Jaime knew something was wrong with her health during her pregnancy, but couldn’t figure out what. After receiving a diagnosis of celiac disease, she turned to food as medicine. Listen in as Jaime and Emily discuss simple strategies to foster a nutritious life for the whole family.
- “None of that was happening because I was just so incredibly weak and exhausted, and it was scary.” – Jaime Ward
- “Within four nights of changing my diet, I was sleeping without a prescription medication.” – Jaime Ward
- “For most of us, just making a change to the types of food that we eat and then counting the colors of fruits and vegetables and trying to hit each color of the rainbow every week.” – Jaime Ward
- “Everything doesn’t have to be organic, but just learning as much as we can about eating as clean and healthy whole foods as much as possible is a really, really good first step and kind of a foundational step for everyone.” – Jaime Ward
- 1:40 – Why nutrition is so important
- 9:11 – What eating healthy really means
- 15:39 – The connection between our gut and our health
- 19:41 – How to set up a healthy lifestyle with your kids
- 26:11 – Connect with Jaime
Mothers of Misfits: Welcome to the Mothers of Misfits podcast. Join me for conversations about how to advocate for our kids in a one size fits all world. Be sure to subscribe, so you never miss an episode.
[00:00:15] Emily Melious: Welcome back everybody to the Mothers of Misfits podcast. I cannot wait to introduce you to my dear friend, but also nutritionist, Jaime Ward. She provides functional and integrative nutrition health coaching for women and families living with auto-immunity. Jaime’s also a speaker, a writer, a busy mom, aren’t we all, and a celiac disease survivor.
[00:00:41] And as I just mentioned, Jaime is my nutritionist and I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate her. I tell everybody she saved my life and at a minimum, she saved my quality of life. So Jaime, thank you so much for coming on and helping us live healthier lives and do the same for our kids.
[00:01:03] Jaime Ward: Yeah, thanks so much, Emily. It’s so wonderful to join you and your amazing podcast. I absolutely love listening to it and just the wonderful work that you’re doing to, you know, just really positively affect so many lives out there. It’s, it’s amazing, and I’m just honored to be a part of today’s conversation.
[00:01:20] Emily Melious: Thank you. Well, it means a lot, and I know firsthand that if we don’t have our health, really nothing else matters. So you do amazing work in helping people get to that place of what I would consider true health, but you’ve also been in that place of not feeling healthy. So can you share with everybody your personal health journey and why you feel nutrition is so important?
[00:01:48] Jaime Ward: Yeah. I’d be happy to. It’s been quite a journey. I remember, you know, many years ago before my eyes were opened to the power of food in my life, you know, I was one that would just push through the day. I would, I was on the road and in sales, when I was starting out my career and I would eat McDonald’s breakfast three, four times a day.
[00:02:08] And, you know, I just really had no awareness that what I was eating would be affecting my body and eventually how I would feel and cause a lot of health problems in my life. You know, once my husband and I, you know, decided to start our family, of course, I became more interested in nutrition and thought, okay, I better start eating a little bit healthier.
[00:02:30] And I, you know, honestly at the time I, if you would’ve asked me then, I would not have thought I was eating super unhealthy, but my eyes have been opened since then. And it was interesting because when, you know, we were blessed with our little, our son on the way, and I was pregnant, the second trimester I started to develop really horrible chronic insomnia.
[00:02:53] I would fall asleep at night and then be woken up two hours later with this horrible kind of restless legs, surging sensation, kind of this dull electrical shock feeling inside my body. And my OB/GYN at the time didn’t know what was causing it, and my doctor at the time didn’t know what was causing it.
[00:03:09] And they just said, well, you know, it’s probably just something to do with pregnancy. Everyone, you know, has different symptoms and, you know, it’s a stress that your body’s under and just try to eat as healthy as you can. And they gave me a prescription medication to help me sleep and I just thought it was one of those blessings of pregnancy, and then everything would go back to normal after my son was born. Unfortunately, that was not the case. We were very thankful and blessed that he was a healthy baby boy. And I was, you know, relatively healthy throughout my pregnancy and thankful for that. But unfortunately, my symptoms got worse after my son was born and what I later learned, kind of long story short, but what I later learned was that I was severely nutrient depleted, particularly in iron. That was the one thing that was really affecting me. And it would take a while for me to eventually figure it out and learn it. In fact, I saw, you know, seven different doctors, most of them were specialists at one of the top, you know, top institution, medical institutions in the country.
