Have you ever been told your symptoms weren’t “that bad?”
How about that it was “just IBS?”
Or maybe that your fatigue, acne, and chronic bloating (or any other symptom) were just normal for you.
Your doctors – maybe even your family and friends – were telling you to get over it, live with it, forget about it. But you knew deep down that you deserved to feel better.
When my doctor told me it was just IBS, I took my health and happiness into my own hands. What began with the SCD diet turned into a lifelong pursuit of health and happiness – and the same thing happened to my friend Liz.
Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Liz and let her share her story of healing with you.
Growing Up Unwell
I have a history of acne, fatigue, anxiety and depression, bloating, brain fog and mood swings. A child of the 80s, I was a product of sugared cereal, (over prescribed) antibiotics, and better-living-through-chemistry with very little nutritional knowledge.
Starting from age 15, I tried (and failed) numerous times to do elimination diets to find out what was triggering my symptoms. I learned that food could be more than just fuel and that quality was something to consider. I knew that I probably had candida and a microbiota imbalance. I learned early on that grains were an issue for me but I didn’t have many more specifics nailed down than that.
My First Try at SCD
In my 20s, fatigue had become an unavoidable symptom. I read Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall and decided to give the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (in combination with the Candida diet) a try. The difference in my mood and energy was remarkable. I was joyful, spontaneously. It was difficult to go cold turkey into SCD but the benefits were clear. I did the diet for 30 days.
After I completed the diet, I still experienced the dilemma of wanting to continue eating foods I preferred to eat but weren’t healthful for me (I was in my early 20s after all…). I did my best to eat well but was far from perfect. I would oscillate between being “on track” and indulging.
Getting Serious About My Health
In my 30s, everything changed. I’d gone off birth control (after 15 years), I’d over-exercised and eaten poorly, and years of antibiotics had caught up to me. My gut flora had been through the ringer. My face was completely broken out. My fatigue was off the charts and I could barely get out of bed to go to work.
On top of that, I was performing nights and weekends with my band. I’d completely depleted my energy stores and my body was demanding something change.
Making My Own Healing Protocol
My General Practitioner, even though holistic in nature, discouraged an elimination diet because my skin wasn’t “that bad.” I knew that my health was in my hands.
Looking back, it seems simple: change your diet, regain your health. This time, though, I ran into a couple complications. SCD had been a great starting point for me – it had taught me that carbs and starches caused extreme reactions in me. However, I also knew that it hadn’t solved the entire puzzle as some vegetables seemed to also set me off.
I was recommitted. If I was going to do “another elimination diet” I was going to cross reference all the diets I suspected could help.
I started with the Autoimmune Protocol, plus the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet (GAPS) and SCD. I was still experiencing bloating on this regimen so I coupled it with a Low-FODMAP protocol. This worked for a while, I was able to figure out a handful of foods that didn’t seem to set me off.
Addressing the Root Causes (With Expert Help)
During this time, I was tested and treated for SIBO by my Functional Medicine Doctor, Dr. Michael Ruscio (he had Steve on for a podcast interview here!).
Shortly after clearing SIBO, I got tested by an FMD in Los Angeles (who took my insurance) for heavy metals and got treatment for mercury and lead toxicity. I did a parasite cleanse and seemed to clear some organisms.
Then, I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy in Los Angeles by a gastroenterologist who found ulcers and inflammation in my gut (even after being AIP/SCD/GAPS + Low FODMAP for 3 months). The suspicion was Crohn’s disease but my blood test markers and biopsy came back negative. I began a protocol with Dr. Ruscio for IBD anyway, it consisted of gut healing supplements and methods to reduce inflammation.
Fine-Tuning My Diet
In the meantime, I started to fine-tune my diet. I was hooked on “food as medicine” at this point and while I wasn’t perfect 100% of the time, I was 95-98% and that diligence made all the difference.
