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From Pain to Power | My Journey Without Caffeine and Gluten

Hey there!

This might not be the most captivating read for everyone, but I'm hoping it can offer some answers to those of you who've been struggling with your health. Today, I want to talk about inflammation and how I've learned to listen to my body.

Back in March 2020, I found myself rushing to the local ER, convinced I had appendicitis. In the days leading up to that moment, I was dealing with a persistent, dull pain in my lower right abdomen. It got so bad that even bending over became excruciating. Of course, I turned to Google for answers, and well, let's just say it didn't help with my anxiety.

No, I'm not kidding. Google's diagnosis was either an ovarian cyst about to rupture or appendicitis. I'd seen my father go through an appendicitis scare a few years ago, and that image of him post-surgery still haunts me. Fearing the worst, I decided to seek medical attention.

The ultrasound of my cyst in January 2021, where it had finally begun to be absorbed by my body.
The ultrasound of my cyst in January 2021, where it had finally begun to be absorbed by my body.

This marked the beginning of my two-year battle with ovarian cysts, hormonal imbalances, and, above all, inflammation.

To cut a long story short, I became a regular at doctors' offices, with prescriptions for birth control and painkillers being the norm. Yet, there were no concrete answers as to why my body was forming cysts. The birth control didn't agree with me at all; in fact, a single pill gave me the worst migraine of my life (and I don't get migraines). However, if you're on birth control, please don't quit cold turkey. Always consult with your doctor.

In my quest for answers, I had an eye-opening realization.

Woman in bathroom holding birth control pill package.

Western medicine often falls short when it comes to understanding the female body.

They prescribe birth control to halt ovulation because, you know, ovulation equals baby, but it can also lead to cysts. Many doctors I saw brushed aside my concerns and tears as I described the physical and emotional toll this was taking on me. Between the stress of my new job, the pandemic, and my pelvic pain, my inflammation levels soared, and my immune system began to change under the stress.

Physical signs of my health decline at the beginning of 2021.
Physical signs of my health decline at the beginning of 2021.

January 2021, to me, feels like one of the darkest times in my life. My cyst caused such unbearable pain that taking pills made me nauseous, I could only eat specific foods that wouldn't make me sick or fatigued, and my mental health was at an all-time low. My body was in constant pain, and most days were spent near a toilet due to bowel irregularities.

For months, I was trapped in a cycle of fear, confusion, and just trying to get by. Then, in May 2021, I made a life-changing decision: I left my full-time job to prioritize my health. I'd been seeking answers on my own when I decided to enroll in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). It was the most significant investment I'd ever made in myself, aside from college. I took out a personal loan and signed up to become a Holistic Health Coach—not just for others, but for myself.

Vi pictured with her Health Coach Certificate

There's no doubt that IIN has played a pivotal role in saving my life.

Through IIN, I found the strength to bid farewell to caffeine and learned to listen to my body. I discovered I have a gluten sensitivity by tuning into my body's cues. I used to be a bread enthusiast; if there were dinner rolls on the table, you could bet I'd grab two or three. I also had a peculiar habit of eating bread in the middle of the night whenever I couldn't sleep, and it always seemed to do the trick. It turns out I have a gluten intolerance. Talk about an "aha" moment!

By cutting out caffeine and gluten, I've experienced a substantial reduction in chronic pain, and the change has been remarkable. I have officially been gluten-free for over two years now and don't think I'll ever go back to the daily chronic pain, brain fog, and hormonal imbalance just for a slice of bread. Personally, my next step is to work on eliminating sugar, a goal I hope to gently start pursuing.

Inflammation is a double-edged sword. It can be a natural response, but it can also become a problem—a lesson I learned the hard way.

Snapchat memory depicting a package of Alka-Seltzer in one hand and a Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee in the other.

This wasn't an easy journey, and I continue to navigate the obstacles that come with living a gluten-free lifestyle. While I still grapple with cystic pain occasionally due to stress, the overall results of cutting out these two culprits have been incredible. I've also significantly reduced my meat consumption, which has had a positive impact on my digestive health. Back in college, I had daily heartburn, but that's a story for another time.