[00:04:12] And really everyone said, you know, we can’t find anything wrong with you. I think it’s just stress and, you know, recovering from pregnancy, but I could not sleep at night. It was absolutely horrible. And then those symptoms started to creep into the daytime and I had absolutely no energy. I was fatigued all the time and I just, it was really hard for me to care for my son, let alone do all those fun, you know, things that a new mommy should be doing. Like, you know, play dates and stroller rides, and even maybe an occasional date night with daddy and everything. None of that was happening because I was just so incredibly weak and exhausted, and it was scary.
[00:04:53] It was really scary because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. My dear mom and best friend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just before we got pregnant. And so she was on her battle with ovarian cancer and she, you know, we were blessed to have her with us for the first full year of my son’s life.
[00:05:12] And then she passed away and it was just a really hard, devastating time in my life. But also, you know, joyous having our new precious little angel in our life too, our son. So it was just all of these mixed emotions and chronic health challenges. And I think the scariest part was just not knowing what was going on and then being very fearful that, you know, I mean, there were moments when I wondered if I was even gonna make it, you know, and that was scary. And so a dear friend of mine, about a year after my son was born, a dear friend of mine was on her own personal health journey. And she said, you know, Jaime, one thing that has really helped me was doing a food sensitivity blood test. And up until that point, again, I hadn’t been told to change my diet.
[00:05:58] I hadn’t been told to do anything different than what I was already doing in terms of my diet and lifestyle. Really, a prescription medication and, you know, stress reduction techniques were the only things that were really recommended to me from a conventional perspective. And, you know, at that point I was pretty desperate and I thought I’m willing to do anything if I could feel better and figure this out and support my body’s health, and get healthy so that I can be the mom that I want to be for my son and be here for him and, be the wife I want to be for my husband. So my dear friend suggested this food sensitivity blood test. And I went ahead and I did it. It came back with, you know, severe sensitivity to dairy, gluten, eggs and about 31 other different foods.
[00:06:42]I now know why that was happening, at the time I didn’t. So I thought, okay, well I’m just going to eliminate these foods. And I went pretty much cold turkey and just eliminated all these foods. I don’t necessarily recommend that for everyone right off the bat, cause it can cause a lot of angst and confusion. And, you know, we might be missing some nutrients when we do that. But I ate a lot of chicken and broccoli for a while until I kind of got things figured out because, you know, I was in tears. I came home and I thought, oh my goodness. I opened up my refrigerator and my pantry and just about every food or meal that I would eat had, at least one, if not all, three of dairy, gluten, and eggs in it.
[00:07:21] But I thought, okay, well let’s just give this the best shot at working and seeing what it can do. And I will tell you, Emily, within four nights of changing my diet, I was sleeping without a prescription medication. And that was huge. Now my sleep was not yet perfect, but I saw at least 50%, maybe even a 70% improvement in my sleep. And that was enough to, you know, it was just that big aha moment where I realized the power of food in my life and that oh, okay, there might be something going on here, and what is going on? And that just opened the door to my curiosity and wanting to dig in and figure out as best I can. It was about probably a year later that I learned that I do actually have celiac disease. And that was an underlying kind of silent contributor to why I had so many food sensitivities, why I was having these chronic symptoms and why I was so deficient in so many nutrients.
[00:08:30]Emily Melious: I kind of laughed at myself as you’re talking about this experience of, you know, you felt like you were eating healthy. I too felt like I was eating healthy. You know, I would opt for the whole wheat bread over the white bread. I bought low fat cheese over the whole fat cheese and I would get the English muffin at McDonald’s instead of the biscuit. I originally reached out to you because I had even buckled down on trying to eat healthier and was feeling no effects.
[00:09:00] And I was so frustrated, and to was kind of given advice like, oh, you’re just stressed, you’re just working too hard, and knew I wasn’t crazy, but I was feeling kind of crazy. So talk about what does eating healthy actually mean?
[00:09:17] Jaime Ward: Great question. And, honestly, it’s going to mean something different for each one of us. It truly does need to be personalized. Now there are some general principles that we can all follow to make a really healthy upgrade in our life. For example, just trying to eat more foods that are natural, more of the foods that God made for us, foods that don’t have a label. Those are just some basic principles that can really help make, for many people, a profound difference in their overall health, whether they directly feel the change right away or not.
[00:09:54] But most people do really start to feel better when they start eating more healthy, whole, natural, real foods. And that, again, would be foods without a label. So shopping more around the perimeter of the grocery store. You know, counting our colors of fruits and vegetables, instead of our calories. Now there might be some medical reasons someone might need to count their calories, but for most of us, just making a change to the types of food that we eat and then counting the colors of fruits and vegetables and trying to hit each color of the rainbow every week. Now, ideally we’d hit each color of the rainbow in fruits and vegetables every day, but for most of us, unless we are on vacation and have a ton of time to actually prepare those foods or, you know, we’re staying somewhere where they prepare them for us, we probably don’t have time to do that, but I like to say, you know, and I kind of set a goal for myself. Okay, let’s try to hit each color of the rainbow every week, if we can, you know, and we’re not hard on ourselves if we don’t get to each one, but it’s a goal.
