Today begins a several-part series on nutritional therapy and healing through diet, based on some notes and reflections on my own and my daughter’s health journey for the last five years. Her story is a living testimony at how damaging antibiotics and processed food can be, and how healing nourishing foods are! And my story highlights just how amazing and far-reaching the effects of optimal nutrition for energy, weight loss, positive mood, and healthy skin.
Due to the length of this story, I’m sharing the “cliff notes” verson, as I could literally write an entire book about my daughter’s five short years.
My first pregnancy was “normal” by all outward signs. I was planning a homebirth with low-key midwives who were pretty laid back and non-alarmist about much of anything. Although it’s totally normal to worry throughout your first pregnancy, I had serious concerns about the health of my unborn child. I didn’t feel as many kicks as other pregnant mothers seemed to describe. I was told not to worry. At 20 weeks, I had passed out in a restaurant and had to be rushed to the E.R. I had a kidney infection and a routine ultrasound (they do that in the ER when you’re pregnant) revealed that my daughter also had a kidney abnormality. This added to my worry, and when the due date came and went and she went overdue, I really began to panic. Long story short, she was born 2+ weeks late via emergency c-section at the hospital.
And I know, I know, sometimes due dates are off….but this child couldn’t have stayed another minute in the womb. She was born at 5 lbs, 6 oz and my placenta had completely expired. Obviously I had some significant nutritional issues during prenancy that were “below the surface” and my body failed to properly nourish my dear daughter.
After the traumatic birth, my body did what so many do post-partum: the post-traumatic stress response. I didn’t know this at the time, but my adrenals were working overtime. In the 15 months following my daughter’s birth, my body remained 60 + lbs overweight due to (what I believe) was a metabolic imbalance resulting from the birth of my child.
I was completely addicted to sugar and subsisted on cake, ice cream, oatmeal, and crackers. A very high glycemic diet, to say the least. My hormones were completely wacky and I could not, try as I might, produce enough breast milk to feed my baby exclusively.
Because of the antibiotics administered during the cesarean, I suffered from thrush and candida, and my sugar and starch-filled diet didn’t help that any. Worst of all, I was depressed, lethargic, and stressed about even the smallest things. No one ever diagnosed me with Post Partum Depression, but I think I had a pretty significant case of the “baby blues”. Thankfully, I had the support of my amazing family, including my mother who waited on me hand and foot for 2 weeks and has been so helpful all these years.
Through my Post-Partum Weight Loss Journey I learned many important lessons about how horrible refined carbs were for me, and as I slowly got back to my pre-pregancy weight, I began to feel better and more energetic. Just good enough to get pregnant again. In the middle of my second pregnancy, I discovered the Weston A Price Foundation and Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions which turned my world around.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s an invaluable, eye-opening resource that opened the door to the whole notion of Nutritional Therapy to begin with. The idea that what we eat is healing should have been obvious to me, and perhaps it always was. But what Nourishing Traditions points out is so contrary to the “politically correct” nutritional soundbites and really challenges nutritional misconceptions that are preached as dogma.
At any rate, though Nourishing Traditions I discovered the whole world of Real Food. And what better time than during my second pregancy? I consumed grass-fed, raw milk from local farms, cultured my own probiotic-rich kefir, brewed my own enzyme-rich kombucha, soaked my grains and drank my beet kvass.
My second pregnancy was so much smoother than the first, and although it ended in a cesarean, my recovery was much, much quicker and I seemed to be producing more breast milk this go-around. Unfortunately, I still did not make enough to sustain my son. Jonathan’s story outlines my search for alternatives to commercial, soybean-laden formula and is a testimony in and of itself to the amazing therapeutic properties of Real Food.
As for me, however, I still felt that lack of energy and internally combustable stress; the notion that at any moment it was all going to explode within me. I can’t explain it any better than that. I understand it now as an stress response malfunction due to mineral imbalance and it affected the adrenal and thyroid glands rather significantly.
After lots of trips to a naturopath and lots of guessing based on the symptoms I was describing, and after spending lots of money on herbs that didn’t seem to be helping, I turned to the internet to do some of my own research.
