I’ve previously talked about what I’ve done to supercharge my gut health, but it wasn’t until I sat down to write this post today (which in all honesty, was going to be on a completely different topic), that I realized that I’ve never actually written my story of starting paleo, how damaged my gut was back then, and exactly how I healed my gut.
This is something that I’m often asked about, and as the words flow out of my fingertips in this moment, I’m brought back to exactly where I started. It’s so easy to forget how far I’ve come, and I’m sure many of you can relate. Seeing pictures of myself in the hospital always takes me right back.
We all experience challenges in our own unique way. What matters the most is what we do with them. My challenges and my deepest pain have now become my greatest gifts that I have the honor of sharing with you.
Through my vulnerability, I aim to show you that you can truly do anything. It starts with believing in what’s possible.
This was my very first hospital stay, at 12 years old, and little did I know at the time that this would shape so much of my future. This is where my journey truly started…
How I Healed My Gut:
The Beginning (what led me to paleo):
I deeply believe that we all have the ability to heal, regardless of where we’re starting. Why do I believe that? Cause I’ve been THROUGH IT.
Here’s just a little of what I’ve experienced after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 12 years old:
- I was on medications for 19 years straight. Some helped me to stay in remission, some didn’t work at all, and some caused life-threatening side effects.
- These medications completely altered my immune system, so much so, that my immune system didn’t rebound even after I stopped taking them. (You can read more about my experience with medications HERE.)
- I was on antibiotics for over 6 years. Do you know what antibiotics actually do to your gut? Goodbyeee good bacteria! (don’t worry, I’ve now fixed that and then some)
- I had fungus in my lungs (caused by a Crohn’s medication) as well as an infection in my blood, which had come from my intestines.
- I’ve had 5 surgeries and I have no large intestine, gallbladder or appendix (they took that last one out just for fun, haha).
- I was told over and over by every single doctor that I saw, that I would never get better, and that I needed to learn to live my life as it was. Guess who didn’t listen? This girl!
This is why I believe that ANYTHING is possible.
It’s because I absolutely refused to believe others limiting beliefs that I am where I am today. This is why I’m healthy – because I wouldn’t let anyone else write my story for me. I started visualizing what it would look like for me to have so much energy, and to be incredibly healthy. When I look back, it’s easy to see that this was the turning point for me. This is what started my entire journey back to health – it all started in my mind.
Back in February 2013, when I changed my diet to paleo, trust that it wasn’t AT ALL because I wanted to. I changed my diet because I felt that I truly had no other option. At that point my immune system was so damaged, and the medications were only making everything worse.
My doctor wanted to do surgery on my sinuses (due to chronic sinus infections caused my a Crohn’s medication that I had taken), and in that moment, I hit my ultimate rock bottom.
You see, two years prior (to the day), I’d had a life altering and life-saving surgery, to remove over 6 feet of very inflamed, and blocked intestines.
When my doctor told me that I needed to have sinus surgery, I straight up wasn’t willing to have any more surgeries. I didn’t have over 6 feet of intestine removed just to have another operation.
These are the moments that I’m now so grateful for, because while they were incredibly dark at the time, they also completely shifted the entire outcome of my life, and eventually brought me back into the brightest light that I could have ever imagined.
While we won’t always have a choice in what happens to us, the choice we get is how we respond.
On that day, my doctor lit a fire in me, and I knew that I would do whatever it took to get healthy.
I responded with asking my doctor to give me 60 days, and if I couldn’t figure this out on my own, I would do whatever it is that he asked. My life was no longer in jeopardy, so I knew that I had time, and my doctor agreed.
(Side note – I now fully realize that I know my body better than anyone, and just because a doctor wants me to do something, doesn’t mean that I ever need to do it. The same goes for you.)
So that day, on February 4, 2013, I completely changed my diet to follow a paleo approach, and I’ve never looked back.
Was it easy? Absolutely not.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I also felt like I had no choice but to figure it out. I’d heard of “paleo” before both from a good friend, who’s also an amazing functional medicine practitioner, and other friends who were into crossfit and mentioned how great they felt eating that way.
So why not give it a shot? What did I really have to lose?
I had no idea what to expect, but again, I felt like I had no other option, so I decided to give it my all. I went full force and started my journey with a Whole30. You guys, back then I LOVED my bread, pasta, cereal…all of it. Now, I don’t miss it at all (although I do love gluten-free treats!). I say this because if I can do it, I have no doubt that you can too.
I’d tried several different diets before starting paleo, but they either made no difference, or made me feel worse. This is why I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to diet, as what works for me may be different from what works for you.
