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UPDATE Sept. 2018 – I stopped writing the Let’s Get Personal series in 2016. If you would like to get the most recent update on my health and healing journey, please read this post, 3 Reasons Why I No Longer Share About My Healing Journey Online. You are always more than welcome to email me with any questions as well! Cheers! ~Jessica
Yay for gut health, eh? If you’ve been hanging around me for any amount of time, you know that this is one of my favorite topics. And, it’s one that I thought I had gotten in front of, but some recent food sensitivity testing showed otherwise. So, it’s back to Gut Health 101 for this girl. Sometimes we have to return to the basics!
I’ve been hesitant to get any food sensitivity testing done in the past because I’ve heard mixed reviews about the tests and whether they are accurate. But, since I have started having some health issue arise again, I figured now was a great time to take a look at what foods I may be reacting to without even knowing it.
You see, historically, I am a “non-reactor.” There are only two foods that I can clearly see cause me problems (dairy and eggs). Everything else has been questionable with no noticeable reactions to anything, even gluten (though I have not eaten gluten since 2012). I don’t even have the typically “leaky gut” symptoms that so many people experience.
That said, I do know that while I may not be reacting to a point that I can physically see it, I am quite likely reacting on a cellular level with antibody responses to problem foods. Even though I don’t get sick from eating gluten, if you were to test my antibodies prior to and after eating gluten, you would see a huge spike in the levels. That’s why I know that I must avoid that food.
This non-reaction to most foods has made elimination diets extremely hard for me. I have done full elimination diets several times over the last few years with no noticeable improvements. But, in light of my recent sensitivity testing, I am starting to think that these diets were not helpful because I was not eliminating the RIGHT foods. I was eliminating the common allergens like gluten, grains, dairy, nightshades, etc., but as it turns out, I was leaving a lot of things in my diet that I am sensitive to.
The test I took was from US Biotek Labs and it’s one that my Naturopath has had great success with. I’ve also spoken to other people who have had the same test done and they have been really impressed with the accuracy. So, I decided what the heck?! Let’s go for it.
Well, the results were really eye-opening. Of the 96 foods they test for, I am reacting to 47 of them! Yeah, you read that right. Some of the reactions were much higher than others, but those 47 items are all outside the safe zone that my ND likes to see people in, especially those with autoimmune issues like me.
It’s no wonder that (a) I have been feeling so cruddy over the last 9 months, and (b) why elimination diets have not worked well for me in the past. I was never eliminating all of the foods that were causing me problems!
I won’t go into the full list of what I am reacting to, but in addition to the no-brainers like dairy, eggs, and gluten-containing grains, I am also reacting to:
- All nightshades
- Sunflower Seeds
- Almost all legumes
- All Citrus
- Sugar Cane (which I have in my water kefir and kombucha)
(Did you read that last one? yeah…..sigh….)
Some of these I fully expected (like the legumes and almonds) just because they tend to be problem foods for people with autoimmune issues.
Some of them I was suspecting, like the nightshades and coconut (yes, even the coconut).
Some of them were downright shocking, like all the vegetables. I looked at the list and asked my ND, “What the heck am I going to eat?”
I eat a lot of vegetables. The vegetables showing up on that list make up a large chunk of what I regularly eat and my ND said she rarely sees people reacting to the number of veggies that I am. This reaction is a good indication that I am still experiencing some pretty severe leaky gut issues. Also, since my thyroid antibodies are running really high right now, she is concerned with the cumulative effect of ALL of these antibody reactions in my body. Needless to say, I’ve got some inflammation response that needs to be soothed, posthaste!
So, I have more work to do in the gut health department, and we will be doing some targeted gut healing work over the next 6+ months. The first step is eliminating all the foods that I am reacting to, followed by lots of herbal and digestive support, more stress management, etc.
My practitioners and I have some suspicions as to what may be going on with my gut, but we are waiting on some more advanced testing to see if we are correct. More details to come on that later.
I’m OK with all of this. On a weird level, I am actually excited to get rid of these foods, for now, just to see if I can finally see a reaction to an elimination diet. It’s also a new challenge for me to think outside the box and get creative with the foods I can eat.
Remember, if our gut is unhealthy, we are unhealthy. Our immune system is rooted in our gut, and if it gets out of whack, it leads to a cascade of things that can create to impaired health and chronic illness.
In addition, research is proving that there is a direct link between gut health and mental health indicating that those suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders may have poor gut health. If we work to heal the gut, we can correct many of these conditions.
It’s time for me to dive back into gut health, refresh my past knowledge, and learn new stuff that will help me heal. I am excited and empowered by this turn of events!
