This featured article is sponsored by VSL#3. All opinions are my own.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about my health journey. And so, today I wanted to take some time to talk about where I’ve been, how I’ve been feeling and what’s next. I started this website back in the winter of 2009, just over a decade ago, and it’s incredible to see where I started with my health and where I am now as I begin to more fully emerge back into life and start to truly L-I-V-E. I’ve learned a lot throughout this journey of chronic illness from the age of 24-38, and it’s taught me more than I can put into words. However, I am going to do my best today to talk about a few of the experiences that really made a profound difference with my healing process—especially my experience with the high-potency probiotic medical food VSL#3 for the management of IBS.
THE FIRST SHIFT INTO INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE
The first shift I want to address is releasing the old paradigm of allopathic medicine and working with Integrative Medicine + Energy Medicine. This has been profound for me. If you’ve read my book, Eating Clean, you know all about the difference between the conventional medicine route and the alternative path (the road less traveled). If you’re new here or you’re just starting on your journey, I highly suggest reading the front of my book as well as the integrative medical testing in the back of the book so that you can understand how and why to find an integrative practitioner who can look closer at your condition and imbalances as well as the tests that gave me so many answers – that unfortunately allopathic medicine does not use.
This shift into Integrative Medicine is the first step. Here is where you’ll start to realize that many of your diagnoses are simply jumbled up toxicity: yeast, mold, fungus, non-beneficial bacteria, heavy metals and so forth. Shifting to Integrative Medicine changed my life because it allowed me to address all of these issues on a deeper level and it took me off of medication. It looked at my body as though everything was connected – something no one addressed with me for even a second before I discovered this new way to fully treat the body.
From Integrative Medicine, I still had healing to do that couldn’t be done by solely relying on medical treatments and supplements, so I went on to discover Energy Medicine and dove into years upon years of how to heal the nervous system and trauma, all of which is what shut me down in the first place, unbeknownst to me until my mid-30s. It’s taken me quite a while to understand this deep connection, which I couldn’t clearly see for many years because I was in such a state of survival, fear and pumping out cortisol and adrenaline every minute. I will be speaking much more deeply about how I connected all these pieces moving forward this year on Instagram, so stay tuned for more about this mind-body connection.
For now, you can read these mind-body articles to start to help you piece together what has slowly been shutting you down over the years because we all know illness does not happen overnight – it’s a long journey of toxicity accumulating, bacteria getting out of balance, stress compounding and so much more. It’s the result of years, often decades of imbalance in our bodies that conventional methods overlook. Now, it’s up to us to take our power back, to take full responsibility for our own wellbeing and help to address what has been out of balance within ourselves.
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM + STRESS
In regard to stress, which is something I often ignored reading about throughout the first portion of my journey, I do want to mention how important it is to regulate your response to stress versus just trying to lower your stress, which often backfires. In my experience, so much of this comes down to regulating how we respond to stressors in our daily lives that toss us into survival mode and keep us locked in that mode for months, years, and even decades because getting out of the go-go-go to slow down is too scary for our nervous systems and this often becomes who we think we are – we think this is just “us” but it’s not. It’s actually learned behavior that has kept us in survival mode going 100mph unable to address what’s going on deep down inside.
What happens when we’re in survival mode is that our digestion slows down so we’re left with bloating and digestive issues while our food does not get digested properly and ferments in our gut, turning into everything from SIBO to candida and more serious issues. This is where probiotics come in, which I’m going to touch on in a moment because they’re a key piece to our health journeys and it’s important to know what brands to trust and use regularly.
Along with our digestion slowing down, our livers also stop detoxing toxins, which is what leads to all sorts of health issues because the toxins that we accumulate in our bodies everyday have nowhere to go and no way to leave the body, so they get recirculated throughout the body and wreak havoc on our organs, especially our digestion. PMS is one example of this because if our livers are not detoxing our hormones, those hormones get recirculated throughout the body and start to cause terrible symptoms from PMS to endometriosis to more serious hormonal conditions. The liver is also in control of so many internal operations and affects our moods, our breath, and our digestion and is often the culprit of brain fog and fatigue.
Lastly, when we are in survival mode, our reproductive organs start to stall because our bodies do not think it’s safe enough to carry a child. When even one tiny hormone stalls and falls out of balance, the other hormones follow because hormonal balance is a dance and when one is high, the others are low or when some are low, there are others that are high and so forth. This also pertains to our digestion because we have so many hormones in our gut, which I learned after I gained tons of water weight after having C. diff colitis ten years ago. When your hormones are off, you’ll experience everything from weight gain to hair loss, brittle nails, mood swings, sweats and so much more. With hormonal imbalances, you’re also likely to experience candida since our hormones play a role in the levels of yeast we have in our bodies, which is another reason your digestion may be off and you can experience bloating and gas as well as other digestive symptoms.
Just from this brief overview, I hope you can start to see how our minds impact our bodies, especially our digestion, and how we have to look at our bodies as a whole to start feeling better instead of covering every symptom up with a band-aid approach, which ends up not working in the long run and often causing more harm than good. Our gut makes up over 60% of our immune cells so it’s the headquarters for your immune system and the hub for so many of our day-to-day ailments, not to mention it contains trillions of bacteria, which you’ve heard me address over and over again throughout the years. Most of this bacteria is beneficial bacteria keeping us healthy (because we are more bacteria than we are cells, folks), yet there is also non-beneficial bacteria and if you’re someone with IBS or other digestive issues, you know what I mean.