I also had a bit of a complicating factor when I first started this journey…because my gut was so damaged from both Crohn’s and the many years of medications, I wasn’t able to digest many vegetables. Quite frankly, eating vegetables terrified me, as it often landed me in the hospital in excruciating pain, due to an obstruction in my small intestine.
I know from hearing from so many of my amazing readers, that many of you also struggle with digesting vegetables.
So with that, let’s talk about how I’m now able to eat as many veggies as I’d like!
How I’m Now Able To Digest Vegetables:
When I first started paleo, eating raw vegetables and salads was something that I dreamt of being able to do. While others complained about eating healthy, I would have given anything for that gift. Perspective is truly everything.
Eating real food is truly a GIFT.
For the first 20 days, I felt terrible. Just like everything else, this is gonna be different for everyone – and you may feel incredible from day one.
My body had A LOT to detox, and for the first 20 days, I went through what felt like a very, very heavy detox. If I could have crawled into a hole and never come out again, trust that I would have done just that.
Then…the magic happened.
On day 21, everything changed, and I literally flew out of bed that morning. I had more energy than I could EVER remember having in my entire life, and in that moment, I knew that there was no going back, and I’d find a way to make this new lifestyle easily work for me. After so many years of being sick, I had a taste of what it felt like to be healthy, and I would do anything to keep feeling that way.
I often see the misconception that paleo means that you have to eat 4,000 veggies, or you’re a total failure. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as many people find paleo because they’re sick and dealing with gut issues. Gut issues and eating lots of vegetables is often a terrible combo.
When I first started paleo, I would only have slow cooked vegetables, green smoothies, or vegetables cooked in soup. These were much easier to digest.
Over time, while I worked to heal my gut (details on that below) I slowly increased the amount of vegetables that I consumed, and experimented with adding more raw veggies into my diet. I used to be terrified of eating things like raw carrots, and even apples, so when I added them back in, I did it slowly, and most importantly, I made sure that I was completely relaxed. To me, stress is the easiest way to screw up my digestion.
Fast forward to now, and I have zero issues digesting vegetables – raw or cooked. It took TIME to get here, and a ton of emphasis on healing my gut…BUT, it is possible.
Let’s be very clear here. What I’m sharing with you today is simply what worked for me. In no way, shape or form am I saying that this is what will work for you.
So with that lil disclaimer, here’s what I did to heal my gut. It’s not as complicated as some of you may be thinking!
How I Healed My Gut:
I didn’t even know that bone broth was a thing until I started paleo, but once I learned what it was and that it was great for healing your gut, I LOADED UP on it.
You can easily make your own bone broth (I have a slow cooker recipe + a Instant Pot how-to video and recipe), or you can simply purchase it (Bonefide Provisions and Kettle and Fire are my current faves).
Bone broth has been a huge part of my journey to healing my gut. I’d make sure to get at least 2 cups every day, whether it be sipping it straight up, using it to make soup, or making a bone broth latte out of it.
Here’s what I blend together to make my bone broth latte:
- 12 ounces bone broth
- 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon grass-fed butter (ghee works too)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (or 1 scoop of my favorite brand)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
IT’S SO GOOD!!
BONUS: Get a discount + free shipping on Kettle & Fire Bone Broth by clicking HERE!
Collagen is my JAM. I used it daily when I was majorly focused on healing my gut, adding 2 scoops of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides to my coffee/tea/smoothie/whatever liquid I had at the time. I’ve talked more about collagen in THIS POST (which also has the most delicious cookie recipe, made with collagen!) but for me, I’ve noticed huge improvements in not only my gut health, but also my hair and nails grow like crazyyy, my hair is so much stronger and thicker than it once was. To me, it’s 100% worth it. I also travel with these handy little collagen packets.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, being on antibiotics for 6 years completely wiped out the good bacteria in my gut. I’m sooo grateful that I never dealt with serious complications from taking antibiotics, but once I realized the actual impact that they had, I made sure to get in tons of probiotics to replenish the good bacteria in my gut.
I currently take Megaspore Probiotics, which I get from my my functional practitioner. Probiotics are one of those things where it’s all about finding the one that YOU notice a difference from, as it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
I make sure to get probiotics from a variety of different sources – Farmhouse Culture Kraut and Gut Shots are my favorite (I take a few swigs of the gut shot daily), along with Kombucha and occasionally Kefir (Forager makes a great dairy-free version).
I always recommend, as with anything to start out slowww, and of course talk to your health care professional before taking any new supplements. Depending on what shape your gut is in can depend on how well you tolerate probiotics.
