Loren Halifax: How I went from just alleviating symptoms to better health
You know what they say about getting sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?
Yep, me too.
I know we’re all getting older, but it felt like it was getting the best of me. Every year it seems like I have struggled more and more with minor chronic health issues: slowing metabolism, aching joints, allergy/sinus problems, headaches, weight gain, feeling tired and lethargic, stressed out, trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, brain fog, lousy memory and catching every cold and flu bug that goes around each winter. Then a couple of years ago, we lost a dear team member and the additional stress and grief caused my health to crash. I started looking for solutions with the help of some great doctors, and they did help me: they helped me find prescription medications that helped alleviate my symptoms. But that was it. The symptoms never got actually better and it looked like I would have to stay on prescriptions forever, which can cause a whole new set of problems over time. I don’t just want to take a pill. I wanted to get well.
So I kept looking. Much of the best medical research these days points to inflammation as the underlying cause of many chronic disease issues. The body’s immune system gets confused and starts mistakenly attacking and destroying healthy tissue and cells. There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health. Symptoms start with fatigue, which is feeling tired and malaise, which is a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or lack of well-being.
A dear friend sent me a link to a TED talk by an M.D. named Terry Wahls. In it, Dr. Wahls explained how she completely reversed her multiple sclerosis (an autoimmune disease) with nutrition and functional medicine.
She followed a diet of nine cups of fruits and veggies per day from three categories: three cups of leafy greens, three cups sulfur-rich veggies and three cups of brightly-colored fruits/veggies — and they have to be colored all the way through, like berries, oranges, melon, carrots, beets and sweet potatoes. She ate grass-fed meat and wild-caught fish because they have higher omega-three profiles, seaweed for iodine and organ meat (I know, but bear with me).
She dropped foods that commonly cause inflammation like grains, eggs, dairy and processed foods. In three months, she went from a wheelchair to walking with a cane. In three more months, she could walk on her own. Within a year she was riding bikes with her family.
She went on to raise enough money to start clinical trials for MS patients on her protocol. The first trial’s results were published in February of this year and every single patient in the trial improved to some degree.
There’s more to it, like stress management, limiting exposure to toxins, exercise, etc. but I felt overwhelmed so I just started with her Wahls Protocol eating plan. I started on Christmas Day, just four months ago. At first I told myself I would give it one week (after all, it meant giving up ice cream). At the end of one week I had quite a bit more energy, and I had dropped a couple pounds, even though I was eating a lot of food. So I gave it another week. I felt better and better and by the end of the first month, the changes were pretty great, at least for me.
My joints stopped aching, completely. I stopped feeling tired and worn down. I had plenty of energy. I lost seven pounds with no effort. I didn’t catch any contagious bugs this winter. And for the first time in my adult life, I haven’t had a single problem with allergies this spring. I used to need two prescription allergy drugs along with two over-the-counter allergy drugs!
It takes some planning and a little cooking, but it’s pretty easy. I can find everything at local grocery stores and Costco. The expense evened out when I stopped buying snacks and processed foods. I buy organic when I can, but not everything. I eventually found a local farmer/rancher who raises grass-fed beef and now I buy beef directly from him to save a little money. You don’t have to be strict about it forever. Dr. Wahls encourages you to eventually add more inflammatory foods back into your diet one at a time, and see how they make you feel. I admit I am stubborn and I had to get to feeling pretty lousy before I was willing to really change my diet for the long-term, but when I did, it worked for me.
If you struggle with any autoimmune problems or just don’t feel good, go read about the Wahls Protocol online, listen to her TED talk or some podcast interviews. You can make most of her recommended changes for yourself. If you need medical supervision, talk to your doctor or call the KU Center for Integrative Medicine. I
Please, just don’t continue to settle if there’s a chance you could feel better with some simple changes. Take care of you. You’re worth it.
Book signing and Q&A with Dr. Wahls: http://rainydaybooks.com/TerryWahls