[00:00:00] Detective Ev: Well, hello, my friends. Welcome back to another episode of the Health Detective Podcast by Functional Diagnostic Nutrition. My name is Evan Transue, AKA Detective Ev. I will be your host for today’s show. Her name’s Karen Thomas. We got quite a story regarding chronic fatigue, very serious chronic fatigue, bedridden for two years type of thing. Probably one of the more severe cases of it, if not the most severe case of it I’ve heard on this show, and that’s saying something after 170 some episodes, whatever we’re at now.
Karen is the CEO and founder of Holistic Digestive Solutions and sits on the Board of the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutrition. She’s a supervisor for the North Carolina Board of Nutrition Specialists, a Certified Biological Dental Hygienist, a Certified FDN practitioner, a motivational speaker educator, and award-winning author of Overwhelmed & Undernourished: Use Food as Medicine and Turn Your Life Around.
She’s also the 2020 recipient of the Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction and holds a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. Currently she’s enrolled in a doctoral program starting in September of this year, 2022.
I am very sorry that we could not get someone who was a little more credentialed on the show today. We had to settle for Karen. Obvious sarcasm there. Pretty cool what she’s been able to accomplish. She does take clients currently and we’ll talk about that at the end if you’re interested in working with her after we share the story. She’s available for speaking as well.
Help Us Get These Amazing Health Stories Out
You guys know this if you’re regular listeners, I speak in the youth mental health space when I’m not doing FDN stuff. I also speak for FDN occasionally as well. Man, I nerded out with her a little bit at the end. I had to ask, like, what are you doing? What are you speaking on? Where are you speaking at? She has a pretty cool niche that she’s figured out and I think she’s probably helping tons of people with this.
If you are someone who regularly listens to the podcast and you like what we are sharing here, and are finding it valuable, please consider leaving us a five-star review on Apple and or Spotify, depending on what you listen on. We would really appreciate that. This helps this information get out to more people.
When you hear this story today, you’ll understand why I always push this. This is someone that suffered for years, was bedridden because of her condition, because she had no idea what was happening. They went to the Western medicine people, and they were not able to help with this.
We need more people hearing these stories. It’s great that this audience has grown tremendously over the last year and three quarters, roughly, that we’ve been doing this. Unfortunately, we’re nowhere near big enough cause there are tens of millions of people in this country alone, the United States, that are dealing with this; and we’re a global audience.
So, there’s hundreds of millions around the world that actually need to hear this stuff. It takes all of three seconds, if you could do that, we’d greatly appreciate it.
Researching – So Many with Chronic Fatigue
All right. Now we’re getting to today’s episode.
Hello Karen. Thanks so much for being here with us today.
[00:02:52] Karen Thomas: Thank you for having me. I appreciate this.
[00:02:54] Detective Ev: Yeah. You guys, if you knew how many times we had to reschedule this and it was on both of our ends, so it was kind of funny. But life comes up and I think it’s actually a good testament to us. It’s just professionalism, working things out and then getting to it.
Here we are finally getting to record and hear about your story. So, Karen, I like to jump right into it on this podcast. I would like to start today pretty much the same way we start with everyone. What I’d like to know is kind of when your health challenges, or maybe a family member’s health challenges started.
I ask that because I know no one gets into this space by accident. It’s very intentional that we get into this world, especially with all the credentials that you have. So, I’m curious, like when did that health journey begin and what was going on at the time?
[00:03:34] Karen Thomas: You know, I’m technically formally trained, I guess. I am a dental hygienist. I had switched from clinical into research. I was the examiner for the state of North Carolina, and we were doing a TMJ, fibromyalgia, episodic, migraine, and pelvic pain. There were lots of people with chronic fatigue. It was just interesting when I was working at UNC, Chapel Hill, that I kept seeing all these people with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia.
Taking a Couple Days of Rest
Hearing these terrible stories of these people who had basically lost everything they had because they were so sick, they couldn’t work. Inside of me, there was something that said, there’s gotta be a different answer. Because in research, a lot of the reasons they do research is to help people. However, in conventional medicine, their basic idea is to really formulate a medication. It’s really never to find the root causes. It’s to give somebody a band aid, as I would say it.
It was just interesting because when I was working, I was starting to come home, and I was really tired. It was getting worse and worse. I still remember the one day when I called my husband on the way from work and said, listen, if you do not talk to me the entire way home, I am going to pull the car over on the highway and I am going to fall asleep. I made it home. I don’t even know how; I was just so physically exhausted.
It wasn’t like, I’m just tired. When you get chronic fatigue, it is something that you can’t even explain. There’s such a depth to it. I just kept on pushing myself and pushing myself. One day I went to the doctor, and she says, you know what? You need to take some time off. You’re not, well, you need to take some time off.
I said, no, I’m superwoman. I can do it all. I had a couple things happen at work within the next week. I said, you know what, I’m done. I just, I cannot do this. So, I went on medical leave just thinking that I just needed a couple of days of sleep, just a couple of days of rest.
Bedridden for Two Years – Noone Could Figure It Out
Well, you know, one day turned to two. Two turned into a week. A week, turned into a couple of weeks, then a couple of months. Then basically, I was bedridden for two years and I could not literally get out of bed. I was sleeping more than 15 hours a day. I basically could walk maybe 30 feet without just wanting to pass out.
The interesting thing is, is that my husband would have to take me to the doctors. He would speak for me because for the first like eight to nine months, I couldn’t even speak. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I couldn’t even formulate the thought for something to come out of my mouth. Like, I could say yes, I could say no, and I could sign my name. Even signing my name, my hands shook so bad.