[00:10:53] And any effort in that direction is going to be an improvement. Not everyone needs to avoid gluten, but I am seeing more and more the rise of gluten sensitivity. Of course there is celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition. The environmental trigger for that is gluten and it prompts the body to start attacking the lining of the digestive tract, leading to a lot of nutritional deficiencies and a lot of symptoms, very chronic.
[00:11:18]It’s a very serious condition. It affects, you know, about 1% of the population. But there are many more people who do struggle and suffer with non-celiac gluten sensitivity or some type of a wheat related disorder, whether it’s the carbohydrates in wheat that someone has a hard time tolerating, or even a wheat allergy or just a gluten sensitivity.
[00:11:41] So, fortunately there are some good lab tests that can help guide us in terms of, if this is something we might want to consider avoiding. Also sometimes just avoiding it and seeing if you feel better, can be a helpful tool as well. But then, you know, just in terms of eating healthier, just in general principles, you know, we want to really stay away from artificial ingredients as much as possible.
[00:12:03] So preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors, dyes, all of those things can be very inflammatory to the body, inflammatory to the brain. I know there’s a lot of moms, of course, listening to your podcast. And that is one thing that I have seen personally and also learned through my professional training that not just the added sugar, but it’s really those artificial ingredients, the colors, dyes, artificial sweeteners that can actually cause brain inflammation. And our kiddos, it can also alter their metabolism and create insulin resistance, especially those artificial sweeteners. And if we are struggling with any type of behavioral challenges, that can oftentimes be a manifestation of inflammation in a kiddo’s body and brain, and by making a diet change just as something more healthy by choosing more real whole foods and getting rid of those colors and dyes and artificial ingredients, a lot of times we can see tremendous improvement, which is really, truly amazing. So back to your original question, what does healthy look like in terms of what we’re eating? It is going to be personalized for each individual person, but you know, if we can really just choose more healthy whole foods, reduce those artificial ingredients, of course avoid anything that says MSG, monosodium glutamate, avoid those hydrogenated oils, trans fats, genetically modified foods when possible. You know, organic isn’t necessary for everyone all the time.
[00:13:32] There’s a really, really good website called the Environmental Working Group and they put out a list of produce every year. And they have a Clean 15 list, which are the cleanest produce, that you really don’t have to spend extra dollars and buy it organic. You can just buy it regular that’s, you know, it’s going to be clean as it is. And then the Dirty Dozen list are really the 12 highest, dirtiest produce items. Apples and berries always fall at the top of the list usually every year. So we want to, you know, put our dollars where it counts and opt for organic if we can afford that. And I believe that is a good investment in our health.
[00:14:09] So, you know, just kind of being wise and savvy about how we allocate our dollars. Everything doesn’t have to be organic, but just learning as much as we can about eating as clean and healthy whole foods as much as possible is a really, really good first step and kind of a foundational step for everyone.
[00:14:27] Emily Melious: My sister and her kids, they call it God food. Which, that that too, just the stuff that God made, not what they made in a facility or elsewhere. Yeah, stick to the God food, the stuff that doesn’t have labels. One of the exercises that you had me do, and it was very simple, so it’s a great place to start, but extremely insightful, is you had me log my meals. So what I ate, which many of us do, but we tend to do it more for calorie counting, but then you had me log how I felt after the meal. And really starting to make that connection between, okay, when I eat these things, I feel really sluggish, tired and brain fog, or I eat these things and I’ve got energy and I feel focused and I feel on top of my game. That was such a great place to start because to your point, it’s all personal and one food for you might make you feel energized, for me it might make me feel exhausted.
[00:15:27] But making that connection and logging for a week, maybe two. How you feel after meals and then starting to see patterns between the food that you’re eating was huge for me. I want to switch now to get health. I think there’s a lot of people out there now talking about gut and the connection to our overall health. I know for me, that was big. What is that connection between our gut and our health?
[00:15:55] Jaime Ward: Great question. And I’m so glad you’re bringing this up. I think it’s something that is very important for everyone to be aware of as we’re trying to raise healthy children and be healthy ourselves as much as possible. And our gut health is so incredibly critical and integral to the health of our whole body. Of course, you know, everything that we eat has to be digested. Broken down and assimilated, absorbed into our body to then be turned around and used as building blocks for keeping our body healthy and functioning. And what a lot of people may not realize, and there’s becoming a growing awareness as we talk about probiotics and things like that, but there are trillions of beneficial bacteria that reside in our digestive tract.
