Episode 025: Using Functional Nutrition to Address IBS with Kristen Aigeldinger
In this episode, I’m joined by my client, Kristen Aigeldinger. You’ll hear Kristen share her struggles with IBS, how she came to decide to work with me, how she overcame fears to find her new normal using Functional Nutrition, what she learned that she’ll continue to do in the long-term & ultimately, how she came to feel empowered to step into a leadership role in her own healthcare.
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Naomi Nakamura: This episode came about rather unexpectedly. A couple of weeks ago I met with one of my awesome clients, Kristen, to interview her for a case study and it turned out so well that I thought, you know what? This would be a great interview for my podcast listeners to hear too, and here we are with episode 25. Now keep in mind when you're listening to this that it was recorded not intending to be a podcast episode, so you'll hear me say, uh-huh, a little bit too much. Bear with me there.
What I love about this episode is, not only is Kristen so open and candid and transparent in sharing her story and her experiences, but selfishly, it sets up my next two episodes perfectly. So listen to this episode, then come back next week when I share exactly what functional nutrition is and I'll outline the approach that I take and how I use the functional nutrition framework and I'll even share how I specifically used it with Kristen. Then in the episode coming up in two weeks I'll present myself as a case study using the same tools that Kristen refers to in this episode and I'll explain how I'm applying it to my own health struggles with heavy metal toxins. And hopefully you'll be able to see just how flexible the functional nutrition framework is in helping just about anyone with whatever issues they're facing.
Oh and one more thing, I have a free gift for you. It's my Food Mood Poop Journal, which I've referenced to a few times in past episodes. Now I know that it has a funny name, but it's the number one tool that I use with all of my private counseling clients and you can get a copy of it for free. I'll have a link for it in the show notes that you can find at www.liveFABlife.com/025 for Episode 25, and when you download it you'll then receive a series of follow up emails from me where I teach you exactly how to use this tool and how you can apply it for yourself. So without further ado, let's get to my interview with Kristen.
Well thank you so much for being here and for being my awesome client. I have so enjoyed working with you, and I would love to just share your study with those in my community.
Naomi Nakamura: So what would you say was the biggest challenge that you were struggling with before we started working together?
Kristen: So at the time it was definitely my IBS, I mean I had been to the doctor's, I had done GI with all the tests and at the end of the day they came back to me and just said, great, here are some pills if you think you're gonna have a bad day. They didn't even really help. My friends worked for Johnson & Johnson and could give me immodium for free which worked better, to be perfectly honest, but is not how I wanted to live. I literally had a little pill case and had to make sure it came with me everywhere because I was that sick all the time, painful gas and bloating, detrimental to my life. Literally on the floor some days. It was awful. So clearly, here's a pill was not a good answer, and I had tried taking gluten out, I had tried taking dairy out, nothing worked. So when I came to you it was just because I literally was hitting a point where I couldn't function in my day to day life, you know?
So I needed more help and more guidance than anybody else was willing to give me that I could find so far, so that was such a huge help.
Naomi Nakamura: I'm curious that you said that you knew the pill wasn't the answer, and so many people don't have that mindset. So what kind of brought you into that thinking before we even started working together?
Kristen: I think, I mean it was literally, his response was, well if you think you're gonna feel bad. I'm like, I don't know, and I shouldn't be feeling this way regardless, you know? I think I just sort of knew this wasn't normal. Yes, people have IBS, a lot of people have it, but it doesn't make it normal. Being so sick that your body is just not functioning right for whatever reason, there had to be something more. You know? And I might have known that because of my sister, 'cause she went through a whole three month period of, before she discovered her gluten sensitivity. I mean she lost 30 pounds in three or four months if not shorter of a period of time, felt awful.