So, the journey basically started. I’d go to my doctor, and that doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Then they would push me to the next doctor and the next doctor would try to medicate me. They couldn’t figure it out. So, then they would send me to the next doctor, you know what I mean?
They were basically piggybacking drugs to try to make me feel better and figure out what was wrong with me. But yet, they could never figure out what was wrong with me. The interesting thing is, is that the information was right there in front of them the entire time. Nobody took the time to listen, and nobody took the time to really dig in and figure out what really was my root cause.
Bedridden – in Denial as a Health Professional
[00:07:09] Detective Ev: So, the journey begins, I guess. The similarities from having done so many of these interviews at this point is uncanny, right? Because the conditions are different. I’ve had people with chronic fatigue stuff, but generally speaking, there’s people that have tons of energy and then have other symptoms.
But the similarities with how this affects their world and their interactions with Western medicine. Which by the way, if you’re listening for the first time, I’m sorry to sound like a broken record, we are not against at all. But what you just said, this is not a subjective opinion. That’s an objective fact what you just said that you went there, and they were not able to help. That’s not an opinion. That’s what happened to you.
We need to validate that as well in addition to recognizing that Western medicine can save lives. It’s not usually so great for conditions like this. And I’m curious just to get a picture here, because again, now at this point, you’re very credentialed in many things in the functional world or natural world, whatever you want to call it. At that time though, you were a dental hygienist, I get that. But were you aware or had a thought process around anything natural at all, or was that a whole new concept to you or about to be a new concept?
[00:08:08] Karen Thomas: So, my mom had done a lot of natural medicine. She was a massage therapist, a colon therapist. I knew a little bit about that world, and I was very much in denial as a health professional. Because they slam down so many, you can only do it this way.
Bedridden – Not Able to Do Anything
When I was in my office at UNC, the one thing that kept coming to me was, if I don’t find the root cause, I’m going to die. No medication is going to figure that out. I’ve always said, medications, they’re great. They help. Some people, they keep alive. But really for what I had, I needed to find that root cause.
So, how I took my dental hygiene career information, science, was, I’m a dental hygienist. It’s always been about prevention and dentistry, and we’re still like that. It’s really about preventing disease. I knew that A, I wanted to find the root cause, and B, I knew I had really good education. As a hygienist, we have so many science classes that we have to take. I said, you know what? I am a dental hygienist and I’m going to figure this out.
But through the time that I was bedridden, like I said, I was so exhausted. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t clean. I couldn’t do laundry. I couldn’t cook. I mean, when you get this sick, it is not just your physical being that is bombarded by self-loathing. Because you can’t do anything, it puts a strain on your marriage. It puts a strain on your family because they’re having to pick up the pieces for you.
When you have like, just say chronic fatigue, people are very judgmental. Well, you look fine. You don’t have cancer because you have all your hair. You don’t have a broken arm and people really are judgmental. You really learn who is your friend and who is not your friend because people will stick with you. Then people that you thought were friends, you find out that they’re not.
Bedridden. Chronic Fatigue. Autoimmune. Share Your Story!
[00:10:12] Detective Ev: I think this happens a lot too in the world of autoimmunity and stuff. Like my mom had this experience. It needs to be said because, first of all, I never knew this actually until like two years ago. But my friend, it was long story, but he informed me that cancer had a stigma at one point.
I never knew this, like, before we had more information around it, this was decades ago, but there was literally a stigma around cancer. We didn’t know anything about it in a modern sense. So, people were kind of like, all right, come on. Like, just pick it up a little more. It wasn’t something that you necessarily shared with people.
Now of course, if someone shares this, I mean, my God, you get hundreds of reactions on Facebook. Everyone would donate to your GoFundMe. But then there’s people in this other category of health with the chronic fatigue, just chronic illness, let’s call it, that’s not cancer. These people are being affected too guys.
These people die from these things sometimes. Sometimes we’ll never get to hear about this or never truly know. So, I really commend anyone who just, even if you’re not in our space and you’re just listening as a consumer, just post something online sometimes like, hey, I deal with this. Or like an awareness month, right?
Like, if it’s autoimmune awareness month, just share something so others know that these people are out there actually dealing with this stuff too. You might make a friend like that. Kind of a weird way to make a friend, but it could happen, if you’re dealing with similar things.
Bedridden – Crying Out to God
You said that your mom was interested in the kind of natural things. I guess I’ll even rewind a little bit myself, because there’s a crazy time period here before clearly any progress was made cause you’re two years bedridden. During that time, you said that you had went to a few doctors. Are you constantly going to doctors in the two years or trying to figure things out?
Because you just don’t strike me intuitively as someone who’s going to give up. I mean, how many things did you try in that two years of being bedridden before something moved the needle?
[00:11:46] Karen Thomas: My husband would schedule the appointments for me, and I went to my primary physician. Then, like I said, I did that, I don’t know, if it was once a month. We would go and they would try things. They would listen to me, and I would cry the entire time because I really couldn’t speak. I was frustrated and I was so depressed. The longer you’re sick, the more depressed you are.
It really came to a point where I had a choice to make. I really wanted to die because I felt like I couldn’t be a wife. I was a stepmom. I couldn’t really, you know, do anything there. I couldn’t clean my house. If something fell out of my hand, I literally did not have the energy to even pick it up off the floor. I would honestly, I’d cry out to God. I would say, I just don’t understand. You know, like I don’t get it. Like, why are you allowing this to happen to me? It was like one of those things.
Bedridden for a Purpose
One of those days as I kept on crying out to God and saying why, why, He started to show me that this was so much bigger than me. That the reason why God was allowing me to go through this pain was so that I would understand and feel the pain of the millions of people that are sitting out at home that are suffering exactly the same way.
