Thursday, July 11, 2013

Letters to my Daughters: on health and nutrition, my journey

My Darling Daughters,
Part of our family culture that is different from many others, is the way we approach health. There is a long back-story and some very specific things I believe about it that direct these choices, and I'd like to tell you about them...

When I was 14, I was riding my bike on our block, and proceeded to have a Grand Mal seizure and fall off into a neighbor's yard. After an ambulance ride, time in the ER, MRI, and later an EEG, they found that nothing was physically wrong with my brain, but that I had some abnormal brain activity. I was prescribed Tegretol and had monthly blood draws to check the level of it in my blood. I was on a relatively low dose, but it still made me have entire days when I was too dizzy to get out of bed. I all but stopped playing the piano because I couldn't think fast enough, which was very frustrating to me. Tegretol is known to be liver toxic, and can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy, so we knew it was not a long-term solution.

Because of the potential liver issues, at that time patients were prescribed Tegretol for two years, and then taken off, in the hope they'd never have another seizure. They did this with me, and 7 months after coming off the medication I was sitting in English class and it happened again. Being wheeled through the high school library on a stretcher is not an experience I recommend trying out. Back on Tegretol, and desperately praying for healing.

At that point, my mom, who had always been fascinated by nutrition anyway, began looking for other answers. We heard about a doctor in Denver who had helped a girl with seizures that started in her teens, just like me, get off medication and not have seizures anymore. At the time he had a 6 month waiting list, so I did another 6 months with the familiar side effects. When we saw Dr P for the first time, I was 17. He was convinced we could help me heal and not have to take meds. I followed his advice, felt better than I ever remembered before, went off my meds, and things were looking so much better.

After a couple years, I started to drift away from his advice. I was working full time, and actually got hooked on getting a mocha before work every morning. Because milk hurt my stomach, I ordered soy. And though I started with decaf, before long I was enjoying full caffeine and the extra energy I got from it. When I quit my job and went away to Bible school, I hoped that I would be able to eat well enough to be ok. In the first two days at Bible school, it became obvious to me that what they were feeding us was not going to work. I felt terrible. I remember driving to Safeway in Estes Park, wandering the aisles looking for stuff that would help me function on the diet I was going to have to eat. A day later, I was having coffee at a staff person's house. She made some French press, and a group of girls and I settled in for a nice time of talking together. Except I took one sip of that strong coffee and had another seizure. I slowly woke up in the Estes Park ER, and my parents came soon after. I was determined to stay, and we worked out a way that I could cook all my own meals and take care of myself the way I knew I needed to.

The funny thing was, I had never really learned how to cook much. And now I was 2 1/2 hours from home and didn't have a choice. It was baptism by fire. I ate lots of really. bad. food. those first couple months. But pretty soon the people who (good-naturedly) made fun of my "healthy" meals at first, were drooling over my steaks while they went down to eat their casserole in the cafeteria. I got pretty good at cooking, and had no one to impress but myself.

I swore off coffee, but there were still things about my body that weren't working well, and stress brought on seizures. A couple years later I had another one, in a time that was very high stress financially. A couple years after that, another one, after getting up at 4am to catch a flight and not eating enough. By this time, I was pretty fearful. I was about to get married, we knew we wanted children soon. I knew I wouldn't be able to take the drugs during pregnancy, and I was beginning to wonder if what we were doing was working. After lots of prayer, I renewed my commitment to take good care of myself. If I didn't sleep well, I stayed in bed. I never went more than 2-3 hours without eating something with protein to stabilize my blood sugar. If I didn't feel well, I didn't drive. I often canceled my plans because of how I felt. I was very, very careful. During this time, I asked someone to pray for healing for me, and was told I had a demon that caused seizures. I didn't know what to think of that. Still don't, honestly.

No one knew how my body would handle pregnancy and birth, but we found out quickly since I got pregnant just two weeks after we were married. I successfully carried and birthed two babies. After Audrey was born though, I was feeling terrible. I now believe I had PPD, and probably would have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia as well. I began taking an herbal supplement to help balance some things in my body, and I reacted to that and had ANOTHER seizure, probably the strongest one yet. The side of my left eye and my chin hit the kitchen counter and floor and I had black and blue places on my face for nearly a month. My eye area has looked different to me ever since. Every seizure, I bit my tongue severely and could hardly talk or eat for several days.

