Updated: Dec 4, 2020
If you’ve heard anything about my story, you know that I was anything but healthy during my teens and early twenties. When I first started talking about my story with clients and friends, I would immediately feel regret because the story could have gone very differently in many ways. So many of the decisions that led me on this path were outside of my control, and I accepted what I was told because I was at such a young age when everything began. Now, I feel immense gratitude for how far I have come. I wouldn't be where I am without this story.
A quick disclaimer before I begin. This should not be taken as medical advice. Everyone is completely unique and needs their own customized plan for their unique journey. What I am going to share is what worked for me, but not necessarily what will work for anyone else. My story is for educational purposes only.
It all began with severe hormonal acne that started around the age of 14. As I am sure you know, those adolescent years are tough enough as it is, and appearance means a lot in high school. My older sister also struggled with acne, and she was given a magic pill that made them disappear. So, a visit to the doctor later, and I had a prescription for antibiotics to help with that acne. Two pills a day were prescribed for an indefinite amount of time. It seemed like the greatest thing ever, the pills worked, and my skin cleared up! And so my journey began with big pharma.
After a year of continuous use with great success, I started developing severe stomach pain, and was mysteriously throwing up really frequently. Another visit back to the doctor, and I was diagnosed with acid reflux disease (the idea that my GI problems were related to long term antibiotic use was never brought up or discussed). Another prescription was written, another daily pill and I was all set.
Then, the hormonal problems begin. I would have extremely severe cramps and heavy bleeding every month. I was in bed 2-3 days a month unable to function without the use of high dose ibuprofen (no worries though, the doc was able to get me prescription strength!). I struggled for years with that, and finally went back to the doctor and was given another new solution, birth control pills, the solver of all female problems. Another prescription, good to go!
The years went on, as did the continuous use of all those prescriptions. I never felt well. I was chronically tired with extreme mood swings and I caught every bug going around. At one point I had mono and scarlet fever at the same time. I missed so many days of school, sometimes for weeks at a time. I was depleted and sickly, not at all how I expected my late teens and early 20’s to go. Add to this a lot of high stress, heavy social drinking, little sleep, occasional cigarette smoking, and I was on the fast track to chronic illness.
Let's recap. By age 24 I was on two antibiotic pills per day, I had reached a point where I was on three prescription PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors) each day to control severe and never ending acid reflux, daily birth control, and extremely high doses of ibuprofen 3-4 days out of the month to manage cramps. Each day consisted of pills taken at certain times. If I missed a PPI, I would get such a severe heartburn that I was unable to eat or sleep. Traveling required one of those huge AM/NOON/PM pill containers, and yet, when I went to the doctor, I was considered to be young and healthy. I was having all kinds of strange and scary symptoms. I was always out of breath, I was dizzy after walking up steps, I had heart palpitations, and I had severe stomach pain that came and went. My hands and feet were frequently numb or tingly, and I was diagnosed with Raynauds. The stomach pain sent me to the ER one evening where I was laughed away and diagnosed with gastritis. I went to a wide range of doctors including neurologists, cardiologists, and an immune specialist. No one took me seriously, and all of them were ready to write me a new prescription to manage my symptoms.
At age 25, I was a year into my marriage and the owner of a small pet sitting business. Something inside of me began nudging me in a new direction. I can't say exactly what it was, but I like to think it was my guiding inner force and intuition, my spiritual helper nudging me in a new direction. I began a journey towards greater health by changing out personal care products and cleaning products, I started eating more of a whole foods/plant based diet. I started getting involved in animal welfare issues. I had the realization that every choice I made, from what I put on my body, what I ate, and the environment I lived in affected my overall health. And, I started questioning how necessary all of those pills really were for my life.
Despite these doctors assuring me that I could be on all of these pills *forever* with no problems, I started doing my own research on the long term implications of being on so many medications. I read horror stories of individuals who had all kinds of health problems after being on PPI’s long term, many including severe nutritional deficiencies, chronic gut issues, and fractures. This wasn’t the future I wanted for myself, so I decided to take my health into my own hands. Let me pause and say that you should always speak with a trusted medical professional before making any changes to your prescriptions. If I could go back and do it again, I would have found a knowledgeable practitioner to come alongside me and advise me so that I would not have been alone on the journey. If I can encourage anything, it would be to *keep looking* until you find a practitioner that you trust, and that is willing to partner with you to reach your goals.
I decided to stop the antibiotics and birth control first, knowing that my acid reflux would be the hardest to tackle. It wasn’t easy, I immediately broke out and I wasn’t at all happy with my complexion, but it allowed me to see the connection between what I ate and how it showed up on my skin. The PMS and cramps were intense but it forced me to learn new ways to care for myself. By removing these two things, I began connecting with my body without the masks of prescriptions. I began meditating, doing yoga, and journaling.
