My name is Jackie and I am a holistic health coach and avid student of nutrition. I am blessed with a wonderful husband and three great kids who have all supported me during my illness, by learning to eat differently with me, and by always being willing to give new foods a try. I can tell you with all honesty that I never appreciated my health until it was gone. I feel blessed every day to have my health and energy back and will never again take it for granted.
My goals for launching my website and my health- coaching business are to help people restore their health through real, clean, non- processed food and to bring awareness to digestive diseases. My expertise lies in digestive diseases, since that is what I recovered from, but beyond that, all of us can benefit from eating healthier.
I have been a student at Integrative Nutrition for the last year and have studied nutritional healing for the past 8 years. Through all my studies, I believe that most of the common diseases in the United States today are caused by our diet…plain and simple. Every country that adopts the Standard American Diet finds that obesity, diabetes, and heart disease start to escalate. We seem to be a nation that goes big or goes home, so my hope is that there is a paradigm shift coming. People are starting to realize that we absolutely have to change the way we are eating and drinking to restore our health.
The following is a very condensed version of my story of health loss, recovery and remission. It took me quite a while to feel comfortable in telling this story, but I know when I was really ill, and desperately searching for answers, reading this would have given me some hope that I could get my life back. Some of it is personal, but these were things that I wanted to know when I was sick, and I’m putting myself out there so you know that you aren’t alone. I hope my story gives you hope and you will give healing food a chance.
I didn’t grow up in a family that loved food. My grandmother was a great cook, but other than that, my family wasn’t into cooking at all. It wasn’t until I got older that I discovered that I liked to cook and bake. And honestly, it wasn’t until I was trying to regain my health that I found a true passion for really good food that is fresh and simple. I look at it this way… I get to make 5-6 choices a day about what I’m going to eat. For me, those food choices are really important and I make sure that the food I eat every day benefits my overall health.
Since college I have had gastrointestinal issues, it started with dairy products. I had never been a milk drinker, probably because it didn’t agree with me, but I loved ice cream. I had to quit eating ice cream all together in college because of the gastrointestinal distress it was causing me. I was pretty bummed, but as a college student I still had Taco Bell and beer so all was good.
Over the years, I continued to have issues, but never anything serious enough that I sought medical help. I always just thought that I just had a sensitive stomach and reacted badly to some foods.
In 2000, I had my third child and had a great, healthy pregnancy. As I now know, sometimes during pregnancy the symptoms of intestinal diseases disappear. Over the next 5 years my medical issues became much more serious and I was struggling to find anything to eat that I didn’t have a reaction to. When I say reaction to food, I mean that I was having 9-10 loose, bloody bowel movements a day. I was losing a lot of weight and was really scared. When I looked up the symptoms for colon cancer, I could check off every single symptom. I thought, Holy Crap I’m in trouble, (pun intended). The best way for me to describe what was going on with me, was each and every time I ate anything, I felt like I had a Roto Rooter in my colon. As my body was struggling to digest food it sounded like an old creaky door, it was so loud my family could hear my intestines churning.
I had talked to my primary doctor many times about all the gastrointestinal issues I was having and she finally referred me to a gastroenterologist. I had my first colonoscopy in 2005 and was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. It sounds strange, but I was relived to have a diagnosis and know that I didn’t have colon cancer. When we were driving home from the colonoscopy, I was starving of course because of all the “cleansing” the day before. We stopped at Chili’s and I ordered of all things a cheeseburger. I had two bites and immediately ran out of the restaurant and threw up on their sidewalk. It shows you how completely ignorant I was about my food choices and what they were doing to my body at that time.
Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic disease of the large intestine, also known as the colon. The lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops tiny open sores, or ulcers, that produce pus and mucous. The combination of inflammation and ulceration can cause severe abdominal discomfort and frequent emptying of the colon. Ulcerative colitis is an auto-immune disease and there is no cure.
With my diagnosis came a plethora of new drugs for me to bring home and take. My gastroenterologist was sure that we could get my disease in remission with these drugs. I started with Asacol and Prednisone and a lot of it. I was taking 6 pills three times a day, and I am not a pill popper by nature. I really hate even taking an Advil, so this was pretty overwhelming to me. When I read through the side effects of the drugs I was taking, I was even more overwhelmed. I asked my gastroenterologist the question that I would ask many times over the next three years, “What about the food I’m eating, doesn’t diet affect this disease”? Even then, I was questioning why my doctors didn’t ask me about my diet? Wouldn’t it be good to know if I drank 12 cups of coffee a day and a dozen chocolate chip cookies for breakfast? I didn’t do those things, but I was having a hard time understanding why no one seemed to care about my food intake, when I had been diagnosed with a digestive disease.
Even though I hated the drugs, I was determined to get my life back, so I followed the drug regime. In a year’s time I was so much worse then I had been, prior to the drugs. At this point I had lost 35 pounds and was anemic from all the blood I was losing every day. My hair was falling out including my eyebrows and I had lost a couple of toenails from all the fungus that was in my body. I was also depressed and struggling to take care of my three very active children. I had my 2nd colonoscopy and was now diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis…obviously the drugs didn’t work!
At this point, I was starting to do my own research and reading about all these people who had put themselves into remission from ulcerative colitis by following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. The gastroenterologist I was seeing wouldn’t talk to me about diet at all, so I went to Gatstroenterologist #2 and took my book Breaking the Vicious Cycle with me. Gastroenterologist #2 was offended that I would even suggest that my diet had anything to do with my disease. He all but dismissed me from his office for questioning his standard forms of treatment or suggesting there might be an alternative.
