From Bedridden to Radiance: How I Used a Holistic Lifestyle to Heal From a Near-Death Accident

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

We live in a stress-filled world. Poor quality nutrition, toxic chemicals, xenoestrogens, EMFs, blue-light, deadlines, and traffic have us competing for our health. But on March 20, 2011, life got much more stressful than I could have ever imagined.

That particular day, I found myself in an ICU bed after recently being hit by a series of large vehicles. I recalled crossing a busy street in Traffic Nation, a.k.a. Los Angeles, where I was unexpectedly hit by a Land Rover headed west. The force of the blow threw me into the eastbound lane, where I was then run over by a Toyota Tundra. Needless to say, my world was rocked.

Lying unconscious in the middle of Melrose, paramedics and first responders aided my broken body. Upon impact I had seven broken ribs, a collapsed lung and “the worst compound fracture’ the maxillofacial specialist at the hospital had ever seen…BUT I was still alive. Perspective.

For any person, this would be a traumatic experience, but for a young, 30-year-old working actor and model, my future was suddenly completely unsure. At this time, my physical appearance was a huge part of my livelihood, and quite honestly, I wasn’t certain I would ever look the same.

My body wrecked and my confidence not far behind, I found a silver lining by focusing on what I DID have rather than what I didn’t. Some say true purpose is born from tragedy, and luckily for me, this was the case. As easy as it would have been to give up, my near-fatal accident turned out to be the ultimate blessing in disguise — that experience sparked the fire in my soul’s purpose. I set forward with passion to recover my health and to get back in better shape than I was before the accident. Along the way, I shared everything I had learned about nutrition, natural healing, skincare and how to feel better about the reflection in the mirror with the rest of the world.

All Natural Recovery

My recovery wasn’t easy, physically or mentally. I had pain from head to toe, my jaw wired shut and nubs for front teeth, I felt myself turning into a zombie from the antibiotics, CT scan and monthly x-rays. It was dark. I lost my zest as a human being. I definitely wasn’t my ‘happy-go-lucky’ self, and it is a scary thing to witness yourself changing for the worse as a person. But I didn’t give in to that feeling, I quickly decided I was going to do everything in my power to ‘beat’ this funk that I was in and recover as quick as I could, as best as I could. A walking ball of inflammation, I began researching ingredients for how I was going to accelerate my healing both internally and externally. I met with several Chinese herbalists and developed a morning tonic that would help build my blood, assist in ridding my body of toxins and provide the best nutrition possible while not being able to chew food. It was extremely tough. Deer Placenta, egg yolks, bison liver… You name it, I tried it. I just wanted to get back to the old me!

In addition to this, my face was extremely swollen, covered in abrasions, and I had an unsightly deep scar on the left side of my face from point of impact that really was an eyesore. Social situations were uncomfortable, so I spent most of my time in my little apartment researching. Unhappy with the toxic, paraben-laced products that my doctors were recommending that I use to heal my skin, I began obsessive research into creating my own remedy. My simple understanding of the negative side effects of the medical and conventional led me into an ever-evolving journey of education of ingredient decks. I learned a lot about the physiology of toxic fragrances, artificial colors and other synthetic chemicals.

It turns out, most conventional skin-care products were going to do more harm than good for my skin. Parabens, one of the more common ingredients, is estrogenic and antagonistic to androgen production, meaning they interfere with the endocrine system’s ability to produce and regulate hormones—this physiological mechanism makes them correlated with breast and other cancers. This sort of research only further validated my protest against the recommended creams and further fueled my desire to heal my body, naturally. I understood that the skin pores are vulnerable to everything they are exposed to, so I only use products that are free of any known toxic, carcinogenic, inflammatory substances. I also ensured that every ingredient that touched my skin came with beneficial, therapeutic effects for my skin cells. I deeply felt that my skin would respond best to a blend of nutrient dense organic ingredients, clays, superfood extracts, cold pressed essential oils and butters.

Researching and finding these hidden gem ingredients became my own little creative outlet! I would isolate certain ingredients and note their effect on my skin, I would pay close attention to the activity of the ingredients and the synergy that they created together. What started as a carefully formulated blend of clays sourced from all over the world, quickly turned into a mineral rich, superfood regenerative meal for the skin on my face. Not only did it help reduce the swelling, and completely heal the abrasions on my face, but my complexion was crystal clear and silky soft. I knew I had something special. The same people that saw me in an ICU bed were blown away by what they saw just a few weeks later. Wondering what I did to heal so quickly, I drove all around town with my backpack, wooden spoon and bowl and would mix up a mask for them to try.

Blown away by the feedback, I knew I had something special. The Alitura Clay Mask was born! Next thing you know I’m melting down cacao butter in a cast iron pan in my kitchen, combining it with Manuka Honey, adding Sea Buckthorn Oil and other skin healthy botanical extracts…. And the best part…seeing and feeling results! The concoction made out of that cast iron pan became my Alitura Night Cream. It was great because I really became my own biggest science experiment. The cell turnover process was sped up by staying extremely consistent with a routine of using the Clay Mask which exfoliated dead skin, then following with the cream that I was making to heal, hydrate and deeply nourish the freshly exfoliated skin’s surface. I started to look forward to doing it.

