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From Raw Vegan to GAPS to Now.
If you’re anything like me you’ve probably tried conventional treatments, alternative treatments, supplements, elimination diets and God knows what else. But, you’re still sick or overweight—even if you eat healthy, whole foods.
Grab a cup of (ginger) tea, sit back and enjoy my story. This is how it all started…
I was born in Romania. As a kid I was healthy and I attribute that to my Romanian food and lifestyle. My family led a simple life in close proximity with the earth and the elements of nature. Our food was 100 percent local, seasonal and free of any preservatives—all homemade from scratch by my mom. The food was based on traditional recipes: fermented foods, meat and bone broths, organ meats, full-fat raw dairy was served daily.
I didn’t realize what a blessing this Romanian lifestyle was until later years. I enjoyed great health, I had lots of energy and vitality and awesome physical and mental performance. That was the norm, that was how I knew myself—Mihaela.
As an adult woman I had my share of birth control pills and a few courses of antibiotics. When I moved to the United States, I decided to change my traditional Romanian diet to a raw vegan diet. I absolutely loved eating a raw vegan diet—it was the perfect diet for the climate I was living in (Miami, Florida). I felt good, had lots of energy and was happy—life was good.
After about three years on the raw vegan diet I started to feel badly and didn’t look that good.
I was freezing cold all the time, my skin turned yellow and I started to have breakouts—which I never had as a teenager. Then the gut issues started to show up: gas, bloating, belching. My gut was not feeling right, nor was I. I had mood swings and food cravings, I felt the need to munch on something all the time—I ate tons and tons of nuts, not junk food. I have to say, all of these symptoms were accelerated by major stress going on in my life at that time. For me, the last straw that broke the camel’s back was stress.
I recognized I wasn’t going in the right direction so I sought out help. I decided to have some gastrointestinal testing done so I had an upper and lower endoscopy and colonoscopy. I tested positive for Helicobacter pylori. I thought that this was why I had all of my gastrointestinal issues, so I treated the H. pylori with antibiotics. Unfortunately, the antibiotics didn’t help and my symptoms remained.
I started to see an acupuncturist, she recommended that I add animal foods back into my diet. I was resistant to her suggestion and told her eating animal foods wasn’t an option. Instead, I tried acupuncture and herbs and I agreed to eat cooked vegan foods. Sad to say, I didn’t have a significant improvement. If anything, the gut symptoms were getting worse. I thought maybe this was all in my head, but it wasn’t. It was in my gut and it started to affect my mood—because of the gut-brain connection.
During all of this I was working full-time as the outpatient dietitian for one of the largest community hospitals in the country, teaching fitness classes at night and on weekends and doing long-distance bike rides (50 miles and up). I was in the health industry, living and preaching health, but my health was slowly deteriorating. I was aware that something was wrong and was actively seeking help.
How I Found My Solution
I attended an integrative nutrition conference at the University of Miami and learned about a supplements company that had done research on gut health. After the conference, I completed the company’s webinars on gut dysfunction and took their supplements to heal my gut. For the first time I had significant improvement. Yay, finally something was working! At this time I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian—I added eggs and fermented dairy, mainly kefir, to my diet. I had about 50 percent improvement, but I was far from feeling myself again.
Next up on my healing journey I learned about elimination diets (I had an ALCAT food sensitivity test) and started to eliminate from my diet the foods I was sensitive too and where producing inflammation in my system. As you guess I was having a mild form of leaky gut, so partially digested foods or undigested foods where entering the bloodstream and the immune system was fighting against the very whole foods I was eating. They were all healthy whole foods (figs, almonds, coffee). Yep that was the year I gave up coffee. Ah it was hard, but you know what I had another improvement in my symptoms. Now I was feeling 70 % better. I was still a ovo-lacto vegetarian.
About one year later, after trying an elimination diet and continuing the gut healing supplements, I stopped having improvement and and some of my symptoms returned. My mood swings were getting worse and I was feeling depressed—it’s important to know that I was about one year postpartum, which probably contributed to my symptoms.
At this time, I came across Dr. Natasha’s work and it just made so much sense—I completely resonated with it. I read her book and applied for her training certification program to become a GAPS certified practitioner. I was accepted, yay! I knew I wanted to learn more about her approach and I wanted to use it on myself and in my work.
When I attended the course live with Dr. Natasha in Chicago I was still a ovo-lacto vegetarian. Her explanation of the gut-brain and gut-body connection made so much sense and convinced me to go back to eating animal foods (after 10 years of eating a plant-based diet).
Was it hard? Did my body reject the animal fat and the meat and bone broth?
No. Actually, my gut felt good when I had my first meat and bone broth, it was soothing to my gut. Mentally—it was different story. I tried not to think about the fact that I was eating animal foods again. I never thought I’d go back to eating animal foods, but I was willing to give this approach a try. It was and is all a matter of mindset.
Before, when the acupuncturist suggested that I should add animal foods back into my diet I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ill enough, I didn’t struggle enough, I didn’t know the importance of gut health. I didn’t have the awareness, hence I couldn’t make the change.
We’re all on our own journey, and we’re where we need to be according to what we’re ready to receive.
It took me about four years to grow and accept a healing modality that worked for me.
Now I’ve been on the GAPS diet for more than two years and I feel and look great. Rarely I will have some non-approved GAPS foods such as rice or sweet potatoes or even chocolate and I’m fine with it. But for the most part, I follow the GAPS diet because it works wonders for me. I feel better than I ever have and I’m 43 years old. I feel awesome, I have energy, I’m healthy, I’m vibrant and I’m grateful for my healing journey. My journey allowed me to be where I am today, helping women take charge of their health and happiness using food, movement and mindset as medicine.
I’m honored to share my story with you. I believe we can learn from each other’s stories. I’d like you to learn from my story, to help you move along on your own healing journey. You don’t need to take four more years to heal.
The biggest lessons I’ve learned from my healing journey are to be flexible, to listen to the signals my body gives me and—at times—to overrule my brain and to “think with my gut”. I don’t feel guilty for eating animal foods and I don’t feel guilty for having ice cream. I’m in peace with food, with life and with every food decision I make and you can be, too.
If you related to my story, the piece of the puzzle you might be missing is the importance of your gut health. Try to heal and seal your gut so that your body can heal from the inside out.
Author: Mihaela Telecan
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Mihaela Telecan