Food and Illness

When I was in college, I loved pizza. I worked at a delivery restaurant and ate pizza every time I worked, maybe 5 times per week. I drank multiple cans of highly sugary and caffienated soda during every shift. Sometimes I ate a whole pint of ice cream for dinner, maybe once per week. I loved sweets, and because I was rail thin and thought people avoided sugar merely because it would make them fat, I ate whatever I wanted to. I did not know that my ignorance about nutrition and my favorite snacks and foods would soon be my undoing. I also enjoyed eating a bag of microwave popcorn with a huge glass of orange juice or two. I loved the sweet to salty contrast. After the pizza job, I worked in a bakery and I also learned to like coffee around that time. During my early morning bakery shifts, I drank coffee and nibbled on various muffins and cookies. Of course, as a college student, I drank beer and partied too. One of my roommates expressed concern about me. She thought I didn’t eat enough protein. As far as I was concerned, I was fine. Ramen noodles were cheap and I ate them on the days I didn’t eat at work.

In college, I developed bad sinus allergies. I woke every morning with a faucet-like runny nose. I blew my nose through my classes. Or I skipped them because I felt so crappy. I tried taking over the counter allergy medicines, but soon built a tolerance to the medicine and it only made me drowsy.

Eventually I got on a once-daily, allergy medicine prescribed by my doctor.   It was non-drowsy and non-stimulating and worked for a little while. I eventually built a tolerance to it and was back to faucet nose. And then they discontinued it anyway.

It was hell. I was miserable.

I got bronchitis a lot, too. and the doctors pumped me full of antibiotics.

One fall, after college, I caught what seemed like strep throat and, though I treated it, it morphed into Epstein Barr Syndrome (a fatigue illness like Mononucleosis). Though it was caused by a virus, my doctor of course gave me antibiotics for no reason. He also told me to rest.

This lingered seemingly forever. At my weakest, I couldn’t do more than two hours of activity, tops, in one day. I could work a short shift at the bakery and come home fatigued with a bad headache, or I could go to the grocery store and come home fatigued with a headache. Or go to a movie. Same results.

As I got better, I got some of my energy back, but not all of it. I could do more activity, but I was still weak compared to my peers. If my best friend and I went out to a bar, I would drink one beer and by the end of that beer, have an earache. I couldn’t comfortably swim under water because it hurt my ears too much to go more than a foot or two under.

All of this was dismaying. I had been an active, spry, young adult before this illness.

Then I went to my first massage therapist at age 23. When he looked at my intake form, he saw my various health issues as related. He could tell by my symptoms that my intestinal flora was out of balance, and he turned me on to a product that helped restore some of my friendly intestinal bacteria (which can be killed by coffee, by antibiotics, or by an overgrowth of candida yeast which reproduce asexually by eating sugar). My allergy symptoms decreased some.

Time passed, and I was still weak. Inspired by this massage therapist’s practice, I soon realized I wanted to be an LMT too. I signed up for massage school. On my first day of massage school, I was talking to a classmate during lunch about my health woes. She heard my symptoms and said, “It sounds like you have an overgrowth of candida yeast in your system. You should go to my herbalist, Pam.   She helped me get rid of the same thing, and she’s been through it too, so she is a great support.” I set up an appointment right away. Pam diagnosed me as having candida yeast overgrowth, 2 or 3 viruses and some parasites.   Yikes! No wonder I felt like I did. She explained that in order to heal, I must stop eating sugar for a few months, eat lots of protein and vegetables, and take the herbs and vitamins she prescribed. Stopping eating sugar meant not only avoiding cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup, but also avoiding wheat, gluten, dairy (except butter), fermented foods, and even fruit!!! Now, many people think they could never do that. People wondered how I had the will power. The key for me was my level of commitment. I used to be energetic and full of life. At the time of this diagnosis, I still felt half alive, and that was not acceptable to me. I would rather be fully alive or dead than half alive, so I chose fully alive, and I adhered to the candida diet, doing everything she recommended. I was literally sick and tired of being sick and tired.

After some months went by, my health had improved and I was able to incorporate a few gentle sugars, like pears, green apples, and brown rice syrup as a sweetener.

Now, I eat a typical vegetarian diet, I eat sugar in small amounts compared to most of my countrypersons, I drink an occasional coffee or a beer. I have a lot of energy for a 44-year-old.   I have a lot of energy for a 24-year-old, in fact.

Nene Fest 2016 HooperThere’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned healing crisis to teach a willing learner about empowerment around one’s own well-being. We eat Every day. Learning what to feed oneself is a powerful foundation to good health.

I am very grateful that I experienced all of this, because I got on a path of self-care and natural wellness at a very young age. I have a truly experiential understanding of what it takes to heal through diet, I have plenty of understanding of what it takes to eliminate foods, and compassion for anyone who needs to change their diet, and I can gently encourage people in my healing practice, because I got through it. So can you.

Gratitude and Love

I am grateful, and I am learning through life experience that a practice of gratitude does wonders.  Look for something to be grateful for every day, every moment, and you will find that life gets better and better, easier and easier.

And one day, or moment, you might forget gratitude.  You might forget joy, or trust, or well-being. You might think a path of gratitude is not helping after all.

But then, remember.  Remember to reach for gratitude.  Can you tell yourself this?  Can you tell yourself that thoughts of gratitude will return? That this is just a hiccup in your positive momentum?

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You are doing great.  You are truly, honestly, beautifully doing your best.  You are beautiful simply because of your humanness.  You are absolutely precious, unique, and wonderful.