Healing comes in different forms for different people. What might be the conventional solution might not work for others. Courtney Maiorino has known this fact to be true and believed in the power of unlearning the normal. When she was diagnosed with moderate to severe Crohn’s, she started going the standard Western medicine route. However, the pills, drugs, and even suggested surgery do not seem to make things better. She then took it into her own hands. Using what she learned in college studying wellness, she developed the Autoimmune Intuitive Guide that eventually led her to be medication-free. She talks about this journey as she highlights the importance of mindset to the healing process and going through the proper way to wellness with healthy diet as well as energy medicine.
We have Courtney Maiorino. Courtney was diagnosed with a severe case of Crohn’s disease back in 2012. At first, Courtney went to the standard Western medicine route, which involved many pills, drugs and was even given the option to have major surgery to treat her condition. After many dead ends, having no hope and not knowing what to do, Courtney took matters into her own hands and developed an intuitive autoimmune guide which helped her heal from a very severe diagnosis and get her life back. Courtney is now fully medication-free thanks to a ton of diet, lifestyle and deep mental and emotional mindset changes that she has kept up with over the years. She has an amazing story and I’m excited to share it with you. Please welcome, Courtney.
Listen To The Episode Here: The Autoimmune Intuitive Guide with Courtney Maiorino
The Autoimmune Intuitive Guide with Courtney Maiorino
We have Courtney Maiorino. Courtney, how are you doing?
I’m great. How are you?
Very good. Courtney, you have an amazing life story that I’m very excited to jump into mainly because you were able to heal yourself from an autoimmune disease and there are many people out there suffering from that that just don’t know what to do. I’m very excited to see what avenues you went down, what worked for you, what didn’t and what you’re up to now. Where are you from originally?
I’m originally born and raised from Portland, Maine.
What were you into growing up?
I was into sports. I wasn’t a jock, but I played two sports in high school. I’m a pretty active person.
When did your health crisis start? Was it at an early age? Was it after high school?
I had some surgeries as a young adult, the normal things that people go through. From about middle school, high school, I was healthy like an average person. In college around 2009, I started having symptoms of digestive and then we blew it off. I was not worrying about it. I was healthy. There was nothing wrong. It was just stress and we didn’t think much of it because I was healthy. It continued to persist, it continued to happen. We got to a point two or three years later where it got so serious that we couldn’t ignore it anymore. We did food sensitivity testing, celiac testing, all of the normal first testing that doctors would go through in terms of diagnosing something.
You went to your primary care physician, first and foremost. They said, “Let’s do some testing to see what’s going on.”
I didn’t have a reason to see a specialist at that point. My primary person for medicine was my PCP. I went to my PCP and they did all kinds of food sensitivity, allergy stuff and nothing came back with any answers.
They all came back clear and you were not feeling good at all?
All of it came back clear. It continued to persist because I wasn’t feeling well. The last-ditch effort after years of testing, waiting things out and seeing if it would go away was a colonoscopy. I was diagnosed at age 21 in 2012 with moderate to severe Crohn’s.
What’s that like getting a diagnosis like that? The doctor says you have an autoimmune disease. What’s the first thought that pops into your head there?
I still remember that scenario. Waking up from the test, my mom was there, the GI doctor was there. He told my mom what I had because I was sedated still so he wasn’t talking to me. I don’t know if it was the weaning off of the sedation or just the gravity of the situation. I think it was both. I started crying and I was very emotional, very angry for a long time at having a solid diagnosis that changes lives.
How worried were you at this point because you were a relatively healthy person and then your health just started going? You must have been really worried. You didn’t have a reason why. You didn’t know? That was probably the scariest part.
There was no reason. At that point, I had no idea that anybody in my family had an autoimmune disease. We had no knowledge of that because nobody was talking about it. Then I officially got diagnosed and we found out that a few other people in my family have various autoimmune diseases, so it does run in our circle. It was very tough. At first, I was very angry and very hard to be around because the first emotion and the first thing that people go through when they get diagnosed is the anger portion of things. It can last a very long time depending on how self-aware and how willing people are to process it and move through it and work through that. Anger is definitely where I was at for a long time.
What did they tell you? They said you have moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. Did they tell you that it’s curable? Did they say, “We don’t know what’s going to happen?”
