My Health Journey
My favorite food when I was growing up was the grilled cheese sandwich…..
– with that easy “cheese” in the plastic wrap because it melted faster. Salisbury Steak TV Dinners, were pretty awesome as well, especially the ones with the little dessert in them. But the best thing ever was the frozen ding-dongs wrapped in aluminum foil that I popped into the microwave when I got home from school, tin foil and all. They usually defrosted before the microwave started smoking and that thing kept running FOREVER. Mom never knew about this microwave trick. During High School, McDonald’s apple pie with chocolate shake on it or “chicken” McNuggets with honey mustard sauce were staples.
I think I was around 8 when I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I have two curves and I think I am lucky because they generally compensate for each other. I remember there was a girl in middle school that had a back brace, luckily my Mom decided not to put me in one. I have heard that the brace thing actually caused more harm than good, but either way I am glad I didn’t get one. I had frequent back pains and remember having to sit down a lot when the rest of the family kept going. I had motion sickness, which meant I was allowed to sit in the front seat of the family’s orange Volvo! Worked in my favor. I had frequent ear infections and nose bleeds during my teenage years. These were just all-normal things growing up, right?
In my early 20’s, I had various joint pains; I call them my “itis’s”. The doctor said I had bursitis in my shoulder (isn’t this something old people get??) I also wore a brace on my wrist every time my tendinitis flared up – it didn’t go away for years. I attributed this particular “itis” to crawling around under brush, trapping for wood rats on a California spotted owl study during my college years. When I bought my Harley Davidson in the late 90’s, I had to upgrade it with an electronic brake lever so that I could pull the lever with my tendinitis wrist. That’s about 10 years of tendinitis – that’s normal, right? This was the period of Advil or other NSAID almost everyday, multiple times a day.
Weight gain was always an issue for me (in my own mind). I tried every diet out during the last 20 years. I drank slim fast for two weeks, was a vegetarian for a couple of months, did Body for Life, South Beach, Weight Watchers, the Flat Belly Diets, always making sure that whatever diet I was on was low fat. Fat makes fat, right? I was never very active; I hated gym in high school and never tried out for any sports. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I signed up for a gym and have used it on and off for the past 20 years.
I started getting migraines when I was 28. I remember specifically one day driving home from working in Riverside County, California, and having to pull over to get rid of my lunch because my head hurt that bad. My Mom had horrendous migraines when I was growing up, which had her lying in a dark room for days. So, migraines are normal right?
As an aside, my Mom has since been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease. Auto-immune diseases usually has a genetic component and presents itself when the body becomes stressed. Unfortunately, this means I have a higher likelihood of also being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease.
The pain in my stomach started in my 30’s. I would double over for hours with cramps in my intestines and, by this time, my migraines were also coming more frequently. I started to realize this wasn’t normal and sought out answers. I had a colonoscopy just to make sure it wasn’t something serious, it wasn’t. I was diagnosed afterwards with IBS – C, Irritable Bowel Syndrome with constipation. Having one bowel movement once a week is normal, right? I was sent away with the “just eat more fiber” fix. I can tell you eating more fiber did not change anything. My trick was to go shopping which seemed to relax me enough so that finally stuff would move. At this point, I started alternative treatments like chiropractor adjustments and acupuncture to help. I also stopped eating fake sugar, caffeine and carbonated beverages after turning to Dr. Google for help.
In the last few years, mid-40’s, my body finally started to shut down. I started to get allergies when I turned 40, which led to bacterial infections and multiple viruses. I used antibiotics consistently, for ear infections, urinary tract infections or sinus infections. We know now that every time you take antibiotics it destroys the good gut bacteria that are essential to the immune system functioning properly.
The Turn Around started when my sister, who had already realized that she was gluten intolerant, left a PALEO magazine at my house. It got me thinking that when I was on diets that were more whole foods based I felt better. I also started thinking maybe all the symptoms I had had throughout my life weren’t normal. (I still am wondering why I never connected the dots between my sister’s gluten intolerance and me…. hindsight.)
After much consternation, I went on an elimination diet and stopped eating processed foods, grains, dairy, beans (including soy), and limited the amount of processed sugar in my diet. I started eating whole foods; fat, high-quality protein, and lots of vegetables made in creative ways. And I realized that I liked cooking and I started to feel A TON better. The aches and pains went away, the migraines went away, the “peri-menopausal” symptoms that the doctor said I was experiencing went away. I lost 30 pounds in 3 months.
Unfortunately, the stress from my job, my life and changing my diet abruptly caught up with me. I got another sinus infection and ended up with another round of antibiotics. My migraines came back sporadically and most of the inflammation symptoms, I couldn’t sleep, I had huge anxiety and depression. My digestive system and immune system became so weak I couldn’t recover. Finally, my adrenal glands went into distress, I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. I sought help with recovery from a Holistic Doctor (She is actually a DOM – Doctor of Oriental Medicine). I continued on my Paleo diet and we used supplements to start treating the various symptoms.
We finally diagnosed that the bloating in my stomach was a symptom of Candida overgrowth. A live blood morphology test confirmed this suspicion. I stopped drinking wine (the only alcohol I was drinking) and limited my sugar intake even more while we focused on getting my digestion back in shape. Through the use of various supplements we started fighting the Candida. This was the first turn around in my health journey.
My second turn around was to take my Doctor’s recommendation and go out on medical leave for 2 months. This allowed my adrenals the much-needed time away from stress to start healing. The exhaustion went away, my memory started to return, and I stopped getting the low in the afternoon. I also used that time to work with a therapist on stress reduction tips and meditating more. I am still having some ups and downs, but the ups are gaining on the downs.
All of the various symptoms throughout my life were trying to tell me that what I was eating was directly affecting my health, both short-term and long-term. It wasn’t until I went to a functional Doctor that all of these symptoms were looked at holistically. Looking back, I can now see that the low fat processed food diet throughout my life led to the various chronic illnesses that have plagued me.
This journey has led me to believing in the power of returning to a whole food diet that our ancestors have eaten for thousands of years. This was the diet eaten prior to the introduction of the industrial revolution processed food and outside of government Standard American Diet guidelines.
I am thankful that this journey led me to the Nutritional Therapy Association where I have received a functional nutrition education that provides me with the tools to look at signs and symptoms holistically, so that I can help myself and others get to the root cause of issues, ultimately helping the body heal. I am committed to continuing my health journey and am passionate about helping others gain optimal health for themselves with the knowledge I have gained through my own journey.