I get a lot of questions asking about what Chad and I eat. And, while our diet tends to change a lot from time to time, we do consistently avoid food additives like MSG and its many hidden names. Now that we are traveling full-time in our RV and our food access and storage options have changed significantly (i.e., no garden of our own, no deep freezer, no home-canned goods, limited access to farmers markets and natural grocers at times), folks have expressed concern about what we’ll be eating. We’re just getting started with our new life, but here’s a peek at what we’ve got in the kitchen right now….
Many of you have read my personal journey of how I overcame years of Fibromyalgia symptoms by eliminating food additives from my diet; and I hope you will also take the time to read the guest post below from one of our readers, Cris Potter. We are incredibly grateful that she has taken the time to put into words her very own journey with food additives in an effort help others. It’s amazing what she went through over the years, and we are so pleased that she found a solution for herself! Please share with anyone who may benefit!
Hi, I’m Cris Potter, retired social worker, and wellness enthusiast extraordinaire. I live in Oceanside, California, a community in San Diego County, with my husband, Dave, and our two kitties, Lily and Freddie.
I love learning, gardening, cooking, crafts, yoga, biking, and lots more.
My health woes began in 1958, the year I was born.
Don’t worry, I’ll summarize…
Lifetime of insomnia, fatigue and migraines
Throughout the years, I’ve faced a lot of health challenges, but the most debilitating has been chronic insomnia. It began when I was an infant. I am certain of this because my mother, a typical well-intentioned mom, brought me to a doctor because she had never witnessed me sleeping. I was under a year old, and she had literally not seen me sleep. At night, when she checked on me, I was in bed, singing. I sang a lot, according to mom. I suppose it was better than crying.
Throughout my childhood, I can recall that night after night, I lay in bed and listened to an old clock chime on the hour and half hour. It was a pretty chime, but I grew to dread it. I still remember thinking, “Oh no, three gongs, then one at the half hour, and oh no! . . . there goes four . . . ,” and on it went. By the time I was in grade school, it was clear to me that the remaining five members of my family were enjoying a night of sound sleep, something I knew little about.
When I mentioned my insomnia to my mother, she repeated the same thing the doctor had told her years before, “Some people need more sleep than others. You’re fine.” Not surprisingly, I was frequently exhausted as a child, and although I wasn’t diagnosed as such, I struggled with a learning disorder. My mother couldn’t understand why my three siblings easily made good grades, and I often didn’t pass. She was afraid of holding me back a year in school because I would be in the same grade as my younger brother. She feared I would be bullied and called ‘flunky’ for the rest of my days. So summer school was a must for me. It was awful, and it didn’t help me read any better!
When I was in the third grade, my father, who was in the military, was transferred to Japan. My siblings and I received numerous vaccines. Every week for several months, we went to a military hospital for a shot. At about the same time, I began to experience a lot of dental issues. My mouth was filled with silver fillings. Within a few months of those events, I started to experience what I called, “The ants.” I felt as if there were swarms of ants crawling just under my skin. It was terrible, but not as bad as the chronic headaches that I had also developed. I was eight years old.
During those years, I became an outstanding day dreamer; and I continued to live in my inner world throughout the long nights. If you’re beginning to feel sorry for me, please don’t. In spite of my health challenges, I had a lot of fun. I was close to my siblings, and I had friends and a great ‘banana bike.’ I loved that bike! I really only had one problem – my health, or lack of it. Okay, maybe two problems – my poor health and my learning woes.
At school, I struggled along as best I could. Then, in the summer between sixth and seventh grade, a miracle occurred. I discovered that if I snipped a slit into a piece of white paper and isolated one line of text at a time, I could read pretty well. From that point on, everything improved for me academically – but not physically. I complained to my mother that I felt terrible most of the time. I can recall thinking, on more than one occasion, that I must be dying. My mother consoled me, took my temperature and told me that I was fine. But I knew it wasn’t true.
When the headaches got really bad, mom took me to several different doctors. It was clear to me that the doctors had no idea what I was talking about. Some of them actually scolded me for wasting their time. Since then, I haven’t been a big fan of our medical system. I have seen herbalists and naturopaths in the past; but the more I read about wellness, the more I decided to go it alone. Ironically, as a State of Alaska retiree, I have the best medical insurance money can buy. Yes, I would seek medical care in the case of a broken bone or trauma; but, other than that, I am not interested.
