My Story Is Not Unlike Most of Those I See In My Practice
Hi, my name is Julie, and for the first decade of my profession as a dietitian/nutritionist I was a Type-A overachiever, avid learner, helper, and believer that food is medicine. I was blessed to work in various specialty areas of nutrition, with the majority of my time focused on the rewarding work of counseling and coaching individuals and groups.
Despite being recognized for my successful work and contributions, I always felt there was something missing. It weighed on me that there were many patients I felt limited in my ability to help. I believed I should be able to go deeper within my scope of practice to help individuals beyond just pairing a “diet to a diagnosis,” but, honestly, my training didn’t offer much more than this. I felt hemmed-in and frustrated, and questioned much of my conventional training.
I always felt like there was a missing toolset.
This nagging feeling followed me throughout my career, and it came to a head when I began to experience a downward spiral of health and vitality as I approached 40. Several years prior, I was introduced to a practice group called Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine (DIFM). This extremely well-educated group of practitioners viewed patients from a broad, comprehensive lens that sought to understand the root cause of disease and then determine the most appropriate intervention. These practitioners were deeply rooted in their understanding of biochemistry, biology, and pathophysiology. They were better equipped to help patients heal from the inside out with food, supplements, lifestyle changes, and work with allied health professionals. In fact, they seemed to hold answers to my decade of questions and to my own health issues. This began my quest to enhance my education in the functional nutrition space in my spare time, but I wanted more. The more I learned … the more I realized I needed to know.
During this time, my health continued to unravel despite having what most would call the essentials for good health: the “perfect” diet, a solid daily exercise routine, yoga practice, and quality sleep.
My conventional MDs ran blood work only to tell me I was “in perfect health” despite experiencing horrible anxiety, brain fog, trouble focusing, fatigue, skipped menstrual periods, food intolerances, and unexplained weight loss. I shamefully and secretly started feeling like the “healthiest sick person” I knew. Although I had started to implement changes and my own protocols, I was just surviving with little improvement.
Using myself as the patient, I ran many functional tests only to discover a scary truth — on the inside I was a complete mess. Another year went by with more specialist visits leading to a diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease, severe iron deficiency, and a low white blood cell count … on top of the horrible brain fog, acne, and anxiety. My “perfect” diet and supplements were barely keeping me functional, and conventional doctors just told me I was getting older and had no answers or solutions. They seemed to dismiss my declining health since “on paper” I looked fine to them. Can you relate?
Conventional medicine wanted to give me medication, iron infusions, and hormones….and I refused. I believed there HAD to be a reason, other than what they told me, which was stress and age … and menopause. This is when I sought more formal training in functional and integrative nutrition. My training took a deep dive into the science of biochemistry, pathophysiology, and how to best support the body. I began to gain more insight, understanding, and compassion for my patients and how to best support them and myself. I earned a Certificate of Training in Function and Integrative Nutrition over 2-3 years and over 80+ hours of coursework. (Even today, I continue my training with courses and conferences and align with top functional and integrative experts so I can provide the most appropriate interventions and support for my patients.)
During this time, I am so fortunate to have found the perfect fit for training and a mentor that reignited my passion for the profession and helped me discover my MISSING TOOLSET! All the pieces started to fall in line and my dream of absolutely loving my work came to fruition.
Throughout this time my health continued to have ups and downs … sometimes getting better using the tools I had learned and then taking a tailspin downward again. But, for the first time I had HOPE I would get to the bottom of it … and HOPE is the start to healing.
I want others to have HOPE and HEALING!
Despite my newfound success with patients, my own health continued to decline. My brain fog got worse, my adrenals were shot, my hormones were out of balance, I began losing more weight, and then … my gut issues began. Gastritis, reflux, SIBO, parasites, horrible dysbiosis and leaky gut. I will never forget waiting for my endoscopy desperately wishing the floor to swallow me up as nurses recognized me as the nutritionist in town who “specializes in gut issues.” My own protocols were barely keeping me functional and I couldn’t figure out why. As I was trying to get a handle on my gut, another system gave out … my skin.
My face began to break out in a horrific rash that was hot and inflamed. Conventional dermatology couldn’t figure it out. I changed all my skin care products and did everything as pure and holistic as possible. I had to give in to taking prednisone just to be able to work and function. I began to wonder if I could continue to practice, yet refused to give up and pushed forward to find the root cause. I knew I had histamine intolerance, I was allergic or sensitive to several dozen foods and my severe food-restricted diet was barely helping. I would wake up trying to hold it together, put ice packs on my face, put makeup on and go to work and smile, and then come home to ice packs and more pain. In the meantime, my practice was growing …. I was helping others but began to feel that I was a complete failure since I couldn’t seem to help myself.
I was about to hit rock bottom and wasn’t sure I could fight my way through this.
With the support of family and friends, my faith, a functional and integrative MD that I love, wonderful holistic practitioners, and amazing seasoned colleagues and practitioners … my answer finally came. MOLD toxicity! And, due to this, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) — I was reacting to everything! It turned out my initial exposure was 2 years prior in an office building and, after testing my home, a crack was discovered in an exterior wall and mold spores throughout the house.
I truly believe everything happens for a reason, and in hindsight I consider it a blessing to have gone through this horrific health crisis. I have learned a great deal about CIRS, mold, gut imbalances, unexplained symptoms, and how it can completely dysregulate the body.
It is a reminder that sometimes it takes time and persistence to get to the root causes of challenging chronic health issues. I often tell patients, healing can be like an “onion”… you pull back one layer and then another layer is revealed that needs to be addressed. Healing is comprehensive — body, mind, and spirit — and it takes a tribe and team to get to the other side.
Once I knew my root cause(s), my healing journey still took almost 16 months. I can say today I am back to feeling the best I have felt in years. I am still a work in progress, but I have learned so much that I can apply to my current practice and life.
Functional medicine and nutrition saved my life and my career.
Our stories, past and present, have so much to do with our current health issues. This is why I strive to understand each patient’s story so I can help them begin to discover root cause solution(s) to their chronic health issues. I deeply value each person’s unique needs and provide a personalized and compassionate approach. I believe we must appreciate and understand our unique biochemistry and how food, environment, lifestyle, genetics, and more influence our health.
Due to my struggles and my passion for working with men and women who struggle with chronic gut related issues and autoimmune disease, it was clear that gut health would be the specialty of my practice. Conventional medicine is wonderful, but it failed to heal me. I want others to know that there are answers beyond conventional medicine.
This is why I want to help you find solutions to your health struggle so you can reclaim a PEACEFUL gut and live your best life!
If you relate to my story and think I might help, let’s connect!