How was your summer? I hope it was a great one!
Our summer schedule looked inviting … with just the right amount of busy. But as soon as it started, it was a struggle. By the beginning of June I felt like I. couldn’t. move. I had been sick for a few weeks and couldn’t snap out of it. I didn’t know what to do, so I contacted a doctor friend of mine to see what she would suggest. She lives about 45 minutes away but she said she could help me (has gone through it herself and has helped many women like me).
Beginning of Diagnosis
After lots of paperwork and a lengthy interview (it is a gift to have a doctor who really cares and listens!), she began treating me according to my symptoms and as the result of many tests which gave clues as to what was going on with me:
Insulin resistance (the step before pre-diabetes), leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, vitamin D and B deficiencies, possibly an auto immune disease (maybe Hashimoto’s or Pernicious Anemia), environmental and food sensitivities.
After pigging out on my last box of Cheez-Its, I immediately began an allergy elimination diet: no dairy, no grains, no fruit (except lime and lemon), no nuts, no vinegar (I was taking Braggs apple cider vinegar daily, but she thought it might cause candida issues), no nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peas, potatoes, peppers, beans (except green), pimentos, paprika – there is a good post to explain this here.), no sweetener (not even stevia). Doc said that anything that tastes sweet affects insulin, so that includes most fruit and even stevia.
You might ask, “What’s left?!” The good news is that I could have: grass fed/antibiotic free meat, fish, most veggies, and healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, pure coconut milk/cream, olive oil).
After a month of eating just the list I mentioned, I was able to begin adding in one food at a time. Dr. Laura wanted me to introduce a food, wait three days (because there can be a delayed reaction) and reintroduce the food and wait another three days. Assuming everything goes well, that adds up to one new food each week. Knowing this wouldn’t be a quick fix, I asked Doc, “So will I be feeling much better in a few months?” To which she replied, “A year and a half.” God help me!!
Some friends ask, “What were your symptoms?” It’s easier to say, “You name it!” because there were so many. But, I will take time to list many of them right here and now:
- Debilitating fatigue
- Foggy brain (can’t think straight and feel like there is something blocking my brain)
- Itchy rash over most of my body
- Insatiable cravings for sugar and carbs
- Sudden and uncharacteristic outbursts of anger (especially after I ate sugar and gluten) – most of the time I would leave the room or suppress it, but sometimes I yelled at my kids
- Anxiety and depression
- Dimming eye sight
- My whole body ached most of the time
- Throbbing eyes
- Chronic bronchitis
- Trouble breathing deeply
- Irregular cycles
- Fingernails falling apart
- Barely able to keep up with basic household duties
- Sensitivity to noise
- Arthritic pain in my hands
- Numbness at times in my hands and feet
- Sharp pains in my chest
- Inability to remember things
- Crying and feelings of hopelessness
- Stomach pain and trouble digesting food
- Three miscarriages
- Inability to be in crowds of people for very long
- Thinning hair
- Stuffy nose
- Inability to lose weight
Over the past few years I had gone to doctors and had only been diagnosed as gluten sensitive. I knew there was more wrong with me, but nobody could figure it out. Dr. Laura ordered an extensive blood test, urine test, and stool test (still need to do the saliva test). The reason she thinks that I may have an auto-immune disease is because my symptoms are common to it and because many of my symptoms fell into opposing categories: for example, I had some strong hypo-thyroid symptoms, as well as definite hyper-thyroid symptoms.
The first two months were so hard, as I detoxed from sugar and tried to adjust to eating differently. To give you an idea of what I eat, here is a list of what a few days of meals looks like for me:
B: bacon, yellow squash
L: Lettuce, leftover chicken, olive oil
S: Coconut chicken: Chicken baked with a can of coconut cream, ginger, cumin, coriander, salt … on top of spaghetti squash
B: Bacon, cauliflower, olive oil
L: Purple cabbage, sausage (I take a lb. of ground pork and add a tsp. of each: nutmeg, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt
S: Hamburger wrapped in lettuce with tomato, bacon, sweet potato fries
B: Sausage, canned asparagus, olive oil
L: Kale, bacon
S: Homemade spaghetti sauce (once I could eat tomatoes) over spaghetti squash
B: Spinach/arugula mix, chicken, olive oil
L: Tilapia, salad steamed veggies, o.o.
S: Ham, canned green beans, o.o., basil, oregano
L: Salmon, yellow summer squash, o.o., coconut oil
S: Chicken, tarragon, brussel sprouts, olive oil
B: Chicken, zucchini, avocado, tarragon
L: Pork chop, lettuce salad, olive oil with lime, tarragon
S: Sausage, acorn squash, coconut oil
I try to cook the same for my family, simply adding a pot of rice, noodles, or biscuits for them to enjoy.
I’ve been able to add back in: macadamia nuts, blueberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. Blessings! I’ve had a bad reaction to eggs, almonds, and of course gluten. I am VERY SAD about the eggs. We get free-range organic eggs from an Amish farmer, and my body does not like them. I’m still trying to accept this fact and be grateful for the foods I can eat.
Doc said it can take three months to get dairy out of your system, so on September 19th I will be able to try grass-fed butter. PRAYING that it works for me. If so, I will get to try goat cheese and then yogurt. It would be lovely to be able to enjoy these foods, if God says it’s okay.
Blessings and Road Blocks
God helped me take the boys to VBS in July. That was a huge praise! Forty-five minutes drive twice a day – God helped me do it, plus play the piano three times each day. But, while Tim and the boys were camping for a few days, I got violently ill and had to be taken to the ER by my neighbor. We still don’t know what caused that problem.
