At only 30-something years old, I was in pain constantly. I was tired and achy all the time. My stomach was bloated and crampy, even though I have always eaten healthy. I was so inflamed — I had horrible joint pain in my hands, back, and neck that was so bad I could barely get out of bed.

What I didn’t realize was that most of that was a result of stress.

When I was in my 20s, I began building a business from the ground up with no money. When I wasn’t in school or training clients in the gym, I was spending all of my free time cooking healthy meals for my clients out of my own kitchen.

On top of all of the normal difficulties that a growing business faces, I worried constantly that I wouldn’t be able to support my family or pay my bills. I was on my feet from early in the morning to late at night, thinking if I could just be a steam train, I’d get everything done.

Eventually, my makeshift meal-prepping operation turned into a successful business with a full staff and multiple locations. But the stress of getting my company started stuck with my body. As soon as my business took off and I had a moment to step back and breathe, that’s when all the pain caught up with me.

I went to my regular doctor and did a ton of blood work and a food sensitivities test. I was told I had chronic stress, leaky gut, an autoimmune disease that was probably lupus, and signs of possible MS. I was shocked. I was so young and lived a healthy lifestyle. How could that be? It was the stress.

Around the same time, my knee also started to bother me. I had to quit playing golf and sit out on a lot of my other favorite activities. I went to see a conventional physical therapist I’d heard about, who promised my knee was an easy fix, but after a few sessions with him, my pain skyrocketed from a level 2 to a level 9.

It turned out I had developed a tear in my meniscus on top of all of my other health issues, and I was advised to have surgery.

My next step was to seek a second opinion, so I approached Ashley Kumar, the physical therapist at PALM Health whom I knew from my church. She urged me not to go into surgery yet because I was so young, and we moved forward in treating it together.

Ashley gave me a level of care I had never experienced before. She looked at everything: my gait, my squats, how I moved, and more. She taught me about my pelvic floor and diaphragmatic breathing — which I didn’t think had anything to do with my knee — and showed me how powerful it is in stabilizing the body during movement and exercise so those joint injuries are minimized.

She pointed out that with all of my chronic stress, my body had constantly been in a fight-or-flight, “go-go-go” state for years, and I hadn’t spent enough time resting and digesting. That stress, plus the stress of my various diagnoses, would not allow my body to heal properly.

I decided to take another step and start seeing Dr. Karrie Hohn at PALM in order to work on my other diagnoses.

Dr. Hohn spent two hours with me during my first visit. We went over things that aren’t typical for a doctor’s appointment, like my childhood and past trauma. She and Ashley helped me realize how much the stress of opening my business affected me. I learned that a leaky gut is a symptom of chronic stress, and the rest of my symptoms were likely a result of the leaky gut, so if we could heal my gut and work on my stress, I could finally be in good shape again.

I went through the elimination diet to heal my gut and figure out what foods hurt me. I started taking several different supplements — probiotics, prebiotics, and basic minerals and vitamins I was deficient in. I was worried I would have to give up every single food I ate, but my team really calmed me down and made it infinitely less overwhelming. We discovered the most inflammatory foods for my body, and they helped me keep a positive mindset as I removed those foods from my diet.

I focused instead on the foods I could eat. I made a list of all of them that I continually referenced, which helped break me out of a restrictive and negative mentality.

My team and I worked on stress management and making healthy lifestyle changes, which is so hard as a busy mom. But they encouraged me to make small adjustments: I started saying “no” to things in order to keep a manageable schedule and take time for myself. I started leaving my phone in the kitchen at night, and going to sleep when I was tired and waking up when my body was ready. Ashley and I changed my workouts in order to give my body more time in a “rest and digest” stage to calm my inflammation.

Now, after several months of work with Dr. Hohn, Ashley Kumar, and the rest of my team at PALM, I am in a much better place. I found that gluten was extremely inflammatory, so I cut it out and now I rarely have any joint pain. I see a direct correlation between times when I am especially stressed and my stomach flare-ups — and if I take a few minutes in those instances to go through the diaphragmatic breathing techniques I learned, the pain subsides.

Thanks to everything I learned at PALM and the time I devoted to my own health, I have new energy, I sleep well, and I am able to participate in the activities I love, all while raising my children and running my business successfully. And the best news is, I am now testing negative for autoimmune disease!

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