It’s not curable. They told me that I would be on meds forever. They told me that I was not going to be able to eat any fruits and vegetables ever again. The language they used, it’s unfortunate because I don’t think they think about what they’re saying is going to be imprinted into the patient’s heads. We’re going to take that as Gospel, as what is. That’s what I was told. I was going to be on meds. I wasn’t going to be able to eat healthy food and the underlying tone of all of it was that my life was going to suck. It can at times. It does at times, but also that’s not the case anymore. Having that be the first thing out of the gate that I heard was hard.
What is Crohn’s for everybody who has never heard of it?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the digestive tract, from your mouth all the way through your digestive tract. Some common symptoms are abdominal pain, bloating, distension, frequency and urgency to go to the bathroom. Sometimes if you’re very inflamed, it can lead to more intense symptoms like surgeries and things wrong with bowel movements, but a lot of it is pain, swelling and then the typical symptom is very frequent, urgent need to be in the bathroom.
EM 78 | Autoimmune Intuitive Guide Autoimmune Intuitive Guide: The first emotion that people go through when they get diagnosed is anger.
That must be the most difficult thing ever because you don’t know when it’s going to happen, and you have to base your life around that.
When I was newly diagnosed, I developed a habit of always knowing where the bathroom was. If I was at work, if I was out at the mall or the movies or in an airport, I always had to know where that was. That’s typical for a lot of patients is needing to have that safety of knowing at least if something happens where do I go?
What was the first plan of action here? You just got the diagnosis. The doctor says, “We are going to do this.” What did they do?
Medication. I got diagnosed and that same day I left with the script. It was steroids and immunosuppressants. At that point in 2012, I had no knowledge of wellness, no knowledge or anything like that or the importance of it. I did what they said. I did what I thought was best. I did what I thought my only option was. I took them for a long time.
How did it make you feel?
The steroids made me feel crazy, mentally not myself at all. I was not stable. I had very frequent and interesting mood swings. I was crying a lot. Unfortunately, a very typical side effect of steroids is weight gain and I gained a lot of weight very quickly.
Was there a point where you’re like, “I’ve been on this for a long time, I’m not seeing any improvement?” Did you get to that point?
While I was going through my new diagnosis, I was in school in college studying Wellness. I was supposed to be in a nursing program here at a local college. I wasn’t getting grades to make that program. I had to transfer my credits to graduate on time and the only major that I could transfer to was a major in Wellness. Coincidentally, I was able to use what I’m learning. It was not a coincidence, it was a divinely-guided scenario, but I used a lot of the things that I was learning on myself and I was learning a lot about nutrition and lifestyle management. I was in a Reiki class for my minor in college. I was at the point where I was learning all of these things and applying them. I was never one to take medications when I was younger. I always had that foundation of not being someone who did that.
You were told this is how you’re going to fix this, so you believed it.
With that foundation and with my studies, I decided to start shifting things that I could control that weren’t meds and see if that would help in order to get me to a point where I wouldn’t need them anymore.
What were you coming across at this point when you first started doing some research into natural remedies and alternative medicine? What was coming up?
The first thing that I fell into was changing my diet. That’s the first thing that everybody stumbled upon when they enter wellness, health and alternative medicine. Playing around with that, I switched to so many things, but I finally landed being gluten-free and plant-based. That seems to work, at least for me personally in terms of allowing me to eat healthily and feel good, but also get the inflammation down to a point where I no longer need Western medical intervention at least at this point. That’s a plus. After that, I got that solidified. I realized how my mindset sucked.
That must have been a process just getting that alone. That probably didn’t happen overnight. How long do you think it took you to figure out what works, what doesn’t? I bet that took a while.
It took at least a couple of years and I’m always playing around with my own life and my own treatment protocol because stuff is changing so much. There are new things coming through all the time in terms of what’s benefiting people and what could potentially be working for others and things like that. None of this happened overnight and that’s the great part of it. It’s the amazing part because it requires work, determination and discipline. That’s also the hard part for people who are new to this is because that’s hard. We want a quick fix. We don’t feel good. We want this to be better now.
Everybody wants that magic pill, but true healing takes place over time. At what point did you say, “I’m done with the steroids?”
I was on a steroid and an immunosuppressant drug from 2012 until mid-2013 and then I made a large decision that was not a smart one, but I made a large decision to wean myself off my first steroid by myself. I was frustrated, I was done with it. I was frustrated where I didn’t want the side effects anymore and no one was listening to me. I just did it. I don’t recommend that it’s not a great idea. What it taught me is I can make my own decisions and there are consequences either way, positive or negative. I do have the power to make my own decisions. That was my first taste of going med-free at least for a little bit like minus the steroids and seeing like, “I can make that decision and see what happens and then go from there.” I had to deal with not great things after that because of the decision that I made, but I also realized that I can make decisions like that and then see what happens.
