Karen DiBrango is a Certified Integrative Health Coach and a Certified Gluten Practitioner from Tampa, Florida. She has spent the past ten years transforming her health and the health of her patients with education, clean eating, nutraceuticals, physical activity and lots of self-love. Sovereign Laboratories spoke with Karen about her thriving practice, health challenges and why she believes everyone can benefit from having a health coach!
Sovereign Laboratories: How long have been you been an integrative nutrition health coach?
Karen DiBrango: About four years. I was my own first patient, and then it branched out to family, friends, and many other clients.
SL: Did you have health issues that prompted you to pursue your profession?
KD: Yes! Since childhood, I was always sick with widespread allergies, migraines, ADD, mind fog and food sensitivities. I was diagnosed with Mass Cell Activation Syndrome, a very rare disease, and I always had issues with gluten. I was really struggling and losing lots of weight, even though I was on a lot of meds. This went on for years, and finally I had to quit my school teaching job and go on medical leave because I was so weak that I couldn’t walk.
SL: What happened when you were on medical leave?
KD: I tried everything! I saw nine specialists, including geneticists at the University of Florida and Mayo Clinic. Each one diagnosed fibromyalgia or another condition, and with each one came more prescriptions and pharmaceuticals. At one time I was taking more than 10 prescription drugs and taking chemotherapy to suppress my immune system. I felt like I was 100 years old, and it was frustrating because physicians were telling me I would have to learn to live this way. I realized no one was really helping me. I was supposed to be satisfied that I wasn’t dying, but as you can imagine, that isn’t really living.
SL: What was the turning point for you?
KD: I didn’t want to give up. I’ve always had a passion for teaching, so I went back to school to become and integrative nutrition health coach. I wanted to learn all I could about my own health issues and eventually share my knowledge with others.
SL: What happened when you started classes and approached your health issues from a holistic standpoint?
KD: It opened my eyes to a lot of things. I kept coming back to the gluten, even though every physician who tested me said I was not sensitive to it. I knew differently, because I would break out in rashes whenever I would prepare or eat anything with gluten. I decided to become a certified gluten free practitioner and read extensive studies about how gluten negatively affects the microbiome, turns off the good and bad genes, and largely contributes to Leaky Gut. I realized that I had not been properly tested for gluten sensitivity.
SL: What tests confirmed that gluten was the culprit?
KD: I took the Wheat Zoomer test and it lit up like a Christmas tree! Some physicians will not recommend this test because they either don’t know about it or insurance does not cover it. Integrative and holistic practitioners will routinely recommend these tests. Because of the Wheat Zoomer test, I learned that I had suffered for years because some of the meds I was prescribed had gluten in them! I switched to gluten-free nutraceuticals and Colostrum Therapy from Sovereign Laboratories.
SL: Do all your clients have gluten issues?
KD: In the world of health coaching, you can’t be an expert on everything, and I firmly believe you need to stay in your own lane. So, gluten-free and Leaky Gut are my specialties, and I help people discover the root cause of their problems.
SL: Here at Sovereign, we believe Leaky Gut is the cause of many illnesses and chronic conditions. Do you agree?
KD: Absolutely. Just as everyone has a pro-inflammatory reaction to gluten, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least 99% of people have Leaky Gut to some degree. This is why one of the first things I do with many of my clients is focus on healing their gut lining.
SL: You mentioned Colostrum Therapy earlier. How are you using colostrum in your practice?
KD: My role is educating my patients so they understand colostrum will help balance their immune system and microbiome. Some people are aware that colostrum plays an important role as the ultimate immune booster if we are breast fed, but they are not always aware they can supplement with colostrum to restore the gut lining. For my patients who are on a “gut repair” routine, I recommend drinking Sovereign Colostrum-LD twice daily with two teaspoons mixed in water.
SL: What is your personal experience with colostrum therapy?
KD: It’s been great because I’ve strengthened my immune system and improved my overall health. Because it’s so effective at regulating and moderating the immune system, I believe everyone can benefit from colostrum.
SL: It also sounds like many people can benefit from having a health coach! Can you explain why the role of health coaches is growing in popularity?
KD: Certainly! Just like functional medicine, health coaching is in its infancy and is continually growing. Basically, a health coach is an advocate who often works in conjunction with physicians and specialists while guiding patients through the process and next steps. In this way, health coaches bridge the gap between healthcare and wellness. There are many of my clients who get prescriptions, but have no idea what to eat, how to prepare meals, or what they should avoid if they are gluten sensitive. There is a lot of misinformation out there and patients can easily be overwhelmed. Health coaches help patients navigate their wellness plan.
SL: This sounds great. What’s next for you?
KD: I’m currently working with a business strategist and planning to expand with an entire team of holistic and integrative practitioners. One of the goals is to have a hands-on, “teachable” kitchen with certified nutritionists and dieticians on staff to show clients what a gluten-free kitchen looks like. It’s very exciting.
SL: Thank you and good luck!