The term “integrative” means “serving or intending to unify separate things.” What we eat is important, but it’s not the only factor in health. Physical activity, relationships, career, and spirituality are all vitally important aspects of our overall well-being. As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach I am a supportive mentor and wellness authority who works with clients to help them feel their best through both food and lifestyle changes. Instead of dictating one way of eating or exercising, I tailor individualized wellness programs to meet my clients’ unique needs.
Part of my journey to becoming an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach started with my own health crisis.
“Really? You don’t have a headache all the time?” I remember asking my husband this and realizing that not everyone had a terrible headache every day. Frequent headaches had been a part of my life since I was a child, but the consistent headache pain I had been living with for years as an adult was gradual enough that it took me awhile to realize that feeling that way was not normal. I was in my early 30’s, married with 2 young daughters, living my dream of being a wife and Mom. But, I had a headache every single day and the pain was increasing in intensity.
My journey to really seeking answers began in the summer of 2008. After a visit to the doctor and 5 days on a strong medication and feeling even worse, I got off the medication and spent the next year and a half trying to figure out what was going on in my body. I had an MRI (all clear), tried chiropractic care, massage therapy, biofeedback, acupuncture, and physical therapy. While these are all wonderful services that benefited me in other ways and may help some people with chronic headaches and other health issues, I wasn’t experiencing consistent headache pain relief. My prayer during this time was, “God, you know exactly what is going on in my body. Please give me wisdom to know if there is something I can do to stop this headache.”
Reading and researching topics of interest are one of my hobbies, so I started learning all I could about headaches, which also led me to learning more about nutrition. It wasn’t until the spring of 2010 after an experiment of not eating white flour and sugar for a time, that I made the connection between what I was eating and how I was feeling. I realized gluten was the culprit behind these severe headaches.
Looking back on this time, it’s frustrating that nobody asked me about what I was eating. Frustrating, but not surprising. The practitioners I saw knew their particular area of expertise and were not nutritional experts. However, if they had asked, I would have proudly told them that I ate really healthy. I made most of our meals at home, enjoyed a variety of fruits and vegetables, used whole wheat flour in baking, and made my own granola and sprinkled wheat germ all over it. Little did I know how I was contributing to my own pain!
I started tuning in to my body and recognizing how the food I ate affected how I felt. A term that is common among Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches is “bio-individuality” which means that we are all unique in how things like food, environmental factors, exercise, therapies, medications, and stress affect our bodies. I know people who have benefited greatly from chiropractic care and massage therapy to manage headaches. But for me, the underlying issue was a sensitivity to gluten.
When I gave up eating gluten, I actually had to go through a process of mourning. It sounds silly to say I was mourning the loss of a food, but I loved baking (and eating) muffins, cookies and bread! Gluten was in many of the foods I was eating and the selection of gluten free options at the grocery store was limited at this time. What was I going to eat? Reading labels and experimenting with gluten free cooking and baking became necessary. And it also became fun! I liked trying new recipes and I especially liked not having a headache.
There have been many mistakes along the way, like forgetting to read a label or ask for an ingredient list, especially when dining out or eating food I didn’t prepare. But now, I am an expert at reading labels and preparing gluten free food! If a food containing gluten looks really delicious to me, I remind myself, “Nothing tastes good enough to be worth not feeling well.”
Food has the power to make us sick and it has the power to heal. We are all unique in how foods nourish or negatively affect our bodies. The concept of bio-individuality has been powerful in my life and in those I support and coach. If you are not feeling your best, have you considered how you are or are not nourishing your body through the food you are eating?
I know that the information available for health is abundant and can be overwhelming. Let me come alongside you and coach you through your wellness journey so you can feel your best!
Jennifer Kamper, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
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