I never understood why eggs made me feel nauseous.
After all—they are supposedly the “superfood” breakfast.
In my eating disorder days, egg white only omelets were my “secret weapon” for starting my day off right.
Fast forward to recovery, and I embraced the yolks!
Conquering my fear of fat was liberating, and most mornings consisted of eggs over easy with a side of turkey bacon, fresh fruit and almond butter (Of course. Because almond butter makes everything taste better).
However, despite my newfound freedom with food, I also found continued struggles with digestion—struggles I’d had for years since before anorexia hijacked my body.
Constipation. Bloating. Gas after meals. Loos stools. And nausea.
Not all the time, but more often than not, my gut was super sensitive to the littlest things:
- Eating out at restaurants
- Eating a tablespoon of almond butter too much
- Chili powder, tomatoes and taco seasonings—anything spicy or with citric acid
- And my morning eggs
It wasn’t until I was a student in my nutrition therapy program that began to uncover the underlying reasons why my tummy troubles waned.
Two words: Leaky gut.
For years—years—I’ve struggled with a leaky gut.
In fact, knowing what I know now, leaky gut actually has a direct connection to our brain health (also known as the brain-gut connection)—a predisposing factor to my own struggles with food and anxiety for years.
Blame my leaky on:
- Me, being a C-section baby
- Bottle feeding at a young age
- Antibiotics and vaccines as a kid
- A steady diet of processed foods (probably 80% of my diet)
- Eating on the go
- Not taking time to poop (hey, I was a kid)
- Conventional dairy and meats
- My genetic predisposition for autoimmune conditions
- Years of dieting and erratic food behaviors
- Drinking pitchers of Crystal Light and diet drinks by the gallon (artificial sweeternes)
- And more…
There’s a slew of reasons why a leaky gut starts.
However, for years, I thought bloating, gas, constipation, loose stools and nausea were normal.
I didn’t even question them.
It wasn’t until I was in nutrition therapy school that I realized that I didn’t have to feel that way.
Bloating and nausea after eating eggs wasn’t normal.
Feeling constipated after eating nuts was a sign my body was not fully digesting the food I was eating.
As I began to experience more and more freedom (in my mind and life) with food, I also began to experience more connection with my body and how it felt, and unfortunately, also began to awaken many of the gut-issues I had had for years—both before and during my eating disorder.
Gut issues I had never realized I had—even though I’d felt “that way” for years.
What to do about it?
This revelation was both liberating (I don’t have to feel this way) and shameful.
I felt ashamed, self-conscious, and conflicted about my body and foods that it could and could not tolerated.
After all, the message that had been preached at me for years in treatment was: “Gut issues”—(especially for individuals in recovery)—don’t really exist.
And so, I came to believe that stomach issues shouldn’t exist—even if they did.
“All food is good and nourishing. It gives you energy,” I was told to tell myself when plated a tray of Pop-tarts and chocolate milk in the hospital, or a plate of Eggo Waffles with whipped cream and syrup on top. And while I did yearn to believe in moderation and that all food can be good, during the months in the treatment centers where I sought “healing”, it seemed like there was an awful lot more of processed and packaged foods, then real foods.
In hospitals and treatment centers, I was told by many support and recovery staff that my feelings of bloatedness or skin break outs after eating dairy were “all in my head.”
And that gluten was really just a “fear food” and a fad—not something I really was allergic to.
I’d even listen to podcasts of other individuals talking about life in recovery, and how gluten and dairy and other food sensitivities were really silly—they don’t really exist, and were “just a part of the eating disorder” according to their philosophies…
So as I began my true recovery journey—finding peace and freedom with nourishing myself for the first time, and ending all the noise and clutter in my head—I also felt super conflicted around such foods that still seemed to trigger ill feelings in my belly and body—for hours and days after consumption: eggs, dairy, gluten and nuts.
Plain and simple: It sucked.
But no matter how hard I tried to make myself think about other things, and just eat the scrambled eggs, or cheese, or handful of nuts…my gut always told me different.
My lightbulb moment when I discovered…I needed to heal my gut.
In order to even have a chance of enjoying a wide variety of foods—without the constipation, bloating, gas and nausea I’d experienced most of my life—it wasn’t necessarily about the foods themselves, as much as it was my own gut.
This coupled with my pre-disposition for autoimmune conditions and symptoms in all of my family members made me realize, there was more to my body and my health than my ill feelings “just being in my head.”
And that, now, in my recovery, I could choose to take care of my body—for the first time—out of a place of nourishing it and healing it to health (instead of fighting it, or aiming to simply contort and shape it like I had in my eating disorder).
