The moment I decided to change my life was nine years earlier than the moment I figured out what needed to happen to make that change.
In the spring of 2000, I’d just turned twenty-eight, and had been struggling with health ever since the birth of my son the previous summer. I was sleepless, headache-y, chronically tired, my joints were aching and I was unable to pick up the car seat or even write my name sometimes (gripping a pen was too painful.) I was mildly overweight, but not so much that it should have me unable to move. I’d tried several diets over the months, but I had to be careful since I was breast-feeding.
The epiphany came for me when I went to the doctor’s and he gave me a work up and discovered, among other things, that my cholesterol was 237. It was the AHA! moment. My dad had been in and out of hospitals for twelve years with heart attacks, and I was aware that I had many cards stacked against me. Young as I was, I certainly didn’t want to be headed down the same path of health destruction.
I started following primarily vegan eating plan, and implemented four-mile walks on most days. I initially slimmed down quite a bit, but my symptoms of misery persisted. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgea. I accepted this diagnosis with somber resolution, and began trying to research it.
As the years went by, I began having more symptoms. My headaches turned to migraines after the birth of my next baby. My skin began to have regular outbreaks of terribly painful, burning, cyst-like sores. The patches of outbreak were on my thighs, breasts (armpits) and by my neck, mostly, with some on my chin. It was embarrassing. I went on an anti-depressant. I struggled with irritable-bowel-syndrome more than ever. (That had been a problem my entire life).
Finally, in 2009, I went to my chiropractor’s and told him I really needed help. “You can’t touch this part of my back, though,” I told him. “And I know that’s where it needs to be adjusted, but I must have suffered nerve damage at some point. I will scream and die if you touch me there.” I was referring to my lower back.
It was this lovely man, who’d done extensive training on nutrition, who finally told me flat-out that I was allergic to wheat. I thought he was crazy until he started listing all the symptoms I’d been suffering without my prompting. He said the reason I had such intense sensitivity on my lower back was because of fatty tumors, which were a direct result of my wheat allergy.
He told me to give up wheat.
“I’ll try,” I said.
“You can’t try. You have to just do it, Laura.”
I went home that day, wheat-free, and never looked back. In two weeks, absolutely every symptom I had went away (except for the fatty tumors under the skin, which take a while to diminish). I have been wheat-free for a year-and-a-half, and have lost forty pounds. Interestingly, every time I went vegan, my symptoms increased because my consumption of whole wheat increased! I know I’m still learning about where the hidden wheat is (and my body never fails to let me know when I’ve had some by having a skin outbreak, diarrhea, or a migraine,) but I finally have the energy to take on a healthy exercise routine. Understanding that I didn’t have to accept a diagnosis that was going to make me a slave to disease was the most empowering moment of my life.