Food as Medicine.

foodasmedicinepinMy Story:

At the beginning of the summer, I made five serious goals. My number one priority was simple: treat food as medicine. Finally, I’m going to explain what this means to me, why I do it, and how it continues to change my body and how I nourish it. Please know that I am neither a doctor nor nutritionist. I am aware of this. I just know that as I have mentioned it, people have been curious. So I am sharing parts of my story.*

Why is this important to me? In 2008, I had a seizure due to a medication a doctor put me on. It was fluke, one time occurrence. Little did I (or anyone else) know but this fluke seizure actually messed up my body. It caused my chronic auto-immune disease that I live with now.*

Over the next year, my body began to slowly deteriorate. Doctors would diagnosis me and I would return home from college worse. Clearly this wasn’t sudden IBS or then mono. By spring, I could barely walk and more serious tests were done. When I cam home for the summer I could barely move; laying down hurt, as if my whole body was one pulse of pain. I was fortunate that my whole family–Mom, Dad, Stepmom–devoted themselves to my diagnosis and treatment.

Because I could barely move throughout that summer (and I still did not have a diagnosis), I gained a lot of weight. Before the previous year of health issues, my weight mattered a great deal to me. I had an emotional attachment to food. And then I lost a bunch of weight–and not in the healthiest of ways. I didn’t have an eating disorder but I definitely had a disordered view of food happening to get my body down to a size zero. But in the summer of 2009, praying for a diagnosis, in so much pain, my weight or vanity didn’t matter to me at all. I just wanted to be out of pain. That’s it.

Finally, a month before my senior year of school, I was diagnosed and two weeks after that we started to see improvement with medications. We also found a doctor who practiced as an MD and very much in the western style but also used some holistic methods. He brought up the “Candida Diet” which is not a diet. It’s a way of life. Basically we all have yeast in our bodies (and I know when I say yeast, what you automatically think…that can be a symptom but the yeast is everywhere) and the idea is that yeast causes any health issue to be worse and that we are healthier without. So the idea is to kill the yeast (which makes me think of that part in Beauty and the Beast where they sing: Kill the Beast!). How do you kill yeast? By cutting out all sugar, including natural sugars in fruit (once the yeast is dead, you can add in natural sugars). This is the book I followed if you are interested. But I was doing all this under doctor supervision.

A few weeks ago in present time, my dad mentioned to me this memory he had and got a little emotional: “I’ll never forget the call I got a few weeks into the semester where you said, ‘Dad, I’m walking to class!'” I was taking my medications and following the Candida free way.

I lost weight but again it was just a perk. I naturally leveled off and I consider that to my healthy size (and guess what? It’s not a zero). Meanwhile the food I was eating wast improving how I felt (any day on below a four on the pain scale was amazing and a month or two in I was having days at a two level). Plus this way of eating took emotion and vanity out of it: I desperately wanted to feel as healthy as possible for me, as low of a pain level as possible.

Fast forward to this February, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been for a number of reasons. I don’t mind sharing but this is long already. I was also in denial over how much pain I was in. Imagine carrying dumbbells that weighed 70 pounds plus your healthy body while grocery shopping, going to work, cleaning, even just sitting…basically living.

Finally, I spoke to my parents and admitted things I didn’t even realize until I said the words. I feared that I would never have a normal life, let alone a social life, that I always downplayed my pain to them, that I was the worst I’d ever been–practically back to that place before my diagnosis. I felt defeated. My mom said she would travel to help me. My dad encouraged me with this, that still sticks with me, after I said that there will never be a day for me without pain: “Aren’t your best days better than your worst days? Compare you to you.” It kicked me in the butt and I stopped feeling defeated.

Enter my plan to treat food as medicine. It’s not paleo (though there are a lot of similarities); it’s gluten free for two reasons–gluten affects my IBS and once gluten is in your body it doesn’t necessarily add nutrients (medicine to your body…just hold on and I’ll get there). But it’s so much more than that. It’s what works for my body and just my explanation for the people who have asked.

foodasmedicineguidelines1. It’s a lifestyle.

I stayed on the Candida “Diet” (which is also supposed to be a lifestyle) for six months until I got swine flue and then a horrible allergic reaction to the medicine they put me on. It was a bad year. But I needed cheesecake at that moment. I just needed it. After that, it was hard to get back on Candida because my pain was better. For a long time (years), I could eat what I wanted and stay between a 4 or a 5 on the pain level (which when you are used to pain is so doable…it wasn’t noticeable to anyone but me so why not have cookie dough?).

I knew this time my lifestyle choice of Food as Medicine had to be different. Did I need to be so extreme? Can I enjoy fruit and stevia? Also can I please use balsamic vinegar (vinegars not allowed on Candida) because that plus Olive Oil equals how Italians make salads and it is so low calorie and so yummy?

