Did you know that healing the gut can improve your overall health? Find out what gut healing did for Emily!
This is a guest post by my friend Emily. Emily was able to reduce her body fat, reduce her joint pain, sleep better, reduce bloating, and improve her energy with the help of a functional medicine doctor.
Emily tells her story here and lays out exactly what she did to improve. I hope reading her story gives you hope and information to help you in your health journey.
Wellness and nutrition have been passions of mine for about the last 15 years, but a little over a year ago, I felt hopeless about my health in a way that I never had before. My primary care physician was certainly well-meaning but had never addressed the root cause of my growing health issues. She advised me on what medicine would help ease my pain and what to take for my allergies, but these were only temporary bandaids for something I knew was a systemic issue going on in my body. Every day I wondered what was happening to me and worried I would never be able to feel normal again.
- I couldn’t be around animals that I loved, and any exposure to dust or mold sent me into a spiral of sneezing and coughing that lasted for hours.
- I was taking Zyrtec almost daily just to function and be able to breathe, but it made me so sleepy that it was hard to get anything done during the day.
- I was developing odd rashes after eating many foods, not sleeping through the night and constantly feeling stressed because of my lack of energy at work.
- I experienced pain in my joints daily, and couldn’t lose weight even with exercise and diet, which made me feel like a huge failure and contributed to some feelings of depression.
I had been active in volleyball and other sports for the majority of my adult life, but somehow my “athletic” body had reached 40% body fat and I was terrified. I knew 40% was far above the safe and healthy range and put me at risk for many health problems, but I had no idea what was wrong with my body or how to get that percentage back into a normal range.
I knew the time had come to pursue something new since allopathic care had not helped me and my own efforts to lose weight were not working. I was already a Chiropractic patient at a holistic health center in my area called Triad Health Center, but I hadn’t explored the Functional Medicine services they offered. I had heard of Functional Medicine but wasn’t entirely sure what it entailed. After doing some research and reading many positive testimonials, my husband and I agreed that I needed to schedule a consultation to see if they could help me.
- My first consultation was vastly different than any other doctor visit I’d ever had. Dr. David Schwartz (Dr. Dave) took a deep dive into my health history, family history, any possible prior toxic exposures (including those my mother may have had when I was in utero and even went back to my grandmother’s history of making munitions during the war), and discussed all of my health issues, trying to determine how my symptoms were connected.
- I had a full food allergy blood panel done (AIMS allergy), heavy metal testing, and several other functional tests such as the Dutch test, which measures female hormone levels. These tests (and the analysis that was explained to me in-depth) were so much more comprehensive than the default preventative tests most of us have done at our annual physical. Those default tests seem to provide snapshots of the health of various systems in our body, but they don’t show how everything is connected, which is so key to enabling optimal healing.
- I also had 23andMe genetic testing done due to some MTHFR mutation concerns, so Dr. Dave reviewed those results, along with hormonal tests, my full blood panel, and health history to develop a completely personalized nutrition and supplement plan for me. I knew the path to healing was not going to be easy, but I was motivated to do whatever it would take to feel “normal” again.
- I completed a stool test with the company Viome – you can receive 20% off using my code PLANKING. This company basically evaluates your microbiome and lets you know your metabolic fitness and inflammatory activity in your body, along with food sensitivities and what foods to focus on and avoid. The Viome results generally matched up with my blood tests, but I’m the kind of person who always wants a second opinion! With Viome, I also found out a few new foods that had not shown up on my blood tests as a sensitivity, such as tomatoes!
- I would not recommend delving into genetic testing or something like Viome unless you have a functional doctor or nutritionist who is qualified to help you interpret the results, as the raw data by itself is not useful and can be overwhelming.