What you’ll notice from all of the above is a common thread: digestion, which is what takes such a huge hit when we are stressed or living in survival mode, which we all are living in these days! Because of this, I want to talk for a minute about a probiotic that helps me tremendously in my gut health journey and has continued to benefit me in incredible ways. It has been a staple in my refrigerator, and it is my go-to recommendation for my clients as well as my family for quite a long time.
Along with taking VSL#3 probiotic daily as a supplement with my vitamins and minerals, I also add it in recipes as another way to get my daily dose of high-potency probiotic into my routine. Most people ask me how I’ve been able to stay so positive throughout all of these ups and downs and it’s because I literally made everything I had to do for my health into a ritual.
I bought beautiful tiny handmade wooden bowls to hold my daily supplements, so I wasn’t reminded every day that I was sick with tons of bottles of nutrients around me; I added this VSL#3 probiotic to my smoothies and chilled summer soups to allow me to be a bit more creative in my kitchen versus taking it as a capsule all the time; I bought beautiful plates on sale at Marshall’s and made myself beautiful meals (when I had the energy to do so); I bought a few electric candles and dimmed the lighting in my home with dimmers so my adrenal fatigue didn’t suffer from bright lights; I bought a small speaker for my kitchen and listen to beautiful music (like this playlist I created for you) to soothe me and relax my nervous system while cooking; and so much more. These are a few ways I started creating soothing and nourishing rituals for myself. I have many more that I will share as time goes on and now that I’m really starting to get my energy back, you’ll see more of me, especially on Instagram stories.
Speaking of Instagram stories, I’ve created a delicious organic soup recipe (as seen in the photos in this article) using VSL#3 probiotics and you can watch me make it step-by-step.
So, now that you have a slight peek into how I’ve been able to manage my health journey, I want to give you some more information on VSL#3. Whether you’re living with digestive issues, or you experience gut health imbalances from time to time, I’ve found that it’s key to really keep your microbial balance in check with a quality probiotic and it’s taken me many years to find one that my body does not reject and that actually works for me.
If you’re like me and you’ve dealt with IBS or other digestive issues, you know that it just so happens that we end up with more non-beneficial bacteria than beneficial bacteria in our gut, which can lead to anxiety, bloating and overwhelm in trying to manage and determine what is actually going on inside of us. I use VSL#3 for the main reason that it provides multiple strains of bacteria needed to restore the necessary amount of good bacteria in our gut. I nearly fell on the floor in amazement when I realized this probiotic carried billions of CFUs (colony forming units) because up until that point, I personally had never seen a probiotic that powerful.
Now, patience is key here. Just because there is a lot of power in this probiotic, it can take up to one month for the colonization of the gut to become optimally stable, so be patient with yourself. Patience is key because stressing out over not feeling better “soon enough” does more harm than good, putting you even deeper into survival mode and making the situation much worse.
What I love about this probiotic is that it provides a higher CFU count and diversity of strains than other leading over-the-counter brands* to help protect the GI tract and help manage your gut health – I like to think of it as helping to restore the necessary amount of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Please note that, VSL#3 must be used under medical supervision.
I prefer to use the powder form of this supplement as shown in this article but you can certainly use the capsule form if you’d like. Remember these probiotics must be refrigerated to keep the bacteria alive. And for those of you who need to read ingredient lists, this probiotic is free of lactose and gluten and non-GMO verified. More information on VSL#3 and its use for serious digestive issues can be found at www.vsl3.com.
TRUSTING YOUR BODY + MOVING FORWARD
As you continue to work towards building back your health, I implore you to also keep in mind the connection between what’s going on in your mind and your body. This was a huge piece of the puzzle for me. When you’re anxious, what is going on in your body? Does your stomach hurt? Do you feel pressure in your head? Do your shoulders get tense? Start to look at what your nervous system is telling you – your body is a feedback mechanism so in conjunction with taking supplements and probiotics, it is key to look at your own level of consciousness (self-awareness) and see what feedback your body is giving you based on what is going on in your mind. I suggest digging deeper to understand what causes fear in your nervous system as that will directly impact your digestion and your overall wellbeing. Start with this two-part series on How to Trust Your Body Again, which is a powerful place to begin.
I’m sending you all a lot of love and remember that life is a journey and chronic health issues are a wakeup call to help us restore and reclaim who we are, take full responsibility for our past and move forward into a more conscious way of living so our bodies can return to balance. My book, Eating Clean, is a wonderful resource to help you get started and to point out the deeper medical testing that took me years to discover. My hope is that this article provided you with some support and guidance on your own journey.
Believe in yourself and keep going. If I can do this, so can you.
If you’re interested, you can purchase VSL#3 here online. When ordering online at www.shop.vsl3.com enter the code TRYVSL3 at checkout to save $5 or receive free shipping on a 2-pack.
*Compared to Culturelle and Align.
VSL#3® is a probiotic medical food intended for the dietary management of ulcerative colitis (UC), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or an ileal pouch. Use under medical supervision.