It all started with a series of seemingly unrelated symptoms that spanned over a few years. I remember at about 10 years old I got these random patches of white skin that were itchy and, at one point, covered my entire back. A couple of years later, my digestion went to shit... literally. Shortly after, my energy levels were way below that of a normal high schooler and I was constantly sick with bronchitis and occasionally pneumonia. And as I got older, the acne that seemed to be just a phase for my peers was becoming my new, very annoying, normal (despite numerous creams, antibiotics, ointments, holistic remedies, and years of birth control pills).
I went to various doctors over the years. Some experiences were definitely better than others.... at different times throughout my journey I was diagnosed with IBS, a 6-page list of food allergies, hypothyroidism, and often times wasn't diagnosed at all but was merely written a prescription and sent on my merry way. At one point, I remember a doctor prescribing me a cholesterol drug because one of its side effects would positively affect my digestion. Even then, at 15 years old, I knew in my heart there was something wrong about treating a symptom without actually knowing the underlying cause.
It wasn't until I started studying to become a holistic health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition that I finally got on the right path toward healing. Through my studies I figured out that those white itchy patches I had were actually an overgrowth of yeast. And that, those along with the poor digestion, acne, weak immune system, white film on my tongue, extreme fatigue, constantly cold extremities, and massive list of food allergies all together indicated my actual underlying cause: an overgrowth of Candida.
What is Candida? Long story short, it's a fungus that lives in all of us. But it can overgrow, largely due to overuse of antibiotics and the over consumption of sugar (Remember those fun late night binges? Should've known those would come back and bite me in the ass.). This candida invasion can lead to leaky gut where the candida basically sprouts little legs that poke holes in your gut, possibly leading to a massive list of food allergies, autoimmune disease, hormone imbalances, and even cancer.
So I proceeded to go on a 3 month candida cleanse which basically was my first taste of elimination dieting. I couldn't have any gluten, grains, added sugar of any kind, caffeine, alcohol, dairy, soy, or even fruit (except my one green apple or 1 cup of berries per day). Oh and I took approximately 8 billion supplements every. single. day.
After my protocol was over I decided I wanted to consult with a doctor to confirm that my candida was gone. Good news: it was! Bad news: given that my candida was living as a stow away, undetected for years, the damage was done. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, a condition where my body attacked my thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism.
Enter... Melissa Hartwig's Whole30 and Izabella Wentz's Hashimotos Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause. By following the protocols and guidance of these two books, and using myself as a guinea pig over and over again and finding what worked best for MY body, after over a decade of unexplainable symptoms and unbudging thyroid numbers, I was not only able to stabilize my thyroid numbers, gain back my energy, and discover the joys of clear skin again, I was actually able to reverse my autoimmune disease! So when I tell you to be patient and trust the process, know that that is coming from a place of both knowledge and experience.
A couple of take aways that still remain a part of my life today? I DO NOT include gluten or dairy in my diet and I re-test my food allergies yearly. I take selenium, a high grade fish oil, and vitamin D3. I take special care of my gut health, limit my sugar intake and follow a mainly plant-heavy paleo lifestyle. I prioritize 7-8 hours of sleep as a non-negotiable. And I recognize the power of the mind-body connection with regular meditation, self reflection, and journaling.
For an even more detailed look at how the Whole30 changed my life. Read on.