, move energy through the meridians of the body and ultimately to heal disease. This form of healing is popular in China and is gaining acceptance and use around the world.
  • Reiki:
    Reiki is one of the more popular and widely-known forms of energy medicine. There has been research conducted on its effectiveness and you will find it in hospitals and offered by practitioners around the world. It is based on the Chinese concept of Qi (energy) but it differs from Qi Gong in that it is not as focused on specific acupuncture points or meridians. Rather, Reiki is a more spiritually focused practice in that it places a trust in the energy and the body to know how to heal.
  • Tong Ren Therapy:
    Tong Ren Therapy is a technique developed by Master Tom Tam, a prominent Boston area acupuncturist and healer. This form of energy healing is similar to Qi Gong with the addition of the use of the collective unconscious, as defined by Dr. Carl Jung, to heal disease. Tong Ren was originally developed to help people with Cancer, however, it has proven to be helpful in a broad range of conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson's, Rheumatoid Arthritis and more.
  • Vibrational Medicine:
    Vibrational medicine is another broad category of energy healing. It is based on the idea that energy vibrates at particular speeds or wavelengths and imbalances exist when this energy is not operating at an efficient level. The practitioner may make use of crystals, sounds, colors, magnets or other devices to correct these energetic imbalances and restore health.
  • Prayer:
    Prayer is quite simply the use of Prayer to heal disease. A person may pray for themselves, or have groups or more spiritually developed people pray for them. Recent research has indicated that a group may pray for specific individuals or even groups of people, with or without their knowledge, and influence their health. A good example of a spiritually developed healer who has had remarkable success is Father McDonough, a Boston area Catholic priest who is well known for his tremendous healing abilities.
  • Healing:
    Healing is in many regards a catch all for any practitioner in the energy work field. We mention it here, however, because many people practice healing and advertise themselves specifically as healers. The act of healing may use any technique, from any distance, for any condition and is simply a testimony to the power of energy and the gifts which certain individuals may have developed.

Energy Work Resources:

I use this app called Solfeggio by SonalKiss to do Vibrational Medicine. You listen via earbuds. It's incredibly meditative and calming. There's a frequency that has been reported to heal DNA.  I like to use this app by doing one frequency at a time for about 20 mins a day, three days spent on each frequency (using the Earthly Scale). These frequencies are tuned to each Chakra to help you release any blocked energy in those areas.

I've started working with an Applied Kinesiologist in Los Angeles. That was super cool. She does muscle testing where your body is allowed to answer the questions of what you need and what will help you on your way to healing.

Acupuncture can also be a useful tool for Energy Work. Strategically placed needles can help release blocked energy. I've had a similar reaction to acupuncture, while doing energy work, as I do when i have a muscle release emotion. I just try to stay open and willing to breathe through the release.

Journaling

I have found this blog to be extremely helpful surrounding my health issues. When something is difficult to talk about (this has become a trigger for me) writing is a great way of releasing it from yourself. I've written letters to people I never intended to send, journaled for most of my life and now, started this blog. The Artists Way is a great creative workbook that uses stream of consciousness writing as a form release and stimulation during the 3 month program. You just write, don't take your pen off the page, for 3 minutes each morning. They're called "morning pages". It helps to clear your mind before the day begins.  I know I feel lighter being able to share this information without the possible threat of judgement in return. I can share what I've tried and learned and researched, you can try if you like or leave it if you don't. It's probably very beneficial to my friends as well because they don't have to hear about it unless they ask.

Orthorexia 

This is a topic I wanted to touch on, since I'm talking about the mind and I talk about food all the time. Orthorexia is the condition of being obsessed with eating healthy foods. It is usually coupled with a judgement that some foods are BAD and some foods are GOOD. It's not technically characterized as an eating disorder but is seen as mentally similar to anorexia or bulimia. Generally speaking, the obsession is a projection of underlying mental factors such as: needing to be in control, fear, body image issues etc. There are a lot of resources available for those struggling to figure out the balance of eating healthy and not developing an obsessive relationship around food.

No food is inherently bad or good. Some food is more nutrient dense or bioavailable and therefore may serve the body better. However, focusing on food very intently can become unhealthy without perspective. As I mentioned yesterday, no one diet is going to fit a person for the rest of their life. There's no RIGHT food.

