If "Food Is Medicine", Do We Need a Prescription?Jun 22, 2021
After the initial grief of my diagnosis, I knew we needed to make some changes in our family’s eating habits.
Even though physicians get only about 10 hours of nutrition education in medical school,
A little part of me realized, I had been lying to myself for too long…
Making a lot of excuses and justifications..
I mean can we really count French fries as vegetables?
And our twice-a-week trips at our favorite bakery, though delicious and supporting the local economy, were not the healthiest way I could cope with stress.
Burning the candle at both ends left nutrition as an afterthought.
We had been in survival mode for too long.
Then another blow landed us in full on crisis mode.
After weeks of feeling more tired and having daily fevers, I turned yellow and my urine was dark.
Liver inflammation. A severe hepatitis.
The levels kept climbing.
Dozens of blood tests. An ultrasound.
It wasn’t due to the usual causes
I needed a biopsy…
Then the waiting…
First inconclusive results…
My liver tissue was sent to the National Institutes for Health for a second opinion…
Naturally this all occurred over a holiday weekend.
If the little piece of my liver indicated the inflammation was related to Sjogren’s, I was facing BIG time meds. Protocols called for at least a year of steroids and other very strong immune suppressing medicines. These were the same medicines I saw cause lifelong immune deficiency in some of my patients.
I was petrified.
If there was ever a time for massive change...I told myself, it was now.
To cope, I needed to take control of the situation.
How? I dug into the research…
Turns out there isn’t too much in the medical literature studying the effect of lifestyle and nutrition on Sjogren’s or liver disease.
I did what anyone does these days…
I googled and stumbled upon the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).
Feeling desperate and with not much else to turn to, I ordered a stack of AIP cookbooks and resolved to try something totally and completely different.
If you are not familiar with AIP, it is a very restrictive elimination diet that is intended to be temporary and help autoimmune patients determine if particular foods might be contributing to inflammation. It does have a few small studies that show that it can be helpful for some autoimmune conditions and continues to undergo evaluation.
But wow, the list of what I couldn’t eat seemed endless...
- No dairy.
- No grains.
- No eggs.
- No nuts.
- No legumes.
- No nightshade veggies.
- No preservatives.
- No additives.
- No seeds (including seed based spices and coffee)
Somehow I survived the initial caffeine withdrawal…
About 5 days later after the headaches eased, I sat down to play with the girls.
When I went to stand up, to my utter amazement, my back stiffness was gone.
I honestly was in shock.
A symptom that had plagued me for nearly 10 years...vanished.
I mean, I knew there was something to this “food is medicine” business but never figured I would experience such a dramatic change in my symptoms.
After the initial weeks though, the reality of sticking to AIP sunk in.
How was this going to be sustainable?
My husband, a cardiologist, was already concerned about the increased amount of meat we were eating…and this didn’t take into account the environmental and cost concerns of this style of eating.
But ALL of the cooking, prepping…
It was pretty impossible to find fully AIP-compliant meals outside of our own cooking.
Due to my illness, I had decreased my clinical workload in order to rest and recover but now I was spending all of the extra time- planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking. I did my best to batch cook and meal prep but it was so much.
The mental and physical energy it took was immense.
About 3 months into our AIP adventures, we went on vacation.
I tried my best to stick to the plan.
But let’s just say the most magical place on earth is much less magical when you are worried about every single bite of food you are eating.
When we returned home, this worry and stress persisted. We tended to eat the same few recipes and snacks day in and day out.
My labs remained fairly well controlled but my pain gradually returned...
- Was I eating enough of the right foods?
- Was I reintroducing foods too quickly?
- What else could I be doing?
- Why was I failing?
At some point, I realized my quest to use food as medicine had evolved into fueling more fear and anxiety rather than the healing it promised.
Eventually, I hit rock bottom. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
And dammit, I missed being a foodie.
I missed enjoying the food experience. The experience of going out for a meal.
It took a few more months, but I finally gathered enough courage to ask for help.
I had never felt so vulnerable as when I booked my discovery call with Jenifer.
I mean in hindsight, I am not sure what I was so worried about…
I didn’t really have anything to lose.
But what I didn’t realize was the amazing things I would discover…
I learned how much I didn’t know about nutrition,
that things didn’t have to be so black and white,
I didn’t have to give up my favorite foods
AND that many of my favorites were actually ANTI-INFLAMMATORY.
Slowly but surely, I started incorporating Jenifer’s lessons into my everyday routines.
Learning to build balance.
How to stop fearing food.
Learning how to find joy in food again.
The difference is night and day.
Nearly a year later, this is why I have partnered with Jenifer for my Building Balance program. She brings to the table her expertise as a registered dietician with extensive research and training in anti-inflammatory nutrition. Her unique non-restrictive approach to nutrition is not only sustainable but the definition of building balance!
So yes, food is medicine but like any medicine, it too has potential side effects. Although an exact prescription isn’t necessary, thoughtful nutrition experts can evaluate your specific needs and concerns. Together, you can develop a game plan for nourishing your body, mind, and soul.
If you find yourself struggling to figure out inflammation triggers, fearing food, or just plain overwhelmed and confused, I urge you to ask for help.
My only regret? I wish I would have asked for help sooner.
Want to see more of what Jenifer’s teaching is all about?
Follow her on Instagram at @chronicpain.nutritionist
P.S. I recently created a new FREE resource to help you jumpstart your success with Sjogren’s!
To download 5 Foods People with Sjogren’s Don’t Need to Fear, Click here.