This week on the Heal podcast, Lyme warrior and cookbook author, Erika Schlick, shares her healing journey and the importance of nutrition.
This week on the Heal podcast, Lyme warrior and cookbook author, Erika Schlick, shares her healing journey and the importance of nutrition.
Hi, this is Mimi and welcome to The Heal Podcast. Today we have a special guest, Erika Schlick. She is a health coach, blogger and cookbook author of Wandering Palate. Erika was diagnosed with Lyme in 2014 and healed herself naturally without antibiotics. She went on to graduate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and became a health coach for those struggling with Lyme and other autoimmune diseases. She is here today to speak about her journey and how she helps people overcome Lyme through diet and lifestyle changes. Thank you Erika, so much for coming on. Can you tell us about your initial Lyme symptoms and how you were ultimately diagnosed?
Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me. I'm very excited to share about my story and hope I can help others. So in 2012, I went on my third camping trip ever. And after that I had kind of that weird flu that wouldn't really go away, but I used to get sick all the time, so I didn't really think anything of it. And I had a bug bite on my hand, but I thought it was just a big spider bite. I didn't know anything about Lyme. I'm from California, lived on the west coast my whole life and no one talks about it here. So after that I had this flu that just wouldn't go away for about eight weeks. I would get better for a day and it would come back. And what really sparked me into knowing that something was really wrong is one day I was blow drying my hair, and I had a bald spot, probably about the size of a silver dollar on the top of my head that had just appeared overnight. And as you can imagine, I completely panicked. I was like, why am I going bald? What is this? And I had already been having like some kind of weird health issues. I had psoriasis and some food allergies. You know, they say hindsight, hindsight is 2020. Now that I look back and now I know it's from living in a moldy building when I was in grad school and things like that. So my immune system was already a little suppressed and I had been recommended to a functional medicine doctor to kind of deal with some of these allergies and the other issues I was having. So when that happened, I went to see him right away. And the first thing he diagnosed me with, with celiac disease and the bald spot was alopecia, also an autoimmune condition. So he said he was willing to bet that based on, you know, the alopecia and my symptoms that it was because I was severely either gluten intolerant or celiac. So they started testing for that. After that it was just one thing after another was one diagnosis after another. It was a celiac disease and then food allergies and candida, all these gut things. And I changed my diet to a gluten free diet and never really felt better and things just kept kind of spiraling out of control for about two years. So it took about two years to get diagnosed. You know, the kind of the typical story of the different symptoms and then the brain fog coming in and the joint pain coming in and a lot of neurological issues and things like that.
Oh, that's interesting. I'm sorry to hear that. I noticed that you went to Institute of Integrative Nutrition, which is the same school I went to as well. So it was curious, did you go to that big to become a health counselor because of your issues, your health issues you were going through?
Absolutely. So in those first two years when I didn't really know what was wrong with me before I actually found out it was Lyme disease, the most concrete diagnosis that I had with celiac disease, so I was trying to figure out if I was missing something and you know, was it a nutrient deficiency that was causing me to be so sick? Was I still eating gluten somewhere hidden because my antibodies were still very elevated and I was so strict. I had changed out all my kitchen pots and pans and scoured my kitchen to remove anything that could possibly have gluten. So I actually started working with a health coach that also went to IIN that was celiac. It was actually one of the girls that started the, autoimmune paleo site and diet and things like that. So I was working with them, um, you know, to try to kind of detective work to see what could have still been causing my issues. And I felt like I got a lot out of working with her. So it kind of inspired me to also do the same. And you know, at that point I was pretty much not working too much, just laying in bed, scouring the internet, trying to figure out what could be wrong with me. So I thought maybe doing, um, you know, Institute of Integrative Nutrition would maybe give me some insight, help me figure out what was wrong with me, heal me, you know, kill myself a little bit. And then that's also around the time I started my blog. I started my blog kind of as like a way to document the treatments I was doing and the challenges I was facing to, you know, figure out what was going on with my own health and hopes that that could help someone else as well. So, that's when I got my certification and then started kind of working with people to figure out, well, what mystery illness they had and everything I was doing to try to kind of dig myself out of the hole.
