It’s the first of many episodes of “Real-Life Keto” which is a segment of the Keto For Women Show that will focus on real women living a real life using a ketogenic diet, having success and maybe even some failures, but learning along the way. Now, we can use the lessons these women have learned to guide our own keto journey.
Today, we have Leah Hosburgh, a mom of two little boys, former competitive Crossfitter, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, and recovering chronic dieter. Leah began her ketogenic journey as a member of The Fat Burning Female Project while she was breastfeeding. This was also the time in her life where she was finally able to stop dieting, measuring and weighing food, and just eat intuitively for health and freedom for both herself and her family.
Leah’s history with chronic dieting and disordered eating
How competing in Crossfit changed her outlook on food
The health breaking point she used as a lightbulb to change her lifestyle
Leah’s experience with using a ketogenic diet to fuel her breastfeeding relationship with her son
Using keto as a means to break the dieting obsession
I’m taking your listener questions and rolling with them for another episode of Keto Q&A! This episode’s questions are some of the most common, yet most confusing ones out there in the keto community including calories, fasting, exogenous ketone use, and what it means to be fat-adapted.
Keto while vegetarian or vegan
Veggies and dairy on a keto diet
The difference between keto and fat-adaptation
Do calories matter with a ketogenic diet and adding more fat to your plate?
Our guest today has a wealth of information to share about using a ketogenic diet to make every stage of a women’s life manageable from both personal and professional experience. Jackie Eberstein has used a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet to heal her hormones since 1974 and, as a registered nurse, worked with Dr. Atkins in his clinic.
How a woman’s hormonal changes throughout life affect metabolism and weight
Why it’s so important to support you adrenals, pancreas, and liver as a woman
The importance of cholesterol for female hormone health
This episode’s listener questions lead us into a great discussion about weight loss resistance, why calorie restriction doesn’t work, why it takes longer for women to respond to keto, and so much more!
How to find your carb tolerance and who should do it
Why some women don’t lose weight with a keto diet
What calorie restriction does to your body
What are optimal ketone readings
What are optimal blood sugar readings and how to use the information
Leanne Vogel of healthfulpursuit.com is joining in on the Keto For Women discussion today! With her online programs and new paperback book, The Keto Diet, Leanne has a wealth of information to help make the ketogenic diet accessible and practical for everyone.
The mistakes Leanne made when first trying keto and what she learned from that experience.
Our thoughts on how carbs fit in to a ketogenic lifestyle.
Our take on weight vs. health for maximum confidence.
What to do when you eat emotionally or binge.
Listener question: hair loss on keto
Listener question: getting enough veggies while eating keto
Listener question: how to know if you’re eating too much protein
Trying to figure out the best and safest way to workout while doing a ketogenic diet? Not working out at all because you’re confused? Scared to try keto because you don’t want your workouts to suffer? Then, this is the episode for you!
In this episode, you will learn how to workout for YOU while keto. We will go through the different types of exercise and how keto can work for them, whether you are a Crossfitter, an endurance athlete, a heavy lifter, a yogi, or a ‘walk-your-dog’er.
IMPORTANT: if you are someone who doesn’t work out, PLEASE don’t pass this episode by! There is important info for you too!
We also shift gears quickly to discuss my 3 best tips for getting more fat into your diet to become truly ketogenic.
As women, it’s important for us to talk about our hormones, especially as it pertains to making the switch to a ketogenic diet. Keto can be a very powerful healer for our hormonal balance as women if we know how to approach it properly.
Explaining the role of cortisol, thyroid hormones, sex hormones, and insulin on our female bodies
How eating a carbohydrates causes stress on our bodies
How stress then leads to hormonal imbalances
The connection between the thyroid and adrenals
How using a ketogenic diet can balances these responses and lead to ultimate healing!
The best approach to make keto be a safe place for your hormones
Let’s take a look at the common mistakes women make when trying a keto diet. These mistakes happen both while transitioning and once in ketosis, so it is an important one for all of us to hear! In order for ketosis to be truly healing for us females, we need to avoid these mistakes.
Welcome to the very first episode of the Keto For Women Show! In this episode, we are chatting about why the keto diet is different for women and what you need to change to make it a successful transition and healthy lifestyle.
My Story: how I used the ketogenic diet to finally heal my body after 2 years of chronic illness.
What is the ketogenic diet?
Why is the ketogenic diet different for women?
How you should approach keto to be successful.
What to expect of the Keto For Women Show in the future.
I’m so excited! I found the answer for those of us on a ketogenic – high fat, moderate protein, low carb – diet to have desserts without taking the chance of spiking our blood sugar (remember, we talked about that issue last week?).
The secret lies in a wonderfully amazing natural sweetener that I have been experimenting with in the kitchen with ridiculous results. So far, everything I have tried to create has turned out perfectly, tasting like the real dessert-type item, without the weird aftertaste of most sugar-free sweeteners.
It’s called yacon syrup and, even though it’s definitely not pronounced this way, I like to think of it as rhyming with bacon which automatically means it’s going to be great.
This honey-like sweetener is derived from a Peruvian root. It contains prebiotic fiber, so it is actually great for our gut health too because it becomes food for our good bacteria! It tastes like a very mild molasses and can easily be a substitute for honey, maple syrup, or molasses in anything.
I have a few new recipes up my sleeve using yacon syrup and will be sharing these with you in the coming weeks. Grab a bottle, so you can take part in these keto desserts with me! It is worth every penny, trust me. A little goes a long way.
We’ll start with my new granola recipe.
I don’t know why, but I adore granola. Back in the day when granola was considered ‘healthy’, I would eat bowls and bowls of it. After realizing that traditional granola is absolutely loaded with sugar, I just resigned to not eating it ever again.
Since then, I’ve tried several paleo, grain-free versions of homemade granola and it’s definitely good, but usually still contains more sugar than I am looking to consume on a regular basis.
So, I tried her recipe and loved it. However, I don’t do well with TONS of nuts, so I needed to create a granola recipe that had other things in it besides just nuts, so my digestive system stayed happy.
That’s when I realized I should definitely add bacon to my granola…I mean, obviously, right?! 🙂
And that’s how my keto sweet bacon granola recipe was born. And, it is SO good. I’m kind of obsessed with it, which means I go through a batch very quickly. I enjoy it plain as a snack, but also really liked it as cereal with almond milk and as a topping for my coconut milk yogurt.
A little over five months ago I was in my doctor’s office, chatting about all things healing, and he gave me the instruction to begin a 16:8 intermittent fasting regimen. I was excited because I knew about all of the awesome benefits of fasting, but a little apprehensive because I had NEVER in my life gone without breakfast.
I also knew at that moment that I would make the switch to a ketogenic diet to support the process as effectively as I could. Why was that switch necessary? When someone is a sugar-burner, which is about 99% of us, (including me at the time, even though I had been eating a Paleo diet for years) the body relies on the glucose response from that next meal to provide energy. This glucose response comes with every serving of carbohydrates and even excess protein consumption, so the body learns to depend on those foods for its energy supply. For the sugar-burner, too much time between meals causes the blood sugar to drop, cortisol to spike, cravings to ramp up, hunger to get out of control, and the body to do everything it can to let you know it needs that serving of sugar.
However, when your body adapts to burning fat as fuel, all of these issues are bypassed. Your body knows there is plenty of fuel right on your body that can to use between meals and so hunger, cravings, cortisol crashes, and energy dips don’t happen. Blood sugar remains stable, and a sense of calm takes place within the body.
This is what I wanted to experience during the 16 hours I would be fasting. I didn’t want to deal with hunger or feel terrible during that time. I wanted to reap the benefits of fasting and knew the only way to do that would be to adapt my body to being a fat-burner.
And just like that, keto walked into my life. I was very familiar with what this new lifestyle would entail as I have many colleagues who prefer a ketogenic lifestyle, but it was finally time to put my knowledge to practice and embark on my keto experiment.
Before this experiment, I spent most days in a fog, taking multiple naps per day, sleeping 10+ hours a night and not feeling rested, being hungry all the time, bingeing on carbs, and having trouble holding conversations. I like to say I lost my personality during that time. I was also having hormonal issues and in a severe state of adrenal fatigue.
Five months later and I can easily say it has been the best five months I have had in a long time, quite possibly ever, as far as my health is concerned. I have fantastic energy all day, mental clarity, focus, meal satisfaction, and overall hormone balance. Something I didn’t expect to come from this experiment? A strong sense of food freedom and intuition.
Because of my success, I now have a deep desire to share it with the world. Based on the thousands of ladies in the Fat Burning Female Project, those that listen to my podcast, The Keto For Women Show, and friends and family in my inner circle, I can see a real need for many more women to turn to a ketogenic diet to heal and feel amazing again.
I say women specifically for a few reasons. First of all, I think there are so many health issues specific or more prominent in women that could be healed simply by a keto diet. Secondly, I think a keto diet is something that women would tend to shy away before getting full knowledge around it. And lastly, while I think it is a fantastic lifestyle change for a woman to make, I think it needs to be approached a little differently than most keto dieters will tell you, and different than the men in our lives.
Before I do that, let me give a brief overview of how a keto diet looks.
Ketogenic Diet In A Nutshell
The ketogenic diet is a style of eating that is composed of very high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate macronutrient ratios to promote a state of ketosis in the body. Ketosis happens when the body is depleted of glucose and stored glycogen causing it to switch its metabolic pathways to begin using fat as fuel. The body produces ketones when it breaks down fats into fatty acids and is the body’s signal to start using both dietary and body fat as the primary source of energy. This is the body’s preferred source of fuel and something that is an innate mechanism in all of us and allows our body to work more efficiently and effectively. More important, there isn’t that reliance on the next meal to have energy.
Ketosis has been around for a long time and started as a medical intervention for epilepsy. Studies are now coming out showing its effectiveness at treating and reversing diabetes, insulin resistance, depression, PCOS, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s disease. More and more research is out about this style of eating even for a “healthy” person with amazing results and extremely low risks.
When the body is in a state of ketosis, that new (yet old) metabolic state allows the body to have large amounts of energy at the ready, especially for the brain.
This results in:
steady high energy without crashes
mental clarity and focus
no more intense hunger and cravings
stronger, more effective workouts
healthier skin, hair, and nails
Now, putting this into practice is where a lot of women have a hangup. In my practice, I often see women thinking they are eating a high-fat, low-carb diet only to realize they’re not even close. It can be a pretty tricky change to make after years of thinking dietary fat was the cause of excess body fat, heart disease, and all kinds of health issues, when in fact, dietary fat does the complete opposite. I have learned through my trial and error, along with professional and educational experience, the dietary fat is the healer.
A high-fat diet means VERY high fat; anywhere from 60-80% of your daily food intake will be in the form of high-quality, nutrient-dense fats. When this happens, the other macros shift as well, with protein making up about 15-30% and carbohydrates rounding it out at 5-15% per day.
Now, in my world, this is a healing dietary protocol and with that comes the need to emphasize the quality of food that is going into your daily consumption. Standard keto diet protocols don’t necessarily discuss this idea much, but I think it is paramount to achieving the success you desire with your health.
YES to grass-fed, pasture-raised meat, poultry, and eggs
YES to organic produce
YES to organic, unrefined oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, sesame oil
YES to grass-fed butter or ghee
YES to lard, tallow and duck fat from properly-raised animals
YES to natural sweeteners like raw honey, grade B maple syrup, and organic liquid stevia
YES to raw, grass-fed dairy (after 30-day elimination to make sure you tolerate it)
NO to processed vegetable and seed oils like canola, soybean, and safflower oils
NO to margarine or other fake spreads
NO to sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, or any other form of processed sweetener
NO to feedlot meats, dairy, poultry, and eggs
Following these guidelines will ensure you are eating a nourishing diet that will work to lower inflammation.
Keto For Women
Now that we have the basics of keto covered let’s get into how it may differ for women looking to achieve a state of ketosis. I think the ketogenic diet is still way too overlooked as a means to heal women-specific health issues, although I do think it may need to be approached differently to see success.
As a woman, you might benefit from a ketogenic diet if you:
have irregular or absent periods
have imbalanced thyroid hormones
can’t lose or gain weight no matter what you try
have terrible PMS
have adrenal fatigue
feel tired or unmotivated
get hangry and need to always have a snack handy in between meals
want to increase your performance in the gym
have an autoimmune disease you would like to manage
I have seen great success in myself and in clients who can heal these specific conditions and symptoms by making this dietary change. It is THAT powerful!
Are you feeling empowered to make the switch yet? Good, that’s what I had hoped! Let’s talk about how you can make this work FOR YOU.
4 Tips For Success
Take it slow. There’s no need to go from eating your typical diet to being keto the next day. Making the change of macros for 3-4 weeks will ensure you keep your body safe and stress-free. Frequently, when women take on a new diet, it shocks the system so much that it put even more of a burden on our body, landing us in a state of compromised adrenal function and excess cortisol production. By giving your body the time to adjust over several weeks, we can bypass the potential stressor it would cause. In my online course, The Fat Burning Female Project, we slightly modify our macronutrient ratios week-by-week for four weeks, using a course-specific tracking system, until we get to the optimal ketogenic ratios safely and effectively.
Don’t go zero carb. There’s no need to eliminate an entire macronutrient. While we don’t technically NEED carbohydrates for survival, as our liver produces all of the glucose we need daily, it’s also unnecessary to tell yourself carbs are bad or that you can’t have them. These kinds of limits we put on food, ultimately lead to bingeing, emotional eating, and feelings of failure. This is not your typical “quick fix” diet so no need to even go there.
I think some women do better being on the higher end of the carbohydrate spectrum of ketosis. It may have to do with the extra supply of glucose, or it may just be that carbs make them happy and happiness induces healing! The beauty of the keto diet for women is that it can be flexible. You can find what works for YOU, your body, and your health needs.