That pain was going to propel me and force me to get the education I needed so that I could, instead of them wasting years of being sick, that I could basically look at them, run whatever labs I needed to, and I could cut that timeframe into something so little compared to what I was going through.
That’s basically what happened to me.
[00:13:37] Detective Ev: I think there’s a huge difference when someone repeats words that sound nice versus when someone’s actually of faith of what they’re saying. You gave me chills. I would categorize you in the latter, that’s for sure. It sucks that we have to deal with this stuff, but it’s also amazing on the other side.
Listen, again, especially if someone’s listening for the first time, this is Karen’s story. We’re not going religious one way or the other, but I would even say for myself, I mean, I was an atheist my whole life and then with how my life is turned around now, now I feel like I have the biggest blessing in the world with the work that I get to do. It’s hard for me to say that there weren’t some things maybe being planned out in the exact way that they were supposed to. That’s just my opinion so who knows?
Bedridden – Needing Direction
At the very least, it’s a very good way to look at it, I think. Cause it brings joy to my life and it doesn’t hurt anyone. So, if it can meet both those things, that sounds pretty good to me.
Now, let’s talk about the progress. I’m curious here. I mean this is pretty severe stuff. We had someone come on before that had a similar level of chronic fatigue that you’re describing. I’ve had a few people, but like this is a debilitating thing.
They actually had used the reference of the 30 feet thing, believe it or not, where I think they said that exact measurement. Like, he could barely even walk to his mailbox, he was talking about. This guy lives right near me. He’s only 20 minutes away. He’s a friend of mine now.
So, what was the first thing that got you moving in the right direction at all? Was it a dietary change or whatever? Cause I know you had this mindset shift. That might have motivated you, but it’s not like all of a sudden you can just muster up 16 hours’ worth of energy every day. What got that energy going?
[00:14:57] Karen Thomas: You know, it’s really interesting. There’s a couple of things that happened.
One, again, I had to have that epiphany, that there was something much bigger in this for me. That really, it wasn’t about me. It was really about helping other people. That was one thing.
The second thing is, is that I saw that movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead with Joe Cross. I still remember I was laying on the couch, because like I said, I would basically make it down my steps and then I would hit the couch.
Bedridden, Watching a Movie, and Getting Propelled
I would like, I’m going to take a nap and I would wake up six hours later because that’s just the way it works. You think it’s half an hour, 15 minutes, and it’s six, seven hours later, you wake up. But we had just gotten Netflix and I have no idea cause it’s all electronics. I don’t even know how to turn the TV on basically.
I said, you know what, there’s this movie. Let me watch the movie and who cares? It’s on Netflix, I’ll fall asleep. You know, chances are really good I’m going to fall asleep. I can just turn it back on, whatever I missed. So, I turn on Netflix and it really, it is a miracle cause I don’t know how I figured it out.
I got Netflix on, which like right now if I think about it, I’m like, oh my God, it was so easy. Like how stupid could you be? But you know, when it’s all new. So, I turned that movie on. From the second it started; I could not fall asleep. I began to weep the entire movie because I saw somebody else that was sick.
A lot of times it happens when you’re in these struggles, you feel like you’re all alone. This is a lot of reasons why I speak, and I teach because I want other people to know that you’re not alone, that there are hundreds, millions, thousands, whatever of us out there that have been through the same thing.
I watched the movie, like I said, I cried the entire movie. At the end of the movie at this time when he had filmed it, he was doing a Juice Camp.
From Bedridden to Detoxing
Like I said, I could barely even turn the TV on, forget opening up a computer. I turn on the computer and I said, all right, Juice Camp. It was like four weeks away. It was in Rhinebeck, New York. I said, I want to go. I want to do this Juice Camp. I called my mom cause my mom is more on the other side.
I’m like, mom, there’s this Juice Camp and I want to go. I wanted her to go with me because she would really be able to help support me. But my aunt, we had just moved her before from New York to Florida. So, my mom really couldn’t do it because she now is a full-time caretaker. My mom says, just go.
My husband comes home, and I said, there’s this Juice Camp. I just saw it today. It’s in New York. I want to go. And he says, all you do is sleep. He says, if you want to go, get a ticket and go. So, I got a ticket. I don’t even know how, again, cause remember, I am sleeping more than 15 hours a day. I cannot walk from point A to point B without wanting to pass out.
I got a ticket. I said, okay, I’m going to this Juice Camp. I know that when you detox, it’s not a pretty sight. I said, I’m going to start my detox here because I’m paying money to go to New York. I want to be able to not be in the bathroom, sick, detoxing and having headaches. You know, having to go to the bathroom or whatever the detox issues were going to be.
From Bedridden to Juice Camp
So, I did. I hopped on a plane a month later and I went to Rhinebeck, New York. I had no idea who anybody was. I made it to camp, made a friend or two. The interesting thing was, about the third day that I was juicing full time, it was like something, they said that the lights went back in my eyes. I felt like something that was turned off in my body, turned back on. All of a sudden, I started thinking, this is really interesting.
The second thing was that, oh my God, those vegetables tasted so good. Why was it when I juiced, or I ate a vegetable, that it didn’t taste as good as it did up there? That’s when I started learning about the importance of food. Through the entire camp, which was a week-long or so, they did lots of stuff on nutrition.
I got to learn about what it was to be vegan, what it was to be vegetarian, what it was to be paleo, the difference between organic and non-organic foods, fresh foods, just local farmer’s market, eating foods that are within your season. I was trying different things up there while I was there.
While I was there, I heard about the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I don’t remember, it was $5,000 or 6,000, whatever the amount was. I have no idea what it was, cause it’s been so long ago. I remember coming home and I had heard this quote by Hippocrates that says, “let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” I’m like, wait a second. No medicine and I could use food as medicine. I’m like, this is a no brainer.
