Today I thought I would talk a little about my own journey, why I studied naturopathic medicine, some of the health challenges I have encountered, and the dietary and lifestyle adjustments that I have tried to help my along my path.
I won’t discuss it all in this post, but I will give you a little introduction. I am still a work in progress, and still figuring it all out!
Let’s start from the middle of the story when the first stages of awareness changed the course of my journey forever.
The story starts in my early twenties. During my undergraduate years, signs of health imbalances were starting to emerge (and even earlier than that), but I hadn’t picked up on them yet. It wasn’t until I started my Masters of science that things started to become problematic.
I remember right from the first day of class in September, I felt exhausted. That summer I had many sleepless nights and stressful challenges as a medical assistant with the army reserves. I was feeling pretty burnt out by the end of August, which does not bode well for the start of a graduate-level degree program.
I couldn’t stay awake in class. This posed a particular problem because the classes in my program had 10 to 15 people in each. It was pretty hard to hide my inability to stay awake! I remember a professor stopping the class completely until I opened my eyes. It was an extremely embarrassing situation that I will never forget!
The fatigue became worse and worse as time went on, and so did the weight gain. I wasn’t eating any more than usual, but I was packing on the pounds. Of course, my diet at the time wasn’t necessarily the best. I ate a lot of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches!
I graduated and found a job. The fatigue made it extremely difficult, I would describe it as debilitatingly painful. Then the migraines started. Weekly. They lasted days at a time. It was so hard to function when I had one. I couldn’t find any relief, no matter what I tried.
And then the sinus infections. I had been experiencing ear infections fairly regularly beforehand. The sinus infections were twenty times worse. It felt like my head was going to explode! I was given round after round of antibiotics, and I would just get sick again shortly after.
It was hard to function with weekly migraines and sinus infections every 1-2 months. And then I started developing weird swellings on my fingers. It started with one finger, which became huge and swollen. Again I was given antibiotics, which didn’t work.
Then the red swelling spread to two fingers. And then the other hand. Round after round of antibiotics did not help whatsoever. My job required me to type all day. These painful finger swellings made my work extra challenging!
I felt like I was falling apart. I was constantly sick, tired, and in pain. I was taking handfuls of medications to try to control all of my symptoms, and not one of them helped. I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost and alone. I had dreams of going to medical school, but after my masters, I didn’t feel I was well enough for the endeavour, and I was just getting progressively worse.
By happenstance, I stumbled upon a small health food store in the corner of a tiny strip mall. I had never entered a health food store in my life. This was absolute foreign territory for me! Something inside me told me to go in and see if I could find a solution. I was starting to get desperate. It felt like my life was falling apart.
I had a conversation with one of the employees there, who suggested I see a holistic nutritionist she knew. I had never heard of one of those before but thought anything is worth a shot at this point.
I went to see this holistic nutritionist and explained my symptoms. She told me to stop eating dairy products and wheat. I thought she was out of her mind! This was back in 2003 before gluten-free and dairy-free were not well-known terms. The idea of not eating these foods were not concepts I had ever heard of or even considered.
After some convincing, I finally decided to try her suggested regime. And guess what? The finger swelling went away, the migraines and the sinus infections stopped. COMPLETELY. Also, without changing anything else in my diet, just avoiding these two food categories, I lost 25 pounds in a matter of months. It just melted off. I was back to my high school weight again!
This experience opened my eyes to the fact that food can have a huge effect on the body! I also came to the conclusion that health is more than just relying on medications. What we eat has a huge impact on how the body functions.
It was this realization that set me on the path to go back to school and study naturopathic medicine. I quit my job and began a 4-year journey at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM).
It was amazing how much easier it was to learn, focus, and concentrate when my body was functioning more optimally. The learning experience was night and day compared to my previous university degrees.
To this day I still avoid dairy and wheat products. As it turns out, I had an anaphylactic allergy to dairy. Just a drop on my tongue would cause my tongue and eyes to swell within 60 seconds.
I have seen an association with others as well that sinus and ear infections seem to have a strong correlation with dairy intolerances and allergies. Each person can respond differently if they have a sensitivity to a certain food, so while this is a common association, it is by no means the rule.
In recent years, some other health issues have cropped up due to extenuating stressful circumstances. I will talk about this in future posts, as well as how I have further adjusted my diet to control what I was experiencing. There are, of course, root causes to consider. Which will be yet another post!
I talk about this piece of my story today to emphasize the importance of diet on wellness, and the impact dietary choices can have on your well-being. As I would learn in my studies and practical experience, dairy products and gluten and/or wheat tend to be top aggravators for a lot of people. There are, of course, other common aggravating foods, such as soy, eggs, and nuts for example.
However, dairy and wheat and/or gluten are the top two food items people are the most hesitant to avoid. They can be addictive, as they contain caseomorphins and gluteomorphins, which can stimulate us to crave them, making it difficult to let them go. These compounds activate the brain in similar ways to opiods, like heroine.
I will go into further detail in another post about the main issues with these foods, and how they can contribute to inflammatory reactions.
If you are struggling with mysterious issues that don’t seem to resolve despite the best efforts you and your healthcare practitioner are making, it might be important to consider what you are eating, as well as how you are living.
[ctt template="7" link="Ud8Kr" via="yes" ]If you are struggling with mysterious issues that don’t seem to resolve despite the best efforts you and your healthcare practitioner are making, it might be important to consider what you are eating, as well as how you are living. [/ctt]
Sleep, stress, social connection, life balance, and HOW you eat are some lifestyle aspects that are just as important as which foods you put in your body. Feel free to check out the linked articles to learn more about some of these lifestyle habits.
What do you think? If you are struggling with wellness issues, do you think there may be something you are eating or a life habit that is out of balance that may be contributing to your concerns?