It’s quite easy to find your carb tolerance once in ketosis. If you would like to test for it, you can either use a blood ketone meter and test strips or a Ketonix breath test meter. Once you get a positive reading that you are in ketosis, you can experiment with different macronutrient ratios to see what amount allows you to stay within the range.
But, I also don’t think you HAVE to test! If buying another contraption doesn’t sound appealing, you can use your intuition to guide you to ketosis. You can go by how you feel and notice when you experience that switch in energy level, mental clarity, and hunger. Those are sure signs that you are in ketosis. From there, take notice of how you feel after adding in some carbohydrates and when you don’t have those awesome feelings, you may have had too many.
Get over your fat fear and diet mentality. This is the biggest reason why women may need to approach the ketogenic diet differently. For many of us, somewhere along the way, we learned that fat was bad, made up gain weight, and caused health issues. There is an abundant amount of evidence and research to show the exact opposite, but changing our mind can be tricky!
The only way it works is to get over the diet mentality, the idea the “calories-in needs to be less than calories-out for weight loss,” and all of the other myths from the last few decades. Instead, approach it with the mentality of health gain. Understand that dietary fat is the critical nutrient at play for cell-repair, hormone building, nutrient delivery and absorption, and so much more. When health is at the forefront of every decision you make, your body has no choice but to deliver. And THAT’s what is essential.
It’s not a low food diet. One of the biggest misconceptions in the health community is that low carb diets can be dangerous and ineffective. I agree, in a way. If you reduce your carbohydrates but don’t make up for that food by increasing your fat intake, then that diet becomes just too low in food, nutrients, and energy, so of course, nothing good is going to come of that! Remember, this is a VERY HIGH FAT, low carb diet, not a low carb, low food diet. That’s just disastrous.
Are you overwhelmed yet? I know taking on a new eating style can be daunting, especially with a wide range of information out there. But don’t worry, I’m here to help!
I’ve taken my passion for this topic along with my personal and professional experience to create an online group project that will take you from sugar-burner to fat-burner in 6 fun, simple weeks! We spend four weeks slowly altering our macronutrient ratios using a unique tracking system that prevents obsession, counting, and measuring. During this time, we are also learning about the role fat plays to our health, how it can heal us, and what hormones get involved in the process.
We spend the last two weeks looking at becoming intuitive with our new eating style, so we can make it a lifestyle without the need to track, count, or measure ever again. We have in-depth dive discussions on intuitive eating, self-love, and stress and the role they all play on the body.
Because of my success going through the same change, I’m determined to help as many women with this transition as I can. I’d love to have you be a part of the next class!
The next Fat Burning Female Project is starting in a few weeks!
The ketogenic diet is becoming more and more popular for its ability to heal, manage, and reverse insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders, obesity, PCOS, and cardiovascular disease. What a powerful tool to have at our disposal for these types of conditions! I, however, don’t have any of the above health issues, yet still found profound healing by switching to a ketogenic diet.
A quick background on me…I have tried pretty much every style of eating in my lifetime, always being on some sort of diet. Growing up, it was about low-fat, processed foods because we were told dietary fat caused heart disease and increased body fat. Instead, I ate sugar and carbs on top of sugar and carbs because that was what we were “supposed” to do.
Then came my twenties when I began dieting to control my weight. Then it was all about calories, grams of fat, protein shakes, and Lean Cuisines. This was the era of “calories in vs. calories out”, so I killed myself in the gym and only allowed myself a set amount of food each day.
I finally got some sense knocked into me in my thirties and started eating for my health. Plagued with several years of chronic illness, I found the power in using food as medicine, switching to a Paleo template and even trying the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) for several months to manage my autoimmune diseases. I became passionate about how food can be our biggest healer or our worst poison, so much so that I changed my entire career to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner to help others heal.
But, even with these changes, I was still in need of additional healing. This desire to take my health to the next level led me to the ketogenic diet. I already had quite a bit of knowledge on this diet as a speaker on The Low Carb Cruise, but had never dabbled in it myself, always preferring to keep some carbohydrates in my diet, just because I liked them. But, after a trip to the doctor’s office one day, I came out of the meeting knowing I wanted to try a ketogenic diet. Let’s talk about the reasons why I made this switch.
Why I Switched To A Ketogenic Diet
1. Chronic Inflammation
In addition to having two autoimmune diseases, both Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and ulcerative colitis, this past year I was also diagnosed with chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS) from exposure to toxic mold. This all equals tons of systemic inflammation that is impossible to get under control without the use of special medications. The medications worked wonders, but I still had lingering inflammation that even my clean paleo diet couldn’t budge.
By getting into ketosis, I was able to use this therapeutic diet to further reduce chronic inflammation throughout my body that was causing unnecessary pain and swelling. Ketosis works by changing your metabolic pathway from using glucose as fuel to using ketones, a by-product of fatty acids produced in the absence of glucose. This change to a fat-burner metabolism produces less oxidation and even shuts off an entire inflammatory process with the production of beta-hydroxybutyrate. Not to mention the increase in fatty acids from the diet produce prostaglandins which are inflammation regulators.
Results: Within days of being in ketosis I could feel a difference in my water retention, joint pain, and inflammation in my knees and ankles, the two most noticeable areas for the inflammatory pain in my body. It has only gotten better and better since, now 5 months along.
2. Brain Health
This CIRS diagnosis also left me with some pretty bad brain inflammation and injury. One of the biggest symptoms and clues that something was wrong prior to getting this diagnosis was in my inability to hold conversations, think clearly, focus, or recollect simple words. It was scary and embarrassing! So, this was probably my biggest reason for switching to a ketogenic diet. I really wanted to do everything possible to nourish and heal my brain.
The brain can get up to 75% of its energy from ketones, which is an amazing source of alternate fuel for it to rely on. This is why the ketogenic diet has shown amazing healing benefits for those with Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, autism, and epilepsy. But even for those with good brain health, switching to a fat-burning metabolism means more energy for the brain because ketosis actually increases the number of mitochondria in brain cells, little “energy factories” that allow for more energy uptake. Ketosis also balances out neurotransmitters, specifically GABA — the calming one — and glutamate — the excited one. By keeping these in balance, we can modulate stress better and maintain focus more easily.
Results: By far the biggest change I noticed by switching to a keto diet was in my focus, memory, and clarity. The debilitating brain fog is gone!
3. Adrenal Fatigue
Another huge one that I needed to tackle and quickly. My adrenal glands had taken a major hit from this chronic illness and I was in stage 3 adrenal fatigue by the time I was considering a ketogenic diet. I had very little left in the tank as far as cortisol — the stress hormone — goes. My body had been in “fight or flight” mode for a really long time and it needed a break!
The idea of a ketogenic diet for adrenal health made a ton of sense to me. Our adrenal health is very much tied to our blood sugar regulation. If we have a blood sugar dip, our bodies respond to this low blood sugar by calling on cortisol to bring blood sugar back up to normal. This happen A LOT! Even in people already eating a very healthy, clean, even paleo diet.
Any time you are a sugar-burner — meaning you rely on glucose for your fuel source — you will have blood sugar dips. These happen in between meals when you have hunger pangs, energy dips, and a need to reach for a snack to get by. Until you are a fat-burner and have reminded your body how to use ketones as fuel, you will be constantly relying on cortisol to get you out of blood sugar dips. This makes it very hard to heal from adrenal fatigue.
But, once a fat-burner, your body ALWAYS has its supply of energy available for use in the form of ketones and this makes for a very stress-free environment in the body. Plus, eating high fat, moderate protein, low carb meals keeps the blood sugar nice and even throughout the day, regardless of how long its been since your last meal.
Results: Recent salivary cortisol testing shows that I am about 50% healed from my adrenal fatigue! That’s a pretty good turnaround in only four months time. As far as how I feel — prior to keto I was tired most of the time, had a hard time getting out of bed, and felt foggy all day. Not any more! Within a few weeks, keto gave me my energy back and it has stayed that way ever since. I feel very balanced, energized, and well rested on a daily basis — something I couldn’t say just 5 months ago.
4. Hormone Balancing
My hormones also took a huge hit during this time of impaired health, mainly from the stress of the situation, as I discussed above. I went through it all — abnormal cycle, painful PMS, and no signs of ovulation. I needed to let my body know it was safe. I was hopeful that this could be achieved through a ketogenic diet. I could eat tons of nourishing, healthy, nutrient-dense food — by way of fats — and take out the blood sugar roller coaster from excess carbohydrates, since blood sugar, adrenal health, and hormonal balance are all so intricately bound together. Plus, hormones are made up of fatty acids, so I could provide my body with these building blocks necessary to produce healthy hormones.
Results: I now have clock-work menstrual cycles, minimal PMS symptoms, and know exactly when I am ovulating. The KEY here for women to understand — you MUST make the transition safely and slowly to keep stress to a minimum for your body. You also must make sure to eat enough food, even when in ketosis, to keep your body regulated and nourished.
5. Hunger & Cravings
This was not something I knew ahead of time that I wanted to see change from my ketogenic diet, but looking back, I’m SO happy that going keto made my cravings and hunger disappear. Dietary fat sources are extremely satiating, so having a high-fat meal or snack results in going longer between meals. Not to mention, the reduction in blood sugar swings means less cravings and random hunger cues. As a fat-burner, your body has all of the energy it needs right on the body by way of body fat AND now knows that using body fat for energy will be the primary source of fuel. This means hunger reduces, cravings vanish, and a whole new level of satisfaction ensues.
Results: For the first time in my life, I can say that I have learned how to eat intuitively because of my ketogenic diet. I have delicious, nutrient-dense meals that are so satiating, I don’t have to rely on snacks to get through the day anymore. There is no “hangry-ness” that happens where I need to eat the first thing I see and end up bingeing. I don’t crave sugary treats anymore and that’s a huge step coming from someone with a giant sweet tooth! It is SO freeing!
6. Fasting Capability
The initial reaction for me to try a ketogenic diet actually came because my doctor prescribed an intermittent fasting regimen for me to try to increase my leptin sensitivity. Ironically, it was at the same time that I was reading The Complete Guide To Fasting and so I was becoming more and more aware of the immense benefits fasting can have. I was ready! BUT, I also knew that in order to make the daily fasts tolerable and not a total stressor on my already delicate health status, I would need to become a fat-burner first. That’s when I knew the keto diet was the perfect next step for me and it all clicked into place.
Results: By taking the time to gently switch into ketosis first, I am able to fast comfortably for as long as I choose in order to gain all of the health benefits of fasting! There is slight hunger, but nothing like it would have been if I were a sugar-burner and still using only glucose as fuel.
As you can see, I’ve taken all of the powerful, healing tools provided by a ketogenic diet and applied them to my healing protocol with outstanding success. I am forever grateful to keto for giving me my life back and making me feel like myself again.
I have had great success in my own journey, but have learned some incredibly useful tips for females specifically that want to try a ketogenic diet. While it is a great therapeutic intervention for women, it does need to be approached differently in order to have the same kind of success I had.
Stay tuned…my top tips for women who want to become fat-burners will be out next week!
Are you ready to make the switch? I’ve created a 6-week online course designed to take women from being sugar-burners to fat-burners safely and effectively in order to maximize their healing journey — The Fat Burning Female Project. I’d love to have you be a part of the next group!
I’ve gotten far enough along in my treatment for mold illness and have learned enough in the process to start sharing my story and what I know in an effort to help others get the direction they need. This topic needs to be acknowledged and discussed so much more than it currently is because many people’s homes are making them extremely ill and they have no idea.
This post is written from my personal story and viewpoint as a patient, not solely as a health practitioner. I will spend much of this post referencing the research and work of Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, MD who is the pioneer in biotoxin illness diagnosis and treatment.
My Personal Mold Diary
The house I was renting in beautiful Boulder, Colorado flooded as part of the 100-year flood that devastated much of the town. The water rose up from the basement floor when the sump pump quit working. The basement happened to be my living quarters, but luckily I was able to get all of my belongings moved out of the basement before they were damaged from the rising water.
Due to the massive amount of damage for many homes that day and the days that followed, the water remained in the basement for several days before a disaster relief company was able to bring in fans, remove carpet, etc. I didn’t know at the time that mold can grow in as little as 24 hours, so a harmful living environment was already being created.
In the months that followed, the landlords repaired the basement by replacing carpet, drywall, vanity, and tile. They did the work needed to be deemed a safe residence on a surface level. I moved back in, happy to have my space back.
Life was going great! I was in the best shape of my life having just trained and competed in my first powerlifting meet and Tough Mudder race. My business was thriving and my social life was keeping me busy.
Then I ate the bad piece of chicken that forever changed my life. I was testing out a new chicken curry recipe for the blog that turned out awesome…except the chicken tasted funny. I ate a few more bites and then begrudgingly threw it away, sad to be wasting all that otherwise delicious food.
The next morning I got up, got dressed, and headed to the gym. As soon as I got there, I realized something was very wrong. I had intense stomach pains and extreme nausea. Back home I went, where I ended up being violently ill. For the next 2 weeks, I was so sick I could barely get out of bed, work, eat, or drink. I lost 13 pounds which was A LOT for my already small frame. Because of my previous issues with ulcerative colitis, I assumed I was going through the worst flare-up of my life, but wanted confirmation. I sought out a new natural medicine doctor in my area.
Finally, my GI panel results came back with a diagnosis…a SALMONELLA infection. Well, that explained a ton! I was immediately put on a course of antibiotics followed by several rounds of herbal antibiotics to make sure it was gone. What a relief…life and health will get back to normal.
Little did I know this was just the beginning.
I was having random symptoms that made absolutely no sense to me. I was extremely fatigued, gaining weight beyond what was my normal weight, losing hair, having moments of dizziness, feeling forgetful and foggy, having a hard time completing easy workouts, getting congested and coughing overnight, having excessive pain in my otherwise healthy joints, and just overall not feeling like my normal, energetic self. I knew something was up that wasn’t just the repercussions of antibiotics. I went back to the naturopath for more testing.