Deal with it

I've found that it's so imperative for me to be open and honest with myself about my emotional state, in order to really feel my best. Food plays a large part in that relationship right now, since eating certain foods can cause sort of "untrue" or "unfounded" emotions in me. I've learned a lot about who i am and what i want in my life by being willing to examine discomfort, sit with it and try to sort out what's really going on. Meditation has been an invaluable tool for that. There's stigma attached to vulnerability and feelings. They're often seen as weakness, and therefore avoided, or "soldiered through". Brené Brown said it best: "To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness... Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path."

I'm still figuring it out as I go. There's a reason why I run with an undercurrent of anxiety. I'm working on examining that and forgiving myself for being who I am as I'm learning to fuel myself in a healthier way. There's no question that being more "self aware" is hard. I beat myself up for beating myself up. I struggle with self forgiveness but preach its importance to my friends. I have a bad day and then harp on myself for not being more patient, or talking too much, or being bossy when i'm actually just trying to be helpful. I lay awake at night and cycle through all the terrible things i've done or decisions i've made and just guilt and shame myself. (Hello! Thank you meditation for helping me go to sleep!) I'm lucky to have built a community of positivity, love, trust and openness in my friends and my husband. It's a journey and the food and health stuff won't ever stick if I don't keep up with the rest. 

metta_poster.jpg

This is my favorite meditation: Loving Kindness or "Metta meditation". Maitri is a Sanskrit word meaning “unconditional friendliness towards self which radiates out to others.” Practicing maitri is an antidote for habitual self-hatred and fear.






Why I'd recommend an Elimination Diet to anyone.

I get a lot of eye rolls when i talk about food. Most of the time because my symptoms could be explained by almost anything. If these were occasional or one off reactions i'd totally get that. I also get that most people probably don't keep stock of how they feel throughout the day (meticulously or at all). Reasons why I'd recommend someone try an elimination diet: headaches, allergies, asthma, undiagnosed or unexplained anything from your Doctor. Acne if you're not 14, acne if you are 14, weight gain, weight loss, fatigue, moodiness, poor memory, if you've never done one before, if you have done one before, insomnia, anxiety, depression, joint pain, gut pain, heartburn, teeth grinding/clenching, gas, bloating, burping, diarrhea, constipation, gallbladder issues. You get the point, if you have an "issue" it's worth examining how your diet may be a contributing factor. There is no gold standard test for food allergies or intolerances. Because our bodies are so unique to us, the most effective course of action currently, is doing an elimination diet. 

Of course I do believe that I'm a product of my own life. My experiences, environments, diet, lifestyle, friends, community, activity level and general life decisions have all shaped who I am. Of course I've been to therapy. Of course I've seen General Practitioners for a bunch of the symptoms I've experienced (as you may have read). The point is, if it's not getting better and you want it to, my FIRST suggestion to you is going to be: try an elimination diet. 

Eliminate food as the possible source of your ailment.

That is my suggestion. It is far too easy to have eaten wheat and dairy and sugar (to name some of the main offenders) and become accustomed to how it feels in your system. You can be symptomatic and not know it or have NO symptoms currently and still have a possible issue. Admittedly, I'm one who had symptoms of intolerances to these foods and never really felt the effects until i went off them and then reintroduced them. These diets are not just for allergies/intolerances. The food you eat influences your micro biome and diversity of that bacteria is instrumental to your health. Eating certain foods can kill off the variety of bacteria in your gut which can lead to health problems as simple as being more susceptible to colds or as complicated as allergic reactions to food. This could be step one of merely living a healthier lifestyle catered to your specific needs.

I was listening to Dr. Ruscio's podcast yesterday. Mickey Trescott (the author of the cook book I have and used before I went low FODMAP) was the guest. She made a great point about AIP (and this applies to elimination diets in general): It's a tool.

"No diet is going to fit one person for the rest of their life".

Maybe what you ate 5 years ago doesn't agree with you now. Your body is constantly in flux. Stress, sleep, illness, all of that can play a part in what you can or can't handle digestively. And, to make it more annoying and confusing (because believe me it is both) you can't even go by what everyone says the symptoms are. You have to figure out how that food makes YOU feel and listen to YOUR body's reaction.

I, for one, do not present "normally" when it comes to a lot of the issues Ive been faced with. Acupuncturists, chiropractic and "regular" (or M.D.) doctors have all had a difficult time diagnosing what's up with me because of this. Knowing what makes you feel your best and if you're not quite there yet, is what I've found to be the key in prioritizing my health. The first step in really knowing what affects you is eliminating possible offenders and then reintroducing them methodically, so you can rule them out as a culprit. Regardless of the outcome, you will gain some control in your own day to day energy, digestion and mood.

