Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Crunchy Me

One morning I woke up and realized, I am "crunchy". Now, how did that happen? (If you do not know what I mean by "crunchy", basically, I prefer to eat and use real things not overly-processed or filled with chemicals. That is a rather simplified definition, but it will do for my purposes here.)

This is the account of my journey to real.

Only a few years ago I lived the conventional lifestyle and ate the Standard American Diet (SAD). I thought nothing of it. In fact I knew one family (count that -- one) who deviated from this standard lifestyle. And I thought that family was a little eccentric, perhaps overly cautious, even a bit odd; leftover hippies who needed to get with the program and stop being so strange. I never would have dreamed to adopt most of the choices of this family.

And So It Begins

When I read the book Why Can't My Child Behave? I began learning about the harmful effects of food colorings and flavorings (many are made from petroleum!). I started reading labels and avoiding foods with added colorings and flavorings because of what I had learned. I continued like this for quite a while, maintaining a fairly "normal" lifestyle and eating mainly the same things I had always eaten, minus food colorings and flavorings.

Over the next few years I began to read labels more closely and was more mindful to avoid artificial additives to a greater extent. The more I learned, the more I realized that the ingredients added to foods are not always healthy or good for us. In fact, some food additives are very harmful and are linked with serious conditions, diseases and disorders. I had once assumed that if an ingredient was added to a food product, that ingredient must not be harmful. After all, we live in a civilized country and have the FDA to protect us.

Over time, I learned that I was very, very wrong. In fact, many ingredients added to food products can cause harm and prevent the body from healing itself. I no longer rely on food companies or government agencies to decide what is good for me to eat or use.

Then Came Babies

When my boys were about to begin eating solid foods, I was concerned about what we were going to feed them. Baby's first foods are typically fruits and vegetables. I wanted to avoid chemicals and other toxins that can be in and on fruits and vegetables because of the negative effects they can have on brain development and behavior (not to mention many other negative effects). I also wanted to control exactly what went into their food and not rely on a company or government agency to protect my babies. I decided to make all their baby food and to use as much organic produce as possible. Since organic produce can be more expensive, I used the Dirty Dozen list as a guide. All the produce on the Dirty Dozen list was purchased organic for the boys' food. (You can find this list here: ewg.org.) Produce that was not on the list (less toxic) was conventional, in an effort to not spend too much money on food. At the time, my husband and I were still eating about the same as we had been for the past few years. In fact, we ate a LOT of take-out food because we were both so worn out taking care of the boys that neither of us had energy to go shopping or make meals.

Food Is Medicine

I had always eaten to stay alive. Sure, I enjoyed a few foods, but food was more about keeping my body from falling over in starvation. For that purpose, just about anything will do. As long as it tasted good and filled up my belly, I was satisfied. I did not realize that food is very important to health.

Then my mindset began to shift. Now I see food as healing medicine. Food is not about preventing starvation, it is about nourishing the body and building it up, keeping it healthy and keeping it working as it is meant to work. Conversely, artificial additives and some processes produce food-like substances which will keep one from starving and will fill the belly, but with serious health effects. These effects may not be immediately noticeable, but all we have to do is consider the number of people we know of that have serious health concerns. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, the list goes on. How many people do I know that are affected by a disease or condition that is life-threatening or seriously inhibits their quality of life? I doubt my great-grandparents knew this many people with serious health conditions, especially in their younger years.

What changed my view?  Let me tell you.

One of my boys had five separate MRSA infections by the time he was a year old. The first infection was at 2.5 months old. This tiny, little baby had a serious infection and required hospitalization. Each infection was treated with antibiotics and one of the subsequent infections also required another hospitalization (due to a doctor's prescribing error and my failure to question it, rather, believing that the doctor knew what they were doing). Something must be seriously wrong, but the doctor could only prescribe more antibiotics each time there was an infection. They did not know how to prevent the infections. Still, I was not overly concerned. Our advances in medicine have been great over the past 100 years and all we had to do was rely on medicine to take care of this. The medical field would take care of us.

During the second stay in the hospital, I overheard a doctor telling interns that they were seeing MRSA becoming resistant to the antibiotic they were giving my son. Do I need to mention how scary it is when you have a sick baby in the hospital with only two effective medications to treat the problem and one of them may not be effective much longer? We began visiting with specialists to try to find out why the infections were happening. We had tests run to see if there was an immune problem (since his twin brother had never gotten an infection). There were no immune problems. After seeing several specialists and none of them having any helpful advice or being able to determine a problem or suggest a prevention, we were left to figure it out for ourselves.

Now, I am not bashing the medical profession. They have their place and we are fortunate to live in a time and place where we have access to their medical knowledge and to life-saving drugs. But what I learned is that the knowledge of most medical professionals is severely limited. They are human, after all. They only know what they have learned. They do the best they can with the knowledge and resources they have attained. They are not gods. They are humans and most are doing the best they can. Realizing this, I knew that I had to do my own research and learn what I could about our situation.

I happened to pick up a book that had been given to us about coconut oil (The Coconut Oil Miracle - this link is for the version I read; there is a newer edition now). As I read the book, I was astonished at, what seemed to be, incredulous claims of the miracles coconut oil could do. Eating coconut daily enabled a man with HIV to go off medications and live when the doctors told him he would be dead within weeks? This was only one of the amazing (and hard to believe) stories recounted in this book. Then I read in this book that coconut oil was able to kill harmful bacteria, including MRSA. I was doubtful, but it was worth a try. We began using coconut oil internally and externally. Coconut oil replaced our other cooking oils and we even added it to some other foods in order to get more into us. We began slathering it on our boys daily, usually twice a day, to protect them from these harmful bacteria that were on their skin and to promote the healthy bacteria that would crowd out the MRSA.

