When Healthy Food is Your Enemy

healthy food

I’ll admit it. As soon as I get in sight of the bakery section in the grocery store my heart skips a beat. I might drool a little. Donuts make me want to leap for joy. Why are those darn things so cheap and enticing? Don’t they know I’m trying to be gluten-free? Yet they taunt me from behind the glass all innocent looking with their golden, freshly frosted outside and creamy delightful inside. My arch enemy and guilty pleasure all rolled into one.

But the “eat whatever I want” era came to a screeching halt when I was diagnosed as autoimmune. “Natural” and “healthy” was now the new, or not so new, trend. My body no longer functioned properly and healthy food held the promise of possible recovery. 70-90% of the immune system is located in the gut. Fix the gut and you can fix your immune system. That’s what the research said. The argument that food and nutrition could be a better and safer form of treatment for healing chronic disease was all too convincing.

So I got to work. Out with the processed, packaged, and modified foods. Hello antibiotic-free, grass-fed, organic, clean and friendly foods. Donuts took a back seat to their nutritious counterparts (although I have still been known to sneak one on occasion). My disease changed my outlook on food as I began to slowly replace our “American” diet with foods that were hormone-free, organic, grass-fed, local, and non-GMO. Superfoods like kale, quinoa, avocados, kiefer, and nuts littered my diet. I went vegan. I tried vegetarian. I became Paleo. I experimented with exclusion diets and avoided 25 food sensitivities all at once for a month. I went dairy-free, gluten-free, corn-free, and egg-free…all at the same time, for a long time. I took a regimen of supplements so intense that I had 20 dixie cups all marked by time, an alarm set for each one. I saw a naturopath and drank dirt, or what I affectionately called, “bunny farm” (some of you know what I’m talking about). I made high fiber smoothies that made me gag but I plugged my nose and chugged it down anyway. There were moments I thought I would go crazy. But I was desperate. I did it out of necessity. I wanted my health back.

But after two years of eating better, taking supplements, and making meals from scratch, I was still suffering. My digestive and gastrointestinal system were still dysfunctional and my pain was at an all time high. I felt discouraged and was getting depressed. It didn’t make sense. I was eating “healthy”. I tried all the tricks in the book. I was following all the suggested tips for optimal nutrition but I wasn’t improving…in fact, I was just getting worse. What if I was broken beyond repair? I felt frustrated and confused.

Can healthy and nutritious foods actually do more harm than good?

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The Broken Road: my journey with disease

the broken road my journey with diseaseIt started out as a normal summer day and we couldn’t have been more thrilled. Hubs and I had just purchased our very first home. And it was yellow. I had prayed for yellow. Moving day was set, our boxes packed. We were moving right along with our list of goals: New house, check. Jobs, check. Furniture, check. Search for a dog, check. Our future was looking bright.

And then it happened. Something didn’t feel quite right. My energy started to fail and I found myself getting easily fatigued. Over the next few weeks my knees began to swell until they became the size of cantaloupes. As the swelling increased, the pain grew. It hurt to walk, it hurt to stand, it hurt to move.

I spent my 30th birthday and a good part of that year battling a crippling disease. Instead of gracefully waltzing into a new decade, I hobbled my way through. Within two weeks of our move I became confined to our couch, utterly fatigued without even enough energy to make myself a sandwich. Even hobbling across the floor to the bathroom became a tremendous feat. My body was rapidly breaking down before my very eyes and there was nothing I could do about it. Continue reading