It can be frustrating if you’ve followed all the right advice on being healthy, and your gut and hormones are still acting up. Daffnee was in great physical shape, with several exercise classes a week, on the paleo diet, sleeping well, and taking birth control. Her existing IBS and celiac was under control. But her gut health was mysteriously declining, giving her bloating, brain fog, fatigue and more. When she began following steps from the Healthy Gut, Healthy You protocol, like targeted probiotics and adrenal support, she started feeling healthy and energetic again. She was able to support her hormones better too, and successfully transitioned off 10 years of birth control with no side effects.
Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC: Hey everyone. This is Dr. Ruscio. Today I’m here with Daffnee, who has had some good results with the Healthy Gut, Healthy You protocol. And she was nice enough to share her story with us. So, Daffnee, thanks for being here.
DrMR: I know Daffnee pretty well. Daffnee works in the Ruscio Institute with me. So we talk every week. And I probably haunt you with texts and email permeating into your dreams, at this point. But you had said something to me that I thought was interesting: that you were having some symptoms creep up. One of the things that we talk about here is that people have all different types of symptoms. We always encourage them to go through the book protocol because the protocol can help with so many different symptoms.
You kind of called yourself out. You said, “Am I different, or do I fit into that same mold of all these different symptoms that can be helped by the book protocol? Should I just go through it?” And you did and you had some good results, which is great. Especially because your work is near and dear to my heart!
Can you tell people a little bit about what led up to that? You are generally really healthy. I know you CrossFit, so you’re at a pretty high level of physical performance. But all of a sudden, symptoms started occurring. I know you said you went to a conventional doctor, you didn’t like what they did there. So give us some of the background.
Healthy Lifestyle, But Getting Sick
Daffnee: Sure. So it’s important to point out, I think there are two types of people. There are people who have had long-standing issues. They maybe have issues often. And I’m not that person. So I fit into that other mold that I know, because I’m working in your space. I see a lot of people who say, I’ve always been healthy. I do all the right things. And I am that person. I’m diagnosed with celiac. I’m diagnosed with IBS. It’s been completely under control for years. I don’t even consider myself to really have those things because I don’t have symptoms.
Then, it was really a slow progression of those symptoms creeping back. Having a lot of discomfort after eating. I’d wake up in the middle of the night after eating what I would normally eat and just be super, super sick. Bloating and brain fog and tired and up and down in my moods and just really not normal for me. And it kept happening and more often. It would happen once and then I’d have a few weeks go by and it would happen again. But then, that gap started to get smaller and smaller and I, of course, started kind of freaking out.
Instead of going straight to the gut doctor expert, which I have at my fingertips, I went to the conventional doctor. Which was obviously really smart. Of course, they didn’t tell me exactly what I wanted to hear. And I don’t think they took into consideration all the factors I know to be important in functional integrative medicine. So that didn’t really get me anywhere.
And that’s when I went to you. I said, “Hey, I don’t want to read the entire book start to finish. But tell me what I can do. I feel like I’m eating all the right things, I sleep well, and all of that.” And obviously, I think you should read the whole book, anyone who’s watching this, because it’s that helpful.
But if you feel like you’re already doing a lot of those steps and you’ve already incorporated them into your life, the protocol itself pretty much changed my life. I never thought I would say that. I already considered myself to be really healthy. But having those types of symptoms, I don’t think it matters if you’re doing all the right things sometimes. Obviously, you’re the expert here. But I think I was just out of line. I think my gut wasn’t as healthy as I thought it was. And it needed help. It needed support. And it wasn’t going to just happen because I ate a lot of broccoli or slept eight hours. You know what I mean?
DrMR: For some people, a lot of broccoli actually isn’t a good maneuver for them. For some people, the healthy diet doesn’t add up. That’s what’s so paradoxical about the low FODMAP diet.
Daffnee: Exactly. That’s why I think the rest of the book is so important. Because there are certain things that are super healthy that I just can’t eat. I avoid them. And everyone needs to get a feel for what’s good for them.
But I wasn’t really great about taking my probiotics. And also caring for my adrenals. I CrossFit competitively seven days a week. I teach Zumba five times a week. I do a lot of fitness. And I think I just wasn’t taking care of myself the way that I needed to.