It’s a lot of trial and error. You touched on something that I find extremely important to the healing process, mindset. What was your mindset like throughout this whole entire process and when did it start to shift for you?
When I first got diagnosed, I was angry. A few of your audience in your community have chronic illnesses or know what the community is about. Unfortunately, within the mainstream chronic illness community, the underlying tone is anger, resentment and hatred of your body, of what’s happening to you and of your illness. When you get diagnosed, you adopt that. That’s what I did. You want to fit in, you need a community and you adopt whatever mindset everyone else has because you think that that’s normal. I did it for a long time and I didn’t know the correlation between mindset and healing and the benefits of seeing differently and thinking differently.
EM 78 | Autoimmune Intuitive Guide The Loving Diet: Going Beyond Paleo into the Heart of What Ails You
When I was at a wellness retreat in 2014 in California for Crohn’s patients, I met a clinical nutritionist. Her name is Jessica Flanigan. She did a lot of work with autoimmune patients in terms of eating style, but she was also diving into some new information about loving. How love is medicine, loving your illness, learning from it and how mindset and the way you see things is important in terms of being a patient. I read her book called The Loving Diet and it wasn’t a light switch in terms of changing my entire life, but it was the spark that was a catalyst for a mindset shift for me that changed my life. Once I read and adopted that into my own life and in my own way, I was able to see Crohn’s as a blessing and see the lessons that it was bringing into my life. I was able to navigate the highs and the lows that it has with more ease. It was a better way for me personally to see this experience because it’s not going anywhere.
Mindset is very huge and very important, but so is action as well. I remember, I didn’t have an autoimmune disorder but I had a traumatic brain injury. I got lumped into the TBI category and talking to all these people and it’s a very sad community because these people think they have no outlet and you fall into that. People are like, “You’ve got to be positive, have a positive mindset.” Every night I would go to bed, “Tomorrow is going to be different.” I’m praying for a better day and I was doing that, and nothing was changing. It also does take massive action. You have to implement what you’re learning to fix the problem, as you were saying. You started to shift in the mindset a little bit. What was next for you?
After mindset and once the food was solidified, I realized that I had a bump in the road. My mindset was much shifted. It wasn’t 100% there. My food was about 90% there, but I was still doing what I wanted the other 10% shrugging it off, not being as disciplined as I wanted to be in terms of reaching the goal that I had.
Which was obviously being symptom-free.
Symptom-free, med-free, Western medicine intervention-free and all of that stuff.
What was the speed bumps that you hit?
I was learning about wellness and applying all this stuff. I had just begun a training program for health coaches. I was learning more wellness things and I was applying everything that I was learning, and I assumed somewhat naively probably that all that stuff would be enough to save me. While it is to a degree, an autoimmune disease, diagnosis and disorder are not without hills and valleys. It’s just the way that it’s going to be. I found out after a checkup with my GI doctor that my inflammation levels were high and I had two choices. He looked at me and he was like, “You can either have surgery or you can go on a biologic infusion medication called Remicade, which is essentially an IV. I would go into the office every week for an IV for two or three hours, let it drip and then leave.
What did they tell you? What’s the success rate of the surgery?
I don’t exactly remember the specifics of the situation at that point, but my intestines were so inflamed that they wanted to take out the portion of my intestines that was inflamed and go from there. Unfortunately, in the Western medicine system that’s a pretty common procedure for people who have an autoimmune disease, taking out diseased portions and going from there. I had known about Remicade already and I had a negative connotation to using that medication but in my head, it was better than having an abdominal surgery. I chose to take Remicade for a while. Unfortunately, when I made that decision, my physician and my nurses were under the impression that I was going to be there forever because that’s the normal route that people take. They’re on this med for the rest of their life. That’s their treatment.
With the Remicade, the normal side effects of medications like nausea, vomiting, those normal ones, no. I didn’t have anything in terms of side effects. There is a very somewhat small percentage of cancers. However, because I had already researched Remicade and I already heard about it and heard the horror stories in terms of my perspective of it, the small percentage of cancer potential was enough for me to know that I didn’t want to do this forever. I had already had it in my head when I started that I wouldn’t be doing it forever.
How long did you do it for?
I was on the medication for two years.
What made you stop?