[00:16:39]The majority of them will be in our colon, our large intestine. And they have a tremendous influence that researchers don’t even have a grasp on exactly what they do for us, but there is a growing body of research, that’s heading that direction and there’s just some amazing things coming out of that. One thing that we do know is that about 80% of our immune system is actually produced in our gut. And it makes sense because if you think about it, you know, when we eat food it’s going to head down our digestive tract, which is basically a tube, a hollow tube from our mouth to the other end. So essentially it’s still kind of part of the outside world.
[00:17:20] So as things start to get digested and nutrients start to come through the wall of our gut and our small intestine, our immune system needs to be right there to be on alert and identify, hey, is this a foreign invader coming through or is this a nutrient that I can safely let pass and be used by the body? So if we don’t have really good, healthy gut health, we’re probably not going to have really good immune health. Also inflammation in general might be more so than it should be because when things are unbalanced in our digestive tract or when we have a condition that’s called leaky gut, the more proper formal term is increased intestinal permeability.
[00:18:07] And we can talk briefly about what that is, but when that’s occurring partially indigested food particles, maybe toxins that are produced in the gut by the bacteria residing there, maybe even just toxins that sneak their way into the food that we’re eating. Those things can slip through the wall of the gut. The immune system, being right on the other side of that wall, is going to identify it and flag it as a foreign invader. And then an inflammatory cascade will ensue because it’s our immune system trying to protect our body against what it perceives to be a foreign invader and launching an immune and inflammatory attack is one way that it does it. Now that can happen at a very kind of low, stealth level that, you know, some of us might experience a headache.
[00:18:53] Some of us might experience, you know, maybe even kiddos experience kind of, you know, behavioral outbursts. It could be a rash on our skin. It could be actual digestive conditions and symptoms and problems, but it doesn’t have to be. I know with celiac disease, for every one person that has a digestive symptom with celiac disease, eight do not. Eight have no digestive symptoms, but they could still have celiac disease. Yeah, isn’t that fascinating? And it actually, the current medical research is showing that the brain is actually the number one organ affected by gluten, not the gut, even though the gut is definitely affected by gluten, the brain is actually the number one. And we’re just now starting to learn about it through the research that’s being done.
[00:19:41] Emily Melious: Let’s talk about some simple things that we as parents can do to set our kids up for a healthy life. I’ll just speak from experience for going through that stage, five and seven years old, where they have like five things that they’ll eat. And so it’s become more of a struggle to really get them to eat the rainbow and not fight over mealtime decisions. So how do you work that out with your son and how can we do this in our homes without having a fight?
[00:20:14] Jaime Ward: Yes. Oh my goodness. Great, great question. And I hear you, Emily. I am right there with you , my son has actually been a very picky eater, pretty much since the day he was born, but then, a few reasons why we think it might’ve happened, but also as we learn more, you know, a couple of grandparents have now revealed that they were actually very picky eaters too. So there could be some genetic components there as well. You know, I personally don’t really know why some kids become picky eaters. However, I do know that kids have this beautiful innate wisdom, to, just tune into their body and kind of know what their body needs. So, I actually worked with a feeding therapist for my son for many years and she said, you know what, Jaime just keep encouraging as much as you can. Don’t force.
[00:20:57] Because one of the things that I was concerned about, especially as my work through health coaching and things like that was, hey, if we force our kids too much or put like a negative, if we, if mealtime is stressful, that can also have a lot of negative effects on children and their relationship with food as well. So I always wanted to be really conscientious, to encourage, and maybe even incentivize him to try new things, but never to force. So that was just something that has worked well for me and our family, and he’s now 11 years old and he’s thriving and he’s always doing great on the growth charts and everything, but it’s been definitely challenging to get him to try new foods and he does not have a perfect diet by any means.
[00:21:39]We’re still working on adding colors to the rainbow. So I think we just need to, have some grace for ourselves and, not, stress out too much about it and just keep trying. But one thing that worked really well for my son was to figure out what flavor of like a smoothie or a shake that he liked and then sneak in nutrients. So in his mind, it’s a chocolate shake, but it’s super nutrient dense. I found a really good protein powder that he loves. It’s called Fit 365. It is dairy based, but it’s dairy from, cows in New Zealand that are, you know, grass fed. And so, it’s as healthy as possible. Now, if someone has a dairy sensitivity, then we would want to look for something else.
