February 19, 2010

How I Got Healthy

Disclaimer: Healthy living looks different and means so many things to each of us, so know that what I share is what has worked for me and my husband. By no means am I implying that you must follow what I do in order to be healthy. And I am not an expert. The way I see it, I can learn just as much from you and would welcome your comments/tips on what you have found to be helpful in your goal to live a healthy life.

So how did I get healthy?

Now, I am no tree-hugger. I own a pair of glossy orange boots and nail polish to match them and I wear bejeweled headbands almost daily, so don’t mistake me for someone I am not! At first, getting “green” for me meant recycling and bringing my own bags to the grocery store and Target. And then three years ago I began to look into other ways I could get “green.” What a can of worms I opened!

I got really “green” three years ago by eliminating toxins from my diet by buying only organic foods and using non-toxic methods and products to keep my home and body clean. I know the idea of doing these things can be daunting and it’s easy to be concerned about the cost of it. I completely empathize with you because I was in that same place three years ago and I know it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the information out there and decide what you should do for yourself and your family. It’s no secret that buying organic costs more than buying conventional food and you may be thinking “I can’t afford to do that.”

My advice to you is to start slow and gradually change what you bring into your home and put on and in your body. For tips on how to do this, check out my “Green Series” located just to the left of my blog's main page. I talk about conventional vs. organic foods; eliminating toxins in your home; what to avoid when buying personal products; how to “green” your baby’s world; and more. My approach is to simply educate you so you make the best decision for YOU!

Money-Saving Tip: Contact companies whose products you like or would like to try and ask them to send you coupons, promotional items, and/or samples. I do this from time to time and the last time I did, I had over $40 in coupons sent to me and it took me all but 20 minutes to send a quick e-mail with my request. Often companies will send you coupons for free products and not just coupons for money off a product.

I began an anti-inflammation diet in May 2009. After being sick for five months and thinking that perhaps I had cancer because of how my body would react to food each time I ate, I had to do something drastic. For a while, I survived on broccoli slaw for every meal and needless to say, I lost weight because I was only eating that and in the process I became depressed.

After seeing a conventional doctor who simply thought I needed to take Metamucil to feel better (um, going to the bathroom was not my problem) and a natural health professional who told me I just needed to get the yeast levels in my body down (there was some truth to that and I have since eliminated yeast from my diet), I went to an integrative medicine doctor and she nailed what had been plaguing me for so long. She diagnosed me with an inflamed digestive track and immediately put me on an anti-inflammation diet. The diet eliminates the following from your food intake:

• Wheat and gluten
• Cow dairy (goat and sheep dairy are fine)
• Processed sugar
• Caffeine
• Citrus (lemon and lime are fine)
• Peanuts

I have always considered myself a healthy eater: I never eat red meat (raised that way); I don’t eat fatty or fried foods as part of my normal diet; and I don’t stock sugary cereals or empty-calorie snacks in our home. I have always been an oatmeal for breakfast/almonds for a snack/sweet potato for lunch/salad for dinner kind of girl. But the foods I outlined above were always showing up in my diet and they were the culprit wreaking havoc on my body.

My doctor explained that these foods are all known to cause inflammation to human organs (which is a main cause of so many diseases we get, such as certain cancers) and in my case, the inflammation was making food digestion painful and had reduced my serotonin levels to almost nil (a great deal of our serotonin levels come from our gut), so it’s no wonder why I was so depressed.

Within days of eating the anti-inflammation diet I felt better. I could think. I could relax. I had energy. And I had hope. I was on the path to healing my body the most natural way possible: through my diet.

Along with the diet, my doctor put me on several supplements that all work together to ensure that my body is working at its optimum level. She ran a blood panel on me and we learned that my vitamin D levels were only at 14 and they should be between 60-70. Vitamin D is key to our body’s mental and physical health; it’s proven to help combat depression (something I have struggled with since college) and fight off cancerous cells. I am on pro-biotics to keep good bacteria in my gut; ubiquinol and krill oil (a fancy strain of fish oil) for heart health; and magnesium for overall mind and body health. These all work in tandem to heal me from the inside out.

It’s easy to begin this diet and feel upset and focus on what you cannot eat. I did not feel this way initially, because eating this way allowed me to eat again and not be afraid of how I would feel later. It was a few months down the road that I began to grieve what I felt like I was missing out on (I missed bread and cheese so much) but the benefits always outweighed the feelings of depravation and I forged ahead and after nearly nine months, I am still following an anti-inflammation diet. Besides, the longer I have done this, the more alternatives I have discovered to some of my most missed foods and guess what……they are darn good and sometimes better than what I used to eat!

My husband eats the same way as I do and for us it is no longer a temporary way of eating until I am healed, it’s just how we eat. It makes sense to eat this way. After all, the food that is best for us is the food that GOD made and we should be eating more of that and less of the food that man makes!

1. Become your body’s health advocate. No one knows your body better than you and no one will fight for what is best for you and your body more than you.

2. If you are seeing a doctor who doesn’t seem to respond to what you are telling them; dismisses you; or just gives you the run around, FIRE THEM! Find someone who will partner with you in your journey to health.

3. Listen to your body. Our bodies are wonderfully made and they don’t lie. If something is not right, get it checked out. I am especially talking to those of you who feel sick all the time after you eat…..it’s NOT normal to feel sick all the time and that is no way to live; take it from someone who once felt that way and is now on the other side of it.

Some Tips for Healthier Eating
• Water is key to the health of our bodies. I strongly suggest that you increase your water intake to be at least half of your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of water each day. Yes, you will be going to the bathroom often, but think of it this way: each time you go to the bathroom, your body is ridding itself of toxins. And the benefits of increased water intake are numerous, including healthy skin and hair. I drink over 100 ounces of water each day and it helps keep me full between meals.

• This is almost goes without saying, but just in case…….don’t buy foods with ingredients that have numbers in them or are longer than three syllables- that just means they were created in a lab somewhere. If an item has more than five ingredients that are not naturally found in nature, consider leaving it on the shelf….do you really need to eat it?

• And stay away from these: sodium nitrate/nitrite; BHA/BHT; propyl gallate; monosodium glutamate (MSG); hydrogenated vegetable oil; aspartane; acesulfame-K; food colors: B 1-2, R-3, G-3, Y-6; olestra, and potassium bromated.

• Consider juicing- it’s an excellent way to get the most benefits of the nutrients in the fruits and vegetables you eat.

• Make easy changes like switching from bread sandwiches to ones made with corn tortillas; buying rice pasta instead of wheat pasta; trying sunbutter or almond butter instead of peanut butter; choosing goat’s milk yogurt and goat’s milk mozzarella cheese; etc.

• Take a look at what you buy on a regular basis and try to make it at home. Granola, sauces, and soups are all great examples of things we can make at home and control/eliminate the sugar and other ingredients unnecessarily put in them.

• Rice cakes (with honey or sunbutter), nuts, and hummus with veggies or GF crackers all make good snack foods.

A Helpful Magazine: I have subscribed to a magazine called “Living Without” and have found it to be a great source of information and recipes that cater to those of us eliminating wheat/gluten from our diets.

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