If you didn’t know, I’ve been struggling with gut issues for the past year…and actually much longer than that without even knowing. It’s completely changed my life and my blog.
In sharing this, I hope my gut health journey can shed some light on an issue that’s affecting so many others in similar situations.
My gut health journey – how it all started
This story goes back YEARS, but it wasn’t until this year when the symptoms hit me like a bulldozer.
So let’s start with just a few of the warning signs I had ignored for a VERY long time…or just didn’t know any better. For so long, I had been struggling with cystic acne. I was always told it was hormonal, that I’d grow out of it, and that there’s really nothing you can do but wait it out.
Well I waited and nothing happened. I even took multiple blood tests to check my hormones and they were fine…and yet it was still labeled hormonal.
While I had been struggling with that for about 5 years, it wasn’t until about 2 years ago when I started to get really bloated all the time. It wasn’t a painful bloat, but I began to notice how big my stomach would get at the end of the day.
As I ramped up on the blog, my symptoms got worse and worse. I was eating WAY more sugar then usual (from all my recipe testing) and the stress was building up. I worked every night after coming home from my 8-5 job and all day on Saturday and Sunday. I never gave myself a break. It was and still is my situation but I’ve gotten better at managing it.
With this came the extreme brain fog. I mean it was BAD and I should not have been driving. If you’ve never had it, it’s almost like you’re drunk. Your vision is a bit blurry, you struggle to find your words, and you’re just kind of disconnected from everything around you. I used to come home from work crying because it felt like this was going to be my life now. It’s easily the worse symptom of all. You just aren’t yourself and you can’t control it.
My digestion was also…not so great. To be blunt, I was constipated. I would have a bowel movement maybe 3-4 times a week and it was just…a struggle to say the least.
My anxiety also worsened and so did my bloating. Instead of a mild bloat, my stomach would bloat up like crazy and it was painful. It just felt like a huge rock was sitting in my stomach. I also started getting headaches after eating too much sugar and my skin was FREEAAKKING out. Months later, I’m still working on clearing up that mess.
At this point I felt hopeless, frustrated, and just confused. This is also around the time that one of my friends discovered she had a gluten sensitivity so she suggested I take a food sensitivity test to see if I have any triggers.
And boy did I hate my results.
Seeing a Naturopath
Turns out, the foods I’m highly sensitive to are gluten and dairy. Literally everything this blog is built on! (I later discovered that I have these sensitivities BECAUSE of my gut issues and that I didn’t have these all my life.)
So when I cut those things out, my digestion improved SO much and my cystic acne cleared up. Turns out, it wasn’t hormonal after all. Dairy was the culprit the whole time and now I can’t help but be frustrated with all those dermatologists I saw. How did they not know this???
But this relief only lasted so long. After a few weeks, the symptoms came back 10x worse. I have to admit, I was being pretty lax about the whole no gluten and dairy thing and may have had some pizza. I just didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the situation at the time.
At this point I was stuck. I wasn’t getting any better and had no clue what to do. That’s when I decided to see a Naturopath. Long story short, after discussing my symptoms, he told me I have something called leaky gut.
This is when there are small holes in your small intestine that allows undigested food to leak out into your blood stream. Your body then attacks those foreign intruders which causes tons of inflammation.
This is why gluten and dairy are so bad for me. They’re tough on the digestive system because they aren’t easy to break down.
So he sent me home with with this protocol: no gluten, no dairy, no refined sugar, no soy, and limit my consumption of eggs. He also provided me with digestive enzymes and a GI renew powder that includes L-Glutamine. The enzymes aid in breaking down my food (which I take before every meal) and the powder goes in to do all the repair work.
He also gave me some natural supplements to help my brain fog which are helping…but definitely haven’t cured it.
So that’s where I’m at now. I’ve been completely gluten and dairy free the past 5-6 months. I still eat eggs every so often and occasionally have a bite of something with sugar. Even though when I do, I really noticed how horrible my brain fog is the next day.
Here are a some links to the recipes that have really helped me deal with this massive diet change. They’re all so delicious!
- Cuban Picadillo
- Slow Cooker Chicken Shawarma
- Thai Tempeh Buddha Bowl (swapping tempeh for chicken to be soy free)
- Homemade Protein Bars
- One Pot Chicken and Rice
- I also make this salad ALL the time that consists of mixed greens, rotisserie chicken, sweet corn, cucumber, and a buffalo dressing (vegan soy free mayo, frank’s red hot sauce, and lime juice).
- Another really simple recipe is to mix ground beef with marinara sauce and ladle it over a bed of spaghetti squash. SO good.
- As a sweet treat, I can’t live without the GoMacro protein bars. They’re vegan, gluten free, and naturally sweetened.
