The old saying is that food is medicine. Well, it can also be a poison. When you eat food incompatible with your body, it can cause inflammation, nerve pain, or gastrointestinal issues. None of that is fun, and the medical merry-go-round doesn’t always fix it either. How can medication fix the problem when you unknowingly continue eating food that is the cause?
How Do I Know Which Foods are a Problem?
My food journey began during a time when I had a lot of joint and head pain. Routine lab tests showed system-wide inflammation, but they were no help determining the cause. I turned to an integrative medicine specialist who can prescribe medication but specializes in using supplements and lifestyle changes to bring more health into her patients’ lives. She recommended the ALCAT test, which determines which foods cause inflammation in the body. The ALCAT does not check for allergies; that is a different test for a different problem. Some people think the ALCAT is quackery, but my practitioner recommended it. I was desperate and gave a blood sample for analysis. After conducting its analysis, the laboratory sent me a list of foods that caused a high-, medium-, and low- inflammatory reaction. I discovered that some foods that I ate very frequently were high-inflammation-causing for me, as were some supplements I took daily that were extracted from foods on the list. I stopped eating those foods (good-bye beef and potatoes!) and the supplements as recommended. I was amazed that my chronic headaches that had been occurring almost daily for several years were gone. I was a believer.
If omitting these foods from my diet caused such a great shift, what else could I be eating that was a problem? After a great deal of internal resistance, I read Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by Dr. David Permutter. I had eaten wheat, carbs, and sugar all my life without a problem, so I didn’t see that these were an issue. I’m less concerned about carbs and sugar, but the gluten thing seemed important. My intuition kept pushing me to read it, and I’m glad I did. I learned that the wheat I ate without a problem when I was young is different than the wheat on the market now. Now, the wheat is treated with glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup) before it’s harvested, to increase the yield and to make harvesting easier. Some of the glyphosate passes into the flour and into our food. Glyphosate is reportedly a nerve agent and I wondered if it could be causing my knee pain. I decided to go gluten-free (mainly no wheat products) for three weeks and see what happened. After one week, I was sold. My knee pain lessened significantly. There were several causes for the knee pain, but it was wonderful to reduce it by at least half. I discovered that soy was a real problem for my body, too, because almost all USA-grown soy is treated with glyphosate before harvest. Sadly, restaurant Chinese food also became a thing of the past because it all contained soy sauce.
My doctor had checked me for celiac disease using a DNA test, which was negative, so he said that gluten wasn’t a problem for me. (Celiac is a disease largely featuring gastrointestinal problems due to gluten in the diet.) He didn’t know about the glyphosate connection. My problem wasn’t celiac, but wheat and soy had contributed to my joint pain. So, is my problem with the gluten? Probably not. It is probably the glyphosate in the wheat and soy. When talking to people, it is simpler and easier to just say I eat gluten-free. People understand that, but I get a blank look if I say “glyphosate-free!”
Eventually, I also stopped eating pork, dairy and eggs. My body feels much better, and without all the background inflammation, it is much easier to isolate and address any remaining problems. I have to admit, giving up cheese was a hard one, and it makes me believe those studies that say cheese triggers the addiction circuits much like a narcotic does! I fantasize about cheese routinely, but I feel better without it. Below are pictures from a cheese festival a few years ago before I stopped eating it. I was truly a cheesehead, but now, it is just a persistent memory.
If you are having health issues, the doctors seldom consider food issues. Avoiding inflammatory foods didn’t stop all my pain; I still have significant joint degeneration from an autoimmune disease I had some years ago. But by reducing the inflammation caused by my diet, it was easier to see the extent of my joint problems. As a result, I’ve been working with a physical therapist to increase my muscles so that the joints don’t have to work as hard. It has been slow going, but I wouldn’t have seen any progress if I still had high inflammation. Are food restrictions fun? No, but it’s worth it to have reduced the pain in my body.
Truthfully, choosing not to eat delicious, socially acceptable and encouraged foods can cause awkwardness at times. My youngest just shrugs and tells people we are “food hippies.”