The results came back at my next doctor’s appointment and she was concerned with 2 things. First, my thyroid hormone levels were off and my antibodies were indicating an autoimmune diagnosis. I had developed my second autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I was devastated and confused. I received a prescription for thyroid medication that I unwillingly accepted.
And two, my extremely high levels of both lead and antimony indicated on my heavy metals test. In her exact words, “many times these levels are indicative of mold exposure.” And right then, it all clicked. I told her about my living situation and how it was part of the flooding 1.5 years ago. Her response was to move as soon as possible.
What I didn’t realize at the time, but now know, is that those two diagnoses were interconnected, and the salmonella infection was the stressful trigger that got this snowball started.
And so I did. I moved out and got rid of quite a bit of furniture as I didn’t want to take the chance of bringing the mycotoxins with me. I was happy to have found a reason for my symptoms and a way to get better. I was on my way to normal, again!
Or so I thought, again.
After a weekend of the worst abdominal pain I have ever felt in my entire life, I went to the ER. An ultrasound revealed appendicitis and massive colon inflammation associated with it. I had emergency surgery to remove the appendix as well as the damaged portion of the colon, about 12 inches. I spent 6 days in the hospital recovering and then about 2 months at home waiting for incisions to heal and strength to come back. Now, seriously, can this just be it?!
Again, what I still didn’t get at the time, but was starting to get a bit suspicious about, was that THIS medical emergency was also connected to the moldy house.
I spent the fall and winter recovering and working on getting well. But I was still plagued with just not feeling well. I continued to gain weight – about a pound a week – no matter what I ate/didn’t eat or the workouts I did/didn’t do. I tried everything, but still ended up gaining about 35-40 pounds of unexplained weight in a matter of months. I was still very fatigued, weak, losing hair, having serious problems with my joints, and just all around felt crappy. Events that used to sound fun, now just sounded exhausting. I couldn’t keep up with conversations that involved more than one person. I blamed it on adrenal fatigue and still working to stabilize my thyroid hormones, as they were all over the place.
My friends had a room open up for rent in their home in Boulder. I had now been living 30 minutes outside of town for 8 months and was desperate to get back to my favorite place, so I jumped at the chance to live there. I moved in, getting rid of more of my belongings that wouldn’t be needed in the already furnished home, and was happy to be back in the town where I belong.
A few weeks after moving in, I decided I wanted to further investigate my continuing symptoms. I just wasn’t OK with living at 50% capacity…I wanted my normal life back! I made an appointment with both my naturopath and allopathic medical doctor. I wanted to revisit the mold situation to see if there was something more I needed to do besides getting out of the environment. I had been doing a lot of research on mold illness at this point, finding the work of Dr. Shoemaker, and was becoming more concerned that this part of my journey wasn’t yet over. But, I also wanted to get basic blood work and the opinion of my medical doctor to see what else may need to be addressed.
The results came back from both. My MD told me I was totally fine, everything looked great, and that I just needed to eat less and exercise more. That DOES NOT sit well with a nutritionist and personal trainer! My naturopath had much more interesting information to report.
We had done some lab work to help see the effects mold exposure may have had on my body. I now know these are the standard lab tests that need to be run in order to be diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). My results showed that this was definitely an issue for me. I had the genetic predisposition which makes it impossible for my body to detox from biotoxins. In people like me, when there is exposure to biotoxins, the body creates an extreme immune and inflammatory response against the toxins instead of processing them and getting rid of them, as is the case with people who don’t have the gene. This response continues until receiving proper diagnosis and treatment, both of which are VERY specific. So, even if you are out of the moldy environment, your symptoms don’t improve.
I also had several specific inflammatory markers that were extremely elevated. When these markers are elevated, it shows that the body has formed an inflammatory response in the presence of these toxins. This high level of inflammation causes a whole slew of very intense, seemingly unrelated symptoms, many of which are neurological. So, things like brain fog, memory loss, inability to concentrate, word recollection, and mood issues are almost always present in people with CIRS.
Other systems of the body are affected too, such as the endocrine system, which we were able to determine were also an issue for me based on these lab test results. Basically, all communication lines between the endocrine organs – pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenals, gonads – are jumbled, so thyroid, sex, metabolic, and stress hormones all get bumped way out of balance. This shows up as weight gain, weight loss, thyroid imbalance, amenorrhea, painful PMS, fatigue, joint pain, low energy, poor sleep, insomnia, and the list goes on.
And, just like that, I really had finally found my answer. And everything I had been through for the past year made sense. Now that I had a diagnosis, I could begin treatment and get back to normal life. Because of my past research, I knew I wanted to follow the Shoemaker protocol.
Upon leaving the doctor’s office that day, I was given a prescription for cholestyramine (CSM), which is used “off label” to bind toxins. As a very basic description, CSM works by acting as a magnet that will pull toxins out from the fat cells -where the body stores them – and into the GI tract, where they can be safely eliminated via stool. CSM is a prescription medication originally intended to have the same magnet affect on cholesterol, effectively lowering cholesterol. (Side note: As a holistic nutritionist who realizes the importance of cholesterol to so many facets of our health and eats a high-fat diet for this purpose, I still find it ironic that I am relying on a cholesterol-lowering medication to get me healthy again. 🙂 )
The nurse did a nasal swab to test for MARCoNS (multiple antibiotic-resistant coagulase-negative staphylococci), which is an antibiotic-resistant staph infection that commonly grows in the nasal passages of those with mold illness and can make symptoms much worse and treatment impossible until it is treated itself. Those results ended up coming back negative (for now), yay!
I was also instructed to test my current home for mold. There is one home testing kit that is the ONLY way to test for mold in a home and get accurate measurements. This is the ERMI test by Mycometrics. Unlike other mold test kits, this test measures the mold level by testing dust particles from the home instead of air samples, providing much more accurate and reliable results. According to Shoemaker, for a house to be considered safe, it needs to have an ERMI score of <2. To make things simpler, Shoemaker took the 5 most dangerous mold species on the ERMI and gave them their own scoring system called the HERTSMI-2. This test is slightly cheaper and will still give a good indicator of building safety for those stricken with mold illness. A home is considered safe if scores <11. It is borderline an issue between 11-15, and definitely bad >15.
The ERMI test of my new home I was sharing with my friends came back at a -.5. According to Shoemaker’s range, my home was considered safe! I plugged my results into the HERTSMI scoring system and it came back at a 12. Hmm, borderline. At this point, I was so over moving and worrying about mold, that I just told myself it was fine and believed it. On my way to recovery…
Within a few weeks of starting CSM, I was feeling quite a bit better. I had very few side effects from the medication after the first week of taking it. There were fewer days of total fatigue (although not totally gone) my brain fog was beginning to dissipate, I was able to hold conversations better and with more focus, and the joint pain in my knees, wrists, and ankles was less noticeable. Overall, I attribute CSM to helping me go from 50% to about 70%.
After about a month of this medication and another visit with my current naturopath, I got this nagging gut feeling to seek out another opinion. Not because I didn’t think I had mold illness, but because I wanted to make sure I was getting the best treatment with the most informed doctor possible. I wasn’t willing to spend another minute doing anything that wasn’t directly involved in me finally recovering and moving on.
With a little bit of research and some community outreach, I was able to find another doctor in my area that specialized in mold illness and the Shoemaker protocol. I called and made an appointment and immediately felt relief just in that first step.
The month started with a work vacation – a trip on a Caribbean cruise as a speaker for the Low Carb Cruise conference with my podcast co-host, Meg Doll! It was a great trip and we made a lot of new friends and business connections. But, health-wise, it was a struggle for me. The combination of the high humidity and probably mold on the cruise ship made my symptoms flare-up. I was very tired and achy the whole time and barely had enough energy to walk from one end of the boat to the other.
Finally, my appointment with my new doctor arrives! We have a great talk, I find out he and his whole family have been through this before, and he has helped many people with mold illness recover. There is hope!
He looked at my ERMI results and was a bit skeptical of the ‘borderline’ HERTSMI. He gave me the number of a mold inspector and told me to have him come check it out. He also re-swabbed my nose to test again for the MARCoNS because he said many healthcare professionals don’t get far enough up the nasal passage to get an accurate reading.
He bumps up my CSM dose to full strength, 4 packets per day and gets me started on high dose fish oil, 4.2 grams of EPA and DHA.
The month of bad news. The mold inspection of my current place came back with a really high amount of the WORST mold you can have – stachybotrys. I decide to move out immediately. I moved to my parents’ house while I look for a new place to live that I can have tested for mold prior to lease signing. I also have to get rid of almost everything I own because the mycotoxins from this mold, in particular, are very good at staying on porous materials and continuing to make you sick, even after cleaning. I wasn’t about to take the chance of contaminating my new, safe, clean home.
It was hard to say goodbye to some of my belongings, but most things I didn’t have a problem with trashing if it meant my health would be restored. It was more so the financial loss that was stressful, but I knew it was all for my health.
I began my home search and found a great studio apartment in a building that had been recently built. I was so excited about my new place! They were even kind enough to let me have an inspector come through to check for mold before I signed the lease.
Around this time, I also got results back from the doctor’s office showing that I actually DO have MARCoNS – the previous test hadn’t been done correctly – and would need to begin treatment as soon as I moved into a safe place. I was so sad I didn’t get to bypass this step of the protocol but so glad I found a doctor who is so meticulous with the steps and had now caught two pieces of the puzzle that would have kept me sick!
Moving month! I was scheduled to get into my new apartment and do an inspection a few days before moving in. As soon as the inspector and I walked into the place, I got a bad feeling. It was yet another gut reaction. Within minutes and with the use of his trusty moisture reader, he was able to find two areas of water entry that were a concern for mold growth. And, for the first time, I actually felt bad in a building. I could actually feel the effects of being in an unsafe building on my body. For me it showed up as dizzy, headache, and nauseous. And just like that, I was homeless again.
I was determined to find a nice, clean, safe place to live that day no matter what it took. I needed to find a place I could get well in so I could begin the next phase of the protocol and I wasn’t willing to wait another day.
After a long day of apartment hunting, I had found a home that I just knew would be perfect. It was a brand new LEED-certified building and I would be the first person to live in the unit. I spent time there and felt great! I did an inspection with my own moisture meter and everything came up all clear. I signed the lease and moved in that weekend!
At this point, I had gotten rid of 90% of what I owned, including all of my furniture, clothes, and other household supplies, most of which was actually for the second time. I spent the next few days looking for the minimum amount of safe, inexpensive, cute furnishings for my new place and a few outfits I could wear for a bit while finishing up the protocol.
During this move, I also started BEG spray to treat the MARCoNS which is the 3rd step of the Shoemaker protocol, after getting into a safe environment and binding mold toxins with CSM. I was slowly making progress on the protocol!
The first few days on the BEG spray I felt very flu-like, but I continued on full dose hoping that was just a sign that it was working. Within a week, I began to feel really good, almost like my old self. The fatigue that had been plaguing me since the beginning was lifting and I was thinking clearer than I had in a long time. By the end of the 4 weeks on BEG spray, I was at about 80% most days.
I settled into my new home and am absolutely loving it! I feel so good here! That being said, my new place quickly became one of the few places I feel good upon entering. As I make my way through the protocol, I notice that I am very sensitive to buildings that may have a mold issue. Within minutes, I begin to feel dizzy, nauseous and get a headache. I will be very tired the next day after exposure. In the mold world, this is called ‘unmasking’ and is actually a sign of recovery. However, it does cause some worry as it can feel like you are taking a step back in healing.
I got re-tested for MARCoNS and it came back negative which means my 4 weeks on BEG spray worked! I also got an update on all of the lab work I had done when this began that had originally diagnosed me with CIRS. All of the markers are headed in the right direction and many of them have actually gotten back into optimal range!
Because of all of this good news, it meant I was now ready for the final step of the protocol — VIP spray. Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide (VIP) is a neuropeptide that resolves many outstanding issues in CIRS patients…the icing on the cake, so to speak. It does this by regulating much of the inflammation that has been impossible for our bodies to shut off until this medical intervention. Many recovered patients call VIP the ‘miracle drug’ and the one that ‘gives them life’. Now, THIS is exciting! I’ve been waiting for this step for a long time, many times thinking it would never happen. While not everyone does well with it, I’m very hopeful this will be my icing.
I did get a bit of bad news. I have one concerning marker which is that of leptin. Leptin is a hormone that regulates body fat storage, metabolism, and hunger vs. satiety. Some people go into a state of leptin resistance when diagnosed with CIRS because of the inflammation damages or shuts down the leptin receptor sites, so the message of your metabolism can’t be heard by your body. I have been having issues with leptin from the very beginning, which explains the weight gain as my number one symptom. Unfortunately, it has not yet shown any signs of improvement. My doctor and I are hopeful that getting onto the last step of VIP will correct this as well. I am also doing a 2 week intermittent fast to help with this.
Mid-September to present
I have been on VIP for almost a month. I can safely say now, after that timeframe, that I have gotten 95% of my health back! It’s almost unbelievable how quickly and effectively VIP worked for me. My energy is through the roof all day. I’ve been able to resume high-intensity workouts. I sleep deeply and wake up energized. I think clearly and have become more efficient with my work.
At this same time, I also changed something else that could be contributing to these amazing results…my diet. I completed my 2-week doctor prescribed intermittent fasting schedule and liked it so much that I have decided to continue this schedule indefinitely. I wrote a blog post about this experience. Not only that but in order to make my intermittent fast more comfortable, I adopted a ketogenic diet. These changes, in addition to the VIP treatment, have finally sparked some fat loss. Up until now, I have been unable to do anything but gain weight through this illness due to the leptin resistance I developed. I can now say that the combo of these three interventions may be reversing this leptin resistance and allowing my body to get back to its happy place. The ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting has also been found to improve cognitive function, energy levels, and detoxification capacity, so these benefits are only enhancing the effects of VIP for me.
