“Even though 130 million people suffer from chronic illness in the United States alone, we live in a culture that repeatedly suggests that, with proper diet and lifestyle changes, no one need be sick and no one need be in pain.” -Toni Bernhard, How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness
Here’s the thing about nutrition. In my experience it can only take you so far on your healing journey. When I graduated as a nutrition consultant I could never have imagined writing those words. It would have felt blasphemous. I had drunk the proverbial kool-aid provided by my holistic nutrition program and truly believed that most health challenges could be managed or even reversed through the proper nutrition protocol and some lifestyle modifications. This despite the fact that I had become more sick than I had ever been in my life (with chronic fatigue stemming from hypothyroidism) DURING said program and spent six miserable weeks refusing to go on thyroid hormone because I was convinced that the right diet would do the trick. Needless to say, I eventually got on medication.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of a healthy, whole foods diet. Our country’s processed, sugar-, hormone- and chemically-laden food-like substances are responsible for the incredible rise in obesity, diabetes and heart disease that we have witnessed over the past few decades. Most people would do well to increase their consumption of organic produce, grass-fed meats, wild caught fish and pure drinking water (if they can afford it…but that’s a story for another day). And when reasonably healthy people tweak their diet and reduce their stress it can have a powerful impact on how they feel. But for the chronically ill it’s often necessary to dig much, much deeper. When I was diagnosed with celiac and Hashimoto’s I thought that if I went gluten free and worked on supporting my adrenals I would be just fine. I had no idea that deep in my organs and tissues I was incubating Epstein-Barr (which causes Mono), Strep, yeast, and the toxic metals mercury and lead. Those things don’t go away with even the most perfect diet or the most relaxed lifestyle.
My health journey has taught me to be skeptical of dogma and anything that purports to offer a one size fits all solution to treating illness. I have found that a combination of approaches is usually required for healing. There is simply nothing out there that will work for everyone. We are all biologically unique, and it is wise to be open to any combination of approaches that may work for us, regardless of our particular ideology.