Food Be Thy Medicine

For fifteen years, I have been dealing with a series of inexplicable neurological maladies. If you count migraines, it’s more like forty years. But my migraines are special, so I have them in their very own, “my brain doesn’t work right,” category. Over those fifteen years they have ruled out tumors, Multiple Sclerosis, a variety of autoimmune disorders, anemia, and other vitamin deficiencies. I am currently on three daily medications (an anticonvulsant to reduce frequency of migraines, a muscle relaxant/anti-anxiety med to reduce muscle twitches, and Cymbalta to deal with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and depression).

Last winter, my neurologist finally threw up his hands after treating one symptom at a time for three years. During those three years, I have been on no less than seven different prescription meds, some with fairly significant and unpleasant side effects. Some of them have helped, but none have really fixed anything. Last year, I also officially entered menopause. The multiplier effect of this on my medical issues was dramatic. It got to the point where I would be lying on the couch at the end of the night crying from the pain. Finally, he said, “Okay, it’s probably fibromyalgia.” I need a new doctor, by the way. One who believes that fibromyalgia is its own diagnosis and not just something you use when you’ve run out of other ideas.

Pain, and it doesn’t matter whether it is physical or emotional, is a very bad thing. It makes us behave badly. Then it makes us feel guilty for behaving badly. It makes us angry because of all of the things we are missing out on. I teach alternative education high school students. I love my job, but it is high stress. I am raising two boys, currently eight and twelve. The twelve year-old has Asperger’s Syndrome, and that can cause stress. Pain causes stress. Being a bitch to the people you love because you are hurting causes HUGE amounts of stress. So now your adrenal system is involved as well, and you get adrenal fatigue on TOP of the (insert specific health issue here).

I teach, so I have the summer off, if you call playing house mom to the neighborhood being off. I started researching what I could do to get better. It turns out that there was quite a bit.

In the interests of health, I’d like you to think, just for a minute, about food as medicine. That is fairly easy to do. It’s summer, it’s hot, we get heat exhaustion, and we either drink a sports drink or eat a banana. We need potassium, or we get sick. Okay, now something a bit harder. Turn it around. Now think about food as poison. If you have food allergies and carry an epi-pen, this is easy. If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, you know what eating gluten will do to you. But there are many, many OTHER disorders that can be triggered or made worse by food: Metabolic X Syndrome (elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and prediabetes); fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, insulin resistance, polycystic ovarian syndrome, other hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases…the list goes on. For those of us with any of these disorders, the food pyramid is a dangerous thing. We follow the recommended guidelines, even on a low calorie diet, and we get fat, or develop more symptoms.

This, my friends, is how I made the decision to do a Paleo diet. I’m going to be telling you about the journey, discussing some common misconceptions about the phrase “clean” eating and giving you MY definition of it, and providing some incremental changes that you can make to help yourself and your families eat more medicine and less poison. I’m not a doctor. If you are healthy, feeling good, and fit, then maybe you’ll just get some ideas about preparing more food from scratch. But if you suffer from emotional or physical disorders, I hope this information helps. Please check with your physician before making radical changes in your macronutrient levels (carbohydrates, fats, proteins).

So this is who I am. It’s what I do. What’s coming next?

A definition of clean eating Sweatpants & Coffee style (aka, you don’t need to go broke at Whole Foods to do this).

A principal of making incremental changes rather than attempting to immediately do ALL. THE. THINGS.

A commitment to sustainability. If the change isn’t permanent, it doesn’t do much good.

Recipes. Lots of recipes. My goal is to be the Rachel Ray of Paleo. It has to be fast, it has to be easy, and it has to be delicious. Bonus points if my kids will both eat it. Triple bonus points if they like it enough that there are NO leftovers.

Paleo Salmon Burger

A list of apps that are useful for tracking all sorts of stuff like food, exercise, steps walked, calories burned. There are some very nifty devices out there. Tracking sounds like a PITA, and it is, BUT if you have any food sensitivities at all, it’s the fastest way to figure out what they are.

So welcome to my grand experiment. I hope you get some good ideas about how to take good care of your body here.

Two websites that are currently indispensible to me write now:

NerdFitness.com (this is an incredibly supportive group of people and they try to make things fun) I’m wideeyed over there. Membership is free, no advertising, and the message boards are active. There are many articles about food, exercise, and life hacks that are well-written and useful.

MyFitnessPal.com (a very good place to log all of the things and keep track of progress) I am wideeyedla over there. Membership is free, unless you want a no-ad experience. Message boards can be divisive and argumentative, so view at your own risk.

Photo Credits:
Creative Commons License Salmon burger breakfast by Dollen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Creative Commons License Yum, carrots! by Jamie McCaffrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

 

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