So I think I knew from having seen other people do it, from talking to family who had been through issues as well, like you shouldn't be like this, there's something going on. Food is an obvious answer, at least it was for my sister, which is why I tried gluten. I knew I had had a dairy allergy as a kid, so I was like alright, maybe I'm reacting differently. So stuff like that kind of all piled in to pill is not the right answer, there's a reason for it, you know? And I don't wanna be guessing, oh I think I'm gonna feel bad today, let me make sure I have my pill and if I don't have my pill, oh great, what am I gonna do all day? You know?
Naomi Nakamura: Yeah, the human body was not designed to feel that way.
Kristen: Yeah, it just felt wrong, you know?
Naomi Nakamura: So what did you want for yourself out of us working together?
Kristen: I just wanted to feel better. I mean it was so simple as that, I don't think I had any other real idea of what that meant at the time, you know? Looking back, I have a much better idea of what I actually wanted, which was somebody to help guide me and coach me and tell me yes this is worth trying. Yes this has a chance of helping you, you know. Really somebody to sort through all the clutter, 'cause I've been online and I've looked and ... at some point you're like, I don't know what to do, you know? Because there's too many answers out there.
As simple as, I don't know, I was trying to cook a piece of meat the other night and there were 15 different versions of how to cook one piece of meat, and imagine what it's like when you get into something like diet. And what might ... there's way more than 15. There's hundreds of people suggesting this that and the next thing. So I mean it was real simple in that I just wanted to feel better but it was a lot more in that I needed help knowing how to do that because I just couldn't find it and I couldn't sort through the clutter on my own anymore.
Naomi Nakamura: Absolutely. I kind of had that experience where I knew I had adrenal issues and I knew I had a thyroid issue and it was like, okay there's the adreno-fatigue diet, and then there's like what to do if you have thyroid problem diet, and they have distinct differences and they contradict each other so if I have both, what am I supposed to do?
Kristen: Yeah, it's a little crazy and confusing. At some point you feel so overwhelmed you just wanna give up and not even care but then you feel worse. So that wasn't an option.
Naomi Nakamura: So what was your biggest takeaway or the biggest thing you learned in the time that we worked together?
Kristen: I mean I learned so much it's hard to pick one thing. I definitely, on a very physical level learned that keeping to a pretty strictly paleo diet but with a little bit of wiggle room here and there works for me in that it definitely helps me feel better. It is probably not my end all but it is so much better. I can function in daily life. I don't feel like I'm gonna cry half the time or curl up in a ball because my stomach hurts so bad in the middle of the day at work, which is mildly embarrassing at work, when people are like, are you okay? Yeah I'm fine. 'Cause you don't wanna tell them what's really going on.
Naomi Nakamura: Right, yeah.
Kristen: I'm not super shy about it but there's still some level of personal space you want in between that. But even more than that, like this is amazing, and it's really helped. My mental shift in food is freeing in a way that I just, I was so overwhelmed and everything was the wrong choice and I felt guilty eating something, you know learning that it's okay to eat sometimes, like to have the ice cream on occasion and to also make yourself happy and that is actually healthful in a different sort of way was unbelievable. I've watched friends go into diets and they're like oh I was bad yesterday. I'm like no you weren't, did you enjoy it? Was it worth it to you?
You know I shifted the way I thought about things. It's not I can't have this, it's is this worth it to me? And if the answer is no, like it's really not, like I'm not feeling 100% or my body's just really doesn't want it, then it's not worth it to me. But if it's, oh I just really go wanna enjoy this cookie right now. I'm with my sister, you know it's a great fun thing for us to do, then we're gonna do that because it's worth it and I don't feel bad and I'm usually fine the next day 'cause it's worth it less often than it used to be when I hunted the cookies out in my office everyday.
Naomi Nakamura: There's a difference there.
Kristen: Yeah I just ate the cookie 'cause I loved the cookie. I still love the cookie but I'm purposeful in when I choose to eat it and there's great gluten free cookies nearby so at least there's that.
Naomi Nakamura: Well and I think 'cause you went through an exercise of learning how to understand the personal evidence that your body was showing you.