I also have to have a serious mindset. I cannot forget how bad the pain can get. My pain has decreased a little over this summer as I’ve done Food as Medicine and it will continue. But I can never get to the place where cookie dough is cool. I am just not in the position for that, personally. It may or probably be different for you. But since the seizure God has just blessed me and protected my heart from feeling entitled to my health or anger at him. This is my reality. Aren’t my best days worth this?

2. The Weight of it All.

The extra 70 pounds I carried for months did a number on me. Moving was hard and even if I didn’t move the pain was so much worse than anything I’ve experienced since 2008-2009. I know that this extra weight I am carrying is the biggest piece of the pie chart called: Why has Nina’s pain increased. Period. Again, there is no vanity involved because things have been so bad. When I was at my highest weight and looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself, I should have cared but I couldn’t because I had just barely made it through the shower and I needed to get horizontal ASAP.

I knew I needed to lower my pain level for lots of reasons (sanity, my business, etc.) but the biggest reason was my pain level. I had to get it off as agressively as possible so I would feel better. So I don’t cheat. Ever. Even on vacation. The only time I have in the last two months was a butter beer at Harry Potter Land because that was a bucket list moment. But back to this being a lifestyle thing, for me, and my situation, vacations can’t be a reason to not treat food as medicine. (Some do fine with everything moderation and seriously good for you…For me everything has to be medicine, see below).

3. What I Already Knew.

I knew from previous experience that lean meat/fish protein and lots of vegetable, particularly of the green variety made me feel my best. I also knew that gluten just messed with my IBS. Also, I know flax is the cool thing to do but it messes me up. I can’t be descriptive about it.

4. Ask: How Can I Make This More Nutritious?

For example, I could technically be “eating clean” with my nonna’s sauce and rice pasta. But how can I make this more nutritious? What in this meal is actually not adding nutrients to the situations? The gfree pasta. Hence, the Spaghetti Squash with Nonna’s Sauce.

5. Mindset.

I talk about it as Food as Medicine. I don’t call it clean eating or some versions of it. I think of it as Food as Medicine. When I make a meal, I think of this food as medicine.

One thing I am sure not to do is reward myself with food. I just personally can’t look at food as a reward. It is not good for my mindset and and the whole It’s a lifestyle thing.

Should a healthy person do this? I don’t think you should do exactly what I am doing. I created a philosophy that is deeply personal but maybe that is important: to create your own personal food credo.

If you have any questions, please go ahead and email me.

*I got back and forth between sharing my illness here on the blog. Because I flip flop, I am not ready to share everything because once I do, it’s out there. And I don’t want to be judged by employers especially because my employers have never been able to even tell. I work to the detriment of my health, actually. I am nervous about even sharing this much to you all.

Also again let me emphasize that this is what works for me. I am not trying to push it on anyone. And, I believe this is important: I believe firmly in Western Medicine. If I miss a pill for some reason, my body feels it. The food I put in my body is like a booster shot to a system that is working while also changing my personal views on food. I believe in Western Medicine but when you’re in so much pain, you are open to trying some holistic medicine. Food as Medicine will not cure me and it will not remove my need to take my pills. But it does and will help me to have more days that are my very best.

I also have a Food as Medicine Pinterest Board…

Follow Flowers in my Hair | NB Creative Inc.’s board Food as Medicine. on Pinterest.

or follow me on all my boards on Pinterest–I just reorganized everything.

Okay. Talk to me!

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42 thoughts on “Food as Medicine.

  1. Lindsay

    So glad you shared this! I’m sorry it took feeling terrible to get to this point, but I think we push ourselves until we can go no further. I try to think of food as medicine or fuel- but I treated myself over vacation and have had a hard time getting back on track. Love following your journey!

    1. Nina Post author

      Like I said, a lot of people can cheat and be okay. I can’t be. Maybe when my weight is down and my pain is back to a 2-3, I will be one of those people. But I just can’t be. I am glad that you enjoyed your vacation! Everyone is different. You have to do what works for you! Yes, feeling like a pain incarnate is a big motivator in my case 🙂

  2. Sheryl

    Nina, Thank you for sharing your story. I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue in 2008 and had obniously high candida levels after my mom died. I know very well how it feels to feel as if you can’t walk across the room.I do try to follow the mantra that food is medicine but there are times when I’ve fallen and cheated (and felt it). It is my hope that as we share our stories, more people will gain understanding. Food is truly medicine and viewing it as such is beneficial. Thank you for this post!! XOXO

    1. Nina Post author

      Thanks for your story. I am glad you found a way to combat the adrenal fatigue. I just went in an added a few disclaimers haha because I want to make sure people know that I use western medicine because it is a necessity too. But everyone’s different so I had to add more disclaimers about that too. Thanks for the positivity and encouragement, Sheryl.

