As I have struggled to adhere to the food avoidance diet for my son in the last 2 weeks, both my husband and I have occasionally questioned why we are making the effort to take this natural health journey at all. Why take extreme steps like visiting a naturopath and avoiding foods that everyone else eats with no trouble if no one is actually sick? Eating clean is hard! Shouldn’t we just live like the rest of the world and visit a doctor only when we are sick to get medicine that will make us better?
I asked our naturopath this question, and just this weekend my own experience proved that her response was spot-on. Here is what she said:
“This is a question I hear often. You are not alone! I think that a lot of people don’t know what it feels like to feel good…They numb themselves with food — remember how we talked about gluten and dairy acting as opiates? The brain gets foggy and sleepy [from what we eat] but we keep ourselves going with caffeine and sugar.
Everyone is born with toxins already in their body. What differs if each person’s threshold for these toxins. At some point the ‘garbage can’ overflows, sparking an immune reaction. The reaction can be to anything, but it is usually food because we eat all the time! Conversely, people who live cleanly, eat grain-free, dairy-free, etc. know what it is like to feel good. When they consume something bad, it stands out!”
First, let me say that my goal for myself and my children (I can’t speak for my husband, but I would hope…) is exactly that — to live cleanly so that our immune systems are able to react appropriately to legitimate threats of bacteria and viruses. I am particularly vigilant about phthalates in body products (endocrine disruptors), trans fats and artificial colors in food so that our immune systems are not constantly weakened from expending energy reacting to toxins. And I have seen the results over the years with my children. We have now gone two cold and flu seasons without anyone getting more than the sniffles or a mild cough.
Secondly, I had a chance this weekend to prove that eating cleanly actually feels different. I was visiting family out of town this weekend. We were celebrating two different graduations and Mother’s Day, so there were two separate cakes in addition to a huge amount of processed, packaged, sugary and salty comfort and holiday foods. There were fruits and veggies — not organic — served with plenty of creamy dips. And of course, even though I packed most of our lunches, we still had to eat some fast food on the road trip. These are all things that I usually only eat in moderation. Of course, I also had to leave my kombucha and green smoothies at home. And while I never judge my hosts bath and cleaning choices (I am thankful to have a shower and a nice, clean bed and shower!), I know that I was probably around more phthalates than usual. I wanted to get in some yoga or a workout of some kind, but I did not have the opportunity in time or location.
I knew all this was going to happen, and I was prepared to binge a little. I even thought it might be kinda fun. I wasn’t prepared for how my body would react! By Saturday, less than 24 hours after my diet had altered, I was texting my BFF about how sluggish and bloated I felt.
Then Sharon’s words came back to me and I realized why we eat and live the way we do. Because we feel SO much better! I don’t love getting up at 5am all the time, but I do it, and it isn’t that bad. I don’t always feel like making bread or kombucha instead of taking a nap, but I do. But I am not running out of energy by 3pm, and I am not glued to the couch at 7pm. I don’t take any energy boosting supplements (unless you count NingXia Red, which is just highly concentrated fruit juices and essential oils) and I only have one cup of coffee in the early morning — no caffeine for the rest of the day. It’s because my body is functioning the way it should, for the most part, that I am able to recognize the symptoms of a cold when it starts and stop it without drugs.
I know there are a lot more steps I could take to eat even more cleanly (I still love carbs. SO MUCH.), but this weekend was a great reminder of why I go to “all that trouble”, even when it seems difficult to maintain sometimes.