I am so relieved that this chapter of my life is coming to a close and, after 2 years, I am beginning to resemble the person that I once was.
What is CIRS?
Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, also known as biotoxin illness:
Find a doctor who will test you for these lab tests. The best way would be to call and ask if they treat mold patients using the Shoemaker protocol. Bring the appropriate lab orders to your physician to ensure they are doing them right as there is a lot of room for error and variety within these tests that will produce inaccurate results.
People with CIRS will have some/most of these symptoms, but not necessarily all and every patient’s response will be different.
Memory problems, brain fog, trouble with focus and executive function
Fatigue, weakness, post-exercise malaise and fatigue
Muscle cramping, aches and pains, joint pain without inflammatory arthritis, persistent nerve pain, â€œice pickâ€ pain
Numbness and tingling
Light sensitivity, red eyes, and/or blurred vision
Sinus problems, cough, shortness of breath, air hunger, asthma-like symptoms
I will never forget the day Boulder went under water. In fact, my friends and I now have a running joke that we are forever scarred from that day because now every time it rains, we immediately begin preparing for flood conditions and a never-ending downpour. Never in a million years would I have guessed then that 2.5 years later, I would finally be reversing the health damage that flood caused to me personally.
In September of 2013, Boulder, CO experienced what is known as a “100-year flood”, which really just means that there is a 1% chance of that type of weather pattern to occur in a given year. In 2013, Boulder was the 1%. The magnitude of the devastation to our amazing town and surrounding beautiful mountains is still completely indescribable. Homes demolished, businesses full of water, mountain mud slides leaving uprooted trees, washed away trails, roads impassible, and entire mountain towns accessible only with emergency helicopters.
The creek turned raging river at the end of our street.
Many, many homes in the area experienced at least some sort of water damage, including mine. I was renting a spacious, comfortable home with two friends and opted for the basement space to call my own. It was the perfect space for me…until that wet September morning when I woke up to soggy carpet. The sump pump had stopped working overnight and it had been POURING rain since the evening prior. I scrambled for my roommates to come and help me get all of my belongings out of the basement, as it was obvious the water was quickly taking hold. Within an hour, most of my stuff was safe upstairs and the water was 6 inches deep throughout the whole basement and getting higher by the minute. The landlord said they would be over at some point, but were also dealing with many other flooded properties that day too. I was temporarily displaced, but at least safe…or so I thought.
Got my belongings out just in time!
After the rains had ended several days later, we were able to see the actual damage that had been done to not only Boulder, but to the home. Although the water had since receded, it ended up peaking at about 10 inches and the wet marks were still showing on the drywall, doors, closet, tub, and the carpet was obviously destroyed. My landlords were great at doing what they could to alleviate as much of the devastation of the situation as they could, while dealing with many other homes that had been under water too. That same week we had a renovation company in our home, fanning things out, taking away carpet and ripping up drywall. I was lucky that we had an open room upstairs that I could make my home during the renovation, which ended up being over 6 weeks.
Here’s where the problem arises…I was completely clueless then. I didn’t know about MOLD.
I didn’t know I should be really concerned about it.
I didn’t know that mold can grow on wet carpet, drywall, particle board in as little as 24 hours.
I didn’t know that using fans AFTER the period of time where mold could have formed is one of the worst things you can do.
I didn’t know that only replacing the part of the wall that was actually wet isn’t enough.
I didn’t know that re-using the same particle board doors with water stains still on them was a terrible idea.
I didn’t know that all of this would make me really sick.
These were all of the things that the landlord did to remedy the situation. I do think they did as much as they thought was acceptable and safe. I just wish I had the knowledge I do now to insist more was done to ensure a non-moldy, non-toxic environment. Instead, I just moved back in to the basement and continued to live there for another 1.5 years. And I felt totally fine…for awhile. It wasn’t until a year later that the basement started making me sick.
I now know why. I met all of the necessary requirements:
I was living in a water-damaged building (it’s estimated that approximately 50% of buildings in the US are!)
I have the gene that makes my body unable to produce antibodies against biotoxins. This gene is called the HLA gene and is assessed through a blood test. It is a great way to learn if you can get sick from mold mycotoxins, Lyme and its co-infections, and other less commonly known biotoxins. I am susceptible to ALL of the above. (Stay away, ticks!)
I was randomly struck with ANOTHER unrelated health issue — a salmonella infection. With my body and immune system already in overdrive trying to fight one thing, it made it the perfect storm for the toxic burden to take hold and finally wreak havoc.
But, I still had NO IDEA this was actually happening. I just knew I didn’t feel like myself, even long after the salmonella infection was gone. It wasn’t until a few months later when other random test results came back, that my doctor recognized some of the results as being due to potential mold exposure. Once those words were said and I started thinking back to my flooded basement bedroom, I finally knew what had been plaguing me. I moved out the next day.
I was hopeful that by leaving the environment and all of my furniture, I would get better. And I did, kind of. I definitely felt better and had a lessening of symptoms. I thought I was on my way to feeling like myself again and that it would just take a bit of time. But in that time, even more health issues took place. You can read about my emergency situation here. And that clouded everything because I was then dealt a whole new set of symptoms and healing strategies. Any thought of mold was pushed to the back burner.
After that surgery, I felt a lot better. I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and truly thought that was the final straw and I could get back to my old life…again, I was very wrong.
Once the healing was over, I started getting back to normal life. But something was still off. I STILL wasn’t myself. It’s a hard thing to explain because it wasn’t like I had these super obvious symptoms, and I definitely didn’t LOOK seek. I seemed totally fine. But, there was something keeping me from being ME. I tried supplement after supplement, convinced it was just my adrenals and thyroid needing additional support. Nothing helped. I couldn’t shake these mystery symptoms.
I was (am) dealing with:
such incredible fatigue that I would wake up and immediately think about how I could change my schedule to get back to bed ASAP.
joint pain mostly in my knees, ankles, and wrists. It was worst in the morning to the point where I had to put most of my weight on both banisters to get down the stairs. I also had to stop doing down-dogs in yoga because it hurt me wrists too bad.
poor muscular energy and endurance.
inability to regulate my thyroid hormone with or without medication. It would go from low to high to normal seemingly daily.
very low cortisol no matter what interventions I took to improve my adrenal health.
significant, rapid weight gain.
cognitive issues such as memory loss, confusion, poor word recollection.
inability to keep up with group conversations.
disrupted hunger signals.
I spent the next 6 months fighting every day to act like my normal self. But it was getting harder and harder to ignore. And harder and harder to just blame my adrenals. Then, one day, something inside of me snapped and I realized I needed to keep digging. I couldn’t continue feeling so bad without a more definite answer. Something made me go back to the mold concept and explore it further.
I learned about the online VCS screening from survivingmold.com that is an easy, inexpensive test you can do at home that has 92% accuracy. I decided it was worth a shot to give it a whirl. And I failed! That’s when I knew I was on to something and had more digging to do on the subject of biotoxin illness.
From there, I made an appointment with my naturopathic doctor to do a whole host of blood tests that, according to extensive research by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, can diagnose someone as having Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) due to biotoxin exposure. Those tests came back with a positive diagnosis for me…and a mixture of emotions. I was SO happy to finally be coming up with some answers as to why I was feeling the way I was. But, I was also very overwhelmed with what to do next. Luckily, there is a TON of awesome information out there for people that have been diagnosed with CIRS and a very specific, and very doable protocol that just needs patience and diligence. That I can do!
So, this is where I am at currently. Slowly chipping away at the protocol. But feeling very optimistic that for the first time in awhile, I can actually say this is it…and it’s actually IT! I am currently on step 2 of the protocol. (I think there is 11 steps.)
Step 1 is to make sure you are currently living in a mold-free environment. I performed an ERMI test from Mycometrics on my current home and it came back safe! What a relief! And this also meant I could move on to step 2…
Step 2 is to take binders to get the toxins out of your body since those of us with the gene can’t do it on our own. I am taking cholestyramine (CSM) which is a prescribed medication that can be used “off-label” as a powerful binder that is also safe. Many have experienced great symptom relief from this treatment so I am hopeful and excited!
I will keep updating my website as I go through this process because — from my own research — I can see a need for real people, sharing real stories, and real results in this community of fighters. If you would like to be updated when I continue with my story, sign up for my email newsletter to stay in touch.
I am forever grateful for this entire journey because it has defined who I am in the most positive way.
It has allowed me the personal, first hand experience of dealing with many of the same issues my clients are currently experiencing. I can relate and provide both professional and personal advice to get my clients well.
I’ve learned the value of true friendship. I have so many amazing friends who have shown such a tremendous amount of support, compassion, concern, love, and assistance throughout this process and some of them I’ve never even met in person!
I’ve learned how to have grace and leniency with my own body and mind. Because while it seems my body is doing everything opposite of what it should be doing, I can see very clearly that it has been doing everything it can to PROTECT me and working very hard to get back to homeostasis.
I now know to never take any good moment for granted. And to find the good in the bad moments too.
I’ve been reinforced with the fact that we need to KEEP DIGGING when something isn’t right, even when some doctors tell us we’re fine. (Oh yeah, this happened to me too. I wasn’t fine.)
I share this information because every time I talk about it, I get more people that are realizing this could be their issue as well. I think there are many people that are still having unexplained health issues that may be dealing with something similar and I want to pass the message on about the steps to take to find out for yourself. I will continue to openly share my experience as it unfolds with the hope that it will shed light for someone else. In my next post, I hope to describe in more detail how the protocol went for me and what I learned along the way.
Have you been diagnosed with CIRS? Been exposed to mold? Leave me a note below about your experience! Let’s build a little community!
I can’t even tell you how many times I googled this exact phrase over the last year, in constant fear that I was causing further dysfunction to my adrenals with my workout routine. For the first time ever, I was actually thinking about how working out TOO MUCH could be causing health issues, such as adrenal fatigue, or at least not making them any better.
Because I’m a personal trainer and have spent the last 11 years in the fitness industry, I have always thought of exercise as the key to the door of optimal health, which I still believe to be true. But, I have finally figured out the fine little line where working out becomes detrimental instead of impactful. I had to learn this the hard way.
I realized my adrenals were in dysfunction after my first salivary ASI (adrenal stress index) test in March of 2015, almost a year ago. This was following a severe salmonella infection that completely wiped me out for months, so it was no surprise that my body’s stress response was on high alert. And it showed with a reading of high cortisol.
WHAT IS ADRENAL FATIGUE?
Now is probably a good time to break in from the story and give a super brief, general overview of what ‘adrenal fatigue’ actually is. There has been some debate over what to call it in the integrative health world and I actually think ‘adrenal dysfunction’ is the best term, even though ‘adrenal fatigue’ is more commonly known. Here’s what is actually going on:
When you and/or your body are under stress, your adrenal glands release cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that has many functions within the body, one of which is to control the stress response, giving you the ability to handle that stressor appropriately.
This mechanism in our body was designed with the intention that we would be exposed to stress and switch into a sympathetic (fight or flight) state very briefly (say a few minutes, max) perhaps a couple of times per day and the rest of the day would be spent in a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. That would allow your adrenals plenty of time to recover, get back to homeostasis, and prepare for the next stressful event. However, we don’t live like that. We are a chronically stressed society.
CHRONIC STRESS IS THE CULPRIT.
This leads the adrenals to start pumping out excessive cortisol to maintain this chronic stress and at times of the day where it shouldn’t be high. Because your body needs to continuously produce this large amount of cortisol, it takes away the much-needed nutrients, energy, and focus from the making of your other very important hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This leads to hormonal imbalance. But, that is a whole other story with its own symptoms and issues, which will be covered in a future post.
Eventually, your adrenals just can’t keep up with the excess demand anymore and tap out. While you are still stressed out, you no longer have the capacity to manage it. Your body’s communication system, headed by the hypothalamus and pituitary, has been dismantled too. This is where the word ‘fatigue’ comes in. But, as you can see, there are many different stages to this issue, all of which involve several organs (pituitary, hypothalamus, and adrenals, at minimum) getting to a state of dysfunction.
That’s all I will say about what’s going on exactly in adrenal fatigue/adrenal dysfunction in this post. For a more detailed explanation and to see a list of signs and symptoms, check out this post and this post.
Ok, back to the story…
high cortisol a year ago. I immediately started in on all stress relieving techniques. Baths, lots of sleep, meditation, elimination of all possible stressful foods, herbal adaptogens, getting out in nature, etc. The one thing I really didn’t find as easy to change was my workouts. Having just come off of a powerlifting meet (I won!) and a Tough Mudder race (I barely survived.), I wasn’t really taking it easy in the gym. But now, I knew that needed to change. Should I do anything? Could I still do SOMETHING?
I knew how important movement and strength are to overall health, healing, and happiness, but I also knew that my workouts need to look a lot different than they had in the past. I did the research, wrote myself program after program, being the guinea pig for each one and finally found the perfect balance. I could workout with adrenal fatigue. Phew!
Guess what? I wrote it all down in a beautiful, easy to follow e-book program, Health In Strength, so you don’t have to do the research yourself! I’ve combined everything I know from 11 years in the fitness industry, training people who are sick, immobile, aging, or injured, with the knowledge I have gained about adrenal dysfunction and other chronic illnesses, to create the perfect workout program!
Here’s what I have learned.
10 Steps To Working Out With Adrenal Fatigue
1. Tune In.
For so long, I didn’t really pay much attention to how I felt before my workouts. I didn’t make the connection between my overall sense of well-being each day and the workout I was supposed to do. I had my workout program and that was that. Even if I felt crummy, but it was “squat day,” I still did squats.
