This is Episode 24 of the podcast Notes From The Road. It’s the second conversation with Jessica Stephens and we’re talking about her experience with how chronic illnesses produced genuine life transformation. Subscribe and never miss an interview.
Please consult your healthcare provider before applying any of the experiences or recommended resources discussed or linked in this podcast and accompanying blog post.
This episode is a follow-up conversation to a previous interview from August 2016. Here are the highlights.
How It Started
This is for someone who is going through known or unknown health issues.
“I’m so tired. I just want to rest.” Super tired all the time was a major symptom.
Trying to run for exercise so as to feel like you are doing something. Running, weightlifting, cooking from scratch. Liked healthy food, liked to cook.
A time about six years ago where she lost a bunch of weight even though she was an average weight.
Did some testing with a naturopath. Thyroid was off. With medications eventually found a thyroid level that felt the best for her. Advocate for yourself with your provider!
Tired for a long time. 2015;
- massive ministry stress which peaked,
- massive life change (selling and moving house),
- last child graduation,
- life stressors piled up.
- Getting chubby.
- Couldn’t lose the “five extra pounds” no matter what. “Well you’re just getting older…” but there was clean eating, doing everything right.
The Couch Time
A time when she lived on the couch on the weekends, had a job that didn’t require too much. Over-achievers, you are especially at risk for this as this trait is common with these chronic illnesses.
Saturdays were chores, and around 11 am she was asleep on the couch. Come home from work, eat, and go to sleep.
A new naturopath after the move, attributed it to business. Did full CBC and thyroid panel, discovered she was very sick.
- Hypothyroid around 6.
- Blood chemistry was off,
- major vitamin deficiencies,
- adrenal fatigue,
- chronic fatigue.
- Round 1 of diagnosis.
- dietary, remove gluten and dairy.
The Diagnoses and Depression
Did this for months with little to no improvement. Did some allergy testing, a rheumatologist and hematologist.
- Autoimmune; Hashimoto’s,
- celiac disease (common together)
- required removal of gluten,
- allergy testing revealed dairy and egg allergy which required removal of dairy for sure.
- Kidney beans and radishes.
- Put on a paleo diet (linked below).
Hard and sad removal of foods that were loved. Joy was gone, loved to eat, not an addiction, but an experiential and emotional attachment to food. Depression bloomed, but not a new thing. Previous experience with it and medications. Food was an idol.
The food situation affected everything else in life.
A New Doctor
Insurance changed, naturopath changed, but she wanted a more aggressive naturopath anyway. This was the result of a job change. More responsibility in a new office working with a doctor in a field that was very relevant to our lives. Started off well but turned out she worked for a micromanager, never good enough, lots of stress, LOTS OF STRESS. When you are a people pleaser and a “gold-star girl” working for a micromanager is impossible.
New naturopath was more aggressive, testing new areas, including poop.
All of the previously mentioned illnesses go together. They are interconnected. After poop test, it was discovered that there was a problem further up the intestine. Too much bacteria across the board, not bad bacteria, along with fats. After more testing, she learned she had SIBO; Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. SIBO produces a chemical reaction with the effect that none of the other conditions can get better while it is going strong. Not an underlying cause, but it interferes with treating the other conditions.
A New Diet
Solution; an even more restrictive diet. Bi-phasic diet. Low fodmap.
The symptoms of icky tummy, poop being super weird, all in one day, fatigue, brain fog, it all went together.
As it turns out, stress was one of the biggest factors hindering any improvement in any of her conditions. It’s a symptom and contributing factor. She was in the most stressful job she’d ever had which partially explains the little to no improvement.
Three months on the bi-phasic diet. Slight improvement. Quit stressful job. Took a week off. She was able to go back to a better position at her previous job. Time on the levels of the diet is dependent on your system’s reaction to the food. Kept a food diary, record symptoms like bloating, intestinal response (poop).
SIBO is hard to get rid of and high rate of recurrence. Once you have it you will deal with it at some level for the rest of your life. It’s about management. Still reintroducing foods to this day.
Once the stressful job was gone, SIBO came more under control, weight loss occurred, thyroid medication worked better, more energy. Saturday half-days were no longer a thing!