From Bedridden to Nutrition School
But that just sat within my spirit so much that it just kept on repeating itself, repeating itself. I’m like, wait a second. I get off all this medication, and do this by using food, which as a health professional, I’ll tell you that doesn’t always work. But for what was going on with me, it is a really huge chunk. Really it plays a big player in all our health, is having the proper food.
I called my mom, who is my biggest supporter. I said, mom, there’s this school. I don’t know if it’s $5,000, $6,000, whatever it is. I have a choice. I can either give the $5,000 or $6,000 to the conventional system, which I have been going to for two years now, who has done absolutely nothing for me, or I can take this money and I can invest it in myself.
My mom says, hold on. She says, I’m writing you a check right now. It’s in the mail tomorrow morning. It’s paid for, go to school. Then my husband, it’s interesting, because I told my husband about the school. He says, no way. He says, you’re not going. You don’t feel good. You barely can get off the couch. You’re not functioning. You’re not going to school.
But he did know that my mom had written a check. So, the next day my husband was working, and he would get up like five o’clock in the morning. I got up with him that morning and I was like, all right, see you later. Have a great day. I forgot. I waited till like seven or eight o’clock in the morning, called the school. I said, here’s my credit card. I signed up.
From Bedridden to Exercising
I said, you know what? I have to do this for myself. Because even though he was worried about my health, I knew that this was my body. This was my life. If I didn’t fight for myself, who was going to fight for me? So, I invested, like I said, that money (or my mom did), in my health.
And wow! Did things change? I will say that within three months of going to school, and I would try every dietary factor that they taught us about. I will say for the first three months, I finally was able to like kind of sit up, cause remember I was sleeping. For the second set of three months, I was able to stand. For the next three months, I was able to start exercising. Then by the time the year came, I had gotten my life back 100%.
It’s a lot, but it just shows the power of A, investing in yourself, and B, the importance of nutrition. And I only did this program at this time. It wasn’t for me to become a health coach. It wasn’t for me to build a business. I never went in knowing, or even understanding where my life was going to go. I really did it to get my own health back. That’s the only reason I went to that school. It just took off from there, literally.
Thankful for the Health Issues
[00:22:56] Detective Ev: It’s not universal, but I’d say the majority of us, that it is actually similar. I just, I was sick my whole life. I knew I wanted to get better. I always kind of make a joke. I wouldn’t have done it in like an immoral way, but I could have pictured myself in like real estate or being a lawyer, like something where there’s money to be made. I would’ve probably chased that, that’s my personality.
But then I’m so thankful, in a sense, for the health issues, because I feel like it kind of turned that very Type A, go-getter personality into doing something truly meaningful and applying that work ethic to that. And I appreciate that. I think that’s a good way to live our life.
So, I find this to be the case, very often, where we go to these schools, and we’re trying this stuff. All right. Wow, this actually worked. How can I not share this with other people in some way?
Actually, that’s cool that you do speaking as well. I find a lot of people that educate and stuff, but like that’s also something that I do. I’m a motivational speaker in the mental health space. I know you do that as well, and we’ll touch on that.
But when did you decide then that this was going to become work that you wanted to do because now you’ve added on other things? I mean, you became an FDN. You have other things that we mentioned in the bio in the beginning. Was it after that 12 months when you were feeling better that something just went off and you’re like, okay, I need to go help people with this and do this?
Bedridden – Suicidal Ideation to Wanting to Help Others
[00:24:02] Karen Thomas: Well, yeah. Because how simple is it for us to eat? It is the medication that we do three times a day. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, technically. I knew that I had a purpose, and my purpose was to help other people feel better and not be sick.
Because literally I was ready to commit suicide at some point. And I knew that God did not place me here on earth for no reason. I had a purpose, and I didn’t want anybody else to be going through the awfulness of what I was living.
Like you said, yeah, I went through FDN. I loved FDN. I learned so much. I decided that I wanted to get a Master’s in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. A, because I, partly am a dental hygienist. Now I’m a functional medicine nutritionist.
I just knew that as a dental professional, I was getting bombarded by germs every day and in clinic. How many other of my friends are in the same place? We get sicker by the day. We don’t realize that dental hygiene is probably one of the top careers that we have the ability to get sick. There’s just so much germs and stuff coming back and forth in the rooms and stuff.
But I just wanted to help my fellow dental professional because I figured that if I was sick, they were sick too. And as providers, we can’t give, if we’re sick. You lose your income, and you can lose your family, your friend. You pretty much can lose everything when you’re sick.
From Bedridden to The Goal of Helping Other Professionals
I didn’t want that for my fellow friend. So, I said, you know what? I am going to go get a Master’s. I got the Master’s in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. Now, I am doing a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration, because again, it’s really about getting my foot in the door, helping other professionals.
My goal is really for the professionals themselves, because we have to live this life. If we are not well, then we cannot help the many people that come to us.
[00:26:10] Detective Ev: I like that you never stopped the learning. You probably have a ton of tools already that are very useful and probably you could go the rest of your life with. But still, adding it on just to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. I like that.
I think I want to go back to something. It’s a little dark, but I want to go back to something for a second cause I think this really shows the weight of these issues. Again, it can sometimes be separated from the cancers of the world, people don’t get this. I mean, this is a person that seems totally rational and reasonable sitting in front of me virtually at least.
You’re talking about those suicidal thoughts that came. I’ve shared this on the show before, I’ve had this twice in my life. One was from literal clinical depression as a teenager. That was suicidal ideations that came from depression. I know that. Then I never know how to describe this, I mean, I’m sure there’s a more politically correct way.
