A couple of years ago a friend told me about the book It Starts With Food. I was feeling run down, I didn’t have energy for my runs and I felt exhausted most days. I was getting plenty, if not too much sleep, but never woke up rested. She suggested I get the book and possibly do a Whole30. She thought maybe nutrition was the key to what was going on. At that point anything was worth trying.

At one point I would have told you this book was the best thing to happen to me and that Whole30 opened my eyes to a better way of living.

I don’t regret buying the book or doing Whole 30 multiple times. I’ve learned a ton about myself and nutrition in the process. It unlocked a desire to learn more about food, where it comes from, and the effect it has on my body. I started cooking and have tried many new-to-me foods. I have purchased more books on food and nutrition in the past couple of years than I care to admit. Let’s just say that my bookshelf could be a mini library all about food.

The more I read about nutrition however, the more confused I became. One book is telling me that quinoa is healthy and a good source of protein and another book is telling me it’s causing inflammation in my body. One book is telling me to count calories and another book is saying that you never have to count calories again if you eat enough protein and healthy fats.

 

The first time I completed Whole 30 I felt and looked fantastic {or what I consider fantastic since most days I’m still stuck in a never-ending cycle of being unhappy with my appearance}.

In hindsight the reason I felt great is because for 30 days, with no slip ups or cheats, I didn’t touch wheat {because wheat is a grain and grains are not allowed}.

A positive effect Whole 30 had on me, was that I wasn’t afraid of fat anymore. I could eat an entire avocado drizzled in Olive Oil and not feel an ounce of guilt. Both were “real” foods and contained healthy fats.

As time went on my fat in take increased and increased. Snacks were nuts {despite knowing how hard they are on the digestive track in large amounts and despite the fact that I was diagnosed with non-life threatening allergies  to Almonds, Cashews, Peanuts, Pecans and Walnuts. I cooked almost everything in coconut oil and never felt bad about eating Paleo approved bacon. Fat was my friend and was supposed to help me feel full.

In January of 2014 I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy. I’d love to tell you that I have avoided it since, but I haven’t. It’s been an up and down process. I would avoid it, only to get angry in my head that I couldn’t be like everyone else and drink beer or eat a donut, and no I’m not talking about having a cider beer, or a wheat free donut, I wanted to eat “normal” food and not feel terrible after. I would rebel against myself – ha – well I’m going to eat what I want – only to pay a steep price later. This sounds like an incredibly juvenile attitude towards food allergies but the truth is that I was diagnosed with so many things, that I felt like I couldn’t eat anything {more on these results in an upcoming post}.

Allergies

And so began the cycle….Whole 30….eat Paleo….slip up….feel guilty…eat a ton of whatever I wanted because I missed it…..feel terrible…..do a juice cleanse {I still like juicing and will continue on with this in moderation}…..start Whole 30….repeat….

My weight has gone up and down ever since. It’s not something I’m proud of, it makes me feel terrible. Terrible that I love fitness, health, eating whole foods, nutrition – yet for the past couple of years they all seemed out of wack.

If you have never felt out of wack and unable to make the changes you so desperately want, you will have no clue what I mean. If however you know what it feels like to want to change from the core of your being but feel powerless at times, then you get me and this struggle. Maybe it will make you feel better if you too are like this, to know that YEP, I struggle too – just like millions of others.

I started to notice after a while that even when I was doing Whole 30 I didn’t feel the magic that I knew some of my friends felt. I felt better than every day normal life, but I didn’t feel AMAZING like others were telling me. I will be the first to admit, that I have suggested Whole30 to more people than I can count, and if you read on, maybe it is something that will work for you….it just doesn’t work for me, not anymore anyways.

There had to be something I was doing wrong, maybe there was a sneaky ingredient in something I was eating. It was my fault it wasn’t working for me, even though I was obsessively following the plan with zero slip ups.

It was only when I went and visited Gaia Herbs this summer that everything started to come together in my head.

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Ric Scalzo, founder of Gaia Herbs, spoke a lot about our micro-biome.

