- Gabrielle's Story -
Everyone has a unique journey along the health & wellness path.
For me, this story begins well before I was born - or even a whisper of a thought.
This story begins with my father.
My Dad's Story
My father was interested in health and nutrition starting in childhood. He recalls at the age of 12 scouring the library shelves for books about human nutrition - reading everything and anything he could get his hands on.
My dad's wrestling coach introduced him to the likes of Jack Lalanne and other early nutrition gurus of the 20th century. This passion for nutrition only intensified into adulthood when he competed nationally in weightlifting competitions.
As anyone in the fitness world is well-aware, you must be hyper-focused on nutrition and how you fuel your body. If you don't fuel properly, your performance is off. A fact my father was keenly aware of.
The only problem was, much of this early nutrition knowledge was either incorrect or not fully true. There was a lot of guesswork at play... You just had to hope you were doing the right thing and not causing damage later.
Well in the case of my father, a lot of damage was done! Mainly injuries from sport, but deeper health issues inevitably cropped up as well.
On the sports injury side, my dad had knee injuries, herniated disks in his back, and reduced dexterity in his hands from years of martial arts training.
There were so many times doctors would tell my dad that he would have this pain forever... He would have to get surgery... He would never walk the same way again... etc. etc. etc.
And you know what he said every time they told him to get surgery?
He was not willing to accept surgery as the only option. And he proved to be right every time. This was a big step in my father's health & nutrition awakening, if you will.
So what did he do?
First of all, he sought out chiropractors and physical therapists to bring mobility and balance back.
For long term, he sought out Chinese medicine. At the time, there was not much available so he bought everything he had access to. It was through this use of herbal medicine that allowed him to manage his pain and maintain mobility without prescription medication. It was incredible for him, and completely unheard of at the time!
As for other health issues, they didn't creep up in a significant way until after I was born.
I was around 10 years old when I noticed the foods available at home began to change.
Where the Entenmann's coffee cake donuts (my absolute favorite) used to live were replaced by gluten-free crackers.
Juice boxes were replaced with Organic whole milk.
And dinners changed drastically! I was a Mac & Cheese girl through and through... But those slowly disappeared as well and we ate spinach salads for dinner instead.
It was definitely an adjustment but I grew to love all these new, healthier foods. What I didn't realize until years later was why our diets changed so drastically.
It came up that there was an abnormal spot on my father's kidney.
With the concern of cancer in the air - this was an enormous wakeup call for my family.
So my dad did what he always does when there's a problem. He does his research and he fixes it.
He read more about health & nutrition than ever before - there was so much new information available. So many things my dad thought were healthy in the past proved to be false now.
He read. And read. And then read some more.
A year later my dad went back to the same doctor.
The spot disappeared.
The doctor was absolutely flabbergasted... All the medical literature he's read told him this was impossible. It couldn't just 'magically' disappear on its own. This must be a mistake.
That's the power of health & nutrition, baby.
You CAN heal.
These experiences with doctors made indelible impressions on my mind. Very early on I realized that only I could be responsible for my own health.
A belief further confirmed by an experience my grandmother had.
My Grandmother's Story
My grandmother, my dad's mom, was a full-blooded Italian born & raised in New Jersey with a huge family.
Raised during the Great Depression, times were tough. You had to make your own way and make the best of it.
As the economy improved and standard-of-living increased, my grandmother began to stray away from the nutrient-dense Italian cuisine of her ancestors. Little by little a more processed, American diet crept into her kitchen cabinets.
This penchant for all things sweet and carby would end up becoming her downfall later in life. She was a complete addict and could not break away.
In her 70's, my grandmother had a health concern that landed her in the hospital. I don't recall exactly what happened.
What I do remember, is that while in the hospital she contracted C. Diff, a nasty superbug.
The doctors gave her three rounds of antibiotics. None of them worked. The doctors said to my dad, 'We can try it a fourth time, but it never works after the third time'.
So they administered antibiotics a fourth time.
Still, they did not work. My grandma was still sick with C. Diff. So, the doctors said, 'There's nothing else we can do" and basically sent her home to die.
I remember when we got her back home. My dad sat her down at the kitchen table and asked, "Do you want me to fix you?"
In an exasperated tone my grandmother replies, "Well, YEAH!!"
My dad responded, "Okay, I'll fix you."