So it was funny, because when I starting doing the protocol, I went on the store that I manage with you. And I was like, I’m going to buy all the supplements. I was really excited to do it because I’d never been on this side of it before. And I can honestly say, completely unbiased based on who I am to you, I felt different within 24 hours. 24 hours of starting the protocol, two days in, I was screaming it from the rooftops. I told my whole family, I told my husband, I told my friends. I’m like, you guys need to order these supplements yesterday. They completely changed how I felt.
The thing is—and I know that this is something you’ve said before—you don’t always know how sick you are until you’re better. So I’m over here thinking, I’m so healthy. I feel good. I do all the right things. Oh my gosh, my gut was a mess. So all of a sudden, all my symptoms went away. And really, it was within days. I felt like I was eating better and feeling better after eating. Sleeping better. My mind, the focus stuff, there’s just no comparison. So I hid my vitamins from everybody and I was like, don’t touch these.
DrMR: Yeah, that’s a big one that I think people don’t often appreciate… the impact that your gut has on your cognition and your mood. How sharp you are, how fast you process, how quickly you can recall important information or certain vocabulary words. Just your mentality and your vigor. People are just brighter and they’re turned up, oftentimes, when you improve their gut health.
Daffnee: This is going to sound super cheesy, but I legitimately felt like the world looked different to me. And I’m already a pretty positive, outgoing person. I felt like I was high on something. I still do. I feel amazing. Doing the work that we do, everything. I feel like it’s easier to remember things, easier to recall things. I’m more creative. If you’re a working person or not, even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, I don’t think it really matters. You have to be sharp to be able to get through your day.
DrMR: Happy and engaged.
Daffnee: Yeah. Absolutely. My husband’s happier that I’m happy. Crazy person.
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Practical Steps to a Healthy Gut
DrMR: So where did you launch into the program? Because I know you’re already on paleo and I think you were taking probiotics. So what were some of the key things that you changed, just to give people more particulars on what really worked for you?
Daffnee: Sure. So, one, all probiotics are not created equally. I know that you would agree with that. I think I just said, why don’t I just pop these off the shelf and take them? I don’t think I looked into what I was taking. Which is silly for me, considering the space that I work in. But, again, I was healthy. I was like, these will do the trick. So I feel like if you’re not taking the right kind of probiotic, that’s a huge deal.
The other thing is, I wasn’t taking a lot of the supplements in the protocol for the adrenal stuff, the digestive enzymes. I’d never taken any of that before. And I think, to your point, it’s not something that I have to take for the rest of my life. But I needed to give my body that reset and help it get back to where it needed to be. So I think it was the combination of those things. Again, the diet stuff for me has pretty much always been 100%. I’m strict about that. The exercise and the sleep. For me, sleep is a huge deal, too.
Between all of those things, I felt like the protocol, the combination, and the research that you’ve done to say, “Hey, here, do this,” was the missing piece for me. It was really incredible.
DrMR: So your mood mainly got brighter, and your recall. And all GI symptoms went away. There was something else that you had said. You were coming off birth control at the same time and were really concerned about that. And you asked me, “Is it normal when improving one’s gut health to improve someone’s female hormones?” And I said, “Absolutely, and that’s why there’s a break-out section about that in the book.” Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Daffnee: Yes. Absolutely. So a little bit of background. I started birth control almost seven years ago. I was on the lowest dose of hormones because, in relation to the lifestyle I lead, I didn’t feel good about taking it. But I felt like I needed to take it. And I never missed a day. So I did seven years straight of taking hormones every day. It is one of those things that doesn’t happen overnight. It was over a really long period of time, where I didn’t realize how it was affecting my mood. And I think it was really affecting my health overall.
I would have decided to get off birth control sooner, had I not been so worried about the effects. Left and right on Instagram, social media, a lot of women are talking about this now, because hormones are a big deal. People are scared to get off their birth control and it’s understandable. I was terrified. Because of the stuff I had read, I was confident that I was going to experience all kinds of miserable things. Pain, really crazy periods, trouble sleeping, the mood swings, anxiety, depression. All of these things that I have never really had to experience. I was really scared. Really, really scared.
