Healing and Repairing my Digestion: Part I

For more on my healing and repairing digestion series, check out: Part II, Part III, Part IV

When we don’t listen to what our bodies need they have a tendency of screaming the solution in the form of symptoms. When we experience these irregularities it’s usually a sign that we’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way and our life needs a bit of adjusting. If we’re attuned to our needs, we catch them right away and adjust accordingly. But if we’re careless, or distrust our innate wisdom, they can multiply and get downright nasty.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what my body has done and it took me about 3 months to finally check myself before I wrecked myself. And the result; as I mentioned earlier this week, has been to make my health my #1 priority.

Around October, I became frustrated at my inability to gain muscle despite all of the work I was doing at the gym. No matter what I changed, what physical activity I participated in, I maintained the same muscle definition, body fat % and weight.

I decided to go against my whole food, natural ‘eat what you want, when you want – internal wisdom‘ approach to a low-fat, high carbohydrate eating style, then to a high-fat, low carbohydrate approach weeks later.

This shift had me second guessing my ‘internal wisdom’ and discrediting the messages my body was sending me.

When I went low-fat I was craving nut butters, oils, coconut, nuts, anything fatty I could get my hands on. When I went low-carbohydrate I was grumpy, started to experience headaches, and struggled with very old and dark disordered eating thoughts.

Although my energy was great and muscle was forming, I was getting more and more constipated by the day. How could I feel so good while my digestive system continued to become weaker and weaker?

The Tipping Point

There was a night where I sat in font of the TV craving a strawberry quinoa flake bake but chose to ignore the craving because I wasn’t eating grains. I sat with this for awhile and realized that this path of low-fat, high-fat, primal eating, defining what I was going to eat and when, had slowly removed the trust and connection I had with my innate knowledge.

The power to understand what nutrients my body needed was gone. So I began preparing a plan to get myself back on track:

  • Green smoothies once per day to increase daily veggie consumption
  • 20 minute daily meditation to help alleviate stress
  • Smaller meals more often to lower the impact on my digestion. Instead of having 3 meals at approx. 500 calories each, I switched to 5-6 meals at approx. 300 calories each
  • Get back to intuitive eating and trust in my internal wisdom
  • Continue to food journal to rule out sensitivities or allergies

It’s amazing how quickly our intuition goes when we’re not feeding it positive, uplifting thoughts.


Building a Supportive Network

I accepted that tapping into my intuition would be a lengthy process but something told me that this wasn’t the only thing that was contributing to the issue. No matter how diligently I food journaled, I wasn’t able to link foods to the symptoms I was having.

At this point I was at a loss. I didn’t know what steps to take, where to go, or what to do. Tbest thing you can do for yourself when you’re in this position is get help! I began looking for a Naturopath whose approach was focused on nutritional healing and who could perform allergy tests, and a colon hydrotherapist with a background in healing diets.

I met with my new Naturopath earlier this week and was so happy with the outcome! His approach is exactly what I was looking for. He focuses primarily on nutritional changes, then moves to supplementation, followed by medical tests if every other effort doesn’t work.

Although our ultimate goal is to do allergy testing, doing it now while my body is under stress could result in false positives – sensitivities to foods I’m not actually sensitive to.

The way he explained why this occurs was perfect – when our digestion is slow, the gaps in between the muscles of our colon open and small particles of proteins are able to pass through these walls. These proteins are then attacked by our immune system. Thinking the protein is a danger, our immune system builds an immune response to this protein, and therefore creates a sensitivity or allergy to that food. Once you’ve closed the gaps by regulating your digestion and letting your body relax and heal, allergy testing becomes much more affective and accurate.

Repairing Digestion

Our action plan from our first appointment was to:

  • Incorporate proper eating hygiene:
      • Relaxing when eating by listen to music, not reading, working or engaging in conversation that’s stressful.
      • Chewing food at least 40 times per mouthful.
      • Only eating when hungry
  • Increase hydrochloric acid to assist with digestion:
      • 5 minutes before each meal consume: 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or 1/2 fresh lemon juice with 1/4 cup water.
  • Increase healthy fats:
      • 1 teaspoon of fish oil twice a day.
      • 1 avocado per day. Has high fiber and high fat!
  • Support smooth moving digestion:
      • 2-4 grams of vitamin C powder per day.
  • Give my digestion a break with a two day juice fast.