I now know that if you suffer from adrenal issues, you can’t determine your workout for the day until you tune in to how you’re feeling that day. And, the thing with adrenal fatigue is, every day is different. So, planning out your workout even the night before doesn’t work. You may wake up feeling like you got run over by a truck. Conversely, you could be planning a rest day, but have quite a bit of energy after an awesome night’s sleep and want to workout!
The point is, you need to take inventory every single day of how your body, mind, and spirit feel THAT day.
How’s your energy?
How are your joints?
Do your muscles feel fatigued?
Would a nap be better than a workout?
Once you’ve gathered that information, then you can choose the workout. This was the most important aspect of writing Health In Strength because I wanted to make sure it didn’t feel like a program that was already set in stone. So, while every day there is a prescribed workout, it is also very easy, and very much encouraged, to mix them all up!
2. Focus on strength
Building muscular strength is paramount to full, all-encompassing, lasting health. Lean muscle mass provides a healthy metabolism, a strong foundation for bones and joints, better movement patterns, perfect posture, and less stress on the body to maintain its positioning. That makes it pretty clear that while you need to take it easy, you still need to move and build strength. No question.
Your primary workouts should involve a full body, low intensity, resistance training circuit. It should be intense enough to feel your muscles working and becoming slightly fatigued, but not so much so that you get shaky, weak, or excessively sore. If you are used to lifting weights based on 1 rep max percentages, this would be about 50-65% of your 1RM. You can also go by the exertion scale, aiming to get to about 60-70% exertion level. Don’t worry, in Health In Strength, I provide this exertion scale and explain what level to get to based on your symptoms and energy level.
3. Get rest
More than you need a workout, you need to rest during this phase of your life. That will be THE THING that gets you back to feeling like yourself again. Not only does high-quality sleep need to be your biggest priority, but also getting enough rest between workouts is critical. This means actual rest days, where instead of going to the gym, you take a walk outside, do gentle yoga, lay on the couch, whatever.
Again, if you tune in to your body, it will lead you to the right movement for that day. These restful days are built-in to the Health In Strength program because they are THAT important that I felt the need to require them. While there are 3 strength training days per week, there are also days to do yoga, days to do 30 minutes of enjoyable activity, and days of completely chilling out. It’s all built in!
4. Get over yourself
This is SUCH a big one. You need to just get over that fact that you NEED to workout intensely. No…you don’t. You’re not going to burn any more fat, gain any more muscle, or get any stronger/leaner/faster/more powerful by pushing yourself too hard right now. In fact, the opposite will happen. Do you know what has a bigger effect on body composition than your high-intensity workouts? Â Wonky cortisol.
5. Favor health over looks
Going right along with the above point, this is also a time where you MUST put your health goals over your aesthetic goals. It’s a hard one, I know from experience. With high/low cortisol, also comes changes to your body composition.
And it’s not something that can be controlled with diet and exercise, as we’ve entrusted in the past. I can tell you this with 100% certainty. The quicker you can make your health a priority, the quicker you will get back to homeostasis, and the quicker your body will respond physically.
6. Cut the cardio
Do you want to know what workout type is the absolute worst for your cortisol levels and the health of your adrenals? Long bouts of cardio. Activities such as running or cycling that elevate your heart rate and keep it there for an extended period of time —think 20 minutes or more—will turn on the cortisol faucet.
Instead, get your cardio in by doing intervals! This type of workout provides more health benefits with far less stress. I really like this article explaining the range of benefits from interval training. I’ve included this type of workout as part of the Health In Strength program, complete with exactly how much time you should be moving versus how much time you should spend resting in between intervals. There’s also a list of ideas for movements that make great interval workouts, depending on your level of fitness and how you’re doing health-wise, so EVERYONE can participate!
7. Keep it stress-free
Remember, all of this change in a workout routine is to heal your adrenals because stress has made your cortisol too high, too low, or some combination of the two. In order to do so, you have to keep your cortisol in check. The less your body requires cortisol throughout the day, the quicker you will get well. This includes your workouts.
It takes a bit of trial and error to actually find the workout level that allows you to workout, without getting your cortisol involved. It goes back to getting in tune with your body and understanding what your body would perceive as stress. It also goes back to releasing the need for intensity and instead just focusing on the movement.
Basically, find the intensity level where you aren’t feeling fatigued, exerted, shaky, out of breath, but are still moving, increasing your heart rate, and slightly quickening your breath. It’s a fine line…but it’s there for each of us.
You will severely delay your healing if you don’t start taking some deep breaths. Taking as few as five deep breaths can switch your nervous system from a sympathetic to a parasympathetic state. And, if you are currently dealing with adrenal dysfunction, it is clear that you don’t spend enough time, if any at all, in this restful state. Until you do so on a regular, frequent basis, you will remain stuck.
I find the best, easiest, most peaceful way to do this is to prioritize my mind/body practice. This often means yoga for me, but sometimes also is just taking some deep breaths while I’m on a walk. Whatever you decide is best for you, just make sure to do it and make it a lifelong habit. It really is that powerful.
9. Fuel up
I wouldn’t be a very reliable nutritionist if I didn’t talk about food! Don’t even think about working out with adrenal fatigue if you haven’t properly fueled yourself! And while I won’t go into the carbs vs. fat debate here because that would be another 20,000 words, I will say this: eat a lot of really good, whole, organic, properly-prepared food.
If you think you’re eating enough, add another few spoonfuls because I can almost guarantee you’re not. Just as much as chronic cardio is a stressor, so is undernourishment! You need even more fuel if you are going to work on building some lean muscle.
10. Get guidance
Take it from someone who has worked with a personal trainer for years, professional guidance through this process will be priceless. Unfortunately, many personal trainers don’t understand the shaky balance between working out and healing the adrenals, and will often push you too hard, causing even more harm.
That is where the Health In Strength program comes in! I wrote this program with those exact thoughts in mind. Because not only have I been there myself, but I still see so many clients struggling to find that balance.
For 4 weeks, I will be your personal trainer. I will provide all of the tools and knowledge you need to do it right. I’ll make sure your form is spot on by providing very in-depth descriptions for each movement as well as photos showing exactly what it should look like. It’s fool-proof!
All you need is a few pairs of dumbbells, some resistance bands, and a desire to heal your adrenal fatigue!
Struggling with your adrenal health but still want to work out?
Follow the Health In Strength Home Workout Program to get fit and strong while on the mend.
Oh man, this is going to be quite the post to write. I’m excited about it, because I think it will shine a light of hope for quite a few out there dealing with thyroid conditions that aren’t getting better with prescribed medications. But, I’m also a bit weary to write this because this is a very bio-individual thing and should NOT be done without supervision from a trusted healthcare provider.
Many people do really well with thyroid medications and are able to return to feeling ‘normal’ after finding the right dosage for them. Many require lifelong medication to get back to a state of health. I am not one of those people.
Why I quit my thyroid medication.
After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis back in May 2015, I was immediately put on my first dose of thyroid medication — Cytomel, which is straight T3 — because my tests showed that my T4 (the inactive form of thyroid hormone) was in a good spot, but I was not properly converting it to T3 (the active form). I gladly accepted the prescription, finally feeling hopeful that I would get back to my old self and move on with my life after feeling pretty darn crappy for several months.
I began taking the prescription medication and feeling a little better. I went back a month later and got my thyroid hormone levels tested again. This time, I found out my T4 levels were now crashing too, and so I needed to add another medication to help my body out. This time I was given Naturethroid, which is natural desiccated porcine thyroid that provides the exact amounts of both T4 and T3 that our body is meant to produce on its own.
I continued on with these two medications and was feeling OK, accept my monthly blood tests kept coming back with mixed results. My doctor upped the dose and changed my medication from Naturethroid to Armour, a similar formula but with different fillers that some people absorb better. She was worried that I wasn’t fully absorbing the Naturethroid.
Things really began falling apart.
I began experiencing typical low thyroid symptoms — which for me shows up as lack of energy, fatigue, muscle weakness, weight gain — so I was SURE the medication wasn’t working and we would need to figure something else out. Yet, the next blood test my results came back showing both my T4 and T3 were HIGH!
What?! I was so confused. Why was I feeling this way? My doc recommended a slight lowering of medications, and while I listened and obeyed, I was really annoyed because I just didn’t think this could be right.
Another month went by and another month of me absolutely thinking that my medication HAD to be off, that it must be a mistake and my levels HAD to be low. I was still experiencing pretty obvious hypothyroid symptoms, but then I was also experiencing some other weird new symptoms.
Symptoms that to me, seemed like HYPER-thyroid symptoms. And other symptoms that I knew very well to be cortisol disregulation. This is when I knew things were really starting to come undone.
Here’s a list of what was I was feeling:
I was completely intolerant to heat.
I was shaky and jittery all the time, whether I had worked out or not.
I was extremely, overly winded when just doing simple cardio activities.
I had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.
My muscles were fatigued just doing simple tasks.
My digestion was running way too fast (i.e. diarrhea)
I was having intense cravings that felt out of control.
I was always hungry, even after eating a giant meal.
I was gaining weight around my midsection.
I went to get yet another blood test to check my levels, really hoping to just get some answers.
THIS test changed everything for me.
My results came back, yet again, as having high thyroid levels. This time, I had a very obvious gut reaction. I was OVER IT. I just couldn’t keep going through all of this, mentally or physically. I felt like crap for way too long and was sick of not knowing why. I spoke with my friend Charlotte, who I knew had been able to put her Hashimoto’s into remission and get off medication, and I was inspired. I then knew exactly what I needed and wanted to do…
I needed to quit my thyroid medication.
**Please speak with your medical provider before considering taking yourself off of thyroid medications. Thyroid disorders are a serious condition and denying medical treatment can cause serious consequences.**
So, I cold turkey quit the very next day. I woke up that day and made the vow to myself that I would do whatever it takes to get my thyroid to function as close to normal as it was capable of doing. But, I also knew that what that actually meant was that I needed to heal my ADRENALS to give my thyroid the right environment to function on their own. Because…
My thyroid wasn’t the issue, my ADRENALS were.
The adrenals and thyroid have a VERY tight connection. As major players in the endocrine system, they are both ruled by an intricate hormone dance. So, when one piece of this puzzle is missing or wrong, the whole system is affected.
In my case, the stress-level — a.k.a my intense need for my body to call upon my adrenals and cortisol for a response — had been way too high for way too long. Why? Because when the thyroid hormone levels are high, this gives the signal to your body to run at a very high speed. The thyroid is like the engine of your body.
When it releases hormones, it is like pushing the gas pedal. The more T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone) available to the body, the more the engine will rev, so to speak. Now, in order for the rest of the body to function at this high rate, the adrenals need to be able to keep up with this now constantly revving engine.
Because this is how the body is designed to work, they will manage to keep up for awhile, pumping out cortisol to keep the body functioning at this pace. During this time for me, I felt good! I had tons of energy, I was starting to shed some of the weight I had put on, and I was able to workout at the level I was used to. I thought I was getting back to my normal self.
After awhile, I started rethinking that.
When your thyroid hormone levels are too high for too long, the adrenals can’t continue to keep up with the demand being placed on them and eventually just have to tap out. These little organs that sit atop are kidneys are meant to work during emergencies only (think running from a bear or being under a deadline at work) and then allowed time to rest and rejuvenate in between these times of stress.
So, when there is a chronic, never-ending need for their service, they can only last so long before they tank without the proper rest they require to function. High thyroid hormones are one of these times, whether they are produced naturally or with medication. This is when all of the weird symptoms I mentioned above started creeping in, because my adrenals began to wear out from all of the work they had been trying to do to keep up with my overly medicated thyroid levels.
When my REAL healing journey began.
It all became so clear as to what my next step was. I needed to take the necessary, possibly very long road, to HEAL MY ADRENALS without the added stress of additional thyroid hormones, BEFORE I started worrying about how much, if any, thyroid medication I needed. Because no matter what, if the adrenals aren’t in a good enough spot to handle the additional energy required by adding thyroid medication — which most of ours are not, hence the need for thyroid medication in the first place — then the medications aren’t going to work no matter what the dose.
What a revelation! I’m so happy I listened to my gut and that I was confident enough in what I knew as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner to make the right decision for me. This isn’t to say that I will never go back on thyroid hormone replacement medication. I actually think there is a good chance that I will feel my absolute best with a little bit of medicated help someday. But, when I make that choice, it will be with the knowledge that I have taken the time to heal my adrenals and know they are up for the additional energy requirements.
I’m so excited to be here on WellBelly sharing a tasty AIP treat with you today!
So who am I? Well here’s a little bit about me…my name is Ashley Castle, I’m an NTP like Shawn (we were in the same class!) with a passion for helping people heal and thrive through proper nutrition. My own interest in true health and nutrition started with a desire to be in the kitchen and nourish my family with the best things for our bodies, as well as an awareness of our food system and sourcing the best foods to support local farmers and economies.
I completed my NTP certification in June 2015 in Austin, TX and enjoyed every minute of the process. Shortly after graduation, my husband and I moved from the Midwest to Colorado while he takes part in a prestigious running program, representing the Air Force in hopes of an Olympic slot next year.
I’ve been privileged to work with some of the athletes on his team in making the best nutrition choices for their optimal health and healing. What a wild ride our lives have been! I am thoroughly enjoying Colorado, the glorious mountain air, and the opportunities to share this passion for great, gut-healing nutrition with others.
In my own personal health journey, I’ve been following the Autoimmune Paleo protocol for the last 6 months. Dealing with some skin issues and knowing that autoimmunity runs rampant in my family and plays a role in my own genes, I decided to take the plunge into AIP. But I know that genetics is only 1/3 of the big picture. The other 2/3 is diet and lifestyle, and so I’ve been doing the best for my body and my health proactively in order to live a life of freedom and good health. If you’ve been considering something like the AIP, I highly encourage you to go for it and do something amazingly transformative for your own health journey. You are worth it!