Just 2 1/2 months after a life threatening accident, I was back on the runway, modeling for Macy’s! My first victory in my recovery.

Shortly after that, Bulletproof CEO Dave Asprey heard about what I was doing and had me on his top ranked podcast ‘Bulletproof Radio.’ Our podcast got such a response from it that he invested in me and my brand and the rest is history. Four years after launching the business out of a dingy studio apartment in North Hollywood, California, Alitura Naturals now has 20 products and is in 76 countries. Alitura is Latin for ‘feeding and nourishing,’ and we maintain that in our core brand mission and ingredient integrity in every product that we make.

I specifically want to say thank you to Mark Sisson and the extremely kind staff at Primal Blueprint, Primal Kitchen® and Mark’s Daily Apple. The first book that I ever read in the health and wellness space was The Primal Blueprint. From cover to cover, I found myself devouring information in that book and implementing it into my and my family’s lives. That book flat out changed my life, and was the catalyst in leading me towards an enriched quality of life by keeping me on a path towards my ultimate purpose.

It truly is an honor to contribute on a blog that I have read and been a fan of for years. Thank you!

— Andy Hnilo, CEO & Founder, Alitura Naturals

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

Folks, I hope you enjoyed Andy’s story as much as I have. I’m happy to share that Andy’s offering Mark’s Daily Apple folks a generous discount. Check out his product line and use the coupon code “primal” (of course) to receive 20% off anything in the entire store—and enjoy free U.S. shipping, too.

Be sure to catch Andy on this coming Monday’s Primal Blueprint Podcast (10/22/18). Our own Elle Russ chats with Andy about his near death experience, his commitment to full recovery, and the thriving business that came out of his resolve. 

Have an awesome weekend, everyone. 

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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44 thoughts on “From Bedridden to Radiance: How I Used a Holistic Lifestyle to Heal From a Near-Death Accident”

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  1. Love this story! I first heard Andy on that Bulletproof podcast years ago and have had the pleasure of meeting him in person several times. His products are amazing! Looking forward to hearing Elle’s interview.

  2. So glad you not only survived, but came back to THRIVE and offer your hard won wisdom to the world. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Wow – what an inspiring journey. Kudos to you for taking such a monumental challenge and turning it into something that benefits you and others. Thanks for sharing …. best wishes on your continued success and fulfillment!

  4. Nice ad. Love the quick mention of The Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple thrown in real quick at the end to kind of make this fit here. Sorry for any negativity but while a “Success Story” in its own right, this just felt ‘off’ to me, and nothing but a promotional piece to sell your product.

      1. I agree with PK’s comment.
        I mean I’m happy to learn about Andy’s recovery but this piece reads a lot more like a plug for the author’s skincare products than a typical PB success story.

    1. There’s no such thing as a “promotion” when someone starts with “why,” and if that “why” is filled with purpose and passion, anything is possible… it even has the power to unlock our inner- evolutionary hunter (AKA entrepreneurs) that’s trapped inside… we can seek out new land… new opportunities… create the world that we want to live in. Fortune favors the bold. Congratulations, Andy.

    2. I agree 100%. This felt totally contrived and seemed full of pseudo science. Mark’s blog is one of my favourite because it challenges a lot of the fluffy stuff with facts.

      This well very “off” in general

      1. I have been a fan of Mark Sisson, Primal Blueprint, and Mark’s Daily Apple for years. When I was creating The Clay Mask, off of Latigo Canyon Road in Malibu, I would often wonder if he and I would cross paths. His book, Primal Blueprint, spearheaded my passion and interest in the paleo lifestyle. This is just cool for me, personally. Of course it is an honor to share my story on a blog that I subscribe to and have for years, it is great exposure. I built this business from scratch, falling asleep in post office parking lots while my car is running… I put quite a bit of work into the formulation of products in an attempt to be a change in an industry laced with so many harsh chemicals. The editors and staff all tested and tried the products first and seemed to enjoy them, as many people all around the world have. As far as ‘pseudo science,’ we have another article coming out this week that ‘deep-dives’ into the research based clinical studies of my favorite ingredients. I really feel that you will enjoy reading that.

  5. What an amazing attitude and personal fortitude. To take an event like that and turn it into something that becomes your passion in life and helps other people is pretty special. There are so many toxins in our world having products like this is great, I bookmarked the web site.

  6. Hey Andy,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I have read numerous of these, but your story really resonated with me.I survived a bad car accident back in May of this year. I firmly believe that the Primal lifestyle helped with my physical, mental, and emotional recovery. Thanks again!

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience Andy.

    You have an amazing thirst for life! A serious lesson for us all too.

    We never know how or when these challenges present themselves but it is crucially important that everyday we work on ourselves to prepare for what may come our way.