I think we can all relate to that. I mean, just, I mean, hearing you speak about scouring the internet, it is just a desperate place to be, and unfortunately, us Lyme patients sort of find ourselves there. I want to know if, and this is a question we get a lot, if you were going to give advice to someone who just found out they were diagnosed with Lyme disease today, what's the first couple of things that you would tell them to do?
Absolutely. Um, I mean definitely take a deep breath, right? It's like a big deal. And I mean, when I got my diagnosis I almost had a sense of relief because it was like, okay, I finally know what's wrong with me, but I had no idea the tremendous rocky road that was ahead of me to dig out of that too. So I would say, you know, be patient with yourself, really take care of yourself. It's going to be a long journey, but you can eventually start to feel better and kind of dig yourself out of there. And definitely working with a doctor that resonates with what kind of treatments you want to do? Like for me, I had already done a lot of antibiotics when I was living in mold thinking that I just had like chronic sinus infections and you know, was taking antibiotics every six weeks cause I was getting so sick and I was living in Arizona, so I thought it was just the dust and allergies causing it. And so I already had depleted a lot of my gut with antibiotics. So for me, I definitely didn't want to do antibiotics. Like it didn't resonate with me at all and I wanted to do more natural treatments. So I really seeped out those kind of weird alternative things that I could write about and share about and see if they would work. And also looked for doctors that would work with me in those kinds of things and not pressure me to do a treatment that I didn't want to do. Because at the end of the day, I feel like you really have to believe in your treatment for it to really work as well too. You can try everything in the world, but if you don't believe you deserve to get better, that it's going to help you and that it's going to work with you. I think there can be some friction in your treatments. So definitely kind of feeling into it and really resonating with whatever direction you choose.
Hmm. Interesting. And now did you ever go see an actual Lyme literate doctor that helped you get diagnosed or?
I did so, well actually the doctor that diagnosed me was actually the functional medicine doctor that I went to with the bald spot. I was kind of frustrated cause I had been seeing him for about two years and he never tested me for it. But I just remember one day I was like barely able to drive anymore. I was running stop signs, I couldn't remember anything and I just sat in his office and just started bawling. I was crying. I was just like, I don't know what's wrong with me. Like I feel like I'm a vegetable. Like this is ridiculous. Like what else could it be? Cause what we're doing isn't working. And so that point, he's like, the only thing we haven't tested you for is chronic fatigue versus like Epstein BARR, things like that, or Lyme disease. And I was like, well, I doubt it's Lyme. Like I hate hiking. I'm a total city slicker on camping by force, like three times in my life. Like I hate it, but I was like test me anyways because I'm so desperate to know what it is, like I just test me for it. And so, and I ended up being CDC positive. So once I got my diagnosis, he was like, I don't treat Lyme. He's like, if I treated Lyme, that's all I would do. And he's like, I don't want to treat line. But, so he referred me to a couple different doctors. So, um, I worked mostly with Lyme literate naturopaths in the beginning, two different naturopaths that were really helpful. And then, once I moved down to LA is when I kind of switched up my treatments a little bit and get the STEM cell therapy, which is kinda what ultimately got me into remission, fortunately.
Right. And did you, um, what doctor did you end up seeing or getting this STEM cell down here?
I went to Infusio.
Oh! I went there too.
Interesting. How important do you think food is in the recovery of Lyme?
Huge. I think diet is the huge thing. And I think I was kind of fortunate because one of my first diagnosis was food related. So it was one of the first things that I started changing. I really started to notice like what foods worked well with my body and what foods didn't. You know, what was helpful and what wasn't. So at first, I went on kind of like just a standard gluten free diet, which is more like a gluten free version of the standard American diet. But I felt spacey all the time. It's like a lot of carbs, a lot of sugar. And I just felt sick all the time. So then I went to an AIP diet during the autoimmune paleo diet, which is a really, really strict elimination phase diet. And then slowly adding foods in one at a time. And that was life changing to me. Like I really started to pay attention to my body and see like what foods energized me and made me feel good and what foods cause either digestive distress or joint pain or you know, brain fog, different things. So I was really able to kind of like isolate my diet and what foods worked and what didn't. I had over like 60 food allergies at the peak of my Lyme, so I was very limited as you can imagine, trying to add foods back in. Like I was like, everything is making me sick and I had a very limited diet. Fortunately now I'm down to about five food allergies, of foods that I truly am allergic to. And then obviously like some sensitivities of just foods that I know if I eat I don't feel great, but they're not gonna try to kill me basically. So it's been really good. It's been really, really helpful to be able to start kind of like diversifying my diet. But I really think that we need to look at food as medicine. And a lot of times it's easy, especially with Lyme to be like, oh, the Lyme is causing my brain fog, or oh, the Lyme is causing all the joint pain. But really a lot of foods can do those things as well. And really kind of dialing in your diet and cleaning up your diet, you can start to eliminate some of those symptoms or lessen them. So then you're kind of chipping away at it. And then at the end of the day, you know, what's being caused by food and was being caused by Lyme or co-infections or whatever else you have going on as well.