Ok ok, so on to these treats I’ve promised…a little background into these babies first. One night as I was drifting off to sleep, I had an epiphany to make some sort of autoimmune protocol-friendly Twix bar. I knew it needed a delicious shortbread crust, a perfectly creamy, nutrient dense caramel layer, and a lovely “chocolaty” top–hence these beautiful bars were born!
In my quest, I came across these incredible shortbread bars by Sweet Potatoes and Social Change, and I knew I had struck the perfect shortbread gold! With AIP baking, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for variation or change. I’m still finding my experimental way in AIP kitchen adventures, so I was thrilled to have the help and inspiration of those who have gone before me on this AIP journey!
I then went in search of the perfect caramel that I could feel good about, and was not disappointed by Empowered Sustenance’s date caramel recipe. Full disclosure: I’m not even a big fan of caramel, but this nutrient-dense goo is something I can get behind! Throw all these things together, top it with a creamy carob cap, add a sprinkle of good quality sea salt, and voila! I give you the ultimate AIP-friendly treat in these exceptionally better-for-you “Twix” bars. Enjoy!
Optional: 3-4 Tbs pure pumpkin puree (this takes these bars to a WHOLE new level!)
Soak the dates in hot water for at least 10 minutes to soften.
Drain, and combine dates, coconut milk, coconut oil, and sea salt in a high speed blender or food processor (my personal fave), until smooth and creamy. If adding the pumpkin puree, include it here as well. If the mixture seems too loose with the added pumpkin puree, you can add a few more softened dates to thicken it up.
Once the shortbread has cooled, spread the caramel layer evenly on top, and pop it in the freezer to set.
Prepare carob layer as posted above. You can do this step in the food processor. Once the caramel layer has slightly hardened in the freezer, spread on the carob mixture and immediately sprinkle with course ground sea salt (I love this brand in particular for these bars).
Return to the freezer until completely set, then slice and serve immediately.
3. Lastly, prepare carob layer by following the directions here.
4. Assemble bars by placing covering shortbread with a thin layer of caramel. Then, spread an even layer of carob fudge over caramel.
These bars keep best in the freezer or refrigerator. Due to the nature of coconut oil at room temp, they will soften significantly if left out (but still taste fantastic, just at the cost of messy hands!). I love slicing these babies up and keeping them in the freezer for a quick, cool treat.
Give these bodacious bars a try and let us know what you think! Your non-Paleo, non-AIP friends will never know what hit ‘em, besides a delightfully delicious carob-y, salty caramel-y kick in the mouth!
You can find me over on Instagram @ashleycastle_nutrition. You’ll get plenty of food inspiration and general snarky-ness from me there! And stay tuned for my upcoming website, which will be premiering sometime early 2016.
Thanks so much for having me! Be inspired to go forth and create wonderful meals for your own health and well being, and give your body the proper fuel that it needs to go out and do amazing things!
Guess what I ate today?…Lamb tongue! Can you believe it?! I am SO not normally that adventurous. But, I was with my fellow NTP (Nutritional Therapy Practitioner) friends, and as soon as one person ordered it, I was intrigued and decided to give it a try! I am NOT good at eating organ meats. I have to get my fill with frozen raw liver pills so I don’t have to actually taste anything. But, throughout my journey in the Paleo world, I have also gotten a little more ballsy when it comes to trying new foods, especially when I see a very nutrient-dense organ meat on an actual restaurant menu AND my fellow nutrient-seeking friends ordering it!
I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for months. For those of you that have been following me for awhile, you know HOW MUCH FUN I had during my workshop weekends in Austin while completing the NTP program. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t wait to go back into the classroom, but this time as a group leader for the first ever Denver class. I built such a great community and made so many forever friends in my Austin class, but really felt like I was missing the LOCAL piece of it all. So now, I get to meet a whole new group of like-minded individuals that will be in my neighborhood. Not only that, but I get to go through the program again on the other side of the curriculum and help others learned the invaluable tools that I now have in my practice.
These workshop weekends are no joke. There’s a ton of learning and practicing involved. I remember the evenings of my workshops being too exhausted to even explore the awesome city of Austin! Because of this energy demand, I just had to make a double batch of these Chocolate Mint Balls to bring to class for everyone. These little fat bombs are SO great for energy and mental focus. But they are also SO delicious and seem like a treat, although they are actually very low in sugar and will not cause the dreaded blood sugar spike.
Because it is also December, it must be mentioned that these are SUCH great holiday treats. I mean…chocolate AND mint just screams Christmas! Give them a try and let me know what your family thinks!
3cupsshredded unsweetened coconutcoconut manna would also work!
1/4cupcacao powdersub carob powder for AIP
3tbsphoney OR 8-12 drops organic liquid stevia extract
Outer Coating Ingredients
Place all ingredients for balls except cacao nibs in a food processor.
Process for several minutes until well combined and dough-like.
Add cacao nibs by gently mixing in with a spoon.
Roll dough into approximately 1" balls. It may be helpful to put dough into refrigerator for about 10 minutes to stiffen it up.
5. Once balls are formed, roll them through the outer coating mixture so they are evenly coated.
Store in an airtight container for 10 days, in the refrigerator for a month, or the freezer for 3-6 months. To make them look a little fancy, alter the ratio of coconut to cacao in the coating mixture so they all have a slightly different color.
The fact that I’m even writing this post makes me super excited and hopeful for the future of our country and its health crisis. I completed the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program through the Nutritional Therapy Association only 2 months ago and I have already gotten SO many emails from others interested in doing the program themselves. The ‘food as medicine’ concept is growing rapidly! People are realizing there’s another route to lasting health than just the next prescription to mask the symptoms.
Because I have gotten such an overwhelming amount of requests, I thought it best for both myself and YOU to dedicate a whole blog post to my thoughts about the program, so you can decide if it’s right for you. Below are answers to the most common questions I get about the NTP program.
Very briefly, the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner certification programs were designed by The Nutritional Therapy Association to bring to light the concept that most of today’s health struggles are brought on by the modern diet. By placing an emphasis on teaching our clients to eat real, whole, properly prepared, nutrient-dense foods, we are able to reverse many health conditions and allow people to live happier and healthier.
In addition, NTP’s also focus on other very important pillars to ensure our clients have a well-rounded, balanced plan. These include digestion, blood sugar regulation, fatty acid balance, hydration, and mineral balance. The Functional Evaluation used by NTP’s is yet another tool we have to be able to more accurately pinpoint and support our client’s health concerns. Â To find a more complex definition of what we do and believe, head to the NTA website.
Why did I choose to be an NTP?
After finding true health with my own personal autoimmune disease and digestion issues with a holistic approach, I knew I had to spread that message as fast and as far as I could. I wanted this to be my life mission and knew the best way to do that was to learn more about it. I did quite a bit of research on various programs out there, but the NTP program really stood out for me.
I immediately fell in love with the course curriculum once I saw everything that would be covered over the 9 month period. It seemed that every single module (15 total) were concepts that I had a deep desire to learn more about. I was already fascinated by all of the topics we would be covering in the course! The others I looked at didn’t seem nearly as comprehensive as the NTP program and I was quickly sold.
I also liked the fact that it seemed really intensive and extensive. Like I wouldn’t be able to just float through the course, pass, and come out having learned nothing. Because these topics were so important to me, I wanted to really LEARN and APPLY them. I wanted to be challenged.
Lastly, I liked the layout of the class and knew it would fit in with my life. While I would be dedicating a significant portion of my week to this course, I was able to do it flexibly and when it fit with my schedule. I was also looking forward to the 3 workshop weekends where we could meet and learn in person! (Spoiler alert: they were SO fun!)
Do I recommend it?
Yes! Definitely. It was a life-changing 9 months with a wealth of knowledge that I couldn’t and wouldn’t have gotten from anywhere else. Not only that, but it was a time of tremendous self-exploration and realization into my own health concerns. I’ve always loved being a student and reading, highlighting, studying, and taking notes. But this program really took it to another level because I was truly 100% interested in everything we were discussing.
I was reading books and listening to lectures on topics I genuinely wanted to learn about. Writing essays were easy because I had retained the information I had studied and had obvious thoughts to base my answers. My idea of class time and homework had become very different from when I was in college!
The course itself was very well-organized and while jam-packed full of work, it was broken down into manageable chunks. The instructors all have a ridiculous amount of knowledge and passion around the topics and provide a ton of support along the way. There is also an obvious sense of community and camaraderie amongst fellow classmates. It truly felt like one big happy family, especially after spending the 3 workshop weekends together!
After completing this program, I am now left with both a sense of accomplishment and drive. I am proud to say that I completed the NTP program and am now committed to helping as many people as I can in this new role. I feel fully equipped with all of the knowledge and skills I need to do so, and I’m confident that YOU will too after your completion of the program!
How much time did I spend studying each week?
I would say in total, each week averaged about 15-20 hours per week when factoring in reading the required books, listening to the lectures, and conference call time. Because I don’t work a typical 9-5, it was fairly easy for me to carve out time to get everything done and not fall behind. There were many people in my class that had full-time jobs and families but were still able to complete the course curriculum.
But, I will say that didn’t happen without some effort and organization. Be prepared to spend your evenings and weekends studying if you are someone with a 9-5 job. Luckily, it can all be done when it fits with your schedule, but stick as close to the syllabus as possible because falling behind will only cause more stress.
How do I plan to put my NTP certification into practice?
The knowledge and skills I attained through the NTA are the driving force behind my blog, my podcast, and social media accounts. I started sharing the knowledge I was gaining on all of these platforms as soon as I began the program. It was a great way not only for me to spread the REAL FOOD word, but also to drive home the lessons I was learning for myself.
In August 2015, I opened the virtual doors to my one-on-one Nutritional Therapy practice and immediately began taking clients that needed serious help. While I had planned on most of my clients being local, I quickly realized that it is too big of a market for those of us in the holistic health fields to confine my services to such a small area.
So, with the help of Skype, I now take clients all across the globe! It has been nothing short of an amazing and rewarding career move and I am so thankful that I made that decision to become an NTP.
What other ways are there to use your certification?
The options are pretty much up to you and your imagination as to how you put your certification into practice. Or, if you put it into practice at all! Some people enjoy taking the class just to expand on their knowledge in regards to their own health or that of a family member.
Others team up with other holistic-minded practitioners in their area, like chiropractors, acupuncturists, personal trainers, naturopaths, etc. to offer nutrition services to the already that client base. Others become writers, speakers, or teachers.
It really depends on YOUR passion, YOUR skill set, and YOUR personality. I very much have an entrepreneurial spirit and the thought of working under somebody else takes the fire out of it for me. So, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to work for myself and build my own practice.
But, that’s not the best route for everyone and especially if you’ve never had your own business. While there is a module on business basics in the NTP program, I highly recommend you start thinking and learning now about running your own business if that is your dream.
Is it worth the investment?
For me, it was worth the investment within the first week of class. As soon as I saw how in-depth the lessons were and how much knowledge both my lead instructor — Cathy Eason — and assistant instructor — Dana Brown — had surrounding every single topic and question covered, I knew the amount paid was nothing compared to the life-changing experience I was embarking on.
Although going back to the last point, I think it really helped that I already knew what I wanted to do with my certification upon completion. So, throughout the course, I could visualize what the end product would look like for me and how the program was leading me on that path. It was easy for me to acknowledge that without it, I wouldn’t realize my dreams and passion. And, of course, that made it worth every single dime.
Gimme the short answer.
Do it! If you have a passion or even just a curiosity about the concept that food can be our greatest form of medicine or our worst kind of poison, do it! You will not regret it. This is an expanding field and will only continue as more and more people realize how great they can actually feel with some simple changes to their diets and lifestyle.
The more people we get on board to educate, the quicker we begin to turn around the staggering health statistics in our society today. Yes, I do HIGHLY recommend that you go into it with a vision and goal of how you plan to use your newfound knowledge, even if it’s just to understand your own families’ health. Just have a plan! And it’s OK if it changes midway through. But, in my opinion, everything just has a bigger, better meaning when there is an end goal attached.
There’s nothing worse than feeling terrible after eating an amazing meal. Post-meal bloating, pain, diarrhea, constipation, a heavy feeling in your stomach, and heartburn are so common today that we think it’s normal. I’ve got news for you; it’s not normal. It’s most likely a case of low stomach acid and you CAN do something about it! Yes, that’s right, your stomach acid could be TOO LOW severely affecting not only your digestion but many other functions in your body that may seem entirely unrelated.
According to the book Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You by Jonathan Wright MD, as many as 90% of Americans are dealing with hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) or achlorhydria (no stomach acid), many of which are either unaware or being treated for having too much stomach acid, only furthering the problem!
THE TYPICAL DIAGNOSIS
Yep, if you describe these symptoms to your doctor, they may tell you the reason for your indigestion and heartburn is from too much stomach acid and give you acid-blocking drugs such as Tagamet or Zantac. These are some of the most prescribed drugs in the pharmaceutical market, making billions of dollars per year for the companies that sell them.
The problem with this diagnosis is that, for most of us, the opposite is true. We are deficient in stomach acid, and it is a VITAL part of our overall health and well-being.
The stomach is a highly acidic environment (with a pH of 1.5-3.0) where the food we eat, particularly protein, gets broken down and prepared for absorption by every cell of our body. The proper pH of the stomach then signals the rest of the digestive cascade to continue.
The pancreas and small intestine are called into action to further the break down of the protein, fats, and carbohydrates and deliver them to the cells. Without the high acidity in the stomach, the digestive flow is compromised. This system breaks down causes a dramatic trickle-down effect into all other bodily systems and is the root cause of many other health issues.
By simply increasing stomach acid, so the pH in the stomach is at its optimal level, your meal will be processed correctly, absorbed and assimilated by the body, and the rest of you will stay healthy and happy! As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I help people every single day get back to this optimal state of digestion and see first-hand how simple changes can dramatically improve the life of my clients!
