This is a guest post by Kristin Dziadul. Inspired by her own health journey, Kristin is now a certified holistic health coach and digestive health expert. She is passionate about helping people identify their own path to health and wellbeing by uncovering which foods serve you and which are hurting you. She can be found at ThrivebyFood.com and on this blog as a health coach for Zesty Ginger.
If you told me five years ago I would no longer be able to eat the very foods I loved most, I would have been utterly confused.
It’s been 10 years since I was first diagnosed with a “chronic” digestive issue (severe acid reflux). A year later, I found out I was lactose intolerant, 5 years after that I was diagnosed with “IBS” and within a year I finally got the real underlying diagnosis — ulcerative colitis.
I remember vividly asking my doctors during every visit what I could be eating (or stop eating) that could help my conditions, and every time without fail their answer was, “the food you eat has no impact on what you have.” It was after about the fourth time I heard this that I knew something wasn’t right and I had to find out for myself. And so began my investigative work that has led me to where I am today.
Becoming a Food Investigator
My research began by first looking at what I ate growing up. In general, I’d say we were a very healthy family. We had a garden out back and always had access to fresh fruits and veggies. But I also was able to eat my mom’s homemade mac and cheese, the occasional fast food, cheese and crackers with friends and a dessert here and there without any pain or issues.
But then it hit me like a bus: One day I could no longer tolerate any of them without crippling, excruciating pain, bloating, brain fog and a whole host of other symptoms. It was like my body up and decided that it had a problem with everything I was putting in my body.
But as my symptoms persisted and doctors kept reassuring me that only medication could make me feel better (and not food), I kept eating what I now know were the most inflammatory foods I could be eating. And at the time, I was in college, so you can imagine it was a whole host of bad foods, from pizza to late night snacks and alcohol. They were absolutely wrecking havoc on my digestive tract.
Now, these symptoms don’t usually just come out of the blue. They’re often the culmination of any number of things — from a poor (or uninformed) diet, stress, trauma or a personal loss, and any other big milestone that can jolt a personal mentally and physically. For me, it was all of these things combined. As soon as I realized the exact moment when my body changed, I was able to bring it back to health.
Recovery Starts by Removing These 5 Foods
I had a lot of work to do. But first, I knew I had to find out what foods were right for me, and which were not. I began by discovering and immediately removing the five foods most prone to causing food sensitivies in the American standard diet (or SAD for short — coincidence?).
The foods most prone to causing food sensitives include:
- Processed sugar
*We think eggs are a great source of protein for many people who aren’t sensitive to eggs, and if the eggs are pastured eggs fed a natural diet (not soy and grain). But this is definitely something worth testing!
These foods are most often filled with GMO, non-organic, highly processed, heat-treated, chemically laden ingredients that are essentially foreign to our bodies. So what happens when we eat them is our bodies see them as invaders, not food, and begin attacking, resulting in inflammation and abdominal pain. And when a person like me whose body was already on alert from a previously high-stress job and the trauma and loss of my father five years ago, these symptoms increased two-fold.
Now, my diet consists primarily of meats, veggies and fruits. A typical meal plan for me looks something like this:
- Breakfast: A green smoothie, acai bowl or grainless granola (Trader Joe’s has a good mix).
- Snacks: Mid-morning or mid-afternoon if I need a snack, I turn to green apples, green grapes, sliced cucumbers or a handful of almonds.
- Lunch: A big organic salad with as many veggies as I can fit, topped with some grilled, free-range chicken.
- Dinner: A meat dish such as chicken, pork or fish with a side of veggies like asparagus, broccoli or a seasonal squash.
- After Dinner/Dessert: If my sweet tooth tries to get the best of me, rather than turning to a dessert, I opt for a semi-sweet tea like chamomile, licorice root (great for gut healing) or lavender.
I didn’t want to feel totally restricted from what I could eat, though, so I researched what I could substitute and have instead of these five foods whenever a recipe calls for it.
Here are my recommended substitutes that you can bake and cook with:
- Dairy → non-dairy milk like almond milk (preferably homemade — here’s my recipe)
- Wheat → Spiralized veggies like cucumber, zucchini, carrots and sweet potatoes
- Soy → Coconut aminos instead of soy sauce and only meat-based proteins, never tofu
- Processed sugar → Raw honey (I get mine from a local farmer’s market) or pure maple syrup
- Eggs → Flax eggs for baking (here’s the recipe) and instead of an egg dish for brunch I get a fruit bowl
Key Lifestyle Changes
Since my investigative work started by me finding out what likely triggered my symptoms in the first place, I had to also make some changes in my life. After all, food is only one component of our wellbeing. Our mindset and emotional wellbeing can also play a very big part in how we feel physically.
Today, here’s what I do:
- Practice yoga, meditate and workout regularly for stress relief
- Write in a gratitude journal nightly — gratitude can have a big impact on our stress and happiness levels
- Get out in nature to reconnect and de-stress
- Make strict time limits on my working hours to make more room for fun and relaxation
Within just two weeks of removing these inflammatory foods, loading up on nutrient and vitamin rich foods and incorporating the above lifestyle changes, I no longer felt stabbing stomach pains, relentless bloating, brain fog or exhaustion. It was incredible. I was hooked!
I took my journey a step further by joining Megan and Alex’s Seasonal Detox program which I loved because it had so many fun and tasty recipes I could try and taught me about several new tools I could incorporate in my daily routine to detox and feel even better. I then joined their Healthy Hormones group program to do some deeper testing (and boy was that interesting!).
Today, I no longer fear how I’ll feel after a meal. And I wasn’t looking to lose weight but I found that I did lose a few pounds (likely from inflammation)! It’s been an incredible ride, and despite all that I went through, I am truly thankful for it because it pushed me to take control of my health for good.
I was so inspired by the way I felt after doing all this incredible work that this past year I became certified to be a Holistic Health Coach myself and am now working with clients specifically going through digestive issues, anxiety/stress-related symptoms, as well as fatigue and sleeplessness!
I know there are millions of others just like me out there, and it’s in the power of coming together to share our stories that we can all get better and fight for a whole foods approach to healing.