Today I want to get a little personal. I don’t often share with you when I am dealing with something actively, but more so when I’ve come to a resolution. I like to come to you with you with “this is the problem this is the solution”, however I’m not one hundred percent certain that my current situation will be remedied overnight, actually I know it won’t, because healing isn’t linear. The last year and a half has been a doozy, not just for me but I know for many of you as well. This one might be a little long, so settle in. I’m getting real with you guys about what’s the last year has done to my health and the last six months of working to remedy it. As well as where am now and what tests I’ve done. What’s helped what. What didn’t help. What’s next.
I want to start telling you that dietary changes have 100% made the biggest difference in how I feel. I have been doing this long enough to know that our amazing bodies which Are always fighting for homeostasis sometimes need a little extra help since I will be 36 on June 20th, I thought it was time for some major lab work. I do this every 2 year or so.
In the last 3 months I’ve had my primary care doc run a metabolic panel, CBC, full thyroid panel, lipid panel, test for leptin levels, insulin, omega3, B12 and Vitamin D. She also tested for lupus but that came back negative. Via Dr. Campbell I ordered the stool test and Cyrex Labs array 5, which will test for bunch of autoimmune diseases in one shot – just had that blood drawn today.
I just got the results of a G.I. map stool test. This is a test that we run on pretty much every single patient that comes through Dr. Becky Campbell functional medicine practice where I work as an FNTP. I had a stool test done about two years ago right before I began writing my second book, Made Simple, via Dr. Campbell’s practice before I even worked for her. At the time I was finishing up my NTA curriculum and through the functional evaluation workshops that I had been attending I have self-diagnosed myself small intestine bacterial overgrowth. I wanted to do the stool test along with the SIBO breath test to confirm. I’ve never been a fan of the breath test because it’s weird you blow into a tube; how do you even know it’s working? But the stool test, I find comprehensive and it leaves little to no room for error in sample collection. This looks for infections, candida, dysbiosis, and leaky gut.
If you watch my Sunday morning coffee talks where I have been sharing my personal health roller coaster over the last few months you know that I dove into an AIP keto reset earlier this year because I felt that my health was getting out of control. I had inflammation and symptoms I had not felt in years. I do count myself lucky, however, fortunate that my skin condition never came back full force. Once getting my autoimmune disease in remission, maintaining remission, weight loss, and overall health has been fairly organic for me. I didn’t feel like I had to try that hard. Although I know I was actively eating well and working out consistently for many years, but I enjoyed the process so it wasn’t hard for me. I truly do love the food that loves me back and I take my self-care seriously.
Then came 2020. It took its toll, and I was already vulnerable. I went into the year mitigating some massive, catastrophic issues with work, like losing a book manuscript and having to rewrite it, the stress of launching a book… and building a house… my husband deploying!
I already knew it was going to be a difficult year and then COVID hit, George Floyd’s Murder and the political tensions. I know without a doubt that it had an impact in my health, I could feel the stress so viscerally. So I began to triage, but not soon enough. I’ve talked about being so fatigued with just the year, last summer, I really craved food freedom and dabbled in reintroducing some nightshades (epic fail) and some grains and more dairy. It was a big mistake to try to add in foods when my body was under some stress. It was a purely emotional decision. I know better, I wrote a book on this stuff. I know that digestion is impaired when you are under stress, and it can cause gut issues.
I soon found that doesn’t work for my body, which left me with a lot of inflammation and I was also pretty mad at myself. I spent the fall trying to get back to my feel-good foods and struggling with the mental fortitude to get there.
AIP + Keto Saved Me, Again
Fast forward to January 2020 and doing my AIP Keto reset. For the first time in months, I began to sleep well and my joint pain subsided. I was so inspired by this improvement that I launched my group Better Together where I help people complete a 30-day AIP/Keto reset, suggest targeted supplement support, and counsel on the emotional side of healing. I’m passionate about it because this reset made me feel like myself again!
However, the combination of AIP and low carb is unsustainable long-term. Still, I wasn’t ready to reintroduce non AIP foods so I added in starches and fruit, which I had not eaten regularly in a long time. It was April and I did a month of traditional AIP which still kept my joint pain at bay. After 3 weeks I began to feel other symptoms, some indigestion and bloating with some G.I. discomfort (which I hadn’t had in years). I believe the starches exacerbated candida or dysbiosis. Also, my sleep began to suffer as well, which I believe was related to blood sugar dysregulation, also exasperated by stress.
