And that’s exactly what happened. After 4 months of treatment, my symptoms were gone, there was no more evidence of leaky gut, and about 6 months after that, out of the blue, my menstrual returned and has been regular ever since. Not a single surgery, and the only pills I took were some natural herbs to help encourage healing. I couldn’t believe I was actually… normal again. And it was then that I knew I had to teach others what I had learned. I had to make an impact on the way others view food and healing. I already loved food, but having this new understanding of its ability to be a critical part of our physical, mental and spiritual health was something truly holy.
Maybe there are parts of this story that resonate with you, or maybe you've never given food much more thought than filling a hole in your stomach. Either way, I hope we can explore it together in a way that brings new life to you - to find long-awaited healing, to gain a new perspective on the joy of food, to put to rest the harmful mindsets you may have picked up along the way, so that you can live to your fullest potential - some might say, to be the salt and light of the world.
My name is Stevi Pennypacker... yes, that's my real name. I'm a Texas girl through and through, growing up in a small town and moving to the city of Dallas when I headed off to college. It was here that I made some of the best friends in the world, did some food marketing + recipe development, and ultimately met my husband John who is responsible for my *unique* last name. My favorite things are Jesus, cooking, singing, hosting friends, and being active.
It was in my undergrad at Dallas Baptist University that my love for God and people were shaped, and my perspective on health was too. At the intersection of these was a clarity that caring for the human body was impossible without caring for the heart, soul, and mind. There's no part of the human that exists in isolation from the rest.
This, along with my own health journey that you'll read below, is why I fell in love with functional medicine. It allowed me to bring together my love for food and caring for the wellbeing of others.
That led me to pursue my Master's in Clinical Nutrition and Integrative Health and CNS credential. I typically explain the CNS as the functional medicine equivalent of the Registered Dietician credential - though we are required to have a master's level or higher to hold a CNS. I had to accrue over 1,000 hours in supervised clinical experience, 50 master's credit hours, and a passed board exam under before being awarded these 3 letters.
And guess what? I could've taken a few weeks of courses or read a couple books and called myself a nutritionist in Texas. Many people do. But knowing there is so much misinformation out there, a proper education was a non-negotiable to me. I wanted to be able to understand the human body and test what I hear against what I know to be true. To have the tools to interpret and evaluate scientific literature. To know how each new method, diet plan, or product will affect the body as a whole. Because even though they are natural, food and supplements can be just as powerful as medicine if used correctly - or incorrectly.
Favorite food network star
favorite travel destination
Food has shaped my life in more ways than one. From an eating disorder in my teenage years to reversing the beginnings of a chronic illness years later, food has been a source of both harm and healing in my life. I know what it’s like to fear it, to manipulate it in order to look a certain way, to believe that “healthy” is a function of a number on a scale. And by the grace of God, I’ve had that view turned on its head when it left me chronically ill, socially anxious and constantly obsessing to the point where I missed out on a lot of life’s joys.
And it was at the point when I ended up in the hospital with mysterious fevers that I realized another thing about health - conventional medicine is great for acute care, when emergencies hit and you need quick and effective solutions. However, when it came to curing what doctors believed to be the beginning of Crohn’s disease, all they could give me was a pill. Though it was a digestive disease, they had no faith that diet could be a factor. After taking a medical steroid for a year, I knew that wasn’t enough if I ever wanted to be truly well. That’s when a dear friend told me about acupuncture, my first experience with an alternative medicine practitioner.
Within 5 minutes of my first appointment, I was diagnosed with leaky gut. I had heard of it before, but at that point, it wasn’t widely recognized as a legitimate condition. The acupuncturist explained that the lining of my gut had been damaged, and was essentially “leaking” particles of food and bacteria into my bloodstream and other parts of my body that it definitely didn’t have any business being in. This was the source of the fevers and inflammatory response I had experienced that landed my in the hospital. He went on to say that if I would eliminate inflammatory foods from my diet for a few months and work to stimulate my immune system through acupuncture treatment, my body would do as it was created and renew itself. I, essentially, just needed to get out of its way. He also explained that after my gut healed, my menstrual cycle that had been MIA for 4 years would likely come back on its own.
I can't wait to hear your story.
Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition & Integrative Health
Bachelor of Science
Board-Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)