Imagine developing stomach aches, swollen legs and other digestive issues at the tender age of 11 and not knowing the cause for almost a decade. That was the reality for New York City resident Amie Valpone.

For years she went from doctor to doctor, hoping to determine why her digestion was such a wreck. “They all just wanted to put me on drugs. Nobody was interested in figuring out what the cause was; they only wanted to treat the symptoms,” she says. Adding insult to injury, many of the doctors simply thought she was crazy and making things up.

In a final last attempt to get to the root of the cause, she flew to Minneapolis to put her medical case in the hands of the world-renowned experts at the Mayo Clinic. “They did an entire work-up on me and said, ‘Oh no, nothing’s wrong with you; you are totally fine.’”

Every doctor she saw concluded that it wasn’t anything she was eating that was causing her health issues. “Most of the time dairy and gluten never even entered the conversation,” she said. “I was at the point where I was about to give up. I was on steroids and morphine. I was like, I can’t go on anything else; I need to figure out what’s wrong with me.”

After traveling down all the primary roads, Valpone decided to try an alternative path to get to the root of what was causing the digestive issues she suffered from.

“I didn’t know anything about alternative medicine, but I contacted a doctor of integrated medicine.” There, Amie quickly learned that she was suffering from heavy metal accumulation because she was missing the gene needed to absorb folate, key in detoxification. Valpone also discovered that she cannot digest sugar, gluten and oils.

While making the necessary dietary changes, Valpone added yoga, meditation and botanicals to her life. For the first time in years her digestion normalized.While undergoing this transformation she blogged about it. “I wanted to share what I had gone through.” The experience was so amazing.

Educating on health and wellness 

She began taking classes at the Institute of Integrated Nutrition and obtained credentials as a Culinary Nutritionist and Health and Food Coach. In 2011 the Boston University Business School graduate quit her job in the corporate world to dedicate 100 percent of her time to promoting healthy eating and to edit her website, TheHealthyApple.com.

Now healthy and vibrant, Valpone develops mouthwatering recipes, works with celebrities and clients to eat clean, and spreads the word writing for publications including Glamour and Huffington Post.

3 tips for adjusting your diet 

Whether her clients are celebrities, busy professionals or harried parents, the issues follow common themes—fatigue, brain fog, digestive issues. Her advice?

  • Don’t go crazy with juice fasts or detoxing. Instead, focus on lifestyle and realistic dietary changes. “You want changes that will last; you aren’t going to juice all your meals forever.”
  • Avoid processed foods. With the limited regulation that exists regarding GMOs and the term “natural,” limiting processed foods allows you to avoid additives and GMOs.
  • Focus on what you can add to your diet. Try a new vegetable each week, for example

Valpone can’t stress enough taking it easy on yourself. “People set themselves up to change everything, and then it’s so easy to fail and toss it all aside,” she says.

Her bottom line: Start small and have fun with any changes you are considering. Pay attention to how you feel, and the changes will become permanent on their own.