Healing Digestion

I’ve started up with all of  the recommendations but the juice fast. Those babies take a couple of days to plan and implement, but I think I’m ready now! In combination with weekly colon hydrotherapy sessions, next weeks’ plan goes a bit like this:

  • Sunday: juice fast preparation day
  • Monday: juice fast day 1
  • Tuesday: juice fast day 2
  • Wednesday: smoothie transition day

Juice Fast Preparation

The day before a juice fast is just as important as the fast itself. You want to make sure you’re not eating heavy foods that are going to cause any digestive upsets in the days to come. So, on Sunday I plan on having foods like:

  • Steamed vegetables
  • Fruit puree
  • Brown rice
  • Nut or seed butters
  • Hemp or rice protein shakes
  • Hummus

Generally speaking, winter is not the time to do fasts, detoxes or cleanses which is why I’m only planning on completing a two fast and will not be combining tit with any detox supporting herbs. The two day period will give my digestion a time to relax and repair without going into hardcore detox mode!

I’ll be posting all of the recipes for the juices and smoothies that I plan on filling my days with, along with tips on how to have a successful juice fast when you are a busy lady like myself. Juicing and smoothie making can consume a lot of time but there are ways you can prep in advance to make things easier.

I’m sorry for the long post today! Many of you have expressed interest in digestive healing and health, so I hoped that sharing my story may help.

If you’re not interested in the journey, at least stay for the tasty juice and smoothie recipes (cough, caramel apple smoothie, cough) I’ll be whipping up next week. They’re sure to be delicious!

See you soon ;)

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Comments | Leave Your Comment

  1. This was wonderful, Leanne. I’ve had a bit of digestion stress problems lately, too, so I definitely took a lot away from this post. Good luck with all your healing! Especially the juice fast…those can be tough when you want something-haha! munchie

  2. Good job following your intuition, Leanne! Sounds like the “extremes” don’t work for you, which makes sense… Moderation is important in all aspects of life!
    I’m still feeling good with the high fat, high protein, high fruit/veg, and low (or no) grain approach, but I have found myself craving a big bowl of quinoa lately, and (similar to your story) tend to respond to my cravings with “but that’s not paleo or Whole 30 approved!” After reading your story I might just say “screw it” and have the quinoa! I should always follow my internal wisdom. There’s probably a reason for my craving, and one serving of quinoa isn’t going to “ruin me” even if it’s not part of my current eating plan. :)
    Thanks as always for your post. Good luck!

    • I hadn’t looked at it that way, that extreme’s just aren’t right for me. You’re so right! If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years of trying to take care of my body, is that we all have the answers within us and shouldn’t get caught up with trying to define our eating style by predetermined labels. I’m just not sure why or how I stopped practicing it! Thanks for your support! I wish you all the very best as well :)

      • Leanne,
        I am confused about this intuitive eating. I have Candida Albicans. It is said that those with this condition crave sweets and starches. I don’t crave sweets neither sugary foods but I do crave starches. I am on a journey of getting rid of my yeast infection and I do great with no carbs in my diet but sometimes I crave starches – I follow this crave – I go and eat – and the next day my symptoms get worse…What am I missing?

        • That’s a very fair question. There is definitely a difference between intuition and cravings. Something I like to do, before I begin my day, is sit quietly in my meditation space for a couple of minutes. When my mind is clear after a couple of minutes, I repeat to myself: I will be guided toward foods that will nourish me most. I say this a couple of times. Then, I say: The foods that I choose will nourish me. Then I go about my day. Every time I eat, snack or anything, I ask myself – is this what I want? Or what I need? It helps me stay accountable to the affirmation I start my day with. When I was battling with candida, the cravings was always a WANT and not a NEED. Hope that helps :)

  3. I absolutely love this post. Since starting to study nutrition for my certification, I have completely changed the way I approach my food and cravings. I have increased my protein and fat to realize that is exactly what my body needs. I still have to do lower fat (my IBS does not like too much of it), but my protein intake is a lot higher along with being from a variety of sources. Thanks for sharing this Leanne!

