Office Diaries

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How Healthy Food Made me Sick

What I learned from being sick.

In June of 2010 I got sick. What started out as a stomachache turned into a complete meltdown inside my entire abdomen. This included my bladder, and both reproductive and digestive systems. It is now two and half years later and boy have my eyes been opened.

After having surgery and being put on the same hormone they gave my father for prostate cancer (!), which was supposed to be out of my system in thirty-days, but took a full five months, I was no better. In fact, I was worse. My next set of options was exploratory surgery, more drugs and a hysterectomy. I was only 45, and while I was definitely feeling older than I was because I was such a mess, I did not feel old enough to start menopause or lose that much of my body’s own natural equipment. But even with my organs intact, my body could not take one more poke, prod or pill.

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As the situation progressed, something in me said, I wasn’t that sick.  But the doctors kept saying I was.  It was me, sick, ailing me. But at a certain point, I had to ask, “Is it really me or is it them?” Because when all was said and done, I was still sick. 

That’s when someone who was as shocked as I was that I wasn’t any better after the whole ordeal suggested I have a hair analysis done. It seemed simple (and harmless) enough. So, I Googled "Hair Test NYC,” and found a nutritionist who charged $79.00 to run the test. I started there.

A few weeks later the test results came back. My nutritionist, Inna Topiler, was completely unfazed by the results. I sat expectantly. She told me she wasn’t surprised at all. Apparently, my copper was extremely high – a problem that she said could explain all of my problems stemming back to my body’s ability, or lack thereof, to digest food. Our main goal, she said, was to get the copper down. There were other irregularities, but none that stood out to such a degree. She had a plan. Because my system was so raw, (I couldn’t eat without getting sick) and my body traumatized from the drugs, (everything hurt) we were able only to address the imbalances she discovered through diet.

After more tests and understanding that my digestive system was so weakened that I was not efficiently or sufficiently able to digest food, and therefore absorb the nutrients my body needed, I had to control every ingredient that went into my mouth, which included a total education on what most ingredients actually are. Keep in mind, I had been someone whose refrigerator looked like a bachelor’s sans the door full of Bud Lights, and my dishwasher only ever had coffee cups and spoons inside. So, needless to say, for me learning to eat meant learning to cook. It was nothing short of a miracle.

But let me back up here for a minute. It’s not as though we hadn't had clues before I found Inna. Ten years ago, my body knew and tried to tell me.  I was diagnosed with IBS. They put me on Lotrimex, a drug that was ultimately pulled from the market due to fatalities it caused, not that it helped anyway. Luckily my doctor took me off in time, which left me complaining way back then that when I ate I got sick.

About five years ago my knee blew up after having surgery on it a full year before. Swollen, after a year of it being operated on and fine, my doctor’s response was, “Well, you’re not getting any younger.” Another doctor told me my blood was showing some inflammation, but not enough to worry about. “It was nothing,” he said. Turns out, it was everything.

Then, three years ago I started growing these lumps called Lipomas, fatty tumors that were explained as masses that form when the fat cells become irregular and proliferate in a dysfunctional way which causes them to form tumors. The answer? Cut them out. So that’s what we did.

Finally, two years ago I was diagnosed with endometriosis, which I was told had grown over, and was covering all the organs in my belly and the muscles as well. The treatment? That cancer drug they gave my dad. But I didn’t have cancer. By the time the drug got into my blood, I had menopause – fake and early menopause, but menopause nonetheless. I wasn’t ready for that. Besides, the side effects almost killed me.

So this fall, I passed the one-year mark of eating only the foods my body accepted (as told by food sensitivity blood tests) and we are now beginning to reintroduce the unfathomably long list of those it rejected – one-by-one like an infant.  The foods that just a year ago, the very trace of which would have made me sick, are now non-issues and my body is strong enough again to handle them.  These were foods like kale, broccoli and chicken, mind you.  Healthy foods.  What astonishes me is that along the way no one ever suggested that we look at what I was eating.  It never occurred to any of the medical professionals to make that connection, which at the end of the day, was the only connection that needed to be made.  Of them all, I had one doctor who genuinely cared and was open to, and even interested in, what I learned.  The others poo-pooed the very mention of diet and the effects of food. 

What’s more, every single symptom I had going back ten years to the IBS, is now GONE. No knee swelling, no cramps, no growths, no stomachaches. Even pain in my lower back has subsided. Everything is normal and healthy.  Oh, and my copper is down. In the end, all it was, was food.  Why hadn’t anyone thought of that?  In hindsight though, what shocks me more than how obvious the solution was, is how long, arduous and tedious a process it is to heal.  So necessary and positive wellness is, one would think it wouldn't need to be so unbelievably difficult.  Well, now I know.  Health is well-earned. 

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Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations.

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