This guest post below comes to us from one of our Completely Nourished readers, Angelia. I’m so honored that she took the time to share her personal story with us here, and I hope many of you find inspiration in her journey. Please comment below to let Angelia know if her journey resonates with you in any way; and feel free to forward this critical info about the importance of being our own health advocates to anyone who may find it useful! (And if you have relieved or eliminated your own health condition through natural dietary and lifestyle changes, please submit your story to us here so we can consider sharing your journey with our readers!)
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“My story starts when my mother passed away in 2010. Although this was an extremely painful part of my life, one good thing did happen during that time – I met up with my mother’s lifelong best friend. During my brief visit with her, she taught me two life-altering lessons about the importance of real food for our health:
- Lesson #1: Waste not, want not. This lesson included how to can fresh foods to preserve them for later.
- Lesson #2: Food and herbs (and even some wild plants) = medicine. This lesson also included being mindful of what we eat.
However, there was also a bad thing that happened as a result of my mother’s passing. The grief shattered my world, and I ended up drowning my sorrows for the entire next year – so I didn’t put her wise friend’s words into practice until later on.
As the months of 2011 went by, I started to realize that the alcohol which I was drinking every day was doing damage to my heart. Determined to get back to taking care of myself, I sought the help of the local mental health clinic. The doctor also diagnosed me with anxiety and depression. I also had thick brain fog. The doctor prescribed 2 different drugs, which didn’t work; and I gave up hope for their help for a year and a half.
(On a side note…when I had lost my husband in ’95, doctors prescribed two different antidepressant drugs for me, which made my behavior worse and also made my body sick back then, as well.)
I quit drinking, but I noticed that my body didn’t feel better. I was overweight, but I had always attributed that to my low thyroid. I found out about that problem when I couldn’t get my period after my son was born. It was also the cause of the preeclampsia I had at the end of the pregnancy. Come to find out that this happens to a lot of women during pregnancy, and I feel it is one of many diseases that is preventable with proper diet. The doctors told me I would always have hypothyroidism and have to take thyroxine for the rest of my life, and so I blindly believed that. I was also fatigued, yet I didn’t sleep well; and I started feeling arthritic.
In 2012, a traumatic event at work had me seeking help at the mental health center again. This time, I was ready to take their help seriously and get healthy. The doctor, who already had 4 drugs on his list that he couldn’t prescribe me, tried 4 more drugs with me in the next 6 months. After 6 months of sickness from the pharmaceuticals, I told him to give me just an “as-needed” pill for the anxiety because practicing meditation at home and receiving therapy services from the mental health center had started to really help me.
I also started studying herbs to find alternatives to the pharmaceuticals. None of this made my heart feel better – I would have palpitations and weak, fluttery feelings, especially in the evening or whenever I didn’t eat. I was having increased pain in my neck, which I knew was from inflammation, that made it feel as if my neck was made of pea gravel. I was also having trouble with my arms from the base of the neck to my fingertips. There would be burning pain some days, pins and needles other days – pain, nerve impingements, or a combination of any of those. I was taking 12 to 16 Ibuprofen pills per day in order to function, and I took Tylenol on top of that if I had a headache – which was often.
By February 2013, I was in such pain I couldn’t hold back tears. I was losing range of motion in my shoulders, arms, and neck; and I had constant back pain. I gave up and found a clinic. The physician’s assistant was probably horrified by how much medicine I was taking. She did an x-ray, which showed minor degenerative changes. That was scary. She gave me Aleve. I went back the following month because, while the Aleve would help the pain somewhat, it didn’t work well; and I was still suffering the nerve impingements. She did an MRI and saw the inflammation. She gave me Vicodin to take as needed, and she sent me to physical therapy.
Here was when I really started getting a clue. I realized at this point that exercise, oddly enough, relieved my pain. I got the “okay” from the physician’s assistant to exercise at home. I noticed that on days I did exercise, between that and the drugs, I was pain-free. I could even have good days where I could break the Aleve tablet in half and get by. When I got the nerve impingements, I only took the Vicodin in half-tablet doses because I was afraid of it, and it made me constipated – I didn’t like taking Milk of Magnesia for that. I was happy that I was taking less medication overall, but I was also sad because I realized that this was like a band-aid, and not the real solution.
I began to research natural solutions to inflammatory problems through herbs. I noticed that from a lot of sources there were foods on the list that reduced inflammation, and there was another list of foods that increased inflammation.
You can imagine my shock at the realization that I was poisoning myself with food! My body literally attacked me every time I ate. That’s what my mom’s wise friend was talking about! I was super excited about the idea of curing myself through food. I read Bob Harper’s book, The Skinny Rules, after which I started drinking a lot of water. Man, did that help. It seemed to make my energy more efficient. Also, the smoothies in his book kick-started my replacing processed food with real fruit and veggie smoothies made from things like kale, spinach, apples, and blueberries. I researched macrobiotics and a few other nutrition books (some of which I dismissed), and then I read The China Study.
It was now June 2013. I had lost 10 pounds, and my pain didn’t plague me quite as much. As I read The China Study, I figured out my body may be affected by the GMOs (genetically-modified organisms), hormones, drugs, and other things in meat.
I was becoming mindful of my eating, reading ingredient labels, and looking out for GMOs; but there were 2 more times I ate bad foods and noticed the pain and inflammation, and that really drove home the lesson that I could never eat processed food with additives again. One time was within 30 minutes of eating bacon, and the other time was right after eating a small order of French fries at a fast food place. That small fry had me in agony for 2 days! I never ate fast food after that. I also stopped eating meat, and as soon as I did, my pain was 40% less within the first week. I was now eating a whole foods vegetarian diet. My skin looked better, and I had lost 20 pounds by August, but I was not 100% better yet. I was still plagued by nerve impingements, and I was relying on the Aleve, night and day.
One day in August, I shared a cheese pizza with my sons, and I had to go to bed early that night. I had fiery pain in my shoulders, and I felt sluggish the next day. I realized it was either the cheese or the crust, so I became vegan. When I did, I noticed a jump in my energy and a significant drop in my weight, and the level of pain dropped in those last 4 months of 2013.
In 2013, I went from 200 pounds to 160 pounds. I’m only 5’3″, so at the start of the year I was obese. By October, I dropped down into the overweight category.
I have continued eating a whole foods vegan diet and researching nutrition, and I am now free of all drugs for pain and anxiety since February 2014. I have now lost 55 pounds, and I’m in the average weight category. I am down from a size 20 to a size 10. I still exercise every morning, and I’m in better health now than I was when I was 16 years old. (Of course, I was a rebellious and repressed teenager back then who just needed to express herself. Unfortunately, it was in negative ways that affected my health like caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.)
I have enrolled in college to become a dietician, so I can have a career helping people become more mindful of their food, remove processed foods from their diet, restore their health, prevent disease, and relieve their pain. I want to help others in the same way I helped myself – with real food. I also took up the banner for real food by signing petitions, spreading awareness over social media, supporting the farmer’s market, and I am on the lookout for other ways I can help.
I hope my story helps someone today.
Blessings to all who read this,