Reversing POTS with Holistic Living—Part 2 (Holistic Nutrition)

Sugar, spice (lattes), and everything nice. These are the foods I sacrificed.

What made me trade in my Starbuck’s pumpkin spice lattes for Trader Joe’s herbal pumpkin spice tea 4 years ago?

Well, as much as I’d like to say it was due to being a financially responsible college student who realized $5 coffee drinks were sabotaging her budget, my actual motivation for ditching the PSL wasn’t due to a commitment to frugality at all.

Rather, it was due to the nine month commitment I made to eating a low glycemic diet void of all sugars, fruits, and even heavy starches (like potatoes and rice).

Yeah, I’m being for real. I actually gave up FRUIT for six months (I did reintroduce 1 serving of berries during the final three months though, because #smoothies).

Sound a little extreme?

Well that’s because it was.

Totally extreme.

In hindsight, I’m totally amazed by my determination and ability to accomplish such a feat.

Seriously, if I—the girl known for coming home from elementary school and eating the entire fruit salad mom cut up for dinner (to feed a family of SIX), followed by a bowl of french vanilla Breyer’s ice cream—could successful give up ALL fruit and sugar for 6 months, anyone can.

Although, that being said, I honestly don’t think I could accomplish this same feat again today. The good news is, I don’t need to (cue celebration!)

After all, the reason I gave up sugar (in all it’s forms, including fructose—aka, fruit sugar) was because I was incredibly sick with several chronic illnesses at the time, specifically, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).

So sick in fact, I was afraid if I didn’t do something extreme, my health would keep me from being able to follow my dreams of completing college and attending graduate school to become a Licensed Professional Counselor.

For a more detailed look into what my life looked and felt like during the height of my illnesses, check out my first post about how I Reversed my POTS with Holistic Living.

Overall, during the decade I lived with multiple unchecked chronic illnesses, I was blacking out each time I stood up, and often fainting shortly afterward…sometimes on the streets of my college campus, other times in the woods of my Saturday morning cross country course.

It was totally extreme, and very frightening.

I’m positive anyone who’s suffered from an “incurable” chronic condition can relate to the intense level of desperation felt during this period of my life.

Desperation so extreme, I’d happily sacrifice my favorite foods (buh-bye peaches, cantaloupe, ice cream, dark chocolate, french toast, pb&j…) if it meant feeling just a shred of relief from my ailments.

In my experience, the motivation of feeling like—please excuse my language—total and complete sh*t every day, cannot be replicated.

Quite honestly…if someone offered me $100 to go a week without fruit or dark chocolate right now, I’m 99.9% positive I would fail. HOW did I do this for 9 months? I seriously wonder all time.

…especially when I’m going out of my way to buy organic dark chocolate (and nothing else) from the grocery store (true confessions of a holistic nutritionist). 

Then I connect with a new client, hear her story, and I’m brought back to four years ago when I thought my whole world was falling apart; that there was no hope for healing…or my future.

It’s in these moments I remember why I did what I did at 22 years old, and why I currently do what I do with Cultivate at 26 (ok, ok, I’m not actually 26 for another 2 weeks #octoberbaby).

I do these things not because I liked eating meals like pastured chicken and steamed organic broccoli for dinner every night for 9 months, or because I currently *enjoy* working harder than I ever imagined possible to support myself via my own private holistic nutrition practice rather than working somewhere else for a steady paycheck and health benefits…

I do these things because I believe chronic illness is an incredibly unfair and seemingly hopeless fate actively stealing the joy, life, and future from far too many men, women, and children around the world.

And I believe it needs to be stopped. 

And I believe it can be stopped.

After all, the odds were not in my favor to regain my health.

But I did.

In fact, according to the odds, I should still be bedridden today, living in my parents house and fearing cancer recurrence.

This was the future I stared into at 22 when I started my 9 month nutrition journey. This was the reason I happily sacrificed one of the few comforts I had left (#sugar), despite doctors telling me my dieting efforts would be met with empty results.

The goals I had for my future and the belief I had in the power of therapeutic nutrition motivated me to commit to cultivating a new future—no matter what it required—and fortunately for me, my efforts were fruitful (or not actually?).

Within three months I felt like a new human, and 6 months later, my test results proved I essentially was.

Furthermore, I was working out 5x/week; finishing my last semester of college without missing class; beginning holistic nutrition school in addition to my college courses; studying for the GRE; and preparing to move into my own apartment with a close friend.

Ok, officially tearing up right now.

I really cannot describe the joy bubbling up inside me after writing that last sentence. I feel so blessed to have found the path to healing I did, and so tremendously grateful I had the boldness to walk it.

Of course, there was more to my healing than nutrition alone.

I also implemented my studies in the field of holistic health in order to pick out the necessary supplements and herbs required to balance my hormones and rebuild my nutrition storages according to my personal needs (emphasis on “my” because truly, every body is unique).

Additionally, I applied my knowledge of psychology and the brain in order to implement holistic protocols designed to balance out my neurotransmitters and change my personal response to stress.

All in all, everything was done as naturally as possible, and for the first time in my life, I experienced relief.

HUGE relief.

So much relief that today—four years later—I’m living unlimited by illness across the country in Seattle, WA where I hold two jobs—one as the Household Manager for a very cool, health-conscious West-coast family, and the other as the founder and Holistic Nutrition Counselor at Cultivate: Holistic Living.

I spend my weekends traveling and hiking, and my free time learning to rock climb, training for races again, and enjoying ALL the foods and drinks (with the exception of glutenous ones) Seattle has to offer.

In fact, it’s probs time I finally budget my coffee habit… 

Speaking of coffee, this morning I enjoyed cultivate’s healthy frappiccihno recipe (made with bananas!) with a yummy gluten-free muffin (made with rice flour and brown sugar!), because my body found balance and the extreme restrictions of my past aren’t necessary anymore.

In my opinion, this place is the place of true healing, and I want every person living the kind of limited life I lived to find it too. This is why I do what I do, and it really works.

Quick disclaimer – I chose not to get into the specifics of the nutrition and supplement program I used to reverse my POTS because I don’t want anyone doing exactly what I did just because it worked for me.

Every body is different, and so is every case of POTS. Professionals like myself can help you create a holistic living plan that’s right for you, but it requires understanding and learning your unique body and illnesses first. Cutting out sugar may be helpful for you the way it was for me, but it also may not be necessary.

XO, Sarah


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