top of page

Episode 11: From Misdiagnosed To Thriving


Nate Reynolds 0:05

Welcome to this week's episode, I'm talking with Bri DiGesare. She is an aspiring cookbook author. She was recently diagnosed with Hashimotos and her goal is to help other people that have been diagnosed with this disease, eat cleaner lifestyle.

So welcome, Bri.

Bri DiGesare 0:47

Thank you, Nate. Thank you for having me. And good job saying my last name.

Nate Reynolds 0:57

So Bri for people that don't really know what Hashimotos is, can you kind of give us a brief synopsis on what it is and kind of how you were diagnosed with it and how you found out?

Bri DiGesare 1:09

Absolutely. So Hashimotos thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease. And it is one where specifically your immune system attacks your thyroid. So I will I don't know if I'm jumping too far ahead. But a slew of my symptoms that coincided with me getting this diagnosis included, nausea, fatigue, weight, gain, dizziness, it felt like I had fluid in my ears. And the most uncomfortable part of all of it was that it felt like I had a golf ball in my throat. So that was very scary, as you can imagine. And it honestly took me a solid nine months to get my actual diagnosis for this autoimmune disease. It was multiple trips to different specialists appointments. It's hard not to get choked up when I think to those days, because they were very trying times for me and for my husband and I had a one year old son at the time. So jumping back, though, all my symptoms started in December of 2018. And initially, I just sought out my primary physician to get some answers. And they referred me to an ENT specialist. That appointment was scheduled for January. So I knew I had a few weeks to wait that out. But we were very hopeful that going to that specialists would get me an answer finally. So upon going to the ENT, they diagnosed me with silent reflux, which I laughed at first and said, Is this a real thing a and then B, I had only heard of this actually occurring in babies. So I was a little confused as to the diagnosis, but I was feeling so crappy that I was willing to do whatever they advised me to do. So they actually put me on, what do they put me on? So they put you on some medication? And how do you respond to that. So the medication only helped some It was not the cure all. And a lot of my symptoms still progressed and even worsened over the course of time. So I gave that medication a try for from January to I was on it probably until May, that I gave that a solid, valiant effort and it did not cure everything. So while I was on this medication map result is the medication that it was, while I was on a map result, I was also seeing my chiropractor very frequently. And the assessment was that my see one was out of place. And I trusted my chiropractor, great deal, great guy, and we adjusted me multiple times a week. And still there'd be pockets of relief. And then there would be weeks where my symptoms seem to just get worse and worse and worse. So after a few months of more frequent visits, and more frequent adjustments, finally got an X ray ordered for my neck. Nothing really was showing up in the neck X ray. So at that point in time, I sought out a physical therapist. So I took a break from the chiropractic care to go see a physical therapist who was so wonderful as well treating me with so much care again, we were filled with hope that finally I was going to get relief from my symptoms. So that was about in June. So if you're tracking with me, this is like approaching the seventh month of not feeling better. So I did physical therapy for about two months, I was given lots of exercises to help improve my posture with hopes that that would improve the lightheadedness and dizziness I was experiencing. But again, pockets of relief. And then symptoms continued to get worse and worse and worse. So upon that not getting better, my physical therapist actually said, hey, it's probably time for you to talk to your primary again, get some more blood work done, and maybe they'll schedule an MRI to see if something else is going on. So I heeded his advice. I sought out my primary again, we did another round of blood work. This was my second round within the fresh year of 2019. And we got the MRI done, I was very nervous, because when you hear of an MRI, at least for me, I was like, oh, gosh, this could really be a telltale, do I have a brain tumor? Like what is wrong with me? And why am I not getting better? We were hoping and praying and believing that I'd be feeling better and still no relief. And my son was getting older. And I felt like I was being not the best mom, not the best wife really beating myself up. And honestly, I was I was a little bit depressed. And I couldn't figure this thing out. So the MRI showed results that were clear. And most people would be super pumped about that. And we were we were so thankful my husband and I. However, I was hoping that finally something would make sense for why I had been feeling so terrible for so long. And so at that crossroads, my husband and I looked at each other and we're like, what do we do next? Like we really feel like we're seeking out all these different specialists opinions. And as we talked previously, Nate, you know, lots of money invested lots of time invested trying to get an answer. And finally, a friend referred me to my wellness Doctor Who is my wellness doctor now. His name is Dr. Joe Bova, Bova Health and Wellness. He is a functional neurologist with a degree in nutrition as well. He's absolutely brilliant, such a stand up guy. But within a one hour consultation, he took tons of questionnaires that he had me fill out previously. And he also looked at three rounds of my blood work from the previous year and within one hour appointment, I not only had my diagnosis for my autoimmune disease, but I was finally filled with hope, because he made sense and pieced together, all of the things going on in my body via blood work took time to explain it to me in layman's terms, which I really appreciated, because I am not a healthcare professional. And not only did he explain it and make sense of it, but he was so confident that he had a plan to help me combat this and seek remission from this autoimmune disease, especially because at the time, I was 27. So I'm like, come on, I'm young, not that I'm old. Now, it hasn't been that long. But you get me I'm 27 with a one year old. I'm just starting this whole family life, I wanted a lot to look forward to. So with all that said, part of the plan was natural supplements that I was totally on board with. And then the other piece that is the major reason why I believe I have been in remission now. Since this past August, August 2020. The main reason that I've been in remission is changing my diet. So I know that's a big thing that we're going to discuss tonight. But diet changed everything for me.