From my early teens and throughout the remainder of my life, I have been on a mission: To discover what was ailing me, and to resolve it. At some instinctual level, I knew it was the food. Knew it. The information seemed to be encoded in my DNA . . . I never doubted it, and I didn’t believe anyone who told me otherwise. Even so, it was a long and tedious road to wellness. Probably the biggest barrier to getting the fresh foods I craved was that my family had moved to Juneau, Alaska, when I began Junior High. There was very little fresh, whole food available.
I did my best, however; and, as a teenager, I grew wheat grass for smoothies in an indoor window box. I experimented with many different diets, supplements and health programs. I also started a program of daily exercise, a practice that I am still committed to. Even when I was terribly fatigued and had a roaring headache, I went to the gym. It helped me psychologically as much as it helped my physically. At times, I improved somewhat, but I still reverted back to insomnia, headaches and fatigue.
When I was in my early 20s, I moved to Anchorage, a much larger city. There was better food available, and I continued to study whatever health-related information I could get my hands on. I also enjoyed my life, worked full-time and got married to a great fellow, Dave. He shared my views on health, which was a good thing for both of us. Although I often didn’t feel well, I never gave up. I knew there was an answer; and I knew that, eventually, I would find it.
In the early 80s, I decided to have my amalgam fillings removed. I had eight of them, and I’d become concerned about the mercury they contained. I was fortunate to find a good dentist who could perform their removal safely. The fillings were so toxic that they had to be disposed of as “hazardous waste.” I continued to experiment with green smoothies, fasting, cleanses, etc. Little by little, I started to feel better. Even so, I still had plenty of setbacks. It was pretty frustrating.
My dietary changes
Around the late 90s, I came to the conclusion that the only way I could be assured of feeling well was to eat a strictly organic diet. Just about any commercial product, from condiments to canned goods, produced debilitating migraines and insomnia. I didn’t know what was in the food, but I knew that whatever it was, it was not being labeled. And I knew another thing: It was toxic.
I started making all of our food from scratch and using only certified organic ingredients. In time, I became a pretty good cook. Since retiring in 2005, and moving to California, I’ve made a lot of new friends who share my views on health and wellness. Some don’t, however, and that’s okay. When I connect with these folks socially, I bring my own food. I explain to them that, due to health challenges, I simply cannot eat commercially made food. If they don’t understand it, they at least accept it, and that’s good enough for me.
Research confirms my suspicions about food
It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve found scientific evidence for what I’ve known for years: That the commercial food supply in the U.S. is poisoned. Dr. Russell Blaylock is probably the best source of information on MSG (monosodium glutamate), which causes many health problems. MSG is in many processed foods, and it is not labeled. It is known to cause ADD, migraines, insomnia, fatigue, and many other health problems. I could go on and on, but if you haven’t already seen it, I’d recommend you watch Dr. Blaylock’s video entitled, “Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills.” He also has a book on Amazon by the same name.
I’m also a big fan of Dr. Joseph Mercola, who has a great website, Mercola.com, and provides a free weekly newsletter. Dr. Mercola is focused on disease prevention, and he has a lot of excellent information on his site. These men, along with countless other professionals and citizens are working hard to get the word out to the public. Oh yeah, I don’t want to forget Christy Pooschke, whose website you’re currently on. I love to see young people like Christy spreading the word!
As a Californian, I am watching the debate to label genetically engineered foods (Prop 37) with interest. I have been an advocate for labeling for years, and I belong to numerous consumer groups that support labeling, as well as organic and sustainable farming. I never miss the opportunity to email or phone my representatives to express my views. My fingers are crossed that if Prop 37 passes, it will raise public awareness. I am hoping it will also set a precedent, and we can push for labeling of MSG, as well.
Since the 1970s, I have seen a steady grass-roots movement towards greater awareness of our food and how it is impacting the health of our nation. One thing that has surprised me from the onset, though, is how hostile many folks are about the notion that their food is unsafe. Because my health issues were so extreme, I was willing to try anything, and I do mean anything, to become well. I guess some people don’t like the idea of change, and that’s okay. Another big issue, I think, is our cultural conditioning to ignore our health, turn it over to a doctor, and take a pill. To my way of thinking, that is a prescription for disaster!
No MSG for me!
One thing people have asked me over the years is: “How can you be certain it is MSG that is the problem?” It is an excellent question, and one I will answer now. I became aware of my severe reaction to MSG during the 1970s, when it was in Chinese food and more frequently labeled. Many times, when I developed a particularly devastating migraine, I checked the labels and found MSG present. I became aware of a cascade of events that followed a large exposure. It started with a headache that rapidly worsened, and I frequently felt an uncomfortable itching just under my skin. As the day progressed, I braced for the night I knew was coming. Sleep would be out of the question, and I often had an odd urge to move my body. It wasn’t unusual for me to take off running at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning when I had been exposed to MSG. It may have been dangerous to run at this hour, but it helped me recover faster.