Many years ago, because my gut was so damaged, too many probiotics made me feel bloated. Over time, my body adjusted and now I do great with very high quantities of them. Again the reminder of what works for me may not work for you – self-experimentation is the way that I’ve figured all of this out!
I believe that our body will always tell us what it needs, it’s just up to us to listen.
Even today, I continuously work on my gut health, because I truly believe that it’s the base to my entire well-being.
After traveling for the past few weeks, I intuitively felt that my gut could use an extra boost, so I’ve been back on the train of drinking a bone broth latte every morning, adding in 2 scoops of collagen into my matcha/tea, and continuing with probiotics. In just a week I’ve already noticed a difference, and my overall energy has been amazing!
Of course this will be different for everyone, as what works for me might be totally different than what works for you. It’s my hope that this simply gives you a place to start, or a different perspective on how healing is possible.
Sometimes, all you’ve gotta do it take that first step towards your goals. It might not be easy at first, but it’ll be worth it.
You’ve got this!
If you’re struggling to sustain a healthy lifestyle, be sure to check out my post all about how to make paleo easy.
PIN IT FOR LATER – How I Healed My Gut:
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase something from one of my links, I will receive a small percentage, at no additional cost to you. I will only ever recommend products that I truly believe in, and that I use myself or find to be very valuable. Thanks for helping me to keep my blog up and running!
THANKS so much for sharing. Crohn’s disease is a beast. Diagnosed when I was 19 finally after years if test’s not knowing what was wrong with me. After having resection surgery, fistulas surgery etc. I am mother of 3 by the way too❤. I am still trying to heal myself without prescription meds. Past years of taking all kind of pills have reaked havoc on my gut. I now have a new G.I and having my 10 colonoscopy to see haw everthing looks, I have my fingers crossed.
Sending you so much love, Kimberly! Hoping for GREAT test results!
Thanks for sharing… I also have Crohn’s disease and am trying the Paleo lifestyle. The hardest thing is the amount of time it takes to be prepared with the right foods.
Hey Robin! Be sure to check out the post that I wrote about making paleo easier – you may find it helpful. <3
Kirsty Bell says
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
This is the most awesomely timed post ever.
I have just got out of hospital today after a month of pain and waiting. I had a bowel resection last week and now have a temporary stoma. This is a lot when only being diagnosed for 8 months. I am a super positive person and have been following you since my diagnosis. I have been loosely following a paleo diet but after the last month I am ready to get amongst anything that will fix my gut and make me feel like wonder woman!
You post just gave me so much inspiration and I am very grateful for your honesty.
I did try collegen capsules a while back but they made me ill. Is the powder form better?
Hi Kirsty! That’s A LOT to go through in such a short amount of time. Give yourself grace and know that you’ll be healthy and thriving once again. I’ve never tried the collagen capsules (I didn’t actually know they existed) – I’d just pay attention to your body and if something makes you feel sick, maybe it isn’t for you. Sending you love!
I always appreciate your vulnerability and honesty. Thank you for continuing to share your journey!!
Did you ever have issues with Collagen? We’ve been eating paleo for a few years now and overall I’m pretty healthy, but collagen without fail, destroys my system. I’ve tried a few different types and I get sick almost immediately after. I know the benefits of it are great…so just wondering if it took adjusting to for you. Thanks 🙂
Hey Anya! I haven’t ever dealt with it myself, but I’ve heard from another reader who had a similar experience. Collagen (or anything else) definitely isn’t for everyone – so it’s smart to listen to your body. 🙂
I know this is almost a year late, but I’ve been doing research on what’s up with my gut and found that collagen can elicit a histamine response in some people. If you’re sensitive to collagen, you might want to look into that 🙂
Hi, I’ve just tried vivomixx which was good but was wondering about the probiotics you mention have a lot of high Fodmap ingredients. I’m sensitive to Fodmaps. How would you say about trying to introduce them? :/ Cheers!
Hi Clare! I’d highly recommend finding a functional medicine practitioner to work with, as they can help guide you as far as introducing probiotics 🙂
I have a question regarding the collagen, I use the same brand but the beef gelatin(green lid) for treatment for my UC, do you feel there is a difference between this and the blue lid (collagen peptide)? Thanks
Hi Rosemary! Yes, there’s definitely a difference. Gelatin only mixes into hot liquids, and will set when cold (such as in homemade jello), and the collagen peptides will mix into any liquid, hot or cold, and it won’t set. Hope that helps!
Thank you for sharing!! It’s such a blessing to know we’re not alone and to learn from others who have gone before us! You help ignite my hope of complete healing and restoration!