      1. Sheryl

        Oh yes, the disclaimers that your remember after you’ve written the post!! 🙂 I just wish more physicians realized a holistic approach (including food) can do so much more besides adding more pills. (sorry, just my thoughts for the day)

        1. Nina Post author

          No totally. I think open minded doctors who practice western medicine who either treat with some holistic things or even an open mind are great.

    1. Nina Post author

      That’s exactly what it is: what works for me. I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m saying this is what you need to do. I am not a health professional just a professional patient LOL but yes, I’ve already seen vast improvements but I have a long way to go!

    1. Nina Post author

      Cassie, it’s so long and there are so many disclaimers. I just went back and added a few more. I added more about this working for me personally. And also that I very much believe in western medicine because if I miss a pill or don’t take one, I am in a lot of pain. So the meds I am on, I def need……So nervous to post because I am not a health professional…just a professional patient….And felt like I was explaining and explaining and over explaining because people have taken stuff I’ve said out of context before and… you know

  3. Morgan Lewis

    I love this! I am currently on day 4 of a sugar detox (which also includes carbs and fruits) so this post was encouraging for me this morning. What is the book you used? I can’t find where you linked.

  4. Sammy

    My mom has been down a path similar to this one and I know it’s not a fun thing to deal with at all. I’m happy that food is working for you, and that you’re having better days. Praying for even greater days in your future and for the answers you need.

  5. Kelly

    Awesome perspective. It’s important to see food as medicine because really, what we eat affects us in more ways than we even know. It makes us what we are! I’m sorry to hear about the struggles. But I’m really glad you’re finding things that are improving the situation about making you happy 🙂

  6. Caroline @ In Due Time

    This is a topic I am so passionate about it, so I love this post! It’s ALL about eating REAL food – just as you said – a lifestyle. Not a a diet or a fad! I think if people TRULY realized it does matter what they put in their body, they would be more aware of how they ate!

    1. Nina Post author

      Yes, I agree. But there are a lot of people that can eat whatever and how they feel is just what they are used to so if you don’t know how big of a difference it makes…why do it? I am fortunate because I know from personal experience that for my personal health it does make a difference that makes putting the work in worth it. 🙂

  7. Katie Elizabeth

    This was such a great post. My mom had Crohn’s disease which meant that very literally, the food you ate could make you feel terrible or it could make you feel okay, so I 100% agree that ‘food is medicine’. I’ve been praying for you and I’m so glad that things are getting better!

  8. Martha Kate

    Oh my sweet friend!
    Thank you thank you for sharing your journey. This hits home more than you know…I too haven’t shared on my blog but the last six months have been spent in doctors offices trying to figure out what is going on with my body and why I am in such constant pain and have such constant fatigue. In two months I finally get to see a rheumatologist and hopefully figure out what is wrong. They suspect some sort of autoimmune. We definitely need to chat. Thank you as always for sharing your story. For being real and for inspiring others. You mean so much to me! Love you! MK

    1. Nina Post author

      Martha Kate! Please feel free emailing me if you want/need details of my situation (and how I can be praying for yours). I will be totally open one on one in email just not on the blog. Your symptoms sound a lot like what I was finally diagnosed with (but obviously not a doctor). Regardless, if you email or not, I am praying for you! Love you!

  9. Haleigh

    Nina,

    I love to see you seeking a natural alternative, but hate that you have to endure pain! Thank you for sharing your honest journey! I have no doubt that this post will reach someone who truly needs it! Praying that your pain eases soon and that every single day is better than the last!

    xoxo,

    haleigh

    1. Nina Post author

      Thanks, Haleigh!! It means a lot and I am already seeing the fruit of it (no pun intended)

  10. Anne

    You have piqued my interest for awhile now since you started mentioning Food as Medicine. I love that you consider it like taking pills. That’s such a healthier view of what I view food as. I need to reconsider so many of my eating habits (I know this post wasn’t about that per se but it sparked my thinking so thank you). Food can easily become comfort and something to fill time and a habit. I continue to eat things even though I pay for it later. I appreciate you introducing this concept to me and I hope that you continue to find relief. XO

    1. Nina Post author

      Yeah, I am still in the process of changing my view. Food is fuel. Or it has to be for me! Love, love!

    1. Nina Post author

      I was reading something and it was like: you are not a dog…dogs are rewarded with food. you do not reward yourself with food. It stuck with me.

