The foundation of my nutrition practice has always been rooted in the fact that nutrition is not one size fits all. I wish nutrition could be more black and white but it isn’t. I accept the fact that we are all individuals and what works for one person very well won’t work for the next. That being said, we need to learn to be our own advocate. It takes patience, trial and error and a good amount of self-reflection understand your own bodies needs but it is so worth it. I often try to simplify my nutrition messages so that they don’t feel so overwhelming and my foundation mantra is this: “Eat foods that make you feel good and avoid those that don’t”. If you experience physical or emotional discomfort from eating a certain food, well, it might be a good idea to avoid it. Here is my story…
I have always had a sensitive stomach and a few years ago I found that I became so bloated and uncomfortable after my meals that I was practically fetal which was really not fun. I accepted this as normal for a short period of time and then, tired of feeling like crap, I decided to make a few changes. I started by removing dairy from diet and almost instantly felt better. It’s hard, as a cheese and yogurt lover, to omit one of my favorite, healthy foods but feeling good usually trumps my desire to indulge.
This is a great time to point out the fact that perfection doesn’t exist–and that applies to your diet as well. I have my moments where I can’t resist a bite of my sons yogurt or his cheese and crackers…but…my body quickly reminds me it is not worth it and I find my resolve once again.
Almost two years ago, out of no where, my GI symptoms started acting up and I was unable to control them. This was the beginning of my current health journey which led to my recent Lyme diagnosis. Being a dietitian, I did everything I could think of to care for myself including getting a colonoscopy to rule out anything structural. All of the results and tests were negative and my conventional doctors (as well as a few integrative docs) did not have an answer and simply suggested medications or therapies that were costly and unhelpful.
I was not open to masking my symptoms because I knew there had to be an underlying cause. Within a few months my symptoms progressed. I had headaches, vision changes, an intense pain/pressure in my ear that rarely went away, numbness in my right leg and foot, shortness of breath, and fatigue to name a few–its been a crazy ride to say the least. From a functional medicine standpoint these symptoms can be caused by a myriad of ailments, many autoimmune– so I started looking for answers as there had to be a reason I could be so unwell and healthy at the same time!
Both my conventional and integrative doctor at the time did not think gluten was a problem for me but I figured a trial elimination can’t hurt*. I was going to several doctors and getting regular, medical acupuncture with no relief so I decided to control the things I could until we found an answer. For me, that was my diet and my mental health. I immersed myself in my yoga practice and used meditation to calm my nerves. I cut gluten and really limited added sugars and alcohol from my diet in an effort to decrease inflammation in the hopes it would ease my symptoms. At first, I wasn’t convinced it did. Then, after a few months of eating a gluten-free, whole foods diet, I surrendered to my cravings and shared a cupcake with my son on his birthday. To my surprise, within a day, all of my symptoms were dramatically worse and I had a mouthful of canker sores (ugh!). It took me a few days to return to my baseline and I noticed this every time I would slip up. I would eat a little gluten, sugar or alcohol and feel 10 x worse. This is when, like with dairy, I decided to listen to my body. No, I have not been diagnosed with celiac disease but I do know that I feel a lot better when I do not eat these foods so I choose to avoid them.
After ruling out a ton of scary things like MS, tumors and more, I advocated for myself and found integrative and homeopathic doctors that ultimately diagnosed me with Chronic Lyme. I was told, on several occasions throughout my journey, that one of the reason you are able to get up everyday and be present at work and with your family is because of your diet and the fact that you are taking care of yourself. They encouraged me that I was steps ahead of many people because I had prioritized my health and listened to my body. This felt like a small triumph in an otherwise overwhelming time.
Why am I sharing this? Because I want all of your to advocate for you own health. Listen to your body and make decisions that make you feel good (or, in my case, for the time being– better than I otherwise would).
I do not think a gluten free diet is right for everyone but, as a proponent of whole, nourishing foods, I have found that the act of removing gluten from my diet has also resulted in a decreased intake of highly refined grains and processed foods which can be lacking in nutrients.
*If you are interested in removing gluten from you diet the most important thing to remember is this: Choose whole foods that are nutrient dense. Going gluten free and ultimately trading crap for crap (like a conventional cookie for a gluten free cookie) does not make a healthy diet!
I’ll end with this. Take your health one step at a time and listen to your body–make choices that are rooted in self-care and self-love and that make your feel good! Today, I am doing my part by eating foods that support me, limiting my environmental toxin load, making time for self-love and, of course, choosing joy every day!
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* This post is not meant to diagnosis Lyme or any illness. It do not believe everyone needs to be on a gluten-free diet just like I do not promote a singular way of eating for all of my clients. This is my personal story and is meant to inspire you to look for answers, listen to your body and advocate for your health.