Kate Smith, MSEL, FNLP, CFNC
First and foremost, I'm a mom and a wife who wants the best and to be the best for her family. When my husband deployed, I began experiencing digestive distress, sleep issues, mood swings, and generally not feeling like myself. I was told it was just stress. While stress undoubtedly was causing some of my symptoms, I was convinced that there was more to it. I had a choice - to just "let it go" and accept that state as the new normal or to use my innate abilities to get to the bottom of it. I began my own research and learning. This mission to "figure it out" led to what is now my biggest passion: sharing what I have learned and helping people to understand that their bodies can heal, using a functional approach to nutrition and lifestyle modification.
Who Am I?
I have had the privilege of learning from the best under the mentorship of Andrea Nakayama and the team at the Functional Nutrition Lab. Practicing functionally is the future of healthcare because it's the only method that gets to the heart of what's going on inside, no matter which body system is affected, and creates individual plans that work. Andrea's mission is to truly revolutionize the way we do healthcare and I'm proud to join her in that mission.
In my practice, I recognize that we are all physiologically individual and need to be treated that way. I will take the time to ask the right questions, get to know you and understand your story. Together we will get to the root cause of your health concerns and be in partnership throughout your journey to essential health. I am committed to sharing my knowledge and tools with you to help you reach your goals.
Much like many of the people I’ve had the privilege to work with and teach, my passion for food and nutrition came from personal family health difficulties. I could say it all started when I was a child, as we all know everything is connected. However I can look back at a few things that stand out to me.
I was commissioned into the United States Air Force in 1994. I met my husband that year at our intelligence training course in Texas and were married in 1996. My first assignment was in Japan with a flying squadron where early wakeups were the norm and deployments to Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Alaska and Saudi Arabia were part of that gig. I had numerous “unique” vaccinations prior, “prophylactic” antibiotic treatments and a circadian rhythm that was anything but predictable. Brad and I were separated for a time (3 years) and finally in 2001 were stationed together and wanted to start a family. That didn’t come easy and we went through the battery of the infertility processes.
Zoe was born in 2004 and I separated from active duty to be a mom. That was a big life change and I struggled with post-partum depression and anxiety. Knowing what I know now, things could’ve been handled totally differently, but they checked my TSH, said it was normal and put me on Paxil and Trazadone. Fast forward 4 years and Zac was born and the same thing happened. I was only on meds for about 6 months in both cases thanks to “forward thinking” doctors that were embedded within the operational unit my husband was assigned to.
The turning point
Really the accumulation of issues began to rear its ugly head when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. As the one “left behind,” I became the sole caregiver, a role that was new to me. I was sleeping an average of 5 hours a night and burning the candle at both ends to keep the home fires lit. During that six months, home alone with the kids, some inner sense told me it was time to make some changes. We decided to transition to mostly organic and/or locally grown food after reading some blogs. I was experiencing my own digestive distress, afternoon slumps, and weight gain at the time. My nervous system was obviously hanging out in “sympathetic mode” speculating whether or not my husband was going to make it home alive or not. That was a turning point.
I started taking note of how I felt and then investigating what to do about it. After being met with myriad of symptoms (fatigue, sleeplessness, digestive upset, skin rashes, and mood swings) and being told by doctors that it was “just stress” or “all in my head,” I promptly went on a mission, looking for whatever I could do to support my own health. Friends close to me watched me make the changes and started inquiring about them. I’m a good researcher and analyst, so it made sense.
When my husband returned from his deployment, we had a lot of post-deployment stressors to work through and I went into overdrive. I was caregiver for the kids for 6 months while he was gone, and then I was caregiver for him when he got back because he wasn’t sleeping and ended up in the hospital. We dropped him off and weren’t given a time to expect him back and weren’t allowed to visit him. So between the deployment itself and the post-deployment adjustment disorder, it was about a year total and at the time, I was not good at self-care. I didn’t recognize it then, but later when I could finally breathe, I started to notice more effects on my own health. I was tired all the time, couldn’t think straight and was gaining weight. I started really wondering what was going on with me. The current medical model left me without answers and with more frustration.
Starting my health journey
By design, I am an analyst and a fixer, so I decided it was time to become my own patient advocate. I decided to try a gluten free lifestyle to see if that made a difference. My cognitive ability returned to a normal state, but I still had the other things going on. Then it was time to relocate again and that carries its own challenges with it, packing up, leaving people you love, time and again.
On our drive across the country to our new location, my digestive symptoms worsened. It got to the point where I would be concerned about knowing where the closest bathroom was. But, it was MY body and I knew something wasn’t right with it. When we got to our new location, I asked for some lab tests and everything was “normal” so again was told there wasn’t anything to be done. Back to taking matters into my own hands and I embarked upon grain-free living for a time. I noticed such a dramatic improvement that I recognized food really could be medicine!
Less than a year later, in 2016, my daughter had some severe struggles with anxiety that had really started when her dad was gone, but she never said anything in an effort to “not be a burden,” to the point where she lost too much weight. She had a bout of a stomach bug and that was the tipping point for her. She dropped so much weight and was deathly afraid to eat or drink because she didn’t want to throw up again, this is called emetophobia. I silently cried when we did her bedtime routine because she was so incredibly thin and I didn’t know what to do. We had to get help, and did.
A wonderful doctor at an Army hospital who specialized in adolescent medicine gave me a book about how to help her at home with patience and real food, he “got it” and we still keep in touch with him to this day. It was crucial we tackle this or she was going to risk developmental delays, irreversible infertility, and be taken to an inpatient program away from us. There were days when I would sit with her for hours at the table to help her to eat a plate of food. Just helping her eat the foods she liked. But…it worked! She began to put on weight, her body began growing like it was supposed to, and the anxiety lessened. Now, she’s a healthy, strong, thriving teenager. That was the springboard for me.
Getting the message out
I’ve always been an educator, just in lots of different, atypical situations. I realized that passion for education needed a specific vector. So, I took the idea of food as tailored medicine from my family to a clinical practice. That passion, and my experience, also led me to want to change the way the defense health system does business. I know they can do better for the military members, veterans and families that they serve. And Andrea believes it is a crucial mission and a population that is worthy of a “deeper look.” I am grateful that she has allowed me to be a part of “getting the message” out there.