A very real and honest look into my health journey…
The Beginning – Tummy Troubles and that Rash
When I was young I had varying gastrointestinal troubles, which could never be pinpointed. Antibiotic here, Prevacid there. Oh you need an antibiotic. Stomach issues just seemed to be a way of life. I also developed Keratosis Pilaris, which is a red-like, bumpy rash. I saw numerous dermatologists and tried dozens of creams, but nothing made them go away. I hated them and they made me so self-conscious. They are really visible in my wedding pictures, unfortunately.
My senior year of high school I started having really bad problems with anemia and they couldn’t pinpoint that either. After I got married, doctors tried rounds of IV iron, which I turned out to be allergic to and had some pretty scary reactions. Years of iron supplements tore my stomach up and made me feel worse. I’d want to cry every time a doctor suggested iron supplements. They were at a point they suspected I had internal bleeding somewhere, but they couldn’t find that either. No one could explain the anemia and why it wasn’t getting better. I was even on birth control that pretty much eliminated my menstrual cycles and still was severely anemic.
In 2008, after I got married, I still wasn’t feeling right so I saw an endocrinologist and was diagnosed with thyroid disease. So I have to take a pill the rest of my life and have routine blood work to make sure my levels are within the normal range. I spent 7 years visiting different endocrinologists because the medicine never seemed to really make me feel better, but my levels were normal. Oddly enough my thyroid levels stayed normal throughout both of my pregnancies.
In 2014, after the birth of my son, the baby blues just weren’t going away. I was exhausted, I didn’t feel well, and I felt so inadequate as a person and as a mother to my two kids. My son had colic pretty much all of my maternity leave. I couldn’t handle simple emotions and multiple emotions at once gave me anxiety attacks. I spoke with my OBGYN and was placed on anti-depressants. I started out slow since I was nursing, but once I stopped nursing she bumped it up. I lived like a zombie in a fog-like state. It was miserable. I visited with her again and we reduced the dosage. Over time, I widdled the dosage down to almost nothing, but every time I tried to get off them it was bad. I couldn’t cope and that made the depressed-like feelings worse. I hated being “dependent” on something. Why couldn’t I function without them? I was so self-destructive with my thoughts. I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t do well enough. I would mentally beat myself up daily. It was slowly destroying my once very positive nature.
Intro to Celiac
When my son was about 5 weeks old I got sick for the first time. It was like a stomach bug except that it lasted an entire week. When you’re exhausted, nursing, battling depression, coping with colic, preparing to go back to work and you’re sick with a stomach bug-like something for an entire week it pretty much drains you. I saw a gastroenterologist and they, too, thought perhaps a stomach bug. They wanted to do tests and “have a look,” but I would have to stop nursing so I politely declined. I took some antibiotics and went on with life. After about a week, I was somewhat back to normal.
Every 3 weeks or so, though, the “stomach bug” would come back with a fury. I would be so sick. Afraid to eat. I eventually stopped nursing my son around the time he was 5.5 months old. I continued losing weight and my milk production was really suffering. The reoccurring stomach bug continued every 3-4 weeks for 6 months. When I hit 98 pounds I finally convinced myself something was really wrong. I could hardly eat, was vomiting several times a week and the tummy problems were miserable. Since I wasn’t nursing, I made the call back to the endocrinologist. I needed help.
In December 2014 I had an upper endoscopy, biopsies and blood work, all of which would confirm I had Celiac Disease. My small intestine was badly damaged due to years of eating gluten and also why I was anemic. I wasn’t absorbing any of the nutrients I was putting into my body. My body had been attacking itself, slowly destroying healthy tissue. It was a shock. It was a big lifestyle change as a full-time working mama with a 3 year old and 6 month old. I had no choice but to change my diet, not only to feel better, but to avoid more health problems in the future. So gluten free I went.
