In 2005, I began noticing that I didn’t feel right. I remember explaining to my doctor in the summer of that year that something was going on because I didn’t seem to be handling stress well. I couldn’t pinpoint it any better than that. He made some suggestions that helped for awhile but by Thanksgiving I was sick. And six months later, I was just as sick. I couldn’t stand up to take a shower but sat on the shower floor. For months, I couldn’t even drive a car. I still remember the last time I drove before I fully realized this. I was needed to drive a second car home & was following my husband. It was terrifying how much obsessive focus & energy was required to follow him. I was leaning forward with a death grip on the steering wheel struggling to keep my attention on what the car in front of me was doing. So, from then on for months, others did all the driving. It didn’t really matter, though, that I couldn’t drive anymore because it soon became apparent to me that I couldn’t be out in public by myself, anyway. Especially shopping. I could handle going on errands with my husband which I did just to get out of the house. I could go into a store by myself, briefly, to pick up something while he waited in the car. If, however, I actually tried to shop by myself in a store, I would walk out exhausted & empty handed in 30 minutes because I could no longer keep my focus, think or function. I would then require days on the couch to recover.
The physical recovery from this ordeal has been long & difficult. Six years later, I can now stand when I shower, clean my house, drive myself & work from home although I can only handle a limited number of client appointments a week. My husband still does all the grocery shopping but I can run in for a few items without any trouble. I can run errands by myself as long as I don’t go into more than 3 or 4 different places. Longer shopping trips such as clothes shopping is still much easier if I’m not alone. I can exercise as long as I’m careful to keep it easy & brief. A day of over-doing, such as a full day away from home, no longer requires days on the couch afterwards to recover from but just maybe one day. As you can see, I’m not exactly well yet. Although on most days, you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I’m no longer a yellow-gray color, my eyes no longer look empty. Half the year, I lay out in the sun as often as possible for vitamin D so my skin has color & my new diet has resulted in about a 20 pound weight loss.
Why am I telling you about this? Because you or a family member could be me in 6 months, a year, 5 years or longer. I think of myself as the canary in the mine. Canaries used to be taken into the mines to warn the miners to evacuate if the canary died from lethal, undetectable gases. You could say that I have succumbed to the lethal gases of 20th & 21st century living. What!? Well, let me tell you. My mother suffered with Pica when she was pregnant with me. She craved dirt. This is now known to be a classic symptom of severe mineral deficiency. She was 5’8″ tall & 100 pounds & the doctor told her she could only gain 15 pounds during her pregnancy. This was standard practice at the time. She dutifully obeyed the doctor. Luckily for me, I was born weighing 6 pounds with only minor birth defects. Luckily for me also, I was one of the few babies in my generation to be breast fed by my mother. Regrettably for me, I was fed table food from just a few weeks old which was also standard practice at the time. Most infants since my generation have not been breast-fed. The infant digestive tract is designed to handle breast milk & nothing else. Then there was the onslaught of antibiotics every time I got sick followed by no probiotics to replace all the good bacteria destroyed along with the bad. The Standard American diet at the time did not include any sources of probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, raw saurkraut, kombucha tea. For good measure, there were plenty of other stresses: Eye surgery, 2nd & 3rd degree burns requiring hospitalization, a couple of cross country moves, my parents divorce, several more moves among & also away from family members, loss of my mother when I was 6, physical, emotional & sexual abuse, ear surgery, many infections & allergies, late term miscarriage of my first child at 6 months due to fetal distress (do you see the word ‘stress’ here?), cesarean section delivery of my second child, infertility, fertility treatments, many more moves around the world & country, exploratory abdominal surgery & the usual complement of deaths, births, marriages, divorces & job stresses. I’m sure this is not a complete list but you get the idea. Not exactly standard fare.
