Friday, November 11, 2016

I've had a long, hard journey to get where I am now.  And I know there is a long journey left to come.  There is comfort in the fact that I'm not in it for a destination.  I'm no longer sure where, exactly, my journey intends to take me.  But I'm grateful for the experience along the way.

On this journey, I've met many individuals who are following a similar path.  They may have set out with different intentions, or had a different destination in mind than I did, but nonetheless we find ourselves following a somewhat similar path of learning and dietary adaptions and discoveries.  Symptoms overlap, research correlates to other research, experiences and diet may differ somewhat but the overall journey remains very similar.  

Dietary changes are hard.  Even harder is the learning process, learning not just to rethink what you eat but to reevaluate the entire learning process that got you to this point in life.  What you eat isn't something to take for granted.  There are so many variables in our diet, from pesticides to genetically modified organisms to preservatives to artificial flavors and colors.  Some are likely perfectly safe in small amounts, but our diets contain so many small amounts that the amount we ingest is no longer negligible.  Others are safe for some but may trigger problems for others.  And while there is limited research that helps us begin to understand what's going on, the far reaching implications are still hard to comprehend.  

Hey, I've been at this for over a decade and I'm still struggling to grasp the enormity of it all.  

What I haven't talked about in a long time is the very real danger of over compensating.  
I recently found myself engaged in conversation with another journey-taker.  Her daughter has been very sick, finally able to participate in life again after being bedridden for several months.  After giving up on western medecine, they discovered some food intolerances and an allergy to pesticides.  The trouble comes in over compensation.  While I have no doubt that the food issues are making a big difference, they are still looking for things to eliminate.  
The trouble is, you can't stop eating.  And a very limited diet is no help to anyone.  I know, I've been there.  It's so easy to do, especially as a parent who has kids that depend on me; and limited support (due solely to a limited understanding in how chronic digestive issues work rather than lack of care) I am constantly battling the temptation to stop eating.  So I get it.  
But I listened to the hoops she has jumped through, and watched her bristle as I gently suggested some less-herculean efforts that might yield a similar response.  So I bit my tongue as she described the emotional isolation and their solution (which sounds just as nasty as the original symptoms, involving a variety of detoxifying herbs and recovery systems after indulging in forbidden foods.)  And then she started listing more diets that they are slowly adding to the original, proudly increasing their limitations while increasing supplements to make up for what is being removed...
I had to say something.  And I had to share.  
Just because food is a trigger, dos NOT mean it is inherently evil.  
Gluten is bad for me.  What it does to one kid is flat out evil.  But in itself, it's just a grain.  

I don't believe that there is one diet that works for everyone.  I don't believe that natural foods that have been used by native cultures for generations are inherently bad for everyone.  And I believe that this truth is universal.  Different people have different needs, and while various diets work well for broad spectrums of individuals, it's only because their individual needs happen to overlap.  

That's right.  While I may think that the American diet has a surplus of wheat grains in it, I don't believe we should ban wheat.  And while I am concerned about any monocrop (especially corn); I also don't think we should ban it.  Any monocrop is dangerous.  And there are people who can't tolerate wheat, or rice, but might do okay with corn.  Everything in moderation.  

A healthy diet is a varied diet.  If you are still having symptoms after eliminating one food, please, please, please don't go overboard by eliminating every other food you think might possibly be suspect.  Listening to this one particular case, I couldn't help but wonder if they'd tried a moderate route.  Just give up the gluten and stick to organics for 6 months.  6 months is a very long time in the life of a 10 year old.  But it takes a very long time to heal from malnutrition caused by food intolerance.  It takes a very long time to heal both physically and emotionally from long term digestive problems.

I understand the desire, the desperate desire that borders on need, to feel healthy.  But total elimination for life is not a good answer.  Elimination diets work by eliminating the suspect foods, and then slowly reintroducing them while watching for symptoms.  It's a challenge as a parent because a) you want to be available and dependable to kids and b) you don't want your kids to suffer. Life goes on, and when kids are young it goes very, very fast.  There isn't always a tomorrow because by tomorrow, your kids may have moved on.  But patience is still key.  Give the gluten free (or corn free, or dairy free, or all organic) diet a chance to work before choosing another restriction to add to that one.  Consider carefully re-introducing eliminated foods if you don't get the results you were looking for.  There is no one size fits all diet.  There is no magic cure.  It took time to get this miserable, it's going to take time to heal and relearn what "normal" looks like.

Most of all, it takes a long time to rebuild trust with food.  It's something that is supposed to nourish us, but when it bites back, it's hard to risk eating again.  It's still essential.  

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