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WellTheory Founder and CEO, Ellen, was plagued with debilitating symptoms that eventually left her bedridden 4 years ago. After being dismissed by doctor after doctor, she finally figured out that what she was dealing with was autoimmune in nature. We sat down with Ellen to discuss the importance of trusting and listening to your body, and how her own health journey inspired her mission of reversing the autoimmune epidemic.
Tell Us About Yourself!
My name is Ellen Rudolph, and I’m the Founder and CEO at WellTheory. I’m also a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach. I currently live with my partner and our lab puppies in the Bay Area, and for fun, I love to hike, forest bathe, try new workout classes, create TikTok content, and read in my infrared sauna.
What Is Your Diagnosis?
I’m one of the many individuals on the “autoimmune spectrum” — i.e., without a formal conventional diagnosis but with positive antibodies and other biomarkers (e.g., antinuclear antibody (ANA) test). In my case, toxic mold, heavy metals, gut imbalances, and Lyme disease triggered autoimmunity in my body. Rather than chasing a label in the allopathic world, I chose to, instead, focus on addressing and improving the underlying factors that are contributing to the autoimmune activity.
Tell Us About Your Early Symptoms & Life Before Diagnosis
My health challenges date all the way back to my early childhood. When I was a kid, I was always sick—I had really bad asthma and chronic sinus infections growing up and my doctors prescribed me Z-packs like they were candy.
After graduating from college, I started to struggle with digestive issues and just wasn’t feeling like myself. I would get bloated no matter what I ate and felt sluggish all the time. In that process, I turned to a holistic nutritionist who uncovered hormonal imbalances and food sensitivities — little did I know, that would be the beginning of my health journey.
Almost 2 years later, my health hit rock bottom.
“I had recently moved to NYC and started to experience scary symptoms like memory loss, debilitating fatigue, and even tremors — and ultimately I became completely bedridden at the age of 25.”
My other symptoms included brain fog, headaches, rashes, debilitating fatigue, low-grade fever, and gastrointestinal symptoms.
What Has Been Your Biggest Struggle With Autoimmune Disease?
One of my biggest struggles with autoimmune disease is grappling with the fear of regression. I fear regression of my symptoms and backsliding to my worst days (when I was bedridden). That was an incredibly dark time in my life. When symptoms pop back up, it can be challenging not to spiral and go back into that place mentally. What I’ve learned is that sometimes that fear can be more debilitating than if I were to actually experience a health setback. And life is too short to live in fear.
Get Ellen's Care Plan
Check out what changes Ellen made to her daily routine to reduce her symptoms.
Like so many others, my healing journey took some trial and error. While I was navigating this “mystery illness” early on, I saw every “ologist” in the book — endocrinologist, hematologist, rheumatologist, gynecologist, cardiologist, you name it. Doctor after doctor dismissed my symptoms, told me my labs looked normal, and that there was nothing they could do for me before ushering me out of their office.
But I really believed in my heart that there was something underlying going on, and eventually — after ping ponging from specialist to specialist — I found a functional medicine doctor who believed me and helped me get to the root cause of my symptoms.
After running extensive labs, I have a distinct memory of getting my results while I was on the Subway and breaking down in tears. One of the lab tests revealed that I had positive antinuclear antibodies (ANA), the first hallmark sign of autoimmune disease. On top of that, my tests came back positive for toxic mold exposure, heavy metal toxicity, gut imbalances, Lyme Disease, and parasites.
I was overwhelmed and fearful about what this meant for my future, but also relieved to finally have answers for the seemingly unexplainable symptoms I had been experiencing. At that moment, I vowed that once I got better, this was the area I wanted to dedicate my life to.
With my doctor’s help and through my own research, I began to treat food as medicine, take supplements therapeutically, and prioritize sleep and stress management. As time went on, I was able to reverse many of the symptoms I was experiencing and reclaim my health.
During my healing journey, I realized that there are so many others who are just like me, and how desperately we needed better support and tools. My experience being shuttled from one specialist to another led me to start WellTheory, where we are committed to providing those living with invisible diseases empathetic, sustainable, and evidence-based care they need to reclaim their health.
Instead of providing band-aid fixes, we identify the root cause of autoimmune disorders and treat the whole body. We combine food as medicine, community care, expert-led holistic health programs, and personalized health data insights to support everyone regardless of where they are in their autoimmune journey.
“WellTheory is really what I wish I had at the start of my own journey.”
What Did Your Initial Care Plan Look Like?
During my time navigating traditional autoimmune care, I never received a care plan or any clear guidance on how to navigate my condition. I was told to “wait and see” what happened with the progression of my disease before trying to intervene and that there wasn’t much within my control. It wasn’t until I went through my WellTheory experience that I finally received a comprehensive, whole-body care plan. Based on the results from my initial nutritional assessment and intake, my WellTheory Care Team created a customized care plan that prioritized 3 healing foundations to focus on: digestion, liver and gallbladder support, and mineral needs. My care plan included sustainable shifts to my diet to aid in digestion, stress management and detox practices to support my liver and gallbladder, and targeted supplements for mineral repletion.
How Has Your Life Changed With a Foundational Approach to Healing?
I feel incredibly lucky to be where I’m at today, because the healing journey is not linear. For me, this has been years in the making and I’m grateful every morning that I wake up and feel like I can take on the day—I really don’t take that for granted anymore.
“Thanks to many of the dietary and lifestyle changes I’ve made as a WellTheory member, I now have improved digestion, clearer skin, more energy, less brain fog, and less pain and achiness.”
Even though I’m running a company, I don’t compromise on my health. Carving out time for daily self-care—like sleeping enough, exercising, or spending time outside—is non-negotiable for me and critical for creating a long term, sustainable working environment. I also like to call sleep my domino habit: if I get enough sleep, then all of the other habits tend to fall into place. For example, it becomes a lot easier to move my body, make sure I’m eating right, and manage my stress if I get 7-9 hours of high quality sleep each night. Fortunately now, embracing these habits has become a lot easier because it has really become a lifestyle and I love it (yes, I look forward to my infrared sauna sessions!).
Any Advice for Others With Autoimmunity?
Remember that you are the world’s best expert on your body. Our society often teaches us to look outside of our own lived experience for validation and answers. There were many times in my own healing journey that I dismissed and belittled my *own* symptoms and experiences after a doctor’s appointment. I’ve also made the mistake of blindly following new health fads even if I didn’t feel like my body was responding positively. There’s really no one-size-fits-all path to healing, so seek guidance externally but look internally to decide what’s right for you. Don’t forget: your body knows best — listen to it and advocate for yourself.