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It had to be my gut. Maybe it was foods I was eating as well {it was}, maybe the bacteria in my stomach was unbalanced, I didn’t know – but I was convinced after that trip that something had to be wrong or “off” inside of me.

The final straw came after a run. I made myself a Vega Protein Shake and went outside to sit and watch the sun rise. Midway through my shake I felt sick and ran inside and threw up. Along with the shake was the undigested Brussels Sprouts from the night before. A full 12 hours had passed and these sprouts were still sitting in there. It made no sense to me. I’m not a doctor but I felt like they should have been partially digested and/or not still in my stomach. I called my Gastroenterologist and set up an appointment.

I went back to her with the same symptoms I had last fall only now I had more. In the fall I had a colonoscopy, it was ruled out as the problem.

In hindsight I should have kept pushing for an answer. The problems I have, though I don’t talk about them extensively on this blog are very real and affect my every day life.

She suggested that maybe it was my gallbladder and that she wanted to run a test {HIDA Scan with CCK} on it. If it wasn’t that she would help me find out what it was.

As it would turn out, it was or is shall I say my gallbladder. The kicker is that I have been unknowingly making myself feel worse and worse over the past couple of years with the massive increase in fat.

My gallbladder is not functioning as it should. It’s not pushing out enough bile into my stomach when I eat. Bile attaches to fat and helps digest it {this is a very simplified statement – if you want to learn all about bile and how it works you can click HERE}.

To make a very long story, shorter, I have reduced my fat intake drastically. I’m now aiming to get under 40 grams of fat a day. This sounds like a lot but compared to what I was eating, is nothing. Consider this – one avocado can have 23 grams or more of fat. A high fat, low carbohydrate diet, was literally causing many of my symptoms.

My doctor suggested that if in 30 days I’m still having symptoms after altering my diet, I should make a consultation for surgery. The problem with surgery, in my eyes, is that there is no guarantee that I will feel better. Unlike someone with gallstones, the pain I feel is not isolated to my gallbladder.

Now for the insane part, I haven’t had one single “bathroom” issue since I started eating less fat. My stomach “hurts” less. If you want to read what I’m talking about you can read the Clinical Significance on this page. If you are easily grossed out {I am} skip this and just trust me that my stomach hurts.

I’m not saying in any way that Whole 30 or Paleo is terrible, to each his own. What I am saying is that you have to be vigilant with your research and really pay attention to how your body feels. What works for one person may be terrible for another. I’m working on getting back to a place where I no longer feel the need to constantly do “resets” – I’m eating grains {no wheat – no ever, now way, no how and I’m sticking to it} and loving them.

Knowledge is power.

I was previously diagnosed with IBS {most likely because they couldn’t figure out what was going on and IBS is a catch-all diagnosis}, I do not have IBS {according to my doctor my symptoms are all being caused by my gallbladder}.

I was diagnosed with Gilbert’s Syndrome, and maybe, just maybe I don’t have that. Maybe the excess bilirubin I have in my system from time to time is a result of how well or how bad my gallbladder is functioning.

“Besides its digestive function, bile serves also as the route of excretion for bilirubin, a byproduct of red blood cells recycled by the liver.” Source: Wikipedia  

When I got my results back from my blood work the nurse noted that though my Vitamin D level was 32 – technically putting me in the normal range of 30 – 80, it was rather low for someone who not only is outside in the sun all the time, but who also supplements Vitamin D.

“Since bile increases the absorption of fats, it is an important part of the absorption of the fat-soluble substances, such as the vitamins A, D, E, and K.” Source: Wikipedia   {note: I did not have A, E, and K tested, but when I do my next blood check up am requesting a full panel of vitamins}

I’ll say it again – Knowledge is power. I do not regret this journey at all, in fact I’d venture to say that in the past year I’ve learned more about myself, my dreams, my goals, and what I want out of life, than I have in all of my previous years. Life is a journey and this is my path.

There is more to say and I know I’m leaving things out, but this post is already ridiculously long and I have no clue if this will help anyone or interest anyone other than my mom, so I’ll leave it here and talk more another day.

 

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