So I went with my dad to the local health food store. He picked up a bunch of things, including oil of oregano, olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract, and garlic extract. He also purchased low-carb, organic proteins & vegetables.
When we got back to the house, he removed all the processed food, breads, pastas, sweets, etc from the fridge & cabinets. Basically, all she had left to eat was what my father bought for her.
Two weeks later, the C. Diff completely cleared up.
My dad recalls the next time he brought my grandma into the doctor, he was shocked she was still alive.
Another instance of a recovery that according to doctors, would be impossible.
That experience further solidified the notion forming in my young mind... Only I can be responsible for my own health.
This theme made a recurrence later on, when I met my now-husband.
Poor Alex was a sickly child.
By the age of 5 he had already been hospitalized multiple times for asthma attacks, had an umbilical hernia, and tubes put into his ears, which then had to be surgically removed because they did not fall out on their own.
On top of this, he was extremely allergic to animals and unable to fully enjoy the experience of having pets... Which was difficult because he loves animals.
Aside from the allergies and early childhood emergencies, Alex's health was relatively normal growing up.
It's around when I met him in 2015 that health issues began to rear its ugly head again.
He had nagging digestive issues that just wouldn't go away - so Alex suspected IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome.
When he went to the doctor, he said, 'Yep, sounds like IBS. Try going on a gluten and lactose-free diet.'
So Alex followed the doctor's advice.
And guess what?
You got it.
At the time, I understood that nutrition was important to health... But I was only dimly aware of the fact. I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went yet!
So for a while we just accepted it as reality. Alex would have allergies for the rest of his life, he'd never be able to pet a dog without popping a Zyrtec, and his bowel movements would always be horrible.
How depressing of a viewpoint!
Looking back, it's really wild to me how defeatist we were! Especially with my past experiences of how my father and grandmother healed with nutrition.
Everyone loses their way sometimes, I suppose.
Anyway, it wasn't until a conversation between my dad and Alex that the paradigm shifted.
They were working outside on my dad's garden, when Alex mentioned, 'Yeah, overall we're doing pretty good. It's just my allergies that bother me.'
And my dad goes, 'You know, there's stuff you can do for that.'
Alex's mind was completely blown to hear this.
All his life, he was told he would have these allergies forever - he was born with it. There's nothing he could do to get rid of them. And now, someone is telling him it's possible to fix? What??
So what was this mystical cure for Alex's allergies?
Well, it all started with fermented veggies.
Yes, ever-humble sauerkraut & kimchi were the answer to Alex's allergy woes.
My father explained that gut health & immunity are intimately tied together. When there are issues with the microbiome, often allergy symptoms arise.
Alex was skeptical, but I was fascinated by the concept. We decided to try it - there was nothing to lose after all!
I believe around the one-month mark is where the results started to roll in.
Alex began to notice that he wasn't wheezing in the presence of a dog. He could pet them, and he would no longer get hives and watery eyes.
It seemed like a miracle!
Even more so when springtime rolled around. When everyone around him was suffering from seasonal allergies, Alex realized HE wasn't suffering! Normally this time of year he wouldn't be able to breathe normally for months. But he was completely fine!
The tale of the fermented veggies was a huge turning point in this story - a seed that began to sprout my nutritional awakening.
During this time I was working through my own health issues (which I will explain soon I promise!), but Alex's tale isn't quite finished yet.
While the allergies had evaporated into the ether, Alex was still having persistent digestive troubles. We suspected SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Alex was also beginning to experience symptoms of chronic fatigue. It got to the point where he was working from bed because he simply couldn't muster the energy to get up or do anything. I knew him as the guy who would wake up at 5 AM to go to the gym, so we knew something was very wrong here.
At this point, we both followed in the footsteps of my dad.
We read. And read. And then read some more.
The more books we read, the more clues we discovered that could help bring Alex's gut and hormones back into balance.
We cycled through SO many diets, SO many supplements, SO many modalities. We did it all on our own.
It was slow-going, but with every book we read there was marked improvement in Alex's digestion.
After about three years of constant research and trial-and-error, Alex is about 95% healed. Which in my mind, is just about the best you can ask for as I am not sure it's possible we can be 100% healthy 100% of the time. But we can, and do, strive for that.
Now, Alex is the energetic guy I always remember him being. He still has to avoid foods that trigger digestive issues, but we've figured out how to work around it easily - he doesn't miss any of those foods anyway.
