Welcome to episode 034 with Emily Neal
Here’s what is on this week’s Podcast…
What happens when life is going just fine and your body shuts down and you have to completely alter your nutrition to the absolute extreme? Emily Neal shares her journey that is still in process in this episode.
You’ll discover the following:
* What happened to a driven woman who’s body shut down
* What is Celiac Disease and how has it impacted you?
* What did you struggle with the most in your massive health lifestyle change?
* What are the changes you have had to make to regain your energy?
It’s Go Time!!!
Emily’s Bio – 2:12
Emily Neal is the communications director at The Sanctuary Church in Romeoville, Ill. She love combining words, images and video to communicate in a variety of ways, including print, social media and blogging. She has a passion for productivity, organization and creativity. She loves learning, and in the last year, she has added an obsession with healthy eating and lifestyle choices to her list of favorite topics.
Emily is a mom to four children and wife to a wonderful husband. She blogs about parenting, creative projects, her obsession with self improvement and her health journey at EveryDayMomLife.com
Question One – 4:02
We’re going to talk about your journey and how it took a sharp left but before we do, let’s talk about your professional background and let you to a church.
I’ve always been really self motivated and had a lot of determination to meet my goals. I love productivity and finding ways to create systems and structure to do things better, whether that’s in my personal life, with my family or my work environment.
In my 20s, I was a newspaper reporter. I worked in the state capitol covering government and politics. It was a fast-paced job with constant deadlines. I thrived on working long hours and meeting tight deadlines.
In my 30s, I started having kids… four to be exact… During that time, I also got into direct sales, and was super driven. I was recognized for having one of the fastest growing businesses in my company. I was always working to earn incentive trips and other awards.
In my 40s, I took on a job as the communications director at our church. Working for a church probably sounds like a really easy, laid-back job. While it’s a huge blessing to be able to do something that makes such an impact on people’s lives, it’s also a job that’s never ending. Your work life and personal life are very entertained. You are always “on”, since you are often responding to people’s needs even when you aren’t at work.
Question Two – 6:58
In the last year, things have dramatically changed for you due to your health, unpack how it started and where it’s come to right now…
When I look back now, I really started noticing changes to my health during the last seven years or so and had the following symptoms:
less energy to exercise
In May 2016, I basically crashed. My digestive system was a mess. I had constant diarrhea and was growing more and more dehydrated. I could sleep for 10-12 hours at night and still need a nap, or even two naps the next day.
I’ve always been highly focused, but I experienced brain fog all of the time. I couldn’t remember things. I couldn’t concentrate.
I had severe joint pain and swelling… at times I couldn’t use my right arm or put weight on my ankle because of the pain and swelling.
The worst part for me was the feeling of lethargy. I’m normally a very creative person. I love taking photos, watching the sunset and being outside. At this point, I literally didn’t care about anything. I went from going on three mile walks several times a week to feeling like I couldn’t even walk around the block.
Thankfully, I went to a gastroenterologist who took all of my symptoms seriously and tested me for every possible cause. I found out within a few days that I had Celiac Disease and then a few weeks later that I also had a second autoimmune disease called collagenous colitis.
Question Three – 10:01
Let’s talk about nutrition and how your kids had a nickname for you…
I was known as “Sweet Mama” because of my love for making sweets and it was how I showed love for my kids.
I always cooked meals for a family of six, meal plan, and batch cook but it was based on pasta, rice, some veggies (mostly for the kids).
My definition of healthy was dramatically different
Question Four – 12:04
You find out from your doctor that you’re actually malnourished, so what are the changes you have had to make to regain your energy?
Like most people, the only thing I knew about Celiac Disease is that I couldn’t eat gluten. So, I assumed I could cut gluten from my diet, and I would be fine.
By the time I was diagnosed, those vili were pretty much destroyed. My doctor said my antibodies were “off the chart” meaning my body was working extremely hard to destroy my small intestine and also my large intestine, which was under attack from the collagenous colitis. Without those vili, I wasn’t able to properly digest my food and absorb nutrients.
I was extremely anemic and my doctor told me I was malnourished. I had noticed that I always felt like I needed to eat frequently throughout the day, and I felt like I was eating constantly. Now, I understood why. My body couldn’t absorb the nutrients from my food, so I felt like I needed to eat all of the time to get enough nutrition.
I stopped eating gluten immediately, but I found out very quickly that that didn’t solve my problems. I’m so highly sensitive to gluten that even a trace amount will trigger my symptoms. Eating at a restaurant is super risky for me because of cross contamination. My doctor has advised me to avoid even touching bread or eating food that was made near baking bread.
When I get even a trace amount of gluten in my system, my body goes into full attack mode, and I can be sick for several weeks.
When I first started a gluten free diet, I overcompensated to this “deprivation” by switching to a gluten free junk food diet. If I couldn’t have pasta and bread, I would make up for it with ice cream, candy or flourless chocolate cake.
Question Five – 15:19
If someone is listening and feels they may be in danger of what you’re going through, what are some other symptoms they should look out for?
Celiac Disease and collagenous colitis are both autoimmune diseases. There are more than 100 health issues that fall into the category of autoimmune. These include rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, MS and even Alzheimer’s disease is now considered an autoimmune disease. It’s estimated that about one in nine women have an autoimmune disease. It’s been called the largest epidemic in our country right now, but most people can’t even name an autoimmune disease.