  4. Wow, this is so interesting Leanne! I’ve been curious about juice detoxes for a while now, but have refrained due to my workout regimens – I just feel like I’d be too weak to get through my workouts. On the macronutrient issues, isn’t it funny how one minute we can believe that our bodies should be getting lots of protein/fat and barely any carbs, then the next minute, do a complete 180 and think the opposite? I love the advice that you shared from the naturopath gave about totally reducing stress while eating. This is something that I’ve been trying to do (eating mindfully) for the past year, and I definitely have my good days! Over the past month or so, I’ve really begun to notice the effects that stressful situations have on the way I look and feel – it’s amazing, and really interesting too! I can’t wait to hear more about your digestive system “repair plan”. Keep the posts coming and I can’t wait for that caramel apple recipe!

  5. Loved reading this post Leanne!
    It is amazing what you can learn if you quiet your mind and truly listen to your body.
    For so long I struggled with disordered thoughts because I didn’t listen to my body and tried to restrict certain nutrients.
    When I feel like I can’t satisfy my craving for food I often realize that the answer is so simple. Either I’m dehydrated and need to drink some water or I need some simple carbs to fuel and relax my brain.. so I’ll eat an orange and be completely fine.
    I love your approach and can’t wait to read more =)

  6. Awesome post, very enlightening! I am just curious though as to why winter is not the best time for detoxing? I have never heard that before and am definitely wanting to hear your opinion?

    • Hi Britta – I touched on it a bit in the post and will go into further detail throughout the week. Basically, our bodies are intended to be in hibernation mode in the winter. We are supposed to pack on a couple of extra pounds, lay around in our PJS, nap a lot, and reflect on the previous year. Cleanses and detoxes are great, but they’re so energizing in a time where we should be relaxed and humble. It’s not going to affect your health majorly, just isn’t ideal.

  7. It sounds like you might have what some people call “leaky gut syndrome.” I do believe in this theory as my youngest son became allergic to lots of foods all of a sudden and became really ill. I did test him for IgG and IgE allergens and put him on an elimination diet for 6 months. He also took supplements that our nutritionist recommended. I can attest to the fact that he is now the healthier boy in the family – hasn’t gotten sick since. Looking forward to hearing how you heal your body.

    • I’ve started applying some of the leaky gut approaches to my plan. I’ll be sure to keep following up on it, totally think there’s something there! Glad to hear your son is doing much better now :)

  8. I recently tried colon hydrotherapy, and even though I didn’t have any severe or frequent digestive problems, my first colonic had a HUGE impact on my digestion and elimination. So impressed! And I’ve scheduled my second appointment already, too, for next week.

    Best of luck, dear!

  9. This is a great post: beautifully written, honest, and reflective, thanks for sharing! I used to try to set limitations and boundaries about what I ate and when more and it made me crazy. These days I follow my appetite (which is huge some days and light others-hormones!) but when I do start to slip back into old habits I often find myself with cravings and thoughts of food.
    Best wishes on your journey!

  10. Thank you for sharing this with us, Leanne! I agree completely with your response to the first comment. We “shouldn’t get caught up with trying to define our eating style by predetermined labels.” That is exactly right. I’ve read a lot about the primal/paleo diet, and while I understand peoples’ motives for trying this out, or combining this with a certain workout regime, everyone’s body is different! Not only that, but the way that the primal peoples ate way back when definately worked for them and was pretty much the only way to eat. However… we can attempt to eat the same way, but food has drastically changed since then. We may still be able to grow organic fruits and vegetables, and raise organic, free range, grass fed animals, etc.. but we no longer have the variety of crops as they had due to monocropping that came along with the agricultural revolution, and the variety that we do have is no longer the same. Animals are no longer the same. Anyways, sorry for the long comment, just thought I’d share my thoughts :) I’m very excited to see the smoothie recipes coming up! Good luck on this new journey :)

  11. Best of luck with the fasting and figuring out what can heal your body. I know how frustrating and uncomfortable digestive issues are, I’ve had my fair share and still go through them occasionally. It’s all a learning process and I have no doubt you’ll find a good balance soon :)

  12. I can so relate to you, Leanne. Sometimes I wish I knew LESS about nutrition – it works against me when I know so many seemingly competing facts about what “healthy” means, and I constantly second-guess myself and mess with my diet. Ugh. I’m getting better about it, but it takes work to actually TUNE OUT a lot of my own knowledge! (I wasn’t trying to sound full of myself there, ha! Sorry if it comes off that way!)

