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Today is Day 17 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness.  You can start Day 1 here.

Just as we discussed thinking out side of the box in choosing a health care professional, you may need to try some "alternative" methods when it comes to nutrition.  Although, I really don't love that term "alternative" when speaking of nutrition.  I'll tell you why...

Growing up my mother periodically took us all off of wheat & pasteurized dairy.  We took supplements like Vitamin D, Zinc and Echinacea.  30 years ago my mother and Katie Lee from our local health food store were telling people not to eat high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils and the world laughed at them.  Now every MD worth his salt is preaching it, in fact, Dr. Oz has become famous for it.  Netti pots were only for hippies, now every corner drugstore carries them because some doctor on TV decided it was OK to use. My great-grandmother taught us how to eat right, "science" is just catching up to what she already knew.

So it bothers me to call it "alternative" to suggest a specific diet, eliminating certain foods or taking herbal remedies when our ancestors knew that if they had an upset stomach and they drank some mint tea it cured their nausea.  It wasn't scientific method that brought them to that conclusion, it was common sense and wisdom from past generations.  It shouldn't be called "alternative", it should just be called natural or normal.

Yes, I know there have been problems with dosages or combining treatments or using the wrong substance for a particular ailment but guess what... that happens every day in every pharmacy across America with synthetic, potent, expensive, Federally regulated drugs.

I'll stop preaching.

My point is this, it might be time to try something different.  Are you exhausted?  Maybe you could try drinking some herbal tea with ingredients proven to provide stimulant-free energy that won't make you crash and won't cause lasting damage to your liver or adrenal glands. Do you suffer from cold sores? Over the counter lysine has been proven to improve the healing time of cold sores and can even prevent future breakouts.  Prone to eczema? Take a swig of olive oil every day it you might see some improvement, no copay.

Natural remedies and taking vitamins can feel like learning a 2nd language.  I grew up that way so it comes natural to me but if you don't know where to start or want to learn more here are a few sites to get you started:

  •  Dr. Oz-  yes, the great and might Oz has a lot of great information.  I really appreciate his ability to pair modern medicine with more natural remedies.
  • Dr. Mercola- Dr. Mercola has been around for a long time and is well respected in the medical community (they may not always agree with him, but they respect him). He provides free nutritional eating guidelines for beginners.
  • Dr. Weil- another veteran in the health/nutrition world.

These are just a few among many, many others.  At the end of this series I will be posting a list of resources for even more ideas on how to stay healthy.

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Today is Day 11 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness.  You can catch up on Day 1 here.

Yesterday we talked about listening to our bodies and being kinder to them.  When I slowed down and paid attention to what my stressed out, sick body was saying, this was the first thing I heard:

"Stop eating chemicals!"

I have an advantage over a lot of people because I grew up eating spirulina, millet and natural peanut butter so thick you could peel it right off the bread.  My mom was all natural way before it was trendy or cool. So eating healthy is not foreign to me and overall my diet was not that bad. I've always eaten vegetables & fruit, I've taken vitamins my whole life, and I'm very familiar with cooking my own meals.

But there were some spots in my diet that needed attention.  Mostly, lunches.  Because I worked up in the hills, far away from any restaurants or even my home, I had to pack my lunch every day.  However, when you're exhausted and can barely manage to peel yourself out of bed every day, cooking is about the furthest thing from your mind.  So almost every day for lunch I ate a pre-packaged, frozen meal.  I mostly purchased the "healthy" or "lean" ones but looking on the back of the label I found some things that were disturbing: corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, soy protein, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, glutamates,  preservatives, and so much more.

The problem with eating foods that are highly processed and full of chemicals is that your body doesn't recognize it as "food."  Our bodies are incredibly adaptive, and will try to survive on whatever resources it can get, but after a while those chemicals cause our bodies to react in ways it was never created to.  These chemicals & over processed foods disrupt hormones, produce toxins, and even cause cancer. In her book Master Your Metabolism Jillian Michaels explains, "Your poor body is stumbling around, trying to scrounge something nutritious out of this toxic food environment... too many additives and processes have mangled the food supply and confused your body's normal metabolism."

On January 1 I made a decision to eat fewer chemicals and engineered foods and instead eat more whole, natural foods.  I didn't want to change everything all at once and shock my system with something that wasn't going to be sustainable.  I just started getting pickier about what I defined as "food."  If it came straight out of the ground or ocean (with as little chemical treatment as possible) I ate it.  If it had a face or had a mother in it's previous life, it was on the safe list. If I could pronounce and recognize the ingredient list, I ate it.  One by one, I eliminated the chemical-tinged foods.

Guess what happened? My body responded.  It wasn't drastic and definitely didn't happen overnight, but week by week I started noticing the dark circles under my eyes weren't as big.  My energy levels starting picking up and my brain started to come out of the fog that it had been in.  My digestion became more normalized and my skin started get a little glow back.

It has been a couple of years now since I started being more mindful of my foods, limiting the chemicals, and food tastes so much better now.  It's not that I never "cheat", I do. Especially when I'm pressed for time. But those Franken-foods never taste as good as the whole, natural foods that I was raised on, grew and love.  When I eat fresh, simple foods I know that I'm fueling it for health and healing.

So that's my challenge to you.  Next time you go grocery shopping, take a look at the ingredient list before you put it in your cart.  If you can't pronounce an ingredient, put it back on the shelf because it's not food.  If it has artificial colors or artificial sweeteners, pass. If there is a "junk" food you love, see if there is a healthier version or brand. Start adding more whole, unprocessed foods to your meals and snacks.

Your body will respond with gratitude.