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Away From Wellness and Back Again Through Food

This is a continuing story of ill health and finding a path to wellness, begun here

and continued here

I  was off this week, with new tender spots and weakness, a weakeaned feeling in my limbs, some pain in my right thigh and foot.  I came to the conclusion that, for now, at least, tomatoes are a no-can-do for me.  I started feeling symptomatic while I was cooking and tasting a homemade tomato based sauce for a rack of ribs.  And stubbornly I went on to eat my ribs anyway.

The next day  i was inflamed. I was a woman on fire. Just off, not right, in ways imperceptible to anyone but myself.  But that afternoon, more perceptibly,my left eye swelled up.  Did I get something in it? Was this from within, or from without?

The eye cleared up after a little while. But then, the next day, my three year old accidentally head-butted me in the jaw. I cried out in pain. And a bump the size of a golf ball rose up on my jaw, tender and painful.

I knew the pain response and the size of the bump were signs of inflammation.  Those tomatoes really did a number on me, I kept thinking, and felt puzzled, because a tomato sensitivity didn't quite fit in with this grain-illness connection I've been making.  However, I have indeed heard of people with tomato sensitivities,   On the verge of wellness, but not yet well. Sensitive as Hell.

Pain points, headaches, mucus and disturbed sleep stayed with me for most of the week.

It wasn't until Friday night, almost a week later, when I was sauteeing some organic Swiss Chard in coconut oil, and sprinkled some of the same Madras curry powder that I had used in that tomato based sauce, that I realized that the curry, in fact, had been the offender, not the fresh tomatoes.  I tasted my curried swiss chard and my skin immediately began to itch.  I continued eating the swiss chard because I wanted the powerful punch of nutrients in those leafy greens, and I didn't want to waste a whole bunch of organic chard.  I had only used a little of the curry this time, so I reassured myself that the reaction wouldn't be as severe this time. (Also, there is a part of me that still doubts that food ingredients can have such an immediate and palpable effect on me. I fall prey to the naysayers who would try to build the case that this is in my head.)

The headaches resumed by the end of the night.  My sleep was wakeful.  But overall I felt much better by yesterday.  My takeaway from this was that, so far, fresh tomatoes are still on my legal list, and store bought spice blends are on my illegal list. Spice blends often have grain based preservatives added to improve their shelf life.

Last night's dinner was a roast pork tenderloin prepared with only fresh herbs0 minced garlic and cilantro- along with some spaghetti squash and a fresh green salad.  I had a wonderful sleep, and woke up feeling nourished, energized, and pain free.

I keep thinking about my friend, who suffered for years from an autoimmune condition that was managed by heavy duty drugs (namely Prednisone).  After seeking help from the D'Adamo Institute in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, she was put on a special diet, which on the whole, avoided carbs and grains.  After sticking with the diet for several months, she began to feel better than she has felt in years. At the age of 80 she is drug free and pain free, and kayaking and ziplining through tropical jungles.  Hers is one of the success stories that has helped me to hold onto hope.

My mother sent me a copy of Dr. Shwack's report of the colonectomy he performed on her last summer after keeping her on a nasogastric tube for a week, where they tried to decompress her colon and avoid having to cut her open,.   So like my mother- she sent one to all of us.

I started to read this morning...his detailed description in medical language of one after another adhesion he encountered, and cleared, like scubadiving through a shipwreck.

I have to put the paper down, my eyes smarting, recalling how close we came to losing her, so many times.  I remember the first emergency appendectomy she received in her sixties.  There was so much infection inside her, they had to leave her wound open for a few days to let it drain.  "It's kind of interesting to look at," my brother mused, when I arrived at the hospital. 

At the site of her lying prostrate with that huge gaping wound through the center of her body, I ended up in the bathroom, doubled over, trying to control my tears.  (My brother would go on to become a nurse.  Something for which I clearly lack the constitution!)

I feel grateful to the surgeon, Dr. Shwack, to providence, to the nurses and nurses aides who tended to her all those weeks last summer and managed to keep her alive against the odds.  This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, we sang with a sweet woman named Dion, on the day, after five weeks, most of which was spent in ICU, she was discharged.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I find myself thinking, if only we knew then what we know now about diet. If only we'd known back before the trouble all began and her first emergency appendectomy in her early sixty's and the resultant adhesions that necessitated further surgeries.