EM 78 | Autoimmune Intuitive Guide Autoimmune Intuitive Guide: Everybody wants that magic pill, but true healing takes place over time.
Within that time period that I was on Remicade, I was still also on the oral immunosuppressant drug at the same time. I was working on solidifying my eating style, making sure that was as healing and alkaline as I could possibly have it, probably a little more than I should have in terms of keeping me sane, but I did it for a potential goal. I worked heavily on my mindset and making sure I was coming from a loving perspective, understanding what this was teaching me and what the lesson is here. Making sure that my stress levels were low and making sure I was taking care of myself in a holistic way. I was on it for two years and I had a checkup, another scope and some blood work and the results came back really well. The lab work was low inflammation and the scope came back with no issues. At that point, I made a hard decision that was personal to no longer take it anymore.
What happened after that?
I went back and forth. I made the decision. I was so confident in. After making a large decision like that, you’re like, “Did I make the right decision? Did I do what’s best? Did I screw up?” As time went on, I was more confident that I made the right decision. I was still on the immunosuppressant drugs still after that. After I ended Remicade, I was on the other drug for another year and a half. I was having some other weird symptoms that weren’t Crohn’s typical. I was nervous. I called my doctor and shared with him what was going on with me. We came in and chatted and did some blood work and figured out that my liver levels were high. They were nervous that it was something else that was wrong. That I had another issue on top of Crohn’s and that this was something else that we’d have to deal with. To make sure that that wasn’t the case, we did a lot of blood work and imaging to make sure that nothing was wrong with my liver or there was nothing else going on. When all of that came back negative and everything was clean, the nurse practitioner that I was seeing at the time was like, “You’ve been on this drug since 2012. It’s now 2017. Maybe you’re done. Maybe you can’t take it anymore.” We did some more blood work to find out if the medication was affecting my liver and we found out that the medication that I was taking gave me a drug-induced liver injury. That was interesting.
You have this liver injury now from the medication. What’s going through your mind and how are you going to fix this one?
I was nervous, especially considering I’m not someone who drinks a lot of alcohol. I don’t do things that would compromise my liver. To have that happen to me because of something that I was taking as a precaution for something else that was going on with me, I was frustrated. When I found out that it was the medication, I knew in my head that I didn’t want to take it anymore, but the nurse who I was talking to wanted to try me on a different med. She was like, “This one doesn’t work, but let’s try on something different.” I looked at her and I was like, “No.” If that medication is doing something to my liver or what’s to say that whatever else you put me on is not going to make things worse?
Good for you for realizing that because that’s another professional saying, “Let’s try something else, another medication.” They have the best intentions for you. They want to get you better, but that’s what’s in their tool belt. That’s how they do it.
That’s one of the hardest parts. They’re well-intentioned. They mean well, they’re kind, they’re educated and they just want to help. That’s why they’re there but unfortunately, their toolbox is so one-sided that what they now know is no longer benefiting people who have a chronic illness.
My problem with that is you just found out that this person has a liver injury. You want to put them on another medicine that probably has other side effects. At what point do you put yourself in check and be like, “This isn’t working. Why don’t you try something else?” Maybe natural, and there are some practitioners that do that. I was told to never ever, whatever I do, never go see a chiropractor after I was doing it all my head injuries, “They’ll mess you up.” I listened to him for a couple of years and then after that, they wanted to put me on more medication. I was like, “No, I’m good.” I went to my family chiropractor and I’m glad I did because it put me on the path I’m on now. You do have to trust that intuition and your gut instinct because there’s something that’s pulling you in a different direction and sometimes that will lead you down a road you don’t want to go down, but more times than not it’s going to pull you in that right direction. You’ve got to listen to how you feel about it.
That’s the hardest thing too, especially with the TBI and with me being in the Western medical system too, we’re not taught to listen to ourselves. We’re taught to listen to other people. That’s hard because they’re well-intentioned. They know what they’re talking about. They have knowledge in that area, but unfortunately, they don’t know our bodies best. We know our bodies best. I’m sure you experienced this too, going in a different direction after someone who is well-educated as telling you.
EM 78 | Autoimmune Intuitive Guide Autoimmune Intuitive Guide: Do not be afraid to unlearn the normal. Finding out what works for you is going to be the most powerful thing that you can do for yourself.
The look on their faces when you tell them you’re doing that. You’re like, “Did I make that right decision?” They look at you like you have six heads and they’re like, “Try it.” You didn’t want to go on that medication. You’re starting to develop all this knowledge of how to take care of yourself at this point. What was your next step there?