Just 5% in the Right Direction to Reignite Hope
I almost consider it a practical suicide and as practical as it can be. Because at 18, I got diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. Karen, this was the first time I thought I was doing well and then I get this diagnosis. I’m getting extreme bouts of vertigo all the time.
I’m going online and the first thing I see are these support groups for this condition, people talking about the depression that comes with this and all this stuff. I’m 18 years old, I’ve been sick since five, getting worse and worse. I finally make a little bit of progress with the mental health stuff and then I get this. At the same time, I’m being told that this is incurable.
So, I totally think you’re really hitting on this for a lot of people that might never share this because that’s what was going through my head at that time. It wasn’t like, I’m so depressed, I want to do this. It was, why would I want to keep doing this for another 60 years? My life is not fun. I’m hurting, I don’t feel good. I can’t participate in normal things.
The only good thing about that was I said to myself, well, if you’re going to go do something like this, then you better try pretty much everything out there first before this actually happens. That is actually when I got into my world of nutrition and stuff and trying these things.
You know what, even if you’re in that really bad state, Karen, you only need something to move you 5% in the right direction to have your hope reignited. You just need something to show you that you’re on the right track. It can be a pretty powerful experience.
I want to go to FDN for a second, because, especially as someone who has all these things that you have, what attracted you to the FDN course? Like what did you want to do that for?
[00:28:16] Karen Thomas: I felt like one of the things that was missing in my treatment in conventional medicine was really A, the listening component, B, the testing.
You know, I think the way they read things are very limited. In conventional medicine you have the range, and they really cannot read outside the range. Even though I was sick, if I were to go back to those labs and I would hand my paperwork to a functional medicine provider or an FDN that has some good training, then they’re going to be able to look at that and say, you know what? I see an issue here. I see an issue here. I see an issue here. Doesn’t have to be outside the range but it could be.
So, for me, just the FDN, I really wanted to learn about the testing or really more the functional medicine testing that I felt was missing. Because I feel like if I would’ve had that in the beginning, I would have gotten better a lot faster. I think that’s what really made me look towards FDN.
Then when I signed up and I started, I was blown away by like, when we were talking in FDN and we’re talking about the way the body works and the adrenals.
FDN Teaches a Health Detective Perspective
I remember going to my endocrinologist for my thyroid and he tested my saliva. He said, oh, you have very high levels of cortisol. And that was it. I’m like, well, that was a waste of $400 or whatever it was, years ago. Why even run it if you’re not going to tell me how to fix it?
So, when I started FDN and Reed Davis goes through all the physiology and stuff and he starts talking about cortisol, we learn that you can actually fix it. Like, oh my God, was I not pissed off? You know what I mean? That here I go to this doctor who is trained and is telling me I have high levels of cortisol but doesn’t say you can fix it. He doesn’t tell me that stress is affecting my hormones and my thyroid and everything else.
This is one of the reasons why I wanted to learn more because I wanted to learn how to read in between the lines and learn from a different perspective because it was really missed in my case. I just wanted to learn and I’m glad I did it.
[00:30:38] Detective Ev: It’s probably one of the things that attracts people most to FDN. I know I loved the idea of the labs and the subjective data. And you get more than you bargain for.
I never would’ve thought that I could look at a stool test, the one that we typically use, like the GI MAP, and be able to get at least some hint of what this person’s hormone profile might look like. They’re not trained in Western medicine to think like that at all and it is valid. You really do become your own health detective and a health detective for others.
The Cycle of Trial and Error
What’s kind of crazy is, guys, this skill is highly valuable. I’m a younger guy with no formal training in Western medicine whatsoever. It’s amazing that I don’t even advertise as having a practice still. I haven’t done this in years, Karen, and yet just the other day, someone’s calling me about this. Now his fiancé’s talking to me tonight at the time of recording this. We’re literally chatting tonight because they can’t find anyone else that does stuff like this.
So, there is no shortages of FDNs. I will refer people to you guys. We need these people out there because there’s these individuals that are doing exactly what you did. They have real conditions. They’re going to Western medicine; Western medicine is not equipped for those conditions. So, they’re going through the cycle of trial and error, which is something we’ve mentioned on this podcast many times and Reed Davis teaches about in the course.
The cycle of trial and error is exactly as it sounds. I have something wrong with me so I’m going to go to the doctor and hope for some help. Then what happens is, all right, well, let’s try this medication. That one didn’t work. Okay. Let’s kind of try this thing, that didn’t work. Then you kind of do your own version, your natural version of cycle of trial and error, where I’m sure none of you listeners have ever done this, where we end up in like the supplement store or the health food store.
We’re just trying all the supplements there, or every single diet, like any little thing that we hear. And God bless these people, cause we’re all trying. But you need something more strategic and systematic if you’re really going to address these chronic health issues.
FDN Provides a Path – Starting Clients on the Right Track
Because, like you said, you even mentioned this yourself. Yes, you believe diet’s super important, but that might not even always be the place to just start by itself with every single person. Or different nutritional needs might apply to different people. So yes, some people get super lucky, and they try things like this and it’s like, wow, I’m starting to feel a lot better.
Then others, we all know this, some people have cured cancer with a vegan diet, others get sicker and sicker. Some people have tremendous benefits from paleo or keto. Then other people are like, my God, I hate that thing. It didn’t work for me at all.
We have to have something that can show us the path, at least, and we can course correct along the way. I don’t think there’s any perfect system out there yet. But FDN is getting pretty close where at least we can start someone on this right track. Then we know how to course correct for them as needed while they’re going along here.
I’m assuming, were you already in business for yourself before FDN?