Kristen: Yeah, you know. And it helped me learn to listen to it in a completely different way, you know. I shifted my understanding of do I really want this? And I can usually decide yes or no pretty clearly and if I can't then I usually go drink some water and give myself 20 minutes and try to figure it out. But then it also, the mental shift that you taught me which was that, hey we can pause this over the holidays because you need to [attend 00:09:36] a thing was so amazing and just so helpful because suddenly food stopped being a stressor. Food was a stressor, so changing that too just made a big difference as well. And I definitely, as I navigated the holidays on my own and made choices based on what I wanted to do, saw how that was so important, and have just kept with it, and encouraged my friends to change their thinking too now, 'cause it's just freeing in a way I can't quite describe. It's awesome.
Naomi Nakamura: Well I think encouraging people to do it is great, but was there any, 'cause we went through a lot of different exercises together, but was there any one in particular that you found helpful more than the others to kind of like help you come into this freeing way of living for you?
Kristen: You know, I think it was just the combination of stuff and then doing it on my own, this whole point. Like I had to just go play, if that makes sense, and find my boundaries and find my limits and find what worked for me. All of those things that we did helped me...
But I had to do it on my own. It didn't totally click until, I'm a hands-on, I have to do it myself kind of person. So I took everything we learned and I kind of just played in those roles that we learned and figured it out on my own in a sort of tangible way that worked for me and if i have something and I feel a little cruddy I don't beat myself over it. I'm like, okay great, well you made the wrong decision now you know, you know? And you move on kind of thing. And it was, so I think it was just taking everything you gave me and being able to put it into practice for me in a way that worked with the way I wanna live.
Naomi Nakamura: So just for context, we actually started working together I think in the beginning of September.
Kristen: Yeah that sounds right.
Naomi Nakamura: So we worked from September and then to mid-November is when we decided to pause for the holidays so you could take all that learning and kind of navigate through the holidays, which is I think is personally so admirable 'cause holidays are really tough to do on your own. I mean for me, it's tough for me to do on my own too, but you did that and then we resumed in January and you had this whole new learning experience where you, who literally found your new normal.
Kristen: I did, over a totally interesting time to do it, and I won't pretend I didn't fall off the wagon a little bit. Our company holiday party has great food. I ate so much of it and it was so worth it and I didn't care. And then I make cookies every year for Christmas, it's something we do and I was sitting there baking chocolate chip cookies, like full gluten, sugar, whatever, it was like, I'm not gonna be able to not eat these. Turned around and made a batch that were fully paleo. And I ate those and they were delicious and I preferred them and that was great. All I literally did was take my exact same recipe and swapped the ingredients. You know, and so I knew kind of like, hey I love cookies at the holidays. It makes me happy. I let me make a couple that I can have comfortably. So I knew my limits, so yes I ate a lot of paleo cookies, but I just made that conscious switch to help me do the holidays in a way I liked without going so crazy I felt awful and ate all the crappy cookies in my house.
Naomi Nakamura: And you enjoyed it without feeling deprived and without wrecking your stomach.
Kristen: Yeah, I mean I felt definitely by the end was ready to be kind of done with the cookies and the holidays, but I don't know anyone who wasn't ready to be done with the holidays. It's just a thing, January was not a hard month to be like, okay, great, I'm good for a while. Yeah it was definitely, it was really helpful even though it was not the easiest time to navigate. I think because of that it makes the rest of the year seem like a piece of cake. It's like, oh whatever. Even down to as simple as going to happy hour and being like, I actually don't want wine. I like my bubble water today. I didn't feel weird drinking bubble water instead of wine when everybody else was like, oh, you're not drinking? No. Okay. Because at the end of the day no one really cared if I chose not to. You know, they were like, oh but do you want to? I'm like, well no. But if I do I'll have a drink. They're like, oh. Okay, that makes sense. You know, so it was good. I think it was definitely helpful.