So now that you've read all about my dad, my grandma, my husband... It's finally time to talk about me and how I got to become a nutritional therapy practitioner!
Here we are, the final chapter to the never-ending health saga.
As you may have gathered, in early childhood I was raised on the Standard American Diet (lots of processed foods, sugars, wheat, etc). At around the age of 10 this began to shift toward more wholesome, organic foods.
By the time high school rolled around, I was 90% gluten-free. I became known as the 'organic girl' and the 'gluten-free girl' way before it was cool! In any case, I knew I felt better without wheat products so I avoided them when possible.
My diet certainly wasn't perfect by any means, (I was a teenager after all!) but my mom is a great cook so I always had high-quality foods at home.
It wasn't until I moved away from home that I strayed away from my good habits.
When I first moved in with Alex, he wasn't totally sold on a lot of the nutrition knowledge I had learned from my parents. So I relaxed my ways a bit.
Slowly, the greasy restaurant foods slipped in, the sugar, and... the gluten. ALL the gluten.
For a while, I felt fine. But once the good habits I had worked so hard towards were erased... Problems began to take hold.
My hormones, digestion, and weight took a turn for the worse.
Weight gain occupied most of my mental RAM at the beginning. I was always slender and I couldn't stand feeling so bloated and puffy all the time.
Restrictive eating patterns set in, and I was obsessed with tracking. If it was 5 calories over my daily limit, I wouldn't eat it.
But then about 1-2 days a week I wouldn't be able to stand the restriction anymore. I was STARVING and I just needed food!
So I'd binge and eat until I felt sick and intensely unhappy with myself.
Then I would punish and restrict, give up and binge, ad infinitum.
I put myself into a vicious cycle that took me years to get out of.
I had a lot of self-love, mental/emotional healing to do. And eventually I did break up with my abusive food relationship. I can't remember the last time I tracked, and I never felt better. I've even been able to maintain my weight where I feel comfortable.
But back to the story. When the weight gain appeared...
I began to lose my period. It might come every 2 or 3 months, but I could never count on it to be consistent anymore.
Before I knew any better, the doctor convinced me to try birth control to get my period back. I was on it for one month, and had to quit because I was beginning to have suicidal thoughts.
It was terrifying to me how this little pill could mess with my brain chemistry so much. I was always a happy, grounded person and all of a sudden I had no control over my mood whatsoever. I was never so negative and miserable in my life.
So I quit cold turkey, but of course my period still hadn't come back.
Not to mention, my digestion was getting worse by the day. It got to the point where I occasionally would not be able to control my bowels at all. Thankfully I was always home alone when this happened, but it was absolutely humiliating for me.
I was 20 years old, how could I not control my bowel movements!?!? That was a wake-up call for me.
I was not willing to accept living a life where I'd always have to worry if I needed to run to find a bathroom.
So while Alex was working on his health concerns, I was working on mine at the same time.
We read all the books we could together, and whenever we learned something we shared it with one another.
Eventually, it got to the point where we exceeded even my dad's knowledge!
Just like Alex, it took about 3 years for me to fix my health. My period is back, my weight is stable, and my digestion is also 95% better.
We did all the research ourselves with no outside help, so it took much longer than if I had worked with someone who knew it all already!
At the same time all of this learning and healing was happening, I began a small business making and selling natural personal care products.
I would go to farmer's markets every weekend and sell my product, which was great!
The trouble was, people would share with me all their health problems. Their joints hurt, they had psoriasis, eczema, rashes, they had allergies.
While I knew my products would be helpful, I knew it would not address the root cause of their health concerns.
I wanted to help them on a much deeper level than was possible selling a joint salve or chest rub.
I wanted to tell them about all the things I was learning, like why their allergies are actually because of leaky gut... But that wasn't the venue for it.
When I found out about the Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program (through Kristen, actually!) I knew I had finally found my place. These were my people!
So I signed up for the course in September of 2018, and graduated on June 2, 2019 (my first wedding anniversary!)
The rest is history.
I continue to learn and grow everyday to help serve my clients to the best of my ability. I don't want anyone to have to stumble through all the trials & tribulations I did to figure out what was going on with my health.
The reality is, you can take control of your own health. And you should.
My job is to help give you the tools and assist you along the healing journey - I will be your cheerleader along every step of the way.
Know that your body can, and will, heal when given proper nourishment.
You've got this!