Nate Reynolds 8:30

From a healthcare perspective, from a health care provider perspective, I think one thing that we have to be aware of is when we like you talked about that one of the best things that Dr. Bova did was to discuss things in layman's terms and come off with this confident plan. And we talked before this, how you went to some other providers, and they displayed all this competence in the world and what was going on. And they just kept doing the same intervention over and over again. And I think that's one thing where this is my advice to other health care providers that are listening to this is that if you don't see an improvement in two to three weeks, let the patient now and so they can go see someone else, because you can't fix everything. And you need to understand that. There's people that have other skill sets like Dr. Bova that's outside that has that can look at the bloodwork look at all the tests that you had done and kind of put that all together. And I think that's one of the downsides of our healthcare system is that we don't have a lot of providers that talk to each other, go to one specialist and you go try another one. And how much faster would that diagnosis have been made? If people that you saw all communicate with each other and we're like, this makes sense. This doesn't make sense. I had this blood work done and it seems like after Dr. Bova gathered all that information, he was finally able to make that determination that it was has you motosBut you know, like, that's, that's nine months of your life that, you know, you were struggling. And as I think just as a health care provider, you know, it's it's okay not to know and you're gonna build a lot more trust with your patients if you're honest and and you put that out in the forefront that things don't make sense.

Bri DiGesare 10:21

Absolutely. I think a lot of the discouragement, I'm not saying that I wouldn't have been discouraged, had my healthcare providers along the way. And specialists along the way, actually said, Hey, Bri, we're so sorry, we don't have the answer, I'm sure that would have brought upon some level of discouragement. However, I think I would have respected that so much more, because I'm an all in kind of girl. So if you tell me that, all I have to do is take this pill or all I have to do is follow this diet or coming get adjusted this many times a week or do these exercises, I am going to do that verbatim, I am going to follow all instructions to a tee. And so to keep building up hope that I would find the answer at the next appointment. And to go on, like you said, months and months, more than two to three weeks without true relief. I mean, yeah, that's absolutely time that I won't get back. However, I'm eternally grateful for the experience, because I think it allows me to truly empathize with a lot of people who are going through similar emotions, and not feeling great and trying to get answers and just to encourage them that there is an answer, to keep advocating for yourselves. And collaboration, it's always better, we're always better together. So I totally echo what you said, I'm, again, I'm not a healthcare professional. But I can imagine that the world would be a lot better of a place, if there was more of unified collaborative front for patients.

