Dairy, sugar, bread… they were my nearest and dearest friends for 35 years. We were tight. You didn’t see me at a meal without one or all three of them. If I close my eyes, I can still remember what a cup of coffee with half and half and sugar tastes like… or a warm homemade cinnamon roll…. Mmmm.
But, if I close my eyes, I can also remember in detail the events of June 27, 2014. And the last weekend in September of 2015. I can remember what it felt like to see double and have the room spin around me. I can remember being so dizzy I could hardly stand. I can remember what it felt like to have the entire right side of my body go numb. I can remember not being able to write my name. I can remember the fear. I can remember being told I would need to be admitted after doctors found something on a MRI of my brain. I can remember hours of scans and spinal taps. I can remember the color of the tile and the pattern on my hospital gown as doctors told me I have RRMS (Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis). I remember watching my husband crumble under the weight of the news. I remember the nightmares that night as I envisioned myself sitting in a wheelchair in the corner at my children’s weddings… motionless and unengaged as everyone else celebrated.
The first task after diagnosis was choosing a medication. I believe in my fabulous team of neurologists and I’m thankful for advances in medicine that make treatment a reality for MS. Someday, in my lifetime in fact, I believe we will find a cure. But, my medicine for MS (one of the best on the market) only reduces my risk of relapse by 49%. My doctors assure me I will have another MS attack in my lifetime. And with each attack, my risk of permanent disability increases. Then, there’s the battle against my medication. My med works so well at suppressing my immune system that it puts me at a slight risk for PML (Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy), an aggressive brain virus that is fatal. My white blood cells will have to be closely monitored while I’m on the medication to ensure they don’t drop to dangerous levels.
It’s easy for me to see how newly diagnosed MS Patients suffer from depression. It’s a lot to process and the hope is slim. And touching your nose and walking on an imaginary straight line for the neurologist at every exam is a bit humiliating. To add to the matter, I was 350 pounds at the time I was diagnosed. I was sedentary. I had high cholesterol and borderline hypertension. I was depressed and anxious all the time. I was already a very sick young woman who was being diagnosed with a debilitating disease.
When I was diagnosed, I sat in my hospital bed and prayed. I told God that if I was going to have this dumb disease, then I wanted Him to find a way to use it for good. I wanted Him to use me to encourage others. I wanted Him to make me into the person He had always intended for me to be. I wanted to see Him glorified through this.
It wasn’t long before God led me on a journey of research. Through my reading, I stumbled across several personal accounts from people who had success following a paleo diet with MS. In fact, the paleo diet is based off a pamphlet written by Roger MacDougall and his belief that he was able to self-induce MS Remission through a diet of organic vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and eliminating gluten, dairy, and sugar. You see, our normal diet in America is chock-full of foods that cause inflammation. And chronic inflammation leads to a host of diseases including autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis), cancer, heart disease, arthritis, neurological disorders, and diabetes to name a few.
Photo Credit: justinhealth.com
I also found that lots of foods had anti-inflammatory properties like sweet potatoes, spinach, berries, nuts/seeds, and more than I could begin to list. The research excited me and gave me a purpose. I decided along with my medication to radically change my diet in hopes of reducing inflammation in my body and giving my immune system all the support I could so it would function effectively.
On October 7, 2015, I cut out all sugars and artificial sweeteners. On October 8, 2015, I cut out all dairy. On October 9, 2015, I cut out all wheat. On October 10, 2015, I cried and thought I was going to die. I knew it was going to be tough… I just didn’t expect it to be that tough. Remember, sugar, dairy, wheat and I were BFFs. The feelings of loss were great. But God used that to convict my heart. Removing those food addictions from my life made me look in a mirror and face just how much I’d worshiped them. To this day, when I hear people say, “I could NEVER do that!” after I tell them what I’ve cut from my diet, I cringe. You never know what you can do, or rather what Christ can do THROUGH you, until you lay down the idols at His feet. It was certainly tough, but with every story I read about the benefits of nutrition and fighting and preventing disease, the more motivated I became to persevere. Sometime during those early days of food withdraws a dear friend and physician recommended a book to me entitled, It Starts With Food. It was completely eye opening and game changing. Suddenly, I felt like I had a real chance in the fight for my life. And I was determined to win.
Within a month of healthy eating, my MS symptoms were gone. I had suffered some vision loss in my extreme left peripheral that doctors believed would be permanent. It returned. I felt this oppressive mental fog lift from me. I had lived with it so long I didn’t even know it was there until it was gone! My energy levels skyrocketed. My depression and anxiety went away. And weight melted off. I didn’t count a single calorie or limit my portions—I just ate fruits, vegetables, grass fed meats, wild fish and free range eggs, and stayed away from dairy, wheat, and sugars or anything processed. In less than 18 months, I lost over 180 pounds.
To date, I’ve ran in two half marathons and I’m planning a third in April and a full marathon in October of next year! With every fruit or vegetable I eat, I count up the micronutrients and antioxidants and picture them fueling my immune system so it can function correctly. I imagine them fighting the free-radicals and preventing cancers. I see inflammation in my body cooling down and every organ and system operating beautifully. My favorite shows to watch on Netflix are food documentaries (Food Matters; Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead; Hungry for Change; Forks Over Knives) and I’m filled with inspiration and hope that what I’m doing is actually working!
I’m not a doctor and I can’t tell anyone what to do with their life. And I certainly don’t feel it’s wise to forgo medication and professional help. But, I will say that I believe that many of us sin in taking such poor care of our bodies. If it feels good, tastes good, or gives us happiness for a nanosecond then we feel we deserve it. And I believe that God created every system in our bodies to function perfectly. And He created food to help all of those systems, not harm them. Getting back to basics—fruits, veggies, and healthy meats—is a great way to give your body its best chance at fighting a host of conditions and diseases.
In September 2015 I asked God to use my disease for His good. He took that prayer and completely transformed me. And now I love to have opportunities to tell others what He has done in my life and the benefits of healthy eating. Imagine what God could do in your life too!