Is there a particular diet that you actually give each of your clients? Are they all the same or is it very kind of..
I think everyone's diet needs to be pretty individual. I like to eat what I called the Erika diet. I've done a ton of work to figure out like what those foods are for me. I do best doing like a very low carb paleo like diet. So when I stick to, you know, grass fed meats and wild fish and lots of veggies and salads and things like that is when I feel the best. I like to incorporate like really healthy fats. Some people may not do well with a lot of fats in their diet. Some people don't do all of a lot of protein. So it's really about, you know, kind of doing her own elimination diet almost and finding what those foods are that work best for you and support you. Fortunately like now there's a lot of tools on the market too, which I think are pretty interesting. Elimination diets are hard. Like you take out the food, you eat something and you wait three days and see if you have any sort of reaction in those three days and you kind of reintroduce one food at a time. It's hard. You have to like food diary and journal about how you feel, track your symptoms so it can be a lot of work. But there's some tests out there that either look at your genetics and based on your genetics can make recommendations for what foods might work with you. There's different tools like Excela and like Biome that are out there now that actually look at your gut or different metabolites to make recommendations on your diet as well. So there's a lot of different tools out there that are really kind of helping to kind of inform what foods might work and how that'd be more of like a starting point. And then from there you can kind of adjust and fine tune and play around with different foods and see how you react to them.
Alright. So I just kind of wanted to go back and speak a little bit more about the STEM cell treatment because I'm interested in the duration of time that you did it. And you know, there are a lot of people that don't understand the process of it and can you talk to them a little bit about that?
Yeah, sure. So, I just, my own STEM cells for my treatment, so they harvested them from my fat. Um, and from that they were able to process out the STEM cells and give them back to me via IV. It's like mixed things like it's kinda the same with all Lyme treatment. Unfortunately. What works for one person doesn't work for another. And I was one of the very lucky ones that was able to reach remission doing it. There are a lot of people out there that got better. There's a lot of people that didn't get better. There's some people that had mast cell activation that kind of came into it afterwards too. So I was very fortunate to not deal with any of that. But it definitely wasn't like an overnight fix. It probably took about six months for a lot of things to start to peel away. I was lucky and like the first few months, a lot of things from inflammation tended to kind of go away. Like my joint pain had already mostly resolved, but I felt super stiff. I felt like I was like a hundred years old and even just like moving my hands, like this would be just like, like I was like a hundred, you know. And so that went away fairly quickly. I remember one day I was just like moving my hands. I was like, well, like this is like, feels like my normal hands again. Amazing. And then my brain fog started to lift probably about 12 weeks post STEM cell and that was just amazing because I could actually start to think again and my brain would work again and I was tired. I was sleeping a lot. I was sleeping maybe like 9, 10 hours a night, but again, you know, your body repairs when you're sleeping. And then it did take about six to eight months probably for like some of the neuro stuff to go away. Like I had like twitching in my fingers. That started to calm down like some of the neuropathy issues. Um, a lot of my food allergies started to go away around 10 months after STEM cells. So it was definitely a process. But at this point, I'm pretty much symptom free from Lyme disease symptoms. Like the only thing I still deal with is the celiac disease is challenging. If I get glutens, I get neuro issues for weeks straight, like seven days. Again, this is one of those things, right? Like you're so easy to blame like the Lyme for like the neuro issues and the brain fog. But like, you know, with the gluten, it comes back with a vengeance and it lasts seven days and then it goes away. So at least I know there's an end. Whereas with Lyme you never know when it's going to end. Um, but yeah, I mean other than that, you know, I do have some inflammation still on labs and I have Hashimoto's too. So I don't know if the inflammation is from, you know, my autoimmune conditions that are lingering or there's still something going on. Um, but I pretty much feel, okay, I feel great. I go to soul cycle. Well, I used to go to soul cycle four to five times a week. I had to buy myself a little uh, junker bike on Amazon for like $200 cause of the virus. So that's kind of squashed my workout plans a little bit, but I'm still working out at home so I can still feel good and move my body, which is really nice because after four or five years of laying in bed, basically like a vegetable, it's really nice to be able to exercise again.
