I just finished a decadent raw homemade ice cream sundae (will post recipe soon). It was packed with energy-boosting superfood nutrients and I enjoyed it as much as I do the real thing (even more because of the guiltless pleasure of knowing I would not pay for it later). When I mean pay for it, I am talking about an autoimmune disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). Processed foods with refined sugar and flours worsen my condition. This is true for just about every other disease or health issue out there (diabetes, cancer, you name it) because inflammatory (processed) foods increase inflammation in the body. It's like Jack LaLanne said: "If man made it, don't eat it." Our bodies are living entities so why fill it with dead food? It is really true, you are what you eat.
I was diagnosed in my late-20s (had symptoms since age 20) with this disease that only affects LESS THAN 1% of the population (and mostly men). Wow, 1% and mostly men - really? Lucky me.
I have to say though that stress played a major role in my health going south at that age. I had been dealing with major stress issues from a long relationship that at one time was headed toward engagement and took an unexpected turn. Plus finishing college, and transitioning life from school to work. I remember feeling very strongly at graduation time that my life would be short. I think that feeling was my subconscious knowing there were some big health issues coming my way - I was on the brink at that time. This may sound odd to those who don't know me, but those who know me well, know that I have a bit of a sixth sense, especially when it comes to my body. For example, it was an inner feeling I had about a spot on my leg that told me to push the doc to take it off - she wouldn't have taken it off, she said it was fine, but I pushed... it was early melanoma. My Aunt died from melanoma - it is deadly if not caught early enough.
How I dealt with the news of AS, my eye complications from it and the melanoma is what has made the difference for me. We all have a choice to either listen to our bodies and push for answers, OR get on potentially harmful drugs, not ask questions and become a statistic (x% lived this long, x% didn't make it).
Because of its rarity, not many know about AS, so I liken it to rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, MS or any autoimmune disfunction. Out of the ones listed, AS can cause pain so severe it is debilitating. To put it bluntly; one day while searching I saw two board posts back-to-back from men with AS saying they wish they were dead. I got so used to dealing with pain and flare-ups (to the point where I could not get out of bed or even move my arms to push myself up) that I honed my Lamaze skills way before I needed them. I did very well staying in control while delivering two children without an epidural or any medication/intervention.
AS can cause a number of issues with soft tissues and organs, and can even cause blindness due to uveitis (inflammation in the eye, which is something I've had to deal with along with surgery to repair steroid-induced glaucoma from the treatment). The most common issue is severe pain in the back and an eventual fusion of the spine that can lead to disability. I wake up most mornings feeling like someone beat me with a hammer. I also have had pain in my knees, Achilles tendons/feet where I could not walk for 5 minutes without limping in pain, and hip pain that would cause nerve pain so severe it would bring me to my knees (and I am one tough cookie when it comes to pain tolerance).
I am hoping I'm one of the lucky ones who has it moderately, as I have been able to control it and even put myself in remission with a diet free of starch (refined anything and even starchy health foods like banana) and refined sugar, as well as low dairy (cheese seems to be okay). I LOVE BEER. And it tends to bother me, but red and dry white wine is okay, plus Grey Goose dirty martinis, so I guess I cannot complain.
I struggle daily with sticking to my starch/diary/refined-sugar-free diet because I LOVE treats (hence my obsession with raw and healthy baked treats). Although if I really stick to no starch, no dairy, no sugar I feel like superwoman. This diet plus regular yoga makes me feel 16 again (at that age I was doing back handsprings, holding 100 pound girls on my shoulders, and throwing them and catching them as a cheerleader). So my game plan (has worked for me in the past) is to stick to this diet during the week and occasionally indulge at a party or night out, but I'm struggling at the moment to get back into this after the birth of my second child. (I go into remission when pregnant so I indulged more than usual in "junk" because I didn't have my typical pain alarm go off. So I flared up big-time a week after delivery.)
At home I never buy any boxed/processed junk for me (for my kids, I get organic graham crackers, gluten-free organic rice treats, gluten-free organic gummies and real fruit bars, but that's about it as far as processed snacks for them). I have really not missed wheat or other refined flours as I can create delicious treats and breads with almond flour. And my sweets are never a problem with raw honey, organic maple syrup and Stevia to the rescue.