Naomi Nakamura: Good, I love hearing this. So what were some of the things that specific things that you were able to change that helped you. 'Cause you mentioned about you tried cutting out gluten, you knew you had a dairy allergy, so what were some specific things that you actually found that you're going to carry through in the long term?
Kristen: So you telling me to take out grains was the most helpful thing and the most scary thing I've ever heard in one sentence basically. And I had, we kind of prepared for that. So I knew it was coming out. I stopped eating grains for two days and then was just like, oh well I'll eat this cereal that I have that was gluten free and it was like a sorghum flour. I got through half of it and I felt awful. And I mean I was like two days off of this stuff. I was like, oh. So eye-opening, I really still don't eat grains. I don't want to. Every once in a blue moon and it doesn't bother me every once in a blue moon. But people are like, oh I would miss bread. Like, yeah I don't. I remember how it makes me feel. You know? And I went, no nevermind. That naan is totally not worth it, but also knowing that there are some cool paleo versions out there to have ...
Naomi Nakamura: On occasion.
Kristen: I was out and I ... yeah, on occasion if I really want that naan or whatever. I typically don't. I don't miss the rice with my Thai food. I don't miss [inaudible 00:15:00] I'm perfectly happy with it just not being there. So like I definitely plan to carry that through. For the most part everything we did kind of works, so I just kind of intend to keep that. That doesn't mean, I can tolerate dairy in smaller quantities. Goat cheese doesn't really bother me. I don't keep it in my house kind of thing, 'cause if it's in my house I'll eat it all the time. But if I'm out and there's goat cheese, okay. That's cool, I can do that sort of thing.
Naomi Nakamura: But you were willing enough, because a lot of people say, well I don't have a problem with this, but if you've never removed it before and see how you've done without it, and then re-introduced it, you really don't know if you have an issue with it or not.
Kristen: Yeah I never would have told you that oats make me feel as bad as they do. They really do. But I had no idea. You know, I thought that was my breakfast, I felt fine after my breakfast. Why would I think otherwise? Turns out I was really wrong. I don't even get hungry the way I used to. I used to get hangry and shaky and now I skip breakfast half the time and have a coffee.
Naomi Nakamura: Really? I didn't know that because you were like, when we started you were very much like, this is my breakfast.
Kristen: Yeah, nope. I'm usually ... so I do work out in the morning. So I have collagen, which also really helpful suggestion. The collagen in my coffee with some cinnamon, I drink that on my way to work. I usually make breakfast 'cause I will not make it to noon at that point. I'm usually hungry at like 10. I find that that's when I'm hungry. So I don't feel like eating in the morning if I'm not hungry. If I am, awesome, I eat it. If not, I'm like, oh why don't I just pack up my food and take it to the office with me and I'll eat it when I do get hungry? It's not as glamorous but whatever, I can eat it out of containers and it still tastes the same.
Naomi Nakamura: Exactly.
Kristen: So you know, like that was ... watching my body shift in ways that I didn't even expect. Not only am I not as sick, but I'm not as hungry, I'm not as shaky, I don't have to be eat every two hours so I don't pass out and die, 'cause that's how I used to feel. Just skip meals or eat them later or whatever, never would have thought that taking out grains would change my life so dramatically until you were like, you should do that.
Naomi Nakamura: You know, I had the same experience. Because I didn't understand that gluten free and grain free were two separate things.
Naomi Nakamura: And I remember when it was suggested to me, because I was exactly the same as you. I was gluten free for a couple of years but I still felt so sick and it was recommended to me to go grain free, and I think I started crying. I was like, I love my steel cut oats and I remember the person who suggested it was like, it doesn't have to be forever. Just see how you do, and I did it and I was like, I feel like a thousand times better without this.
Kristen: Yep, I handed all of my stone cut oats to my friend who does still eat them and he enjoyed them, and he was like, I'm sorry you can't have these, and I'm like, I'm not. Nevermind. Like I thought I would be. I almost cried when you told me we should do it, like I really almost did.