What if a change in her diet could have prevented all that? Someone who always took such good care of herself, but just didn't know the right ways.

We will never know for sure. But adopting the Speciic Carbohydrate Diet, and taking some inspiration from the Paleo Diet, seems to be keeping her healthy and pain free. And maybe she won't have to be opened up again.

Back in 2006 I was diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism,  and I had a neck surgery to remove the damaged parathyroid. I've read some things suggesting that it's an autoimmune disease.  Naturally I find myself wondering if I'd known then what I know now about grains and gluten, perhaps I could have corrected the condition through diet, rather than through a costly  surgery whose effectiveness didn't last more than a few years.  I have a strong inclination to think so.

My converations with my mom these days center around our health, and what we're eating. For example, I have become very excited about wheat grass after watching this video by David Wolfe.  Wheat grass is considered a super food, packed with enzymes and anti-oxidents.

I am so grateful to my friend Julie for showing this to me. I am now watching youtube videos on growing wheatgrass, and I plan to get a Nutribullet or juicer so I can implement these nutritious drinks into my daily diet.  

Fibromyalgia, characterized by chronic inflammation, joint pain and tenderness, insomnia and headaches and tingling in the hands and feet and hindered mobility seems to match all of my symptoms.  My brother, the nurse, tells me that it's difficult to diagnose. My mother tells me that for a long time doctors didn't think it was real, perhaps because it's hard to diagnose, or because of the way the symptoms come and go.  More recently, it has started to be taken more seriously.

Its hard for me to believe that people could think that what I've experienced isn't real. But then I am the one who has to live in this body. I guess the job is left with me, in the end, to make it a cozier, more hospitable place in which to live.

So I plan to repair my body, one cell at a time, using the cells of whole, living foods-- plants and animals and fish and local eggs that are nutrient and fiber rich and chemical free. 

I am excited to watch my symptoms continue to recede.  I'm not 100 percent, but I am only two months into this. I can't wait to see how I'll be feeling in 6 months.

It is such a wonderful feeling to finally be regaining control over my health.  Don't ever let anyone tell you not to try something because there's no good science.  Why not try something that has worked for so many people?  People are living without medication, and without pain, for the first time in years, because of these kinds of changes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition.  Each person  is different.  That's why it's good to consult with a good nutritionist-- hopefully one who has their eyes open and isn't in the pocket of Big Food.

I'm just a person trying to educate myself, in search of optimal health.  It's been an interesting process. Not just going through it, but talking about it. When I started talking about my health and my diet as I first began to experience a relief from my symptoms, people started coming out of the woodwork with resources and helpful information. It's been truly enlightening.

But there has been a bit of a backlash as well. Some people seem to go out of their way to try to disprove and discredit me.  I don't know why the connection between diet and disease is met with such resistance from Western medicine.  It may be due to lack of adequate training-- most doctors only get a week of nutritional biochemistry in the course of their education.  Or it may have to do with some kind of deep distrust of the idea of people taking responsibility for their own health. 

I hope you'll follow me on my journey, away from wellness and back again, through food. 


p.s. If you're interested in learning more about health through a Paleo diet, as well as discover wonderful, and delicious recipes, a great place to start is Practical Paleo.

Also, Robb Wolfe, the author of the bestselling book, The Paleo Solution, has a great website:

And another smart, and knowledgeable professional talking about the role of the gut in disease is Chris Kresser.


Rachel Dowling's picture

Just wanted to add the comment that a friend made to me after reading this post. She said people with autoimmune illnesses often have an intolerence to nightshades, especially tomatoes and chilis. I have heard this before. Since chilis are often used in curry blends, this could have been the culprit in the curry. (And I did get that curry from a quality source, so I question the presence of addivtives.)  And it might explain why I had such a dramatic reaction to the sauce that contained a lot of tomatoes and a lot of curry.

What a great observation. Certainly worth pursuing!