Honestly, I was devastated. In spite of my careful eating and living, it happened again. And now I had two young children to care for alone while Nick worked every day. I was honestly terrified. I called several doctors, trying to find someone who would be open to seeing me without putting me on medication, because we knew we wanted more children. But we had no medical insurance. How would we pay for it anyway? We agonized over what to do. But then something happened. Another run through food sensitivities with Dr P found gluten as an issue. At this point, my energy levels were about 30% of what I considered normal. My whole body hurt all the time. I had terrifying thoughts and dreams and depression. I took gluten out of my diet, and literally within two DAYS, the pain was 80% better. Slowly, over the next month or so, the cloud lifted. I could think clearly, the pain was so much less.

That was 6 1/2 years ago, and thank God, I haven't had a seizure since! In the past year, we have led worship nearly every week, often getting up at 5 or 5:30am after 4-6 hours of sleep to have all six of us at church by 6:30am. I am still careful how I eat, but my body has withstood two more pregnancies and births, and lots of other hard use with no seizures. I am a living, walking miracle.

I have learned that eating lots of fat - animal fat, coconut oil, olive oil - makes my blood sugar stable and I don't get shaky and nauseous between meals anymore. I have learned that when I eat stuff I know I shouldn't (even when it's gluten free!), I still pay for it in stomach issues and zero energy. I have learned to continue to let myself sleep as much as I need. I take naps nearly every day.

I still have a ways to go - I have days when I have so little energy that I don't do much except feed and keep the children alive. But doesn't every mom? Stress wipes out my digestion and makes me feel terrible, and it takes a long time to recover when that happens. I hope that won't be the case someday soon.

Here's the thing: our food supply is not the way it always was. Over the years, plants have been hybridized and changed through genetic modification until they are different than they were designed to be. I recently read somewhere that the wheat of the Bible had 14 chromosomes. Our modern wheat has 35. At some point, our bodies say, "I don't know what this is. ATTACK!!!" Everyone's body does this at a different point. I am a sensitive person, Spiritually, Emotionally, and Physically. So maybe my threshold is lower than some people's. I'm not honestly sure. But I do know that God led me to this way of life, this way of eating and living. I found it interesting recently when I came across Deuternomy 22:9 - "Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled." Did God say this because He knew hybridizing crops would mess them up? I don't know. But I wonder!

There is a balance here, because I see some people fall off into intense fear about what they eat. There is absolutely no way to control the source of everything you ever eat. That's something we must trust God for. But buying the cheapest food to be had, blessing it to your nourishment, and expecting it to do no harm is not wise either. If God wanted the temple covered in pure gold, why would we put trash into our bodies which are the living temple of the Holy Spirit?

I don't know what food will be like when you are grown, daughters. Right now there is a battle raging over whether or not to label GMO's in food. I don't know who will win. Other countries don't want America's GMO's anywhere near their food supply, and for that I am grateful. Maybe we can contain them to this continent and avoid having the world's food supply contaminated with them? Just because they have not been proven to be harmful doesn't mean they aren't. We are dealing with a massive scale scientific experiment conducted on humans. It's pretty bad. I hope, whatever happens, that you are able to understand why we made the decisions we made, and be passionate about health. People are hurting all around us - unable to find answers for their health problems. Sometimes the answers aren't very fun. Sometimes they require long-suffering and perseverance. But I hope that I can instill in you the ability to never give up on finding answers. I didn't give up, and answers came. And never leave God out of the equation - one touch from Him and anything wrong in our bodies is made right. He wants us to be well and able to carry out everything He has planned for us. But He puts within us the wisdom to seek the answers, and He put within the world at creation, amazing healing agents like plants and nutrition science, that can help.

The way of our family with food is not the easiest, cheapest way, but I believe it is God's will for us. I am so grateful to be healthy and capable. That's why I wanted to tell you this story, so you will remember my testimony of what God has done for me, and understand why we're different. You each have your own health issues and stories of your own that are being written right now. I challenge you to do your own reading and research, and not just believe what you are told about health. It can be confusing at times, but when you're seeking God you have an advantage that other people are missing - they're doing it in their own wisdom, but you can do it with God's. It won't always be popular, and sometimes you might even find out you were wrong. But the journey is worth it.

I love you!


  1. I love this series and I have a similar one started in drafts. Love that you are passing your wisdom onto your girls this way.

    This particular post made me cry. I have always admired your health choices and I have found that I am now needing to make those for myself. So this was very encouraging for me to read.

  2. I'm so glad it encouraged you, Kyla!