Two months went by with no infections and I held my breath, just waiting for one to start. Three months. We had never gone more than three months without an infection. It was about to happen. Three and a half months, but I could not allow myself to hope, I could not let down my mental guard. It must be soon. Soon we would be fighting another infection. Four, five, six months. I started to allow myself some hope that the infections were over, that maybe the coconut oil really did help. I think it was about a year after the last infection before I could breath again and not expect an infection at any time.

Something so simple could prevent something so serious. Since starting coconut oil, neither of the boys has had a single MRSA infection. That was almost 2 years ago. If coconut oil could do what the doctors could not accomplish, what else was out there to learn about?

Down the Rabbit Hole (Once You Start, You Just Keep Going)

Coconut oil was my gateway natural remedy. From there, it is all a blur. Over the next year, we made so many changes to our diet and our lifestyle. I began to learn how food can heal. Not just keep us healthy, but actually heal us from diseases which dumbfound the medical establishment. Good, natural food, the way God intended it, can heal our bodies from many diseases. Our bodies are so wondrously designed that they are able to heal themselves of many things if given the right tools and not made sick with harmful substances.

At the same time I was learning about our food, I was becoming more aware of the toxins in many products that we use daily. The substances that we put onto our skin absorb into our bodies. The products we use can be breathed into our bodies. We began using natural products on our skin and in our daily routines. This did not happen overnight, but little by little we replaced the products we used with more natural products or products that I make here at home with natural ingredients.

The more we learn, the further we go into natural living. When I try to look at my present self through the eyes of myself a decade ago, I do not recognize me. I cannot believe how I have changed. I think about how I would view someone like me. I would have thought that I was a little "off", weird, too worried about what I eat and use. So I get why some people do not understand. I did not understand only a few short years ago. My, how things have changed!

Our bathroom closet, which used to hold all the toiletries and medications you would find in most American households, now contains almost entirely natural products (many in mason jars of all sizes, which is a topic for another post -- yes, I love mason jars!). We use natural remedies most of the time for common ailments, rather than grabbing a bottle of pills produced by a pharmaceutical company. One cabinet in the kitchen is dedicated to oils, herbs and other natural health products. Our skin and hair products are either made here at home with natural ingredients or are chosen very carefully with close attention to the ingredients list. (Check out the Environmental Working Group's skincare guide to see what products are the least toxic.)

Our food cabinets look very different, too. In place of processed foods in boxes, we now have whole foods and herbs and oils, the makings of natural remedies. We make almost all of our meals from scratch. It is time consuming and sometimes a big pain to have to prepare so much of our food from scratch, but the health benefits are worth it.

Making a Difference

Our lifestyle and choices are so much different today than they were a few years ago. And those choices have made a big difference. Small health issues we had had on a regular basis are gone. In fact, we had not even realized that we had these health issues until they had disappeared.

Because of our experiences, we are sold out on natural living. Our choices may seem strange or extreme to others. We are all at different places in our natural journey. Some have yet to realize that they need to start this journey. There are those who do not even realize there is a journey. Yet others are so far advanced in this journey that I wonder at them and am convinced that I will never go that far (now, a little odd I can handle, but some things are just too far -- until I take the next step and the next -- down the rabbit hole). I am somewhere in between. As I learn, I make changes. I want, as I believe we all do, the best for myself and my family. My learning has led me down this path to these choices. Each one's path will look different. We change as we learn and we do not all learn the same things at the same time. But most of us will not be tomorrow who we are today. We move forward, learning and changing as we go.

I am very passionate about what I am learning, as anyone who knows me can attest. I wish I had known what I now know years ago. I wish someone had told me that there were options. Perhaps I could have avoided a root canal and having my wisdom teeth pulled. Maybe we could have avoided five MRSA infections in an infant and several others in other family members. Our health could have improved long before now. But there is no use wasting time on regrets. I may not have accepted what that someone could have told me. Maybe I would have laughed at the "absurd" claims that those people could have made to me. Perhaps I would have shrugged it off as not important or too much trouble. Maybe I was not ready then to be where I am now.

I know what I know now and I can move forward making different choices and living a healthier lifestyle. I guess I am so passionate about sharing what I know with others because I want them to have the chance to learn and use what they learn. If we do not know we have options, how can we choose? For so many years, I lived the way I thought was best -- the only way I knew how, really. Now I have options and can make more informed choices. So, yes, I am passionate not only about what I am learning but about options and choices. I believe we all deserve to know what options we have in all areas of our lives, not just health and nutrition, so that we can make choices for ourselves and our families.

I did not learn what I know overnight and I am far from knowing a lot about anything. The more I know, the more I know how much I do not know. There is such a great big world of learning out there and not nearly enough time to explore it all! But I will do the best I can to gather information that I find relevant to myself and to my family. It is a journey. A journey that I will be on for the rest of my life.

So, when you look at me and wonder how I became a raw-milk-drinking, grain-soaking, coconut-oil-loving, homemade-product-making, natural-remedy-using, herbalist-wannabe, now you will know. It was one drop at a time. Little by little. Small choices made because of what I am learning. And I am loving every minute of the journey! There is always something new to learn around the next bend.

Are you on the journey? Are natural products and foods important to you? Please share your thoughts!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this post - we are on a journey too much like yours! We will have to swap stories some day at play group if I ever make it there again! I would love to hear more about your homemade body products. I just ordered stuff to make your deodorant recipe. - Rhonda