I have been learning so much on my real food journey and I am continuing to learn and often being surprised along the way. I changed to a Paleo diet at the end of March, moving to a grain-free, dairy-free diet to help resolve some ongoing digestive issues and terrible eczema.
One of the surprises I encountered was they are not two separate health issues but their roots are the same! If you’ve been reading my past posts you know I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease in 2008 and have been following a strict gluten-free diet ever since. It helped but I’ve still been dealing with some issues. I’ve still experienced a lot of fatigue, digestive discomfort (and some other unmentionable unpleasantness that goes with it), depression, teeth problems, allergies and respiratory issues, and skin problems.
Guess what?! They’re all related. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on where I have no health insurance right now, and through that (and my son’s pediatrician AND pediatric gastro-intestinal doctor have been nice enough to give me some advice as my son has started to experience some of the same issues). One book that has been startlingly eye-opening is The Paleo Approach, by Sarah Ballantyne. It was reading this book that made me make the decision to try a Paleo diet, though I’d actually been considering it for the better part of a year or so.
I had no idea how complex our digestive system was and how if it goes out of wack it will start to affect all sorts of other areas of the body. The GI specialist my son has been seeing recommended the Paleo diet for me last year, thinking grain-free might help me. He did not recommend it for my son because of his age and he told me that where I was feeding him whole-food, unrefined whole grains that was really good for him at his young age and we’re hoping some of the digestive issues he has he will simply grow out (he has tested negative for Celiacs and parasites and we are looking into some allergy testing – they want to wait until he gets a little older as they say the results are often unclear at a younger age). If the allergy tests later this year don’t come up with anything and he’s still having issues we may give Paleo or GAPS (another healing diet) a try for him.
But I digress. Sarah begins her book by explaining what led her on her own journey of health issues – many of which were very similar to my own – and she says in the first chapter, “What I discovered was that the link between food and inflammation goes far beyond food sensitivities. I learned that some foods cause inflammation and inbalances in key hormones that regulate the immune system; that some foods irritate the lining of the gut, interfere with digestion, and deplete nutrients from the body.”
All of a sudden all the dots started to connect for me. I thought I was sensitive to dairy, intolerant of gluten, and that allergies were just something I was going to have to deal with. I’ve dealt with terrible depression on and off for many years – but I’ve also lost two children, my husband and I have had some financial difficulties, we’ve both experienced a lot of personal and professional disappointment, and even the health issues I’ve already mentioned all take their physical and emotional toll. I take very good care of my teeth now but I didn’t used to and most, if not all, the issues I’ve mentioned can be very physically tiring.
All these are very valid issues with legitimate explanations but they can be very closely related and I believe in my case they are. Celiacs disease is an autoimmune disorder, as is anemia and eczema. Side effects of these can contain everything I’ve already mentioned. Whether it is caused by the celiacs or the celiacs is a cause of something else I decided to start healing my body and it was that that led me to start sharing my journey in the first place.
So, what could I do about it? I started with the basics. I learned the enamel of my teeth is weak and it is very typical of people with autoimmune disorders (including celiacs). I also learned that in addition to that a lot of tooth decay can be blamed to today’s processed, nutritionally lacking food (have you heard of Weston Price? His research on the subject is fascinating) and so along with doing my best to better care for my teeth and gums it is part of my clean/whole food journey and related to my overall health. Although I don’t care much for meat I moved on from a vegetarian diet as I discovered it was not best for me, thus helping to deal with the anemia that shows up almost every blood test I have had in the last few years. I still deal with some ongoing insomnia (that has been an issue almost as long as I can remember) but by focusing on trying to get more rest and getting more exercise it has helped with my energy levels and the depression too. I’m also using prayer and mediation and overall simply trying to change my outlook on life; I’m limiting my contact with some overly critical and negative (and sorry, but frankly toxic) people in my life, and trying to focus on the positive in my life and everything I have to be thankful for (like the two amazing people in the picture with me – that was from our first family camping trip earlier this month).
