The pain came on slowly, but intensely, and it radiated throughout my body, up my arm, and into the pile of hangers I was holding. I was 20 years old, and working as a part-time sales associate at H&M in between my college classes. Other things I managed to fit in between classes included a diet of ramen noodles, Chef Boyardee, Wendy's chicken sandwiches, and alcohol. I topped these indulgences off with little to no sleep, and coffee in between my five-hour studios. Needless to say, I was your average college student, and I never expected it to catch up to me, but there I was, leaning against a clothing rack as my stomach cramped up and left me unable to walk. At first, I wrote it off as something I ate, but it never went away.
The five years that followed the first day of my journey with, what doctors have diagnosed as, "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" have been a blur and whirlwind of medical bills, special diets, doctors of all different specialties, endoscopies, MRIs, blood tests, medications, probiotics, emergency room trips, and of course, the hours spent Googling my symptoms and reaching out to others on forums, desperately searching for answers. One by one, every test came back negative every time. Celiac Disease- NEGATIVE, SIBO- NEGATIVE, Fructose Malabsorption- NEGATIVE, Ulcerative Colitis- NEGATIVE, Crohn's Disease- NEGATIVE (note: if you're experiencing unexplained digestive symptoms, skin problems, or general fatigue, I'd recommend looking into the previously listed conditions). While I was grateful to not have any of these conditions (some of which are extremely debilitating for those who suffer from them), it was frustrating to feel like I was never getting closer to the root of my problems.
In the Spring of 2016, I saw a nutritionist named Ayla Withee, who worked closely with my results on the MRT Test, a food sensitivity test that tests for foods to which an individual may be intolerant. My test showed I am very sensitive to amaranth, white potatoes, and baker's yeast, along with a variety of other common foods such as cow's milk, corn, and even salmon. Unfortunately, my elimination diet that typically follows the MRT test did not yield any major results. However, Ayla ordered a comprehensive stool test, and the results that came back showed I was negative for any concerning bacteria or parasites, but that I had a severe bacterial imbalance. This, I learned, is referred to as dysbiosis, or an imbalance in your body's microbiota. Along with this, my iron, B12, and D levels were alarmingly low, which indicated that the dysbiosis was preventing me from properly digesting essential nutrients.
While Ayla moved her practice, and we were not able to continue working together due to the distance, that test showed me just how much my body was thrown out of line. "What causes dysbiosis" was something I Googled several times before getting a good understanding of the condition. What I found was shocking. It can be caused by food intolerances (such as one to gluten), antibiotic use, alcohol consumption, an overabundance of sugar in a diet, and even the way you were born. This is a condition I have been actively attempting to reverse since it was discovered, and it's been both a challenge, and a privilege.
That brings me to now. I'm a 25-year-old Social Media + Community Manager at a company I've been apart of for over two years. I graduated college in 2014, and have made extreme changes to my diet since. I no longer eat meat, dairy, processed foods, anything with refined sugar, and as of recently, nightshades. I can cook up a storm, and have a stack of healthful-driven cookbooks with soup stains on half of the pages. I've found a love for restaurants, vegetables, new foods, aromatherapy and holistic medicine. Above all, I have found a love for helping other people who are suffering with their physical or mental health through diet, and holistic healing. That said, my journey is far from over. I am unfortunately still suffering from most of the same symptoms I did back in the department store in 2012. However, the big difference is I am loving what I have gained from trying to reverse it, and I want to share that. My goal with this blog is to inspire, educate, and encourage others that they are able to take their health back into their own hands by creating a balanced lifestyle through nutrition, wellness, and passion. I hope you'll join me.