Katy Haldiman, MS, RN, NTC
My name is Katy and I am a registered nurse, certified nutritional therapist, health and fitness specialist, and a REAL food advocate. I also happen to have autoimmune disease and I am passionate about spreading the word of the healing power of real food. I am living proof of the powerful connection between nutrition, disease, and health.
This venture started out as a blog to document my journey in utilizing nutrition to treat my own gastrointestinal and autoimmune disease, which included Crohn’s disease, seronegative inflammatory arthritis, and myosthenia gravis. I was very ill when I first started the blog and writing about my experiences was one way to relieve stress and feel more in control of the situation. Since I have been so successful in the endeavor of using real food to heal my body, it has become my goal to reach out to other people and offer hope and assistance to those who may be suffering. I have spent a great deal of time on both formal and informal holistic nutrition education and I want to share what I have learned with others who may be dealing with a difficult diagnosis.
Read more about my health and nutrition philosophy here.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)– The Ohio State University
Master of Science in Healthcare and Nursing Administration (MS)– University of Michigan
Certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant- Nutritional Therapy Association
Certified Health & Fitness Specialist/Personal Trainer– American College of Sports Medicine
Crossfit Trainer Level 1- Crossfit
Member- The Weston A. Price Foundation
My Story: The Beginning
My current health challenges date back to my teenage years when I first started experiencing mild joint pain and swelling in my fingers. At the time, my parents took me to the doctor who ran various tests to rule out different types of arthritis, but everything came back negative. The doctor told me not to worry about it and I didn’t know enough back then to demand further testing that may have led to answers. The joint pain was quite mild at that time, but would come and go up until the present time, when I started experiencing severe joint pain. More on that shortly…
When I was in college, another strange symptom cropped up– I started having lymph node swelling and pain. I was initially very concerned that it was some type of cancer. I went to the doctor who ran multiple tests, but he was unable to arrive at a conclusion of the cause of the lymph node swelling. Once again, I was told not to worry too much about it.
Shortly after college, I was diagnosed with severe laryngopharyngeal acid reflux. That is a fancy term that means the stomach acid was coming up my esophagus and burning my vocal cords, so severely that I lost my voice for over 2 months. Over the span of 5 years after my diagnosis of acid reflux, I would trial every single acid reflux medication on the market (literally!). Nothing helped and in fact, most seemed to make the acid reflux symptoms worse. I eventually gave up on the prescription medications and instead was self-medicating with various over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements.
Over the years, I have experienced many other strange and unexplainable symptoms. For a young, “healthy” person, I was ill a lot. I was very susceptible to colds and viruses and always seemed to be coming down with something. I had bladder problems that eventually led to a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis, although I believe that this was a misdiagnosis. After obtaining an athletic injury of any sort, it seemed like I would never heal. I had frequent ovarian cysts, painful menstrual cycles, and acne. I also suffered from migraines and headaches that were quite debilitating. Doctors could not explain severe fatigue and body aches that I experienced. Although I never obtained treatment, I was also quite depressed and had anxiety.
My Experience with a Vegetarian Diet
In my early 20’s, I found my passion in leading a healthy lifestyle through “clean eating” and physical activity. I came to a conclusion that a vegetarian diet fit well with my healthy lifestyle goals, as well as my ethical views surrounding the factory farms that supply the majority of meat in the United States. After years of having the USDA and ADA dietary recommendations drilled into my head both during nursing school and then after in the professional realm, I became convinced that a low-fat diet based primarily on so-called “healthy” whole grains would be ideal for me. Many people who become vegetarian or vegan talk about how much better they feel; unfortunately, that was not the case with me. For the first month, I felt as though I was starving no matter how much I ate. Although that feeling eventually passed to some extent, I never did feel good during the 3 years that I was vegetarian. In retrospect, I now can see that instead of being health promoting, the vegetarian diet was detrimental to my health. Shortly after becoming vegetarian, I began having gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms that were new to me. I had horrible gas, a change in my bowel movements, and abdominal bloating. I was initially a bit concerned, but I brushed it off, thinking that it was because I had increased fiber and legumes in my diet. At some point, my GI symptoms led me to realize that I had developed lactose intolerance, so I cut out all dairy and began relying on soy milk products instead. I also began having an increase in the severity and frequency of migraines, to the point that it was becoming difficult to function normally.
