When you meet Dr. Jill, you will immediately sense her compassion and genuine desire to help people find answers and to give them hope that they can feel vibrant again. What you may not know is that her own journey through life-threatening illness was a powerful force in shaping her passion for teaching people how to heal through functional medicine.

Dr. Jill’s Story

Since my childhood, I have always been passionate about seeking answers to complex problems. I grew up on a farm, witnessing firsthand the resilience of life in the face of difficulty. I decided to become a doctor because I strongly believed in the capacity of the human body to heal and overcome even the most dire circumstances – if given the right tools. However, it wasn’t until June of 2001 that I had a very personal encounter with mortality and made the quantum leap of putting this belief into action!

Jill Carnahan, MD
Sudden Turn of Events … from Doctor to Patient

At 25 years old, during my third year of medical training at Loyola University in Chicago, I found an unusual lump in my left breast. Although I was not concerned, I scheduled an ultrasound and biopsy with the insistence of my husband. A few days later, the confidence I felt changed to my worst nightmare.

My surgeon called and told me I had invasive breast cancer. Even worse, while the condition is unusual for women in their twenties, the prognosis at that age was much more deadly than it was in older women. I was absolutely devastated.

My very orderly world spun off its axis as I began the process of treatment with several surgeries and six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy followed by many rounds of radiation. I literally went from doctor to patient overnight in the very hospital where I was studying medicine.

My professors became my doctors and I used my student access to medical journals and my budding understanding of medicine to help design a treatment plan that would optimize my chances of survival and included therapeutic use of nutritional supplementation, daily exercise, healthy organic diet, and, perhaps most powerful, the prayers of family and friends and my complete surrender to the process regardless of outcome.

The rest of that year was a blur as I took a leave of absence from medical school to complete my treatment regimen. By the summer of 2002, I had officially “beaten” cancer, but my body was destroyed. Completely bald, malnourished, and down to my lowest weight since I was fourteen years old, I was physically devastated but mentally still in the game.

From Surviving to Thriving…

At this point, although I had just beaten cancer, I was determined to continue healing. My desire was to go from just surviving to thriving, full of energy and vibrancy!

My unwavering faith in God and my passion for nutrition and lifestyle therapies became instrumental in my recovery. I was able to return to my studies with the wounds and lessons of overcoming cancer still fresh in my body and mind.

I was even more motivated to become a doctor who could help people find hope and healing even in the midst of the most complex illness.

Round Two: a Second Diagnosis…

As it turned out, cancer was only the beginning of my journey. A mere six months after completing treatment and returning to medical school, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a very painful autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the gastrointestinal lining, causing malnutrition, cyclical fevers, fatigue, extreme weakness, and ongoing abdominal pain. The issue was undoubtedly connected to the toxic effect of chemotherapy on my gut lining.

I was given powerful medications to calm the inflammation, but they did nothing to address the underlying problem. My gastroenterologist told me point blank, “Jill, your diet has nothing to do with this.” His prognosis was that I would require steroids and immune-suppressing medications to control the disease and should prepare myself for multiple surgeries over my lifetime and to never be completely cured.

Refusing to believe that surgery and medications were the only options, I took a deep breath and set about solving another life or death problem. I studied extensively on the healing power of food and made major changes in my own diet, eliminating gluten, dairy, and all processed foods and eating nutrient-dense options instead – I even started eating chicken and fish after being a vegetarian for a decade.

I also consulted with a wise naturopath, who taught me the power of appropriate nutritional supplementation in restoring health and energy and healing the inflammation in my gut.

Back to Optimal Health!

“This sickness is not unto death…but for the glory of God.” John 11:4

Now years later, after the relentless pursuit of learning to unleash the body’s innate healing ability, I am in the best health of my life, completely free of breast cancer and 100% healed from Crohn’s disease! I continue to eat an organic, whole food, nutrient-dense, gluten-free and grain-free diet, exercise regularly, and practice my faith through prayer and meditation. It is evident that God healed my body expressly for the purpose of helping others do the same. Thus, I am committed to helping people find answers and live vibrantly. My greatest moments in life are when I see my patients, many of whom came to me suffering from complex illnesses that had baffled traditional medicine, transform from a place of despair and pain to a place of resilience, joy, hope, and love.

More than ever before, I believe that the human body can regain health if given the right tools… and my patients and I are living proof!

Dr. Jill’s Story
Jill C. Carnahan, MD, ABIHM, ABoIM, IFMCP
Jill C. Carnahan, MD, ABIHM, ABoIM, IFMCP
Jill C. Carnahan, MD