Can food as medicine really work?
For three years, I suffered in the dark from an array of health conditions and had no idea where they stemmed from. My symptoms included extreme fatigue, joint pain, fuzzy head syndrome, weight gain, greasy hair (even right after washing it), and bumpy skin; not to mention the acute stomach and digestive issues I endured. I was literally dying; all my organs were shutting down from not getting enough nutrients. I chalked it up to getting older and hormones, but I was wrong.
Ice Storm Blues
In 2012, when I was 45, I went in for a routine doctor’s visit. My blood test results showed abnormalities in my thyroid figures. This shed some light on my situation. My doctor, who looked quite young and inexperienced, told me I had most likely developed Hashimoto’s after having been exposed to high amounts of carbon monoxide during the horrible ice storm that hit the Northeast in 2008. During which we lost power and my too-close-to-the-house generator ran for eleven straight days.
My daughter and I gotten really sick from the carbon monoxide and actually came close to dying — but we thought we’d fully recovered. It was only later that I discovered that the incident had destroyed our immune systems, and we were both left to suffer from Celiac disease, forever.
My doctor suggested an ultrasound on my thyroid, which was far from comfortable — but confirmed his diagnosis of Hashimoto’s. He also diagnosed me with Celiac, mentioning that Hashimoto’s is often a byproduct of Celiac.
Tests Upon Tests
After I had endured two ultrasounds (one at the hospital after my blood test and one in the specialist’s office), my young endocrinologist suggested a biopsy of my thyroid because he had never before seen as many nodules on one as there were on mine. The biopsy itself was uncomfortable but not all that dramatic. What it did, however, was damage my thyroid further. The damage done by the needles inserted into my neck sent me into a tailspin. I remember many days where I could not even muster the energy to get off the couch and literally “felt” my life ebbing away from me.
When the results from my biopsy came back “inconclusive,” I was crushed. My doctor suggested waiting three months and allowing my thyroid to heal before doing another biopsy. I naively agreed and went through the horror once again, which I deeply regret. Having five large needles stuck into your throat and then wiggled around to gather a bunch of cell samples is not fun or comfortable and I do not recommend it if you do not have to go through it.
The results of the second biopsy were the same: inconclusive. It was then that I made the decision to stop seeking medical help. I started to feel strongly that Western medicine did not offer much in the way of answers or relief. I was being given no solution at all; only painful tests upon tests which had cost me a lot of out-of-pocket money: upwards of $3000. I started to lose hope of surviving this disease and even welcomed the end of my suffering. I started tying up loose ends and making sure my daughter would be OK after I was gone. But somewhere in me there was a tiny spark of hope left, and I let it lead me to a new path.
Food As Medicine And A Ray of Hope
I have always been good at research. And so, like with any other problem, I took to the Internet to find a solution. I scoured every source that mentioned Hashimoto’s disease or Celiac. I was searching for a natural, non-invasive, non-medicated treatment. What I started to see was a pattern of related stories linking gluten’s negative effects to Celiac and Hashimoto’s. In a few places, I read that using food as medicine and eliminating gluten could cure all symptoms of Celiac and Hashimoto’s.
At first, I was very skeptical: could food as medicine work? But that spark of hope began to urge me on. I went out and bought some gluten-free foods and threw out all my bread and pasta. After a couple of weeks of cutting down on gluten, I started to feel a tiny bit better, so I did more research and realized I would have to go “cold turkey” and really rid my diet of any trace of gluten if this food as medicine thing was to work. After three weeks of this full-on approach, I lost a couple of pounds and started to feel my energy return. I was stunned and felt propelled to do even more.
I learned about GMOs and how our food system in the United States is polluted, causing a myriad of diseases and disorders. So, I decided to change my entire diet around: going all-natural, organic, and GMO-free. There were also gluten-free foods that I have cut out of my diet that caused me distress. For the first year, I kept a diary of foods I ate and accompanying symptoms. This made it easy to know what was safe to eat and what was not.
I won’t lie, the first year was very difficult. I made a lot of mistakes and accidentally ate things with gluten in them. I paid the price dearly: right after eating gluten, all my symptoms would return; NOT for just one or two weeks, but up to eight weeks. Even some gluten-free items put me through a lot of pain. That year, I kept a food diary of symptoms after eating, and that helped a lot. I grew much more careful, and I developed a much clearer approach to buying and choosing foods. If I cannot be certain it contains no gluten or contaminates, then I do not eat or buy it.
After three months of feeling significantly better, my daughter also went gluten-free. I had taken her to dozens of doctors and not one of them could find the reason for her symptoms until I finally pressed the issue and suggested Celiac. It’s important to note that Western medicine only concludes with a Celiac prognosis when it’s usually too late and the villi in the gut has been obliterated.
For the first time in four years, she stopped having stomachaches and digestive issues. We both decided to stick to a clean, natural, gluten-free diet, and it became a lot easier cooking for two of us and keeping our house contaminate-free.
I have effectively been cured of both Celiac and Hashimoto’s by using food as medicine. Two years ago I had major surgery and I refused to take their pain meds (and I haven’t taken any medication, not even Motrin, for 3 years). I also insisted that all my intravenous drugs be certified gluten-free and I brought my own food/smoothies into the hospital. They allowed it and I think it helped me recover quicker than I would have otherwise.
A Whole New Way of Being
It has been five years since I made these major life changes; I have amassed over 1,600 gluten-free, all-natural recipes. I can make a healthy version of any type of food — and it tastes great! Anything that a non gluten-free person could eat, I can make gluten-free, and it tastes just like the original. I make my own breads, pastas, salad dressings, sauces, desserts, and everything in between.
I do not eat processed foods of any kind; I make a ton of smoothies and juices. My diet is packed with things like kale, flax, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, and raw honey. Some may call me a crazy, natural/organic food nut but I would not trade my complex eating habits for anything in the world.
The bottom line is I feel younger and healthier than I did ten years ago, and no longer experience Celiac or Hashimoto’s disease symptoms. What’s more, I have strengthened my immune system so much that I no longer suffer with seasonal allergies and I haven’t had a cold, flu, or any type of bug in over three years!
A friend remarked, ”You eat like you are taking vitamins all day.” He’s right. I balance my foods to take in what my body needs, not necessarily what I want to taste. I take no vitamin supplements and no medicine of any kind and I feel great every single day! Food as medicine does work.
Dawna M. Roberts has worked in the tech industry for many years but writing has always been her passion! She is also passionate about healthy eating and natural wellness and being a single parent.
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