My Gut Healing Journey
At age six I announced to my carnivore family that I turned into a vegetarian, and for the next 20-something years I’ve continued to embrace variations of a plant-based lifestyle. Though my love for animals sparked this decision, learning about the health benefits of a nourishing plant-based diet sustained my choice.
I transitioned from a junk-food vegetarian eating McDonalds french fries dipped in vanilla ice cream and Dr. Pepper with extra sugar for my meals to centering my meals around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based protein. This coincided with my passion for cooking. As a child I always found myself in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes and constantly watching the Food Network (Giada and Alton were my idols). I also loved helping out at my family owned Italian restaurant. Nothing lights my fire quite like seeing someone enjoy a nourishing dish that I prepared!
Fast forward to college where my type A, high achieving self struggled with orthorexia, an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession with “healthy foods”. You know how some of the seemingly worst things in your life lead to better things than you can even imagine? God had a beautiful plan for me as this led me to find yoga. Growing up as a dancer, my body craved and missed that type of movement when stopped as I became overly-stressed with school. One day I wandered into a yoga class at a local YMCA and my life was forever changed. The “yolking” of mind, body, and spirit helped heal my body and relationship with food. Within two years I became a 200-hr Registered Yoga Teacher at age 22. I utilize principles of mindfulness, body awareness, meditation, and gentle nutrition both for myself and my clients.
That same year I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas A&M University with a BS in Nutritional Sciences. I had studied Wine Making and the Mediterranean Diet abroad in Cinque Terre, Italy, over one summer which ignited my passion for travel. Exploring my Italian roots and experiencing the bursts of flavor coming from simple caprese paninis in Parma, robust 25 year aged balsamic vinegar in Modena, and silky, creamy stracciatella gelato made from albino cows that were massaged daily in Genoa, reinvigorated my zest for life and reaffirmed my career choice working in food and nutrition. After graduation I volunteered in Australia at a holistic health retreat for a few months, where I learned about natural and alternative medicine and healing such as acupuncture, food as herbal medicine, meditation, and energy healing, all of which have influenced my approach to healing.
I was thrilled to start my combined Dietetic Internship and Master of Public Health program, a rigorous program that would lead me to fulfil my dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Right before classes started, I suffered a severe food poisoning incident from a cheese pizza in NYC, which marked the start of my GI woes. I suddenly became chronically constipated, bloated, gassy, and all around miserable. I unintentionally lost weight because I hardly eat anything from feeling so “full”. No matter how “healthy” I ate, my symptoms continued to worsen. At the same time I was a both a graduate student and full-time unpaid dietetic intern. I was also commuting up to three hours per day for my rotations, so my stress levels were through the roof. I saw several traditional GI doctors who mainly prescribed me harsh laxatives or slapped me on Miralax and sent me on my way. Several thousands of dollars later in medications and medical tests including a traumatic colonoscopy experience, I was simply diagnosed with IBS-C and was told that my symptoms were in my head, yet I felt worse than ever. While I completely respect western medicine and know how necessary and helpful it can be, in many ways it made me sicker. As a highly sensitive person, I required a far more gentle approach. This is why I practice an integrative and functional medicine approach to healing.
After working with several holistic health practitioners, I discovered that I had several food sensitivities, SIBO, Candida, and mold toxicity. After modifying my diet to support my body’s detoxification process, taking proper supplementation, and implementing lifestyle changes and stress-management techniques, I’ve dramatically improved my symptoms, healed my gut, and feel more energized and vitalized than ever before. I no longer avoid social situations for fear that my symptoms would interfere. I now use my background of culinary medicine to develop recipes that are allergy friendly and cater to Low FODMAP, candida, low carb/paleo, gluten and dairy free, and other food intolerances to help serve those struggling with digestive concerns.