[00:33:03] Karen Thomas: No, I was not. Like I said, I never went into this thinking that I would start my own business. I just went in for my own personal, to just get better. Then decided, oh my God, I want to do this. I want to help other people.
Then, because I have so much extra training, it’s just so interesting how I can take somebody’s blood work, the simplest thing, look at it and go, oh yeah, you have a bacterial infection. Oh, this looks like it’s viral. Oh, it looks like you have some GI issues. You know, like there’s so much.
Testing & Supplement Dosing
I was lucky because I got a really good mentor. My mentor, I think he made me do like hundreds of people’s blood work, like long hand for licensure and stuff. But he said, you know what? Blood work is one of the least expensive things that you can do. And there’s so much information in that little bit of a lab.
Then he taught me how to build on the lab and what to look for, how to read it, how to pull it apart, how to figure out exactly if this is wrong, what supplement you might need.
Dosing is super important because you might underdose somebody and you won’t get the effect you need. You have to dose them properly. So, for me, that’s why I love FDN because it has a little bit of everything.
And I love learning about stool testing. I love learning about adrenals. And there’s so much you can figure out and find out. It’s interesting because when I run stool testing, I have found the most interesting things.
I had a lady once who had 10 years of a UTI infection, 10 years. So that’s 10 years of antibiotics. We know what a killer one dose will do and then two. Then, she’s two years. She was a recommendation of a family member or something.
She came to me, and I did a stool test. I found a specific bacteria, I don’t remember what it was for her, in her GI system, that was gram negative. It took me a couple of days just thinking like, how am I going to fix this? How am I going to fix this? I’m like losing sleep cause I want to help fix this.
Successful Client Testimonial: 10-Year UTI Infection
Well, I figured out how to fix it for her. I will say, she, 10 years, and I’m not talking just like one here, one here, one here. I’m talking back-to-back. She would literally go a couple of days with nothing, and it would restart. She couldn’t even wear underwear. That’s how bad her UTIs were.
I gave her a protocol and it’s interesting. It’s been a couple of years now and she may have had one or maybe two in the past couple of years. And this is from a stool test. It’s not even a urine test, right? It’s a stool test, cause we could see that there’s an imbalance somewhere in the body. It’s really just taking the amount of time to go through somebody’s labs and figure out what’s exactly wrong with them.
She’s super happy. Now she can put back underwear on. She can live a much better life. And she’s not having to take all these antibiotics anymore.
Commercial Break – Try the FDN Course for Free
[00:36:08] Detective Ev: Hey guys, it is Detective Ev popping in here really quick. Maybe you’re listening to this episode thinking, hey, you know what? I’d kinda like to go do what those guys are doing.
Well, the way that you can do this is by taking the FDN course. It’s probably the best program out there now for mixing both business with functional health. Now, just to be clear, the business side, in and of itself, is not necessarily taught in depth in the main course. But we offer so much stuff on the side of this that can support you if you feel that you need that.
So, if someone’s looking to make a career change and they don’t have much time, maybe they want to do this in six, seven, or eight months, that is actually possible with the FDN system, even if you do not have a background in this stuff. All you need is the will to actually go do this and study. It is a condensed, super course of sorts that will allow you to make that change.
What you can do, if you’re considering it, is go to fdntraining.com/tryfdn and that lets you try the course completely for free, no credit card is required. Go to fdntraining.com/tryfdn to try the course completely for free.
All right. Now, back to today’s episode.
FDN Looks at the Whole Person
Detective Ev: I think that’s the true definition of the holistic approach. That’s one of the problems is Western medicine doesn’t even necessarily use these labs to begin with. And if they did, it’s well, we’re checking for just the GI tract, or we’re just looking at the adrenals.
But when you go through something like FDN, and there’s other programs out there that do this, you learn to think about this in terms of the big picture of the person’s body and actually get to the bottom of things.
So, I actually didn’t realize that you weren’t even in business before FDN. At what point did you start that? Was it after FDN? Cause I know a lot of people kind of feel inspired to do it after that. It gives them a lot of tools. But at what point did you start taking clients?
[00:37:45] Karen Thomas: I started after. What I did was, I did my master’s degree and then finished up my FDN afterwards.
I technically had started before I started FDN. I had to put it on hold cause getting a Master’s in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine was a lot of work.
I started afterwards. Again, I really wanted to help people and I said, you know what? This is the time.
I also, at that time, started a little bit of the public speaking. Again, linking the mouth to the rest of the body. The mouth is the gateway to the entire body. There’s so much that we know in dentistry and now there’s what we call the Oral Systemic Link where we’re trying to put it together.
The Body is Talking
It’s interesting, cause one of my talks is From Gums to Bums: The Bidirectional Movement of Bacteria. Because it is from the mouth to the rear end and back. I go through the research, and I show them how the bacteria in the mouth is really the same that they found in the stool and other places in the body. It is bidirectional.
A lot of times, I think, what happens in the body is actually showing up in the oral cavity. It may start, some of it is by what you’re eating and what’s going on and maybe some lack of care in the mouth, but everything shows up and expresses itself somewhere in the body.
So, for me saying, wait a second, you have this issue in your mouth, we need to really dig further. Because again, it’s coming from somewhere. Your body has the ability to express itself in so many different ways.
You have an aphthous ulcer, right? A canker sore. What is a canker store? We’re taught in dentistry, it’s like an etiology unknown. We don’t know where it’s from. But I remember seeing people that have had aphthous ulcers that actually have food sensitivities. The body will tell you what’s going on if you’re listening to the science and symptoms.