I can practically promise you that. 

the good news?

If I can do this, LITERALLY ANYONE CAN.

I am a junk food addict. I love McDonalds, I love Dominos. I've eaten my fair share of each of them and many more foods like them. I think sometimes it just comes to a point where you're either really ready to feel better, or at the time, perhaps it's not worth it to you. I had to wait until I was ready, my will power wasn't enough otherwise. Now if I eat Domino's, I not only get bloated but i have almost immediate neurological effects. Depression, anxiety, physical heart palpitations, insomnia, nightmares, my body is very clear about not wanting this food. However, those reactions weren't clear until i cut out all those ingredients and then reintroduced them. My picture still isn't complete of what's healthful for me and what isn't, but for now I do have a good idea what to stay away from. Once I'm finished with chelation, i'm going back to AIP low FODMAP (strictly) and seeing if I can heal my leaky gut enough to reintroduce more FODMAPs. (I'm so symptomatic in treatment, I eat what I know makes me feel good 80% of the time but I've also allowed myself some leniency. It's a balance.)

There are a bunch of diets one can try. If a certain diet doesn't cure your symptoms, unfortunately that doesn't mean that food is not a factor. It could mean that. However, it could also mean you just hadn't removed that food item or group yet. That was the case for me with Kale and FODMAPS. This may mean trying more than one diet. It may mean committing a little longer than you originally anticipated.

Elimination Diets I can suggest:

SCD - great one to try for suspected leaky gut, and IBDs (Celiac, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's)

GAPS - developed from the SCD, this diet is tailored towards gut flora health and healing leaky gut. (In my opinion, if you go either of these routes, you may as well look at the lists between the two and decide where you might want to start.

The Paleo Cure - this book by Chris Kresser is extremely informative about how your body absorbs nutrients and is not preachy. This is a good diet for anyone who wants to feel better overall but doesn't necessarily think they have any "issues". It removes the main offenders but isn't too intense in my opinion. You can also check out Robb Wolf's website here.

AIP - if the diets above aren't producing the results you desire. Or if you feel like going balls to the wall and "getting it over with" this diet is the one for you. It removes more food groups comprehensively than the Paleo diet, such as nightshades, seeds, nuts and the spices that fall under those categories.

Low FODMAP - (stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) a good reference to start if you have IBS, Crohn's or other IBDs. FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that can ferment if undigested in your gut. The cool yet tricky thing about FODMAPs is that it's not a black and white situation. It is dependent on the amount of the food taht you eat. Perhaps 1c of broccoli is OK for you but any more than that causes a host of symptoms. I tacked this on to AIP because they were clearly an issue for me, I was super uncomfortable and swollen from the vegetables and fruits on this list. I hope once my gut heals I can add them in, I MISS MOST VEGETABLES!

Here are some AIP friendly meals courtesy of Mickey Trescott's Instagram, not too shabby.

Why is it so hard to figure this out?

When I moved on from diet and lifestyle changes to researching possible underlying conditions, I ran into some issues. The symptoms I was experiencing (bolded below) fell under a bunch conditions. It proved to be invaluable for me to track symptoms and habits so I could communicate clearly with my doctors. Being very aware of how I felt and how it changed based on certain factors was really the only way I could fend off the "what if it's all in your head" assertions that friends, family and even doctors would propose. 

We have been tackling these one by one. As symptoms don't resolve, another issue will surface (proven by tests to exist) that has to be cleared. The latest is Mercury/Lead poisoning. It feels like we're digging through symptoms, clearing conditions on the way, taking factors out as possibilities: diet, lifestyle, stress, SIBO, Parasites, now metal. Brahm and I would laugh every time another issue came to light because all the symptoms seemed to be the same.

"You have to laugh at yourself, because you'd cry your eyes out if you didn't."- Indigo Girls

MERCURY:

Diarrhea, Constipation, Colitis

Allergies/Asthma

Chronic Fatigue

Skin Problems

Anxiety, Depression, Nervousness, Mood Swings, Anger, Confusion

Memory Loss, Lack of Concentration

Nausea/Vomiting

Joint and Muscle Aches

Anemia

Weight Loss

Leaky Gut

SIBO:

Bloating, Pain, Cramps, Constipation, Diarrhea

Asthma

Fatigue

Eczema, rashes

Autism, Depression

Heartburn, Nausea

Joint Pain

Anemia

Weight Loss

Fatty stools

 

 

 

 

 

