See what I did there…hilarious. There is SO much I want to share when it comes to food and using food to heal your body. I was so incredibly uneducated as to what I was putting in my body and the negative effects is was/could have been causing. This photo is from 2012, in Korea, 4 years before diagnosis.
I don’t know why, out of the thousands of articles available online about MS, one of the first articles I came across was written by Dr. Terry Wahls, a Dr. who practiced and firmly believed in Western medicine, the same medicine that was failing her and her condition. It took only 3 years from the time of diagnosis of RRMS to SPMS. I won’t go into too much detail as I will provide the link below. As Dr. Wahls’ health continued to decline, she turned to Traditional medicine. Specifically, food.
Before I dive into my chat about food, I want to clarify again, this information is from medical journals, my health care team and testimonies I came across during those hours I would kick back on the couch with a cup a’ joe and read about MS. What’s most important to remember is that every single one of us is different and that the disease affects us differently which is why there are so many unanswered questions. The human body is estimated to house 95-100 billion nerves and not one of us has the exact same nerves affected nor will we experience symptoms the same way. It all boils down to what nerves are damaged and how that nerve decides to affect our body and to what extent. I fully stand behind getting a food sensitivity test so you know what your own body can and cannot digest properly, foods that may cause inflammation etc. What one person should remove from their diet isn’t necessarily beneficial for you too. A food sensitivity test can be done by a Naturopath and if possible, I encourage you to add one to your health care team.
So, what the Gut?…
Exactly. Leaky Gut to be exact. This term has been linked to a variety of autoimmune diseases and essentially what Dr. Wahls refers to when she discusses using food as medicine and healing the body first at the root cause, for it to start healing overall. Some suggest that in healing the lining of our “leaky gut” which is where the lining of the intestines essentially “leaks”, due to inflammation caused by foods we eat since our body can’t absorb or digest it properly. The damage between the cells of our gut wall allow toxins to flow into our blood stream which would normally be eliminated in a “healthy gut”.
What does our body naturally do when something foreign presents itself? It goes into defense mode and starts to attack it. Our body now becomes hypersensitive to proteins that have leaked into our blood stream that are not necessarily harmful but because they shouldn’t be there, our body wants to attack. It is believed that the antibodies our bodies create to fight against these foreign substances, can also get into various tissues and trigger inflammation in those tissues when certain foods are consumed. Not only can leaky gut create and cause inflammation and food allergies, since the proteins from those foods are activating antibodies to start the war against it, it has been linked to a variety of health issues. This is one of the reasons I think a food sensitivity test is so important, find out what your body is fighting against and eliminate it (along with a variety of other things which I will get into in later posts) and allow your gut to heal.
Think of it this way, picture living in a glass house and everything inside the house, you are comfortable with, you protect and everything is calm and peaceful. One day after years of the glass withstanding weather, stones, hail what have you, the glass starts to crack. Now suddenly, foreign objects are getting into your house through the cracks in the glass. The objects really aren’t harmful and wouldn’t cause damage, for the most part, but because you aren’t used to having them in your home, you go into defense mode and try to fight off everything that gets through the cracks, Jackie Chan style!
You are spending so much time and energy trying to block and destroy these things, essentially resolving the issue at the surface BUT what you are not doing is fixing the root cause, the cracks. You will start to get tired, become weaker and weaker and more compromised. One day something changes, you are so used to fighting off these intruders that you start to think what was once something in your home that you protected, you now look at it differently, it reminds you of an intruder, it must be! Now its time to attack these things too. I am giggling to myself at the way I’ve explained Leaky Gut lol, this is essentially what happens in our body though. At the end of the day, whether you do something to slow down the intruders, or do something so you can’t see the intruders, they are there and they will continue to be there until you fix the cracks in the glass. By changing your diet and lifestyle, the idea is to fix the cracks (the leaks) and allow your body to heal at the root cause. You cannot start to heal your body until you learn about the foods that you should eliminate. I don’t know everything there is to know about this so if the concept has sparked your interest, read about, ask questions whatever floats your boat.