Gastroenterologist #3 was at a cutting edge research center and in the beginning he said that yes, he believed that maybe diet was involved with intestinal diseases, but in the end, all he could do for me was prescribe new drugs and send me to their staff nutritionist. I genuinely liked this doctor and I asked him, if he believed that diet was involved with these diseases, then why not tell his patients about this as an alternative to drugs? He said that all he could do was offer the standard forms of treatment according to the research they currently had.
The conclusions I came to after 2 years of drugs and doctors and no hope, are that a lot of research is done on drugs because drugs are big business and people make a lot of money on them. Hardly any research is done on the healing properties of food, because it’s not as profitable. Before I left this doctor, he told me that if things didn’t get better surgery was definitely in my future and to be very careful.
I came home from that appointment with my book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle in hand, and I decided I was going to give food a chance and see if my body could heal itself.
My colon was diseased and in terrible shape, but it was bought and paid for and all mine, I was determined to keep it.
The book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle is written by Elaine Gottschall who passed away in 2005. Elaine Gottschall was a mom who was on a quest to save her 8 year old daughter’s life. Her daughter’s condition was deteriorating quickly from Ulcerative Colitis, and she set out to find a cure. Her daughter was healed in two years by following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Elaine dedicated her life to getting the word out to people that there was another way to heal yourself from intestinal disease besides drugs and surgery. Elaine’s main interests of study were the effect of food on the functioning of the digestive tract, as well as on behavior.
I have never been a person that is good at following a diet. Something about the diet word just makes me cringe and I feel deprived the moment I start a diet. I chose to make this more of a healing journey. I never followed the SCD diet 100% in the beginning, but I was probably at 90% and right away I could feel good things happening in my body. Food was starting to stay with me and I was getting a little bit of energy back.
I’m not going to tell you it was easy, because to change the way you have eaten your whole life is tough, but for me, food was medicine and I was determined to feel healthy again. I ate the same things over and over for almost a year, while still making my family their standard meals of spaghetti and chicken and pizza. The social part of dealing with a digestive disease is probably harder than anything else. Most of our life revolves around food, celebrations and parties and 95% of the time there was nothing I could eat at any of these events. As I got stronger, I would eat before I went to an event, or I would take a dish that I could eat at the party.
It’s really difficult to explain to people that even a bite of a cookie could throw me into a flare for two weeks. Our social life was minimal during the initial part of my healing. I had so much anxiety about eating something and having to run for a bathroom. I also got tired of trying to explain my disease and I was worn out from my daily activities. The commercials you see now where people with these intestinal diseases are always looking for the nearest bathroom are right on, that is your life as a person dealing with an intestinal disease.
What began to happen, as I got stronger, is that I started getting more creative in the kitchen with what I was cooking and baking. The food I was eating began to look interesting to the rest of the clan and everyone started eating my meals with me.
I started baking with almond flour, just so I could make things to curb my sweet tooth and low and behold some of it started tasting pretty good. After two years of following SCD, I was in what I would call semi- remission, but I continued to have sporadic flares over the next couple of years. The good news was, I was functioning and living my life in my kitchen and out of the bathroom.
Living Life Again
Ulcerative colitis tends to run in families, and I now know that this is what my mom had when I was growing up and unfortunately, my daughter is showing signs of this disease. The good news for her is she knows what to eat and can avoid ever getting to the place that I did with my disease.
Things just got better and better and in 2010 I even learned to scuba dive with my family and for me that was a defining moment. To think about doing something like that before wouldn’t have been an option for me. There is no bathroom in the ocean, so I knew I was healed when I could join my family in this adventure.
I am in complete remission now and never going back. I read about people who heal themselves through food and then go back and eat the same way. For me, that is not an option and I still have reactions to grains, most dairy and refined sugar.
Because of my illness, my entire family eats so much healthier now and all of us are label readers and proud of it.
I eat a SCD/Paelo diet every day and will continue to do that, until my body tells me to do something differently. I think everyone should know that there are alternatives to traditional drugs and surgery. This diet isn’t for everyone, but for me it was definitely worth the time and effort. Given the chance, our bodies are pretty amazing at healing themselves. For those of you who are struggling with these diseases, my heart goes out to you and I hope that my story offers you some hope and that you can regain your life and your health.
We are what we eat!
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
Jackie will be a trained Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Nutritional Therapy is a holistic approach to nutrition. This approach assesses the body’s nutritional deficiencies and needs, then addresses them using a diet of properly prepared whole foods, supplementation, and lifestyle changes.
To learn more about Nutritional Therapy, click here.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition – New York, NY
September 2013 – September 2014
I received my training as a health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Training Program.
During my training, I studied over 100 dietary theories, practical lifestyle management and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness teachers including Dr. Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, Dr. David Katz, Dr. Walter Willett, Geneen Roth and many more leading researchers and nutrition authorities.
My education has equipped me with extensive knowledge in holistic nutrition and preventive health. Drawing from my education and my own nutrition studies for the past 10 years, I feel certain that I can give you the tools to lead a healthier life.
My main expertise is in grain free eating for people with digestive diseases, but almost everyone can benefit from incorporating healthier foods and exercise into their lives.
University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska
August 1978 – December 1983
B.A. Marketing Studies