And since then we’ve figured out that something in our church building might be making me sick. One Sunday night on our way home, after spending most of the time in the church basement, I felt like I couldn’t move, couldn’t stop crying, and could barely talk. Tim had to help me into the house to my bed. If I spend much time in the basement it seems worse. So, for right now I am staying upstairs in the church building. Sigh.
God wants me to slow down and change some things. We weren’t able to go to family camp, and for that matter we can’t go very far from home at all right now. I don’t know what He’s doing, but I can trust that it is good.
While I have seen relief from many of my symptoms, at times I feel very depressed. I don’t have as much energy as I hoped I would have at this point. There are good days and bad days. I’ve definitely spent more time studying and listening to God’s Word. I’ve asked God to help me, and He has sent people to encourage, show they care, and pray with me and for me. It means SO MUCH to have a friend call just to see how I’m doing.
He has also helped me locate a Christ-centered program to help me deal with my mind: 21 Day Brain Detox. I so appreciate Dr. Leaf. She has the science combined with God’s word to explain how to Romans 12:1-2 – renew your mind.
What I’ve Been Learning
1. Food was my idol. I’m still trying to fill in the gap that has been left by withdrawing my time, energy, and excitement (and pleasure of tasting and eating) trying new recipes and cooking fancy delicacies for my family. I’ve been spoiled, and it is extremely sad when I cannot go out to eat or even to an ice cream stand. God has taken this out of my priority list so that He is nearer the top! Food is very much tied to socializing in our culture. I already knew this, but it stands out even more now. It is challenging to meet with people and always having to bring my own food. There are only two restaurants that are safe for me to go to (with no risk of cross contamination).
2. There is so much about the body we don’t understand. I also knew this, but since nutrition and health have been my hobby for a few years, I had read tons of books on the subject. And through this process I’ve been learning so much and know I have only scratched the surface learning about God’s incredible creation. How could anyone believe all this evolved?!
3. Don’t fight what God is doing. A couple nights ago I was in such turmoil during the night (typical, but it had been escalating). God lovingly showed me that I was angry with Him about my health, about my food limitations, and a few other things. It is, of course, sin, to accuse Him of doing to me what living in this world cursed by sin has done to my body and mind. Once I confessed my anger and He forgave me, I felt relief and relaxation drench my soul. God has allowed this for a reason – a very good reason. He knows that I need this experience to grow. I am so thankful I can trust Him to go through this with me.
4. My body likes eating this way. Once a month had passed and my metabolism switched to fat burning instead of carb burning, my weight began to drop. In about nine weeks I had lost 17 lbs. It feels so good to be where I’ve wanted to be weight-wise for years! Doc said this is not uncommon once you figure out a person’s food sensitivities and heal their gut. I’m hardly ever hungry (don’t have that “gotta eat something” hanging over me all day long). I no longer feel like I need to sleep after each meal (not that I did sleep after every meal, but I felt like it). It is wonderful to be able to let go of the extra weight in my life (not just physical, but mental, emotional, social and spiritual!) and to have a more focused view on God and what is most important in life.
5. There are many worse things in the world, but this is hard. Sometimes I feel like I am in a prison. I can’t take a break. I cannot have a once a day treat, or a once a week treat, or even a once a month treat!!! The first month I felt like I could kill for a piece of chocolate cake. Thankfully no one was maimed. And God has been graciously adjusting my taste buds, so I rarely weep over where I find myself. Also, I have to remember, this will get better. But, I must get used to a new normal. I will never go back to how I was eating before. At least once a week I think ahead to the marriage feast of the Lamb – and I am going to savor every bite (when I get there, no doubt the importance of food will fade even more in His presence)!
6. Love. Tim and the boys know that I love them when I make food for them that I used to enjoy. They have shown such love and compassion! Sometimes they hug me when I can’t hold back the tears, like last night when they had buttered popcorn and frozen yogurt. They hugged me and told me how much they love me. And when we sat down to watch Facing the Giants I knew I was loved while I munched on my sweet potato and bacon (which, by the way, was very satisfying).
7. It helps to laugh! The other night I was in Barnes and Noble, pouring over the healthy cookbooks. I felt like crying because there were still so many things in THOSE that I can’t eat. A man sitting nearby was groaning audibly as he looked in several diabetes cookbooks. At one point he cried out in despair, “Bean patte?!?” When I came home and told Tim about it, he understandingly replied, “And you felt like saying to him, ‘I would love to have bean patte!’” Sometimes when I feel so discouraged, it is as though Jesus puts His arms around me and gently reminds me, “Sara, I never got to eat pizza, ice cream, or chocolate either.” And we laugh together – awww, He is such a comfort!
For those of you who are going through much harder things, I am so sorry for what you are going through. I do know that God has a plan for your life as well as mine, and we can trust Him! Wouldn’t it be delightful to be able to get a diagnosis, pop a pill, and be all well? Or maybe for you … to find a husband, to have a child, to see wayward family members come to Christ, to get relief from your grief, to get money to pay those bills, and be all better? God is constantly using the struggles of life for one purpose: to draw us to Himself. And when He has our attention we can either fight back and reject the priceless lessons He is trying to teach us, or accept and draw near to Him.
Today is the first time I’ve felt like writing in months – so, maybe this is a sign I am healing? I hope that what I am writing makes sense. I write to answer the many questions my small circle of family and friends have asked me, and in case my scribblings about all this may help someone in similar circumstances.
Please contact me if you would like information about resources. I’d recommend you begin with the book Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg. This book is informative and well documented.
I would love to hear from YOU. And until next time … will you please enjoy a bowl of ice cream for me (better yet, pray for me)?
“My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.”