An Initial Breakthrough
It was January in 2014 and I (Tessa) was diagnosed with yet another UTI (urinary tract infection). I had had them on and off continually since 2009 and was at my wit’s end as to what the cause was and how it could be healed, for good. I had a prescription from the doctor for antibiotics and was about to go fill it when I decided not to. I didn’t want stronger versions of the same drugs I’d already used for years because they obviously weren’t helping. So I went home and started searching for other more natural remedies when I came across the candida cleanse. Finally, a real solution! I fasted for a day before starting a week long cleanse consisting of pretty much just vegetables. I also ordered grapefruit seed extract, anti-fungal and probiotic supplements, and a kefir starter and learned to make yogurt to begin the work of killing the excess candida and boosting my gut flora. This worked wonders but was only the start of my healing journey.
Fast Forward To The Summer Of 2014
When walking down the street in the small mountain town we lived in, one usually passes a “FREE” box or two. (For those unfamiliar, this is usually a box labeled “FREE” with stuff inside that is free to take for whomever encounters it first.) Oh the joys of the free box! You never know what you will find. Perhaps a flashlight or a frying pan or a new pair of shoes? On this particular day, it was a book called The Live Food Factor, which caught my eye as the raw food diet had been on the periphery of my radar ever since my friend’s roommate in college became a raw foodist. (I distinctly recall wondering how on earth someone could live that way, and imagined them eating only baby carrots.)
I picked it up and was immediately blown away at the logic of it all; how raw produce has high enzymatic content making it easier to digest and much higher doses of vitamins and minerals because they haven’t been destroyed by heat; how certain foods (ie animal products) have been portrayed to us by the media, the government, and our society as essential to good health (“they contain protein and calcium that your body needs!”) are actually harmful to our bodies; I don’t remember if it was from this book or another one, but we also learned about the absolute necessity of eating organically produced foods whenever they’re available, which is pretty much all the time; and finally how our amazing bodies can – and do – heal themselves when given the right fuel to work with. Disease cannot and will not exist when the body is healthy.
Experimenting With A Live Food Diet
After a few days taking it all in and sharing the information with Callum, we decided to give it a shot and dove head first into organic, raw food. It was exciting for the first week or two, then hugely challenging and not fun during the detox phase, but by the end of the month we’d never felt better. We had so much energy and felt so light and clean! I even threw out my steroid cream that I had been using for eczema for 10 years because all my persistent rashes just went away for the first time ever since they appeared in high school. Callum, who had been suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) for a few years, also saw his symptoms disappear. It was truly amazing to witness and we were convinced. However, it was a difficult diet to live by while still attempting to function in society (not to mention while working in an organic bakery/coffee shop at 9,000 ft in the Colorado Rockies) and we started to incorporate cooked foods back into our diets. It wasn’t long before it would get out of hand and my eczema and his IBS would return. So we would go on a cleanse for a few weeks to clean out our systems and reboot and the cycle would start again. We did this a few times over the course of 18 months or so before finally declaring “Enough is enough” and dove into research again to learn how we can maintain health while being able to continue doing things we enjoyed like going out to eat or attending pot lucks.
“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates
It was at this time (January 2016) that we came across the concept of the leaky gut. This is when I realized that the candida overgrowth I’d been battling was a symptom of a different, much larger problem. So we started on an indefinitely long road to gut health and focused on complete abstinence from sugar (even fruit for me), gluten, alcohol, and caffeine, as well as most animal products (but we’d already been eating 95% vegan since discovering raw foods). We filled ourselves instead with bone broth, green smoothies (thankfully made drinkable by huge amounts of coconut milk), salads of any sort, and fermented foods, all of which we made sure were organic. Callum had less healing to do and was more lenient but I was suffering immensely from the eczema and needed to stay strict for almost two months. At that time, I started incorporating low sugar fruits back in and a little alcohol now and then (though I paid the price a few times when it was too soon or too much).
After about 6 months of experimenting with this gut healing diet, we have finally reached a balance that is sustainable. We have both stayed gluten and processed sugar free and only occasionally drink alcohol – I stick with wine, usually red, but Callum has whatever he fancies! Coffee has found a permanent place in our lives and hasn’t affected either of our guts. We eat about 60% raw, meaning organic fruit, veg, nuts, and seeds, and the only grains we buy are quinoa and steel cut oats though we do eat rice sometimes when we eat out or as a gluten free alternative for pasta when the craving strikes. Coconut products account for a large part of our diet, as do beans/legumes, fermented foods, and bone broth. So far, so good and the healing continues.
I am just now starting an elimination diet where I will try to identify my intolerances, so I know exactly what I should not eat. I will try one irritant at a time (soy, corn, alcohol, gluten, eggs, goat and sheep products, – I have no interest in reincorporating dairy products – and peanuts) and see if I have any changes from my healthy homeostasis. I’m excited to be pinpointing my intolerances, rather than just blindly avoiding the whole lot. Fingers crossed for some answers.