Today, Amy Kurtz is a health and wellness coach, motivational speaker, and author of the bestselling book Kicking Sick. But up until she was 25, the life she lived was full of chronic pain and stress — and the path that got her from point A to point B is pretty insane (including doctors wanting to remove her colon before figuring out what was wrong with it). Read on for her eye-opening and inspiring story, including the surprising cause of chronic back pain, why doctors suggested colon removal surgery, and more.
Amy Kurtz was always a lively, active child, until a random incident when she was 14 left her with debilitating back pain. “One day, I went to get my math textbook off the floor to run back to dance rehearsal, and at that moment, I felt a shooting pain go up my spine,” Kurtz remembers. “I’d never felt anything like it and I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I knew that it was serious.”
From that point forward, she and her parents embarked on a long and winding journey to understand what had caused the issue and find a path to healing. “I went to so many specialists, I saw so many different doctors, and not one could tell me what the root cause of it was,” says Kurtz.
Instead of trying harder to figure out what was going on, Kurtz’s doctors threw up their hands and decided to deal with her back pain by putting her on heavy-duty pain medication. She remained on those medications for a decade. “I lived on them for a good 10 years without any answers, and it really became a part of who I was,” says Kurtz. “I was always in pain. I was always aware of feeling uncomfortable. The medicine worked for a while, but it just numbed everything. It wasn’t an answer to the problem.”
A New Problem, and A Shocking “Solution” — Colon Removal Surgery
Then, when Amy was on a trip to Israel at age 25, she picked up a parasitic infection. “It’s as intense as it sounds. I gained 30 pounds in 30 days,” she says. Her body began to completely shut down: her hair fell out in clumps, she couldn’t keep any food down, she couldn’t go to the bathroom.
So once again, she went on a quest to figure out what was going on with her body and find a way to heal it. She visited a multitude of Western medicine specialists, seeing 10 or more colon doctors. She’d had every GI test that exists, most of them run multiple times because each doctor wanted to get their own results. But still, there were no answers as to what was going on.
The answer she did get was unsatisfying and shockingly extreme: the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her, but their suggested treatment was colon removal surgery.
“I fell on the floor hysterically crying because I really hit total rock bottom in that moment,” says Kurtz. “I had spent years throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick, desperate for an answer. I wanted a cure. I just wanted to know how to help myself so I could get on living my life, and to hear those words with no reason, to say, ‘Remove 6 feet of your intestines, but I don’t know why, but it’ll probably be better,’ was not an answer for me.”
Finding An Integrative Approach — And an Answer At Last
Kurtz had had enough of the Western approach to her ailments. She sought out an integrative specialist, who was able to not only find the infection her body was fighting, but also diagnose her with celiac disease.
Two days after she stopped eating gluten, all of her symptoms disappeared, even the back pain that she’d been living with since childhood. “We clearly missed this very important piece of the puzzle,” she says.
Since then, Kurtz has lived pain- and symptom-free, which she credits to a variety of lifestyle choices that she makes every day to keep herself well. This includes a mainly plant-based diet, exercise, dry brushing, and using nontoxic products, as well as paying attention to how her body responds to different things, so she never misses a puzzle piece again.
The Role of Stress
Kurtz thinks that one of the most important things she did to heal was to reduce her stress level and integrate stress reduction practices into her life regularly. Because her body had been in pain for so many years, she’d been living in a constant state of fight-or-flight, her sympathetic nervous system always in overdrive.
“When you’re constantly in pain, your body adapts to a new way of functioning, where it’s always protective and you’re always in survival mode, and it creates chronic stress in the body,” she says. “A big part of my healing was trying to unwind that process and re-teach my nervous system how to naturally function.”
To keep her stress levels low, Kurtz practices meditation and self-care along with the nourishing lifestyle choices outlined above.
Have you ever had a doctor suggest an extreme treatment before trying to get to the root of an issue? Share your experience in the comments below!
Watch our full interview with Amy Kurtz here:
The recovery story above is anecdotal and specific to this particular individual. Please note that this is not medical advice, and that not all treatments and approaches mentioned will work for everyone.