Tag Archives: autoimmune diseases

Why the food-health connection is so personal for me

my family - why food + health is personal to me

The connection between real food and health is a very personal topic for me.

It began when I was 15, sitting in a pastor’s office with my parents. (I was about that age in the photo above. I’m on the left.) My poor mom and dad were at their wits’ end: they couldn’t figure out why their daughter had turned into Dr. Jekyll and Miss Hyde. I was prone to such angry, violent outbursts that I sometimes frightened my own mom and dad. I could see it in their eyes.

After listening to our story for a bit, the pastor asked my parents a surprising, pivotal question: “Have you had her tested for hypoglycemia?” (low blood sugar).

So began my journey into understanding the connection between food and mental/emotional well-being.

My mom dove into understanding the medical issue and then explaining it to me so I could get it. I learned that eating sugar sent my biochemistry on a rollercoaster that had the power to make me anything from foggy-headed to hopeless to furious. After some adjustments to our family’s diet, I learned how to eat mostly sugar-free, most of the time. I adhered to that way of eating to varying degrees over the next few decades.

Fast-forward about 20 years, and the health challenge was no longer mine: it was my parents’. They were in their late 60’s and, based on the common medical advice, began following a “heart-healthy diet.” Lots of fruit, salads with low-fat dressing, whole grains, and limited, very lean meat. Butter and eggs were replaced with chemical doppelgangers. Lots of packaged and processed foods, too. Anything was fine, as long as it was labeled “low fat,” “low calorie,” or “diet.”

If it's low fat, it must be healthy!

I remember being confused in the eighties when I began to hear about red meat and eggs and dairy fat being bad for you. Everyone in my family grew up on farm fare: homegrown vegetables, of course, but also eggs every day, bacon or sausage for breakfast, and home-raised or local beef and chicken — with all the fat! Nobody dieted or counted calories.

And they were the healthiest people I knew.

Mom + Dad when they were young
Mom and Dad in younger years

A few years into following their low-fat diet, my mom was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, so she got even more serious about following the diet to the letter.

Grandma reading to grandkids - before dementia set in

Around 2004, she began showing signs of dementia. Soon, she received the diagnosis of “probable Alzheimer’s.”

This time, I was the one digging into the medical info. And what I found stunned me.

Yes, there’s a genetic component to dementia. (My mom’s mom also had it.) But back then, science was just beginning to suspect that it’s not the fat that’s driving heart disease and diabetes: it’s the sugar and carbs. Now, 10 years later, the case looks more certain.

There is a strong correlation between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. One study found that having diabetes almost doubles one’s odds of having Alzheimer’s. Many experts are now calling it Type 3 Diabetes. (Including the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology and the Mayo Clinic.)

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But dementia isn’t the only disease linked with diet. My dad had been diagnosed with Lupus while I was still in high school. Until he started the strong meds to keep the debilitating symptoms at bay, this I-can-fix-anything guy could barely hold a screwdriver, because his hands were so swollen and painful. I remember his trying to talk my mom and me through an electrical repair — an exercise in frustration for everyone involved!

helping Grandpa fix a motor

In 2007, my dad was diagnosed with a second disease: pulmonary fibrosis. His lungs were being consumed by scar tissue. This was likely the result, said his doctor, of either the lupus, or the medication he’d been taking for it the last 25 years.

Recent evidence is also beginning to recognize a connection between diet and autoimmune diseases, or at least the symptoms. (one source)

Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.

I tried desperately to re-educate my parents, but it was too late. The old “low fat, diet everything” mantra was too strongly ingrained in them. As they continued to follow the mainstream advice, they spiraled down into worse and worse health.

My dad died in 2010. His mind was sharp to the end, but his body betrayed him, and his last few days were harrowing. A week before he died, a nurse told me she could hear dripping water in his chest.

My mom’s Alzheimer’s took 10 long, dark years to steal her away.

Her grandchildren — my son and daughter — had been her greatest delight. She missed their high school and college graduations, because even travelling a short distance would have been too overwhelming for her.

granddaughter's wedding

She missed her granddaughter’s wedding. At that point, she longer recognized any of us, even for a second.

She joined my dad in heaven in 2015.

my parents in happier days

Could a different diet have prevented or reversed their disease? I don’t know. No one can say for sure. And let me be clear: I’m not saying diet is a cure. (Except, possibly, for Type 2 Diabetes.) There are certainly other factors at play, but after reading story after story of people reversing the effects of diabetes and autoimmune diseases with diet, I firmly believe that a real-food diet with the necessary healthy fats could have slowed and lessened the cruel impact these illnesses had on our family.

But it’s not too late for me. I have fully committed to an almost completely sugar-free lifestyle, with minimal proccessed and maximum whole foods.

And now it’s my passion to reach others before it’s too late for them. I want to save other moms, dads, and grandparents from missing out on life while they’re still living.

And it’s not just disease that robs us of life while we’re still living: it’s achy joints, and lack of energy, and foggy brain. It’s discouragement and guilt about how helpless we feel to make permanent, meaningful changes.

So now this is my passion:


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Inspiring people to rescue their own health,

by equipping them to change

what they eat and why they eat.

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It’s not too late for you, either. How can I help you?

Learn more:

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