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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

What's up, Doc?

I was unwell. I was not sick enough to warrant any interest from the health professionals, but not well enough to ignore the symptoms that dogged my every waking hour: tired, no energy, reactions to food (what food? I couldn’t figure that one out), earache, rumbling stomach, digestive problems. It was brought home to me how bad I had become when I couldn’t make it all the way up Killiney Hill but had to stop, tell the kids to go ahead, collect me on the way back. But how could I complain when others had real problems, diseases with Latin names, infections, broken limbs, recognisable illnesses that had a specific course of treatment – or not.

At least they knew where they stood. I, however, felt like a wimp, an exhausted wimp, that is, until I discovered John McKenna’s book, Hard to Stomach: Real Solutions to Your Digestive Problems. Little did I realise that when the Beatles were singing, "You know that what you eat you are" they were actually making complete sense. John McKenna explains in detail how there is a tremendous ignorance about food, nutritional supplements and what constitutes proper digestion among the general public but also among our health professionals. Once I had read this slim volume (full of fascinating case histories) I took decisive action and implemented my own dietary programme that would, hopefully, lead me back on the road to good health.

I made the decision to sit down at mealtimes and chew my food properly. My parental instincts to jump up and down, fetching and serving, were dampened right down so that my bum stayed where it landed once I had started eating. And most importantly I eliminated the main causes of digestive problems: dairy and wheat based foods, acidic fruits and, eventually, potatoes and all white carbohydrates. It was difficult at first but eventually I learned how to replace my favourite foods with others that kept me completely satisfied.

Wheat bread became spelt sourdough loaves. Dairy products turned into oat milk and vegetable spreads, potatoes, rice and pasta metamorphosed into a very tasty mix of brown basmati rice, wild rice and red carmargue rice. Other than that who could complain at having to eat free-range eggs, fish of every description and the odd medium rare steak when the purse allowed.

At first, nothing, I felt no change at all but I persisted. Five weeks later, something shifted and I began to improve. The difference was enormous. My iron levels shot up, my digestive problems desisted for most of the time (I learned to control that through trial and error i.e. raw tomatoes out, cooked tomatoes in and other such peculiarities), and I was able, once again, to walk all the way to the top of Killiney Hill. I was a new woman. The diet became a way of life and while I do, occasionally, stray from the path of righteousness (yesterday, for example, I was out to lunch and guzzled two bowls of homemade trifle – wheat based and topped with delicious whipped dairy cream - and enjoyed every mouthful), I would never want to go back to feeling like I did before I lifted John McKenna’s book off the shelf and changed my life for the better.

So my advice to you, if you’re feeling off colour with nothing in particular to present to your weary doctor, start with what you put in your mouth and see what happens.

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