How Diet Was Only 10% Of My Problem
Let's get one thing straight before I start this blog. I truly believe in a healthy diet. I believe that nutrition has a HUGE impact on health, so this blog is in no way me saying, "You can eat whatever you like and nothing bad will happen!".
I wanted to clarify that before I dive into "How Diet Was Only 10% Of My Problem".
This blog begins with a story of when I was just a child in diapers.
I have always seemed to have digestive issues. However, when I was little, my parents noticed that any time I ate dairy my stomach would become upset. So they took all dairy products out of my diet. Simple, huh?
My stomach did get a little better from all accounts told by my parents. However, they did mention it didn't fix all my issues.
As the years progressed so did my digestive issues.
As a teenager, I literally lived off Imodium just so I could go to school.
After signing up for a year ten health class, I decided that my diet needed some work. I was eating a constant stream of fast food, candy, chips etc. After a few classes, I decided to overhaul my diet. I started eating a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and only drinking water.
For a teenager, I thought that was a pretty healthy diet. However, this didn't help with my digestive issues. I was still heavily reliant on Imodium and this continued for years.
In my early twenties I started to eliminate foods from my diet as a way to manage my digestive issues. I wanted to experiment with different foods to see if it would have an impact.
This was the first step I took that led me to an incredibly restrictive diet.
I firstly eliminated wheat. I noticed whenever I ate foods that contained any type of wheat my stomach would bloat and become upset. I would also become incredibly irritable. So I decided to take all wheat and wheat-based products out of my diet.
I felt great initially. Then my symptoms came back and they came back with vengeance.
As I progressed into my mid to late twenties I started to really suffer from my digestive issue. There were days I couldn't leave my house because of how upset my stomach was. I was embarrassed and starting to get extremely anxious anytime I had to go out.
So I did what I had always done, I looked at my diet to see what changes I could make. I started researching The Paleo Diet and decided that that was the diet for me.
The Paleo Diet is based on what our ancestors ate. A diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, nuts, and seeds. While avoiding processed foods and sugars, dairy, grains, legumes, and alcohol.
I loved the idea of getting back to basics and I thought what a great way to get my digestive health back!
However, sadly that wasn't the case for me. I had some relief for the first few weeks. However, my digestive issues became worse. I just couldn't get over this constant upset stomach that left me debilitated for days on end.
I didn't understand it. With my nutrition knowledge, I just couldn't fathom how my seemingly healthy diet was causing me so much grief.
At that stage in my life, I was quite jaded by the western medicine. I started looking at other alternative ways to figure out what the heck was going on.
I went to my first naturopath, who did an array of allergy tests to see what foods I could be allergic to. The list was extensive. I had to restrict my diet even further. I removed all nuts, seeds and egg-based products.
Again, I felt better for a week or so, however, I then regressed back. My stomach was causing me to miss countless days at work. I was becoming miserable and my anxiety skyrocketed during this stage.
I went back to the same naturopath as before. I was quite disheartened at this stage and was desperate for answers. They suggested that I removed fructose from my diet. This was becoming ridiculous.
Just a quick recap if it's been hard to follow, I had eliminated:
And now I had to restrict some vegetables and most fruits. This was becoming an incredibly unfulfilling diet.
Instead of relieving the symptoms, this diet exacerbated them. Not only was my stomach extremely upset and inflamed, but other areas of my health also deteriorated.
This went on for a good 6-12 months when I decided to cut out all meat. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn't like my diet wasn't restricted enough. I was desperate and was willing to try anything.
This led to some of the worst health issues I had faced. (Check out my other blog for a visual of what would happen when I got cold sores).
I finally broke.
I went to a different naturopath to see if they had a different opinion. This naturopath told me to restrict my diet even further. I had to hold back a scream.
I literally looked at her square in the face and asked "what can I eat then? Don't tell me what I can't but what CAN I eat"? She had a baffled look on her face and mumbled: " I don't know".
I was completely at a loss. How did a seemingly healthy diet turn into a complete nightmare?
I was completely deflated at this stage.
