As a nurse, I assumed I understood the basic principles of nutrition and health. But it was through the journey of my son’s health struggles that I discovered the great impact clean eating and clean living has on health. His path to better health introduced me to nutritional theories and health concepts that ultimately led to my whole family “going clean” and improving how we approach eating and living in general.
My son struggled for the first two years of his life. As an infant he was fussy, slept poorly, eczema covered his body, and his stools were never normal. As he grew older, he often cried to the point of passing out and was hypersensitive to touch and day to day transitions. Pediatricians suggested that he was strong willed and that I should discipline more consistently. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know where to turn.
As fate would have it, I met a woman who became one of my closest friends and has impacted the health of my family in profound ways. She happens to be a naturopathic doctor. At the time (even as a nurse), I really didn’t know what a naturopath was. I have since learned that naturopaths are trained in how to use natural modalities and the body’s self-healing capabilities to support and heal the body. This approach has shown to be true and transformative in my family.
What We Did to Renew Our Health
Identified Food Sensitivities and Intestinal Imbalances. The first thing that my Naturopath friend taught me is that food is medicine, and many foods can have a strong negative impact on our bodies if we have sensitivities to them. We quickly discovered that my son had specific food sensitivities and an imbalance of microbes in his body. In essence, harmful yeast was causing internal inflammation, digestive inefficiencies, and food sensitivities that were all at the root of his problematic symptoms. The prominent role food plays in behavior, emotional stability, skin health, and digestive functioning was an "a-ha" moment for me. It was also the first time I was introduced to the concept of intestinal microbes and their direct influence on wellness.
Learned to Feed My Family "Real" Food. The easy part of this diagnosis was putting my son on anti-fungal medicine to kill the yeast and giving him probiotics to help rebalance his intestinal tract. The hard part, however, was removing food triggers from his diet that also happened to be staples in our food at the time. My initial plan was to change only my son’s diet (since he was the "sick" one). I was daunted by the idea of making two different meals—a dairy-free, gluten-free, corn-free meal for him and continue family staples for the rest of us. However, after learning more about the benefits of clean and healthy eating, I discovered that all of us would benefit from removing highly processed foods from our diet.
I quickly shifted my thinking from the tunnel vision of removing corn, gluten, and dairy from my son’s diet to the bigger concept of feeding my entire family whole, real foods that come from the earth versus processed and refined foods created in manufacturing plants. We all thrived from this way of eating.
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Embraced Our Unique Needs. Over time, my family discovered how unique our bodies are and that we each thrive on different foods. We have all been tested for food sensitivities and have validated which foods work and don’t work for our individual bodies. As a family with six laying hens, we were surprised to learn that all five of us had an egg sensitivity. For our family, we are discovering that nuts and nightshades vegetables may have a connection to behavioral issues and eczema. As we worked to heal our intestinal tracts by balancing our microbes and removing food triggers, we noticed how well our bodies thrived—my older son’s anger diminished, my husband’s digestive issues improved, I felt more emotionally stable and less bloated, and we continue to explore ways to improve my youngest son’s eczema with food.
Approached Health as Ever-Evolving and All Encompassing. Over the last year we have further expanded our understanding of good health beyond the focus of food alone. We realize that eating healthy food isn’t enough, because a good diet is only part of the health picture. In addition to nutrition, we try to put attention on the health of our relationships, career satisfaction, sleep habits, movement, stress levels, and connection to our spirit. We notice that when any one of these factors is neglected we don’t feel (or act) our best.
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My son’s symptoms improved through this cleaning up of his diet and balancing his intestinal flora. We embraced the smiles, good sleep, normal stools, and emotional stability that ensued. I transitioned from feeling like I was out of control and going crazy to mothering one of the happiest kids that I now know.
The changes we have made, and are making, have forever changed our family—and my perspective on health and healing. I was so inspired by what I discovered, I went back to school to learn more about nutrition. I ended up shifting my career as a hospice nurse to a career as a health coach so I could share the many life-changing gems that I have learned about cleaner living.
Get a free digital copy of the first three chapters of my book Full Plate to learn more about my family’s journey to better health.
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Sarah Kolman is the mom of three boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master's degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience and career as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family's Whole Health in a Busy World.