That's so great. Did you actually do the STEM cells here or did you go to Germany?
So I was, I did them in Germany but I did the fat one. So it was kind of in a transition phase with the clinic. They were just kind of opening here and they were in between doctors. So I started doing some of my prep treatment here but then they didn't have doctors available to do the treatment. So I ended up going into Germany to finish.
Was Dr. Sarah still there when you were there?
She had just left.
Got it. We were probably like sitting next to each other. I did IV and ten pass there. I was there at the same time, right when she left. And then when she left I left. That's really funny. Interesting. So are you like, would you say you're a hundred percent back? As far as Lyme symptoms go?
Yes. I haven't had any Lyme symptoms in years. I would say I'm like 95% back to like who I used to be because you know, the celiac disease is very challenging. It's very hard to eat out. I'm so sensitive, like a microscopic crumb will make me sick for a week. So it's really challenging and like I eat most of my meals at home, so that's been one perk of coronavirus is like having gotten accidentally gluten knock on wood cause I've been eating at home the whole time and sticking to things that I know I can eat. So that's been good. But yeah, I mean other than that, you know, I'm still sensitive. Like my hormones are a little out of whack, but nothing like nothing Lyme related so Lymewise I'm a hundred percent other Lyme aftermath as I like to call it, like Hashimoto's, celiac and hormones, probably like 90-95% normal except for when I have like an exposure to gluten or a flare with my thyroid or you know, things like that.
Does mold still trigger you?
Yeah, it definitely does. I mean my house is safe. Like I've tested it and like I've been really careful but I definitely can tell like if I stay in a hotel that's moldy, I get puffy and like, you know, definitely feel like I have exposure. So I'll take a bunch of supplements and charcoal and things like that to try to clean myself out. And I do like maintenance to stay healthy. Like I am really careful of my environment. I still eat super clean and healthy. I mean I do indulge on like a gluten free treat here and there, but I don't eat a lot of sugar like treats and things like that on a regular basis. You know, I get like a 10 pass every three, four months or so just to keep my body like really optimized and healthy or if I feel like a little under the weather I'll get like a myers or things like that. Like right now with the virus and taking a bunch of extra supplements that I'm not used to taking so many pills again, but you know, doing as much as I can to get my body strong and healthy and as you know, as fit and healthy as it can be.
That's great. Speaking of foods, I just wanted to introduce our listeners to your cookbook and can you tell us the name of that and tell us a little bit about how that came to fruition?
Absolutely. Yeah. The book is called Wandering Palate, and it's a 28 day meal plan of travel inspired recipes. So before I was celiac and before Lyme disease I used to do a ton of traveling and it was great cause you could just travel and eat whatever you wanted. And since all the diagnoses it is obviously a lot more challenging to travel and eat and be experimental. So a lot of the recipes are recipes that are traditionally made with gluten or questionable ingredients that I've created a healthier paleo version of them. And the book kind of came to be because I eat probably 95% of my meals at home and I would meal plan every week and you know, put together my grocery list and get everything. I was so sick of doing it every week. I'm just like, Oh my God, I can't do this anymore. So I was like, what if I just make like a one month meal plan out of like my favorite recipes. If I eat them once a month I won't get sick of it and you know, have everything figured out and I'll just like order everything at the beginning of the week and have all my food for the week. And I was like, as I started working on it, it was a lot of work to put it together. I was like, well I'm going through this and doing all this work. Why don't I just turn this into a cookbook cause I was kind of looking for like a creative project anyways, now that I was feeling better and had more energy, but I wanted to do something creative. So I ended up doing all the photography for it myself. I did all the design, the layout for it. And then obviously the recipes and things like that. So it became kind of like my creative project in 2018 that I put together. Um, and I literally eat my book all the time. I eat 90% of the recipes in there, like on a regular basis when I'm not creating new recipes for my blog or you know, testing out new things. But yeah, that's how it kinda came to life.
