Before I ended up with adrenal fatigue in 2012, I was a pretty crappy eater.
Although, I actually probably had the "typical" American diet (at least at the time). I ate a lot of pasta, grilled cheese, pizza, convenience foods like those bagged meals that you pour into a pan and heat, sugary drinks like sweet tea and lemonade (I actually didn't drink soda), coffee drinks full of sugar and other chemicals, and of course, lots of sugary desserts and snacks. (Did I mention sugar?)
I rarely had any fresh fruits or vegetables and I paid absolutely no attention as to how they were grown or if they were organic. I also gave zero thought to how the meats that I ate were raised and to be honest, usually bought the cheapest stuff I could find at Walmart (I'm looking at you, roll o' ground beef).
So, I guess I shouldn't really be surprised that I had a lot of stomach issues. But, to me, that was just "normal." I had had what the doctors referred to as IBS (although that is actually a "catch all" diagnosis that they give you when they can't find anything else wrong with you) since I was about 20 years old. So, I was used to pretty much running straight to the bathroom every time I ate. Or, at least not feeling very well for the first hour or so after a meal.
It shocks me now to think that I lived that way EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. of my life for over fifteen years. But again, it was just "normal" to me, so I didn't know anything different.
Sure, I knew there were certain things I needed to stay away from that made it worse (a.k.a. Taco Bell), but for the most part, I just assumed that this was the hand I was dealt and that I would have a screwed-up stomach my whole life. Nothing to be done about it.
That is, until 2012, when my body started going haywire on me. Not only did I feel like it was falling apart pretty much from head to toe with a whole slew of different symptoms, but my stomach decided to do a 180 on me. All of the sudden, I went from running to the bathroom all the time to not being able to go at all. (Sorry for all the potty talk, but there's a point to all this. Plus, everyone poops - there's a book about it.)
I knew something was wrong. But again, after a ton of different tests, procedures and medications being thrown at me, "traditional medicine" pretty much threw their hands up in the air at me and said they didn't know what was wrong.
But, it wasn't just my digestion that was screwed up. I started having terrible insomnia and couldn't fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. My chin broke out in horrible cystic acne and I started having regular dizzy spells. Among MANY other things.
It wasn't until I went to a naturopathic doctor in late 2012, did I FINALLY find out that all of my symptoms were indeed real (sorry to all you doctors that tried to hush me up with anti-anxiety medication) and very-much related. It turned out, I had advanced adrenal fatigue.
It was a result of the "perfect storm" in my life - a series of high-adrenaline traumas including an abusive relationship and the death of both of my parents, a poor diet, lack of sleep, a stressful work environment and even dental surgery, which as it turns out, can be very stressful to the body.
Thankfully, my naturopathic doctor and I started working on my recovery and things began to change. But, what I could hardly believe was how many things improved just by changing my diet. And very quickly, I might add.
It was the very first step the naturopath had me do - go on a restricted diet. An incredibly restricted diet. Basically, it was no grains, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine, no nightshades (like tomatoes and peppers) and no condiments. So, what I could eat was organic vegetables, low glycemic fruits and clean, antibiotic and hormone-free meats and wild-caught fish. That's it.
It was extreme for sure. But, it wasn't meant to be a long-term diet, as much as it was a temporary one to repair the lining of my gut that had been ravished by too many courses of unnecessary antibiotics, harmful chemicals and inflammatory foods.
But, a funny thing happened as soon as I changed my diet.
My body started healing.
A lot of those things that I had always said were "just me" started to magically go away, almost overnight.
The shakiness and trembling in my hands that was usually constant... stopped.
I started sleeping through the night, every night, without any type of medication.
The acne on my chin cleared up completely, again, without any medications or creams.
And magically, my stomach started to place nice with me again. But, not by going back to its IBS-ways of yesteryear. By actually starting to act like a truly "normal" digestive system should.
All because I changed the food I was putting in my body.
It seems funny to me now to think how surprised I was. But, I think I was like a lot of people - not realizing how much of an impact your diet has on your body.
And that was only the beginning.
Of course, I had to do some other things to really get my health back on track - get more sleep, prayer and meditation, taking supplements and doing a lot of emotional and spiritual healing. But, at the base of it, was the diet and that's where the healing truly began.
In fact, as I started putting better things in my body, I actually felt it start to change. Whereas before, I craved sugary things or junk food, I started finding my body actually craving a protein shake in the morning or fresh fruit at night. And when I'd go to the salad bar, instead of cheddar cheese and ranch dressing, I suddenly wanted black beans and balsamic vinaigrette.
But, the real shocker came when my former sweet-tooth, sugar-addict self tried to eat a sugary dessert for the first time after my restricted diet while out at dinner with a friend. I ordered a slice of gluten free Godiva chocolate cheesecake, took one bite and felt like I could throw up. So, I gave the rest to her to take home.
Turns out, my body had finally had enough of a breather to reset itself and it wasn't so fond of the junk I had been putting in it before.
That's because if we would just let our bodies (not our minds and certainly not our eyes) do the directing, it would tell us exactly what it needs. And would then, give us more energy, vitality and health in return.
But, unfortunately, many of us have gotten our bodies so out of whack, that they need a major reboot first before they can start directing our choices correctly again. They have to detox from all the sugar, the salt, the fat and the chemicals that we've been stuffing them with for years.
But, once we do that... once we really let them breathe and we start to be more intentional about eating cleanly - meaning, whole, non-processed foods, clean meats and organic fruits and veggies - they will start to heal themselves and start to function the way they were always meant to in the first place.
So, as someone who's been there, done that... I want you to know, if you have certain things about your health that you've always assumed were just "normal" for you and you've resigned yourself to feeling crappy the rest of your life... try making some changes to your diet before it gets any worse. You may just be surprised at the results!
And I promise you, you CAN do it.