My Story

My Son’s Story

I was interested in health and food long before I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I’m a complete food nerd. I love to cook and find deep satisfaction and joy in feeding people. I love getting my hands dirty in the garden, though with the Pacific Northwest’s short growing season I’m lucky to have great local farmers and ranchers to buy from the rest of the year.

Our urban home is surrounded by gorgeous mountains and ocean making quick getaways for hiking, camping, and road trip adventures easy. Adventure and travel play important roles in our family life. We’ve even figured out how to travel, sometimes for months at a time, in foreign locations regardless of our tricky food situation.

Michelle-Headshot

I love to curl up with a good book though these days I find myself listening more to audiobooks while I squeeze in some exercise. I started out as an art history major but switched gears and got an education degree. I had a small catering company in my 20’s and later had a short stint as a personal chef. I still cook a lot and I’m still pretty crafty but don’t find nearly enough time for that outlet and someday (really!) I’m going to learn how to knit.

Certifications: B.S., Certified Nutritional Therapy (NTP), Gut and Psychology Syndrome Practitioner (GAPS)

My Health Journey

My health journey was decades in the making so I’ll cut the minor details and stick to the highlights. I was an healthy, energetic, happy kid until my pre-teen years. Every winter I ended up with one, though often two, rounds of terrible asthmatic bronchitis. I always had a hard time shaking it and for a few years in a row I ended up in the hospital on multiple rounds of antibiotics and breathing treatments. I also, as my mom put it, was ‘an accident looking to happen’. I was that kid that managed to fall just right and need stitches, crash my bike and mangle my foot in the spokes or have a nail go through my foot while leaping to home base in a neighborhood ball game. The list goes on but I’ll spare you the gore. And with every one of those accidents came another round of antibiotics.

Throughout my late teens and well into my twenties I suffered from a series of seemingly random strange health occurrences. Doctors could never figure out the cause of my strange symptoms, but eventually the problem would go away and I’d feel better until the next odd problem would pop up and as before, the doctors couldn’t tell me why it was happening but with time this new problem also disappeared. What kind of odd things? I’m not talking debilitating stomach pains, digestive issues, golf ball sized hives, or intense brain fog. I had all of those, sure, but they seemed so ordinary to me that I didn’t think they were extraordinary. No, I’m talking unusual enough that I stumped the doctors with things like the skin around my eyes drying up and resembling the cracked mud of a dry lake bed, fainting out of the blue,  mysterious itchy rashes, and the skin around my lips peeling off in sheets.

In my late 30’s I suddenly found myself so fatigued that I drank caffeine all day long so that my boss wouldn’t find me with my head on my desk. I chugged an energy drink before leaving work each evening so that I didn’t fall asleep on my 15 minute drive home from work and declined nearly every social invitation because I just couldn’t conceive having the energy to have fun. I was eating all day long to keep near constant hunger at bay and yet was dropping weight alarmingly fast. Rounds of blood tests, food eliminations, and many doctor visits later I continued to stump the doctors. They told me pancreas was failing but didn’t know why. I was handed a bottle of digestive enzymes and sent on my way.

Fast forward to my early 40’s, just after the birth of my son and things starting getting really challenging. Not only was I feeling terrible, but my new little guy was having a hard time, too. His story is below. Because he required so much extra care, I chalked up my own increasing brain fog, achey joints, fatigue, etc to the challenges of being a new mom and to my newly diagnosed celiac disease.

It was while trying to help my son that I found the path toward my own healing. I discovered that those many rounds of antibiotics had certainly taken care of what they were supposed to, but they’d obliterated my health in other ways. I also found that although eliminating certain foods was helpful, it wasn’t the solution to my problems. Similarly, taking supplements to help my body function in ways it couldn’t without the extra support was beneficial, but supplements weren’t the solution either. They both contributed to making me feel better, but the underlying cause still needed to be discovered and addressed. When I understood and knew how to do that, the healing began. It required identifying what barriers to health my body was experiencing – what organs weren’t functioning optimally, which systems weren’t balanced and how to get these things resolved. Everyone’s path to healing and optimal health is different and I’d spent years with doctors (and the internet) giving me general advice. I needed to discover what my body specifically needed and to give it those things. Today I use food, supplements, and lifestyle (restorative sleep, physical movement, stress management, social relationships and family time) to balance my body and experience great health. It’s the best I’ve felt since I was a kid!

About My Son

I’m mom to a child who had a rough start but a wonderful outcome. This little boy experienced such alarming health and behavior issues that we knew something had to change; we just didn’t know what or how. From the get go he was alert and intense. As an infant and toddler has had horrible reflux. He was sensitive in every way – to texture, taste, light, and temperature and had very fragile emotions. He never slept for more than 2 hours at a time and didn’t sleep more than that until he was 4 years old. One minute he’d seem fine and the next he was throwing a tantrum beyond the normal kid tantrum or he’d space out for long periods of time, not answering or even recognizing that he was being spoken to. He had diarrhea and constipation. Eczema flares caused blistered sores on his arms. Nasal congestion and earaches became his norm.

We began to correlate certain foods with particular health or behavior issues. We eliminated ‘trigger foods’ and added supplements to help balance body and support his health which helped but symptoms seemed to be moving targets and as one thing disappeared something new soon appeared. We saw many doctors and ran test after test. Allergy doctors told us that although he didn’t have anaphylactic allergies, he couldn’t have gluten, soy, dairy, egg or corn.

We continued to remove foods that caused behavior and health issues and at one point his diet was limited to just 12 foods that he didn’t react to. Try making rutabaga and celeriac interesting to a little kid day after day for two years. I enrolled him in preschool just to give myself uninterrupted time to research and cook, cook, cook. Every single thing that went into his body was made at home from scratch because we had to be certain of what he eat. There was no room for error. We followed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and then the Gut and Psychology & Physiology Syndrome Diet (GAPS) and avoided gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, salicylates, amines, tyramines, food coloring, preservatives, gums and thickeners, and processed food in general while seeing specialists who finally helped us make headway with our son’s food issues. It wasn’t easy and sometimes it felt like we were taking two steps forward, one step back, but we made progress.

Today this little boy (who is not so little anymore) is healthy and thriving and if you met him you’d never know that when he was a toddler he’d displayed signs of autism. He’s super smart, a pleasure to be around, has great social skills and as long as it’s a wholesome food he can eat just about anything. Yes, even the foods that used to cause problems. Even the foods that allergy doctors told us he was allergic to.

The key was twofold: healing my son’s gut and understanding his specific biology. There is no dispute that an unhealthy, leaky gut leads to poor health. Symptoms can manifest in so many ways from mild to severe and can be seen in behavior, mood, emotions, cognitive ability and health. So healing the gut is essential. However, there may also be other barriers preventing someone from experiencing optimal health and that’s where bio-individuality comes in. Each person’s biology is unique to them and requires specific steps and interventions to make it work optimally. Yep, even within the same family. We may all share the same gene pool, but inside we’re all different and those differences need to be discovered and attended to before a body can truly heal. I learned some of this along the way but had my knowledge and skills expanded and solidified as I became a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.

I meet so many people who are suffering from a wide variety of issues. Their stories or the stories of their family are so similar to mine but they haven’t yet found the healing they so desperately need. I am so happy to now be able to help others. I love that I can put my years of experience and my education to good use and save others the time, labor and frustration of trying to figure it out for themselves and get them moving forward on their own healing paths.