    Have you had your testosterone levels checked? I got a blood test recently that showed mine were low, which may contribute to me stalling in the fitness department the last year or two. May be something to look into.

    • I can completely relate! Although looking back to the way I used to eat before I went to school, I’m happy that I know what I know. Just need to practice shutting it off now and then, as you said. I debated getting a hormone analysis but never went forward with it. Guess I need to go back to the drawing board on that, I bet it would really help! Thanks Amber :)

  13. My husband and I are having a similar epiphany with our diet. We’ve been mostly vegetarian since the end of October, and he’s getting frustrated that he’s eating as healthy as ever – lots of veg and protein – but not losing weight. And I’ve been struggling with not having seafood as often.

    Thus, we’re thinking we should switch to being pescatarians (still heavy on veg w/occasional seafood) as we both have been craving those things. Having cravings for junk food/candy, this craving for seafood seems to be different – as you said – it’s almost like our bodies are yelling at us to give them some salmon!

    Sorry if this got rambly, but I’m glad you’ve had some breakthrough with your dietary needs. Good luck with the fast!

    • Yes, I didn’t really mention that but the cravings are different than what you’d experience with junk food! I’d say – follow your tummy, sounds like its screaming for fish!

  14. You my friend are amazing!! I love how intune you are with your body and I feel I’m almost there as well! I feel that if my intuition didn’t hit me over the head with the “Stop Grains” talk I wouldn’t know what it was like to have calmer skin…..its crazy how your body knows!

    Ahhh meditation helps for so many things!! Love this!

  15. I love that you found such a great Naturopath to help you! I, too, have been reading a ton lately on healing my gut and I know I need to implement quite a few of the things you mentioned. Are you familiar with the GAPS diet? I’m planning on reading the book (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) to see about following their gut healing protocol. Plus a juice fast is one of my goals for the new year!

  16. I have learned SO much by just listening to my body and learning more about the different healing powers in specific foods. I’ve been through what your naturopath mentioned and am still working through a lot of food sensitivities. It’s getting better though! And one avocado a day works wonders on my guts. :) So soothing. I can’t wait to read more about your experience.

  17. Just what I needed to read today. I’ve also had issues with my diet for quite sometime now and am starting to listen a bit more to my body. I wish you all the best of luck on this journey, Leanne!

  18. Wow, what a comprehensive post..I wish you well!! I am actually doing a bit of the opposite and consuming 3 meals per day, no snacking, lightest meal at dinner, largest meal at lunch in order to get my body to metabolize fat in between…I will have to write a post soon..I just started it yesterday…

    Happy Friday!

    • Looking forward to hearing how your approach goes. I love hearing how others adapt their diets to best fit their intuition. Have a great weekend, Liz!

  19. I really admire your commitment to take such good care of your body. Wishing you the best of luck and hoping you feel better soon!

  20. I was having trouble commenting earlier but so glad I can now b/c this post and your journey and all the steps you’ve taken is amazing.

    I am glad you found what seems to be the right track for you, and that you’re on the right path now. There are people who go for years, for their entire lives, not really knowing what’s wrong, and definitely not knowing what to do to fix it.

    Persistence, trial and error, tons of research, and being proactive is the only way with many health and medical issues that anyone gets to the bottom of things (definitely not via traditional western medicine…here take a pill and call me in the morning…approach. No, it takes much more than that to get to the root cause!)

    Good for you for being on track and for detailing it all for everyone!

  21. Way to go Leanne! I look forward to hearing about the fast. Here’s a (perhaps stupid) question for you: can one do a juice fast without a juicer? I got rid of mine because cleaning it was such a pain, and I ended using my vitamix to make smoothies instead. Do you lose the benefits if you do blended juices instead of juiced? I would love to do a similar fast but I am not likely to invest in another juicer anytime soon.