How strict were you with Paleo treats in the beginning? When did you feel like you were able to add them?
I started without paleo treats for the first 30-ish days, and then had them on occasion after that. I’d go with whatever makes you feel the best. 🙂
Melissa Wilkins says
Thank you for sharing your story! My 3 year old daughter was diagnosed 4 months ago and has already had 3 anal fistulas, and 2 hospital stays. They put her on Remicade the first visit and now she’s producing antibodies. They have her on a high dose of steroids until they can get Humira approved. I’m having such a hard time determining what to feed her!! She seems to do fine with diary but we’ve been instructed to take it out of her diet since it could be an inflammatory. Dairy products by far are her favorite foods. I’ve always fed my family highly immune boosting foods and supplements, do you think these could be causing the war in her guts? I’m at a total loss since it’s not my body to feel and she can’t articulate well at the age of three. And what are all these meds going to do to her growth and development?! Wow this is such a beast of an illness. I’m in so much awe that you found yourself on the other side! You’re an inspiration and thank you so much!
So much love to you and your daughter, Melissa! If you haven’t already, I’d highly suggest searching for a functional medicine practitioner in your area – they’re a game changer. <3
Chelsea Jolene Roehl says
I love your story! Thanks for sharing it! xox
I know you had your colon removed and I was wondering how you recovered after having it removed? Was that a big part of why it was harder to digest vegetables? Do/did you struggle with various foods irritating your colon?
My fiance has UC and he had his colon removed in 2012 and has a Jpouch. He cannot eat a ton of veggies otherwise he is in pain. It seems to irritate his colon coming out. He has a lot of up and down days where he is running to the bathroom often. I mostly cook for him but he eats a lot of sugar and I am hoping your story can encourage him. I feel like he just accepts how it is. Also he is struggling with mouth sores now and they don’t see to go away. They are just constantly there. Did you struggle with mouth sores too? and if so, was paleo the main thing that helped you to heal? along with mindset?
Thanks for your help!! xx
Hey Chelsea! Most of what you asked is answered right in this post, especially the part about veggies. 🙂 I’d check out this post as well, as I think it’ll help too: https://livinglovingpaleo.com/2019/02/19/how-i-healed-my-body/
Thank you for your down-to-earth post. It is very encouraging and just what I needed two weeks into my gut healing regime!
I couldnt get the link for the green supplement to work. Could you let me know the actual product name please.
Hey Shelley! Unfortunately it looks like it’s been discontinued by the company.
Alicia Harper says
Chron’s Disease is truly horrible, you are so strong. I am sure your story will help a lot of people. PS. I am going to try your Bone Broth recipe tonight 🙂 Thanks Kristen
Thank you for sharing your story. Soon after I was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, my gi issues began. I ate a mostly paleo diet that I could no longer tolerate. My body began to reject most foods except for low fiber high protein diet. Your story gives me so much hope that maybe I too may one day eat more vegetables and maybe even raw! Thank you!
Kristen Boehmer says
Hi Alicia, Sending you so much love and healing! Believe in what is possible. ❤️
Hello! I want to try drinking bone broth as I have stomach issues. Do you think 1 cup a day would help me? It’s just seems expensive to me, I want to get the good stuff…lol also how long do I take it for? weeks, months? Thank you! ❤
Kristen Boehmer says
Hi Marilyn! I would try starting with 1 cup a day and just see how you feel. 😊 As far as how long to drink it for, everyone is so different, so I would also just see how you feel once you’ve started. I have two different recipes, if you want to make it yourself…it’s much cheaper that way! 😉 https://kristenboehmer.com/instant-pot-bone-broth/ https://kristenboehmer.com/bone-broth-an-easy-recipe/ (slow cooker version)
Ann Roland says
I clicked on your Part 1 and Part 2 of how you healed your adrenals. I have no cortisol levels and adrenal insufficiency. Please share this with me! I’m desperate to heal! I just started with my new doctors do not eat list and mixing it with whole30. I’m starting to drop some pounds and starting parasite cleanses soon. Thank you so much for being here and so blessed I found your story! Hopeful at 53!
Ann Roland says
I forgot to mention that I clicked on the part 1 and 2 but nothing was there. Please send me this information.
Team KB says
Hi Ann! Sorry you were having trouble! Here is the link to part 1: https://kristenboehmer.com/healed-adrenal-insufficiency/ and here is the link to part 2: https://kristenboehmer.com/healed-adrenals/ 🙂
Team KB says
So happy to hear you’re seeing results! 🤗 You got this! Wishing you the best! 💕