    I wouldn’t have a clue how tough this would have been to get through but your inner strength, resolve, dedication and action to your goal to “set forward with passion to recover my health and to get back in better shape than I was before the accident” is inspiring and admirable – as is your respect and gratitude that you pay forward to the people like Mark and Dave (Legends – so is Pedram Shojai btw)

    These guys have been instrumental in my families life and its great that we can add another name to the list – Andy Hnilo.

    Life is a challenge and the way we deal with it is the good stuff.

    I wish you all the best mate.

  8. Very inspiring post. I am amazed at your recovery and thankful you are still around to create something you can share.
    I do not see it as a commercial for your business but as an encouragement to all of us. THANK YOU!

  9. No, that’s actually the truth. In 2008, I read Primal Blueprint for the first time and I got inspired by the lifestyle that Mark wrote about and right then and there I began to emulate his teachings. Been a fan ever since. This is really an honor for me, I made my Clay Mask right up off of Latigo Canyon in Malibu and I would often think of how cool it would be to run into Mark and tell him how he inspired me. Not an ad but I do appreciate and am grateful for the exposure on a blog that I have read for years. Truly just sharing a piece of me in hopes of possibly inspiring others. I have another article next week that really educates on ingredients and the specific science based benefits. I understand where you are coming from but please know that the intention is to inform.

  10. Interesting story – the Primal lifestyle is so much more than weight loss. Which product would you recommend for post-op scarring? I’m keen to try this.

    1. Thanks for reading! I absolutely recommend the Derma Roller, The Clay Mask and Night Cream for scar healing! Let me know how it goes 🙂

  11. Favorite lines: “Deer Placenta, egg yolks, bison liver… & We live in a stress-filled world. Poor quality nutrition, toxic chemicals, xenoestrogens, EMFs, blue-light, deadlines…”

  12. Awesome! We’ve all read or experienced the positive effects on the internal organs of the body when they come in contact with primal foods: can healing the epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal organs be any better of an example? And isn’t the skin the largest organ in the body, and possibly exposed to as many toxins and inflammation-causing substances as the gastro lining? Both the gastrointestinal lining and skin have an inside-the body and an outside-the-body component. Of COURSE skin would do well when both sides of it go primal! Congrats on your exemplary recovery, and for sharing your findings with others! Dermatologists could probably learn a few things from you!

  13. Good for you that you managed to put together a product that healed your livelihood: Your skin.
    I would like to hear more about how you healed physically. But only your skin, but the rest of your body too.
    Did Primal help you do that? Or did you find primal later on?

    1. Hi Stine! Well once I got my wires out and was able to chew, proper nutrition and an herbal tonic that I made REALLY helped me with my inflammation. From there, my workouts exploded… meaning, to get the chance to do something that was taken away from me, I began to workout harder, shorter and with high intensity, much like Mark teaches with more focus around nutrition and muscle recovery. Thanks for asking!

  14. Good for you that you managed to put together a product that healed your livelihood: Your skin.
    I would like to hear more about how you healed physically. Not only your skin, but the rest of your body too.
    Did Primal help you do that? Or did you find primal later on?

    1. (Not that it isn’t a great story!! But guys….this is clearly a promo piece to sell product. Just seems out of place here! Guess it was just a matter of time…)

      1. Ah, that really wasn’t the intention… this is an honor to me… I really look up to Mark Sisson and have for years. I am grateful for the exposure, but this is not an ad. Just sharing a piece of me to hopefully inspire… and if you want to check out our products, great, but if not, that is totally fine too 🙂

  15. Jumping in here today to thank Andy for sharing his story and for the support offered here (and to all of our success story folks). I want to emphasize, too, that most of us who start natural health related businesses are spurred by something very personal – often an event or set of conditions that didn’t respond to conventional wisdom or conventional treatment. That certainly was the case for me. I delved into the research to save my own health, and the rest was an unexpected offshoot. Andy’s story reflects those same values, and that’s why I was thrilled to publish it. I’d also invite you to check out Andy’s social media feeds to see how he’s living the best of ancestral health on all planes. (Anyone who knows me knows I love lamb, and I’ll be trying his latest lamb shank recipe.) And for those of you interested in his skin care routine and products, we’ll be publishing a follow-up to his story that offers more of a dive into the science of natural skin care. Stay tuned, and thanks, everybody.

    1. Ah, thank you Mark. Well said! Honored to be featured on this blog and thank you for the kind words. Big smile over here 🙂

  16. I saw his picture and instantly thought “this guy is hot” So reading the story and seeing “model” I said “ah okay”.

    Glad he survived and will have to ask my esthetician about these products.

  17. Hi Andy
    What an uplifting story you have!
    I’ve listened to you on quite a few podcasts and I’m amazed at your positive attitude and what you have achieved.
    I have bought some of your products last year and loved them and have just given myself a 60th birthday treat by placing another order.
    Keep spreading the word about healthy living.