In the Fall of 2017 I committed to doing a 30 day gut reset once I learned about the relationship between food and how to use it to heal my body. I met with an integrative nurse practitioner over the summer and this experience changed how I live my entire life. After speaking with a friend who also has scoliosis and found that integrative care really helped her, I decided to make an appointment and see if I could benefit from this type of care. After running lab work, the practitioner discovered that I had a high number of thyroid antibodies. This meant my body was in a state of thyroid autoimmunity. My practitioner seemed very concerned when she sat next to me and said, “you must be tired all the time.” I wasn’t that phased by this news even though I didn’t know anything about autoimmunity or thyroid issues. I responded to her a bit flatly, “yeah, but isn’t everybody?” Turns out… no, healthy 32-year-old people are not tired the way I am tired. I am still in the waiting phase to see which direction my thyroid will go – whether it will be hypoactive (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) or hyperactive (Grave’s disease). After receiving this diagnosis, I took the precautionary step of meeting with an endocrinologist that verified and drew the same conclusions as my integrative nurse.
Fortunately, my diagnosis came with practical steps to get my body on the path to remission that does not include taking medication.
Prescribed Dietary Changes:
- Eat only organic whole food
- Follow the paleo diet
- Do not eat gluten (and it will be best to avoid gluten for the rest of my life)
- No grains, no dairy
- Take a vitamin D supplement (5000 IUs a day)
Prescribed Lifestyle Changes:
- Do restorative exercise like yoga
- Eliminate stress from my life
- Set boundaries
- Do things that bring me joy
So it was official. I had to make a lifestyle change. I learned the hard way that my expectation for a lifestyle change is that they are temporary and should only last for 3 months. When I had the realization that a lifestyle change actually means changing the way I live life forEVER, it was a monumental shift that left me crying in my car for a very very long time. Once I pulled myself together, I was able to find gratitude in a new way I think about my relationship with my body, food, and what I expose myself to in my environment.
How I did it
Before I began the 30 day gut reset, I was advised to see a nutritionist.
Under her care, I took the IgA and IgG food sensitivity tests. Turned out I had a TON of food sensitivities, which my integrative practitioner said is an indicator of “leaky gut” (where more particles pass through the small intestinal lining causing an immune response). I avoided all foods that were flagged on the tests for the full month.
When I began the 30 day gut reset I read a ton of books on disease healing diets and eased my way into clean eating. While legumes are to be avoided on a paleo protocol, I finished things like hummus and other no-no food items I had in the fridge during the first week of the cleanse. The second week I made a meal plan for the week and spent Sunday cooking and portioning each meal for the following week. I did this for week three as well. This made my life SO MUCH EASIER. And by week four I implemented the autoimmune paleo protocol (AIP). AIP is the most restrictive form of the paleo diet that eliminates any and all foods that can be hard on the digestive system. I liked the AIP diet the best as it made selecting foods a lot easier and took the work out of answering the question “what can I eat?”
By the end of the 30 days none of my clothes fit. After the third week I started to look and feel very weak. I was actually a little scared. I was happy to see my belly look slimmer and to see all the puffiness around my body was gone, but things didn’t feel quite right. What was crazy to me was I had no idea my entire body was inflamed until all the inflammation left. I remember being very aware of my neck and this feeling of being exposed and vulnerable. I used to think that by eating a couple anti-inflammatory foods here or there would eliminate inflammation. I now know how inflammation really works. I had systemic inflammation that only went down once I removed all of the foods I was sensitive to from my diet and let my body recover. As a result, my entire body got smaller.
After the reset and my eye-opening realization that my body was quite inflamed, I found the reintroduction of foods I had been avoiding to be quite stressful. I decided to hold off on doing a true reintroduction and will only have the foods that were positive on my IgA and IgG tests in small amounts and infrequently. My nutritionist did suggest that if I do have a food I’m sensitive to, to wait 2-3 days before having that food again to let my body heal in between exposure and also to drink lots of water. I likely don’t need to be this cautious, but my nature is an incredibly cautious person and this feels right for me right now.
Educating myself on gut resets and clean eating
I read a bunch of books to get a deep dive into what exactly it was I should be doing. Of the books I read, these were my favorite:
I read this book before I saw the integrative practitioner. It changed the way I looked at my health and helped me understand the relationship between the foods we eat and chronic illness.
The Plant Paradox showed me the importance of how food is prepared. While it’s a little out there on the extreme end, I learned a lot about vegetables on a scientific level.
I had so much agreement with this book on so many levels. I have also become a very big fan of Whole Foods and how helpful they are in the store. This book made sense to me and made me feel confident going clean for good.
