My love of food is a complicated one. I was brought up in an Italian household. For those of you who don’t know that means…basically, we have food laid out on the table all day, every day, and theoretically times in between. I never thought much about what I was eating, I just knew it was delicious.
When I hit college my relationship with food changed. I developed a phobia: emetophobia (click the link and feel free to research and learn about a pretty common phobia that no one really talks about). My world went from not ever thinking about what I was eating to constantly fearing every bite I took would some how cause me to be ill. I began to avoid situations I truly enjoyed. This was my mental queue to seek help. So, I started to attend therapy sessions. After eight years of working on loving this side of myself and learning coping mechanisms on how to interact in social settings without letting this fear consume me I felt as if I was making progress.
After I had taken a slight hold on my anxiety, I was better able to listen to my body without panic setting in everyday. I began to realize I rarely ever felt well. It seemed as though there was always a rock in my stomach, or my bathroom habits weren’t as “normal” and happy go lucky as they should have been. I realized that with my phobia these feelings were only amplified. I was always worried these feelings must mean that I was about to be sick at any moment. Finally, I realized this wasn’t normal, even with my phobia something felt off. I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help my own sanity. I needed to know once and for all what came first: the symptoms, or the anxiety.
I decided to see a Functional Medicine practitioner. In my own words, Functional Medicine utilizes lifestyle changes to eliminate symptoms that other types of health practitioners may simply prescribed medication to relieve. They want to eliminate the issue not just treat it. That was exactly what I wanted, a fix, not a medicinal band-aid. After listening to my doctor in our first appointment I was sold. I jumped in head first.
Through the doctors’ guidance and lovely tests…lovely should probably be read with a sarcastic tone…ever bag your own poop? No? Well, I have. Do you pass out when you give blood? No? Well, I do (sometimes). After all this poking and prodding I was diagnosed with “leaky gut” which for me resulted in IBS symptoms. What’s the best way to heal a leaky gut you might ask? An elimination diet. Now not only was my relationship with food going to be strained due to my phobia, but I would have to further put it under a microscope in order to hopefully remedy these digestive symptoms I’d been having.
I stayed on elimination for a little over a year. That may sound insane to lots of people, but I had to cut out more foods than I could count. My doctor told me the blood results I had were some of the worse she had seen in terms of “problem foods”. I did everything I was told to do and then some and I’ll tell ya, I felt amazing. My anxiety dropped drastically, oh, don’t worry he’s still there and springs on me when I’m not looking, but nothing like before. My IBS symptoms almost completely disappeared. Instead of having symptoms 5 days out of the week, I might have 2 bad days a month. I was officially a believer in the effect foods can have on us physically and emotionally.
I’ve since completed elimination, and have transitioned to my version of what I call “clean eating”. Which consists mainly of whole “real” foods, except peppers, my elimination diet told me they apparently don’t like me. With the occasional minimally processed treat here and there, things like granola bars, some potato chips, popcorn. I try to keep a rule of less than 5 ingredients and I have to know exactly what all of them are. No vague “natural flavor” for this girl.
Not this doesn’t mean I don’t go out and enjoy myself. Most weekends I give myself a pass to go out once or twice with friends. I try to eat things that I can have a vague idea of whats going in them, but it happens on occasion where things don’t always agree with me. In those instances I just have to deal. But that’s such a little blip in my life compared to how I felt at the start of this journey.
For me there is one rule that goes above all: Eat what makes YOU feel good.
One person may be able to tolerate different types of food with no issue, others can’t. This whole “diet” (read lifestyle) is a very personal experience for everyone and we all have to take our own journeys to get to the places we want to be.
That’s what brings us here. I wanted to share my experiences and recipes with you! Hopefully some of the things you read here ring true for you and can help you to feel empowered to embark on your own gut healing journey. You’ll find honest (see the above poop comment) thoughts, experiences, and real food recipes throughout this blog. I have nothing to hide, I’m not perfect, I do my best to stay healthy and feeling good. It’s not always easy, but it’s so worth it.