As time went on, I became very familiar with the sensations that followed exposure to MSG. When I began to notice the tell-tale signs of MSG exposure, but I could no longer find MSG listed on food labels, I thought perhaps a similar product had been put on the market. I read labels religiously, and in fact, I recorded everything I ate for a number of years. I didn’t realize at that time that food companies could legally add unlabeled MSG to products by diluting it to 98%. When I learned that MSG had been added to baby foods for decades, an inner alarm started to sound. I felt pretty certain that MSG had been the primary culprit in much of my suffering.
I say MSG was the ‘primary’ culprit because I know that nitrates produce a similar reaction in my system. Most of the time, however, nitrates are labeled and easy to avoid. In my long journey from sickness to health, I did a lot of research on the food production in the U.S. My health challenges and my intuition told me it wasn’t ideal, but I found out that it was far worse than I could have imagined. The more I read about genetically modified organisms, nitrates in meats, not to mention the growth hormones, antibiotics and gmo foods that are fed to cows, I realized that I didn’t want any of it in my body! As I mentioned earlier, I have only one guarantee for feeling well, and that is avoid all commercially made products. Because I know that there is no truth in food labeling in the U.S., 90% of what I eat has no label at all! Yes, I do eat organic chicken, cheese, and occasionally organic bread and pasta (imported from Italy); but for the most part, I make everything from scratch, and purchase only organic produce.
The good news
A word of encouragement here . . . You can be well. Yes, it takes a lot of work and commitment, but the results are absolutely worth it. In my mid-fifties, I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life. Yes, I’ve had a couple of ‘MSG smack-downs’ over the last few years when I’ve gone to restaurants. As a result, I no longer eat out. On the rare occasions when I am socially obligated to eat out, I bring my own food in a baggie and do the old ‘switch-er-roo.’ Yes, I actually swap my organic food for what is on the plate. Having suffered for so many years, I absolutely refuse to have one more minute of sickness! Now I enjoy sound sleep every night and don’t get migraines any more. I’ve got tons of energy, too. I honestly believe that our bodies want to be healthy! We have control over what we put into our bodies, and we can bring about change. Every time you purchase food, you vote with your dollar. In a capitalist, consumer-driven society, spenders are king. Spend wisely.
Do you ever feel like you have to choose between fellowship with friends and family or maintaining your dietary preferences? Does it seem unfair that every social situation revolves around food that you can’t (or aren’t willing to) eat?
In her guest post below, Heather Smith shares with us a few of her tips for handling these situations. So what about you? Have you ever encountered this dilemma? What tips do you have for dealing with these situations? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below….
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“Chances are you have a group of friends that like to meet up every once in a while to socialize and catch up, however not everyone shares the same “real foods” lifestyle that you do. This doesn’t mean you have to skip out on the next hang out session, it’s learning how to make do with what you have and work it so that you still stick to your choices:
- Eat beforehand: Sometimes it is just easier to plan ahead and decide to eat beforehand. The main reason you are meeting up with your friends is to enjoy their company and talk. Eat a solid meal before you meet up and sip on some water once you arrive. Plus, it saves money!
- Modify: Find out where the meeting place is and view the menu beforehand. Try to find something on the menu that would be easy to modify to fit your specifications and needs. Most restaurants are happy to please their customers by doing so.
- Host it: Instead of going out to meet, offer to host a get together at your own home and provide the food. Hosting the get together will help you have full control over the menu and what is being served. You may have a mess to clean up afterwards, but definitely a mess you are willing to make.
- Pick it: Throw out some suggestions to your friends of places that you like and that they may like. Chances are if you are the first one to give their opinion the faster everyone will be on board with your idea.
- Pot luck: Another way to ensure that your diet is not being tainted, offer to go pot luck at your next gathering. Not only is this helpful to the host but it’s a fun way for everyone to get involved. Be sure that your dish is hearty and plentiful.
Eating real in social gatherings is really easy; it just requires that you plan ahead. Find out the location beforehand and view the menu or offer to help host or bring a dish to the next hang out. Remember the real reason you are meeting up with your friends and don’t let the food waiver your decision to see them. Have fun catching up and enjoy!”
Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to www.nanny.net/ service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.