Now add to the above mix of stresses: silver (mercury) amalgam fillings in nearly every molar, chemicals & petrochemicals in my food, water, body care products, home care products, clothes & furniture, days spent indoors in unnatural light, nearly continuous exposure to electro-magnetic field radiation & other sources of radiation, air pollution, sunscreen, nightlights, vegetarian diet, low fluid intake, prescription drugs, microwaved food, root canals, genetically engineered food, food irradiation, vitamin & mineral deficiencies due to poor quality food & intestinal damage, refined & hydrogenated oils, refined carbohydrates & sugars, high carbohydrate & low protein diet, petrochemicals-coal, gas & oil, nuclear energy, frequent emotional upset, inadequate sleep (which for me was anything less than 10 hours), deadlines, school. All of these & more would be the lethal gases of the 20th & 21st century that I know I have been been exposed to. Ways of living that have never been known or experienced by humanity until just the last few centuries. So we are all canaries in the mine & it’s probably only a matter of time before you or someone you know succumbs.
I know this post sounds pretty doom & gloom but I think this is necessary sometimes to help people think about what they are doing & choosing. I wish someone had pointed out to me over & over again until I woke up & became aware of what I was doing to myself. Maybe I wouldn’t be sick now. So, all subsequent posts of “Our Physical Selves” will be dealing with these gases of modern living that I have mentioned above plus lots others that I did not mention. Meantime, think about what you are choosing! Is it natural? Is it found in the natural world or or is it man-made? Is it a practice that is healthy & life affirming? Is it something your ancient ancestors would have partaken of or done in the natural course of their lives? If not, what can you do about it? Many things listed above are within your power to change or do differently so think, question, experiment, read & relearn some of the old ways of your ancestors.
Live, Love & Laugh in the Light of God
I’ve been a self-professed health-nut since I was a teenager, 15 years old to be exact. I remember the exact age because it was the first school year that I managed to only get sick once. Growing up in a household with Grandparents brought health issues to the forefront, as my Grandpa had diabetes & my Grandma had high blood pressure. They took medication & followed a special diet. My grandpa also had a bottle of huge, horse-pill sized multi-vitamin/minerals called Myadecs, I believe. When I was 15, it occurred to me that he was sick & took these pills & since I was always sick, maybe I should take them, too. So I did. Lo & behold, a winter with minimal sickness. I was very impressed. This eventually led me to think about everything that I put into my mouth, not just supplements. In the subsequent years since then, I’ve experimented with supplements & diet. I’ve read & researched everything I could get my hands on. I was an avid subscriber to “Prevention Magazine” which was probably the first & only health magazine in the 70’s. I’ve been on every diet from A(tkins) to V(egetarianism). I’ve taken literally hundreds of different supplements. I’ve been my own guinea pig for the large majority of my life & I’ve gotten to be quite an expert on what my physical body needs. I’ve also gained knowledge & experience along the way, concerning the physical body & it’s needs, in general.
You probably don’t have to peruse this site extensively to guess that, for me, vegetarianism was a disaster & Atkins was a blessing. I’ve never been vegan, as my many years of vegetarianism (10 years) brought me into contact with a lot of vegans & I could see that, in general, they didn’t seem very healthy, especially the women like me, of child-bearing age &/or who were mothers. I figured that any diet that couldn’t serve everyone well must have something wrong with it. Eventually, however, I realized that my health was deteriorating on my vegetarian diet as I inexplicably gained 30 pounds & developed symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. Since my main reason for being vegetarian was for it’s well-advertised health benefits, I moved on once I realized the diet wasn’t delivering. I know that for many vegetarians & vegans, animal cruelty is the main reason for following this diet & if this is you, I commend you for walking your talk. As you know from my previous post, I am big on living your life in alignment with your principles & beliefs, so keep it up if it’s working for you.
