Meet Master Nutrition Therapist, Catherine Layden

Meet Master Nutrition Therapist, Catherine Layden

FROM SUGAR AND STRESS TO MASTER NUTRITION THERAPIST

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 30'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. 

The part can never be well unless the whole is well.
— Plato

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 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!

Functional Nutrition for Vibrant Health

DEGREES AND CERTIFICATIONS

  • Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition® by the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP)
  • Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT), Nutrition Therapy Institute
  • Certified Gluten Practitioner (CGP), In-person course with Dr. Tom O'Bryan, expert on celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity
  • LEAP (Lifestyle Eating and Performance) Therapist
  • Clinician Member, Seeking Health Educational Institute
  • Bachelor of Science (BS), Georgetown University

I earned my Master Nutrition Therapist diploma at the Nutrition Therapy Institute (NTI) in Denver, CO after completing two years of classroom study, researching and presenting my thesis, and interning as a certified nutritionist with a Naturopathic physician.

I follow experts in the scientific fields of nutrigenomics and epigenetics, which examine how nutrients and environmental effects influence our genes. My particular area of focus is psychoneuroimmunlogy, the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the body. The gut-brain connection is the foundation of sustainable good health! Exciting new information comes out everyday, and I have completed hundreds of hours of continuing education credits to maintain National Board Certification. Some highlights are listed below.

CONTINUING EDUCATION IN FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE AND NUTRITION

  • Microbiome Science, Tom Fabian, PhD, CNTP
  • The Forgotten Role of Micronutrients in Addressing Gastrointestinal Dysfunction, Dr. Arland Hill, DC, MPH, DACBN
  • Digestive Intensive, Holistic Nutrition Lab, Andrea Nakayama, CNC, CNE, CHHC
  • Food Sensitivity: The Hormone Connection, Dr. Datis Kharazzian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci
  • Female Hormone Functional Medicine Training, Dr. Diane Mueller, ND, LaC & Dr. Miles Nichols, LaC
  • Metagenics Women's Health Seminar - Dr. Joel Evans, MD & Monique Class, MS, APRN, BC
  • Mastering Brain Chemistry, Dr. Datis Kharazzian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci
  • Early Signs of Brain Degeneration, Dr. Datis Kharazzian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci
  • Neuroendocrine Immunology Series: SIBO, Hepatic Detoxification, Andropause, and Environmental Triggers, Dr. Datis Kharazzian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci
  • Functional Blood Chemistry,  Dr. Diane Mueller, ND, LAc & Dr. Francesca Quinn, ND
  • Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, Dr. Datis Kharazzian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci
  • Blood Chemistry and CBC Analysis, Dr. Dicken Weatherby, ND & Dr. Scott Ferguson, ND
  • MTHFR & Methylation Practitioner Training, Coleen Walsh, MFA, MNT
  • Methylation, Seeking Health Educational Institute, Dr. Ben Lynch, ND

Eat healthy, eat clean, avoid food intolerances

HOW AM I DIFFERENT FROM OTHER NUTRITION PROFESSIONALS? 

I became a Master Nutrition Therapist because the realistic, honest, time-tested principles behind holistic nutrition make the most sense. Holistic nutrition takes every aspect of each individual's life circumstances into careful consideration. There is nothing "alternative" about holistic nutrition; it is simply fundamental.

After carefully evaluating different courses of study and credentialing programs, I chose the cutting-edge, robust, in-classroom nutrition program at the Nutrition Therapy Institute. Learning, brainstorming and cooking with my fellow students provided a much richer learning experience than what I could find in any online nutritionist or coaching program.

I can most effectively help my clients by delivering personalized recommendations based on natural, wholesome foods that our bodies can recognize and use, rather than condoning substances that may be genetically modified or created in a lab. No modern food manufacturer can improve on nature's intelligence. Food has changed more in the past century than ever before in human history, and the statistics of preventable, chronic diseases in our modern world speak for themselves. I study the nutritional practices of the happiest, most active and long-lived traditional populations on earth. The common theme among these societies is clean, pure, nutrient-dense nourishment that's appropriate for each climate and lifestyle.

Losing weight and getting healthy don’t have as much to do with calories or fat grams or carb counting as you’ve been led to believe. The secret is to break free from food additives and obesogens that are getting in your body’s way as it tries to burn fat and keep you healthy.
— Vani Hari, The Food Babe

I believe that education leads to true understanding, motivation and empowerment. My clients love learning what's going on inside of their bodies, how metabolism works and how personal biochemistry really is. There are also many psychological aspects to nutrition therapy. I help clients through the emotional challenges of changing food choices and creating positive lifestyle habits. We determine what patterns are right for YOU. The composition, timing and thorough digestion of meals are key for physical and mental health as well as weight loss. Once we get away from outdated calorie counting and tiny portions, we can create a very easy diet so you feel licensed to enjoy delicious meals without worry.