LEAKY GUT:

Digestive Issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea, IBS)

Allergies/Asthma

Chronic Fatigue

Skin Issues (acne, rosacea, eczema)

Mood/Mental (Depression, Anxiety, ADD, ADHD)

Auto Immune Diagnosis (Hashimoto's, Celiac, Psoriasis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis)

Candida

Food allergies/Intolerances

Hormonal Imbalances (PCOS, PMS)

PARASITES:

Diahrrea, Gas, Bloating, Constipation, IBS, Digestive Issues

Allergies, runny nose

Chronic Fatigue

Irritaion at nose, ears, eyes, anus, rashes, hives, eczema, acne

Fuzzy thinking, Headaches, anxiety, hyperactivity, nervousness

Joint and Muscle Aches

Weight Gain

Candida

Painful Menstruation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:
http://www.dentalwellness4u.com/layperson/symptoms.html
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10908/9-signs-you-have-a-leaky-gut.html
http://organicolivia.com/2014/02/24/everyone-has-parasites-part-one-why-how-symptoms-what-you-can-do/
http://www.siboinfo.com/symptoms.htm

 

 

 

 

 

MY LABS

These are my labs and tests between 2014-2016


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.

Help! I HATE EATING *tired face emoji*

There have been times on this journey when i'm just OVER it!  I'm tired of eating the same 7 foods in different arrangements. I'm annoyed that my body needs food as fuel to run and heal itself.  If Soylent had ingredients I could tolerate, I'd drink it!. (yes, it's real. no, it's not people.) This isn't great for a couple reasons, one because food is necessary (obviously) and two because if I avoid eating due to annoyance at my choices, I'm more likely to make poor food choices that could be detrimental to my healing. Don't get me wrong, I love food and eating in general.

What i've done in the meantime, is find a way to get nutrients into my body when I just don't want to eat 

It's really important to make sure I'm feeding myself if i want to heal. Deprivation is only going to cause additional issues, not to mention make me HANGRY. It gives my digestion a break to have liquids rather than solids for a meal or two. Sometimes on the road, I'll supplement with this because eating out gets expensive. It allows me to bring some food on the road (food bag!), eat when I choose to, supplement when I choose to and I have a back up if the venue serves dinner that I'd rather avoid.

The Goods

Pasture Raised Collagen Peptides - these are a great (flavorless) way to add a boost to your coffee (or smoothie, or just dissolve in water)! I'm generally not ready to eat a meal when i wake up. Peptides dissolve in cold OR hot water. So, i put collagen in my coffee, add a little homemade coconut milk and I'm good for a bit. It contains 18 grams of protein and the source is grass fed beef collagen so it's also super healing for my gut. (Bone broth is not easy to take on tour.) On the road, I'll use powdered coconut milk. It's not as good as the homemade stuff, in my opinion but it's a great second best. Sometimes I'll also chug a scoop of collagen peptides before bed if i'm feeling a little hungry after a show, it will help me sleep through the night.

Beauty tip: collagen applied to your face is TOO LARGE of a molecule to be absorbed into your skin. You want more collagen in your body? (ah hem, cellulite), ingesting it is the best way to absorb it!

Coconut Oil - I take a jar of organic coconut oil with me on tour and we always have some in the kitchen. I just eat a teaspoon or two of it as needed. It's a healthy saturated fat that has a host of wonderful health properties. It's not the most delicious right out of the jar but will keep me sated for a period of time.

Super Greens - What about vitamins and minerals you say? Powdered greens, when coupled with the protein and coconut oil practically make a complete meal. (not quite soylent but it works at times)  There are some vegetables in there that I don't tolerate completely yet, but in a pinch it's served me well.

Where Can I GET THIS STUFF?

You can get Organic Coconut Oil at your local grocery store. OR try Thrive Market! We love them, we save about $1k a year on organic pantry items by using thrive AND for every membership they sell, they give one to a family in need. Everyone deserves to feed their family with healthy food. Support them!

Vital Proteins and Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides  are two collagen peptides we use.  Hint: Thrive sells the Vital proteins for WAY cheaper. We get the other stuff on Amazon when Thrive has been out of stock.

 

Orac-Energy Greens are the super greens we have now. They work really well and you can drink them straight (dissolved in water) or put them in a smoothie if you prefer that.