I decided to reintroduce some foods like nuts and eggs and my beloved decaf coffee and then lower my carbs. This is my feel-good food (a low carb, nightshade free paleo). I’ve been eating this way for a long time I know that works for me. It was harder than I remembered, I felt that my cravings were pretty strong and I needed to snack a lot.
Lab work confirmed high serum leptin levels, so I went in for a leptin reset. Which is pretty much a low carb Paleo, really focused on protein. The biggest shift was incorporating 50g of protein with breakfast, and absolutely no eating between meals. I did that for two weeks and it definitely helped. I was able to eat three meals a day, no snacks and sometimes even two meals a day. The high protein approach kept me satisfied. I meal prepped like it was my job and it was a lifesaver!
I noticed a pattern through my continuous glucose monitor. My body did much better with keto style meals. Following the data not only that I gathered through the continuous glucose monitor but also through lab work I did with my primary care physician, I decided to lower my carbs to keto macros. It’s not the easiest way of eating, especially when you really crave comfort food and have my food intolerances. Yet this slow evolution of my reset in January to the leptin reset to having the data black-and-white in front of me made it easy for me to do it and I just ripped the Band-Aid and started tracking again with cronometer.
I know through my training and also my work with my coaching group and the patients of Dr. Campbell’s practice that often times when the presence of starches and sugars cause indigestion, acid reflux, bloating it’s a sign of dysbiosis and/or SIBO. Through a keto diet a la Made Whole, I felt great, and my continuous glucose monitor showed me fabulous fasting glucose numbers and steady numbers throughout the day. Success! I had struggled to see low fasting glucose numbers in a long time. I felt like I was on the right track, even if there were a few times where I felt the symptoms that reminded me of die off or detox symptoms (nausea, body odor, weird stools).
Where I’m at Now
My theory is that the combination of a keto diet, the way I do it, with a good probiotic was just beginning to remedy my gut issues. When I got the results of my G.I. Map test, my suspicions were confirmed. Not only is dysbiosis present, but I also have candida, which I had never tested positive for before.
I’m not freaking out, it’s actually nice to know that there’s a reason why I have to be so strict to feel so good right now. When you find yourself only tolerating a very specific way of eating, it often points to something going on. This is something I’ve spoken to many times. Diet is very powerful but you cannot outrun stress and the stress of the last year although my diet remained whole food did a number on my body.
The last few months of resets has helped me with my symptoms, and then finally I landed on a diet that was beginning to treat the root cause even without targeted supplement approach, minus the probiotic. However, I have decided to do Dr. Campbell’s protocol for dysbiosis and candida which I’m privy to as an employee. It’s essentially a supplement protocol of that support antimicrobials and immune support.
I want to reiterate, I believe had I done this stool test four months from now after being keto, continuing on a good probiotic and adding in a digestive enzyme, I believe I would have had a much healthier stool test. I do think that the starches in a traditional AIP diet exasperated my symptoms. I’ve said it before, I love them, but they don’t love me. If you have my second book Made Whole Made Simple, in the digestion chapter I cover how stress impacts the secretion of gastric juices and when your upper GI is in jeopardy, it has a cascade effect, which can lead to things like dysbiosis and leaky gut (which can exacerbate autoimmune disease). In the blood sugar regulation chapter, I discuss the inflammatory component to blood sugar regulation. In my first book I have a wonderful AIP Keto meal plan that was the catalyst to this healing re-birth!
You Can’t Out Diet Stress
This information has also been reaffirming of my decision to essentially take the summer to only work part-time. To focus on the things that bring me joy and myself and my family give my body time to heal. Remember I do have an impending move in six months and I’d like to be in a better place for that. I know that it’s extremely privileged to be able to decide to work less. I started this business because I needed to get healthy and The Castaway Kitchen did save me. It saved me in so many ways but primarily it healed my body and that’s why shared my journey, my food, with all of you. It’s why got certified as an NTP, because I wanted to help others do the same. Somewhere along the line this healing work turned very stressful and that’s on me. I’m going to work on my boundaries. I’m sharing all of this with you because even practitioners get sick, even we mess up, even we need to do resets and protocols.
Nobody is immune to stress and I know I sound like a broken record and I know my Better Together Alumni are probably rolling their eyes as they read this but prioritizing sleep, meditating, boundaries with work, and others – these are non-negotiable. Truly taking care of yourself and making those choices that put yourself first – it’s not selfish. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself for your family and your loved ones. I am telling you from experience burning the candle at both ends and trying to white knuckle through has consequences. Either you stop or your body tells you when you’re going to stop. I will keep you all posted with part 2 after my protocol. Leave a comment below if you have any questions.