For myself, even the latest government food pyramid is a disaster. It has way more carbohydrate than I can tolerate, so upon leaving the vegetarian way of eating, I eventually adopted the Atkins way of eating for the most part. This worked well for me for many years until 2005 when, due to multiple causes, I hit a wall. I got terribly sick with what appeared to be the flu or maybe mono or maybe it was bronchitis/pneumonia? The doctor at the time didn’t seem to know. Six months later, I was still just as sick. Many years, tests & doctors later, it has been determined that I developed autoimmune thyroid disease & probably have what has been variously labeled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Dysautonomia, Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome, Fibromyalgia or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, etc. I think I’m forgetting some of the other labels but you get the idea. These labels all identify a large cluster of symptoms that have no definite known cause & the difference in labels being which symptoms are in the forefront in any given individual. Others may disagree with my perception & conclusion but after going through the tests, the doctors & my own research, this is how it looks to me.
It hasn’t been all bad, though. Going through this experience has taught me a lot about the health-sickness spectrum, diet, lifestyle & especially about myself. I’ve discovered that I’ve got allergies to mold & some foods & that I’m gluten intolerant causing malabsorption which was, also, probably behind the sickly childhood. Gluten intolerance & Celiac disease appear to go hand in hand with autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) & doctors are now beginning to recommend that anyone who has been diagnosed with either disease should by tested for the other. I also discovered that I was anemic & had several other deficiencies despite many, many years of good diets & supplements. I’d hate to think where I’d be now if I’d not been into diet & supplements. So, it has answered a lot of questions for me.
Over the last few years, I have slowly been healing my physical body. Right now I am following a paleolithic/hunter-gatherer type diet, specifically “Neanderthin” by Ray Audette. This is arguably the strictest one of it’s type & not what I would have chosen for myself but I have learned my lesson & let my body choose the diet it needs rather than the diet I think should work, the one that I want or the one the “experts” recommend. I have a few dozen diet books, all of which I pulled off the shelf, piled randomly & had someone I know muscle test me as I held each in turn behind my back. I held them behind my back so that I wouldn’t know what was being tested. “Neanderthin” won by a landslide. Prior to testing my body for the best diet for me, I had been following a gluten-free diet for about 2 years which made a big difference in how I felt. I then cut out all sugars when I realized they were the cause of my migraines. After that, all grains were cut out as they turn to sugar in the body & I definitely have trouble with sugar. This move lead to further improvements. So, by the time I tested so well for “Neanderthin”, I only had to cut out most dairy (I still eat whey, butter & full-fat cream which are all low in milk sugar) & all legumes (dried beans & peas, peanuts, cashews), vinegars, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes & winter squash. I know you’re thinking, “what’s left?!” All meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, all vegetables that are edible raw (not that you have to eat them raw), teas, herbs, spices, fruits & raw nuts & seeds which I soak & sprout or dry. Don’t feel sorry for me. I actually like my diet & I feel so much better that I’m rarely tempted by the foods I’ve cut out. I’m pretty sure that this is my lifetime diet & I’m good with that. The majority of foods that fill the grocery store shelves are mostly “franken foods” anyway, as a few books I’ve read have dubbed them & not fit for human consumption so I’m not really missing anything. Now, in case you’re thinking that I’m only feeling better because I’m eating more Vegetables & Fruits or less junk food, I’m not. Remember that I’ve been a health-nut since… forever. My diet has not been filled with “franken-foods.” I’ve avoided hydrogenated fats, refined (white) grains, refined (white) sugars & junk food for as long as I can remember.
“Neanderthin” could be considered a monosaccharide diet similar to “The GAPS Diet”, “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet” or “The Body Ecology Diet” which are all very healing &/or helpful for many illnesses & nearly all the gut & digestive disorders, the Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD/ADHD & psychological disorders. In fact the author, Ray Audette, put his rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease) in remission with this diet. So, I’ve been pleased with the diet my body chose. Not that I was pleased the first few weeks. This diet, like the others mentioned, can cause what I term “die-off”, initially. Others have called it “carbohydrate withdrawal” which I’m not sure is actually what’s going on as I didn’t go cold turkey off of all carbohydrates. I think anyone who has been eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) or more carbohydrates than their body can handle, harbors a lot of bad bacteria & yeast in their system which depend on a continuous supply of sugars from these carbohydrates. As you cut down on these sugars, they lose their food supply & begin dying off which causes flu-like symptoms as your body & immune system has to clean up the resulting excess toxins & wastes – symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, headache & just general all-over-achiness. At each level of diet restriction, I experienced a die-off reaction that would last for a week or two. In other words, I experienced die-off every time I cut out a source of complex sugar &/or starch, first the sweeteners, then the grain sugars, milk sugar & legumes. I’m still not on a low-carb diet by Atkins standards, as I eat quite a bit of fruit, vegetables & even dried fruit, so carbohydrate withdrawal doesn’t reveal the full picture here. One explanation that I’ve read that feels right to me is that the digestion of complex sugars, such as those found in starchy foods, requires enzymes from the tips of the villi lining the small intestine. Any insult to the intestines causes damage to the villi tips & they quickly lose the ability to produce the necessary enzymes to break down these complex sugars, i.e. starches. These undigested sugars cannot be absorbed by the villi & therefore, remain in the intestines becoming food for bad bacteria & yeast in the small intestine & later in the colon. This is why a monosaccharide (single-sugar) diet is helpful as most of the sugars in this diet are easily absorbed & do not become available to the yeast & bad bacteria. Honey is usually allowed on these types of diets as it would have been naturally available throughout our ancient history & the sugars have been pre-digested by the bees. I don’t eat honey because of the migraines. I haven’t actually tested honey, specifically, to see if it would cause a migraine but I threw it out along with all the other sugars once I realized the connection. I will someday work up the courage to eat honey & see if it does give me a migraine.
Well, I think this is my longest post so far. Sorry! I hope I’ve not bored everyone with my personal health history & diet technicalities but I couldn’t pass up the topic of “Our Physical Selves” & not talk about diet & my experience of it. Our diet is the one thing that is in our control, here, from the physical level of our experience & brings so much to bear on the health & well-being of our bodies & consequently our lives. So, go muscle test different diets & see what your body needs.
P.S. Click on the “Nourishing Days” site above in the blog roll entitled “My Favorite Health Sites” to read more about healing with monosaccharide diets in her posts dated 3/15/11 & 3/16/11. You can also check out “Marks Daily Apple”, “Neanderthin”, “The GAPS Diet”, “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet”, “Elana’s Pantry”, “Paleo/Primal/Caveman Recipes”, “Paleolithic Diet Nutrition Page” & “Protein Power” for more recipes & relevant info.
For me, sometimes, living in the physical has been like standing in the bottom of a very deep, very dark , very empty well yelling, “Hello! Is anyone there? Can you hear me?” And all I could hear was the sound of my own voice echoing back at me.
Other times, it’s been like having one foot in the physical & one foot in spirit, feeling homesick, torn, divided & separated between the two.
Occasionally, it’s been like heaven.
There is very little guidance for most of us on how to heal & unify our spiritual self & our physical self. How to bring our physical lives into alignment with our spiritual lives. How to live a spiritual life in the physical. What does that even look like? Maybe saying prayers before bed as in our childhood? Maybe saying grace before meals? Going to church on Sunday? Is that all there is to living a spiritual-physical life? Probably not. I suspect that very few people walking the planet today have fully integrated their spiritual self into their physical life & body. I suspect that all of our lives would be very, very, very different from how they are right now if we were fully living as spiritual beings in the physical. It has been one of my personal goals in life to work on this conundrum. I know that I can tell you that I have struggled with it for almost as long as I can remember. Maybe you have, too. Or maybe you gave up long ago. Whatever the case may be, stick around awhile longer & lets talk about our spiritual self & what it means to live a spiritual life in the physical.
I can look around & tell you what living a spiritual life is not about. My daughter woke up one morning recently to the sound of a car crash. She ran outside & a neighbor told her that someone had hit her car & driven off – a hit & run. Thinking that the other car might not have made it very far, my son-in-law went walking & sure enough, there it was about a block away with a tell-tale gas cap embedded in it. Oh, & did I mention that it was also sporting the Christian fish emblem on the back? I’m pretty sure that if the driver had stopped & asked Spirit, “WWJD?” the answer wouldn’t have been “RUN!” Why did they run? They were probably drunk & didn’t want to get a DUI. Or maybe it was a joy ride & not their own car or maybe they’re here illegally or they were driving without a license, without insurance or the car had stolen plates. Whatever the reason, I can tell you that living a spiritual life means walking your talk, even when it’s difficult, inconvenient, expensive or uncomfortable. This is an extreme example but it illustrates the physical-spiritual split that exists in the day to day lives of many people. What’s the solution? Well, if you can’t live up to the dictates of your chosen religion, then you might want to choose another one. Choose another one?!!! Yes!!! It’s more important for your insides & your outsides to match than it is for you to fit in with your culture, your family or any external standard, expectation or institution. It’s nearly impossible for you to heal & integrate your spiritual self & your physical self if they are at odds with one another. Bring them into alignment with one another & you can move mountains.
Of course, this may be easier said than done. There are a lot of factors involved in aligning your insides & your outsides as I so elegantly call it. What feels right on the outside may not be right on the inside & vice-versa. As with other aspects, believe it or not, your spiritual self can be wounded & damaged. There is an idea that gets thrown around in some circles that offers an explanation. “Any degree of separation (from God, self, source) can leave an opening for darkness.” Darkness, negativity, evil, interference, wrong-doing, mistakes, lack, limitation, misunderstandings, distortions, etc. can all be seen as different sides of the same coin. The end result is the same – problems in the physical. In fact, you can look at your physical body, life, experiences & relationships to determine the nature & current state of affairs of any or all of your aspects including your spiritual self. Many times, by simply healing the different aspects of yourself, you can greatly improve all aspects of your physical experience. That is one of the blessings of being physical. You get the opportunity to perceive what’s wrong & also the opportunity to do something about it! So, you’re wondering, how do you heal your spiritual self? I’m glad you asked. First off, you need to learn to discern your spiritual self.
Think of your spiritual self as a body very like your physical body that is not confined by physical laws, gravity or 3 dimensional reality. This part of you has the ability to span time, distance, space. It has the ability to be with God. I tend to think of the spiritual self as almost like a bridge between the physical & the spiritual realms. It is a part of you here but is also a part of God, therefore, making time to connect to God connects you with your spirit. Pursuing spiritual practices will also nurture your spiritual self. I would go so far as to say that just simply taking the time, daily, to acknowledge & pay attention to God & Spirit would increase your awareness of your spiritual self, strengthen your connection to your spirit & lead you to incorporate more of your spirit into your physical experience. You will possibly never perceive spirit if you never open your self up to the possibility of perceiving spirit. All it takes is willingness on your part. I know Spirit is just waiting.
Many techniques that heal other aspects can be used to heal your spiritual self such as meditation, prayer & forgiveness work. These spiritual practices, & many others that have evolved over thousands of years through thousands of religions & spiritual traditions, are now at your fingertips. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to locate what is right for you. You could go to a different house of worship every weekend of the year & probably not run out of religions to explore in your area. Explore on the internet. Attend classes at the local library & check out spiritual & religious books, videos, CD’s & DVD’s while you’re there. Look everywhere with the expectation that Spirit will help you every step of the way. Open your self up to God & Spirit by assuming that you are never alone & talk out loud (or in your mind if others are around!) to Spirit. Ask questions, ask for help & expect that you are being heard & that you will be answered. You will know when you have found what you are looking for because it will bring you joy & peace. Your spiritual practice & belief system should feed & nurture you physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually & energetically. You should not have to force yourself, be bored or unduly stressed by it. It should naturally flow as a part of you because you are a unique child of God, having a unique relationship with Spirit, walking your talk as only you can.