“There’s nothing wrong with you. I don’t know why you’re here.”
My jaw nearly hit the floor. I couldn’t believe that was how the specialist greeted me when he entered the exam room. Without ever speaking to me, he had already decided that I was wasting his time. After all, I was a young woman who technically LOOKED healthy. I had been suffering from debilitating symptoms for years and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. Unfortunately, my symptoms finally progressed to where I could barely leave the house some days. In spite of this, I took the day off work and managed to drive 6 hours round-trip for that appointment. I was pissed.
I never saw that doctor again, but I persisted in my search for answers. I kept a journal of my symptoms and frequently scrutinized it to see if any patterns emerged. One day, I finally connected the dots and had a major “lightbulb moment.” I begged my PCP for a referral to the genetics clinic. I met with a geneticist for evaluation and received my blood test results a few months later: COL1A2 mutation. A rare subtype of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
EDS is a connective tissue disorder that affects collagen production. Collagen provides structure for skin, tendons, ligaments, internal organs, bones, and other important parts of the body. Having “faulty” collagen puts me at risk for various medical comorbidities, GI issues, and lots of unexplained symptoms.
I thought having an official diagnosis would make it easier for me to receive the care I needed. Spoiler alert: It did not. Unfortunately, it was still very difficult to find medical specialists who were willing to take me seriously. They continued to dismiss me as a young female who didn’t “look sick.” I also discovered that most of my doctors knew very little about nutrition. No one ever talked to me about inflammation, food sensitivities, or the importance of a balanced gut microbiome.
I decided it was time to ditch the traditional one-size-fits-all model in favor of a functional nutrition approach. Functional nutrition considers every aspect of a person’s health in order to address the root cause of a problem. For example, a conventional approach might involve prescribing drugs for chronic diarrhea with no known cause (often labeled IBS). A functional approach takes the complete picture of health into account, including but not limited to eating habits, sleep patterns, stress, lifestyle, exercise, and health history. It may also involve running lab tests to identify food sensitivities or imbalances in the gut, and using these results to create an ultra-personalized plan.
The concept of Spoons & Stripes was born out of my desire to provide a safe space for people to seek answers, be heard, and find relief from frustrating symptoms. I am passionate about being your advocate, guide, and personal cheerleader — whatever it takes to help you get better!