Nate Reynolds 11:56

And then to also go off of where you kind of said that you were kind of discouraged. Because you're looking for the MRI, you didn't have a result that would confirm like, Oh, it's this diagnosis. In my experience, that's one of the most defeating things is those patients that have chronic pain, don't really have an answer. And they're just looking for anything. And they just want something to stick and be like this is that. And that's the path we're going to go down. And so I think it makes perfect sense why you're starting to get a little bit more depressed, because that's something where you're like, there's something wrong, I don't know where it is, no one's telling me the truth. Or they're not telling me what exactly it is, or that if they do think it's this, that's not working. And so, you know, I think you're not the only one, as a patient that deals with that. And so I think that was like a good learning experience for you. Because you said, like, you change your diet, and that made the biggest difference in the world. And you stuck to it. And we're going to talk more about your cookbook. And I think that learning experiences, you're going to take that experience, and then you're going to go try to help other people, which is phenomenal. When I think about people that do like great things for other people. It's people that take an awful situation, and turn to a blessing. And so kudos to you for aspiring to be a cookbook author, and helping other people.

Bri DiGesare 13:18

Thanks so much Nate and what you said, just remind me of one of my favorite leadership quotes, actually, it's people want to know that you care before they care what you know. And again, I think that that is not only a money statement, and a great thing for us all to apply for our lives. But I feel like just as a healthcare provider, every patient is a person, every person has a story and every story matters. And I think that the discouragement comes when you feel like another piece of paper or another client or another patient of the day that is just getting put through the wringer or going through the motions. And so I think just from my seat on the bus, it's just an encouragement to all the health care providers that are going to tune in to this podcast address. I appreciate you so much. I couldn't do what most of you do. So it's it's not that anyone was wrong in my journey. It's just that the right answer didn't come until all the pieces were put together. So those are my two cents about that.

Nate Reynolds 14:24

And so now to take that next step in your journey, you know, you're diagnosed with hashimotos. You are in remission now. And it was all because you change your diet and you put on your social media post that you have been following the AIP diet. So can you tell me a little bit more about what the AIP diet, how you went about doing it? And what you've learned since you've switched over?

Bri DiGesare 14:48

Absolutely. So AIP stands for the autoimmune paleo diet is a diet that's designed to reduce inflammation in your body. And essentially, it's kind of like a reset for your body so that when your body reduces inflammation and whatnot, you can start to reintroduce certain food groups and different items to see what your triggers are and what brings upon your symptom. So I will say, again, it is funny that my Instagram handle is easy as that because AIP diet is not so easy as that at all. The AIP diet is a commitment, but it is one that I can tell you pays off in spades. So it is essentially initially removing all dairy products, soy products, processed sugars, grains, and is there anything else I'm missing? You're probably thinking Bri, what did you eat, but essentially removing all of those items from your diet, tons of organic fruits, vegetables, grass fed organic meats, and things like that sweet potatoes, live on TV knows they are my card of choice. But in in doing that, within weeks, I felt shift in my symptoms, and especially my energy levels like man, I was feeling so so good. So also for all you coffee lovers out there. Sorry, but if you are subscribed to AIP diet, you've got to say goodbye to your coffee. So all this energy you're getting from me right now. It's all natural baby. No coffee here.

Nate Reynolds 16:28

Yeah, Bri, I think you're one of the one of the few people that I've met in my life that I've had all this natural energy, even without coffee.

Bri DiGesare 16:36

Oh, also, my father owns a Italian restaurant, Italian takeout pizzeria. So you can imagine how difficult it has been for me to not have a good old slice of dad's pizza. And the past couple of years, that is probably been the hardest thing for me. Has you come up with a AIP paleo friendly version yet? He has not. He says if it ain't broke, don't fix it, as far as his recipes are concerned. But I have definitely found some good ways to make myself some own guilt free, somewhat pizza like recipes, you change your diet.