  11. Jenna @ A Savory Feast

    This is SO good. I have been changing the way I eat over the past few years, cutting out as much processed foods, enriched foods, and other crap as I can. While I didn’t necessarily have any health problems before I did this, I noticed so many changes. I had always had digestive problems that I just thought were normal, but I’ve been able to cut them out with these changes. I also was able to lose stubborn weight, gain muscle and feel so much better. I’ve noticed that when I eat badly, I lose energy and feel terrible. This is definitely a motivator to stick to my healthy lifestyle!

    1. Nina Post author

      Yes! Actually before the seizure, my family went on this no processed food thing…And a few months in we were at the airport, and I could literally feel how sluggish I was at after the burger…but if you’re used to feeling like that all the time, you don’t know what you’re missing!

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  13. Gabbi B

    This is such a great post! I had a drastic food moment three+ years ago when I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, which is an autoimmune disorder, and had to start following the IC Diet. It rules out anything that would be irritating to your bladder, such as acidic foods like tomatoes and Orange juice, but also foods that you don’t think would be, like broccoli. It also meant thinking of food as medicine and thinking about it in terms of “will this help my body?” If it didn’t, I didn’t eat it. It was a HUGE change as a normal 25 year old going from eating whatever I wanted to suddenly eliminating half the foods in my cupboard! I definitely sympathize and can understand what you’re going through and how you feel. My medicines have made me gain about 50 lbs. I am working to lose some of it, but it is difficult, like you said.

    I hope that in the future, you feel that you can be more open about your health struggles. I do understand wanting to keep it private but I found that once I shared my struggles and story with everyone, I felt much more.. Free, I guess, and not so isolated, ashamed, judged, and scared. I got more support than I thought I would, and your job can’t discriminate you based on your health. It’s your decision obviously but from one “sickie” to another, it really is freeing to be open and honest about your health struggles — own it, girl! 🙂

    1. Nina Post author

      Gabbi, I’m sorry for everything you’ve gone through. Yes, it’s definitely hard to combat the weight gain that comes with the meds but we are doing it. Get it, girl!

      The reason I don’t share here has nothing to do with shame or anything like that. It has to do with the fact that I am a freelancer and this is part of my portfolio. If I am trying to get a new client or going back to the corporate world, I wouldn’t want that employer to even know. I know that they can’t discriminate against me once I am hired. But if they had two options and one didn’t have an illness? I also did have an employer who I was open about and it changed things. It was a very icky situation. Believe me, I go back and forth between sharing and not sharing but once it is out there…it’s out there. So I am taking baby steps. I would have no problem talking one on one or to fifty people about what I’ve been through and the specifics. I don’t feel isolated, ashamed, judged, or scared. I just wanted to clarify my reasons for not sharing at this point. I have zero problem owning it. I am completely open in the real world and with any one that reaches out online one on one. I just know that once anything goes up here, it’s a forever decision. Thanks!

      1. Gabbi B

        Hi Nina,

        I totally understand! I am a very new reader – I found your blog through another and this was the very first post I read – and saw that you want to become a full-time writer, but didn’t realize you use your blog as part of your portfolio. In that case, I completely understand not wanting to disclose your illness’ specificities! It’s one thing to judge, say, an editorial piece of writing, and another to judge your life.

        I didn’t mean to make any of those emotions sound like horrible things, or that using those for reasons to not be as open would be a bad thing. I am jealous that you don’t feel isolated, ashamed, judged, or scared — because I do! A lot of the time, I do. People can be very close-minded when you don’t have a physical disability that shows you are sick (an “invisible illness”, which is what I have and sounds like what you have, too) and they judge very harshly. Their mean words hurt, and friends don’t always understand not being able to go out even after you’ve “only” laid in bed all day, so it can be very isolating. I feel ashamed of my body for being only 28 years old and failing at simple tasks that it should be able to do without a second thought.. Like taking a shower without having to take a nap afterwards. I started a blog just to talk about my chronic illness, and I STILL have trouble talking about it and being open, because I struggle with facing the realities of it myself.

        My point is, your response seemed a little short and I think I may have come across the wrong way initially, unintentionally. I completely understand what you’re saying and was just trying to encourage you to be open because it might be more freeing, but now that I understand the situation more, I get where you’re coming from and agree why you don’t want to for now. Either way, you’ve got a supporter/cheerleader in me! 🙂

        1. Nina Post author

          Gabbi! I didn’t mean to sound short with you. I wanted to answer your questions or concern wens about me without making assumptions about you or divulging a ton of infor about me on the blog. I truly am so sorry for all you have gone through and go through on the daily. I would love to talk more with you because I think we may have a lot in common. I apologize again if I came off short! Xo Nina

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