    • Heck ya you can! I was going to talk about it in my posts next week, but you just blend it like you would a smoothie, then pour the mixture through cheese cloth or a nut milk bag (those are usually a bit better, less messy) and then you have the juice! The smoothie fasts/cleanses have fiber in them whereas the juice fasts are liquid and even more of a cleanse. If you’ve never done a cleanse before, or you’re sensitive to them, its best to begin with smoothie and work your way to juice. Hope that helps! I’ll cover more info next week as well

      • Awesome! Thanks for the tips. I’ll give the nut milk bag a try! I look forward to hearing more about your cleanse (and cleansing tips).

  22. Loved reading this! It is so true you have to listen to your intuition. I have been dealing with this a lot lately where I will crave something, but my intuition tells me not to eat it. When I do I come down with all of my usual symptoms. Thanks for sharing and keep us updated I would love to learn more about how you heal yourself.

  23. I will spare you the specific but Leanne your timing is perfect. I will be following your journey and taking in the info you share to use personally. Will you be sharing what your daily menu looks like?

    Looking forward to your next post :)

    • That’s great, Jill! Yes, I will be sharing my menus each step of the way.

  24. Thanks for a great post Leanne. I am also going through digestive issues. I have always had a sensitive digestion but last year I had a few dental infections and had to take antibiotics which I had not taken for 20 years. I am still not back to where I would like to be and am working on my diet all of the time. I am thinking about going to a naturopath or holistic nutritionist. For me extreme diets do not work. I am vegetarian and have tried to be strict vegan but that is not always right for me. I would love to eat an avocado a day but can’t seem to find good ones in NYC in the winter. How do you find them. I look forward to reading more from you. You have a great blog. Keep up the good work and good luck with your diet path.

  25. thanks for posting this–it spoke to me!…i could write a whole blog with how much i agree with your post….one thing i am going to point out for myself, is that i need to meditate–i gotta start…it’s been on my to-do list for 3 years since i changed my way of eating and way of life….it’s the missing component…..thanks for bringing this to my attention…i was watching goldie hawn on dr oz yesterday, and she spoke of the meditation and quieting the mind and re-writing our neural thinking….so your blog post is #2 in the set of 3–i know #3 will happen today, and i will take it as a sign to get going on this aspect of my life….i look forward to reading about your journey towards healing your digestion–that will be my next step in my journey

  26. Great post. I’ve tried eliminating foods from my diet and know it’s quite challenging. I have a question – my sensitivity is to wheat only, not gluten. Do you know anything about wheatgrass? I guess I could try it out and see if it bothers me, but thought I’d check to see if you’ve ever had any issues with it.

  27. Great post my friend! I am dealing with issues that have caused me to really make my health #1. I get frustrated thinking HOW do all these women do it? They appear to have so much energy, vitality and health, I mean they are blogging about it … so they must have it … so why can’t I. My ND is helping me with adrenals … I have not taken care of my emotional and mental well-being. My body finally cracked last fall and shut down. So now I am thinking, everyone has struggles… the balance is not easy to maintain. And I so agree with intuitive eating. Everything swings … it’s Paleo today … in 10 years it will swing back to vegetarian (which I think it already is) … but no matter, you have to eat according to your body’s needs. Moderation, moderation. Keep on going sista!

  28. I really loved reading about this! I really liked how you said when your body is in stress you get a lot of false positives. i have that problem all the time, so that tells me something! lol I look forward to hearing about your journey! Best of luck!

  29. Hey Leanne,

    thank you for sharing. I have also dabbled, with paleo recently, I also experienced intense nut cravings when I follow a paleo eating plan. I have Crohn’s disease and serious chronic diarhea so I am going to start the GAPS diet tomorrow. I will keep your experiences present in my consciousness throughout the process and will stop and re- adjust if the regime is not respecting my body. I admire your ability to listen to your body.

    good luck with your healing, I love your blog.


