March 2017 Health Protocol Update

The BEST Cauliflower Pizza Crust Pizzas with Betsy Schell (^^ her photography!)

**This post was written in 2017 (I used to write posts about my health protocols as I went through them, so those posts are more time-dependent), and since writing this, these health issues have been resolved. I am grateful for these experiences as they inspired me to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and health coach myself. Please remember that this post is not current – it was just a documentation of my experiences at the time.**

After I published my post about the health protocol I’ll be doing for the next 4-6 months, a lot of people asked me to write posts with updates every so often. I am happy to oblige – it’s nice to take you guys along for the ride with me. I also think it will be helpful in case any of you have to go on some kind of “protocol” – this way you can learn from my mistakes! Let’s get into it.

I’m currently on my fourth week of the protocol, so I’m getting the hang of it. Surprisingly, the time has flown!

I’m happy to report that right now, I honestly feel better than I have ever felt in my entire life. It’s incredible. About 2 weeks in, I felt like a completely different person. Things aren’t perfect, but they are monumentally better than before. What is perfect, anyways?

Let me start with the positive effects I’ve noticed. First of all, I feel full for the first time in about 2 years. I had honestly forgotten what it felt like to be satiated by food. If you didn’t read my last post about my symptoms, here’s the deal – one of my biggest issues was that I never felt full during or after meals. I had a constant hunger gnawing in my stomach, which was slowly driving me insane. According to my NTP, I always felt hungry because of my malabsorption issues and my body’s inability to properly digest fats.

I can’t explain my relief now that I am able to be satiated from food. Mentally, physically, and financially, things have become much easier. I can eat a meal, feel full, and go on with the rest of my day without feeling like a ravenous animal. The amount of food I eat at mealtimes now is much more… realistic? I don’t want to say normal, because there is no “normal” amount, really. Basically, my grocery bill is much more do-able, I don’t have to cook 24/7, and I finally feel like my body is functioning properly.

Before, I was constantly frustrated because nothing satiated my hunger. It would take me 2 days to go through the amount of food that should feed a family of four over a week. I felt out of control and stressed out. AND STILL HUNGRY. I’m glad those days are behind me now, but every day I wake up and am honestly a little scared that it’s not real, or that it’s going to go away. I’m four weeks strong, though. It makes me tear up when I think about it – that’s how relieved I am.

Along with that, now that I’m actually satiated after my meals, I have zero sugar cravings. Usually when I see photos of cookies and cupcakes and ice cream on my feed, I think, OHMYGOD NEED THAT NOW. Nowadays, I’m really unfazed. Like, sure, that looks good, but I don’t really want it. Now that my body is actually absorbing the nutrients it needs, it knows I don’t need to be a crazy psycho sugar monster all the time. I feel much more balanced. Since I can’t eat any sugar on the Candida diet, anyways, it’s definitely nice that I don’t crave it or think about it anymore.

The second huge change I’ve noticed is that I don’t have physical pain when I eat or after I eat. I had gotten so used to the stabbing pains and intense cramping that came with every bit of food I put in my mouth, that I honestly hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten until it finally went away. It wasn’t until more recently that this went away pretty much completely, which I will explain more thoroughly in a second. I had a few slip ups that reverted my progress, but in the past week or two – no pain. IT’S A MIRACLE. The fact that I can finally eat food without it feeling like someone is twisting a knife in my stomach is a serious game changer.

My bloating is pretty much completely gone, and my bowel movements are much better. Sorry if you don’t like talking about bowel movements, but that’s part of this. Up until this week, I was still having a really bad time with that. However, this week things have been much more normal, and I’m hoping the pattern continues.

I slipped up a few times during Expo West, which really put my stomach out of whack. A restaurant put pepper on my avocado after I asked them not to, and I ate it anyways. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but it really screwed up my stomach. I was also eating way too many cruciferous vegetables during that time because those were the types of veggies available to me. I was just trying to eat foods that I  wasn’t intolerant to, and I didn’t want to worry about amounts. That set me off track, though. My gut is really sensitive right now as it’s healing, and I have to be gentle with it.

Eating out more often during Expo West, including eating my own food that I packed, made me realize that it’s honestly more stress than it’s worth. And that stress negatively affects my stomach. When I first found out about the protocol, I was really upset that I wouldn’t be able to eat out at restaurants and that I would have to cancel the trips I had planned. However, I’m okay with that decision now. The fact that I feel so much better already makes it worth it, and I realized that the stress of trying to make sure I’m avoiding my food intolerances, packing all of my pills, not annoying everyone around me, etc. is really just not worth it. I’m much happier cooking for myself at home where I don’t have to worry about any of that.

As of right now, the only symptoms I’m having are a) pains if I slip up and eat foods on my intolerance list, and b) still kind of unpredictable bowel movements. I really want to get my digestion completely on track. The other thing I’ve been dealing with are breakouts. I usually never break out unless I eat something that upsets my gut. However, the breakouts don’t really make sense to me right now because I’m not eating anything inflammatory. I have two suspicions. 1. It might have been from some supplements I was taking that I recently found out I shouldn’t have been consuming. 2. My NTP says that it’s probably a detox reaction. My body is finally pushing out the toxins, and detoxing through the skin is one way it’s doing that.

