The words natural and organic used to be foreign to me. All food is edible so it doesn't matter what is in it, or so I thought. I knew that some foods such as ice cream and cookies were fattening and unhealthy, but my swimming career allowed me to eat whatever I wanted. My family always sat down to meals together so by no means was I eating fast or processed food every single meal. But where did our food come from? That I didn't know and I personally didn't care.
So the question is how did I get from there to where I am now being sugar free, dairy free, and gluten free?
It was a slow process and it didn't begin with me at all but other members of my family. My mom had been sick and was seeing doctors to try and find out what was wrong with her but no doctor could help her. Thinking it was cancer, yes that's how bad it was, they did a body scan to try and identify a tumor. When no tumor was found the doctors told her to come back when she was sicker. Someone suggested that she go see a more natural doctor so she went to the Born Clinic. Once there she discovered that she in fact was not fatally ill but had a major allergy to yeast and minor allergies to several other foods. She avoided the foods that she could not eat but nothing changed for the rest of the family. All of that occurred about 4 or 5 years ago.
Before it gets to me there are several more family members to go. Austin, one of my younger brothers had always had pretty severe asthma problems which were treated with inhalers. On top of that he had major behavioral and attitude problems, screaming and throwing tantrums when he was upset. At age 7, a little while after my moms complications, he started fainting at random times. This was a big concern and he was taken to UofM for testing on his brain and heart but nothing explained his fainting. Since no answers were found at the hospital my mom took Austin to the Born Clinic. Allergy testing was automatically done confirming that he had food sensitivities to many foods, mainly gluten and dairy. Turns out that the gluten and dairy acted like morphine in his system, crossing the blood brain barrier and affecting his behavior. Now he is a healthy 11 year old with no major health or behavioral issues. In the medical world he would have been medicated for ADD and put in anger management classes. After the discovery of these sensitivities we bought separate foods for Austin and the rest of us continued to eat as normal.
A year ago both of my parents had the opportunity to go to Nigeria. They had a fabulous time. On one of their last days in Africa they ate at an authentic Nigerian outdoor restaurant. This caused gut issues for both my mom and dad, but especially my mom. Due to these problems my mom went sugar free to combat her stomach pains. Since she does most of our grocery shopping our sugary products in the house started diminishing. We still weren't a completely sugar free family and didn't plan to be.
Two of my younger siblings, Nicholas and Alexandria, broke out in horrible cases of poison ivy. Alexandria had to go to the hospital and get steroids because the poison ivy had spread to her face. During the healing process my mom had the kids put their candy away so that it wouldn't impede their recovery. The candy was forgotten and discovered 3 months later and promptly thrown away due to it being old. At school the kids had birthday treats that of course had loads of sugar in them and they got terrible stomach aches. They tested eating sugar a few more times with the same result every time and that is when they (11 year old kids) decided to go sugar free. After their stomach problems my parents took my two younger triplet siblings who hadn't yet gone to the Born Clinic where they too got tested for allergies. My dad ended up going eventually as well so me and my older sister were the only two who hadn't been tested yet.
I thought that they were crazy and told my mom that she couldn't force the kids to be without sugar. She then informed me that it was solely their choice. Needless to say I was shocked. At this time I was down in South Carolina at Clemson University and my meals came from the dining hall. Ice cream sundaes on Friday, desserts every day of the week and limitless pizza were great! But I was getting stomach pains and issues while on a not so steady or nutritious dining hall diet. I kind of just dealt with it because it was tolerable and I didn't mention it to anyone.
After my first semester of college down in South Carolina I decided to transfer to Calvin College in Michigan (my home state) because Clemson was just too far away for me. I moved back home over my winter break and decided to commute when the spring semester started. Living at home I obviously ate what was in the house which was all dairy free, gluten free, and sugar free by then. It was great food but I didn't make the choice to join in going free of anything. So when I was out with friends or at other peoples houses I would eat ice cream and sugar and just whatever really. One day in particular I had a lot of dairy and gluten filled foods, hot chocolate with milk, macaroni and cheese, and cake. The next day I was on the couch almost all day and when I wasn't on the couch I would be resting my head on the table or anything else. I was just unbelievably tired all day. I was thinking that maybe I was sick or something but then later after I had eaten dinner with my family I perked up and was wide awake, so we were able to make the connection that the foods I ate had affected me making me tired. This explanation made a lot of sense to me because I was always tired at Clemson (partially because I was up late at night) but I felt like I could never catch up. When I came home for Christmas break all I did for almost two weeks was sleep a ton because my body was so exhausted. That was enough for me to go gluten free and dairy free because it is hard enough to go to college, and a foggy mind and tired body would not make it any easier.
When I had that response from the gluten I then told my mom that my stomach had been hurting me when I was away at college. With my agreement she took me to the Born Clinic and I was tested for food allergies. I did not turn up sensitive to gluten but I am still sticking gluten free, and there were a few other things I am sensitive to. One of them being yeast and there was some in my system, therefore, I cannot have sugar because yeast feeds on sugar.
Ariel, my older sister, was very skeptical of all of us going gluten, dairy, and sugar free. She insisted that we didn't eat "real" food when it came to our version of sweets and treats. But then her stomach started hurting and she finally reluctantly decided to go to the Born Clinic as well. She now eats gluten, dairy, and sugar free like the rest of us but is still not excited about it. The doctor told her that she could have future complications with her digestive system if she didn't change her ways so that was the final deciding factor for Ariel.
Along the way while dropping different foods and adjusting our diets our family has started to eat more organic and local foods. Our first experience of organic food was when we moved down to South Carolina and were introduced to EarthFare. My mom was unsure of the whole organic thing and it being better so she bought a single apple. When it was cut into you could smell it and compared to our apples in the fridge it was so much tastier and more fresh. We wondered what else was better out there and why was non organic so much different? My mom is the big researcher of the family and she discovered that chemicals and depleted soils have a lot to do with it (there is much more but that will be left for another time). It has been a great learning experience for me and I love all of the new foods and recipes we have discovered.
I am happy with my choice to go dairy, gluten, and sugar free. My absolute favorite part has been seeing all of the foods there are to eat. Take beans for example, there are not just one type of beans. There are black beans, white peans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and the list goes on and on. It amazes me!