Nate Reynolds 17:14

And that kind of reminds me of so over the weekend, this past weekend, I took a course. And we were talking about like the injury threshold. And it kind of broken down into like three components that kind of, you know, think of it as like a cake. And one component is like your anatomical dysfunction. So that's like, any structural abnormalities in your body. The next component is like your stress, diet, and sleep. So that's like your recovery portion. So that's basically saying that either your body is building itself back up, or it's breaking itself down. In your case, your body was kind of breaking itself down over that cycle with your autoimmune disease. And then the last part is kind of your movement dysfunction. So that's like looking at your mobility, your flexibility, your coordination, strength, motor control. So when I think about someone, possibly exceeding their injury threshold, I think of there's either something anatomically that's wrong. There, there's either something that's, you know, they're, they're moving poorly. And I think a lot of times that we kind of, don't think about that whole stress, diet and sleep. And so if your diet is off, you're lowering your injury threshold, because your body's not working optimally. And so even though you are injured, I think with an autoimmune disease you're looking at your body's just not working well. And so even if we look at this, like an injury, changing your diet completely changed how your body was functioning, and it kind of allowed itself to rebuild. And so I guess my point on the healthcare providers is don't overlook, you know, the stress the diet and asleep. Bri was telling me before this, that when she was looking at like, okay, I really needed to take care of my body. She removed her stressors, so she removed. You said you had a nine month old puppy.

Bri DiGesare 19:05

Yeah, poor guy. Yeah, he lives with my brother in law and sister in law, though, so he's got a good life. But yes, we got rid of our puppy, I quit my part time job, which was a big family decision. And among other like volunteer roles that I was holding at church, I didn't get rid of all of them. Because I think those are very important ways that I get to serve and use my gifts and talents. But just learning that the best yes for myself in that season was actually finally exercising the word no. Which was difficult for me because I love people and I love to say yes and meet needs, but that has been a huge part of my healing journey as well is just knowing that the things that I had the capacity to do before when your body like you said is broken down and fighting itself. You really have to take a step back make some really hard choices. And in order to set yourself up to succeed and reach optimal health, sometimes you have to take a seat on the bench first season to, to just, I know you like that baseball lingo knee, but you gotta bench yourself for a season so that way you can get back in the game and be stronger than ever.

Nate Reynolds 20:21

Yeah, I spent plenty of time on the bench at Le Moyne. So I'm well aware of that analogy.

Bri DiGesare 20:26

Oh, stop it.

Nate Reynolds 20:28

But honestly, though, I think when I was a senior in high school, like my mom was diagnosed with leukemia, and her numbers were staying the same for months, and then until she took a step away from her job, and she kind of changed her medication, her numbers or white blood cell count went down. And so very similar situation, she just prioritized her health, her well being you know, you have one body, you got one life, so prioritize that. And so I think you did the right thing. And just being like, okay, like, I want to be the best mom best, or best wife, I can be. And you know, when I'm feeling better, then I'll start to add more variables and add a little bit more stressors. And so and so the next stressor, which is exciting, at least I'm excited for you, I'm sure you're excited, is that you are aspiring to write a cookbook that's in the process that you haven't shared with anyone but me. So I'm very fortunate about that.

And so, tell me a little bit more about what's next. All right. Is it a cookbook? Are you gonna be a social media star? Are you gonna be Rachael Ray, what are you going to be?