 

 

 

 

Coconut Milk Recipe:

  • Boil Water
  • Meanwhile, take Two Cups of Shredded, Organic Coconut and put in a blender (we use a vitamix)
  • Pour 4 Cups boiled Water into blender
  • Blend for 2-3 minutes
  • Pour into a large bowl to cool
  • Once Cool, Strain through a nut bag
  • Refrigerate, and use within that week! 

Coconut Collagen Coffee:

  • Make Coffee (I use a french press each morning and grind coffee once a week for that week)
  • Pour 12 oz coffee
  • Add one or two scoops of Collagen Peptides (Depending on hunger level, i usually do one)
  • add 1-2 oz of coconut milk to taste OR 1-2 tsp of coconut milk powder to taste
  • Stir or blend (peptides will dissolve) and Enjoy!

Mini Meal on the Road:

  • Pour 8 oz glass of water (no ice)
  • Pour 1-2 scoops of collagen peptides (depending on hunger)
  • Pour 1 scoop of Super Greens
  • Stir well and CHUG!
  • Finish by eating 1-2 tsp of coconut oil

Update May 2017: Now that I'm doing more of a ketogenic lifestyle. I put heavy whipping cream (organic always and raw when possible) instead of Coconut Milk.

 

 

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...

 

 

 

Vulnerability, Sensitivity and Creativity

I'm currently in this place where I've completely overhauled my life, left my day job in TV production (which I loved for a long time) and am now in a band. It was the most change I've ever caused for myself in my life, ever. It was what I needed. However, via food elimination, metal toxicity and meditation, i'm TOTALLY EXPOSED. Just so sensitive (and exhausted) and raw and open. 

SURPRISE! I'm still the same person, even though I've changed environments. I've spent the past 2.5 years trying to just descend into the vulnerability, feel the feelings, sit with the discomfort etc. Along with the health journey I've been on (and how food has definitely played a part in my neuroses), I also have to do the work. not run, not self medicate, just feel it, talk about it, sing it out, whatever. Just be in it. 

Right now, I have this instinct and desire to put it down in songs. Writing songs isn't a thing that "i've done" and since i've never done it, i'm not GREAT at it and now i'm just afraid to do it. (or, at least do it and tell anyone). It happens that I have penned a couple for the band but they sort of flew out of me. So, I don't take responsibility for them (see Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk below). Now i'm actually trying. And if you try, it means you can fail. i don't do failure (well.) Not to mention i work with a bunch of crazy-talented musicians (see how I don't include myself in that category?) so it's scary to bring ideas to them. I'm an expert at judging myself before others even have the chance to do so.

I recently read Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. It was amazing for me.  For my new year's discovery, I realized i'm just a better version of myself if i'm reading a book. So, I went out to the library and re-upped my card. It was like a sense memory time capsule. I'm from NH, but in LA the library smells exactly the same as all the other libraries ever. It was comforting, I used to hang in them while I was watching my lil' baby bro, also when i babysat for 11 years and when i did work/study in college to earn my keep. I love libraries. 

I checked out The Art of Asking, and devoured it last tour. It's so dead on about our self judgments, judgements of each other, fear, vulnerability, honesty and accepting praise etc. I can't do it justice. The rest of my list currently are other works by Brené Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert, in the same theme: Daring Greatly and Big Magic. Each of them tackle the obstacles surrounding creativity, from different perspectives. I think it's what I need to continue learning and growing, just steep in this. Read about it, talk about it, meditate on it, write about it, whatever I'm lead to.

It's been a topic of discussion at ladies night, (and at happy hour, over dinner, at home with my husband...) this vulnerability. This inability to quiet the mind, despite the meditation, despite the honesty, despite support from our communities: the self judgement and quiet hum of discontent with ones self, it's maddening. We're all on our own journeys, we've been coming together for 11 years. The topics have certainly changed, but we're all still there together. She called us "live wires". I loved that. Just raw, feeling everything, it's beautiful but can be very hard to sit with. I keep thinking that it's just a fire i have to walk through, but i have a sneaking suspicion it might not go away. Maybe it'll be less severe, when metal is out of my body and my leaky guts are healed, but i suspect i'll still be sensitive. I'm not sure I want it to, I think I'd just like to have a better relationship with it so it doesn't feel so foreign and volatile at times. 

 

Check out Magic Lessons: Elizabeth Gilbert's Podcast, following her book, here.

Daring Greatly - Brené Brown Also, here's her TED talks on Shame and Vulnerability. (nails it)

The Art of Asking - Amanda Palmer And here's her TED talk on the same topic.

Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert And her TED talk on MUSES! (instrumental in me allowing myself to write music.)

 

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.