Not 100% better. Chronic diseases don’t go away, but they are becoming more manageable.
As of the last podcast, she was ramping up Holy Yoga, but the body wouldn’t let her. After many months of trying, physically and spiritually just couldn’t handle it. Depression, asking why even get out of bed.
Depression produces irrational thoughts that you know are wrong but seem logical so you believe them. Tried four different natural approaches, ended up on a prescription med that worked in the past. “God’s little pills of grace.”
Three prescriptions; thyroid, antidepressant, intestinal mobility. A number of supplements targeting deficiencies because of the bodies hindered ability to absorb nutrients (SIBO). Tying to heal the gut.
As the house emptied of children and the health improved, there was room to teach yoga in the house, so she taught two classes! Overachiever. Scaled back to one. After quitting the stressful job there was major improvement across the board. Adrenals are a big deal!
When it comes to stress and external influences, change what you can change. Internally, addressing the depression reduced stress. Being able to make appropriate responses and decisions is affected by depression resulting in stress.
For Jess, when she is stressed and/or depressed, she cannot connect to God. Addressing these things allowed her to reconnect to God, to get a better perspective on everything and the ability to evaluate things. Dealing with relational stress. There are personal practices to put into place to relieve stress;
- light exercise,
- drinking enough water,
- getting enough sleep,
- cortisol supplements,
- Biblical meditation.
Dealing with stress is a process of self-reflection and self-evaluation.
Looking at a given set of circumstances,
- can I change the circumstances,
- pros and cons of changing,
- What’s the first step I am going to take?
- What relationships are causing me stress?
- What relationships are feeding me?
What habits are causing me stress, feeding me? Pros and cons, first action step.
Do all of this in small steps. Instead of wallowing in your stress or feeling helpless, you start to take action steps with the things that you can control.
Corby ponderings – It’s a cost thing. Following Jesus means counting the cost. On a different scale, if a couple is in a similar situation, what are you willing to sacrifice for? You have to evaluate what is worth more. The financial security is not worth the relationship stress and the health stress. Find a way to change it.
Jess – If it comes down to money, find ways to cut back unless you are already at the end of your means. We are a very materialistic culture. Examine those areas and reevaluate.
Sometimes we can be so stressed, so overwhelmed, that we need someone from the outside to come in and help us walk through those evaluating tools from the outside of your situation.
For Jess, the personal practices that are effective in dealing with stress, she was unable to engage in those because the larger stress ball was in the way. That’s how she’s wired. For others, try one or two, especially the passive ones; go for a walk, sit outside and look a the leaves, breath, take a bath, sit somewhere quiet.
It’s not always a matter of having someone “speak into your life.” If your physical body cannot operate the way it should, sometimes the result is that your spiritual self cannot operate the way that it should be. Your physicality is directly tied to your spirituality. It may manifest differently for different people, this is just how it did for Jess.
Sometimes you can pull yourself out of an emotional or spiritual funk. “Why so downcast, oh my soul?” Other times there is a physical component that needs to be healed. Some people may really experience God for the first time because they finally addressed underlying health issues they didn’t know that they had because they were so used to them. Once improved or resolved, it’s like an awakening.
Now, she’s back to Holy Yoga. The link between the physical and the spiritual again.
Why did I go through all of this?
The way that her physical healing has come about has primarily been through nutrition. Jess has always wanted to be involved in helping people heal. Pre-med, nursing major, Bible school with an emphasis on counseling, ministry, kids with some physical conditions that needed attention, it’s always been there. Now going back to school to be a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Helping people by partnering with a medical track.
What do you dream big about?
Have my own practice and an NTP. Put out materials for people to use. Market yoga classes for other teachers to use. Want to be self-employed.
Co-dream of a holistic discipleship program. Might be online. Might be in the UK!
Links and Resources
Again, please consult your healthcare provider before applying any of the experiences or recommended resources discussed or linked in this podcast and accompanying blog post.
- Nutritional Therapy Association: Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program
- sibotest.com for Do I Have SIBO quiz and bi-phasic diet information
These following Amazon links are affiliate links.
The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide to Living Well With Chronic Illness
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome