I heard a quote credited to Hippocrates recently that has stuck with me. In my searching online, it is worded differently in citation, and even credited to other people. But that doesn’t take away from what has stuck with me.
“It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.”
Another, more famous perhaps, Hippocrates quote is:
“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
This quote has been theoretically debunked to be his. Or maybe that’s not exactly what he said/wrote. Or maybe it was taken out of context.
Regardless of legitimacy or who said what, these two sentences resonate with me deeply. I believe in the power of food in health and I believe it is the individual person who is important, not the disease (disorder, syndrome, etc.). And I believe food and people and disease are all inherently tied together.
I’ve felt something or another was wrong with me for as long as I can remember. Through most of my 20s and 30s, I was in and out of doctors’ offices and trying every new thing that I came across in hope of feeling better. As it turns out, none of it worked. And I have sneaking suspicions that some of it made things worse.
I ate a lot of fast “food” and box “food” full of unpronounceable and unknown ingredients. I took pill after pill after pill trying to find something to fix whatever ill was bothering me at that moment. I took the antibiotics that were prescribed for every cold, flu, infection that presented itself, even long term IV antibiotics when I had chronic Lyme disease. I tried diet after diet trying to fit my body into some external (and unattainable) opinion of how I should be. I took supplements and concoctions and bombarded my body with harsh treatments. It was all “normal.” It’s what everyone around me was doing. It’s what everyone around me is still doing. But it wasn’t working for me, and I knew I had to break the cycle if I wanted to get anywhere.
It started with food.
I got a good kick in the right when I was diagnosed with sulfite sensitivity. I had to start reading labels and really thinking about what I was putting into my body. I had to evaluate everything for fear that a slip up would put me in the hospital. It was frustrating and painful, but it ended up being a boot camp of sorts for my diet.
I stopped eating anything I was unsure of. I stopped eating things I couldn’t pronounce. I started eating whole foods and recreating those box products I couldn’t have anymore with actual food ingredients. Turns out, they were waaaay more delicious and I could customize them to what I liked.
And I started feeling better. Yes, I miss the ease of the drive-thru or heating something up in a pre-portioned plastic tray. Yes, I miss Oreos and McDonald’s fries. But what I don’t miss is the bloat, the stomach aches, the yo-yo weight, the not-quite-right feelings every time I ate. And those are just the obvious improvements.
As I said, I truly believe there is a link between food: what we put in our body, and our health and wellbeing: what our body, mind, and spirit responds with.
I believe that eating actual food since 2012 has allowed my body to reset, if you will, or start to heal itself. I believe providing ample amounts of the nutrition my body has craved all this time has made it stop crying out in the form of random symptoms.
I used to have really bad seasonal allergies. I don’t anymore.
I used to get colds every winter. I’ve been two winters without a sniffle so far.
I used to have chronic bronchitis rear up one or two times a year, every year. My last inhaler expired in 2015.
Mosquito bites used to cause me to welt and bruise and itch for weeks. Now they just go away.
I used to have chronic Lyme disease and Alpha-gal disease. I don’t anymore.
I used to have a whole slew of symptoms that got swept into IBS, CFS, and RLS (syndromes which I personally believe doctors use as a vague catchall for anything they can’t quite figure out in the 10 minutes they spend with a patient talking only about current symptoms —> “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.” and what’s worse is we go along with it!), and they are systematically going away.
I used to have recurring acne (and backne and chest-ne), dry skin, and brittle nails. All gone.
These are my rules, my methods, my way:
I don’t consume things which I can’t identify where it came from (Butylated hydroxyanisole*, citric acid**). I don’t consume things that didn’t come from something that was once alive (ok, kids, find the yellow number 5 tree). I don’t consume things that went through extensive processing to get it to its current state (high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated anything, sodium chloride, soy lecithin/isolate/protein…if it’s stripped of anything, it’s not a whole food).
*even spell check doesn’t know what this is!
**can come from fruit, but is most often (cheaper) extracted from black mold
I only take a pill when I’m really desperate. 90% of the time, I look to foods and plants to nourish and help my body heal in times of acute illness or discomfort. And I’m patient, understanding that my body is trying to tell me something and I need to listen and give it time. A pill (or series of pills) may get rid of the symptoms, but listening to my body and giving it what it needs gets rid of the underlying issue and makes it stronger in the end.
I drink herbal infusions. I don’t drink them every day, but I do notice the difference when I miss them for too long. I’m sure I will have another post on herbal infusions themselves someday, and I credit Wise Woman Herbalist Susun Weed for gifting me the wisdom that brought me to them.
I grow a garden of heirloom and/or non-GMO and/or organic and open pollinated food and I forage wild food from time to time.
I go easy on myself. If I eat something I know I shouldn’t, I don’t beat myself up about it. If I take an ibuprofen instead of using my white willow bark, it’s ok. If I miss my infusions for a week, I try to remember for tomorrow. If my potato crop never sprouts and regular potatoes are on sale, we’ll be eating regular potatoes this year.
And all this has taken time (6 years so far …or a lifetime). I didn’t just wake up one morning and have it all figured out. I still don’t have it all figured out. But I’ve taken one step at a time, added one thing at a time, tweaked one thing at a time, figured out one thing at a time until I’ve gotten here, and I’ll keep doing it. Constantly learning. Constantly adapting. Constantly listening to myself, my body, my spirit, my intuition and instincts until I get it right for me.