From Bison Stew, Rosehips, and Commodity Food to Nutritional Therapy
I grew up on the standard American diet: high sugar, processed carbs, and lots of antibiotics sprinkled o
n top, but I can take my background all the way back to infancy. I was born via a C-section a month early, which gave me a bad start with gut bacteria.Within my first year, I had further issues, which led to the removal of my appendix, which we now know is a storage site for healthy bacteria.
By the time I was in high school, I was suffering with significant digestive problems, which led to an IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) diagnosis. I was a cheese-pizza-eating vegetarian, which didn't help things. My problems continued in college. I started at the Milwaukee Art Institute, but soon transferred to Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, which had a strong art program.
Three things inspired me to find the path I walk now: bison stew, commodity food, and wild rose hips.
Bison Stew: I was invited to be a fire keeper, helping with a traditional Sun Dance. I worked for four days straight hauling rocks and didn't eat much during that time since it was disrespectful to eat around the dancers, who were fasting. At the end, there was a special feed for all the fire keepers featuring bison stew. I wondered how I would handle this as a vegetarian, so I took some of the stew and ate around the meat. Others saw what I was doing, and said, “Your body needs the meat.” I ate it, and I remember my stomach grabbing it and taking it in. So I started eating meat after that first nutrition wake-up call.
Commodity Food: I qualified for government-issued food commodities because I was low-income. One week I was going to get my box of free food – powdered milk, big blocks of fake cheese, old canned goods – and I looked around at the line of indigenous people doing the same. I knew who had obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and it hit me: here's this food, and here's the people with man-made diseases.
Wild Rose Hips: The weekend I graduated, I was fishing with my South Dakota dad, and I found a little shrub along the lake with berries. My dad told me how he would pick wild rose hips and make a stew for a vitamin C boost. I was completely fascinated, so when I moved back home to Kansas City, I started wildcrafting rose hips, and I enrolled in the Prairie Wise herbal study program, a year-long program with herbalist Kahla Rowan. I also worked on a local organic farm, Fair Share Farm, in Carnegie, Missouri. In my free time, I would explore the woods and fields to identify native medicinal plants.
I went onto a herbacultural work-study program at the Herb Pharm in Oregon, then started work as a community herbalist for eight years, doing wild identification hikes, medicine-making workshops, and seeing clients through private practice. Client after client wanted herbal band-aides: a natural version of whatever allopathic medicine they were taking or wanted to avoid taking. I would tell them we needed to use nutrition as the foundation and herbs as extra support, but my advice wasn't taken seriously.
I slowed down my practice after the birth of my first son when I got pretty sick and discovered I had Celiac Disease, an auto-immune disease. I was diagnosed with another auto-immune disease, Hashimoto's disease, after the birth of my second child. I went to many conventional doctors, who weren't helping. Finally I found my way to Mickey Prescott, a nutritional therapy practitioner, and within three months of working with her, over 85% of my symptoms were gone, I lost 30 pounds, and my energy returned and anxiety lightened.
It was then I knew I needed to become a nutritional therapy practitioner. I applied to the Nutritional Therapy Association training program, and I was one of a very small group awarded a scholarship that allowed me to attend. I completed this very intensive program and graduated in May of 2017. I also studied and trained to be a Restart Instructor, and I've read and researched widely on nutritional therapy.
My journey and body have led me here, showing me how much changing our diet can change our lives.