Post diagnosis I gained back 30 pounds. Some say that’s normal. Once I was gluten free for 2 weeks the nausea and tummy problems ceased. That rash? The one I had since I was 6? Gone. That’s right. Gone. It was linked to gluten. My depression got better, but I still wasn’t able to kick taking the medicine. My anemia started improving as well. At my one month follow up my gastro recommended seeing a nutritionist to help with the lifestyle change and to help heal my gut. So I began researching….and putting that off. After 4 months of being gluten free, I felt better but I still didn’t feel 100%. I didn’t feel like me. So I looked up a local nutritionist that a friend recommended.
In April 2015 I had my first appointment with a nutritionist. She was confident she could help me, so I signed on as a patient. Within a few weeks I noticed a HUGE difference. It was very reassuring to know that eventually I would feel better. She practices Nutritional Response Testing, which is amazing to me. Seriously. Look it up if you are ever curious. It has done amazing things for my health. It’s a very natural approach to health. Over the last 4 months I’ve steadily been feeling better and working to get my body healthy again. I take a lot of supplements, but it’s worth it as the quality of life is amazing. She has taught me a lot and I’ve incorporated a great deal into daily life.
As I started to feel better, I decided it was time to add in exercise. The yo-yo in weight fluctuation my body experienced in 12 months was extreme and had taken its toll. I went from being 160 pounds the day I delivered my second child in April to 125 pounds 1 month post-birth in May. Then by December I was barely 98 pounds. Fast forward to this summer and I was back to 130 pounds. That’s a lot for my petite 5’1″ frame. It was time for exercise. I felt ready.
Diet and Exercise
I started this past July doing 30 day shred 4 times a week and yoga once a week. I also quit taking my anti-depressants. A friend of mine is a Beachbody coach and had been urging me to try the 21 Day Fix. She messaged me mid-July she was having a challenge group for the 21 Day Fix start at the end of July and would love to include me. I was pumped and ready to dig in. 2 weeks ago I started the program. I love the workouts! The diet? I cried a lot the first week. I hated it. I wanted to quit. WHY was it so hard to eat CLEAN? It’s not like I ate a lot of processed foods before because not only are they very limited in gluten free, but they are expensive and not always delicious. I was miserable. After about 5 days in, I started to notice a big difference in my energy levels, how I felt and how I looked. It got easier and I thought, OK I CAN DO THIS. After 1 week I was down 5 pounds and 2.5 inches!! Just by exercising and eating clean, well-balanced, and portioned meals.
I felt amazing! I was pumped. My attitude was changing. I wasn’t feeling so down and more importantly I wasn’t beating myself up mentally. I was upbeat, happy had so much more energy. And MAN was I feeling better!
I had a nutritionist appointment today and for the first time ever my body tested at a 9. NINE!! When I first started seeing my doctor I was an overall 4 and progressed over time to a 6 – some days a 7, but never a 9! I even got a high five from my doctor after my visit today on how well I was doing.
I would have never guessed at any point in my life I would go for a “clean” diet lifestyle. I loved FOOD. Food needed to look, taste and BE a certain way in order to be enjoyed, which is a total lie. The food I have learned to cook in the last 8 months and especially in the last 12 days is FAR better than I have ever made in my life. Going gluten free has forced me to look carefully what I put in my body and also what is around me, including products I use for myself.
Since being a “clean” eater I’ve got more energy. I don’t even NEED coffee. My complexion has improved. My mood has changed. I’m happy. I feel more like ME! My thyroid is functioning better and tested well today. The color has returned to my face and I look healthy meaning my anemia is also better. My appearance is changing – adios love handles and baby tummy!! I look forward to my workouts and seriously….who looks forward to a 4:30 a.m. workout?! This may all sound so cheesy, but I feel renewed. After having so many health issues for so many years and finding something that works makes me want to shout from the rooftops.
I don’t anticipate my journey to be easy and I know I won’t be “clean” all the time. I know I’m going to fall off the wagon here and there because I’m human. However, I am going to strive to make the best choices I possibly can. Will I still eat unclcean things? I’m sure it will happen, but it won’t be a daily or common occurrence any longer. Especially not after seeing HOW good I can feel. I feel SO good I signed up for a 5k. And I hate running. Who am I??
I am finally back to being Me again and that makes me feel so good. The work is hard, but I AM WORTH IT.