- If I need a quick bite, Chipotle is my go to (even before my gut issues). I get brown rice, steak or carnitas, mild salsa, guac, and lettuce.
- For breakfast I stick to a really simple oatmeal. Gluten free oats, ground flax, almond milk, a couple drops of stevia, natural peanut butter, berries, and toasted shredded coconut. It tastes like a pb&j.
How I’m feeling now
Today I’m feeling…better? I think? It’s honestly so hard to tell.
When you’ve lived with these symptoms for months, it starts to become your norm. From day to day I really can’t notice a difference at all and it’s hard to remember what I felt like before when I was actually healthy. I just know this is definitely going to take a long time to completely heal up.
But I have improved in many ways. For starters, my cystic acne isn’t even an issue anymore. I also started to see an esthetician to clear up the rest of my skin issues (tiny skin-colored bumps all over my face) and she has helped SO much. I wish I had done this years ago rather than seeing dermatologists who hardly even look at your skin. *BIG eye roll*
My digestion is also waaaayyyy better and very regular. That’s all I’ll say about that because talking about my bowel movements online is very uncomfy.
As far as bloating…ehhh it’s hard to tell. Although I do wake up with a completely flat stomach every morning which hasn’t happened in forever. I still get bloated, but it’s not as bad as it was before.
My brain fog is also a big question mark and some days are better than others. It just comes down to what exactly I eat. I think there are other foods that irritate me, it’s just hard to pinpoint them. If I stick to a strict diet of what I know won’t bother me, I really see improvements. But for right now, that’s a very short list.
But one big win is my energy levels. I’m still pretty tired but I don’t get that huge crash at the end of the day. I’m eating VERY little sugar throughout the day and what I do eat, it comes from fruits and natural sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, stevia). This has also caused me to unintentionally lose some weight which is kinda nice. I don’t feel so puffy and I’m not carrying around a bunch of water weight.
So what’s next?
I go in to see my Naturopath again this month and I have quite a few questions to ask. I’ve had a couple other issues arise that am somewhat concerned about.
For starters, I feel full most of the day which is very rare for me. I’m usually a bottomless pit. This may be due to my drastic change in diet but why would it be happening now after 5 months?
I’ve also been struggling with hair loss. Showering is now just a nightmare because every time I wash my hair, big clumps just fall right out. I’m thinking this is due to stress but either way, it’s terrifying.
I should also mention I switched from birth control pills to an IUD about 3 months ago. Some of these changes could be due to hormones.
Outside of eeeevverrything in this post, I’ve learned just how important it is to manage your stress. Too much can wreak havoc on your body and I’m living proof of that.
In fact, I’m so stressed out that my chiropractor said he’s never felt so much tension in someones neck and shoulder muscles before. I now get therapeutic massages to work out all the knots and my god it hurts..but I know it’s exactly what I need.
Moral of the story is, take care of yourself. Take breaks when you need them and don’t feel guilty in doing so. Get off social media for a few days. Get a facial, go on a long walk, treat yourself. Do whatever you need to do to feel better and decompress.
I have been so focused on the blog the past year that I forgot about all of this. I neglected myself in order to build a career. I’m very proud of where I’m at now, but it definitely came at a price.
And what about Butternut Bakery?
If you’ve been noticing more gluten free/dairy free recipes on the blog, this is why!
Which also terrifies me. I know it’s so important to stay in your niche whether that’s gluten free baking, vegan baking, paleo desserts, or just classic baking. But now I feel a duty to serve those who are going through a similar struggle as me, while also still really loving my old way of baking.
I’m trying my best to merge the two, but I’m worried I’m sending mixed signals. I’ll share one recipe with all the butter and sugar and another that’s completely gluten free.
My hope is that my audience will accept any recipe that I share, but it also comes with so many challenges. Some people want to try a recipe but make it gluten free, others want to turn a gluten free recipe into a regular recipe. I know I can’t please everyone, but it’s a major concern for me.
It’s also a matter of my time. Right now gluten free/dairy free baking is very new to me and takes MUCH longer to test. It’s so much more work that I just can’t give it as much attention as it needs while I still work full time.
Basically, I can’t fully commit to one or the other and I really hope that it doesn’t hurt Butternut Bakery in the long run. Baking is still baking to me, no matter what ingredients are used. Whether I can eat it or not, I still absolutely love the process.
So thank you to everyone who has stuck beside me during this major change. Especially to those of you who have personally messaged me to see how I’m doing. It seriously means so much and I’m incredibly lucky to have such a sweet group of people who follow Butternut Bakery.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out either in the comments here or on Instagram. It might take me a minute to answer back (because I’ve been taking a slight step back from social media) but I’m happy to provide any answers I can.