Next, I decided it was time to focus on the acid reflux. I took a phased approach and begin by dropping from three pills a day down to two. In my opinion, diet plays the largest role when it comes to heartburn/acid reflux. So, before trying any herbs or supplements. I adopted a whole-foods, plant-based diet with the exception of the highest quality eggs from a local farm. Please note that I do not recommend this diet for everyone. It was a combination of an ethical decision and a health choice. I was serious about wanting to change my health, so I stopped eating any and all processed food, and begun cooking 90% of my meals at home, and bought only organic for everything I could. Fiber is so important to overall health, and by cutting out meat and processed food, it allowed space for so many high quality fiber sources (All the beans! All the veggies! All the fruit!). I stopped drinking any type of soda or sugary drinks and switched first to sparkling water, and finally to filtered water (and recently, to spring water!). I cut down significantly on all types of alcohol. I began including digestive bitters in my diet before meals, to help my body prepare for digestion and signal to my body to make the proper gastric juices. During this time, the acne started going away for good. The state of our gut is directly related to the state of our skin. The cramps got better over time, but it has taken me *years* to reach a point where I am finally able to function during the first days of my cycle.
As I weaned myself down from two pills to one, I also included high quality digestive enzymes before most meals and included HCL (hydrochloric acid) to help me break down my food properly. One of the misconceptions about acid reflux disease is that it is a product of too much acid, when it really is a problem of too little. When you take PPI’s, you shut down all acid production in your gut which causes a cascade of problems. Without proper stomach acid, you cannot properly break down food or absorb nutrients. This can lead to multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies and I was no exception. So, for me, I had to train my body to digest food again. I eventually went from one pill down to a half, and finally to none. This process took me a full year and it was not without its complications and set-backs. Since then, I have chosen to include bone broth back into my diet from only the highest quality and most ethical sources.
A couple of years into my journey, I started studying herbalism. Herbs helped tremendously.
In addition to an herbal preparation of digestive bitters and the above listed supplements, I drank a cold infusion of marshmallow root tea 3-4 days per week. I also drank teas throughout the week that included various mixtures of dandelion root, plantain leaf, cinnamon, licorice root, and/or fresh burdock root. I sought out high quality probiotics and rotated them frequently to get different strains. After reaching a point of no longer needing any medications, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the work of Zach Bush who is, in a term, life-altering. I began his incredible Ion-Biome supplement which has helped to heal my gut lining and assist with food sensitivities that I have struggled with. I very rarely get heartburn anymore, and when I do, it’s directly related to poor eating and easily taken care of with herbs.
So, I am 9 years older now and still on this journey. I did extensive damage to my gut and whole body, there is no doubt about that, but I believe in my body's innate ability to heal. This is an ongoing journey for me that I continue to work on. If you've read my past blog post, you know I have struggled with years of infertility. I still have weird and ongoing symptoms and struggle with chronic fatigue, but I know I am moving in the right direction. Last year, I learned about a bioenergetic scan that provided incredible insight into food sensitivities and resonating toxins, which has allowed me to dig even deeper into my healing. This scan, from Creating Balanced Health, has truly changed my life, and it is now something I use with many of my clients to help support their unique healing journey.
Honestly, I am so thankful to be here and this journey is what makes me so passionate about helping others. Working with clients has been the greatest blessing. I specialize in gut health which includes leaky gut and acid reflux, fertility, hormone support, and lifestyle changes. I view the body holistically and use herbs supportively as well as medicinally to bring balance to the body. I love educating my clients on how to incorporate herbs into their daily life, whether that be through the use of tinctures, teas, herbal baths, or cooking! If you want to learn more about me or the services I offer, please check out my website, or contact me directly!
*If you are interested in learning more about herbs, I offer an educational herb box and I release a new one every two months. The box focuses on one herb at a time and includes that herb in a variety of forms (ex: dried form, tincture, hydrosol), an herbal project to help you learn to make your own kitchen medicine, and a couple of goodies including that herb (examples include: teas, bath salts, body oils, sprays, etc). And with your box, you will also receive an E-Zine that focuses in depth on the herb. This E-Zine comes from Natural Herbal Living, an amazing little company that released a new magazine each month focusing on a different herb, and where I used to be the publishing manager for the e-zine (the company was unfortunately a covid casualty and no longer publishes, but the past issues are a wealth of information and I love being able to offer it as part of the box!). Check out my current box offerings here, and sign up for my newsletter to hear about upcoming box releases!