Our Journey to Wellness Part II – The Food

This week, I wrote about the beginning of our journey to wellness. After our fibromyalgia diagnosis, we were left devastated and desperate for answers. There is a meme out there that says something to the effect of, “moms do better research than the FBI.” I think that is pretty true for wives, too. I was determined to find answers. I didn’t really know where to start. Thankfully, God started putting people in my path that guided me toward the right research. It also made sense to me to start with food. After all, what do you do every single day, multiple times a day? Eat and drink. So that is where we began.

You will recall that my beloved had lost a significant amount of weight, to the tune of about 75 pounds. He did that with a great deal of effort – significant caloric monitoring and a lot of exercise. He still had about 20 pounds to lose, but he could not get past this plateau. It was also difficult to be motivated because of his physical maladies at the time. I started examining what he was eating, because his diet focused on cutting calories. That meant fat-free, low fat and sugar free. Around this same time, I started meeting some other people whose children were suffering from various issues, including but not limited to early puberty, attention disorders and digestive troubles. Truly, God was working in amazing ways to guide my research. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would find.

Artificial Sweeteners

One of the first topics I started researching was that of artificial sweeteners. My husband had weaned himself off of regular soda by switching to diet. What I found was rather astounding. Artificial sweeteners are in almost everything labeled as “diet,” “low-calorie,” or “sugar-free,” as they replace the caloric sugar with a chemical sugar to help it taste ok without the calories. But, in the long run, artificial sweeteners actually make you fatter, and contribute to higher incidents of diabetes! I was very discouraged by the effects on children and adults alike, and that alone was enough to cause me to cut it out of our life for good.  It was harder than I expected – even foods I thought were healthy, like yogurt, had artificial sweeteners in them.

Well, I have to tell you — the most amazing thing happened. My husband’s headaches went away. That’s right. We discovered he was allergic to artificial sweeteners!!!! All those tests and medications to try to deal with those pesky headaches, and the main culprit was chemical sugars. I was blown away. This was a real “aha” moment for me. I knew that if something like this could change something so dramatically, so quickly, I was on the right track.

Food Dyes and High Fructose Corn Syrup

Did you know that there are many food dyes in our food that are illegal in other countries? Let that sink in for a minute. Totally against the law overseas, yet we feed them to our children! There are more and more links to hyperactivity and allergies or sensitivities, and children on the Autism spectrum do not need ANY more of that. Also, since the introduction of high fructose corn syrup, obesity has increased by 3 times, and diabetes by *7* times.  At the risk of being accused of fear-mongering, please click those links and read them. It made total sense to get rid of them pronto. At this point, I started to notice my son really thinning out.

Soy

Did you know that 93% of the soy we consume in this country is genetically modified? It is an estrogen-laden food. The problem with soy is that it is in almost all of our processed foods now. We are a busy society (too busy, if you ask me). We eat on the go, and so do our kids. That means packaged foods, which in turn means too much soy. The overconsumption of soy leads to estrogen dominance and early puberty – in fact, at the time I was doing this research, I had, personally, 3 friends whose children – 2 girls and a boy – were suffering from the onset of early puberty. One little girl had a lump in her breast. She was 7. Her pediatrician – a very mainstream doctor – suggested to my friend that they cut soy and conventional foods out of her diet and try switching to organics. Guess what happened? Lump gone. Which brings me to my next point…

Conventional Meat, Eggs and Dairy

You have to watch Food, Inc. Just watch it. It will change how you view our food that comes from animals. The sheer amount of antibiotics, pesticides and steroids that enter our food is just disturbing. There is hardly a better word than that – disturbing. Even the CDC knows that the overuse of antibiotics in our food animals is one of the causes of our most pressing global health threat – antibiotic resistance. Between meat, eggs and dairy – all things that we were consuming as a family – we were also consuming too much of the bad that comes with conventionally raised animals: the byproduct of antibiotic, steroid, and pesticide use. I knew all of that was going to be really bad for my already health-compromised husband.

For my men – meaning not only my husband, but my growing boy as well – the main culprit was conventional dairy. Why? Dairy tends to be an inflammatory food, and inflammation was the main culprit in much of my hubby’s problems!  Coupled with the fact that dairy is difficult to digest, it had to change for us because both my husband and son had issues digesting. We changed from store-bought dairy to raw (meaning, unpasteurized) milk and cheese. We cut back on our consumption significantly and eliminated sweetened yogurt. Raw milk is easier to digest and has many other health benefits.

Guess what? They both experienced a dramatic reduction in their digestive discomforts. We also discovered that my husband doesn’t tolerate pork very well.

Grains

If there were a tough food subject, this is the one. Who doesn’t love them some nice, warm bread? I know I do. And cereal. Oh, how I love cereal. The more I researched, boy…it became so difficult to really see it all. And the rash increase in gluten sensitivities and gluten-free diets has people wondering if it really matters or if it is just another fad. I totally get that. One day, eggs are good for you when the next day, they’re bad. It’s all very confusing.

For us, it was not a fad. The final step in our food journey was to eliminate grains for my husband. Why? Grains are very inflammatory to our systems and just breed all kinds of digestive havoc. When we took this final step, the weight plateau disappeared, and the remaining pounds fell off rather quickly. He experienced a more consistent reduction in his joint pain, and he looked TOTALLY different. Less inflammation means not looking so puffy!

I hope that I didn’t make this look “so simple.” It wasn’t. Food addiction is real. Sugar addiction is real. Grain addiction is real. These are all very real things, and we know it all too well. But you know what else was real? The results.

It took us a while to get through eliminating all of these things because truly, these types of changes rarely happen overnight. It took us time, research, preparation and dedication. It really was a decision. We took it one step at a time, just like I outlined above. By changing one meal at a time and one food group at a time, we were able to improve our health dramatically.

So in the end, what did that mean?

For my husband:

Dramatic reduction in inflammation and joint pain
Dramatic improvement to his digestion
Improved mental focus
General, overall “feeling better”
Weight loss goals.

For my son:

He was actually lean! We did not weigh him, but the results were obvious.
Dramatic improvement to his digestion
Obvious improvement to his skin, hair, and growth/development

Was it hard? Yes. What is expensive? Yes, to a degree. Was it worth it? YES. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, yes. Food helps or hurts, and we chose what helped. But you know what else was expensive? THOUSANDS of dollars in prescriptions and tests. Everything comes at a cost.  There is so much more here, but these are the highlights to the food changes we made.

So what next? We were in a better place for sure, but there were still a few missing pieces of the puzzle. My husband felt better, indeed. Yet we were still seeking a few final answers to his fatigue, brain fog, and what incidents of pain he would still experience. The best is yet to come, because there were answers for that, too. Stay tuned!

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