Well that's awesome. I can't wait to buy it and try it out cause I eat that way for the most part. If I don't, I feel it as well. But can you also tell us about your coaching practice and you know, who you're working with? Is it mostly line patients, auto immune patients?
Yeah, I would say 75% of the patients that I work with are, you know, have Lyme or have done STEM cells or have some sort of auto-immunity going on. So a lot of people you know, are looking for answers or interested in some of the therapies that I've done or need some guidance or are working with their doctors but don't quite know how to keep up with their treatment protocols and keep up with everything. And then I'd say like the other 25% is people that have like gut issues or diet issues or mystery illness that still don't know what they have but are looking for someone to help guide them, ask the right questions with their doctors or see the right kind of doctors, um, to try to figure out what could be causing some of their health issues.
So Erika, I see that you work closely with Global Lyme Alliance and that's where you initially met Mimi. Can you tell me about that organization?
Absolutely. They're a great organization based out of the East coast and they're doing really great things to try to find a cure for Lyme disease. And what I really like about them is they have two parts to the organization. One part, they have an outreach for a lot of patients to be able to call in and find doctors and get the care that they need. And then the other part is that they are doing a lot of research. They have a scientific board, so they're doing research on different treatments, you know, doing different studies with different doctors and things like that. So they're doing really great things to try to help people on both sides of it. Ultimately like their end goal is to help people find a cure to end this. And so it's really great to be able to help support them. Um, I've attended a lot of their events. I'm actually working with Mimi and Global Lyme Alliance to start doing events here in the LA area as well. Unfortunately, our first event has been postponed. It was supposed to be next week. So, as you can imagine that's not happening right now. But we're really excited once this is all over to go ahead and put that together and start having a presence here in LA and getting people to be a part of it as well.
Erika, this has been amazing. I'm so glad I got to meet you. It's been fun. I feel like, you know what, as I've been dealing with Lyme for the past five years, I kind of felt like I was alone. Like you never really found, I never really found that many people that were dealing with Lyme, even going to all these doctors in LA. And then I just, I figured out that Ali had Lyme like last June and then it's funny how like now all of a sudden, you know, it's kind of opening up and I'm meeting more people. I mean, have you found there's been a lot of people?
Absolutely. It's interesting. Like I mean the first like year or two, what I didn't really know what was going on and even the first few months I didn't really share that I had Lyme. And then once I started opening up about it and sharing early on, everyone I met was like, oh, so-and-so has Lyme. Or my, they knew someone, they knew a relative or they had someone in their life or a close friend that all had Lyme. And it was amazing to start to meet all these people affected by it. It's really sad actually what a huge presence it has. But it also made me feel like I wasn't so alone. And you know, there's so much controversy with Lyme too and so much dismissal by our medical system, unfortunately, that it's nice to at least have that community that you can turn to and people that get it and people that are in the fight together and you know, all of us are kind of working towards an end goal. All of us wanting to get well and all of us wanting to have a cure for it. So it's nice to be supported by people who get it. And know what you're going through.
Have you found any organization or in LA that you've kind of tapped into that are specific for Lyme?
Uh, there's an LA Lyme group, um, that can be really helpful. So it's an online Facebook group, um, with a pretty big community. They used to do events or meetups. They would have different doctors do a lecture maybe once a month and then go out to eat afterwards. So that was like a nice place to have some community. And then yeah, I mean other than that social media, I know there's a lot of Facebook groups for Lyme, which can be helpful, especially when you're, you know, symptomatic and sick and tired and laying in bed but need to have some sort of community. Social media I think has been a really big help for that as well.
Thank you so much. Thank you so much Erika for your time and your information and your generosity. It's just been so informative for everyone. I know myself, Mimi, and all of our listeners. So we're looking forward to reading your blog on our website. You can also find erica at thetrailtohealth.com and her cookbook is once again called the Wandering Palate and it's available on Amazon.
It's also available on her website. You can find it directly there as well. But Erika, thank you so much and hope to see you again sometime soon. We can get up and get together after the coronavirus and we can get out of the house. So thank you so much and stay healthy.
Thank you. You too.