    • That’s so interesting, Nellie! I craved nuts like crazy, too. I could have easily eaten an entire jar of cashew butter in one sitting. Good luck with the GAPS diet, would love to get an update on how it works for you :)

  30. Ok so I stumbled upon your blog the other day and just had to say you are a true inspiration. I have tried so many different eating styles in the hopes of putting on muscle and changing my body stats that I too have lost touched with my wants and needs. I think I’m going through the same kind of sensitivities. My guts just aren’t happy. But I know that with time, love, and copious amounts of good for me food, that they will eventually heal. I wish you the best on your juice fast (looking forward to some smoothie inspiration) and look forward to hearing how everything goes with the naturopath :)

  31. Thank you for sharing LEanne. I have been going through a whirlwind lately trying different diets and just feel out of whack. Just reading this has empowered me to listen to my body and can’t wait to ready about your week ahead.

    Good Luck!

  32. Oh Leanne, good luck with getting everything back on track! I do feel you are going the right path but it must be so frustrating sometimes when you think you got it all down just to then realize that what you thought was a passing craving for a food that has a bad effect on you, actually was something you needed. With your commitment to health and perseverance, I am sure you will get there. And you probably juts want it to be over already and be all better, I totally understand that. I know for me, patience in those instants is not my forte.
    Hang in there!

    • Thanks, Simone! You’re right, it just boils down to patience and perseverance. Thanks for your lovely comment :)

  33. Leanne, yet another amazing post! Trying out different diets is probably what most of us would do, including myself. Finding the one that cater to my body is in fact tough, a struggle I would say. I am constantly working on it and now your post would definitely help me so much along the way!

    Always find your posts awesome! Love how you share your knowledge and experience with others. Simply so inspirational! Can’t wait to read more about what’s upcoming. Leanne, way to go!!

  34. I love a good january post-christmas cleanse! Your posts always encompass such range & dynamic thought. Along with cleansing I have also been informed numerous times that a good cleanse is always mandatory in the warm months hence spring cleaning! :P
    Can’t wait to join read and try your juice january cleanse!
    Best, Dayanna!

  35. it seems that lots of us are feeling the same way. my body has been out of whack for awhile now and after watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, i decided to try juicing to get myself back on track. this is my day 1 as well! best of luck and i look forward to hearing your results and seeing your recipes! ~amy http://www.WithAmyMac.com

  36. Hi Leanne, just discovered your site and I’m enjoying reading through it. I am also trying to heal my digestion and I am beginning to embrace that it is a process that requires patience and commitment from me. I wanted to ask if the dosage you posted for acv is correct. 2 Tablespoons seems a bit excessive, even diluting in water. Did I read that correctly? Regardless of the dosage how do you take it?
    thanks so much for the site.

    • Hi Amber – I’m happy that you found me! Yes, I used two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. I added it to equal part water and swallowed it all really fast. Then waited at least 5-10 minutes before I ate. Enjoy the journey :)

  37. Hello Leanne, I love all the helpful posts. My digestion is not regular at all. Do you have any suggestions to getting it on track. I have been making smoothies with my magic bullet some and the other day I bought a juicer and have been using it the last few days. One of those days I basically had only juice all day and that didn’t seem to help my digestion yet. I’m really an amateur at healthy eating but really want to get healthier and lose weight. Sorry if this seems silly but thank you, Jamie

  38. Hey Leanne, Not sure what happened to my other post it disappeared. I am wanting to be healthier and lose weight. And need to get my digestion on track what are your suggestions? I have been juicing for a few days and it hasnt seemed to help. Thanks, jamie

    • Hi Jamie – no worries at all. Have you taken a look at my FAQ? There’s a whole section on how I healed my digestive system. You can check it out here: http://www.healthfulpursuit.com/faq let me know if you have additional questions!

      • :) Thanks. This may be a silly question, but why stay away from a bunch of raw veggies?

        • Hi Jamie – if you’re trying to heal your digestive tract, many find it difficult to properly digest raw veggies. It’s best (at first) to lightly steam them.

  39. This is just what I’m looking for. I started making smoothies about a month ago to help increase my veggie intake. I’ve also eliminated all non beneficial starch. Apparently my digestion system decided to simply stop working altogether b/c of this change. Your Vibrant Life and Cleanse book (of which I recently purchased), I’m hopeful will help. Hence my entrance to the Vitamix giveaway….Looking at the Red Rush now.

  40. Very good blog you have here but I was wanting to know if
    you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed in
    this article? I’d really like to be a part of community
    where I can get responses from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Bless you!

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