So, what’s been making the biggest difference for me? First of all, taking out the foods that my body was reacting to. Second, supporting my liver and gallbladder properly. I think that being able to properly digest fats has made a world of a difference, and that is the key factor in my satiety. I also think that successfully adding in probiotics has slowly but surely been having a huge positive impact on my digestion. This is the first time I’ve ever been able to add in probiotics without complications, which I’m really excited about.

I’ve also realized that I was eating way too many vegetables before, and it was really screwing up my digestion. I still love my veggies and eat a lot of them, but nowhere near the amount I was eating previously. There have been a few days where I ate larger amounts of vegetables, more closely to what I used to, and I honestly felt horrible afterwards. This has been an interesting realization for me.

I also mentioned on social media that I’ve been trying really hard to properly chew my food. I’ve never been one to speed through a meal, but I eat even more slowly now. I try to chew my food until it is really pulverized in my mouth, which has made it much easier for me to digest. I started thinking about this because in my Balanced Bites Master Class, Diane and Liz mentioned how important it is to chew your food at least 20 times before swallowing. After that, I realized I definitely don’t chew my food 20 times. I inhale it. Since making an effort to really chew my food, I feel like my digestion has really improved.

There were a few other things I slipped up on that I want to talk about, and it has to do with doctor-patient communication, which is so important. I have found that this is such a huge factor in patient results, and it’s something a lot of people don’t talk about. I am working with an NTP and a functional medicine doctor, and sometimes what they say conflicts. They aren’t checking each other, and I’m kind of the middle (wo)man between them.

Long story short, my doctor had me taking a few pills that were actually worsening my problems, and it wasn’t until about a week and a half ago that I realized it. I take responsibility for not checking the ingredients more thoroughly. You should never just blindly trust any supplement your doctor suggests. Basically, one of the pills had traces of soy and dairy in it. Safe to say, removing that eliminated a lot of my problems. I think that might have been causing some of my breakouts, as well. A few of the other pills contained some of the ingredients that my body is reacting to right now, like turmeric and ginger, which means I was still ingesting those every day, furthering my inflammation. This is why it’s hard to work with two different practitioners. Communication is everything. All I can say is to make sure you learn from my mistakes!

The bad news is that because I was taking those pills, my protocol might be extended a month longer. There’s no way to know until I retest, though. The good news is, my NTP was going to shorten my protocol by a month anyways, so now things have kind of evened out. I’m going to retest in two months and we will go from there.

As far as the food goes, I feel like I’ve done well with not letting it get too repetitive, but I’ll admit, it’s still pretty repetitive. I’m running out of ideas. I’m hoping that I’ll have more time to be creative now that I’ve graduated. I’ve been experimenting more with chia puddings, breakfast smoothies, and eggs in the morning. If you follow me on social media, you know I’ve been obsessed with my skillet meals! For dinner, I’ve been having fun with cauliflower pizza, sea veggies, and other veggies that I never bought before.

There are really only a few changes I’m making from here on out, per my NTP’s request. The first is that I really have to stick to limiting the amounts of foods that I’m supposed to be limiting. For example, there are a few foods I can only have 2-3 times a week, but I was having them closer to 4 or 5 times a week. I would have leftovers of those foods and didn’t want to throw them away, so I would eat them again. To remedy that, I started keeping a tally of those foods on my fridge so I don’t forget how many times I’ve eaten them that week. I’m also going to eat those foods in larger amounts so that I can have them fewer times overall each week, if that makes sense. Before, I was only supposed to have one cup of those foods each time I ate them, but now if I have more than one cup at a time, I won’t have leftovers and will truly be able to eat them only 2-3 times each week. Such a puzzle.

Another big adjustment I need to make is to eat my meals earlier in the evening. I think this will be good for me because I’ve been wanting to shift my sleeping schedule anyways, now that I’m not in school.  I’m notorious for eating dinner really late, right before I go to bed. While there’s no problem with eating something before bed if you’re hungry, my NTP explained to me why it’s not great to be in a habit of eating your last full meal of the day right before you go to sleep. She explained there is actually a correlation between people who eat their last meal late at night and SIBO!

While our digestive processes should function no matter what, gravity does help a little. So if you eat a huge meal and immediately lay down to sleep, and you do that every single night, it will take longer for your food to pass through your digestive system and could cause some fermentation in the gut, especially for those of us who are prone to that. I had never realized this before, so I’m really glad she brought this up! She told me to try to leave at least 2-3 hours between dinner and bedtime, so that’s my new goal. If I am actually genuinely hungry before bed after dinner, then I will of course still eat. However, I haven’t had that problem since getting my hunger signals back in check.

Lastly, I’m going to keep trying to add more fermented foods into my diet. I’m adding more probiotics slowly, but I really want to get fermented foods in there, as well. It’s a little hard because I can’t have cabbage, but I’m looking into other options! I recently got a fermented hot sauce, which I’m very intrigued by.

Overall, I’m really really happy with my progress. Amazed, actually. I feel better than I have ever felt, and it gives me hope that this will actually be the last “protocol” I ever have to go on. All good things! I am going to be disregarding the protocol rules on my birthday next week, so we will see how that goes. I will keep you guys updated and check in again in another month!

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