BTW: Animals that are under stress release chemicals that are toxic to them and the people who eat them. Also, the non-organic animals are pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, also of which get into the consumer's system. I love all animals and believe the farm animals are no different than the family cat or dog as far as intelligence, feelings of fear and souls. Even if the animals are raised for food, which is part of why they are here, they should be treated with love, respect and given appropriate food and treatment while alive. This includes as humane a slaughter as possible - those two words sure don't go together do they? But there are few regulations - even for transport they aren't mandated to even give the animals water for days. If you want to know more visit www.farmsanctuary.com.
Back to my point about why we have more food-related health issues today than 50 years ago. I went to some health lectures through Juice Plus (which I take regularly and swear by it) in which a local radiation oncologist was speaking. She said that she's been in the practice 20 years and only in the last 10 has she seen a huge increase in young women getting breast cancer... she attributes this to diet and also the hormone-treated meat as kids are developing faster these days - have you noticed? I sure have. She also said that dairy is not a health food (particularly cow's milk). I knew that already but it took me researching it to know. The milk companies know it too which my guess is why we've seen "Got Milk" ads for years now. It's just like the High Fructose Corn Syrup ad - paid for by the corn producers. Too funny. They know that people are starting to read labels and educate themselves on nutrition.
This oncologist also mentioned diabetes in her lecture. There is Juvenile Diabetes (Type I) and Type II... my understanding is that we had to change the other type's name from Adult Onset Diabetes to Type II because so many non-adults are now getting it. I remember sitting at a restaurant and overheard a mother ordering for her son (had to be around 8) and she asked about their diet soda list because he has diabetes and needs the diet soda. Wow. What happened to water? That's what my kids get and they don't have diabetes to fight. It starts with the mother/father getting educated and helping their kids have a shot at a healthy life.
Back in my grandmother's day, they ate raw potatoes as a snack. Yep! I wouldn't, but it's all they had - raw veggies, meat - whole foods (although potatoes are a no-no for inflammation). In general there wasn't a surplus of boxed food, and people made homemade family meals every night - so they really ate closer to a whole food diet without knowing it. I could go into all sorts of rants about the government, pharmaceutical companies and even the cancer research non-profits that get millions per year to "find a cure" when a cure is really under our noses - in our mouths - and they know it. I've known and heard of many with terminal cancer, told by the doctor to go home to die, who juiced, changed their lifestyle and eating habits, and actually are still alive to talk about it. My mom was diagnosed with Lupus at age 26. She was told she had 6 months to live. She became a strict health nut and has stuck to it. She's now in her upper 50s, has never been on meds and she's thriving. And then there's my example with food and AS... it's no accident - food is powerful.
Why does the FDA approve drugs that cause side effects that can kill us yet they don't approve natural things like Turmeric to treat inflammation? We all know why and it's GREEN. BTW: Turmeric is a beautiful shade of orange and is one of my lifesavers as it's a natural Indian spice you can get in pill form - and it's anti-inflammatory. I use it instead of Ibuprofen and it works, it can even take the edge off of AS pain! You know what other natural food is anti-inflammatory? Pineapple!! :) Check out this link: http://www.disaboom.com/nutrition/top-50-anti-inflammatory-foods
Huge companies are investing millions in consultants (I know because I was one of them) to help communicate their culture of health to employees... why? For one, to help them live a longer more productive life and two, to cut down on their crazy health care costs. Right now we have to communicate to adults like we would an 8-year old when it comes to understanding their health choices and how to take care of themselves. I feel that kids need to be required to take courses in nutrition starting in grade school. This could organically help fix our health care issues in this country. We need to start with the children to change our future.
And of course the schools need to provide much healthier lunch alternatives. Some are trying, but they think that cow's milk and refined flour products are healthy. We all remember the rectangular greasy pizzas, french fries and snack bar filled with chocolate donuts and pretzels with cheese (which were a regular occurrence for me). I ate junk during the day because my mom never knew it and I could... I didn't gain weight from it and I never felt the health consequences (until I hit college and the pain started). But even then I did not attribute the breakouts, pain, etc. to food. I wish someone had told me what I know now! My body was over toxic and telling me so, but I didn't see the warning signs. (I had a melanoma diagnosis around the same time I had the AS diagnosis). That's our culture. And I grew up in a health nut home - but I still didn't get it. No one sat me down to talk about it. I really believe that if kids are required to learn good nutrition and why they really ARE what the EAT it could help organically fix our health care issues because people will be healthier in general.
Sorry for the rambling post and maybe TMI, but I have so much to say on the topic of health that I could go on and on... Thanks for reading.