The problem is, when we have a runny nose or we have nasal runniness, whatever, rhinitis, people think that that’s normal. No, that’s not normal. That’s your body telling you that something’s going on. You get acne, there’s an imbalance somewhere. You get a skin tag under your armpits or somewhere on your body, we’re looking at blood sugar, look at your fingernails. It’ll tell you your deficiencies. You get chicken skin on the back of your arm, it’s like an omega-3 deficiency.
Symptoms Might Be Common but They’re Not Normal
Your body is speaking. The thing is that people don’t realize that the body is telling them, we take it for granted.
I think that’s one of the things that when I am teaching, I’m teaching these normal signs and symptoms that people think are normal are really not normal. As Reed says, it’s common, but they’re not normal. This is your body trying to get your attention.
When I teach, I always say it’s like the five languages of love. Gary Chapman, who wrote his book on The Five Languages of Love, talks about how everybody has a love language. Well, your body is loving you and telling you that something’s wrong. The problem is we’re not paying attention.
So, when I’m teaching, I am starting to show them all these signs and symptoms and how that’s related to something else. It really means we need to dig further because again, it may change, the sign and symptom may change from day to day, but eventually it’s going to get you.
[00:41:02] Detective Ev: Yeah, I love the Gums to Bums thing, that is a great title.
I gotta ask too. We don’t have too much time, but just as someone who’s selfishly very interested in speaking, I find it very cool that you’re doing this. Where do you speak at to give these kind of talks?
[00:41:15] Karen Thomas: I do a lot of talks to dentistry. I actually teach continuing education to dental professionals. Because again, those are my peeps, I love them. I’ve been in dentistry since I was 15 years old, which is a long time. I love them and I want them to be healthy. I love that their mindset is really about helping patients and really being preventative in nature.
The Connection Between the Mouth and the Body
Because of that, I decided that that’s really where I wanted to start. So, I started speaking. I think my first talk was with something called Smiles at Sea. It was on a cruise, I just got my foot in the door. Then have just progressively done more and more. I’ve been on the cover of magazines.
I won the 2020 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction just from my patients, because they’re usually dental professionals, mostly. I’ve done so much work with them and they feel so much better, so they kind of nominate me. That’s how I started.
Now I’m actually starting to speak on the medical side because I have licenses in both fields. That helps me cause I have the ability to translate two different languages. Cause dentistry in itself is a language, medicine is a language. What I’m doing is I’m actually like putting it together. I do like the medical dental connection. I just put in to speak at the American Council of, I think, it’s Nutrition. It’s really the connection that’s between the mouth and the body.
About 80%, I think of infections, are actually founded in the mouth and nobody ever looks. If they do, they do this cursory, oh, it looks good, cause they have no idea what they’re looking at. But we in dentistry know what we’re looking at. We are the perfect person to really look. We have the information, the education, and we have the tools really to put it all together. We should be partnering up with more of the medical side because if we put the two together, it’s a great relationship.
Karen’s Ideal Client
[00:43:10] Detective Ev: That’s amazing. What a smart thing to get into. I feel like that really serves a quite real purpose. Biological dentistry is popping off, more and more people are desiring it. I mean, the one near me has like a four month wait list right now. There’s like four doctors in there all doing this.
I’ve met FDNs (I’m in Pennsylvania), that are coming from New York state, driving three hours away to go get their cleanings at this place, just because they like these guys that much. So, the fact that you can help accelerate this, I think is just, one it’s fun. And then two, it’s just a real service to people. So yeah, we commend you for it.
Now with us kind of coming up at the end here. I’m curious real quick. For people that would maybe be interested in working with you, I always like to give the people that come on an opportunity to just like describe maybe their ideal client or who they love working with the most. What is the type of person that you like to work with? And then where can people find you for either that or the speaking.
[00:43:59] Karen Thomas: Who is my ideal client? I guess the more that you do this, the more narrow you get. So for me, the clients I really want to work with are the people that really don’t feel well, that really have the motivation that want to figure it out. Because there are some people that really don’t, they really want the pill. They want the medication, they don’t want to do any of the work.
Where to Find Karen Thomas
Me being a nutritionist, I’m always going to look at food first because I’m licensed to do what’s called medical nutritional therapy. It’s actually looking at different autoimmune diseases or conditions. and then really gearing the diet that’s personalized for them. So, we either eliminate some foods that need to go because it may be exacerbating their health or/and adding foods that they may need to kind of help them.
Because, again, what’s the bottom line? Like what is the root cause? So, if you think about it, what was the root cause, why was I really sick, which I’ll tell you in a second. Why it was missed and why no antidepressant in the world would’ve ever fixed what I really had.
So, I always use food-first approach. I always run labs. I think they’re so important because I don’t think that we should be supplementing or even recommending certain things unless we have the proof in front of us. Because again, you need to know what you’re doing.
So, I love my dental people, cause again, dentistry, they are my peeps and I love them. And I do have some non-dental patients. What was the second question?
[00:45:29] Detective Ev: Where people can find you.
[00:45:30] Karen Thomas: Yeah, so I have a website it’s holistic digestive solutions, holisticdigestivesolutions.com.
I’m just thinking, I usually run like three or four. Like, I run stool, I run adrenals. I run blood work, hormones, Glyphosate. There is really not much I can’t do, honestly. I try to really personalize it.
It’s not like I just do this, this is what everybody gets. No. We really personalize everything for that person because that person is an individual. What’s going to work for that person is not going to work for the second, the next person in line. Everything is 100% individualized.
Every supplement that’s recommended is personalized. The amount that they’re given is personalized. I’ve had to dive into genetics. It really depends on what’s going on with each person. But I will say that it’s a lot of work on the back end, because again, my goal is really to get this person better.
