I've previously talked about what I've done to supercharge my gut health, but it wasn't until I sat down to write this post today (which in all honesty, was going to be on a completely different topic), that I realized that I've never actually written my story of starting paleo, how damaged my gut was back then, and exactly how I healed my gut.
This is something that I'm often asked about, and as the words flow out of my fingertips in this moment, I'm brought back to exactly where I started. It's so easy to forget how far I've come, and I'm sure many of you can relate. Seeing pictures of myself in the hospital always takes me right back.
We all experience challenges in our own unique way. What matters the most is what we do with them. My challenges and my deepest pain have now become my greatest gifts that I have the honor of sharing with you.
Through my vulnerability, I aim to show you that you can truly do anything. It starts with believing in what's possible.
This was my very first hospital stay, at 12 years old, and little did I know at the time that this would shape so much of my future. This is where my journey truly started…
How I Healed My Gut:
The Beginning (what led me to paleo):
I deeply believe that we all have the ability to heal, regardless of where we're starting. Why do I believe that? Cause I've been THROUGH IT.
Here's just a little of what I've experienced after being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at 12 years old:
- I was on medications for 19 years straight. Some helped me to stay in remission, some didn't work at all, and some caused life-threatening side effects.
- These medications completely altered my immune system, so much so, that my immune system didn't rebound even after I stopped taking them. (You can read more about my experience with medications HERE.)
- I was on antibiotics for over 6 years. Do you know what antibiotics actually do to your gut? Goodbyeee good bacteria! (don't worry, I've now fixed that and then some)
- I had fungus in my lungs (caused by a Crohn's medication) as well as an infection in my blood, which had come from my intestines.
- I've had 5 surgeries and I have no large intestine, gallbladder or appendix (they took that last one out just for fun, haha).
- I was told over and over by every single doctor that I saw, that I would never get better, and that I needed to learn to live my life as it was. Guess who didn't listen? This girl!
This is why I believe that ANYTHING is possible.
It's because I absolutely refused to believe others limiting beliefs that I am where I am today. This is why I'm healthy – because I wouldn't let anyone else write my story for me. I started visualizing what it would look like for me to have so much energy, and to be incredibly healthy. When I look back, it's easy to see that this was the turning point for me. This is what started my entire journey back to health – it all started in my mind.
Back in February 2013, when I changed my diet to paleo, trust that it wasn't AT ALL because I wanted to. I changed my diet because I felt that I truly had no other option. At that point my immune system was so damaged, and the medications were only making everything worse.
My doctor wanted to do surgery on my sinuses (due to chronic sinus infections caused my a Crohn's medication that I had taken), and in that moment, I hit my ultimate rock bottom.
You see, two years prior (to the day), I'd had a life altering and life-saving surgery, to remove over 6 feet of very inflamed, and blocked intestines.
When my doctor told me that I needed to have sinus surgery, I straight up wasn't willing to have any more surgeries. I didn't have over 6 feet of intestine removed just to have another operation.
These are the moments that I'm now so grateful for, because while they were incredibly dark at the time, they also completely shifted the entire outcome of my life, and eventually brought me back into the brightest light that I could have ever imagined.
While we won't always have a choice in what happens to us, the choice we get is how we respond.
On that day, my doctor lit a fire in me, and I knew that I would do whatever it took to get healthy.
I responded with asking my doctor to give me 60 days, and if I couldn't figure this out on my own, I would do whatever it is that he asked. My life was no longer in jeopardy, so I knew that I had time, and my doctor agreed.
(Side note – I now fully realize that I know my body better than anyone, and just because a doctor wants me to do something, doesn't mean that I ever need to do it. The same goes for you.)
So that day, on February 4, 2013, I completely changed my diet to follow a paleo approach, and I've never looked back.
Was it easy? Absolutely not.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I also felt like I had no choice but to figure it out. I'd heard of "paleo" before both from a good friend, who's also an amazing functional medicine practitioner, and other friends who were into crossfit and mentioned how great they felt eating that way.
So why not give it a shot? What did I really have to lose?
I had no idea what to expect, but again, I felt like I had no other option, so I decided to give it my all. I went full force and started my journey with a Whole30. You guys, back then I LOVED my bread, pasta, cereal…all of it. Now, I don't miss it at all (although I do looove me some gluten-free treats on occasion!). I say this because if I can do it, I have no doubt that you can too.
I'd tried several different diets before starting paleo, but they either made no difference, or made me feel worse. This is why I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to diet, as what works for me may be different from what works for you.
I also had a bit of a complicating factor when I first started this journey…because my gut was so damaged from both Crohn's and the many years of medications, I wasn't able to digest many vegetables. Quite frankly, eating vegetables terrified me, as it often landed me in the hospital in excruciating pain, due to an obstruction in my small intestine.
I know from hearing from so many of my amazing readers, that many of you also struggle with digesting vegetables.
So with that, let's talk about how I'm now able to eat as many veggies as I'd like!
How I'm Now Able To Digest Vegetables:
When I first started paleo, eating raw vegetables and salads was something that I dreamt of being able to do. While others complained about eating healthy, I would have given anything for that gift. Perspective is truly everything.
Eating real food is truly a GIFT.
