I have known for a long time that wheat was a menace to our health; even the most healthy whole grain wheat products can be detrimental. There have been different times in the past 15 years that I eliminated wheat and felt better, lost weight and gained energy. Then after a few months, I would find it difficult to maintain a wheat free diet when traveling to other countries, especially Latin American countries that rely so heavily on bread as a staple in their diets. I did not concern myself with all gluten products, since my reactions were not as severe as some who are allergic to it.
One issue that I contended with from my childhood was congestion in my nose, throat and sinuses. It did not seem like a huge issue, but every morning I would wake up to coughing, blowing my nose and spitting. Sounds gross, but that was my morning experience and I became very used to it. That experience never left me, even when I would eliminate wheat for extended periods. Another issue I had was indigestion. I frequently needed to take enzymes and homeopathic remedies to help me with acid reflux and indigestion.
My family and I have a practice of doing an annual intestinal cleanse of teas, herbs and powders that lasts a month. We also do a juice fast once a year for anywhere from two to ten days. This annual routine makes us feel good, gives us energy, and makes us feel lighter energetically. However, that never eliminated my indigestion and did not take care of my mucus issue that I thought I would have to deal with forever and ever, amen.
A few years ago, I read a couple of books on the eating habits of our society. I knew much of what I read, but I didn’t think most of the sensitivities that most people had to certain foods — dairy products, sugars and corn — pertained to me. I had been very health conscious for more than thirty years and was a vegan for about ten of those years. I knew how to combine foods to create a complete protein and taught vegetarian cooking classes (both vegan and ovo-lacto) for years. I am no longer a vegetarian, since I occasionally eat organic chicken, eggs and fish, but still have vegetarian meals as a part of our meal planning. We buy organic, local and sustainable produce whenever possible, and we have had gardens to grow much of our own food for many years. It has been very rewarding to have canned and frozen vegetables and fruits, and dehydrated items, especially home-grown herbs, to get us through the winter months and share with family and friends. We bake most of our own products at home and use only raw and organic sugars in the baked goods. Nevertheless, I still felt that something was not quite right with my health.
Fog in my brain
I am post-menopausal and have noticed some bodily changes since my cycle completely stopped over five years ago. My energy level gradually declined and I gradually gained more weight even though I ate less. It was a chore to exercise and I found myself sleeping more than my usual seven to eight hours a night. I also felt a bit of a fog in my brain and became concerned when I wasn’t remembering things the way I had before.
Oh my God! What was happening to me? I felt like I was beginning to fall apart. Here I was, a healer and teacher, and I was struggling with getting up in the morning. In my mind, I felt young and vibrant as I always had (other than the mental fog), but my body was not responding the way it always had. Was I aging? Was this what I had to look forward to for the rest of my life? No thank you! Not for this girl!
In February I decided that I would eliminate some of the foods listed as the “sensitive seven” from my daily diet for a while and see if it made a difference. My family got on board with me so we decided to do it together. We assumed we would lose some weight and gain some energy but the results far outreached our expectations.
Check! Check! Check!
First, we decided to do a raw juice fast for a week to give us a kick start. Then we began adding foods slowly, eliminating all wheat and products that had wheat in them. Okay, no problem, we had done that before. Check!
Now, to eliminate corn and corn products — no problem. I had trained myself many years ago to read labels and see the hidden ingredients in the list that might be derived from corn or its byproducts. Check!
Dairy products were a slight challenge, but not too bad. We had switched primarily to goat milk products about two or three years ago and found them much less bothersome. We don’t really use milk, except in baking, so the drinking of milk would not be missed. However, about a month into this change of eating habits, we decided that we would eliminate all dairy for a while, even goat and sheep, to see what results we would have. Wow, better! Check!