Bri DiGesare 21:37

Oh, boy, Rachael Ray lookout. I'm just kidding. No, I, I have been working on a cookbook. And yes, you are one of the few who know about this endeavor. But my journey, I just allowed me a lot of extra time. Like I said, when you eliminate stressors, you have a lot of extra margin in your life to work on things that are important. And so my dad, like I said, is a chef by trade. He's phenomenal at what he does. And he's a business owner, among other things, but he has always taught me that it's really fun to be creative in the kitchen. And so what most people would see that the AIP diet is blasted definitely half empty. Okay. Also, I can't believe I forgot to mention no gluten. Okay, that's like a huge trigger for gluten is a big No, no on the diet. But instead of looking at that, as just so much restraint, I actually have looked at it as an opportunity to get really creative with the things that I can have. And so my husband lucky him, he's gotten to taste out all these new recipes. But yes, I mentioned earlier my heart for people and to help people. And I know a lot of people are walking a similar journey and trying to go the holistic route to take care of the themselves and change their diets. And so I feel like why not partner with them? Why not share what I've learned, and it allows me the freedom and the extra time to be creative and make new things. And I will be completely honest, and hopefully this doesn't make people nervous. But I'm so creative in the kitchen that I actually don't like to measure a time. So that is my biggest challenge right now is measuring all of my ingredients so that you could recreate the same things that I love that come out of my kitchen in your kitchen. So I have started an Instagram page. It's called eat that easy as that. Find me there, follow me there. That's where I've decided to start sharing some of my journey, my testimony, and most of all, just really great recipes and ideas for people who are trying that out. And even if you don't have an autoimmune disease, the recipes are still delicious. Okay, so if you need a healthy alternative, or if someone you know in love is struggling with an autoimmune disease, the worst thing you can say to them is, wait, you can't eat this. You can't eat that. What am I going to cook for you? So I'm helping you out friends. Okay, helping you be a better friend, daughter, son, whatever it is, whoever you know, who is battling something, I think this is going to be a fun way for people to make something, bring it to someone's house and show them that they care.

Nate Reynolds 24:18

That's fantastic. And I was just looking up. You know, you said you started this Instagram page probably last week. Yes, sir. And you already have 265 followers. That's incredible. And quite frankly, the food looks phenomenal. I mean, I'm like your most recent post is about your new favorite parfait and it is dark sweet. pitted cherries, unsweetened vanilla, coconut yogurt, cocoa nibs, Apple chips, and coconut chips. You can't see this because it is obviously a podcast but go check out her Instagram page because the pictures are phenomenal and it just looks so delicious.

Bri DiGesare 25:01

Thank you, Nate. I wish I could ship it to you to Rochester.

Nate Reynolds 25:06

Well, luckily, since our days in college where after a night out, we would just eat mac and cheese. I've taken it upon myself to learn how to cook a little bit. So maybe I will learn to cook and make some of these recipes. I don't think I can take as good of a picture as you can, but I will take the best male picture I can.

Bri DiGesare 25:26

Okay, yes, I want to see it. I want the reviews and the feedback, please.

Nate Reynolds 25:32

And so the last section of my podcast. It's kind of like a hot seat, where I just kind of asked you some questions, you just kind of answer it off the top of your head. And we'll go from there.

Bri DiGesare 25:46

Boy, here we go.

Nate Reynolds 25:49

So the first question, what is one meal or recipe that is a staple for you each and every week?

Bri DiGesare 25:56

Okay, this is this was a really hard one. Okay, it is a really hard one because there's so many foods that I love. But I would say my sweet potato hash is a staple for our family. It's a dual effort. Honestly, I make my husband do the grunt work. He peels in spiralizers all the sweet potatoes for me with our Pampered Chef spiralizer. And then I throw it in a medium saucepan, add avocado oil, kosher salt, a little pepper, and I just let it carmelize. And we love it so much. We typically pair it with breakfast tea type things like chicken, sausage, bacon, avocado, things like that, you can see that picture to my Instagram page. It is delicious. But it also pairs really well with like a burger bar like a burger night, you just put that little sweet potato hash on the bottom burger on top, some smooth guacamole also found on my page. Because I mean, my mouth is really thinking about it. So definitely a staple. And something I don't like to prep on my own. So I wait till the weekend when my husband is home so you can feel and spiralize my potatoes for me. And we make a huge batch that usually lasts us about half a week because we love it so much. It does sound delicious.

Nate Reynolds 27:09

And then the next question, one piece of advice you'd give to someone that is going through the process of being misdiagnosed.