What they have in common is that you start with a genetic predisposition toward that disease. So, I was born with the gene for Celiac disease. Then, something has to trigger the disease. For most people, this is a stressful event. For me, I think having our fourth child when I was 40, having my fourth C-Section and starting a new job all created that trigger.
With an autoimmune disease, your own immune system begins attacking your body. The difference between each disease is what part of your body is under attack. With Celiac Disease, my immune system attacks my small intestine when gluten is present in my body. You have fingerlike projections called vili in your small intestine that help absorb nutrients from your food.
Question Six – 17:19
As you started to making these changes the 1st few months, how did it go for you and how did you start to take control?
I was having flare ups in places like even restaurants.
Realizing how much food is part of celebrations, parties, and family gatherings to show love.
Our family has had to come up with new ways to celebrate especially for my birthday when I can’t take you out to dinner or bake you a cake.
I got to a point where I just wanted to feel good so I really started to research.
After about six months on this lifestyle, I had gained seven pounds and I decided it was time to take control of my health. In January, I went on the Whole 30 diet, which eliminates all grains, dairy, soy, legumes, processed food, alcohol and sugar. At the end of the month, I was supposed to feel amazing. I did notice a lot of positive changes, but at the end of the month, my digestive system was a mess. I felt like I was back in my first month of Celiac Disease.
This sent me into a major research stage to learn more about what might be causing it. That is when I found out about the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. This has grown into a movement in the past 10 years of people with autoimmune disease who are working to regain their health through diet and lifestyle change.
I learned that the foods I had been eating a lot of, such as eggs, nuts, seeds and nightshade vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes, were some of the foods that could cause problems for people with autoimmune disease.
At this point, I had been doing Whole 30 for 45 days, and I was dying for some chips and salsa. But instead of reintroducing foods, I was convinced I needed to try this even more restrictive diet. Now, in addition to the foods I had already eliminated, I also needed to eliminate all inflammatory foods, including eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades, coffee and chocolate.
I’ve been on this diet since February and it has made a major difference in my health.
The amount of self-control is kind of exhausting.
I found out how hard I was working and my body was not responding to this diet was discouraging.
After six more months, I had more blood work done and things are getting better in a pretty radical way and seeing healing that normally takes two years, it happened in six months for me.
My doctor said I’m beating celiac disease.
5 Minute Energy Kickstart.com Promo – 24:04
Question Seven – 25:42
What advice would you give to someone else who has had a change to their health situation, but still wants to live as healthily as possible?
You have to take control of your own health. It took me months of having Celiac Disease before I started doing the research on my own to learn more about what it means to live with an autoimmune disease. Now, I regularly read blogs and listen to podcasts about autoimmune disease, eating real food and healthy living to have a better understanding of how I can live as healthily as possible.
There are a lot of things that I do differently now, but I will touch on three of them: diet, sleep and stress management.
When I went gluten free more than a year ago, I thought that was a big deal. I literally mourned all of the foods I would never eat again. When I did Whole 30, I thought that was a big deal, and when I decided to do the AIP diet, I pretty much thought life was over. But I have since realized that feeling good is more important than eating foods that I once thought were so important.
When I first looked at the list of foods I would have to eliminate, I focused on all of the foods that I could NOT eat. Now, I focus on what I CAN eat. My diet basically consists of only meat, veggies, fruit and healthy fat. But even within that, there are so many amazing foods that I get to eat.
At first, I thought about trying to make a meal plan for a whole month or a week and I was so overwhelmed, I felt like I couldn’t do it. Then, I asked myself if I could just plan one meal. After I accomplished that, I planned the next meal, and the next. I just took it a meal at a time, and six months later, I’m still going strong.
It’s hard to eat like this in our society. Everything that we do revolves around food. All of our celebrations are centered on food. My whole family has had to find new ways to celebrate and spend time together now that I don’t eat cake, ice cream and pizza.
But you CAN do it and it’s worth it!
The other two big ones for me are making sure I get enough sleep and manage my stress level.
I have found that I have to be very intentional about keeping all three of those under control. But we do have four very active kids, three of them are teenagers… my husband commutes into the city everyday and I also work. So, it’s not always possible.
If I know I’m going to lack in sleep, I have to be even more intentional about eating good food. When you are tired, your body craves junk food even more than usual. I have to have a plan to have enough good food around me that I don’t fall prey to eating something I shouldn’t.
My body is healing as a result of sleep. I don’t do well without sleep and especially if I’m under a lot of stress.
I need to give myself freedom that sleep is okay and I need to listen to it. My quality of sleep is super important and about a year ago I stopped watching TV.
I feel like my brain actually came to life because of stop watching TV.
Overall, I’m very intentional and conscious about managing these three parts of my life.
Question Eight – 30:39
Any tips on stress management that worked for you?
In June, I took a month off of work and I realize that’s not something everyone can do but stepping away was SO energizing for me.
Whatever I say yes to I’m giving up something else.
Question Nine – 33:01
Any closing thoughts for someone hearing themselves in your story?
I’ve had to give up so much and never thought I could do that and there’s no way.
But having gone through this, I came to place where I had to choose if I wanted to feel good and have energy of feel good in the moment.
If I can do it, anyone else can do it!
Next Episode Preview – 35:51
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Audio Editing and Production by Caleb Suwanski