Sugar and much more
Next was sugar. We have not had refined white sugar in our home for over twenty years, so that did not seem like a big issue. On the occasions when we used sugar, we only used turbinado, sucanat, and dried pure cane juice. I assumed that since these sugars were not only organic but much closer to the original plant, there would be no effects from them. Recently I read an article on sugar cane and how it is considered a grass. Not only that, sugar cane is related to the wheat plant. Ding, ding, ding! It was time to eliminate all sugar cane products. We did so with amazing results. When we felt the urge to consume something sweet other than fruit, in tea or mixed into something, we began using either agave nectar or honey. Agave does not seem to affect the glycemic index negatively the way sugars do, and honey is so concentrated that only a small amount is needed. Check!
Peanuts were another food that was easy to give up since we hardly ever ate them. Check!
Soy and eggs would be a bit trickier, and we tested them to determine our bodily responses. Soy is one of those foods that, unless organically grown and processed, can have detrimental effects. Also, many women are highly sensitive to it and are not able to ingest any kind of soy protein. That was not the case with us, although we did limit the amount we ate to about once a month. When we did eat soy, it was in the form of organic tofu or homemade, slow-cooked soy base that we added to foods to increase the protein level. Eggs did not seem to be a bother, but we only consumed fresh farm-raised, free-range ones. Check!
Night shade vegetables
Now came the “night shade” dilemma. I remember my mother telling me about night shade vegetables over twenty years ago and how harmful they were for her, even though she ate them on and off through the years. I never gave it too much attention until recently. Since we were on such a roll, we decided to eliminate night shade plants, which include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. These vegetables are not incommodious when eaten on occasion, but in our American culture we eat so much of them — and so frequently — that we have become sensitive to them. When we become aware of the hidden items in the foods we eat, especially the processed foods, we realize that we are consuming them daily. The two that were the most difficult for us were the tomatoes and potatoes. We love to add our home-canned tomatoes to everything, and those morning hash browns are a must for a happy tummy. But lo, we eliminated them as well. Check and check!
The first month was a bit tough, although it was not as difficult as you might imagine. After a week of juices, we were happy to eat solid food. We kept meals simple and ate a lot of brown and wild rice with our meals. We made a lot of stir fries and, because spring was here early this year, we grilled chicken, fish and veggies frequently. As long as we gave a bit of thought the day before to the next day’s meals, we did very well. We roasted whole heads of garlic in the oven and added them to just about everything. I don’t know if people were just being kind, but we never received a bad breath or body odor complaint.
After having spent so much time in Mexico, I have become accustomed to using lime instead of lemons. I observed that Mexican people squeezed fresh lime juice onto most of their food at the table. I discovered later that this practice adds enzymes to the food and, in turn, aids the digestion process. We use lime juice liberally and have not had the digestive issues from before.
Since making these changes, we have regained our vitality, lost a considerable amount of weight, and continue to do so, and are eating plenty of healthy yummy food and never feeling hungry. The indigestion is gone and the mucus problem that I had from childhood is a thing of the past. I stopped using the hormone replacement therapy that only made me cranky and I have not lost my hair. The mental fog has cleared out and I am not panicked about forgetting things.
What have we learned?
So what have we accomplished and what have we learned from all of this?
- Become more aware of your body. Our bodies are trying to tell us what we need to be healthy and energetic. The foods that we ate when we were young may not suit us now — not because our bodies are older, but because the buildup of empty, fat-filled toxic foods has saturated our bodies and they can no longer tolerate them.
- Moderation is the key! Eat and enjoy food, but don’t eat the same food three times a day masked in different forms.
- Be gentle with yourselves. Don’t get down on yourself when you occasionally eat something that may not be the best for you. Our bodies are forgiving when we eat with enjoyment and gratitude and will respond in kind.
- Eat consciously. Enjoy life and love the food you eat. Eating is such a social and family pleasure when done in a group. Avoid eating in front of the television, since your digestive system gets mesmerized and confused and may allow you to overeat.
Life is a wonderful experience, and when we are able to accommodate our bodies so that they can give their optimum response for our joy and pleasure, what more could we ask for?