My History With Food and Why I Eat a Paleo Diet
In 1999, I started to get headaches pretty frequently. Then I started to get migraines. And then I started to get migraines pretty frequently. Not a good pattern, especially when you are in your 20’s. I saw every kind of doctor known to man and no one could figure it out. Outside of the headaches I was fairly healthy. I worked out and ran a lot, I taught elementary school full-time and loved to hike, camp and travel. I would have seasons where the migraines would be less (like one or two a week on a good week) but basically they increased in frequency and intensity over the next 15 years until I hit a low point.
I could barely care for myself, much less my husband or the three spunky and spirited girls I was raising. It had been 15 years of chronic pain and suffering with migraines, but things were getting worse. In the 60 days before I started this diet I had 58 days with migraines. Horrible, debilitating, life-sucking migraines. And I had just started my first round of cluster headaches (just google suicide headache) and read this to see what a night is like. I had $80 shots I was supposed to give myself in the middle of the night when I got a cluster headache and I slept with an oxygen tank next to my bed. There were moments when I wanted to die.
If you saw me sometime during that period you might not have even known what I was going through. I was carrying on with life with my puffy, red eyes, trying to be a good mom, teaching yoga classes and doing everything I could to keep up. I'm a massive people pleaser and I never wanted to talk about how bad things really were. And after 15 years of chronic pain I got really good at faking it. Like academy award good. Maybe you'd see me during the day and I'd seem fine. But you didn't know that I was exhausted and in a total fog because I had been up for hours the night before with a horrible migraine and the same thing awaited me at 1am that next night. After night, after night.
We had prayed (along with countless other friends and family) for God to hear my cry for mercy. We prayed and prayed and prayed extra hard that he would heal me. We would bang on the door of heaven to hear only silence. Sometimes, I’d feel like it didn’t matter at all and I’d shut down spiritually for a few months. And then I’d get some more Holy Spirit wind in my sails and pray some more. We prayed for 15 years. 15 Easters and 15 Christmases and 15 spring breaks and summer vacations.
An unexpected answer
Now when I asked God to heal me, I was picturing the supernatural, New Testament Jesus type healing. The “Jesus touches the leper and it's gone” kind of healing. The “Jesus tells the lame man to walk, and he does” kind of healing. Bada-bing! Done. Jesus spoke it and it happened. I wasn't really picturing the "Jesus reveals that you have massive food allergies and it will take you years before you really feel better and it will be gobs of work" kind of healing. But that's what God (the One who spoke the world into existence and who cares for the teeny sparrows) knew I needed. So I got to have this big, amazing, loving gift, but it was disguised as a burden.
Finally an amazing doctor really listened to me and tried to solve the massive problems that were going on in my body. He did countless tests of things that had never been tested before and found out what needed to be done. I had to change the entire way I was eating. I had always said that I would do “anything” to not have these migraines anymore. So I jumped in to the deep end and drastically changed my diet overnight!
Now, if it doesn't come from a free-range chicken or a grass-fed cow, an organic garden, or a coconut tree, I can't eat it. I can't eat gluten (or grains of any kind including all of those "gluten free" products), dairy, soy, corn, potatoes, sugar, etc. It’s closest to a Paleo diet except I also have found that I feel best if I watch my carbohydrate intake. Most weeks I’m feeling really good with maybe one headache. And some days I feel amazing. Then I might have a bad week and have three or four migraines. But this is a long, slow process and I know that those migraines will get less and less frequent as long as I remain vigilant.
I know that I'm not the only one on the planet with food allergies. I also realize that a huge part of the world is wondering where their next meal will come from. They are worried about feeding their children. And here I am, upset that I just drove 20 minutes to Whole Foods only to find they were out of my favorite almond milk! And really Trader Joes... we can't keep coconut oil in stock? I realize these are not real problems, but my perspective can get a wee bit off sometimes.
So I try to think of my restrictions as a big gift that the Lord gave me. He helped me. He heard my cries for mercy and he answered. Psalm 34 was always close to me in this valley. It’s an amazing Psalm that tells the afflicted to hear and rejoice, and another translation says "let all who are helpless take heart". It assured me that the angel of the Lord was encamped around me. It challenged me to taste and see that the Lord is good even in pain, deeply in pain. It told me that the eyes of the Lord are on us and his ears are attentive to our cries. How when we cry out he hears us and delivers us from our troubles. It reminded me in my darkest night that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. That’s where I was: afflicted, helpless, brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, but he had not abandoned me. He was with me. And now in the healing, I hold on to these promises with an even tighter grip.