Josie Santi is a holistic health coach and editor for the every girl. She is based in Los Angeles, and is passionate about health and wellness. She has suffered from symptoms that seemed to have no answers for years, including painful periods and chronic constipation. Below she shares her health journey and her experience working with Taylor to heal her body.
“Plant-based eating” is not something that came naturally to me. I have always loved food. Like, can-eat-you-under-the-table and get-my-money’s-worth-of-any-all-you-can-eat-buffet kind of love. My mom always cared about nutrition, so I was lucky to grow up learning that fruits and vegetables help our bodies feel their best (you’d be surprised how many kids don’t), but given the choice between a grilled cheese and a salad, it was grilled cheese every time. My personal wellness path started when I started studying Ayurveda in college. Besides the ancient form of medicine just being cool as hell (google it if you don’t know!), it all clicked for me when I learned that the body, mind, and soul are all intrinsically linked. What we eat is not only making us skinny or fat (how I thought about “nutrition,” thanks to health classes and fashion magazines), but diet makes us either vibrant or lethargic; either healing us or making us sick.
Simultaneously, I had my own string of health issues. I had always had painful periods with cramps so bad that I would throw up until being put on prescription painkillers and finally, birth control pills. It made it better, but the heavy bleeding was still persistent, and cramps were still wildly uncomfortable. I also had severe constipation to the point that I wouldn’t go for days at a time, felt bloated and gassy constantly, and my stomach was always at least uncomfortable, if not in pain (this happened no matter what I ate). Finally, I developed crushing anxiety, particularly health anxiety, that felt completely uncontrollable. I remember even feeling when I was young that I knew it was a physical reaction, rather than a matter of mindset. I knew what I was supposed to think (shout out to Dr. Kelly, my amazing therapist!), but it just wasn’t clicking. I also like to say that yes, we all have those main concerns that immediately come to mind, but I additionally just felt constant lethargy, lack of energy, skin breakouts, and caught a lot of colds: overall, I just didn’t feel healthy.
To summarize my career trajectory, I fell in love with using food as medicine, educated myself on stress-relief and positive psychology, and transformed my lifestyle. Eventually, I felt better than I ever had, thanks to diet and lifestyle changes, and felt like I had found the secret that so many people were missing: we all can live our best, happiest, most beautiful lives, and food, routines, and exercise are tools to help us achieve it. I attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to further my studies and became a certified holistic health coach to help other women find their best selves too. So here I am at 25 years old, feeling better than ever, craving salads over grilled cheese (honest!), and seemingly living my best life. But painful periods and digestion issues still took over my life. My digestion even seemed worse when I was eating healthy (I would only be able to easily pass stool on weekends when I was drinking alcohol and eating takeout instead of home cooking). Countless doctors I’ve had over the years prescribed me medicine to hide the period pain instead of treating it, or told me to “eat healthier” to fix digestion (Ummm, have you seen my food highlight on Instagram!? I’m pretty much all healthy!). Some doctors even threw out words like the FODMAP diet, endometriosis, or even SIBO, but it didn’t mean much or fix anything.
When I met Taylor, her response to my sob story was the most glaringly simple, obvious, clear answer to my problems: “let’s get a stool test so we actually know what’s going on in your gut instead of guessing.” So obvious, and yet, not something I had heard before. I already felt relieved knowing that there was finally an action step. It also just felt good to finally hear from a medical professional that it’s not OK to just feel OK and that we can and should be totally healed (and we deserve it!), which is something I always tell my clients but have never felt myself as a patient.
OK so stool test: TBH, collecting the stool test was the most difficult part for me. Since my stools are so unreliable and random, I would only be able to go at inconvenient times or it would be a little, um, too intense to collect in a container (you’re welcome for the TMI!). But alas, I collected the sample, sent it to Taylor’s lab, and within a couple of weeks, she called me with results.