Support Your Stress Response, Adrenals, Thyroid, and Whole Body Through Herbs
When it comes to supporting overall wellness, herbs are a great tool to have in your toolkit, especially those who may be dealing with chronic illness of some type. Since 2009, when I started this site, I have met thousands upon thousands of people through my work and by far, the #1 health complaints are:
- adrenal fatigue (or adrenal dysfunction of some sort) (click here to read all of my adrenal health articles)
- thyroid disorders (hypo-, hyper-, or autoimmune) (click here to read all of my thyroid health articles)
Because of this, I wanted to add in a section into this post about the benefit of using herbs with chronic illness. Adaptogens are by far one of the most used herbs when it comes to working with people who have low energy, fatigue, and overall imbalance in the endocrine system (thyroid, adrenals, and blood sugar).
While the benefits of adaptogenic herbs extend far beyond just supporting that one system, this tends to be one of the main reasons people turn to adaptogenic herbs in the first place. That said there are a lot of other herbs out there that offer amazing support for the body, especially those dealing with chronic illness which is why I wanted to share this section today.
If you are dealing with any type of chronic illness, I’m sorry to break it to you, but caffeine may not be your best friend. 🙁 While you can find lots of info online in both the pro- and the anti-coffee camps, the fact of the matter comes down to the fact that are a lot of people dealing with chronic illness, especially thyroid and adrenal problems, that simply cannot tolerate coffee and caffeine.
While those with sluggish adrenal glands tend to feel run down and in need of a regular pick-me-up (like coffee and other caffeinated beverages), in the long run, caffeine can do more harm than good while you are healing. I go into the “whys” around caffeine and your adrenals in this detailed post here. In addition to the caffeine, there are other constituents, molds, and mycotoxins that can show up in coffee that some people find they react to and can further exacerbate the toxic load on the body.
When I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue, one of the first things that had to go was coffee. In addition to dealing with these issues, we suspected that I was having some detox pathway sluggishness so we wanted to also focus on supporting the liver and lymph systems. Most people who are dealing with chronic illness are also going to have issues with detoxification of the body, which is why herbs can play such an important role.
To be honest, I never drank coffee because of the caffeine. I drank coffee for the taste and aroma, as well as the emotional experience I felt to my morning cup of joe. For me, it was a ritual that I looked forward to every day (and sometimes multiple times a day). Whether I was brewing it at home or going to my local coffee shops, the experience was one that I clung to tightly.
But, when I was faced with new health struggles, I knew I had to do whatever I could to support my body and give it the tools it needed to heal. Giving up coffee and caffeine was one step in this direction.
And it sucked.
I turned to the coffee substitutes on the market in a desperate attempt to recreate the ritual I had grown so fond of, but nothing ever tasted the way I wanted it to. Nothing ever gave me that same experience that my cup of “real” coffee did. I knew there had to be something better, but I simply could not find it on my health food store’s shelves.
Necessity is the mother of invention so that is why I created my own coffee substitutes. They were made with organic, sustainably harvested herbs with zero grains, zero gluten, and zero caffeine. Just herbs.
Herbs that not only tasted delicious but supported my body’s function, like liver detox, bile production, digestion, etc. All of the herbs used in my “coffee” blends have been used for thousands of years to support the body’s normal functions and help everything work a little better — something we all need in today’s toxic world! (psst, dandelion is one of the herbs!)
When it came to creating these blends, if I could get something to not only tasted amazing (and helped me recreate my dearly loved ritual), but also did amazingly supportive things for my body, then it’s a no brainer!
I sold these pre-made blends on Etsy for awhile and the demand was more than I could keep up with. People literally LOVED these blends and were stunned at how much like coffee they actually tasted. Customers who had been dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses had given up coffee to heal their bodies, but like me were deeply missing their morning cup of joe ritual.
After careful consideration and work with some highly experienced advisors, I decided to stop selling the pre-made blends and instead share my proprietary recipes in the form of an eBook. That way I could arm people with the knowledge and recipes they needed to make their own caffeine-free, gluten-free, grain-free blends in the comfort of their own home.
That is why I created the best-selling DIY Herbal Coffees eBook: A Complete Guide To Making Delicious Herbal Coffees to Support Healing & Stress Relief.
Now in its second edition, this ebook features:
- All of my proprietary herbal blend recipes to you can craft a homemade herbal cup of “coffee” at home.
- A ton of researched information about coffee’s impact on the health of those dealing with issues like adrenal fatigue, blood sugar dysregulation, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, and any other chronic illness.
- Information about all of the herbs used, why I selected them, how to source them, how to prepare and store you “coffees”, and much more.
- Access to your own personal coffee shop where I show you how to recreate your favorite coffee shop drinks and pastries with wholesome, nourishing real food ingredients. No junk here. Only real food.
This book truly is a comprehensive guide to supporting your health, reducing your stress, and bringing a little something special back into your healing journey. You can learn more and download your own copy of this revolutionary wellness guide here, or simply click on the image below.