Eat Dirt is the book that really resonated with me on how to heal the body through nutrient intake based on the state of the gut (identified via quiz) and set the foundation for what I found to be the most comfortable solution for me moving forward. I recommend this book to anyone looking to put their body into a healthy state of being.
I got a kick out of this book. The honesty and directness on what it means to enjoy life and the pleasure in living it provided a good guidance towards balance as I pursue lifestyle changes.
Results from my 30 day gut reset
I lost 16 pounds and went from wearing a size 4 in Express jeans to a size 0. I am underweight and am working to put on more fat and lean body mass. My goal is to get to a size 2.
Moons are beginning to show at the base of my fingernails signaling improved nutrient absorption.
My joints started cracking a lot. I have been taking a collagen supplement and drinking more bone broth. This, along with daily yoga and a strength training routine, is helping to reduce the cracks.
I need less sleep. I am fine with 8 hours and can go all day without needing a nap. I do get tired from time to time, when I have exerted myself, but I no longer experience exhaustion or breathlessness from climbing stairs (which I mistook for not being more athletic or fit).
What I learned
Low carb is not a good approach for me.
I need to eat a lot of carbs to get in enough calories and it is becoming more evident that when my body is healing itself, it requires more calories to do this work. If I don’t try, the weight just falls off and keeps falling. I resolved this by replacing the troublesome foods I had removed (grains, legumes etc) with clean carbs (sweet potatoes, plantains, bananas, and apples). Now that I have increased my number of calories from carbs, I’m feeling improvements in cognitive functioning and memory. My weight has leveled off and I’m no longer feeling weak.
Weighing my meat prevents undereating.
I didn’t realize I was eating half the amount of meat I should have been until I started weighing it before my meals. After upping my meat intake (I shoot for 4-6 oz per serving), along with consistent yoga and exercise, I am feeling stronger with each passing week.
I love vegetables and fruit is so sweet!
I am really enjoying the natural taste of vegetables in a way that I never have before. I also never realized how sweet fruit really is. It seriously is candy and it makes me feel so good!
Now I know what being bloated actually feels like.
I used to think I didn’t get bloated very often. Now I realize I was not in tune with my body to know when I was experiencing bloat. Now it is an undeniable reaction to my gut being upset. I have found that drinking a couple sips of milk kefir takes the uncomfortable bloated feeling away within minutes and I can actually see the size of my belly decrease.
Treatment diets are more than what you can and cannot eat.
Based on the current state of my body, the best way to consume cruciferous vegetables is to be cooked. Raw veggies like cauliflower and broccoli are actually harder on my digestive system since I have autoimmunity. No single diet is a one-size fits all. Any approach – especially paleo – should be considered a baseline to build from and customize to meet a person’s unique makeup and needs.
We, as a society, are obsessed with weight-loss.
Weight loss weight loss weight loss. I don’t understand why this can possibly be a focus because we can’t constantly pursue weight-loss. It implies that the work stops once a magical number is hit. When weight loss occurs, it’s important to be aware that if the weight loss is a result of muscle or bone loss, it can be to the detriment of overall health. I don’t consider the gut reset to be a step one, but rather a step 0 showing me where the journey begins so I can start to take steps and discover what wellness looks like and feels like for me.
I am very thankful for all the research and work that has gone into understanding the gut and how the foods we consume and the way we consume them can mean the difference between a life full of vitality and health and a life of struggle, sluggishness, and disease. While there are a lot of books about diets, like the paleo diet and the ketogenic diet, I’ve come to find the truth – my truth. These programs serve well to offer a plan to cleanse the body so it can restore itself. I am currently doing another month of gut-resetting. With my new knowledge, I feel confident in how to give my body time to recover, rebalance and rebuild. It has been quite a true journey in self-love.
While I do not consider a 30 day gut reset to be the lifestyle change itself, it serves as a clean slate and sets the foundation to build upon for finding joy in the way I live each day. I’ve discovered the power of herbal tea and how relaxing an Epsom salt bath with lavender essential oils can be at the end of the day. I’ve established a night routine that makes me excited to stay in and read a book curled up in my organic flannel sheets and a morning routine that makes me leap out of those cozy sheets in the morning.
When I reflect on my new perspective, I feel this was the right path for me. I also see why they say things like “consult a medical professional” for pretty much everything. I had no idea I was so unwell until I had received integrative care. Having the numbers to go along with the changes I made affirmed whether or not I was making the right changes and I was able to pivot where needed. Had I done this on my own, I likely would have run for exercise (which I now know made my inflammation worse) and would have consumed way more foods that are troublesome for me. There’s a lot to be said about working with a team of professionals that know what they’re doing. It was well worth the investment and time to pursue wellness under proper care.
Have you thought about doing a gut reset? What are the motivators or results that you are hoping to see?