Naomi Nakamura: But that wasn't the first thing we started with. We tried a whole lot of other things before going to something that I knew was gonna be really hard for you to do. It's gonna be hard for anybody.
Kristen: You know, you had prepared me for the possibility, and like I'm definitely a person who needs to know a week in advance, so I can spend a week on Pinterest being like, alright, what am I gonna do?
Naomi Nakamura: Right.
Kristen: I was one of those, and I knew it was kind of coming, it was helpful that we did other things first because at that point I'm like, okay, I really am out of options. I really do need to try this. Prepare, after I got over the initial, oh what am I gonna eat for breakfast? This is so overwhelming, I don't know what to do, I really like my eggs for breakfast now and I probably would ...
Naomi Nakamura: Breakfast does not have to be breakfast food.
Kristen: It doesn't. I ate chicken for breakfast and leftover potato from dinner the other night for breakfast this morning. I like it to be eggs, but it was like noon by the time I ate breakfast today so I was like, chicken sounds great.
Naomi Nakamura: I know, you were like, I can't do eggs anymore for a while.
Kristen: I learned to make them in new ways, and now I literally eat sunny side up eggs with the Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel blend, sausage and some arugula and some sauerkraut, both of which I hated, and actually hated sunny side up eggs before we started this too and now I'm like, oh, scrape up all the yolk - amazing how your palette changes when you start doing this.
Naomi Nakamura: It really does, and in ways that you don't expect.
Kristen: No, I never thought I would have eaten that for breakfast and looked forward to it pretty much everyday.
Naomi Nakamura: So any other comments or just advice you would give for anyone in the same, struggling with the same things that you were?
Kristen: I think having somebody help you and walk you through it is so helpful. I struggled with making the decision to do it just because it was more money, you know, like that was the biggest thing. I've already spent an arm and a leg on tests that gave me nothing because insurance only covered so much, and I've been in and out of doctors and it was a hard decision to be like, is this really worth it? It was really worth it. I learned things that yes, I could have found online on my own, but I was never gonna be able to navigate on my own. At the end of the day ...
Naomi Nakamura: Or how it applies to you specifically.
Kristen: Yeah, 'cause people like, great this is what I did. You've turned me on to a whole community of learning how to do navigate these things for yourself, but I had no idea that community was out there. All I knew was people telling you, oh do this diet. Oh do this diet. Here are the rules. Okay, great. That does not work for me.
Naomi Nakamura: It doesn't work for me either.
Kristen: I may say paleo and I don't use grains but I will eat corn on occasion. Oh, that's okay. If I had ... before you I wouldn't have known that was okay, and I would have cried because that meant I couldn't have chips and guac ever. I don't have it as often, I still have it. So I think just ...
Naomi Nakamura: You follow the diet of your personal evidence, that's the diet you follow.
Kristen: Exactly. Just having somebody to walk you through it was worth all of the time and the money and everything else because I learned so much and came out of it on the other side a different person, and I think that that was ... it just makes a big difference, even if you do have doctors that are helping you, I still like having you to be like, hey so my doctor says this, but like what do you think? How do I navigate that?
Naomi Nakamura: And you just nailed exactly what functional nutrition is and that's what I specialize in, is I really bridge the gap between what your doctors are telling you and how this applies to you and how you can make this practical in your everyday life and it's really difficult to make any kind of change but to some of these things are, habit changes, lifelong habit changes.
Naomi Nakamura: And to have that, you know I had the same thing. I had people help me and that is really what I'm doing is just paying it forward. But to have somebody to help bridge the gap, that's really what this work is about.
Kristen: Yeah, and it just helped even, I love that I now know that I'm an obliger because you told me all about that. And it helped me understand me why I am the way I am because for me it was somebody accountable. I'd look at the cookie when we first started this, like can't have that cookie. Naomi will get mad at me, which she wouldn't get mad at me, and it's totally not true but then I would have had to tell you I had a cookie, and it just it stopped me in my tracks, you know? But you've now invested time, effort, and money and you have somebody keeping you kind of in check, and not that you would be like, Kristen, you failed. That was not ...