[00:22:19]Of course there’s pea protein powder and a lot of other things and obviously, when it comes to any type of supplements like this, it’s really important to talk to the child’s pediatrician and make sure that, their nutritional needs are being met or to work with a registered dietician who specializes in pediatrics. So none of this is intended to take the place of a doctor’s recommendation or anything like that. So it’s important for people to talk to their individual doctors and pediatricians, but what has worked well for my son was then to slip in some, you know nice high quality, professional grade multi vitamin and mineral powder, some vitamin D, actually I’m able to even slip in some DHA fish oil, which I was shocked when I would get that into the smoothie.
[00:23:01] So it’s just really a matter of, you know, trying things that, maybe they work sometimes, maybe they don’t. But then, just really just encouraging trying new things and focusing on, okay, we know that they need to have those macronutrients. So the clean proteins, the healthy fats, the good complex carbohydrates and sources of fiber. Kale chips was something that I started making and my son was really reluctant to try it. And now he loves them, which I was shocked at so sometimes, you know, your kids are going to surprise you as to what they might really like.
[00:23:32]He won’t eat cooked carrots, but he will eat raw carrots. So, sometimes it’s a texture thing. So just, a lot of trial and error. Don’t give up, keep it positive. Even reaching out and working with a pediatric feeding therapist, really for kids at any age could be super beneficial and they can have a lot of great insights. And one of the things that I learned was, let’s say they eat cracker. Okay. cracker, what else tastes like a cracker. Maybe it’s a chip. Oh, veggie chips. Ooh. Maybe now we can try kale chips. So you kind of like in a, in a step-by-step way, get to that food that you are hoping that they can eat and incorporate into their diet, but it might be taking steps with similar textures to get there, if that makes sense.
[00:24:16] Emily Melious: That makes complete sense. And I had not thought of it like that. I’m guilty of making the big jump and not working our way there, probably why I might be getting some more pushback there, but I will try those techniques, and smoothies, I’m thinking just in terms of practicality, those smoothies can be made in the morning and the hustle and bustle when you’re making breakfast, packing lunches. And when they come home from schools, starving, you could just pull those smoothie out of the fridge and it can be ready for them.
[00:24:44]Jaime Ward: Yeah, so speaking of kids coming home, super hungry from school, my son, that happens so often with my son. And I remember a while back a colleague of mine, a very wise mama once told me that she actually feeds her kids dinner when they are starving right after school. And that actually works out really well because they’re going to be the most open to eating what you put in front of them, good healthy foods, because they’re really hungry instead of having like a snack after school. Filling up on maybe some, not quite as nutritious food or just maybe not as complete of a meal and then just kind of picking up their dinner later and then having it be in a struggle at the table.
[00:25:30] So, what I’ve started to do with my son and it’s worked really well is, I’ll give him a full dinner at like four o’clock or four thirty right after school when he’s really hungry. And then he gobbles it up. And then when we sit down later as a family, after my husband’s done with work and we can have some family time together, then we do, we still all come and sit back down at the table, but then maybe he has a little treat or maybe that’s a snack, or maybe it’s just a continuation of what he didn’t finish earlier if he’s still hungry. And we can still have the purpose of being together as a family, but it really makes sure that he eats as much as he can of the good, nutritious food that we want him to.
[00:26:08] Emily Melious: I love that. I think that is so smart. And I’m going to try that. For those listening that want to connect with you, maybe get your help, how can they do that?
[00:26:17] Jaime Ward: Yeah, the best way is just by visiting my website, which is hope, H O P E, the number four, auto-immunity dot com, cause I do specialize in helping moms and women and kids and families with auto immune conditions. So just hope4autoimmunity.com.
[00:26:37] Emily Melious: And as a reminder, if you sign up for our episode insiders, which you can do by going to mothers of misfits.com scrolling all the way to the bottom, just putting in your information there and you will get access to extra insights about all of our guests, see some family photos, and we also put all the direct links to their businesses or products, whatever it might be. So make sure that you sign up for that. Jaime, thanks again for coming on. It’s just such a pleasure to have you and to introduce you to the MOM community.
[00:27:07] Jaime Ward: Oh, thank you so much Emily, it’s truly an honor. And I just love the mission and the work that you’re doing here. And I know it’s going to help many, people and families, and it’s just awesome, so I’m truly honored to be a part of it. Thank you for having me.
[00:27:20] Emily Melious: Thanks again.
[00:27:22] Mothers of Misfits: Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Mothers of Misfits podcast. Make sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. We also invite you to visit us at MothersOfMisfits.com.
- Visit Jaime’s website: Hope 4 Autoimmunity