Listen, to those of you that think I’m crazy, I get it. Most of us grew up learning that when you’re sick you see your Doctor, you take your medicine and you move on. Diving into a new way of thinking and a new way of healing is scary and to some, may sound ridiculous. I just ask that you read this Dr.’s story and testimonies of those who follow the same elimination diet. You don’t have to change your ways, just educate yourself on different avenues that are available. The information I share is such a small piece of the puzzle compared to what’s out there. My efforts are to get you thinking, researching and asking questions to your health care provider about your own health.
Here are some interesting links that I have come across, including the link to the read about Dr. Wahls and her road to recovery.
About Dr. Wahls (to the left) : http://terrywahls.com/about/about-terry-wahls/
Leaky Gut, Functional Medicine University: http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/public/Leaky-Gut.cfm
Gut Microbes and Health: Our gut is more important than you think! http://www.medcan.com/medcan-insights/health-tips-advice/collaborators-johns-hopkins-medicine-gut-microbes-health/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=b2c
Danielle Walker (not an MS story but still an autoimmune disease): http://againstallgrain.com/2013/07/13/my-health-transformation/
As you sit and wonder, is this a joke? She can’t be serious. Dr. Wahls has been approved for funding to continue her clinical research using food as medicine due to the unbelievable results it has had on herself and others. We all know the Government doesn’t just hand money over. She also explains that she is not encouraging people to stop taking their medication, she suggests to do both (at first) and work with your health care provider,if that day comes where you choose to solely rely on food, to make sure the transition is done properly. I still take medication, I also don’t follow this diet as strict as I should to reap the major benefits. It’s a huge and hard lifestyle change. I set myself up for failure at first. I went full force, this is it! I’m fine, I will start today at this very minute, this is the day I completely change my life. I prepared my grocery lists, went to the grocery store, didn’t find a lot of what I needed, I had never heard of some things, I bought what I could and went to another. Again, fail, fail fail, trip after trip. I left my cart with my 3 or 4 items in the aisle once, stormed out to my car and cried. “ I CAN’T EVEN HELP MYSELF, THIS IS BULLSHIT! I read these amazing healing stories of a complete transformation in health just with food and I can’t even get THAT right”. I felt defeated (many times) and I felt hopeless. I read more, found more sites and blogs with everyday ingredients, looked into what I had around me here in Niagara when it came to health stores, local farms and I read about the stages and stepping-stones to take to EVENTUALLY get myself to where I needed to be. It won’t happen over night. Don’t even get me started on girls nights, date nights and celebrations. I would stay home, eat before I went out or say I wasn’t hungry as I salivated at the cheesy gluten filled goodness on the table. I am a major foodie! I prefer grocery stores over the mall and kitchen items over shoes. If it had cheese, gluten, sugar, chocolate… get in my belly!!! Even when I found ways to make it easier on myself to transition to this new way of eating, I wasn’t enjoying food. I was bored. So again, I googled more sites, found new recipes, found some AMAZING baking recipes and I reminded myself I CAN do this and food IS still delicious and fun. You will find your way with this change just as you find your way through anything else. I still read tips and tricks about how I can manage these situations, not feel isolated and stick to my diet. Do I cheat? YES. Is it one step forward, two steps back? Perhaps. But I am getting there, I’m human and I remind myself that the main thing is starting to make changes and allowing myself the time to do so. Before I know it, I will be fully on board, cooking and ordering out will become second nature and I will be back to my well oiled machine self again! (I was never a well oiled machine.. who am I kidding… a girl can dream) Baby steps! I am here to help on those days no one seems to understand your choices, questions what your eating, jokes about your plate etc. I got you!
SPOILER ALERT: These diet and lifestyle changes known as the Autoimmune Paleo Diet, have been linked to help mental disorders, skin disorders, etc etc etc. I promise you that you will be shocked in reading how beneficial food can be for us and its NOT just for MS. Perhaps this isn’t for you but you, I bet you know someone who suffers from anxiety, psoriasis, arthritis, restless leg syndrome (that may have an official name? I just don’t know what it is…insert condition here) that this lifestyle could impact in huge way. Spread the love and by that, I mean, educate others. I will end with saying that although there is no cure, and no guarantees, this is simply another route to explore.
Much more food related topics to come but we have lots of time to chat. If anything particular sparks your interest let me know. I’ll be chatting about organic vs non and implications of food readily available in the grocery store can cause and why! Plus many other fascinating facts I’ve come across.
To easier days ahead!