Eventually, I began experiencing even more drastic GI symptoms. One day, I started having severe and frequent diarrhea and it never went away. I became very ill and lost 10lbs, which was quite a bit of weight on my small frame. I started having severe joint and body pain; basically, it felt like a bad case of the flu every single day. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a form of autoimmune disease that impacts the GI system. I was told by the doctor that I would always have diarrhea to some extent and I would never feel “normal” again. I was also told, after failing first-line medications, that biological therapy (a very serious form of treatment that suppresses the immune system) was my “only option” at that time and surgery would eventually be inevitable. After several months of healing through the Paleo diet and other alternative treatments, the Crohn’s disease diagnosis was no longer certain according to a top inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) specialist that I consulted for a 3rd opinion. My most recent colonoscopy was completely normal! The doctor believes there is a possibility that I have IBD that is currently in remission– or there is also a chance that I was misdiagnosed altogether. It is also a possibility that I have unconfirmed celiac disease; however, I will NOT be going back to a gluten diet to test the theory, so I will never know for certain. I do have a diagnosis of seronegative inflammatory arthritis, an autoimmune disease that impacts the joints and connective tissue, and myasthenia gravis, a neurological autoimmune disease. However, more important than obtaining an official diagnosis for symptoms is discovering the root cause. For me, the root cause was definitely the food that I was eating. Once I removed food intolerances from my diet, I experienced a tremendous amount of healing in a short period of time.
Even before I received the Crohn’s disease diagnosis, I started to suspect that diet could be contributing to my symptoms. I tried going gluten-free (but I was still eating other grains) and I added some animal protein back into my diet. Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to help my symptoms at all. After I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, I began to do some research into dietary methods of controlling GI disease. The medications that I was given to treat the Crohn’s disease were not helping, and in fact, even made the symptoms worse. I was experiencing undesirable side effects and I was very worried about the long-term effects of the medications. I first stumbled upon the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and then the GAPS diet. I started following the SCD/GAPS and I noticed an immediate improvement in abdominal bloating and gas. After 3 weeks, I had my first solid bowel movement in several months. By 6 weeks, my GI symptoms had resolved! Many of my other symptoms also improved– my acid reflux disappeared, my migraines drastically decreased to once a month and then more recently disappeared completely, the fatigue decreased, the joint pain and body aches improved. It took some time to customize the diet to work for me. At the beginning, too many nut products delayed my healing, as did nightshade vegetables. I’ve slowly transitioned to a customized Paleo diet. My diet excludes all grains, dairy (except for grassfed butter), legumes, added processed sugars, and all food additives and preservatives. It includes fresh fruits, most vegetables, meat, fish, and nuts. Because I have remaining intolerances, I have to continue to exclude eggs, nightshade vegetables, nuts, coconut, and large amounts of starchy vegetables from my diet.
I am so thankful to have found this lifestyle, as it has changed my life in so many positive ways!
My Current Health
Currently, I am happy to report that I am feeling great! On a day to day basis, my health ranges from about 85-90% (with 100% = Ideal Health). I no longer have GI symptoms, as long as I strictly follow my customized Paleo diet. The joint pain lingered for several months after the GI symptoms resolved, ranging from very mild to moderate in asymmetrical joints of the fingers, toes, and wrists. It took about 6 months of strict Paleo for the joint pain to improve significantly. Currently, I range from having no pain to mild pain that is limited to a few joints in my left hand. It does not interfere with my life at all and I do not take any pain medications or other traditional medications used to treat inflammatory arthritis. The only symptom of myasthenia gravis that I have is a slightly drooping eyelid. Some days, it does not droop at all and at only times, it is barely noticeable. I do use certain key supplements and an alternative therapy for autoimmune disease known as low dose naltrexone (LDN). I am a strong proponent of LDN and I believe that it did contribute a great deal to my healing process; without the foundational diet and lifestyle changes though, I don’t think that LDN is a magic bullet, by any means. Overall, I feel much more healthy than I ever did before beginning the Paleo lifestyle! In fact, I would venture to say that I feel more alive and full of life now than ever before! The Paleo lifestyle has had a beneficial impact on other areas of my life as well.
I realize that there are a lot of people out there who have difficulty obtaining an accurate diagnosis, whether it be of gastrointestinal disease, inflammatory arthritis, or other various types of autoimmune disease. It can be an extremely frustrating process. The bottom line is that you must take full and complete responsibility for your own health. Western medicine can assist with this process, but only to a certain degree. I have heard so many stories of people who have suffered for many years, sometimes for an entire lifetime, without ever obtaining a specific diagnosis. Or if they do obtain a diagnosis, all Western medicine has to offer is toxic medications and invasive procedures that don’t truly heal the body or find the source of the problem. The good news is that there is a better way!
Listen to your body and learn to trust your instincts. Accept that a lot of the information you receive about health and wellness from authoritative figures, including health care professionals, professional organizations, the media, and the government, is not always accurate or reliable. Do your own research or find a reliable professional that is willing to look beyond the traditional medical model of treating symptoms instead of the root cause.
My instincts told me that something was very wrong with my body and I now know that eating the right types of food has eliminated or improved most of my symptoms. It has now become my mission to share the healing power of real food with others. To achieve that goal, I went back to study holistic nutritional therapy and I now offer services that help others to identify and correct nutritional imbalances in their own bodies.
I live in San Rafael, California with my 2 beautiful fur babies. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” –2 Corinthians 4: 16-18