Food As Medicine: How I'm Doing It
There are many good reasons for me to pause at the end of 2017 and reflect on my health. For those who know I have Multiple Sclerosis, I often get asked how I am able to stay so strong and able-bodied without taking the Western medication that is so often associated with it. If your interest stops here because you think this blog does not apply to you, I will say this: My body is like a testing ground for all folks. I am able to immediately and clearly see in my body what causes harm and what is helpful. For this reason, I think that my story and the steps I have taken can be helpful information for all. While I still whole heartedly recognize that we all have unique bodies that get thrown by different triggers and require different methods for healing. For this blog I will focus on food as medicine.
A new friend has come into my life, with intense symptoms that have rocked her world, no clear diagnosis and a slew of baffled (read hurtful because medical ego comes out big time when a diagnosis is not clear) doctors. Her panic and desire to feel better take me back to the time before my diagnosis in 2010. Yesterday I looked back at my medical records. Besides an annoying amount of incorrect information and my neurologist referring to me as “A most interesting subject,” I was shocked to see that it was early 2013 that I stopped taking medication for my MS. I have been saying it was been two or three years for two or three years. It has been five years since I have been treating myself and in 2017 I had no major incidents of this illness.
The main way I keep my body recovering is simple; diet. Immediately following my diagnosis, I went from a fairly heavy meat eater to being a vegetarian, believing this to be the standard of health. I did this for two years, where I was mostly weak and low energy (other folks with MS have great results, see resources at the end.) I saw a holistic doctor who insisted I needed meat as blood type O (eating for your blood type is not necessarily my jam but for others it is and I have included with the resources.) I immediately felt better. But I was having a ton of food allergies. With a nutritionist, I did an elimination diet and brought back in suspiciously offending foods one by one. Many of them she insisted should not be a problem for me but they were and by then I was into trusting my intuition.
It really has been five years since I stopped eating gluten, dairy, sugar, legumes, and yeast. I follow a paleo diet largely inspired by that of Dr. Terry Wahls (see resources.) While I have been working on my emotional and mental bodies with yoga and meditation, I believe the change in my food has meant the change in my health. It is so crucial that it is the reason I did not heed this call to travel for at least a few years. But that was wise, Divine timing. In the past three years I have gotten strong in so many ways that I am now my fiercest advocate. Having a catch phrase that allows folks to understand the severity while still being totally confused about your ailment helps. Mine is “Thank you so much. I do love (insert food) but my body does not. If I eat that, I will be in bed for three days.” Not sure how I settled on three days, but that is about right. It got me to turn down the best crusted-on-the-pan-bottom rice yesterday that I almost relented to once I saw the hurt look on my host’s face. Saying it outloud reminded me that my health is always more important than saving face.
Basically I believe all illness to be driven by inflammation. My diagnosis is MS but it really could be anything. My body is off, it’s inflamed, it reacts to many things as if they were foreign invaders that need to be attacked, it is in a state of vigilance and fight or flight. And it is no surprise to me given the amount of stress I was subjecting it to for so many years. The unprocessed grief, the reckless decision making, the bizarre choices of employment. I don’t think I am alone in this. I think the majority of Americans can relate to a hyper-stressed over relatively nothing lifestyle (we may not admit to the relatively nothing part but we are regularly responding to solvable problems with huge amounts of adrenaline and cortisol that eat away at our bodies.)
This inflamed body of mine has led to a chronic yeast problem that is always on the verge of being totally unmanageable. I had three pieces of fried plantain in Mali and my whole body burned like a fire until I relented with Monistat, where I was able to bring it back to it’s baseline burn. I believe the healing of the yeast to be the crux of ALL my healing, making my food choices even more important. I have had to cut out any yeast encouraging foods, such as rice and all fruit (in rice and fruit heavy lands.) And forget about fermented things, which are normally good for the gut health unless you are yeasty like me. I wish I could say that the yeast was healing or that I knew how to heal it. That is still unknown. It may mean a strict alkaline diet of mainly green vegetables for a long, long time. The two months I did this for before my travels was a drop in the bucket. It may be a spontaneous healing. It may come from my heart space. But for now, I don’t eat the things that inflame it.
I say all this with the desire in mind for you to be inspired by discipline. Discipline rooted in self-love. Your health may not require such an extreme stance but it probably requires some reflection, an open dialogue with your body, a pausing to listen. A CURIOSITY. Doesn’t it make sense that what we eat is the fuel for each one of our cells? And that fairly wise decision-making in this area could ward off most illness and perhaps cure all? This is not a weight-thing and is not meant to come at the holidays to induce regret or shame. It is call to eat high energetic food, organic when we can. Meat raised happily in pastures. Whole foods that don’t come in packages. Because we deserve to be at our most vital. And the times are calling for it. We can only do our Goddess work when we feel Divine.
*I recognize these are conflicting. And I do not propose any one, believing we all need to find what works best for us. Most are related to MS but, again, I believe those of us with chronic illness are just an exaggerated version of what is going on in all of our bodies. And thus, whole healthy eating may (probably will) bring us all into a more vital, high functioning state.
Dr. McDougall Low Fat
Dr. D’Adamo Blood Type
Dr. Wahls Paleo