The Gut Health-Female Hormones Link
So, luckily, it’s almost a blessing that all of my GI symptoms happened right at the time that I was going to get off my birth control. I was on the protocol for a month before I officially stopped taking the pill. It’s so ironic, and I feel very fortunate that this happened to me and that I had a good experience. I think it’s important for other people to read—any woman who’s going to get off their birth control—that the gut is correlated to your hormones.
So I had a whole month of doing this amazing protocol. I felt like a million bucks. And I was like, I’m going to get off my birth control and I’m going to feel so good. And I got off my birth control and I felt even better. I didn’t have one symptom. Not even one. I didn’t get crazy. I slept just as great. No symptoms. Everything was so much better than before I got off it. And I was astounded.
I was talking to my mom about it before and I was super nervous about it. She was like, “Yeah, you’re probably going to have this and you’re probably going to feel that.”
My OB/GYN said, “Well, there’s no avoiding it. This is what you’re going to feel.” And I feel like a million bucks. And I’m like, yes, this is awesome.
I have girlfriends that have been on the pill for ten-plus years, who won’t get off for that reason. They’re scared. I can’t emphasize enough to any woman, whether it’s been a year or ten years, you have to take care of your gut first. And it’s just such a blessing the way that it all worked out for me.
DrMR: Yeah. We’re developing some educational materials right now to talk about this more. Because it does appear that this is underserved in the female health community. I have this conversation at least a few times a week with women. I essentially say, “You have gut symptoms, you have female hormone symptoms. Those tend to occur together.” And the good news is that when we support those, they tend to respond really well together. It’s gut-brain and it’s gut-hormone.
What are we typically talking about when a woman is describing PMS? There’s that rage that can come out because of the hormone imbalances and how they affect your brain chemistry.
So we see this manifestation of gut-brain and how these hormones affect your brain. And then we also see the ability of gut bacteria to help detoxify female hormones. So I think it’s those two mechanisms. The gut affects the brain directly. The gut affects the female hormones in their detoxification. Then, thirdly, if someone’s gut isn’t healthy, that’s stressful to their body internally. And stress will perturb and imbalance hormones. Just like you said, you need enough sleep. Not enough sleep is a stressor and an inflamed gut is also a stressor.
So if we can get rid of as many internal stressors as possible, we get rid of this heavy load on the system that tends to lead to a skewing of the female hormones.
Daffnee: Absolutely. I believe it.
DrMR: Cool. Well, is there anything else you want to share with people?
Daffnee: I recently had a doctor’s appointment and we brought up something about probiotics. And while I love my doctor for a lot of things, he’s a mainstream MD. He said, “I don’t believe in probiotics. I don’t think that they’re a real thing.” And it doesn’t matter to me because I’m doing my own thing here. A huge thing that we hear in the functional integrative space is that the mainstream side doesn’t necessarily support what people are trying to do. I would just say, one, if you haven’t read the book, read it. And try it for yourself. At the end of the day, your doctor isn’t you. If you can do something that’s going to help alleviate symptoms or make you feel better, I think it’s worth it. Even if every single symptom doesn’t go away, there’s so much to be learned about your gut and how it affects everything, for the rest of your life.
So reading the book is an investment for your health forever. It’s not about right this second alone.
And I think, too, it’s about how you can help your family be healthy. So I would just say, don’t be frustrated by those things. But definitely start with the book.
DrMR: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. I tell people, it’s good to have a doctor on each side of the fence. Have your conventional doctor. Make sure you have the conventional diseases checked off and you’re going through your follow-ups there. And they typically do that job well. Then on the other side of the fence, you want an integrative doctor who’s familiar with things like probiotics, what the research says, and how to use those. You don’t necessarily come to our office or the book protocol because you want a screening for colorectal cancer.
DrMR: Your conventional doctor will do that, if the appropriate flags are there. And that’s great. But just like we wouldn’t want the integrative doctor to do everything, I don’t think it’s fair to ask your conventional doctor to do everything. So they each have their thing they do. That’s all fine and good. But it’s certainly not going to be everything. So if you could have each side at the same time, like you do, I think that’s a really nice combination.
DrMR: I’m really happy that you’re feeling better. And thank you for sharing with us.
Daffnee: Thank you. Of course. I hope it helps somebody.
DrMR: Yeah. I think it will. Thank you again, Daffnee.
What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.
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