Guest Post, Level Health and Nutrition: The Easy Way

Note: You can find another post-surgery paleo success story, Shelly Good, join Stacy and the extremely witty Krista Scott Dixon of Stumptuous on Paleo Magazine Radio Episode 5 on Women’s Health this week, too. Stacy talks candidly about disordered eating, stress management, how living without a gallbladder and with an autoimmune disease shape her paleo template and of course – raising paleo children. Now – to our awesome guest!

Wednesdays used to be our Guest Blogger Series day; but, there’s just so many new and wonderful Paleo and real-food bloggers out there that we’ve expanded our series. We hope you enjoy the new view points and unique content; if so, we encourage you to show these guest bloggers your support by visiting their blog and social media links at the end of this post!

This week we are visited by Orleatha from lvlhealth.com. Stacy met Orleatha at PaleoFX last year and was impressed by her story, also featured in The Paleo Miracle. Since so many struggle after surgery, we’ve asked her to write this post to help those of you who need help meeting your goals. Years ago, she underwent a gastric bypass and has used paleo and ancestral health principles to maintain her weight loss and combat common side effects of the surgery. Here she talks about how she is using paleo in her unique health situation.


If I had a dollar for every time that someone has hinted (or come right out and said) that I took the ‘easy way’ because I had gastric bypass, I’d certainly be a billionaire. Yes I lost weight after having gastric bypass in 2007. Yes I had more energy, felt better and many common markers of health such as blood pressure and A1c numbers were much better. Oh and, let’s not forget, yes I, like many (if not most), regained weight – even though I was following every single post-surgery ‘rule’ to the letter.

It was not until I discovered the Paleo lifestyle, and subsequently ancestral wellness, that I finally found health. My eczema cleared, my tendinitis vanished, my thyroid stabilized and so much more.

Jamaica before and after

Although, I follow an ancestral type diet and it has helped me immensely, my approach is much different than a person who has not had gastric bypass. I hope to pass on bit of knowledge and help anyone who has taken or is considering taking the not-so-easy road. I’m a teacher by nature so I’ll break this down into bite-sized chunks (pun intended).

Malabsorptive syndrome – The small intestine, which does most of the digesting of the foods we eat, cannot absorb nutrients from foods that are eaten. All of the wonderful effects that eating real food can have on our bodies will forever be diminished because of my bypass.

How I handle this:

  • I take a digestive enzyme with hydrochloric acid and bile salts. This helps me to break down food while it is in my stomach so that by the time it reaches my small intestine, it is already broken into pieces that are more bio-available.
  • I take my vitamins in food form AND supplement. It would be great if I could get all of my vitamins from food but the truth is that I can’t. I spend time outdoors for my vitamin D. I supplement with K. I eat the most nutrient dense foods that I can find. I eat liver – yes I said liver. I take fermented cod liver oil. I eat the bones in canned salmon for calcium. I drink bone broth. I cook in cast iron. I researched the heck out of vitamin in veggies so that I could make the best choices. I am at a much greater risk of vitamin deficiency so I have to have a complete panel run yearly – at the very least.

Like many others, I had my gallbladder removed. This means that not only am I malabsorptive, but I cannot digest fats the way most people can.

How I handle this:

  • After removing grain and industrial seed oils from my life, I found that my body handled animal fats with ease. So this lifestyle cleared a lot of this up for me.
  • I consume coconut oil almost exclusively. Coconut oil, unlike most saturated fats, is about 70% medium-chain triglyceride and bypasses the gallbladder so it doesn’t require bile to be broken down.
  • As I said earlier, I take a digestive enzyme with bile salts. The bile helps me handle fattier cuts of meat like prime rib without discomfort.

I know that I have said this before but I will say this again. Bypass is only a tool. It is a weight-loss tool. It is NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, a health-gaining tool. I lost weight, but didn’t find health until I adopted a whole-foods approach. I found freedom to explore foods that I would never have touched – like liver. I learned to listen to my body – something that no surgery could have ever given me. And I lost the weight that I regained post-surgery plus another 20 pounds. I gained muscle. I gained energy. I gained a mental clarity that I had not ever experienced. I gained a hunger for transparency which is why I am not afraid or ashamed to tell people that I had gastric bypass and encourage them to adopt a whole-foods approach to living all in the same breath.


Ome2012rleatha Smith, M.Ed., is a Certified Holistic Lifestyle Coach and a Certified Covey Facilitator. She draws on over 14 years of facilitation experience and combines that with her love of helping people discover their personal path to wellness. She has been featured in print and on various websites as a success story and has recently published a series of whole-foods cookbooks. She is a wife and mother and blogs at lvlhealth.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!


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  • Kendra aka The Meanest Momma

    Thanks for sharing – interesting insights to someone not familiar with gastric. I just wanted to say, I LOVE not only your before/after photos, but your headshot — you positively radiate beauty and health! Congrats on your success and commitment to your health!

    • We agree Kendra, and she’s just as lovely in person 🙂

  • Ellen

    Thank you so much for this. I also had gastric bypass and gallbladder removed 5 years ago. After 150 pound weight loss, I was stuck and nothing I did seemed to make a difference. Nine months in a nursing home after a serious car accident left me another fifty pounds lighter, but with the poor quality food and all of the trauma and drugs, my whole system seems disordered and I am stuck again. And I need more surgery but the surgeon insists I need to lose another fifty pounds first. I would love to do that, but I am stuck. I am so glad to hear that someone has been able to make it past all of that. The medical establishment has been no help at all.

    • Ellen best of luck! Sounds like you’ve come a long way already 🙂

  • Great post! Gastric bypass is certainly NOT easy and your story is so inspiring. I am sure you will help lots of people through sharing your story and through you work.

  • jeannie

    I am sick and tired of people saying that GB is “the easy way out”!! They have no idea how tough that whole process is – major surgery, long recovery time, complications! Good job on your journey and thanks for sharing it.

    • Thank you for your kind words!! It really is a tough road but this lifestyle certainly makes it a little easier 🙂

  • Wonderful post! I had my gallbladder removed 10 years ago and since switching to Paleo a few months ago my stomach issues (cramping, gas, diarrhea) have almost completely gone away, but I’m still very interested in adding a digestive enzyme to my diet. Which one do you take? There are soooo many of them out there and if you are able to tell me I would love to know the brand and dosage you’re taking.

    • I take NOW Super Enzymes. It has bile salts, hcl and enzymes. I love it. I take two before each meal.

  • Kate @eatrecyclerepeat

    Thank you for sharing your story and your photos! I agree with another commenter, you definitely radiate. And I absolutely love your idea of “health-gaining tools”. We should all focus on those over weight-loss tools!

  • An acquaintance of mine recently had GB which made me wonder if someone with GB could do paleo, especially because the “post-surgery” recommended meal plans seem to closely follow conventional USDA guidelines but in smaller amounts. So I guess it can be done! Thanks for sharing and glad you found what works for you! 🙂

  • Alia Hatcher-Moore

    May I ask you, did you have any type of plastic surgery following your gastric bypass weight loss? I’m waiting right now to schedule my surgery, which should take place within the next month and a half, my concern is excess skin. Your before picture looks very similar to my current body and your after pictures are simply phenomenal. I’m 27 and truly committed to making sure that I stay fit, is there hope for my skin?