You're not meant to feel sick all the time. Pain, be it physical or mental, shouldn't be the norm. In America, we've normalized illness and, in some ways, even perpetuated it.

I saw a quote the other day that said “We’re so sick in this country that when a person eats real food, we call it ‘dieting’.” Such a true statement. We are then at the hands of our healthcare system that often overcharges and manipulates its "customers." It focuses on treating the symptom, not the underlying sickness. I won't get on my soapbox about that today, but if you know, you know.

In conclusion, this journey, filled with pain, uncertainty, and ultimately self-discovery, has been transformative. Completing my IIN Health Coach Certification has not only empowered me to take charge of my health but has also given me the tools to guide others on their wellness journeys. Through listening to my body and making conscious choices, such as eliminating caffeine and gluten, I've witnessed a remarkable reduction in inflammation and pain and an increase in my overall happiness.

Vi pictured with one of her favorite gluten-free go to's while out and about. Dosa!
Two years gluten-free and still enjoying yummy foods!

Remember, healing is a unique and ongoing process. While I've made significant strides, I understand that there's always room for improvement. My next step is to work on eliminating sugar and continue my pursuit of holistic wellness.

This journey has taught me that inflammation can be both a friend and a foe, and it's crucial to strike a balance.

This journey whispers a simple truth—your body's a gem, capable of healing. With a nudge in the right direction and a sprinkle of determination, you can write your own transformation tale.

Latte in white cup with white plate with title "10 Benefits from reducing your caffeine consumption."

Now let’s get into the logistics of why quitting caffeine is good for you. Here are the top 10 benefits of quitting caffeine or at least reducing your consumption of it:

  • 1. Reduced Inflammation: Caffeine has been linked to increased inflammation in the body. Quitting can contribute to a decrease in overall inflammation.

  • 2. Improved Sleep Quality: Caffeine can interfere with sleep patterns. Quitting may lead to better sleep, and improved sleep is linked to reduced inflammation.

  • 3. Balanced Hormones: Caffeine can affect hormonal balance, especially cortisol levels. Quitting may contribute to more stable hormone levels, positively impacting inflammation.

  • 4. Enhanced Digestive Health: Caffeine can stimulate acid production in the stomach and may contribute to digestive issues. Quitting may lead to better digestive health, reducing inflammation in the gut.

  • 5. Stabilized Blood Sugar Levels: Caffeine can impact insulin sensitivity. Quitting may contribute to more stable blood sugar levels, which can positively influence inflammation.

  • 6. Lowered Blood Pressure: Caffeine can temporarily increase blood pressure. Quitting may lead to a more consistent and lower blood pressure, promoting cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation.

  • 7. Improved Hydration: Many caffeinated beverages contribute to dehydration. Quitting can lead to better hydration, which is essential for overall health and can help in reducing inflammation.

  • 8. Enhanced Mental Clarity: Caffeine withdrawal symptoms aside, quitting may lead to improved mental clarity and cognitive function. Chronic inflammation has been linked to cognitive decline.

  • 9. Reduced Anxiety and Stress: Caffeine can contribute to increased anxiety and stress levels. Quitting may lead to a calmer nervous system, positively impacting inflammation.

  • 10. Healthier Skin: Caffeine can contribute to dehydration and may affect skin health. Quitting may lead to better skin hydration and a reduction in skin inflammation.

I find that I don’t like to feel too dependent on any one thing in my life. Whether that be social media, substances, caffeine, or anything else that I may struggle to lean on. Caffeine is more than just a tool and much like anything else, it can be abused and we can create emotional attachments to it. While it may be difficult at first to cut ties with your afternoon coffee break, I assure you in the long run (or in about three days) you’ll begin to see the benefits I’ve previously mentioned.

Loaf of bread with title "10 Benefits of reducing your gluten intake."

There are also extremely enticing health benefits to cutting gluten from your diet. Here are the top ten reasons to reduce your gluten intake in your daily life:

The Benefits of Going Gluten-Free:

  • 1. Reduced Inflammation: Gluten sensitivity can lead to inflammation in the gut and other parts of the body. Eliminating gluten may contribute to a reduction in overall inflammation.

