My own health journey and motivation to pursue a career in nutrition began while I was part of the faculty and staff of a food-as-medicine culinary school. At the same time, I began experiencing digestive issues. I was continually told I had IBS because I had IBS symptoms, but the diagnosis left more to be explained and was not a solution to how I was feeling.
I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start, so my mother suggested that I eliminate gluten, which I did as best I could. My symptoms improved, but I wasn’t truly gluten-free due to the exposure through my workplace and own shared kitchen.
My gut health remained rocky for the next several years, during which I also began to experience bizarre bouts of severe inflammation in my joints. At one point, my hands were so swollen and achy that I had trouble using my fingers, which made my job as a culinary coordinator difficult. I was tested for Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, but both were negative and my puzzled doctor sent me home.
During this time, I also started taking prerequisite courses for graduate school, positively driven to learn as much as I could to discover the root of my issues.
By the time I started my Master’s in Nutrition program at Bastyr University, I had tried many different diets and had landed on a whole foods, dairy-free, and gluten-free (or so I thought) way of eating. Even though I felt I was “doing all the right things” I still had unexplained digestive flare-ups. During my first year of the program, I was in a cooking class at school where, although I was eating “gluten-free” meals, I was in a kitchen with a large amount of cross-contact. I began to feel sicker and sicker as the quarter went on; my digestion was worse than ever, I had no energy, and had trouble focusing.
Finally, I ran out of things to try and saw a doctor who tested and confirmed that I had celiac disease. In a way, it was a relief to find out what had actually been troubling me for so long (6+ years!) and how to move forward. After treating the small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) that followed the celiac diagnosis, I found how to truly heal and protect my gut.
The perseverance and self-advocacy for my health that this path has taught me is something I hope to instill in others. I know how it feels to have persistent and unresolved health issues for years and to feel unheard. Because of this, I am diligent and determined to listen to my clients fully, with an open mind, and be an active part of their health care team to try to find the individualized diet and lifestyle for a healthy gut and a full life.