I was finally medication-free October 2017 after being on meds since 2012. It was scary and amazing at the same time to finally reach the goal that I’d been working towards. In terms of my liver, I would love to say that I put a lot of emphasis on focusing on that. Unfortunately, I didn’t and I probably should’ve put more on it. I was just excited to finally have the freedom that I had wanted for so long. I still take care of myself the way that I was in the past with eating, but I wasn’t going hardcore in terms of a liver detoxification or anything like that. I haven’t had any issues since then. After the food, I was solidified. I was diving more into energy medicine. That’s where I’m sitting now is Reiki and energy medicine and how stored energy that is stuck is playing a role in this. That’s where I’m learning and helping people live now.
Can you touch on that a little bit? Stored energy, how do you get rid of that energy? What is that energy coming from? I had Reiki done on me, my cousin does it. I’ve had another number of people do it on me. I love it, but if you sit down for your first time, you’re like, “What is going on here?” Every time I get a Reiki session, I am incredibly grateful for everything in my life. The only thing I did differently that day was getting Reiki. You guys are moving around something, which is unbelievable and I’m a huge fan of it, but to the average person it looks different. Can you explain what’s going on there and how you’re able to move that energy around to help the human body as a whole to get better and heal?
Reiki is a Japanese healing modality and I got introduced to in college when I was studying wellness and holistic health as my minor. I took it for course credit just to graduate. I didn’t know how it would affect my life and how I would use it. It’s essentially a modality that has seven energy centers write down your spine and they are blocked or opened depending on a lot of different factors. What a Reiki practitioner does is when you get her obsession, at first, they assess your chakras and see if they’re open or they’re closed or how you’re doing.
They also talk to you about how you’re feeling. While on one hand they assess your chakras and see it from that standpoint, they also talk to you about how you’re feeling, where you’re having pain or having discomfort and try to connect the two and see where and what needs to be done. A Reiki practitioner gets attuned to Reiki energy. I was attuned in college and because I’m attuned to the energy, I’m able to facilitate the movement of stagnant energy in other people’s bodies. I will, through hands-off treatment, facilitate the movement of energy around people’s chakras to make sure that it’s helping them instead of hurting them and facilitating healing rather than disease.
What are you up to now? How are you helping this community that doesn’t know what you know now? How do you get the message out there to help these millions of people now? How do we get this message out there and tell people what’s going on? There is a way to heal from this. When you’re getting this diagnosis, you’re gearing up for a miserable life because that’s what you’re told and it’s just not the case.
The way I’m stepping up is continuing to share my journey and the way I’ve transitioned over the few years that I’ve been a patient of what I’ve used to help myself. I’m also doing some public speaking, some podcasts interviews, sharing what I believe to be a gap in the autoimmune community and the chronic illness protocol. I’m talking about energy medicine, mindset and perspective and how the limiting beliefs of our capabilities for our health hold us back. We’re told from day one that you have no control. Your health is not going to get any better. Food doesn’t matter, all these things. Trying to break that mold of what is normal and have people unlearn the normal, dive into their intuition and see what’s right for them and go from there.
Courtney, where can people find you online and where’s all your information at?
I’m usually on Instagram. That’s usually where I’m at the most. I love connecting with people there. You can also find me on Facebook. Definitely reach out if there’s a potential for us to work together.
What’s your Instagram handle?
If there’s one piece of advice that you have taken with you through this journey and this lesson that you would like to give the audience, what would it be? I know it’s a loaded question and it could be anything.
It’s something I’ve learned. It’s to not be afraid to unlearn normal. As we grow up as normal, healthy people, we’re all told many things as chronic illness patients trying to navigate our illnesses. We’re told many things even in the wellness world about how to heal. Unlearning normal and all of those communities and all of those scenarios and finding out what works for you is going to be the most powerful thing that you can do for yourself.
It turns out I have a lot of Crohn’s disease and IBS patients and there’s a huge correlation with the upper cervical spine and interference around there. We have a lot of patients that their IBS and their Crohn’s dissipates over time and there are not many of us on the East coast, but there is one in Maine. I will definitely put you in contact with them. If you ever want to check it out to network, it’s a good opportunity there. Thank you so much for coming on, Courtney. You have an amazing story. I am thrilled that you’re out there living your life again and helping people do the same.
Thank you so much for having me. This was awesome.