For most of my life, or as long as I can remember, I have been an extremely sensitive person. I have always had mood swings, my husband and parents would describe them as more like emotional melt downs. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the early age of 7 after almost being held back for poor school performance. In elementary school I struggled with my weight for a few years up until I hit puberty around 11. I wasn’t obese, but I was a bit over weight for my height and body frame. I have several memories of being uncomfortable with my body at a pretty early age. I did end up losing my baby fat, so to speak, but my weight fluctuated quite a bit in high school and throughout college. I used to use my ADHD prescription Adderall to help me control my weight for years. During that time, I would not eat most of the day while attending classes, and by night I would binge on alcohol and junk food. I was clearly not taking care of my body and didn’t do much to change it until I stepped on the scale one day and realized I had gained 15 pounds in 1 year! Even though I was skipping meals, somehow I managed to gain weight.
I began my journey towards healthier living when I was still in college after realizing my current lifestyle was wreaking havoc on my body. By the time I had finished my second semester of my freshman year at Georgia Southern University, I knew I needed to change my lifestyle. I began working out consistently at the gym 5-6 times per week for 2 hours. I included cardio and a weight lifting routine to start. I also began counting calories using the myfitness pal app. I managed to lose almost 30 pounds over the course of my sophomore year. However, I injured myself before the year was over, due to incorrect form while working out. I was going way too hard at the gym almost every day and not allowing my body sufficient rest. I had become obsessed with weight loss to the point that I was not exercising mindfully. I was so devastated after the injury. I had worked so hard get into shape and now I had to quit working out for an indefinite amount of time.
I saw 3 different doctors over the course of several months. Finally, when I was home on break in Atlanta, I saw an orthopedic specialist. I was told that I probably had a herniated disk in my lower lumbar region. He advised against an MRI, since it would cost well over what my insurance would pay. Instead he wrote me a prescription for physical therapy and gave me directions on how to use ice and an electrical muscle stimulator (EMS) to help reduce inflammation and pain. After what seemed like forever, I was given the go ahead from my physical therapist to begin working out again.. GENTLY. I started swimming again and was very careful not to overuse the muscle like I had before.
The thing that changed my life and helped me heal the most from this awful and painful injury was yoga. And I have been obsessed and in love with it ever since. I can say with a huge smile on my face, that although the injury was debilitating for almost a year, I have bounced back almost completely. I still work out on a regular basis, lift weights, do yoga, and hike. I don’t run much anymore because I consistently get injured when I run. It’s like clockwork. Every time I felt good enough to start again, I would go for a run and end up with knee pain the very next day. I tried stretching before and after, I tried supplements, I tried getting fit for new shoes, I tried improving my form when I run, and I also tried running only on soft ground/sand. But none of it really helped. I believe that staying active is so important during our lifetime, but I have found that running puts too much repeated pressure and force on my joints. I was sad to have to let go of running as a form of cardio. But, it has gotten easier to leave behind after moving to California, because I have simply traded it for hiking 🙂
After moving to California in the summer of 2014, I noticed I had some tiny blisters that had formed around the joints and tips of my fingers. I had never had a rash like this one that I could recall. I later found out from my mom that I had suffered from eczema as a baby. Many adults who had infant or childhood eczema will have a long period of time during their youth and adolescence where they don’t experience any eczema outbreaks. Then, sometime during their 20’s and 30’s it resurfaces, which is exactly what happened to me. Stress is a major factor in the onset of eczema breakouts, but it is not the root cause. A year went by and it continued to worsen, along with my adult acne. I have also suffered from acne since I started puberty. A few periods in my life I can recount it being very bad on my cheeks and chin. This usually happened when I was going through very stressful events. But even when my stress levels were relatively low, I would still have zits and pimples. There has really never been a time in my life that I have not had at least a few zits. I have always had acne prone skin.
During the worst period of my eczema outbreak last year I began to think that the water in San Francisco was to blame. I was working a job where I had to constantly wash my hands, so naturally I started to believe that I was having an allergic reaction to the water. Many people are probably sitting here saying, “Water? Really??” Yes, actually water is a common skin irritant in today’s society. Surprisingly, water contains much more than hydrogen and oxygen. It can contain chlorine, fluoride, lead, mercury, hormones (from birth control pills), pesticides, fertilizers, heavy metals and harsh cleaners. In addition to my job, I also did not have a dish washing machine anymore. I spend at least a couple hours a day washing dishes by hand. So now do you still think I’m crazy for thinking water could be the culprit? The only problem with my theory is that, after using gloves whenever I came in contact with water, my eczema still existed.
So back to the drawing board I went, trying to figure out something that was causing the itchy, burning rash on my hands. But there was more. I had ignored the other signs and symptoms for so long. Not only was my skin now suffering from eczema, I also had other symptoms manifesting as well. Some of the other symptoms, that I now believe are all connected, had been present for years. For some time, I had been suffering from painful PMS symptoms that sometimes made it difficult to go to work or class. This is a very common ailment among women, however, it is passed off as being normal, simply because so many women suffer from these symptoms. Just because something is common and widespread, does not mean that it is normal or healthy for your body to be going through. I started experimenting with hormone-balancing herbs, such as chaste berry, which helped my cramps and mood swings, but still has not helped me totally clear up my adult acne. It is also very common for people who have hormonal imbalances to suffer from allergies year-round, like me. Then, back in March of this year, my surprise pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage at 5 weeks. This was truly the wake-up call I needed to re-examine my health and take control of healing my body and mind once and for all.
When you go to the doctor with any symptoms, they generally will write you a prescription that will reduce the symptoms. However, there is never any discussion about the root cause of why the symptoms are presenting in the first place. You see, the body is a finely-tuned machine where the organs are intertwined and dependent on one another. It seems absurd to me that you should go to a different doctor for each organ or body system. For example, if you are suffering from depression, it most definitely has a connection to your gut health and possibly other organs.
After doing months of research on my own, I have found that all of my symptoms are signs of severe gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, which both greatly affect your hormones. Our hormones are regulated by interactions between nerve signals, gut hormones, and bacteria that live within the gut. When your gut is out of balance due to consuming foods that your body sees as allergens, this affects your hormones, mood, and overall health. Millions of people have food allergies and intolerances that many aren’t even aware of! After suffering from skin problems, hormone-related issues, mood disorders, and digestion issues for years, I have decided to take on the biggest challenge I have ever faced with my health.
I have tried cleanses in the past, but I have never done an elimination diet where I cut out all possible inflammation-causing foods for at least 3-4 weeks. There has always been some kind of excuse as to why the timing was not right to start one. Well, I’m done with excuses because I want healthy skin and a healthy body. I have embarked on an elimination diet so that I can know, once and for all, which foods are triggering these reactions. I am also now seeing an acupuncturist and a Naturopathic Doctor to guide me along this journey. Elimination diets can be tricky staying on if you are not eating enough calories. That is why it is so important to plan your meals and snacks ahead and always have protein and produce on hand. I know so many people who have had to stop their elimination diets because they started losing too much weight and feeling constantly fatigued. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my eating plan and recipes on the site with you. I can tell you right now, organic fresh fruits, vegetables and high quality pasture-raised proteins will be on the menu 🙂