Disclaimer - I am not an expert on health and nutrition. I'm just a mom doing what's best for my family and our situation. As life changes and new experiences arise, my views change and evolve. My thoughts and advice should not be viewed as medical advice.
My journey to real and whole foods is probably similar to yours and perhaps different in some ways too. Many people take baby steps as they move towards a more unprocessed diet, but because of our circumstances, we kind of dove right in! Looking back, it fits well with my personality because I'm kind of an "all or nothin'" kind of girl. Within about four months, we moved from a standard american diet to gluten free, whole foods, non-toxic, natural, etc. Here's our story.
In July 2009, my 15 month old son suffered two grand-mal seizures of an unknown cause. It was quite a terrible experience. We moved on, accepting that it was probably just a "fluke" and hoped for the best. In April 2010, he suffered another (his third) grand-mal seizure. This time I went to work. I did not accept that he would need to be put on anti-seizure medication for time the being (per his former neurologist's recommendation) and wanted to find another way. He had symptoms of food intolerances and candida (frequent loose, grainy stools, constant diaper rash, etc), so I researched and began digging to see if I could find any links. Although the evidence is not strong, there are some links between food intolerances/allergies and seizures. In April 2010, we decided to remove gluten from his diet upon the recommendation of a Naturopathic physician. It was overwhelming and difficult at first, and I still have my moments of wishing he could be like every other child, but it is now a way of life for him. In August 2010, we noticed that he was constantly itching his hips and back after we took his diaper off. He was always red and bumpy and appeared to have hives on most days. My motherly intuition (based on what I had previously studied and learned) told me it had to be linked to food. I took a look at the things he liked most - usually allergies are things you really love, because they act as opiates to your brain - and I decided to try removing corn from his diet. The moment corn was removed from his diet, the hives disappeared. It is sad that he can no longer enjoy his favorite snacks like home cooked popcorn, but it is wonderful to see that he is no longer itching and covered in hives! We had him officially tested by an Allergist in May 2011 and discovered that he was allergic to 15 of the 19 foods he was tested for, including many of the gluten free grains he was eating. This confirmed my suspicions of him dealing with a leaky gut and led us down the path towards doing all we can to healing his little gut. In May 2011, Max was diagnosed with a moderate receptive and expressive language delay. In September 2011, he was diagnosed with dyspraxia. Attending a special needs preschool and receiving speech therapy has been so helpful for his communication. He is still delayed and has a lot of trouble expressing more than just routine things. Recounting stories or events and emotions are difficult for him. I haven't written much about it but we did NAET allergy treatments in the summer of 2011 for Max and had mild results. In December 2013, Max was diagnosed with high functioning Autism. He attended a full time Montessori kindergarten, did homeschool, and currently attends a school designed for children on the Autism Spectrum. Hopefully with some accommodations and social/behavioral instruction, he will be able to be successful in school, not only academically but socially too. He is extremely smart but his behavioral difficulties can make focusing hard.
These experiences with my son led me to begin seeking knowledge about health and nutrition. Seeing his digestive problems and hives go away immediately upon removing allergens from his diet taught me how closely our bodies are linked to the food we're eating. As I seek to heal my son, I find myself craving knowledge. Knowledge is power and I truly feel that I have been empowered as a mother as I have learned more about nutrition. I hope that the changes I have made in my family's life will continue to benefit all of us, especially my son. I do not know what the future holds for him - and I pray that the days of having seizures are long gone, but I find comfort in the fact that I know I am doing my absolute best to ensure that his body is getting the nutrition it needs to function at it's best.
(Update: As of 2016, he has been seizure free for SIX years!!!).
The birth of my daughter Maude kind of kick-started my journey into the natural health world - we began using non-toxic household products and started looking at life in a more holistic way. She was a big catalyst for the changes we made in our life.
I began having severe abdominal and digestive upset in January 2011 and decided to cut out gluten in July 2011. My digestive upset disappeared with the removal of gluten. So did my life long joint paint. My depression also improved, but is like a roller coaster and sort of ebbs and flows. You can read about my experiences with depression here. In December 2012, I began seeing a chiropractor who used NMT techniques to help with my fatigue, allergies, depression, and anxiety. I had good results from that. I am also doing some emotional work which has helped me tremendously. I have dealt with chronic fatigue most of my adult life (beginning in my teens) and it worsened after the birth of my third baby. Sticking to a strict diet seems to alleviate my symptoms but not all the way. I am still on my journey of figuring out the chronic fatigue.
My daughters also experience issues related to food allergies/intolerances. Maude gets eczema from wheat and dairy products as well as constipation. Olive is severely allergic to eggs and gets eczema from dairy products - UPDATE: My sweet Olive has grown out of her egg allergy and is now able to tolerate them in baked goods, but does not like to eat them plain. My baby Walter is also sensitive to dairy (including raw).
In August 2011, we began the GAPS diet as a family. My children and I followed the diet strictly for nine months and then resumed eating a gluten and mostly dairy free diet because of some big life changes (an out of state move). I journaled the first part of the diet here, if you are considering starting the diet and would like to read about it. We saw good results on that diet. We also did an anti-candida diet in April/May 2013, which I journaled about here. We are currently gluten, dairy, corn, soy, egg, and refined sugar free (and always food dye free). It is challenging but with the help of the internet, it's doable. For a long time, there wasn't a second of the day that goes by that I wasn't thinking about how we can heal our allergies so that we can tolerate a wider range of foods. I have now come into a place of acceptance and while I'm still actively seeking to heal and obtain optimal health, I have peace about where we are.
My philosophy on food and natural living is pretty simple. I want to eat food that is in its natural form, as close to the way God made it as possible. I want it to be clean and free of pesticides and other additives. I want it to be nutrient dense, so that it nourishes my body and gives me the energy I need to sustain myself. I want to live a non-toxic life so that I don't pollute my body, my children's bodies, or my earth with harmful chemicals. I want to do better at taking care of this beautiful body I've been blessed to receive and be a good steward over this gorgeous earth which I get to inhabit.
Besides living an allergy free life out of necessity, I don't fuss over labels...I am not vegan, primal, vegetarian...etc. I simply strive to eat nutrient dense, whole foods, with lots of plants involved.
I'd love to hear about you! If you've decided to pursue a healthier lifestyle, what led to that decision?