Naomi Nakamura: I'm like, that's up to you if you want the cookie or not.
Kristen: Yeah, exactly.
Naomi Nakamura: But you know what? Have it, and use it as a learning experience to see how your body responds to it.
Kristen: In my brain, like for the weeks that I needed to care about that more, like it was kind of ... it was helpful in that regard because that's how my brain works. You know, even if it wasn't really true and I knew that, my brain was like, nope, nope, nope, nope. You're just gonna do it right, so all of that was just great.
Naomi Nakamura: Awesome. Well thank you so much. Like I said, you have been the dream client 'cause you were so open, and willing to try new things and to look at, reframe things that you were taught differently, and it's really gratifying for me to hear how it's helped you, and you are still exploring some challenges that you're having with your doctors, but I think from the work that we did you have the tools you need to help manage that communication a little bit better, would you say?
Kristen: Oh yeah, I mean I was there the other day and I walked in with all the stuff that you had given me and just all of the things I had learned and my doctor literally was like, you have done so much. You should be commended, most people never come to this place. So he really sat down and listened to me and was on my side, and he always is, but maybe even in a slightly different way because he was like, what do you wanna do? I was like I want this, and I want you to tell me what else we can do.
Naomi Nakamura: Because it's now a partnership.
Kristen: Yeah, you know. I now know enough, and when I don't know enough I can at least pick your brain a little bit, like what else can I do? Or when I get results, like what do these mean in a different context? 'Cause he's gonna give it to me in the ... now I understand the numbers based off of a normal for my age-range and whatever, but normal for my age-range and the entire population isn't necessarily normal for me. So now I understand I can look at what I got in the last time, when I had blood work done last year for the same reasons and I can compare it to this year and see what's changed, like that's a whole new level of understanding for me that I never would've thought. I wouldn't have had a clue, you know?
Naomi Nakamura: Well awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. I know it'll be really helpful for other people to hear it as well.
Kristen: I hope I can pay it forward as well.
Naomi Nakamura: Thank you.
Wasn't that great? I just love Kristen's openness and her willingness to trust the process, to try new foods and approaches that she was even afraid of, and ultimately, be open to reframing her mindset towards lifelong beliefs that she held that have ultimately empowered her and equipped her to step into a leadership role in her own healthcare to where she can now confidently have meaningful discussions with her doctor and most importantly, feel heard. Now don't forget my free gift for you, my Food Mood Poop Journal, that we use in functional nutrition. I learned how to use this tool in my training at the Functional Nutrition Alliance, and it's the number one tool that I use with all of my private coaching clients the minute that we start working together. And now you can download it for free. Go to www.LiveFABlife.com/025 for the show notes, and a direct link to the download.
And if you're yearning to find the freedom and empowerment like Kristen has, request a complementary strategy session with me so that we can get to know each other and see if we'd be a fit working together. There's absolutely no obligation to have this strategy session with me, and if we aren't a good fit, I'll let you know and I'll also offer up some alternative that I think might work better for you. So you can go to the show notes again, LiveFABlife.com/025. I'll have a link to the Food Mood Poop Journal and I'll also have a link to where you can request that complementary strategy session with me. That's it for this week. Don't forget to join me for next week's episode where I introduce you to functional nutrition and walk you through the functional nutrition framework. Talk to you next time.
Hi, I'm Naomi
I’m an expert in Functional Nutrition, a nerd when it comes to clean living, and my obsession is debunking fad diets and weight loss myths by teaching others where food meets physiology so they understand where health and healing truly begins.
A San Francisco Bay Area-based health coach, 21-Day Sugar Detox Coach, podcaster and puppy mama to Coco Pop, my happiest days are spent empowering health-conscious women to speak their truth and become leaders in their own healthcare.