Before my own health and wellness awakening, I had a contentious relationship with the whole “let food be thy medicine” idea.
My daughter was 11 when she was hospitalized for a month and diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called ulcerative colitis.
Her doctor didn’t talk about nutrition and told me that anything she could eat at that point would be a good thing but to follow the BRAT diet until she felt better. Above all, I was to make sure she took her medication. He didn’t talk about nutrition or much about food choices beyond the BRAT diet, but I wasn’t at the point where I would have been receptive to that. I would have
thought he was a quack.
Looking back, I was afraid that if she stopped taking her medication, she would have to wear a colostomy bag, or worse…die. How could our food choices really make a difference?
I assumed the medicine should take care of everything. I was so wrong about that.
I’ve watched my daughter battle this condition for most of her life. Knowing what I know now, I’m often racked with guilt about how I pooh-poohed the importance of nutrition and food. I wonder if I could have prevented it had I not allowed her to grow up on pancakes and Hot Pockets. Of
course, no one can really know the answer to that.
A boyfriend I had in my late 30s had multiple sclerosis and I would get on his case about going to naturopaths for help – I told him they were fakes and would prevent him from getting the real help he needed. He was always talking about how the quality of our food was more important
than what we ate. It annoyed me. I now understand why he broke up with me; I was not supportive of his very real struggle and insights into his own health and the degenerative disease he was battling.
It wasn’t until my late 40s that I started to wake up to a new way of thinking about health and wellness and to understand how thoroughly interconnected everything is, not just to food but to relationships, physical activity, career, spirituality, creativity, and our environment. We don’t
have to choose one and sacrifice another – they are intertwined.
I credit this awakening to my mentor Shawn Stevenson. I don’t know where I’d be today had I not stumbled upon his podcast. His voice and words had the right tone and resonated with me, allowing me to open my mind and finally hear all the things I had been pushing away.
I listened to Shawn’s podcast for a couple of years; I couldn’t get enough of it. The problem was that I was not fully applying any of it. I was an information hoarder. Gathering and preaching but never putting anything into practice in my own life, at least not with any commitment.
In 2018, I turned 50 and weighed in at 218 pounds. I’m only 5 feet tall, people. I was miserable and hated to look in the mirror. Always terrified someone would post a full body picture of me on social media.
My self-image ruled my life. Instead of facing the problem head-on, I simply put my life on hold and refused to engage in it outside of my home. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be part of the “real world.”
It was March of that same year when I had my first big health scare. I started having severe pain in my upper right side, just below the rib cage. It would start in the evening, usually after dinner and would last 4 to 6 hours.
I couldn’t get comfortable in bed and would be getting up to vomit
every 30 minutes. When the pain finally subsided, it was time to get up for the day, yet I was so exhausted that I couldn’t.
With no health insurance, I couldn’t afford to go to a doctor so I did some research using Dr.Google. The pain was always in the same place and I discovered it must be my gallbladder.
One morning, the pain was so bad it took me an hour to get out of bed and walk to the living room, which was only 10 feet away. I stood in one place for 4 hours. Finally, the pain subsided enough for me to reach for the phone and call my mother who lived an hour away. She came and took me straight to the urgent care center.
It was the first time I had stepped foot in a medical office in over 20 years. They ran blood tests and did an ultrasound and confirmed that I indeed had gallbladder stones. As the day went on, I felt better. The next day I got an unexpected call from the urgent care center. They advised me to go to the emergency room immediately. I told the woman on the phone that I felt fine and didn’t think it was an emergency. She insisted, so I went.
I waited in the lobby of the emergency room for six hours. Good thing it wasn’t a true emergency!
Finally, my name was called. They put me in a hospital gown, hooked me up to an IV and left me there for another two hours. A doctor finally appeared, he ordered blood tests and a scan to confirm the ultrasound from the previous doctor and then hastily left the room. Two hours later he appeared again and announced that I had gallstones. I cringed. “So I hear.”
He then said, “We’ll get you into surgery within the next couple of hours and have your gallbladder removed.” I was reeling with surprise but said, “Wait a minute, I don’t know if I want it removed! Is it necessary?”
He told me I’d never be able to eat any foods with fat, that I’d have to stick to a boring diet and that eventually the gallbladder would have to be removed. I told him I’d like to keep my gallbladder for now. Irritated, he said he would talk to the surgeons.
Another two hours came and went. He finally appeared again and said I could go home but to get it taken out as soon as I could. A month later, the bills rolled in at $10,000 for an “emergency’’ diagnosis of gallbladder stones.
Imagine what it would have been if I had had the surgery!
I figured that my gallbladder was there for a reason. I was serious about trying to save the little guy, so I researched my options. I came across a book that really made a lot of sense. It was written by an Australian liver doctor named Sandra Cabot and entitled “How to Heal Your Gallbladder.”
It’s been two years and I still have my gallbladder thanks to that little book.
It didn’t take long until I was hit with another health scare. I developed an autoimmune condition called alopecia. I lost all the hair on top of my head in a 4-inch diameter. Talk about horrifying. I decided 50 was not my friend.
I knew all this stuff had to be related, so I continued to study different diets and foods, and found that because of these two conditions I had to create my own protocol. There is no one-size-fits-all diet when it comes to health.
I won’t go into all the details of how I found my way back to health but long story short, my hair grew back, I lost 60 pounds, and the fogginess and self-loathing started to lift. My gallbladder attacks were becoming less frequent and less painful, my energy returned, and I realized I felt more fully alive than I ever had in my life.
I never took medication. And I never gave up fat in my diet, only certain types. It was all a process of figuring out what foods and lifestyle practices I could try by adding or subtracting, and I started paying closer attention to how my body responded to those efforts.
My diet now is anything but boring – it’s adventurous, diverse, and full of fun little surprises. Food really can be your medicine by giving your body what it needs to heal and then maintain itself.