Let’s take a look at how low stomach acid can affect so much more than just the digestive system.
When stomach acid is insufficient, not only are proteins not properly broken down in the stomach, but the rest of the digestive cascade is compromised. If the chyme (the partially broken down food paste) in the stomach is not acidic enough, the pyloric sphincter will not open. This mechanism allows the food to pass from the stomach into the small intestine to continue digestion. If the pyloric sphincter does not open, the chyme stays in the stomach too long and begins to degenerate.
Proteins putrefy, carbohydrates ferment, and fat becomes rancid. This causes bloating, pain, fullness, and constipation. Once the chyme does make it into the small intestine, the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) which is needed to trigger the release of bile from the gallbladder for fat digestion will not be released without the chyme being at the proper pH.
The release of secretin is also compromised which stimulates the pancreas to release critical digestive enzymes and sodium bicarbonate to bring the pH of the chyme back to neutral before heading on to the large intestine. Once the maldigested food makes it into the large intestine, the healthy gut flora is disrupted, the tissue becomes inflamed, and harmful bacteria thrive.
low energy – sleepy and sluggish
Vitamin B12 is responsible for nerve and brain function. Depression, sleepiness, and that sluggish feeling arise when we are B12 deficient. This vital vitamin enters the body attached to protein and needs to be cleaved off for absorption to take place. Hydrochloric acid and pepsin are necessary in sufficient quantity to complete the separation of protein and vitamin B12 in the stomach.
muscle wasting -hair loss – aging skin – cracked/peeling fingernails
Amino acids are the compounds that make up proteins and what are left once proteins are broken down in the digestive system. They are essential to the growth and development of many different structures in the body including muscle fibers, hair structure, nails, bones, skin, nerves, neurotransmitters, and hormones. They are also the creators of collagen and elastin, the binding substances needed for clear, wrinkle-free, healthy skin. With low stomach acid and the inability to properly break down proteins, amino acids aren’t available in the body to do all of these critical functions which will show up in the health of your hair, skin, and nails.
Additionally, the body will break down muscle in an attempt to get the essential amino acids. This leads to decreased muscle mass, strength, and potential weight loss.
depression – mood disturbances
The gut is often considered our second brain with the majority of our neurotransmitters and serotonin (the happy chemical) being made in the gut. Amino acids are needed to build neurotransmitters which are the brain’s “messengers.” Decreased stomach acid = decreased amino acids = decreased serotonin production = decreased happiness!
leaky gut – autoimmune diseases – food allergies and sensitivities
Without the stomach being at the proper highly acidic level needed to break down food completely, large amounts of protein go undigested, making their way down through the digestive tract into the small intestine. The lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, and the once tightly-bound villi that line and protect the walls loosen up and create holes.
This is known as intestinal permeability or leaky gut. Now, the undigested proteins pass through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream. As our body is meant to do, it attacks these foreign invaders that have made it into our bloodstream. This attack causes an allergic response. In cases of food allergies, the body now considers this undigested food particle to be an allergen and will attack it anytime it comes back into the bloodstream. A food allergy is born and will continue until the intestinal walls are sealed again and the food is unable to make its way into the bloodstream.
In cases of autoimmune diseases, the immune system continues this attack on other cells in the body that look similar to the invading proteins, causing otherwise healthy tissues and organs to be under attack. This can happen to many different tissues within the body such as the thyroid (Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease), the joints (rheumatoid arthritis), the GI tract (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis), the nerves (multiple sclerosis), and many many others. According to Wright, “A mainstay for treatment for ANY autoimmune disease is the examination for and (when found) treatment of low stomach acid and other digestive malfunction.”
dysbiosis – bacterial imbalance – candida, parasites, and fungal overgrowth
Stomach acid kills harmful bacteria. A healthy digestive system is a home to billions of bacteria, the majority of which are good. However, even the healthiest of guts are still home to harmful bacteria. These healthy guts can manage the bad bacteria and keep it in check, allowing for ‘bacterial harmony.’ Problems arise when these bad bacteria begin to thrive and grow, make a home in the gut, and take over the good bacteria. So, how do these bad guys get in? Through a stomach, with a pH higher than 5. (Remember, normal pH of a healthy stomach is between 1.5-3.0.) The acidity in a stomach that’s not producing enough HCL becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
It takes a lot of nutrients to build hormones, but the most essential nutrient needed is fat and more specifically cholesterol. When the stomach is not in the optimal pH range, the gall bladder is not triggered to release bile which breaks down fats. Therefore, the fats go undigested, and the building blocks of hormones are absent. All hormone levels will take a hit including testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen.
acne – rosacea – dermatitis
Acne and other skin manifestations have a high correlation to the health of the gut. When the gut is leaky, foreign objects and bacteria make its way into the bloodstream, causing an allergic reaction. This can manifest in the skin in the form of acne, rosacea, and dermatitis.
Bacteria thriving in a stomach without enough hydrochloric acid emit an order that shows itself in your breath!
Calcium is a super essential mineral to many processes in the body including maintaining bone strength. Calcium cannot be adequately broken down and absorbed without enough stomach acid. Calcium deficiency leads to brittle bones that can easily break, which is known as osteoporosis.
Many studies have been done over the past 100 years linking RA patients and low stomach acid. According to Wright, “People with rheumatoid arthritis have an extremely high rate of atrophic gastritis associated with low stomach acid compared with normal individuals.”
blood sugar imbalance – sugar cravings
Amino acids have another function besides being essential building blocks for every part of our body. They also maintain blood sugar and proper insulin levels. When protein breaks down is compromised, and available amino acids are low, blood sugar levels can become imbalanced, and sugar cravings will ensue.
Another important nutrient that will not be adequately absorbed is iron. Deficient iron absorption can zap muscle strength and drain stamina, leaving you feeling weak and tired. According to Wright, “it comes as no surprise that when supplementary HCL is given to people with anemia and low stomach acid, their iron absorption improves and their anemia disappears.”
insistent hunger – uncontrollable appetite – weight gain – inability to lose weight
As described in this post, the trickle-down effect from low stomach acid can lead to many seemingly unrelated conditions such as nutrient deficiency, malabsorption, hormonal imbalance, muscle wasting, and adrenal fatigue. Â All of these contribute in their way to an unhealthy, sluggish metabolism and overeating. For example, if the body is not sufficiently producing the hormone ghrelin (the hunger hormone), Â you won’t get the ‘full’ signal during a meal and will likely overeat. Or, if your body is perceiving a state of high stress causing high levels of cortisol, the appetite is known to increase during this time. The body’s perceived starvation from not properly absorbing the food that we eat is another reason for increased appetite.
asthma – allergies
Known to be an inflammatory reaction in the lungs due to allergens, asthma can be traced back to the health of the gut and more importantly to the pH of the stomach and food allergies. In response to this Wright say “…a vicious circle soon ensues in which an allergic reaction to food inflames the gastric and intestinal linings, inhibiting HCL secretion and promoting allergic reactions all over the body, not just to foods, but to inhalants and microorganisms, as well.”
high cortisol – adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue can be considered the “stress illness.” Now that we’ve gone through this list of things that can go wrong with your health when you have low stomach acid, wouldn’t you agree that any of them would put a significant level of stress on your body?! Food isn’t being broken down which leaves us malnourished and unable to properly build every cell in our body to regulate every function of our being. The body sees this as a stressful situation and engages in ‘fight or flight’ mode, bringing cortisol into play to help out in this time of stress.
Does this sound like you?
I’ve got great news for you! There are several things you can easily incorporate into your daily routine to help support your digestion and increase natural stomach acid production.
Drink water with lemon away from meals.
Dilute 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar into 2-3 ounces of water and drink 15 minutes before a meal.
Take three deep breaths before your first bite. This will help you get into ‘rest and digest’ mode which is needed for the proper secretion of gastric juices.
Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Aim to chew each bite 30 times. Put your fork down between bites.
Avoid drinking a significant amount of liquid during the meal. This will dilute the gastric juices.
Most importantly, supporting your digestion with betaine HCL with pepsin supplementation is the most effective way to get significant and immediate symptom relief. Found in almost all health food stores, this supplement provides the stomach acid that is missing in the same form as the stomach produces naturally, hydrochloric acid.
Every meal after that, increase your dose by one pill until you feel a warming sensation in your abdomen.
Once you feel this sensation, drop back down to the amount you took at the meal prior. This is your dose that should be taken with every meal to support your digestion properly.
After supplementing for some time, you will find that your regular dose now causes the same warming sensation. This is a sign that your body is re-learning how to produce HCL on its own and you can lessen your dosage.
It is not uncommon at the start of your supplementation to be taking quite a few pills, up to 8, per meal without getting the warming sensation.
If you took too much betaine HCL and feel a burning discomfort, you can take 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in a small glass of water, that quickly neutralizes the stomach acid and eliminates the discomfort.
Note: if you are currently taking any anti-inflammatory medication such as corticosteroids (prednisone), aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.) or other NSAIDs, do not supplement with HCL.
As you can see, a highly acidic stomach is the key to proper digestion. Without it, serious health issues can ensue. Many of us are in a current state of stomach acid deficiency, and the current medical protocol is to treat the SYMPTOMS with potent medications, furthering the damage. Instead, let’s fix the ROOT CAUSE, starting with proper digestion, and begin true healing.
I love Southwest. I love that you don’t have to pay for checking a bag. I love that the flight attendants are always funny and entertaining. I love that flights are guaranteed to be pretty dang cheap. Yep, you guessed it…I’m on a plane! This post is coming to you from the friendly skies on my way to my first workshop weekend as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I’m so excited for the next 3 days of total mind-blowing, brain-filling lessons on how to be an NTP. The people I know that have done this program say these weekends are just awesome, getting to spend time with people who think the same way you do about health, nutrition, and wellness. I’ll let you all know how it goes!
Back to Southwest, I can’t decide if I love or hate the ‘no seat assignment’ concept. Let’s say this…I love it when I’m an A. But, when I’m a B or C, I’m not so happy. Yesterday, I checked in 5 minutes after my 24 hour check-in time and got in the B group. Dang it!
I was elated when boarding to still be able to find one of the last window seats available. Score! And then, not even a minute after I got comfortable in my seat, there was kicking, screaming, and crying directly behind my chair. Uh, oh, it was an unhappy baby on a plane situation. Not my favorite thing in the world and I always feel really bad for the parents, but still, my dreams of a little airplane nap were O V E R. I knew it was going to take a little bit more for me to be in my happy place on this plane ride.
First, I needed something to make this plane ride somewhat enjoyable. I needed something else to listen to besides baby cries. I plugged in my earphones and blared some Janet Jackson Greatest Hits. (Yes, it’s amazing…I love the Jackson’s and I love the 90’s…don’t make fun!)
Second, I needed a distraction. It was time to bust out the Us Weekly. Celebrity gossip is a guilty pleasure of mine and I always buy a magazine when I’m at the airport as a special travel treat. (Again, don’t make fun!)
Third, I needed some yummy, fun snacks! More specifically…a sweet treat! Luckily, I had packed some of my Gingerbread Balls to bring on the trip. It was the perfect time to have one…or all of them.
After my Pumpkin Pie Ball recipe was such a success for the Thanksgiving season, I knew I had to come up with something similar for the rest of the holidays that would allow even people following the Autoimmune Protocol to have a festive dessert!
These Gingerbread Balls are a fun and easy holiday treat! They have a ton of the gingerbread flavor we all love this time of year and are still grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, soy-free and refined sugar-free. They are a great addition to this year’s cookie plate and something that everyone can enjoy regardless of food sensitivities/allergies/intolerances.
Gingerbread Balls are also the perfect pre- or post-workout energy bites, with the right combo of fat and carbs to keep you fueled. Take them with you on your next adventure! They pack and travel really well.
I’m dreaming of laying poolside with a blazing sun right now for two reasons.
Reason #1: It has been way below zero here in Boulder, CO for 5 days straight now. I really don’t terribly mind cold weather. It’s a chance to find your thickest scarves, heaviest blankets and get cozy! The only times I will complain is when I have to drive somewhere far and the roads are horrible or when I shovel the driveway and 20 minutes later you would never know it.
Reason #2: Hummus and pita chips used to be a staple in my summer pool-side snack bag. It’s been several summers since I’ve had traditional hummus and I was starting to think I would never have hummus again. I finally decided to try a cauliflower-based hummus recipe because I just couldn’t go another day without something to dip my veggies in. I attempted several different versions but couldn’t see to get it right.
And then, it worked! The perfect combo of flavors that brought me right back to pool-side snacks with friends…here in the below zero temps! I took it to a get-together that night and the bowl was gone within minutes. Definitely a sign that the recipe works. Try it and let me know what you think!
I love apple pie. And I make a pretty darn good one. But, I’m always so conflicted when it comes to dessert at Thanksgiving. I have to have apple pie, but then I really want pumpkin pie too. I end up filling my plate with both desserts, even though I just got done stuffing my face with a plate…or two…or four of Thanksgiving dinner. The result is barely eaten desserts and a super full tummy.
Not the case anymore with these low-sugar, keto-friendly pumpkin pie balls! I am definitely taking these to Thanksgiving dinner this year. That way, I can have the few bites of pumpkin pie that I really want, but save room for the ENTIRE piece of apple pie. Yes! Crisis solved.
These balls are so good, so easy, so festive, and so….healthy! Each ball has a serving of energizing, satiating fat and less than 2 grams of natural sugar from raw honey. Not to mention the wonderful vitamins and minerals in pumpkin. While this will definitely pass as a dessert, it would also make a perfect midday snack or pre-workout energizer.
