I have been debating for quite sometime, how to go about sharing the dietary changes that led to the transformation in my health. Part of the reason I was hesitant to jump right in and share my dietary changes in my blog, was because I wanted to get the point across that diet was not the only component influencing my health. When other areas in our life are out of balance creating stress and anxiety, such as our relationships, career, lack of physical activity and spirituality, just eating healthy will never be enough. In addition, I was also hesitant to share my personal diet without emphasizing that there is NO right diet. What worked for me, may not work for you. However, I hope that my experiences can serve as a spring board toward inspiring you to figure out what foods work for you, as well as help you to look at the other components of your life that may need balancing . Whether we hope to loose weight, improve our energy level, minimize the symptoms of an autoimmune disease or improve our sleep, when we take the time to listen to what our bodies are telling us, we can learn so much about what we need to do to improve our health and ultimately change our lives.
I would be remiss, if I started off this blog without showing tremendous gratitude for my personal health coach that guided me through the process of discovering what I needed to do to heal my body. What made the journey of working with my health coach so unique and successful is that within our sessions, she never told me what to do, unless I specifically asked for a suggestion. Rather, my health coach provided a non-judgmental atmosphere where she supported, empowered and mentored me toward change. She inspired a journey that helped me to find what I call, the “ME DIET”. The “ME DIET”, is whatever a person discovers on their journey that works for them on a consistent and long-term basis bringing them genuine health and happiness. So here goes, this is my “ME DIET”.
Several years after my third pregnancy, I started to become much more determined to find a better way to manage my ulcerative colitis. In addition to continuing to have an unrelenting colitis flare after my daughter was born, my migraines became severe, now beginning with an aura, and keeping me in bed for 24 hours. To control the colitis, I required several courses of prednisone, a steroid with very harsh side effects and was also placed on a medication called 6MP. 6MP is an immunosuppressant used for ulcerative colitis but it is also used to treat cancers such as lymphocytic leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia. Aside from the obvious, that I was on much harsher drugs now, 6MP caused me to be very tired and chronically ill with eye infections, strep, colds and stomach viruses.
Determined, I started doing a lot of research on what dietary changes have helped people with ulcerative colitis (UC), (despite being told by physicians that diet did not affect UC.) All articles and books I read talked about going on a gluten free diet. So I started making baked goods with gluten free flours, replaced my noodles with brown rice noodles and started reading every food package looking for the ingredient of gluten. After getting over the shock that it felt like wheat and gluten was in EVERYTHING, after about 2-3 weeks I did start noticing a difference in how I felt. I had more energy and felt significantly less cramping and stomach pain. I knew I was onto something, but still had a long way to go. I also suspected that other foods may be aggravating my symptoms such as sugar, dairy, corn and caffeine. To be honest, I felt very overwhelmed doing all this by myself without any guidance. Maybe what I was experiencing was just a placebo effect? Was there even any science behind what I was doing? Was I just falling for a fad diet with unrealistic hopes of a miracle cure?
Thankfully, just when I was about to give up, I happen to come across my health coach. She was doing free consultations and I jumped at the opportunity to sit down and chat with her. Finally, I didn’t feel alone and over the course of 6 months I really had the opportunity to experiment with foods, by adding in new ones, and removing suspected problematic foods. Initially, I found that by removing all gluten and all grains, my injured gastrointestinal system had time to heal. However in order for it to fully heal, I needed to nourish my body with what it was missing, healthy bacteria in the form of fermented foods, and A LOT of vegetables. By switching to a plant based diet, heavy in leafy greens, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, my body was receiving nutrient dense foods known to decrease inflammation in the body. In addition, I eliminated processed sugars and continue to stick with honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar as sweeteners . I do my best to eat wild fish, organic poultry and eggs as well as grass fed beef, however I keep my animal protein portions small. Beans are another source of nutrition for me, but I make sure they are well soaked. I also eat nuts and seeds and stick with oils like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil. I stay away from soy unless it is fermented (more about soy in an upcoming blog). I also try to keep to one cup of coffee a day, have little to no dairy and I drink a lot of water throughout the day. Now I can even tolerate small amounts of gluten free grains.
When I made these changes in my diet, the ulcerative colitis became so well controlled that I no longer needed the steroids or the immunosuppressant 6MP which was confirmed through a colonoscopy. I had more energy than I could ever remember, and I was shocked to see that I had a drastic reduction in migraines. 3 years after making these changes, I also noticed that I no longer suffered from seasonal allergies. As someone whose definition of eating vegetables used to consist of biting off the tops of broccoli while holding my nose, I now crave vegetables when I am hungry!
Several months ago, I attended a bar mitzvah. I wished the elderly grandfather a “Mazel Tov” and said to him, “you should have a lot of nachas from your grandson” (nachas is a yiddish word for being happy or proud for another’s accomplishments). This very insightful grandfather full of wisdom began to quiz me and asked, “Do you know what the most important thing in life is?” I started listing all the things I thought were the most important things in life like family, G-d, doing good deeds etc. He corrected me and said, “the most important thing in life is your health; without it you can’t enjoy your nachas”. After going through this experience of regaining my health, I can truly understand what this man of common sense was reminding me to always be aware of; What are we without our health?
How does what you eat impact your health? What areas of your life other than your diet is impacting your health in a negative way? Do you have a “ME DIET”? I look forward to having the opportunity to helping you or your friends and family that could benefit from a health coach in the near future !
Now Go, Love You,