Luckily, I had no parasites, but I did have imbalanced beneficial bacteria, significant dysbiosis (AKA imbalanced bad bacteria that has overgrown), and candida overgrowth. We also found that I was not absorbing nutrients well, especially fats, and an immune response to gluten was present, which basically means gluten does not work well with my system (goodbye, delicious pasta!). Yes, I’m a health coach so I have a decent understanding, but I’m in the business of well-care, not sick-care (helping people achieve their healthiest selves, rather than treating illness), so I had a lot to learn about what this meant for my body. Taylor explained everything so thoroughly, spending over an hour to go through what the findings meant. She explained that as a yard, it’s normal to have some weeds, but it becomes problematic when the weeds become overgrown, like what was happening in my gut (also my yard, honestly). We talked about how it might have happened, what it means, and, most importantly, what we can do to fix it.
I especially loved my experience with Taylor because she not only looked at the stool test findings, but she thoroughly got to know me and my entire health history. Of course, her focus was on healing the gut, but her priority was healing me. So my healing plan was not only the imbalances in the gut but also what my body needed overall. She put me on a B-complex with breakfast since the birth control pill I am on can deplete B vitamins. For the gut, I started Biocidin for two months (5 drops 3 times a day, but starting slowly and working my way up), digestive enzymes with every meal, extra magnesium citrate before bed, and saccharomyces boulardii (a probiotic strain) when I finished the Biocidin. Also once I’m finished with the Biocidin, I’m going on a yeast/antifungal prescription if I need the extra help to wipe out the overgrown bad bacteria. Taylor also recommended trying coffee enemas for detox and constipation (spoiler alert: I have not tried yet), Epsom salt baths, avoiding gluten (based on my body’s response), and CBD or vagus nerve oil for anxiety. While that was our initial plan of action, I’m also keeping up with all of the healthy habits that I know help my body work its best: eat an abundance and variety of plants, move every single day, and prioritize mental health.
My focus is gut, for one because I obviously have some digestive issues going on down there, but also because the gut is so important to how the rest of the body functions. Excess estrogen is detoxed from the body through stool, and since I don’t have a balanced gut or consistent stools, it’s likely that I do have excess estrogen that can be causing the painful, heavy, whacky periods. Likewise, I also have a gut feeling (pun intended!) that my anxiety might be better with a healed gut too because the mind-gut connection is so real. 95% of serotonin is made in the gut, so if something is happening in the gut preventing that serotonin production from running smoothly, maybe fixing the gut would also improve serotonin production. The lesson here is that the entire body is linked. Having answers means you can see where your body is out of balance. Imbalance in one area can cause an imbalance in another area: the human body is meant to work as a holistic entity. Getting a stool test or hormone test with Taylor not only means you can fix digestion issues or balance hormones; it means you can heal your entire body.
I’m about a month or two into the protocol, and I already notice such a difference. I haven’t even been eating as healthy as usual on account of the holidays (I’m big on never depriving!), but I still notice way less bloat and gas. The biggest win is that I have pooped every single day for the past two weeks…yes, you read that right! Me, the girl who would have to force some movement after days of nothing happening has actually had to go every morning like clockwork. I’m sorry for the visuals, but just know that I have never been that consistent. Otherwise, I have not had a period yet, thanks to my 4x a year birth control pills (which I now feel inspired to finally get off of after 10+ years!), but I have a gut feeling (oh, did that pun get old?) that my period might feel a little better too.
I still have a lot of healing to go, but, as a health coach and healer, and more importantly, as a human feeling out of sync with my body, the one thing I want you to know is that answers are everything. The body is the physical home we spend this life in, and we should know it like we know our best friend. Even with all the diet plans, supplements, and exercise routines in the world, you still can’t be your best self if you’re not operating based on what your body needs. Get curious about symptoms and cravings, do what the body wants instead of resisting it, and find answers instead of guessing. Your body will react accordingly.
If you need access to a stool test, a gut health expert, and personalized protocols, the Get Your Gut Right program might be the right fit for you. This is a comprehensive health reset program that also focuses on nutrition, detox pathways, the nervous system, clean environment, and more. Click HERE to learn more.
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