FROM SUGAR AND STRESS TO MASTER NUTRITION THERAPIST
I’m heading into the middle stretch of life, taking a long-term view of my health horizon since I want it to be as bright and optimistic as I feel inside. I plan to be a “stellar elder” one day, actively working, moving, dancing, volunteering, traveling, learning and teaching! Here’s a quick story of how my past is guiding me towards my future.
As a kid, I craved tasty food that mainly came from bags, boxes and cans. Above all, I loved sugar! Since my grandpa worked for a big candy company there was lots of it around. I had the typical health problems of sugar-holic: upset digestion, weak immune system, never-ending colds and strep throat infections, poor eyesight, acne, hyperactivity, insomnia and mood swings. I took countless rounds of antibiotics and became resistant or allergic to one after another.
When I was still in grade school, my beloved grandma was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and dementia. This lively, brilliant woman who had graduated from law school in the 1930's was now frozen to a wheelchair in a nursing home. My grandpa spent his last years working in the candy shop of the same nursing home until his heart gave out. Traumatized by their declines, I vowed that I would do all I could to keep my body and brain healthy into my golden years. I had always been a dancer, and I started weight training to be strong. But, I simply had no idea what to eat.
As a young adult I became frustrated with my ongoing acne and expanding rear end, so searched health and beauty magazines for answers. I tried conventional eating advice (tiny portions! low-fat! count your calories! snack constantly!) and just wound up binging on chocolate and carbs. I thought of all foods in terms of macronutrient groups, like protein units, fiber and evil fat, without a clue as to the natural synergies of whole, fresh foods. I knew nothing of food quality. When I read ingredient labels that included artificial flavorings and dyes, I just thought "whatever, my body will deal with that!" My hours of exercise started and finished with energy bars and shakes. I tried eliminating certain food groups and felt terrible, since I was deficient in protein, essential fats, minerals and vitamins. I felt anxious and cranky, and got sick constantly. I was now allergic to entire families of antibiotics and my doctors warned that it might be hard to treat a future infection if anything serious happened to me.
I went to work at a fast-moving tech company where my stress level skyrocketed with unpredictably long hours and travel. My caffeine jitters and comfort eating preceded panic attacks at work and home. My hormones were completely out of whack and I was experiencing insomnia, intense nightmares and drenching night sweats in my early 30's. As I now understand, my hormone imbalance plus severe reactions to certain foods, chemicals, and systemic toxicity led me to grow a fibroid tumor the size of a cantaloupe melon. This required excruciating open abdominal surgery to remove it before it crushed my other internal organs. After four days in the hospital, I could barely stand, let alone close my pants due to massive inflammation. I had to take six weeks off work to try to rest, try to eat the boxes of frozen food I had bought in anticipation of my convalescence, and process out multiple pain medications and antibiotics.
Things got worse after I resumed work travel and acquired a skin infection from fire ant bites. (Long story, but don't golf near a swamp!) I could not cut my trip short, and watched in fear as my ankle swelled to massive proportions, with an angry, red, infected line marching upwards. I got a prescription for antibiotics, but I seemed to be resistant to the strain. On my flight home, the flight attendants let me lie across three seats to elevate my leg, and gave me ice packs. As soon as reached home, I went to the ER. I was hospitalized for days on the strongest IV antibiotics. This saved me from widespread soft tissue destruction and prevented the pathogenic bacteria in my bloodstream reaching my heart, but my gut was destroyed afterwards. Every food I ate caused searing stomach pain that felt like fire. What I could eat, I could not digest, and I was agonizingly bloated. This went on for months until I met a wonderful nurse practitioner who prescribed probiotics. I had never heard of these! Little by little, food no longer felt like daggers. I wanted to learn more about the amazing power of natural health.
As I recovered, I began to enthusiastically and wholeheartedly study digestive health and holisitic nutrition to avoid future illness and enhance my health. I learned about food quality and nutrient density. I began eating for sustained energy, mood balance and a strong immune system. I learned to prepare simple, nourishing meals that taste great and fit into my busy days.
I knew it was time to change careers completely and find my life's work. I thought about going into the medical world but my father, a MD and surgeon, had died at age 60 following multiple organ failures related to nutritional excesses and deficiencies. I did not think the answers to how to nourish my body lay ahead on that path. I enrolled in a holistic, functional nutrition program to study clinical applications of therapeutic foods and nutrients for specific disease states. My teachers, who were amazing Naturopathic Doctors and Master Nutrition Therapists, helped me bring my hormones into balance, heal my skin and rebuild my damaged gut. I identified food reactions that had caused me years of inflammation and pain.
Now, I focus on the gut-brain axis, the signaling system that involves digestion, nutrient absorption and a healthy mind. I help people make good choices and get on sustainable plans for their rest of their lives. My clients range from just wanting to feel their best to battling multiple chronic or autoimmune conditions. No matter how complicated each individual's case may be, we go one bite at a time.
I’ve evaluated countless trends and “miracle diets.” There is no one plan that’s best for everyone. Nutrition is intensely personal, and it’s both a science and an art. I understand human biochemistry and can explain what’s happening inside you in a simple way that makes sense. Understanding "how" and "why" can make all the difference. I can help you find what’s right for your lifestyle. Let me share my joy of delicious, nutritious, vibrant health with you!