For the first 20 days, I felt terrible. Just like everything else, this is gonna be different for everyone – and you may feel incredible from day one.
My body had A LOT to detox, and for the first 20 days, I went through what felt like a very, very heavy detox. If I could have crawled into a hole and never come out again, trust that I would have done just that.
Then…the magic happened.
On day 21, everything changed, and I literally flew out of bed that morning. I had more energy than I could EVER remember having in my entire life, and in that moment, I knew that there was no going back, and I'd find a way to make this new lifestyle easily work for me. After so many years of being sick, I had a taste of what it felt like to be healthy, and I would do anything to keep feeling that way.
I often see the misconception that paleo means that you have to eat 4,000 veggies, or you're a total failure. This couldn't be further from the truth, as many people find paleo because they're sick and dealing with gut issues. Gut issues and eating lots of vegetables is often a terrible combo.
When I first started paleo, I would only have slow cooked vegetables, green smoothies, or vegetables cooked in soup. These were much easier to digest.
Over time, while I worked to heal my gut (details on that below) I slowly increased the amount of vegetables that I consumed, and experimented with adding more raw veggies into my diet. I used to be terrified of eating things like raw carrots, and even apples, so when I added them back in, I did it slowly, and most importantly, I made sure that I was completely relaxed. To me, stress is the easiest way to screw up my digestion.
Fast forward to now, and I have zero issues digesting vegetables – raw or cooked. It took TIME to get here, and a ton of emphasis on healing my gut…BUT, it is possible.
Let's be very clear here. What I'm sharing with you today is simply what worked for me. In no way, shape or form am I saying that this is what will work for you.
So with that lil disclaimer, here's what I did to heal my gut. It's not as complicated as some of you may be thinking!
How I Healed My Gut:
I didn't even know that bone broth was a thing until I started paleo, but once I learned what it was and that it was great for healing your gut, I LOADED UP on it.
You can easily make your own bone broth (I have a slow cooker recipe + a Instant Pot how-to video and recipe), or you can simply purchase it (Bonefide Provisions and Kettle and Fire are my current faves).
Bone broth has been a huge part of my journey to healing my gut. I'd make sure to get at least 2 cups every day, whether it be sipping it straight up, using it to make soup, or making a bone broth latte out of it.
These measurements are all approximate, but here's what I blend together to make my bone broth latte:
- 12 ounces bone broth
- 1 teaspoon grass-fed butter (ghee works too)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (or 1 scoop of my favorite brand)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
IT'S SO GOOD!!
BONUS: Get a discount + free shipping on Kettle & Fire Bone Broth by clicking HERE!
Collagen is my JAM. I used it daily when I was majorly focused on healing my gut, adding 2 scoops of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides to my coffee/tea/smoothie/whatever liquid I had at the time. I've talked more about collagen in THIS POST (which also has the most delicious cookie recipe, made with collagen!) but for me, I've noticed huge improvements in not only my gut health, but also my hair and nails grow like crazyyy, my hair is so much stronger and thicker than it once was. To me, it's 100% worth it.
I also travel with these handy little collagen packets…cause let's be real, traveling on a plane with baggies filled with white powder maybe isn't the best decision. Mayyybe.
Although I didn't realize it at the time, being on antibiotics for 6 years completely wiped out the good bacteria in my gut. I'm sooo grateful that I never dealt with serious complications from taking antibiotics, but once I realized the actual impact that they had, I made sure to get in tons of probiotics to replenish the good bacteria in my gut.
I currently take Megaspore Probiotics, which I get from my my functional practitioner. Probiotics are one of those things where it's all about finding the one that YOU notice a difference from, as it's not a one-size-fits-all approach.
I make sure to get probiotics from a variety of different sources – Farmhouse Culture Kraut and Gut Shots are my favorite (I take a few swigs of the gut shot daily), along with Kombucha and occasionally Kefir (Forager makes a great dairy-free version).
I always recommend, as with anything to start out slowww, and of course talk to your health care professional before taking any new supplements. Depending on what shape your gut is in can depend on how well you tolerate probiotics.
Many years ago, because my gut was so damaged, too many probiotics made me feel bloated. Over time, my body adjusted and now I do great with very high quantities of them. Again the reminder of what works for me may not work for you – self-experimentation is the way that I've figured all of this out!
Our bodies will always tell us what's up, it's just up to us to actually pay close attention.
Even today, I continuously work on my gut health, because I truly believe that it's the base to my entire well-being.
After traveling for the past few weeks, I intuitively felt that my gut could use an extra boost, so I've been back on the train of drinking a bone broth latte every morning, adding in 2 scoops of collagen into my matcha/tea, and continuing with probiotics. In just a week I've already noticed a difference, and my overall energy has been amazing!
Of course this will be different for everyone, as what works for me may be the complete opposite of what works for you. It's my hope that this simply gives you a place to start, or a different perspective on how healing is possible.
Sometimes, all you've gotta do it take that first step towards your goals. It may not be easy (let's be real, it'll probably feel incredibly challenging), but it'll be worth it.
You've got this!
If you're struggling to sustain a healthy lifestyle, be sure to check out my post all about how to make paleo easy.
PIN IT FOR LATER – How I Healed My Gut:
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