[00:46:28] Detective Ev: Well, I normally would ask the signature question right now, but we have to add a couple minutes here because you just completely teased the audience. You teased me as well; I need to know. I was under the impression, because a lot of people, when they just start eating better and changing that stuff, we don’t necessarily identify. We sometimes do, but we don’t always identify like, this was a cause of my illness, and you have a clear idea of what was causing your stuff.
Before we get to the last question, I gotta ask, like, what did you come to the conclusion of? Like, what was bothering you in making these extreme symptoms occur?
[00:46:59] Karen Thomas: So, a lot of people have thyroid disorder, right? It’s interesting that a lot of people, well, I can’t say a lot, because again, when you have thyroid disease, the biggest thing is that you really need to look at what you are eating, cause it can cause an issue. It could make things worse by what we are consuming.
Why Karen was Bedridden and So Sick
So, what really was the root cause in my situation was I had celiac disease. Nobody looked. Nobody realized that when you have thyroid disease, there’s a certain percentage of people that have celiac disease. This is why I was so sick. This is why I had chronic fatigue. I had fibromyalgia.
This is why my body was hurting every day, worse and worse because my body was not getting the nutrients it needed. So, when I went to Juice Camp and I was getting liquid nutrients, which I would not recommend juicing for everybody. Now that I’m at this point, I know that. But I was actually getting nutrients.
This is why I started to feel better. Like, you know what I mean? It was like, all these light bulbs started to go off. And at that point, I still didn’t realize I had celiac disease. But as you learn with FDN, and you run your labs, and you start to figure out, I’m like, hmm, interesting.
I ran a food sensitivity. That was the one of the first things I did. Boom. It was right there. I mean, I had like 50, 60 foods I was sensitive to. I was also smart enough to run a celiac panel. I don’t know why, but I said, let me just run these markers out of curiosity, they came back positive.
I took them to my new primary doctor. I handed him the paperwork and he looked at me and he says, you have celiac disease. And I said, yes, isn’t that wonderful? You know, like that’s the life now for the rest of my life, I’ll never be able to eat gluten. But you know what? I’m okay with that because I feel so good now.
Celiac Disease is Implicated in Chronic Illnesses & Mystery Symptoms
I exercise six days a week. I have tons of energy now. I cannot even begin to tell people how much better I feel. I literally have so much energy now that it’s hard for me even to, I’m just going from here to here just doing so much because I feel so much better. But finding that root cause was the thing that really, once I figured that out, then it was a home run from there.
[00:49:23] Detective Ev: Amazing. It’s been a while probably since I’ve heard that on the show and that used to happen all the time. Humor me here. Let’s say it is actually only 1% of the population, which I don’t know if I fully buy, but let’s humor me.
It is so overrepresented amongst people who go through like the FDN course and stuff. I mean, it must be at least 10% to 20% of FDNs knowingly have celiac disease, which is kind of crazy when you do compare that to the average population. It shows how implicated this is with chronic illness and mystery symptoms and things that Western medicine just isn’t equipped for. I think there’s a good learning opportunity there. I know I’m glad I asked the question and thank you for bringing it up.
Health Detective Podcast Signature Question – Eat Whole Foods
We will finish up though with this final question for you. And with someone who has as much education as you do, this will be a good question. The question is, if I gave you a magic wand and you could get every single person in this world to do one thing for their health, whether you are literally getting them to do one thing, or you can get them to stop doing one thing, what’s the one thing that Karen would get them to do?
[00:50:22] Karen Thomas: Eat whole foods. Eat a whole orange, not orange juice. Eat a whole apple, right. Just eat whole foods. Stay to the perimeter of your grocery store because that’s where the good food is. Not those middle aisles with the processed stuff. It’s the fruit, the vegetables. If you do meat, eat organic, grass fed, pasture raised.
Really invest in what you’re putting in your mouth every day, because what you are putting in your mouth is going to give your body the information it needs to succeed and to give you the energy that you need to do whatever it is you’re doing. So yes, that is the one thing that I would say is eat whole foods.
Test and Don’t Guess
[00:51:11] Detective Ev: All right, guys, that’ll do it for today’s episode with Karen Thomas. I feel like that was a really good reminder for all of us at the end there, that we need to test and not guess. As if we don’t say that enough on this show.
You can’t guess that someone has celiac. You could tell them, hey, maybe you should probably consider being gluten free, and that’s most likely a wonderful recommendation. But there is a level of seriousness that one will approach the gluten-free lifestyle with, based on whether or not they have celiac or a non-celiac, gluten sensitivity.
Or, just a thought, hey, maybe you should remove this. Go try. Right? Let’s be honest, we’re all human. We need objective things sometimes to really solidify the emotions. And then the emotions are what’s controlling the actions. Do you understand what I mean by that?
Like, if you know on paper that you have celiac and this is really severely affecting your body, that creates an emotional response. It is that emotional response that actually leads you to removing gluten. Versus if I just tell someone all these little facts, like, this is a good idea and that’s objective. But it’s not objective about them necessarily. Right?
I can show you all the general side effects, if you will call them that, or detriments of eating gluten. But if it’s not a study on myself and it’s a study on other people, it’s somehow a little easier to disconnect from that, isn’t it? So, I think it’s really important to test for that stuff.
I think we should all rule out celiac. If you’re in our world of functional medicine, it’s pretty much something that you want to just rule out because it affects so many people. And as you heard me say in the podcast it’s well, well, well, well, well, well, well, within the range. 10 Wells of being overrepresented in our space. So please make sure you check that out.
And hey, if you like the information that we’re sharing, please consider leaving us a five-star review on Apple and or Spotify. If you would do that, we would love you even more than we already do. I’m looking forward to talking to you guys again soon, but until then, please take care.
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