After I had completed my preliminary tests and evaluation, I started my functional medicine journey with a 90-day gut-healing program. I worked closely with both Dr. Dave and his wife Elise, who is a nutrition and detox coach. She has created an excellent website that provides healing nutrition advice, called Healing Cuisine by Elise. Both Elise and Dr. Dave were always available to answer my questions and concerns via email and through several follow up visits throughout the program. They provided me with recommendations as to what would get me on the track to healing the fastest but were never pushy or judgmental. Here’s an overview of some of the contents of my healing program:
- Week 1
- Intense detox and anti-inflammatory phase. I consumed only turmeric-based, medical food grade Metagenics Ultrainflamx shakes (about 4-5 shakes per day) for the first week to halt inflammation in my body. This week was actually nice to not think about preparing meals or grocery shopping! Each night, I also consumed an activated charcoal supplement to bind toxins from the gut for safe elimination.
- Weeks 2-5
- Kill off phase. I took supplements anti-Candida and berberine based supplements targeted at eliminating dormant viruses, fungus and pathogens along with Zinc. Food-wise, I started at 40 grams of net carbs per day, and this was increased by 10 grams each week until I reached 100 net carbs. Net carbs = total carbs consumed minus the dietary fiber. This was a modified keto plan (more like keto paleo), with the goal of consuming only gut-healing, anti-inflammatory foods. I avoided all grains, gluten, alcohol, dairy, and sugar (except for Granny Smith apples and berries) and focused on grass-fed protein, pastured eggs and ate a lot of organic vegetables each day. I also tried to consume bone broth at least a few times each week, as the collagen in bone broth is incredibly beneficial in gut healing.
- Weeks 6-7
- The Gut Reinoculation phase was next. After eliminating the problematic organisms in my gut, it was time to reinoculate my gut flora with a powerful probiotic, and a fiber supplement to foster good bacteria. In this phase, I also introduced 1/4 -1/2 cup of fermented veggies each day.
- Weeks 8-12
- This was a maintenance phase where I continued with Vitamin D3, a Methylated B Vitamin (crucial for those with MTHFR), Zinc, Magnesium spray, and activated charcoal each day. I continued the net carb limitation but no longer took the fiber and probiotic.
- Other protocols
- I took weekly Epsom salt baths which I grew to love! The Magnesium in the bath and the spray also helped with hormone balance, relieving muscle tension and eliminating constipation. It’s important to note that even if you consume an oral supplement with Magnesium if you have any gut issues, you may need a topical Magnesium spray or cream since your gut may not allow the proper absorption of it.
- I didn’t do too much intense exercise during this 90 days, but I did focus on daily walks, sufficient sleep, and relaxation.
My functional medicine team instilled a strong sense of personal responsibility and confidence in me that they knew I would make good choices, which in turn DID make me want to do what was best for my body. Following a strict nutrition plan like this seemed daunting and there were several weeks where detox symptoms made me question if I could keep going, but now that I’ve seen the benefits of eating this way, I honestly don’t want to go back to how I ate (and how I felt) before.
I am thrilled to say that after 90 days, I was able to lose 20 pounds and more importantly decrease my body fat by 7%, which was so encouraging! It assured me that I had accomplished some major healing progress by reducing inflammation in my gut and regulating my hormones. I still have several areas to work on moving forward, but the improvement in how I’m sleeping and functioning on a daily basis has been phenomenal. I have seen an improvement in my joint pain and a reduction in bloating as well.
I do have days now where I eat some junk food lacking any nutritional value, but I think the biggest reward of this healing journey has been to have so much more intuition about what foods make my body feel good and eating according to how my body responds.
I hope that through learning a little about my Functional Medicine journey, you will feel empowered to seek out well-equipped practitioners who will help you find the root cause of any health issues you may be experiencing, whether it’s leaky gut or something else. Please note that the supplements and nutrition guidelines I have listed were all personalized to my particular health issues, and should not be viewed as a generalized recommendation.
Note from Kristie-I loved learning more about Emily’s health story! If you want to learn more about Emily check out her blog, The Planking Traveler. She has some great information on there including some tips for successful fasting.
* Disclaimer: This post is not medical advice. Neither Emily or I are doctors or medical professionals. We share only from my own experiences and research. Consult your own practitioner before making changes in your diet or supplements.
You may also be interested in How to Make a Detox Salad.