The Gut-HEALING Journey Begins
Unearthing this revelation was liberating.
I wanted nothing more than peace with food—and it’s something I began to experience more and more in my mind every day—but if I wanted it in my body too, I began to learn that the gut is the gateway to health.
Even if you don’t experience bloating or nausea or GI symptoms, other indicators of poor gut health include signs like breakouts, allergies (even seasonal), low immunity, fatigue, autoimmune conditions, arthritis, dark circles under your eyes, low energy and suppressed appetite—even if you’re not dieting on purpose.
So where to even start?
The process was daunting at first, but through some research and the guidance of others who had been through a similar experience, I was introduced to an AIP (autoimmune protocol) protocol for helping heal my gut.
This in conjunction with probiotics and digestive enzymes began to support the healing process.
The Autoimmune Protocol is a special dietary approach to help people with autoimmune disease, symptoms and/or digestive issues heal their gut—and decrease inflammation.
“Autoimmune” essentially means “attacking self”.
In the case of autoimmune disease, the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues, leading to the deterioration and in some cases to the destruction of such tissue.
And this is most often attributed to a leaky gut—as your intestinal lining becomes more permeable (less tight) with wear and tear, food particles and ingested toxins easily leak into the bloodstream, causing those antibodies (disease destroying particles) to go to work.
As the antibodies attack the foreign invaders, they also attack your body’s own tissues in the process, leading to inflammation, “flare ups”, achy joints, skin conditions, brain fog, depleted energy, cysts, IBS, heart disease, cancer and more.
In other words: No bueno (no good).
Certain “higher inflammatory” and histamine foods generally provoke this situation more, including:
- Grains and gluten
- Sugar (added) and artificial sugar
- Nuts and most seeds
- Processed foods
- Vegetable oils (canola, Crisco, margarine)
- Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes—sweet potatoes ok, peppers, eggplant, paprika, all chili’s including spices)
An Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet works to reduce inflammation in the intestines.
Many “clean eating” or elimination diets are not complete enough to remove immune triggers that promote inflammation in the gut. AIP works to calm inflammation in the gut and also calm inflammation in the body. Although autoimmune disease can never be cured, it can be put into remission by targeting improved gut health. For some, an initial AIP protocol of 6-8 weeks (paired with digestive support like probiotics and enzymes) is all that’s needed to then begin experimenting with some foods within the “avoid” list again to see how the body responds—even on occasion. For others, it can be years, or even a lifetime from a history of an unhealthy gut that certain foods do provoke an inflammatory response. Every BODY is different and it’s a matter of finding what works for you.
While, it is still a work in progress, over the past couple years of my own gut-healing journey, I’ve been able to re-introduce some of these foods in small doses—like eggs mixed into the ingredients of my absolute favorite avocado oil mayo by Primal Kitchen, or these awesome nut-flour crackers by Simple Mills with little problems.
In short, this post is for all of you who have found—or are beginning to find—a new liberating relationship with food…
And now coping with the baggage that years of dieting or a leaky gut has had on your body all along—with a healthy perspective.
In my follow-up posts, I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes and gut-healing hacks I’ve discovered over the past years for helping heal your body if gut issues are something you’ve struggled with today.
But for today, here’s a basic overview of what a “AIP” nutrition plan looks like from a nourishment point of view—no longer neglecting or at war with your body, but eating foods that make your body feel good (and in turn, eating foods that it actually can absorb and use to empower you to live your life—outside the obsessions or thoughts about food, fitness or your body)
AIP Food List
Foods to include? Plenty! Including:
- Vegetables (except nightshades)
- Fruits (limit to 15-20 grams fructose/day)
- Coconut, including coconut oil, manna, creamed coconut, coconut aminos, canned coconut milk, shredded coconut
- Fats: olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, lard, bacon fat, ghee
- Fermented Foods (coconut yogurt, kombucha, water and coconut kefir, fermented vegetables)
- Bone Broth
- Grass Fed Meats, Poultry and Seafood
- Herbal Teas
- Green Tea
- Vinegars: Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic
- Natural Sweeteners: occasional and sparse use of honey and maple syrup (1 tsp/day)
- Herbs: all fresh and non-seed herbs are allowed (basil tarragon, thyme, mint, oregano, rosemary, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, savory, edible flowers)
- Herbs and spices (such as: sea salt, curry, dill, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, vanilla, onion powder, oregano, garlic, cilantro, bay leaf, basil, chives, peppermint)