As far as the allergies and debilitating asthma I have been dealing with part of it started by cleaning up my physical life. Ten years ago an allergist advised me to remove the two cats from our home. Repeatedly. I ignored his advice and my issues got worse and worse. Then last year my son started to show signs of allergies and breathing problems and though it broke our hearts to do it we made the heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye to them because ultimately our health was more important. Also we have recently moved and our prior home was surrounded by dirt and very dusty, plus there was a lot of moisture and some mold inside; all of which was badly affecting me. After a couple of months in a cleaner atmosphere the difference is night and day and I am now using my steroid inhaler (which on its own was messing with my system) less in a week than I used to in a single DAY.
All of this helped but there were still some issues and it takes the body time to heal, but even in just a couple of months I am seeing a difference. The biggest struggles that made me make the diet change were the digestive issues and eczema. I’ve been sharing more about those lately but I was spending a fortune on stuff for my skin and missing out on a lot of things because I was either sick to my stomach or in pain, or my skin looked so bad I was too self-conscious to leave the house. It was running my life. I was constantly miserable and unhappy. My husband can probably tell you story after story of me losing my temper at him or our two-year old for the dumbest most inconsequential things or watching me curled up on the floor and bawling or moaning because I was in terrible pain or itching so bad I literally wanted to peel my skin off.
That leads me to this. A couple of pages later Sarah states that, “…diet and lifestyle are intricately intertwined with the body’s ability to heal.” Realizing that changed my life. I don’t claim to know it all or swear that you should do it too. I am doing what I have learned is right for ME and I am sharing it with you only because I am learning so, SO much and simply wanted to share that.
I went off on more a tangent than I meant to, and I suddenly realized I just shared some things I haven’t told anyone and this has been such an emotional journey (along with the physical) that I’m actually in tears right now. It’s not easy to share. To admit to some of the things I have done or felt and I am so thankful for the people in my life that love me unconditionally, flaws and all. My husband has been so amazing on this journey and so encouraging and I couldn’t do it without him. He hasn’t exactly followed me on the Paleo diet (I think it has something to do with the fact there is no such thing as a Paleo beer), but he has liked the changes so far and more often than that he picks the grain-free alternative when I give him a choice (he loves cauliflower rice or last night I had my hamburger over a salad and he refused the bread and did the same). It’s his choice and I’m fine with that. I just wanted to say how wonderful he has been and understanding and he has been my greatest cheerleader so far. I am so blessed.
This started as a completely different post. It was supposed to be about sauerkraut!! I just started explaining about healing the body and was going to go on to talk about fermented foods and the job they can do in healing but I’ve gone off on such a different direction than I meant to I decided to make this its own post and I’ll add the sauerkraut one next. I hope I’m helping somebody out there. Thank you for listening and for those of you who have been so kind and encouraging. It is very therapeutic to share this with you, but I hope through it I can help someone else. I struggled and struggled with a title with this one and it might sound a little hokey but it is so true.
I know I haven’t been very good at adding blog posts lately (honestly, it’s just part of dealing with some of the aforementioned issues) and I’m trying to get more consistent with it, but if you don’t want to miss a thing please follow me elsewhere too. I am on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/preciousbelovedblessing, you can follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/precbelovbless, pin with me on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/epselos or follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/preciousbelovedblessing.
Thank you again. Every time I get discouraged and begin to wonder if anyone EVER sees any of this or cares I get a wonderful comment from one of you, spurring me on! You’re wonderful!
I have so much more to share but for now I’m off to soak up some sunshine, get some exercise and spend some time with one of my favorite people. I’m taking my little boy for a swim in the pool.
Have a great day,
The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body, by Sarah Ballantyne, 2014, Victory Belt Publishing, ISBN 1936608391
Check out some information from the Weston A. Price Foundation on dental care here: http://www.westonaprice.org/notes-from-yesteryear/