I Love Arugula
Absolutely LOVE it. The first time I tried arugula, it had me at….well…the first bite. That earthy flavor, deep soil, minerally taste, easily accented with a touch of freshly-ground black pepper and a sprinkling of extra-virgin olive oil. Kale. Baby Spinach. Romaine. Endive. These are all of the “Super Greens” that make me feel like Superman.
And I especially love having a happy gut, but it wasn’t always that way.
It All Starts With the Gut
This is the story of how I got to Happy Gut, starting with childhood gut issues, developing irritable bowel syndrome later in life, then healing myself through Functional Medicine and becoming an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner. I now help my patients heal their gut issues and teach them how the path to total body wellness starts with the gut.
Butterflies in the Stomach
My story begins long before medical school. When I was a child, I had a “nervous stomach.” Whenever I had a test or a piano performance, I felt like I had swarm of “butterflies” doing somersaults inside my belly. I would feel so sick to my stomach that I had to eat hours before any tests or performances or I might risk getting sick and vomiting.
But it didn’t end at my belly. I would catch so many upper respiratory infections that often turned into a sinusitis or bronchitis the pediatrician was concerned about my immune system. He prescribed a multivitamin, thinking that it would strengthen my defenses.
Back in the 1980’s, we did not understand as well as we do now how the foods we eat can affect how our immune system functions
Sad Gut / Weakened Immune System
Sadly, the milk, sugar-laden wheat cereals, and milkshakes that made up my diet were giving me more than just a sad gut. They were hurting my stomach, but they were also weakening my immune system.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I stopped getting sick all of the time, because I finally cut out cereal with milk for breakfast. All those years I had believed, like most of us do, that milk was good for me.
When I made the correlation between avoiding milk and less colds or sinus infections, this was my first Eureka! moment.
Happy Gut / Sad Gut
While in medical school, it was hard to believe my fellow doctors-to-be could eat the same foods as I did, but suffer none of the secondary consequences I experienced. As I embarked on my own journey towards gut happiness, it took me several more years of trials and errors to fully grasp the best way to eat for my body.
By making a few additional changes in my diet, including adding more healthy fats, I felt better than I ever had before. However, I still wasn’t in the clear.
Full disclosure: what began as a nervous stomach in my childhood turned into “irritable bowel syndrome” (IBS) by my mid-to-late twenties. By then, I had discovered meditation and had learned to control my nerves through calming breathing techniques, but stress still did a number on my gut. Sure, I was not getting as many upper respiratory infections, but I was still eating some of the wrong foods.
Student Budget / Gluten Gluttony
I had trouble wrapping my head around why my gut still misbehaved, because like many of us I was eating all the foods that are part of the accepted, healthy Western dietary pyramid. These included meats, fruits, vegetables, and salads, but also whole grains, like pizza, bread, bagels, sandwiches, and pasta. Like the dozens of patients I see on a weekly basis, I had no idea that gluten was my enemy! Without any clear symptoms to make me aware, how could I?
Eating wheat is so ingrained in our culture that while I was in my medical residency training at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, the sponsored lunch meal for our noontime lectures was more often than not. . . pizza and soda! Talk about a power combo that would certainly put us into a food coma. If we were lucky, a salad option was available once in a while. While pizza and soda work as quick, budget friendly, comfort foods, I began to slowly realize they were zapping me of energy, leading to body aches and a depressed mood.
Chronically tired. Mentally fatigued. Achy. Depressed. With a regularly upset stomach. I was so overworked (working up to 100 hours per week), that I attributed those symptoms to the long hours of a doctor-in-training.
But who knew it was all connected to my gut and diet?
My poor diet, high stress, lack of sleep, and years of repeated exposure to antibiotics had all contributed to what I was experiencing — gut inflammation, dysbiosis, and a leaky gut
As I started experimenting with dietary changes to improve how I felt, I realized that I felt my best when eating lean, organic meats, lots of fresh raw or steamed vegetables, healthy fats, and a limited amount of starchy complex carbs at the right time to fuel my workouts.
Calm Gut / Happy Mind
In early 2003, at 29 years old, I embarked on an entire health make-over. I got rid of all processed foods from my apartment, bought primarily organic produce, and cooked most of my meals at home for 4 weeks so I could be in control of the ingredients. At the same time, I had started an intensive yoga teacher training, and made it a habit to meditate every morning, sometimes twice a day. My energy improved, my depression lifted, and my friends even told me I looked refreshed.
Within two weeks, the improvement in my energy levels and general sense of well-being was astonishing!
My Gut Aha! Moment
I knew I was on to something, but as great as those changes were, they still were not enough. To fully heal, I had to heal my leaky gut lining. I finally understood how to do this years later when I discovered Functional Medicine. It showed me what I had been looking for since becoming a doctor — I finally learned how to uncover and fix the root causes of disease.
Luckily, after reading one of his books, I met Dr. Frank Lipman, whose mentorship and guiding words planted the seed of Functional Medicine in my mind. Thanks to the pioneering work of many others, including Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., Dr. David Jones, and Dr. Mark Hyman, The Institute for Functional Medicine provided the training ground to become the doctor that I always wanted to be.
Through this journey, I learned to eat right and how to heal my body from the inside out, starting with the gut. I also learned how to heal leaky gut syndrome — a condition so many of us suffer from, often without realizing it because it is the silent menace behind so many conditions we do not attribute to the gut.
Now, I want to share what I have discovered along the way and help you on your journey to a healthier, happier you. This is why I wrote Happy Gut and created Happy Gut Life.
I want you to see for yourself how your gut is connected to total body wellness. But, I warn you, the side effects of the Happy Gut Cleanse may include: improved digestion, more energy, a sense of vitality, reduced allergies, less migraines, less body aches, smiling, laughing, and a feeling that you’ve been given a second chance at health. Your immediate family will thank you, too!
Looking back, in the end the journey was well worth it…. My experiences empowered me to create the Gut C.A.R.E. Program for myself and especially for you.
With the 28-Day Happy Gut Cleanse, I want to help you make your own #HappyGutLife!
Join me! And become one of the many that have said, “You had me at….happy gut!”