Obviously, there was something going on. A twenty-something-year-old couldn't have all these digestive health issues without something seriously wrong? Right?
I was racking my brains on what the issue was. Was it some exotic bacteria that I picked up? Was it a type of auto-immune disease? Was I allergic to every kind of food?
Now, looking back, I realized I had fixated on my diet as the only cause of my digestive issues. I had such tunnel vision that the mere thought that it could be something else never entered my mind.
I spent three years looking at all the ways food can impact my digestion without looking at the cause. I was so focused on the symptoms that I was blinded by the true cause.
Stress and Anxiety.
Stress and anxiety ended up being the cause of all my health issues. I'm not being dramatic. I'm being honest. It was a difficult realization.
It was staring me in the face and I can honestly say I didn't want it to be the case. It was too simple. I mean heck, I had been stressed and anxious my whole life, so why all of a sudden did it make me sick?
What a lot of people don't realize is how detrimental stress and anxiety is on the body.
Most of the time the physical effects of stress and anxiety lay dormant. Not becoming present until our stress adaption is overwhelmed. Our bodies then slowly deteriorate.
There are so many people suffering from severe digestive issues and not understanding the true cause.
Digestive health, in recent year, has been a growing area for concern. Many people I have consulted for are suffering tremendous digestive issues and don't know what to do.
I hope for many people out there that they can shift their focus.
I look back now and think: What if instead of focusing solely on the symptoms, I took a more holistic view of health. What if I actually truly looked at every time my stomach was upset I looked at what was happening in my life.
In my early twenties when I decided to remove wheat from my diet, I had just moved house. This led me to travel an additional 40 minutes to and from University. At the time (living with anxiety) I felt completely overwhelmed.
Next, in mid-twenties. What if instead of doing the paleo diet I looked at my life. I was in a dysfunctional relationship, that made me miserable. I was working as a recruitment consultant, which can be a very stressful job. I was working 12 hour days, to come home and have a fight with my boyfriend.
And finally when I was in my late twenties. Instead of becoming vegan, what if I took a critical look at my life. I had moved to a different state to take a job that was extremely unfulfilling. I was also away from family and close friends and had a lot of issues finding a place to live.
Looking back at all these situations, it is blatantly obvious I was stressed and anxious. However, I was so fixated on my diet and what was happening to my stomach, I lost sight of the actual cause. I had this idea that if I fixed my digestive health all my other problems would become obsolete. I was completely misguided.
Don't get me wrong, I was having allergic reactions to food and I was having physical symptoms. I made them my sole focus, that was the issue.
I know I'm not alone in this mindset.
There is a lack of understanding of the mind and body connection. It took me a long time to truly understand it. Once I did, it made me take a step back and look at health in a completely different light.
What I want to bring to the forefront is that stress and anxiety aren't just isolated to the mind, it impacts our body physically.
When we are stressed and anxious there are so many physical and biochemical changes happening that we cant see. It is difficult to acknowledge them when they aren't staring you in the face.
Maybe you're sitting there, reading this blog and finding that it resonates with your own personal situation. I would encourage you to look at your life with a fine tooth comb.
Be honest with yourself.
Are you truly happy? Are you truly fulfilled? Are you living completely stress and anxiety-free? Or are you living in denial about how stressed or anxious you are?
Hey, I'm just asking because that was me.
When I finally took that step back and looked at everything that was going on in my life at those times, I was a mess… Oh, and I was in complete denial about it. Every time my situation worsened, so did my stomach. By the end of it all, I had spent thousands of dollars, fixated on the 10% of the problem.
Fast forward to today. Guess what? I can pretty much eat ANYTHING I want. Given that I'm not stressed or anxious.
I went from just the look of wheat making me break out in hives and cause my stomach to swell, to being able to eat a super cheesy pizza with no issues. Do I eat like that regularly? Heck no, I mean, I am still a nutritionist, but the difference is I know I can eat those foods and not suffer.
My life is no longer run by what I "can't" eat or if there is a bathroom nearby.
I truly hope you can Get Your Sh*t Together - Literally and Figuratively.