Seek and you shall find. I came into contact with wonderful people like Cheeseslave who was on her own journey of adrenal recovery, low milk supply, and nutritonal healing for gut and digestive issues. I started to look into the whole notion of Adrenal Fatigue and the benefits of theraputic diets such as the GAPS diet for digestive healing. In short, I uncovered something that would change my life: Nutritional Therapy.
How does Nutritional Therapy Differ from Naturopathic Care?
Nutritional Therapy is somewhat unique in that it really addresses the Foundations of Optimal Health, and doesn’t focus so much on symptoms. Masking symptoms with herbs can be helpful, but if that doesn’t work, or stops working, it’s critical to go to the Foundations and restore balance.
The 5 Foundations of Optimal Health:
*Proper Digestion: The first thing to address is digestion and to make sure that the body is properly breaking down the food and properly assimilating it. Without proper digestion, nutrients can’t get to the cells!
*Proper Blood Sugar Handling: This is huge. Due to very poor USDA food pyramid guidelines, and the prevalance of refined carbohydrates as well as a fast-paced lifestyle that is stress-inducing, a majority of Americans have poor blood sugar handling. This leads to a myriad of problems, including obesity, malnutrition, diabetes, endocrine problems and fertility problems.
*Fatty Acid Balance: Did you get the memo that fats were good for you? Certain ones aren’t, but most natural ones are! When I started eating more fat and less carbs, my energy levels changed in a very short time. My weight started to normalize, and *gasp* I wasn’t hungry all the time! Proper fats are needed to make healthy cells, healthy hormones, and for energy. They can even prevent sunburns!
*Mineral Balance: Essential minerals are needed for all bodily functions, particularly hormone functions. For mothers, healthy hormones are essential for our energy levels, moods, and health. Our bodies cannot make minerals, we must obtain (and assimilate!) them from food. Refined foods are depleted of minerals, and futhermore they deplete our bodies of minerals when we eat them. The importance of minerals cannot be overstated when it comes to restoring balance and rebuilding the body!
*Hydration: Adequate hydration is the missing link in so many of our diets. I’ll admit, I don’t even remember to always drink as much as I should. You should aim for half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Water is crucial for a healthy blood pressure, toxin removal, cell communication, joint health, body temperature regulation, gastric juice production, and proper nerve function. Drinking enough water is the cheapest way you can reverse your health in a short period of time.
Once these five foundations are in place, and assuming that the diet is nutrient-dense, full of properly prepared whole foods, you can then work from that point to continue to address specific symptoms that might still be troubling to your health.
I didn’t have my personal “turnaround” until I begin to really address these foundations. Diet is critical, but even the best diet won’t heal you on its own if the foundations are not in place.
My Personal Plan:Here’s what has worked for me, and of course I will expound and elaborate on these in upcoming posts:
*Giving up the grains and focusing on a paleo/primal diet and following the GAPS guidelines.
*Ridding my diet of fast foods and processed foods
*Adrenal Support (A blend of adaptogenic herbs)
*Vitamin D supplementation
*Fermented Cod Liver Oil (See my Resources page for Sources)
*Coconut Oil, Grass-Fed Butter, and cold-pressed extra virgin olive and flax oils
*Mineral Supplementation, including Molybdenum (who knew?)
*Drinking “alive” beverages such as beet kvass, kombucha, coconut water kefir, etc.
*Drinking alkalized, ionized, microclustered water
*Aiming for a a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 Fatty Acids.
A personalized nutritional plan is key to healthy motherhood, and healthy is thrifty. Healthy equals “no copays”. Yes, there are some supplements to buy in the short-term, but eventually once you restore balance you should do pretty well with a nutrient-dense diet.
This post is not intended to be taken as medical advice, rather you should see a qualified heathcare professional who practices Nutrition-Based Therapy. There are several Chiropractors, Naturpaths, and Nutritional Therapists who utilize this foundational approach. You can find one in your area by going here.
If you have difficulty finding a Nutrition-Oriented practitioner in your area, I am pleased to say that I am now offering remote nutritional consultations via phone and internet. If you would like to know if my skill set matches your needs, please read about my Nutrition Consultations!
This post has been a part of Real Food Wednesday!