We Will Both Thrive
Planting my garden this year was a small act of faith. I didn’t feel like working in it, haven’t felt like it for a couple of years, but so hoped that this would be the year I had the energy to enjoy being in it. So I prepared the soil, a little, and planted. It isn’t very lush. It hasn’t been fertilized or composted enough. It isn’t babied like it used to be. But it’s getting there and that’s exactly how I feel about my body.
I don’t have a definite, easy diagnosis to give for why it was sheer willpower that got me out of bed most mornings the last 8 years. I could reach into the diagnosis hat and pull out several excuses I’ve been given: Epstein Barr Syndrome, IBS? , sleep disturbances, reflux, spinal misalignment, food intolerance, hormonal imbalance… each of these coming with a set of prescriptions or treatments that may, or may not, be necessary. But no one treatment fixed the problem by itself. Most likely it was a big, ugly combination of these that took hold of my body when I was sick as a teenager. (I had mono, pneumonia, and didn’t get proper nutrition all at once.) I went from being extremely athletic to barely able to sit through an entire school day.
It was not until I was married and my daughter was about a year old that I realized I felt really good one day, then the next, and the next. Like a lot of women I began taking care of myself when I began taking care of babies. Things should have continued on this way, but stress and reintroduction of previous allergens to my diet began their dirty work in my body. I probably got hit with another round of the mono virus somewhere in there too and suddenly I was weak as a kitten, had bad acne, joint pain, migraines, sick stomach, constant fatigue, and foggy thinking. It was all so gradual I just could not pinpoint where it began.
People, I eat healthfully and am preachy about moderate, but good, fitness. I knew it wasn’t about over training or poor nutrition. Doctors would ask if I was depressed or under stress and what could I say but, “I am now.” I never took anything for the discouragement. That would have been so, so counter-productive. I found that if you stay sick long enough and say “I used to feel great,” the doctor will inevitably ask when that was and your only answer will be something like, “in my twenties.” This just elicits an eyeroll. Who didn’t feel great in their twenties? But I knew, in my heart, that what was happening inside of me was off the normal path of aging, so I continued to seek God about it and became my own lab rat.
I never got too wacky with experiments, although I did quit all forms of physical activity and tried to stay in bed much of the day for a few months per advice in Epstein Barr forums. That was a real downer. I also tried tons-o-meat and no meat diets. I did read about crazy things people with similar problems tried, like self-dosing with iodine (Don’t ever do it!!), but I did not feel led to do anything like that. I mostly prayed and listened as I walked in the evenings. I listened to my gut too, and the consensus of the two was that all of my many ailments were brought on, or intensified, by food intolerance.
I made an appointment with my new-ish family doctor and told him everything. He was so great. He didn’t prescribe birth control or laxatives or arthritis medicine or Ambien (Yes, that’s what one specialist tried to give me for joint pain?!). Instead he set me up for multiple food allergy/ intolerance tests and walked me through the worst food reintroduction diet known to man. I call it the Pinto Beans and Whitefish for Breakfast Diet. You won’t be finding it on the bestseller list. But, it only lasted a few months and allowed me to see exactly which foods I was reacting to.
So, yeah, I have way more energy again. My face is clearing up, somewhat, and my migraines are almost gone. I am so thankful to God for this. I’m also living as much like I did in my twenties as possible. No dairy. No foods with trace amounts of dairy, which rules out junk food and bready things. I shaved off most of the responsibilities I had outside of my home. I do whatever I feel like doing outside with my children, which is usually running or riding bikes, and I don’t go nuts with the coffee.
The result is a huge “bump” in my energy level and overall well-being. If you have a strange set of ailments that don’t seem to be related to one another and also don’t respond completely to one treatment, you may find this helpful. If you have a gut feeling your problems are happening in your gut, chances are you are right. I think we are all suffering from this to some degree and our kids even more so.
I still see a chiropractor occasionally and take the vitamins my doc suggested. I do not take The Pill for hormonal/ acne reasons anymore. Since my innards have calmed down, I find that the activities that once gave me migraines only the chiropractor could fix do not bother me now. (That includes knitting!) I rarely take migraine meds, can breathe better than I have in years, have no joint pain, and am rarely sick. Possibly, my immune system isn’t fighting the effects of allergens from food all of the time and can actually do it’s intended job.
So, there’s my long, disjointed health post. I tried to think of a way to make all of this interesting, but short of using sock puppets or writing an opera to tell this story, I had no ideas. Just throwing it out there. If you needed to see this, you’re still reading; if not, you’ve happily clicked on.
I loved reading this. It's amazing the connection between how we nourish our bodies and the way we feel. Since going totally vegan in February, I've noticed so many amazing changes about myself, I'm starting to wonder if I have a dairy allergy. So glad you're feeling more energized. Hope it continues!
I'm glad you enjoyed it, Jennifer. I've waited a while to talk about this to make sure the changes I made really were making a lasting difference. You may have an intolerance to dairy. So many people have dairy and wheat sensitivities and don't realize it. They live each day in a state of inflammation and histamine release and think it's normal. Or like me, they have other legitimate problems (spinal issues) but don't see how the allergens trigger an inflammatory response that worsens the condition. I'm also glad you're enjoying such good health!
Great post, Michelle. The more I read about how diet influences health, the more I try to implement changes in my own diet. Although I don't have any "huge" problems, many of the things you've listed have bothered me for years. Slowly but surely, we'll find good, healthy diets that work for us. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Yes, it is a process! The hardest part was eliminating the junk I knew was bad for me because it's bad for everyone. After that, it's just trial and error.
That sound like a very long journey. You can feel desperate when trying to chase a disease of difficult diagnose. I fought in the past severe back problems. The doctors tried many things, but sometimes the answer is somewhere else, and you when you have it, your body just starts taking care of itself. I'm glad you're feeling fine again.
Thanks and yes, you must know what I mean, Elena. I hope you have found the cause or fix for your back problems. I'm thinking you must have to be as physically active as you are, but I also know people can push through great pain to stay moving because I did.
It's really great that you have finally found a solution to your ailments and now you have the energy to do what you love! I'd love to see more of your garden. 🙂
The root cause of my back pain was stress at work. I had a horrible experience of mobbing. But doctors just gave me painkillers and muscle relaxing pills that just made my condition worse (some of those pills can induce depression). I just needed a change and start moving. I was not doing a lot of sports at that time, and the lack of light of Belgium was also an important factor. Since I moved back to Spain I feel alive again, with energies. And since I started doing sports I never had any severe back issues again. And I can carry heavy stuff if needed, something I couldn't think of during the bad times.
Thanks, Vanessa I know I'm on to something here and hope I'll continue to get stronger.
That's awful! I'm so glad you're out of that work situation and have a fresh start in your new home. Moving more seems counterproductive to people with back pain, but if they're moving correctly, its so much better for the back and definitely for stress.