I started tracking the fermentation potential of the limited carbohydrates I was eating (I used Dr. Norm Robillard’s method for this and joined his helpful Facebook group). I determined that at this time, I can’t tolerate more than 20 grams of carbohydrates and need to be on a very low fiber diet to feel my best.
By consuming less than 20 grams of carbs a day and replacing my means of fuel with fat, I ended up in the Ketogenic diet framework. My main focus is reducing inflammation in my gut so that beneficial bacteria can thrive. In my experience, this is more important than eating varieties of fiber to boost/sustain the population. I do have concerns that there is still some dysbiosis in my system (perhaps fungus, since I’ve cleared SIBO) but this is how I feel best right now.
I stick to my diet a vast majority of the time. I focus on getting enough quality sleep, so my body can heal. And I work with practitioners while doing my own research on how I feel. At times, when it’s difficult to get my body to “chill out” even on a diet that works for me, I’ll do a short stint of an elemental or semi-elemental diet, then go back to conscious eating habits.
Healthier and Happier Than Ever Before
I feel it’s important to share my story with people because, while I did have bloating, most of my symptoms were fatigue, and emotional and cosmetic rather than typical IBD symptoms. I never went to the bathroom 20+ times a day. Most of my symptoms could be “explained away” by the Western medical community or are seen as a normal part of modern life.
I didn’t stand for that. I knew I was off and I trusted myself (over time) over others and that has made all the difference in my current state of wellness.
Tips From My Own Healing Journey
Here are some things that I found super helpful to get this far:
Supervision: Having an FMD at this point of my journey kept me on track. Symptoms and diets can be overwhelming. Dr. Ruscio kept me from feeling like I was alone, blindly searching a dark room for a light switch.
Diligence, note-taking and perseverance: I would not know which foods were doing what if I hadn’t been diligent about recording how I felt after eating, how I was sleeping, and constantly making strides to re-commit myself to feeling my best.
Even under supervision, the task of maintaining wellness via lifestyle and diet can be daunting. I found myself repeatedly searching scdlifestyle.com and other sites for information to confirm that I was on the right track. It’s great that the list of SCD legal and illegal foods is still available online.
It’s also super helpful when the guys would post a webinar. I would watch to check in and make sure I was doing everything I could to stay accountable for my own health. It’s really up to you as the individual and not a doctor or other health care practitioner to make sure that food, symptoms, sleep, etc. are all in check.
The body is so individualized and over time symptoms can change or disappear, you really have to pay attention. Whenever I was stuck on progressing, I’d check Jordan and Steve’s website to see if there was any information I had forgotten or was being too relaxed on.
I also started my own blog where I chronicle my life and my health journey.
Working on non-diet related health aspects: Meditation, energy work, introspection, honesty (with self), stress management and setting boundaries were all equally as instrumental as eating the right foods in my health. I left my job and joined a band, I slowed down, learned how to set personal and professional boundaries (all related to stress management and quality of life) – each step making a difference in my overall health.
Tools I Couldn’t Live Without:
Support system: I surround myself with people who support, not tease, my eating habits – people who are happy to have a dinner in, or let me have a say in where we eat. I find the support invaluable in moments of weakness.
Planning: I bring food with me everywhere! I eat before I leave and I make sure there is something I can eat with me for at least two meals if I leave the house.That way I can never be caught so off guard that I get sick. I try to keep the food exciting and interesting by switching up what I’m making so I don’t try to stray out of boredom.
Are you living like Liz and I both were – struggling with symptoms that others brushed off, while you dealt with a pervasive feeling that something wasn’t right?
You might not have Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis – but that doesn’t mean your suffering isn’t real – and that doesn’t mean you can’t feel better.
In fact, those symptoms could be the “subtle clues” your body is giving you that something isn’t right.
Don’t ignore those feelings! You deserve to feel radiant, healthy, and energized – just like Liz.
Are you ready to learn what those subtle clues mean? Register for this free webinar.
Does this story resonate with you? Leave a comment and let us know.
In good health,