GET YOUR HEALTHY FATS IN
One of the questions I get most often as a nutritionist specializing in a high-fat, low-carb keto diet is how to increase healthy fats enough to get into ketosis without resorting to spoonfuls of butter or coconut oil. These pumpkin pie balls are always my answer. With a base of coconut, you’ll get the healthy fats you need for your keto diet, but in a dessert-like package.
YOUR WHOLE FAMILY WILL LOVE
The best part? The whole family will love these! Give them to the kids for dessert or a midday snack. And, be sure to bring them to your next office party, family gathering, or girls’ night. They make a perfect dish to pass, especially during pumpkin season.
Alright, let’s get cooking…or, rolling, I guess we should say!
UPDATE 7/2016:It’s been almost 2 years since I wrote this post and it has consistently been the most popular post I have ever written. For this reason, I think it is important to give an update. The popularity of this post makes it very clear to me just how many people are out there struggling with autoimmune disease and willing to try everything to put their disease into remission. This is exactly why, since writing this post, I have completely changed my career path to become a holistic health practitioner. Not only have I been working on my own gut health for these past 2 years, but I now have helped many others do the same. I’ve learned a lot since then. First of all, I still very much believe in the power of colostrum to aid in gut healing. It is great at providing immediate relief from some of the nagging symptoms that a leaky gut can cause. Surthrival is still my brand of choice and really makes a great product as you’ll read about below.However, I need to make it very clear that just taking colostrum and hoping for a healed gut and remission for autoimmune disease is going to lead to disappointment. There’s SO much more to it. Starting on colostrum and writing this post was just the beginning of a long gut healing journey that involved much more than colostrum. Yes, it was a piece of the puzzle, but it was only ONE piece of my puzzle. Everyone’s puzzle will be different and the path to finding all of the pieces will be unique to everyone too.I am happy to report that I just received word from my doctor that my ulcerative colitis antibodies are non-existent and I am completely off medication! My diligence in healing my gut has paid off.And it can for you too. END UPDATE.
I am in an all-out fight with my autoimmune disease and I’m finally winning! For the past 15 months, my ulcerative colitis (UC) and I have been in an intense battle and for the majority of that time, I was losing. I began following the Paleo lifestyle right away and got in a few good punches, but after awhile, it fought right back.
I went stricter and eliminated even more foods to follow the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) and really started to get some great strikes in to this persistent disease. But then, I got pinned. I had eliminated some of my favorite foods, taken away my ability to eat out at great restaurants, and given up my social life in order to keep my symptoms from flaring. But, I wasn’t getting any better. I was stumped and frustrated, not ready to give in to the battle.
My rock bottom came not long ago. I was hungry for a midday snack and grabbed a beautifully ripe, locally grown peach. I don’t eat much fruit and hadn’t enjoyed peach season yet, so I was excited for the treat. Instead, I got sick. Minutes after eating the peach, I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. Intense pain and bloating from one tiny little piece of fruit led me to the most frustrated mental state I had been in since starting my healing a year before.
Something had to change and now. I went to my trusty friend, Google, for advice. Just a bit of research and I had my ‘Aha!’ moment. It was something I knew all along but hadn’t taken the time or effort to actually do.
I needed to heal my leaky gut, not just try to get rid of my UC symptoms. Autoimmune diseases WILLNOT go into remission if gut health is not restored. All this time I had been focusing on healing the wrong thing. I had been taking out any foods and factors that caused my UC to flare, instead of spending my time working on HEALING. It may not sound different, but it is. I think this is where so many of those suffering from autoimmune diseases go wrong.
Research shows that leaky gut is one of three factors that makes someone susceptible to autoimmunity, along with genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Even though I already knew all of this (thanks to The Paleo Mom) which is why I was on AIP in the first place, once I was deep in the diet trenches, I began focusing on the wrong issue and not getting anywhere.
Back to my story…
I am a huge believer in fate, so when I ran across a post on Instagram from Alexandra at High On Fat entitled “How I Healed My Leaky Gut” the exact same day as my ‘peach incident,’ I knew I needed to take her advice. I was desperate for help and wanted those words to be in my vocabulary too!The post was all about a new supplement she had been taking that had healed her gut and changed her life — bovine colostrum.
What is it?
You may already be familiar with colostrum: the ‘pre-milk’ fluid produced by mammary glands during the first few days after giving birth. This is the first food given to a baby to provide them with essential growth factors to build the gut wall, antibodies to build immunity, and vital nutrients to give them strength in their first days of life.
Bovine colostrum does the same thing, just in cows. Human consumption is not new. It has been prominent in Ayurvedic healing for thousands of years and was once the treatment for infections before pharmaceutical companies took hold and antibiotics became popular.
What does it do?
The more research I did, the more benefits I found. The list is seemingly endless. But don’t take my word for it. Here are excerpts taken from reputable sources surrounding the human consumption of bovine colostrum:
“Colostrum has the greatest components of ingredients directed toward the digestive tract. Its growth factors help cells of the digestive tract redevelop themselves and it also has immune factors that reestablish the immunity of the gastrointestinal tract and kill off bad bacteria that is overgrown. Colostrum decreases intestinal permeability and enhances the assimilation of nutrients.”
“Colostrum contains powerful immune factors (immunoglobulin, lactoferrin, cytokines, etc.) that work to restore optimal immune functioning. Colostrum also contains PRP, shown in clinical studies to both enhance an under active immune system and balance an overactive tendency.”
“Bovine colostrum is also used for boosting the immune system, healing injuries, repairingÂ nervous system damage, improving mood and sense of well being, slowing and reversing aging, and as an agent for killing bacteria and fungus.”
“Bovine colostrum has been used as a dietary supplement to treat diarrhea, infections, colitis, and to improve athletic performance. In vitro studies suggest that bovine colostrum has anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive properties.”
“There is also some evidence that bovine colostrum prevents NSAID-associated gastrointestinal damage and is effective in treating distal colitis.”
So, I gave it a shot! I was skeptical but I also didn’t think I could make things any worse just by trying it.
Within a week, I felt like a whole new person! So much so, that I didn’t actually believe it could be true. I kept doubting that it was working. But everyday, I kept getting better and better. Not only did my UC symptoms vanish, but ALL of my digestive issues were gone, my energy was through the roof all day, and I was just happy… because I finally felt free.Even though autoimmune diseases stick around for life, mine is no longer reminding me everyday.
After a few weeks, I began reintroducing foods I had given up months ago for AIP. First up were eggs. After my first breakfast with eggs, I wanted to get up and dance on the table. Not only did I not have the reaction I had in the past when trying to reintroduce, but I felt nourished and energized! I’ve kept the eggs and have also been able to add almond butter and coffee so far!
Now, let me be clear. I’m not going out eating donuts, pizza and nachos. I’m still following the Autoimmune Protocol with the addition of eggs and almond butter, and plan to slowly continue to add REAL FOOD in a controlled manner.
Which one should I take?
Here’s what to look for:
Sourced from pasture-raised, organic cows
No antibiotics, GMO’s, hormones
Provided only after the newborn calf has been given its share
I took the advice of Alexandra and began taking the same brand of colostrum that she recommended, Surthrival. After visiting their website, I feel very comfortable in the integrity of the company and what they stand for. I highly recommendthis product.
A Few Warnings
This product may contain a trace amount of lactose and casein and could have a slight effect on those with severe lactose intolerance. If you have severe intolerance, Surthrival recommends taking a lactose digestive aid along with your colostrum dose for several days while initiating it into your system. I have a dairy sensitivity and had no problem without the need for an aid. Alexandra was diagnosed with lactose intolerance and was fine with it also.Your first few days may be a little rocky! Some people may experience a “die-off effect” as the body releases toxins in the form of digestive problems, skin eruptions, rashes or flu-like symptoms. This is a sign that it’s working. These symptoms usually disappear in a couple of days. Start with a small dose and work up into the full dose to avoid these symptoms. I started with 1/4 tablespoon twice a day and worked my way up. The first two days I experienced flu-like symptoms and just didn’t feel well. By the third day, I was beginning to feel amazing and it’s only gotten better since!
If you’re a ‘Google-er’ like me and would like to do more research, here are a few more great links that I referenced for this post:
I’m a podcast junkie. It’s so bad that I often notice myself thinking the people on the opposite end delivering the podcast are my friends. We’re on a first name basis and I get their inside jokes. It’s a great friendship. In all seriousness, I love listening and learning about the Paleo diet while in my car (which is all the time.) My fave podcasts include Balanced Bites, The Paleo Solution, Underground Wellness, and Chris Kresser. I’m learning so much while on my quest to heal my ulcerative colitis and reach optimal health through food, but a lot of it can get very scientific and a little over my head. So, I’ve decided to combine all the best information out there and ‘dumb it down’ for us all!
The first issue I’d like to tackle is the increasingly popular subject of grains and gluten.
Let’s talk gluten-free foods. First, a little background on why gluten-free foods are beginning to take over our grocery store shelves. Gluten intolerance is the inability to properly digest gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten intolerance, which is becoming increasingly prevalent, can come in the form of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
Celiac disease currently afflicts about 1% of the population, but it is estimated that 80% of people with celiac disease are unaware of it. But, you don’t need to have full blown celiac disease to have adverse reactions to gluten.
There is another disorder called gluten sensitivity which is much more common. While the research on gluten sensitivity is still new and there is not yet an accepted test for it, researchers in the field estimate at least 10% but probably more like 30% of the US population are sensitive to gluten. Many of the symptoms are similar to those in celiac disease, including bloating, stomach pain, fatigue, diarrhea, skin rashes and break outs, moodiness, headaches and joint pain.
With the number of people who are realizing that their bodies react negatively to gluten on the rise, it creates a whole new market for the processed food industry to bank on…literally. Bold, colorful GLUTEN-FREE labels are popping everywhere on our grocery store shelves. But, if you take a closer look at these pretty little boxes, you’ll see the dark side of gluten-free. Processed gluten-free foods do their best to take on the taste and texture of the products they are replacing and tend to rely on highly-processed grain flours and starches such as rice flour, soy flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. These foods have high glycemic indexes, so when people eat them, their blood sugar spikes. The hormonal response because of this causes a subsequent ‘sugar crash,’ which will leave you feeling tired with a lack of energy and a desire to EAT MORE when you body doesn’t truly need food yet. They are also full of other crap that your body a) doesn’t need and b) has no idea what to do with! These includes dyes, artificial flavors, corn syrup, processed starches, and SOY!
Oh geez, soy. Soy is a very highly debated topic in the food world, but more and more research is coming out showing the havoc soy wreaks on our hormone, estrogen, in both men and women. With a debate growing over something as critical as hormones, it would be best for us all to stay away until more conclusive evidence is shown to dispel it. Not to mention, the intense process soy has to go through to become the actual flour and emulsifiers used in these foods.
So, it’s obvious gluten-free foods are not automatically healthy. But what about the grains that don’t contain gluten, like oats, rice, quinoa, corn, etc? Aren’t they ok?
Grains are a staple in the standard American diet, holding the spot at the base of the food pyramid for ‘optimal health’ according to the government. So why the newest trend to go grain-free? Although there are tons of reasons, I’ll give you two biggies.
Grains contain phytic acid, a mineral blocker that prevents absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. This phytic acid is found in all grains, even the ‘healthy whole grains’ that the processed food industry proudly labels on their packages. Not only are they not healthy, they are nutrient-blockers!
Lectins are other toxins present in all grains that cause their own set of problems. Lectins are not broken down in the digestive process and instead latch on to your small intestine and forge themselves into your bloodstream. Undigested food rummaging around freely in your blood stream…gross! The body views these lectins and the food they bring with them as dangerous invaders and initiates a fight response to get rid of them using your immune system. We now have our body fighting the food we just willingly put into it…and losing! This happens to EVERYBODY, regardless of whether you have symptoms of intolerance or not.
Be aware that the reason why our government pushed grains in the first place were economical and strategic. They are cheap to produce, have an incredibly long shelf-life and are easy to sell. Unfortunately, grains do not have the nutritional profile that the money-hungry food industry wants you to believe. It makes much more sense to get your nutrients from whole foods like vegetables, fruits, natural meats and healthy fats (both saturated and unsaturated…but I’ll discuss that in a later post), which offer much higher nutrient density without the unwanted negative impacts.
A no-grain diet can lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, alleviate skin disorders like dermatitis, rosacea, or acne, end digestive disturbances, put autoimmune disorders into remission, increase fertility and dramatically improve energy levels. I’ve seen it with my own eyes…for myself and my clients. It’s not a gimmick, it’s just what our body was made to handle.
No matter how little sugar I have in my diet, I still have a pretty solid sweet tooth. I love desserts, especially baked goods. Luckily, there are millions of great Paleo recipes for cookies, cakes, and muffins out there. But so many of them use eggs and almond flour…2 things that I can’t have while on the Autoimmune Protocol.
My craving was so intense on Saturday that as soon as breakfast was over, I set out on a mission to make SOMETHING that tasted dessert-like. PJ’s, crazy hair, and dessert!
If you don’t count the spices and vanilla, this will be a 5-ingredient recipe! We all have the stuff in our pantry anyways.
Two Bite Lemon ‘Cheese’cakes
Two-Bite Lemon Cheescakes (Paleo, AIP-friendly)
makes 6-8 bites
5 dates, roughly chopped (if hard, soak in water for 5 minutes before chopping)
1/2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (more if you like lemon-y flavor!)
Combine all ingredients for bottom in food processor and pulse until it becomes soft and dough-like. Melt coconut butter by placing jar in a bowl of hot water. Once melted, combine all ingredients for top in a small bowl and whisk together. Use hands to roll date ‘dough’ into 1″ sized balls then use thumbs to flatten into a disc shape. Top with a slightly smaller disc of ‘cheese’cake and use hands to mold both together. Once all bites are formed, cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving. Tope with lemon zest for garnish. Store in airtight container in fridge for up to a week.