Bri DiGesare 27:19

Oh, man, I think that I got a little choked up when I was talking about this earlier. But I guess I would strongly advise whoever's walking through journey of being mis diagnosed, to not give up hope to keep up the faith, but also to continue to advocate for yourself, you're not crazy, the symptoms that you're experiencing are real. And there will be an answer there has to me an answer. So just continue to push forward. And honestly, I'm not a confrontational person, at least I don't believe that I am. But I think sometimes we have to remember that we have rights. And we have a say. So don't feel like you're just going through the motion from appointment to appointment. But really ask the doctor to speak in layman's terms where you are to explain why you're not seeing improvements and things like that. Those are absolutely fair questions for you to ask along the way.

Nate Reynolds 28:13

To build off that, I think that also ask the doctor, how often have they seen someone with your symptoms or with this condition? Because I always tell people, like if they're going to go into like an orthopedic surgeon, you want to make sure that that surgery that they're going to do is in their wheelhouse, and they're going to knock it out of the park and they've done it all the time. Because in my experience, I can't treat what I've never seen before. And that's something that, you know, working in the hospital like I as an early clinicians, I saw a lot of patients and I saw a lot of diagnosis. And so I feel like I have a lot of points in my database and my diagnostic ability. But there's still things I haven't seen before. And so I think patients and clinicians need to know that it's okay, that you don't know and we've talked about that earlier. And so that's just my two cents on on that aspect.

Bri DiGesare 29:07

I fully support that.

Nate Reynolds 29:10

And then the last question, since we went to Le Moyne together, what is your Nate memory from college?

Bri DiGesare 29:19

Um, Nate, you're the best honestly, my favorite Nate Reynolds memory was we were both RAs together and it was we believe it was fall semester we were just trying to recall earlier but it is when your girlfriend who was also my friend was feeling really sick and you're like Bri, "Can you please help me put together a care package so we hopped in the car, went to Wegmans put all these adorable things together with your blushing now probably. People can probably sense it even though they can only listen to it. But you put together the sweetest care package for your girlfriend to help her to feel better. I think it was everything from like chocolates to orange juice to Kleenex. I mean, we really went all in. And not to mention well I did already mentioned we were RAs together, but you just were always the most encouraging you would come to all my programs even if they were duds. So you just got a great heart. And that's my favorite thing about Nate Reynolds, everyone.

Nate Reynolds 30:19

I appreciate that. The funny thing is, I don't remember that care package at all. That's probably that's probably a good thing because that that relationship didn't work out. But I got a good one now. So the RA programs, I think there were plenty of duds. I think the only one that I remember that was actually successful is I had a, I taught my residents how to tie a bow tie. Whoever tied the best bow tie. Got to keep one. And to this day, I can tell you that I do not know how to tie a bow tie.

Bri DiGesare 30:51

Oh, my word though. Very classy program though very classy.

Nate Reynolds 30:55

Yeah, I did it. I thought it was great. And then, you know, I learned how to tie a bow tie like the week of and then it's a skill that I've lost because I've never had to use it or it's just way too much work.

Bri DiGesare 31:07

It's an art form, really. You'll have to reteach yourself, someday.

Nate Reynolds 31:13

To be honest, there's just certain figures that work better with a bow tie. And you know, I think I'm just more of a tie, vest guy. Yeah, I just have a wider frame. So it's just not a bow tie frame. And I'm okay with that you.

Bri DiGesare 31:27

Own your style Nate, own your style. We support that.

Nate Reynolds 31:31

Bri, I want to thank you for coming on to the podcast. It was great catching up with you. I wish you the best of luck with your cookbook. I'm excited for it. I'll definitely buy it. And for everyone that's listening, check out her Instagram page and support her. I mean, I think this is something that when you're dealt the hand that you're dealt, you turned lemons into lemonade. As cheesy as that sounds.

Bri DiGesare 31:55

I love that. Thank you so much for the opportunity to come on this podcast and share my story. It's it's really special again to get to connect with you reminisce with you, but also just bring you up to speed on all things going on. And like I said, you are on the inside circle now of people who knew about the cookbook first. So you heard it here first. Thank you so much.

bottom of page