March ~ 2016
My name is Makenna. I’m 21 years old, I attend Utah Valley University and I’m studying Graphic Design, and I work as the Video Production Coordinator for dōTERRA International. I love watching sports, playing sports, being outside, and enjoying nature. (And changing hair colors as you’ll notice through these pictures) Beyond all this though, I love being healthy. I love eating a clean diet, I love drinking lots of water, and I love exercise. My life has been up and down in terms of health through the years, and this is my story of how I fully committed to the healthy lifestyle that I live today that helped me get free of my conditions. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe even gain some insight!
It all started in 5th grade when through a myriad of doctor’s visits I was diagnosed with Psoriasis. I had red splotches all over my hands, feet, head, face, ears, etc. They would burn when water touched them, and to make matters worse it caused the skin to peel off in thick layers at a time. Pretty horrifying as a 10 year old.
After being informally dismissed from elementary school until it cleared up, I was able to visit a friend of my inspired Grandma who was able to do some blood analysis which would ultimately be the turning point for pretty much the rest of my life. After analyzing my blood he recognized that it was filled with candida. Seeing as candida thrives off of sugar, he had me start immediately on a “sugar/yeast free” diet. A diet that is essentially the Paleo diet that everyone knows today, but with the allowance of cheese which I was thankful for. As your average 5th grader that loved sugar as much as the next kid, this was a huge deal.
Lucky for me I have an incredible mom that was determined to allow me to feel better, and immediately committed to this journey with me. Which is how it’s been ever since. She searched high and low for the best recipes for me to get better, but also not feel completely deprived of all things sweet. She did an amazing job considering that this type of diet wasn’t popular in 2005. There weren’t food bloggers back then who had recipes on every corner. We searched really hard for the few recipes we had, and I just remember there being some chocolate fudge at some point that seemed like manna from heaven.
This journey went on for a few months. Through the worst months to be honest. October-January I think it was. That meant all major dessert and candy holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my Birthday, New Years, etc. I did however have a french fry birthday cake on December 30th, and those were probably the best tasting french fries I’ve ever eaten in my life.
I don’t remember how much longer I continued on completely sugar and grain free, but I do know that once Spring arrived, I was a much happier, healthier, and thinner 5th grade girl. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was sort of a chubby 10 year old. Luckily this way of eating helped me control this. That same Spring, my cute little inspired Grandma had me on her radio show, DeVona’s Health & Wellness, to talk about what I’d accomplished and the details of my journey. She was super proud of me for being able to make such dietary changes and sticking to them as a 10 year old! I miss her! She has always been great on the radio, and we’re lucky to have her voice with us via recordings of her show. 💕
After this point in my life I was always more conscious of what I was putting into my body. I read the labels on everything, and I knew anything that rhymed with “gross” (Sucralose, Dextrose, Maltose) was some form of sugar. I tried to avoid most of it, but I wasn’t avidly eating a sugar/grain free diet per say. Because I was conscious of what I was eating, I only ever had one other flare up of my psoriasis and it was resolved quickly because of these health strategies my mom and I had followed.
It wasn’t until later that I came to realize that most people who suffer from psoriasis didn’t just get rid of it like I did. It was something that they lived with in their day to day life, and often times suffered both physically and socially because of the red patches it caused. That really saddened me, simply because I had found a relatively simple way to resolve this condition and felt great, and these people just had no idea that this solution was out there.
Fast forward to my senior year of high school, and it’s about April of 2013. I had been relatively healthy since the psoriasis incident, and I was excited to graduate and move onto the next phase of my life. My body was trying it’s hardest to make sure I didn’t though. I don’t remember a particular day that things changed, but more just a gradual onset of uncomfortable symptoms. Every time I ate, I would get intense stomach aches, and then have to make a trip to the bathroom within 30 minutes of eating without a doubt. I began to see blood, feel really weak, and lose weight. The pain in my stomach after I ate was so severe that I more times than not, opted to not eat at all. Hunger pains were much more manageable than the post-food pain I had been experiencing. I went on this way for about a month and half before we deduced, with the help of a doctor, that I needed to go in for a colonoscopy. My dad has had Ulcerative Colitis since his early 20’s, so it was likely that he had passed that tendency onto me.
The end of June came around and after the procedure we found out that our suspicions were correct. I had Ulcerative Colitis, and I was to start a medication called Lialda right away that would soothe the symptoms so I could begin living life normally again. By normal, I mean not always needing to have a bathroom nearby, and getting to enjoy food without the fear of it making me sick.
I started the Lialda, and I would say it eased the symptoms, but I was still feeling the effects of my condition. I was perpetually tired and weak feeling, and just not as happy as I always had been. Being unhappy wasn’t a symptom of the condition, more a side effect of my circumstance. Not to mention Lialda was very expensive, and one of the listed symptoms was “Ulcerative Colitis like symptoms”. When I read that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and feel heart broken. The side effects of the medicine treating my condition were the symptoms of my condition.
Frustrated, we went back to the doctor to see if there was a different medication I could take. They put me on the same medication that my dad had been taking for more than half of his life called Sulfasalazine. I had to take nine of these pills a day. Three in the morning, afternoon, and evening. These pills worked fairly well for the first little while, but then they seemed to only half work like the Lialda.
Even more frustrated, we returned once again to the doctor’s office. In this last appointment they prescribed me two new medications on top of the Sulfasalazine. Humira, which was an immune system suppressant, and Remade, which was another drug used to treat Ulcerative Colitis and/or Crohns. They were sure that this combination would leave me feeling normal, except that I would be more prone to every other sickness since my immune system would be at a decreased capacity. In that doctor’s appointment I was also told that I would most likely eventually have to get my colon removed. I walked out of the appointment crushed and mortified. I felt like there would be no end to the abundance of medications, and I needed a different option.
I’m fairly certain my mom was inspired, she started researching foods/diets and their correlation with Ulcerative Colitis. My mom and I knew what had worked for me in the 5th grade and that in fact, psoriasis is candida/inflammation presenting itself on the outside of your body. So, maybe Ulcerative Colitis (inflammation on the inside) could be corrected by going back to the “yeast/sugar free” diet that had been so successful for me in my younger years. So on January 1, 2014 we decided we make the switch back to what we’d done in 2005. Little did we know, this would put us in motion on our Paleo journey.
A couple of weeks into the new year, my mom found a book on Amazon called “Against All Grain” by Danielle Walker, (click here for info) and after reading through the summary, thought it might give us some new options on planning meals and giving more variety to what we had done years earlier. Once the book arrived and we read Danielle’s story we realized that she had experienced a battle with Ulcerative Colitis, and had resolved her issues by going grain and refined sugar free. While to most that seems like a daunting task, that’s essentially the same diet I did as a 5th grader. From New Years day, until about the end of March I slowly weaned myself off the medicine. I became completely independent from any drugs, and was feeling better than I had in months. I even felt good enough to complete a 10K race through mud called “The Dirty Dash” with my best friend. I had considerably more energy now, and I loved it!
Danielle’s book changed my life. From following her on social media and her blog, we were introduced to many other Paleo and clean eating people that have made this change in their lives as well. After many cookbooks and trying lots of new recipes, we’ve made this diet a permanent change in our lives. Since we began this journey, I’ve truly felt better than I have in years. Foods outside of the diet are no longer a temptation, because I know they’ll make me feel sluggish and not in my top shape. My delicate stomach eco-system is the happiest it’s ever been, and I can truly say I love eating this way!