  • 2. Improved Digestive Health: Gluten sensitivity can cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Cutting gluten can lead to improved digestion and relief from these symptoms.

  • 3. Balanced Blood Sugar Levels: Some studies suggest that gluten may contribute to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Eliminating gluten may help stabilize blood sugar levels, benefiting overall metabolic health.

  • 4. Enhanced Nutrient Absorption: Gluten sensitivity can impair nutrient absorption in the small intestine. Removing gluten from the diet can improve the absorption of essential nutrients.

  • 5. Weight Management: Gluten-containing foods, especially processed ones, may contribute to weight gain. Going gluten-free may support weight management, especially if gluten sensitivity has led to inflammation and bloating.

  • 6. Increased Energy Levels: Gluten sensitivity can lead to fatigue and low energy levels. Cutting gluten from the diet may result in increased energy and improved overall vitality.

  • 7. Better Skin Health: Skin issues, such as dermatitis herpetiformis, can be associated with gluten sensitivity. Going gluten-free may contribute to healthier skin and a reduction in skin-related symptoms.

  • 8. Improved Mental Clarity: Some individuals with gluten sensitivity report brain fog and cognitive issues. Eliminating gluten may lead to improved mental clarity and cognitive function.

  • 9. Reduced Joint Pain: Gluten sensitivity has been linked to joint pain and inflammation. Removing gluten from the diet may result in reduced joint discomfort for some individuals.

  • 10. Enhanced Mood: Gluten sensitivity has been associated with mood disorders. Going gluten-free may lead to an improvement in mood and a reduction in symptoms related to gluten-induced mood disturbances.

And there we have it, my friend – the story of my journey through the peaks and valleys of inflammation. From those frantic ER moments to the enlightening halls of holistic health, it's been a rollercoaster of discovery and growth.

As we part ways with the caffeinated highs and gluten-induced mysteries, I'm sharing more than a story. It's a piece of my heart – a testament to the twists and turns life takes when we pay attention to our body's whispers. Leaving behind the 9-to-5 wasn't just a career shift; it was a soul-deep commitment to my well-being. The Institute of Integrative Nutrition became my compass, revealing the dance between what I eat and how my body responds.

Woman seated with hands over heart, eyes closed, in a calm state.

Quitting caffeine gifted me a calmer version of myself – a gentle warrior against inflammation's subtle grip. The gluten-free journey, though challenging, opened doors to digestive peace and a renewed vitality. This isn't a quick-fix tale but a celebration of the profound impact small, mindful choices can have on our holistic well-being.

Standing here as a certified Holistic Health Coach, I extend my hand to those navigating similar paths. The road to wellness is uniquely yours, a tapestry woven with dietary choices, lifestyle shifts, and moments of self-discovery.

Remember, healing is a dance – a daily practice of self-love and exploration. My story isn't a prescription; it's an invitation to explore your possibilities. If you're on your way to vibrant well-being, know that you're not alone.

In this grand tapestry of health, may your choices be filled with mindfulness, your journey be transformative, and your well-being be a song that resonates with the harmony of life.

Thank you for sharing this corner of the internet with me. Here's to a future where good health isn't a rarity but the norm.

Wishing you an abundance of vitality, joy, and the warmth of community on your unique journey to holistic wellness!

Woman seated facing the sunset over a lake.

You're not supposed to be in pain, whether it's physical or emotional. The normalization of illness in our culture is a concerning trend, and it's high time we break free from it. Healthcare should focus on treating the root causes, not just symptoms.

I want to extend my hand to all of you who may have struggled with your health or are on a quest to create a life you love. If the cost of a health coach has been a barrier for you, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Thank you for taking this journey with me and for sharing your precious time reading my story. Our bodies have an incredible capacity for self-healing, and with the right guidance and determination, you can embark on your own remarkable transformation. Together, we can create a future where good health is the norm, not the exception.

Wishing you all the best on your journey to holistic wellness and a life filled with vitality and joy!

See you again,


Vi is a certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. The opinions and thoughts of this post in no way represent IIN or its affiliate programs. VHARMON's opinions and suggestions are not to be taken as medical advice. You should always discuss any health issues with your doctor. Stock Images provided by Canva.


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