Beat Autoimmune Disease

Nikki Jenkins

Health Coach, BS Dietetics MSU

I’ve moved!

Come visit my new blog at www.LyvenHealth.com

My Story

Hello! My name is Nicole (Nikki) Jenkins, and I have a BS in Dietetics and a minor in Health Promotions from Michigan State University.Growing up, I ate quite the polar opposite of how I eat today. I drank soda. I ate cake rolls and doughnuts. I poured sugar on my cereal. A typical school lunch was a nacho Lunchable, with a large cookie or Snickers ice cream bar from the cafeteria. I was always involved in sports, which meant fast food before away games. Also, because happy meal prizes were NSYNC music videos and Beanie Babies. You 90s kids know. Thankfully, dinner at home was always a homemade meal with my family. Despite all the sugar, I was always naturally thin, and my only health concern then was trying to make it out of the dentist without another cavity.

In the 7th grade, I started to develop a lot of acne, and my skin became VERY oily. I was constantly using blotting sheets to get rid of the shine. I started using over the counter acne washes and creams, trying to get rid of the zits and shine. Nothing ever worked, so I started washing my face sometimes 3x a day, but never once thought about how my diet might be making it worse.

In high school, I continued to struggle with acne, and sought out a more rigorous approach. I was referred to a dermatologist, who prescribed me some of the strongest topicals available. She also prescribed to me many rounds of various antibiotics. I used all of these for a few years, despite still having cystic acne. They did clear some of my acne, but the products mostly bleached and burned my skin, and made my face so dry it would crack, peel, and bleed.

My junior year, everything started catching up to me. I took up swimming. Practices were morning and night and sometimes weekends. It was the most difficult sport I have ever done, and zapped me of my energy entirely. I was so exhausted; my muscles could not recover from my workouts. My nutrition throughout was fast food, donuts, and pasta. During this time, my hair started to fall out, I was gaining weight, my acne worsened, and I had severe constipation. When swimming was over, I started looking more into nutrition. I started by increasing my fiber, lowering fat, and eating more whole grains. I also started running 7 miles or more every single day. Nothing changed, and everything continued to get worse.

The next year, my senior year, I dropped 25lbs within months. I literally woke up one morning, and could not stop having diarrhea (sorry if this is TMI, it’s important). If I had to guess, I was going at least every half hour to an hour, and it was nothing but completely undigested food. I was emaciated, and on top of that I was always freezing cold. I would wear 3 layers of clothing to school. My hair was falling out in large clumps. In comparison, I probably lost over 2/3 of my hair.

After a few weeks of the diarrhea not stopping, I let my parents know what was happening and I that I wanted to see a doctor. I was also struggling with terrible insomnia that I wanted medication for (Sigh).

When I saw my doctor, I weighed 105lbs and I am nearly 5’ 10”. These were my symptoms:

  • Joint and bone pain, especially when I would lift weights
  • Leg and foot swelling
  • Alternating loss of appetite with large appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Rapid 25lb weight loss
  • Difficulty recovering from workouts
  • Hair loss
  • Extreme bloating
  • Skin rashes
  • Muscle soreness (sore to the touch, unrelated to exercise)
  • Amenorrhea
  • Cold intolerance
  • Intense stomach pain after eating certain foods
  • Stomach cramping

Immediately, I removed gluten and peanuts from my diet. My doctor referred me to a gastrointestinal doctor for a colonoscopy, various ultrasounds, and a biopsy of my small intestine. Everything appeared normal. My doctor, confused, decided I just had a case of IBS. He prescribed me anxiety medication to help with my symptoms. I called BS! In my opinion, IBS is just a broad term for “we don’t’ know what the heck is wrong with you.” Knowing this was something deeper and not anxiety related at all, I refused the medication and further help from my MD.

Wanting a second opinion, my mom brought me to a holistic clinic in Grand Rapids. I finally got some answers, and after an entire school year, the diarrhea stopped over night. This is what they found:

  • Presence of a lupus like autoimmune disease
  • Poorly functioning liver, spleen, pancreas, and gallbladder
  • Heavy metal toxicity – arsenic, aluminum, mercury
  • 37 IgG food allergies,
  • 2 IgE food allergies
  • Stool sampling showed severe overgrowth of Strep bacteria (affects the brain and most likely what started the downward spiral), and overgrowth of Staph bacteria
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Mono in my liver
  • Anemia
  • Deficiency in fat soluble vitamins
  • Protein malabsorption
  • Low hormone levels/infertility

Fast-forward to today, I am married to my amazing husband and have a beautiful, healthy little girl. Prior to my pregnancy, I was feeling the best I have ever felt. My stress was low, I had been taking steps to heel my adrenal glands and hormones after college, and I wasn’t having any autoimmune symptoms. After I had my daughter, I started to regress again. I delivered via C-section and was given antibiotics. In addition, the hormonal shift, sleep deprivation, and exclusive breastfeeding started to resurface my autoimmune symptoms and adrenal fatigue. Even though I was following a ketogenic diet, I wasn’t recovering well postpartum. My Armour thyroid needed changing multiple times, when usually my levels are quite stable. I started having leg swelling and hair loss again. My digestion seemed to be upset by everything I ate, and my joint pain was returning. I was also SO tired even when she started sleeping through the night. I felt like I couldn’t focus, and was too exhausted to do anything.

Eventually, I became desperate to get back to feeling myself again. I also wanted to help my daughter who was showing many food intolerances to fruits and vegetables. I started researching and found that a meat only diet might be beneficial for us. I had always known that when I just ate meat, my flare-ups would resolve themselves sooner. In fact, I would incorporate periods of “meat fasting” when I wasn’t feeling well or if my daughter was constipated. Once I decided her and I would give up plants completely, my autoimmune symptoms began to go away and stay away. My daughter never has eczema or rashes anymore, and she is consistently having normal stools.

My hope for this blog is that it can resonate with you in some way. I hope is that this can be a helpful tool for those who like me, have felt like they have tried everything. What may have worked for everyone else, hasn’t worked for you. And like myself, you are more concerned with fixing the problem at the source rather than covering it up with a Band-Aid, only to worsen over time. My story doesn’t even come close to summarizing what I have experienced, studied, and tested over the course of 9 years (I was a raw vegan at one point!), but this story is just the start of what I will be sharing here. The guides I will be making available to you are a result of what I have had the most success with time and time again. I hope you will find them useful!

-Nikki Jenkins