WHY: The Diet Change

Recently I decided to go yeast free again. I know you’re thinking that this is a terrible subject for a Why Wednesday but I actually think it’s rather important. In a day of obesity and increasing health problems, it’s important to think about what we put into our bodies and how that affects them. Especially given the increase of antibiotics that can lead to “super bugs” or diseases that are more powerful and resistant to our antibiotics, looking at natural remedies and healthy lifestyles as preventative care is incredibly important.

I struggle with headaches. It’s a given in my family. My mum gets migraines, my brother has had a few in recent years and I had my first two this past year. My grandfather had a stroke not too long ago, and I had a conversation after that with my mum about the possibility that my great-grandmother didn’t have alzheimer’s but actually several small strokes that had the same debilitating effect. Either way: as far as cerebral health goes, I’m pretty unlucky.

Mine started in junior high. I would get them from stress or emotions–I had a friend accuse me of “making up” headaches to get out of things I didn’t want to participate in. I think both sides were true: I didn’t want to participate, I was insecure and stressed, so I had a headache; which then enabled me to not participate. I really began to deal with headaches in high school. My sophomore year, fifth period, I would get a headache each day. I’d excuse myself for the restroom and actually go to the drinking fountain to pop two advil which was technically against the rules at my high school. Unfortunately, my body, like my personality, can be quite addictive. It wasn’t long before I had to have advil (even though I didn’t realize that’s what was happening). Upon finally going to a doctor when the semester was almost over, we discovered I was causing my brain to have rebound headaches. It expected the drugs and without them, I would have a sort of withdrawal–manifested by a headache. Of course, thinking it was just the normal problem, I took more pain killers, thus increasing the dependency!

I wa alright in college the first semester, but the second semester every thing started up again. By the summer time, when I was nannying, I had headaches each week and nothing (running, hydration, protein) seemed to help. After a few weeks my mum suggested that I go yeast free.

We’re not talking gluten free here, kids. Yeast free is another animal.

My friends who can’t have gluten still eat natural sugar: fruit, honey, etc and they can have fermented things as well: cheese, wine, vinegar. Yeast free means none of those things. Do you know how much I love cheese and fruit? “A lot” would be the biggest understatement of the week.

But my mum agreed to do it with me and for a summer I went without bread, fruit, cheese, tortilla chips, Coldstone Ice Cream, salsa and all that is good in life. I ate weird foods like quinoa and brown rice. (rice, in my opinion, should be white.)

But it worked.

I didn’t have a single headache.

Fast forward to this summer when my awesomest friend Kelsie is visiting. Her last day I wasn’t hydrated enough and it was brilliantly hot on the Platte River where we sat for hours. We went and had pedicures after vacating the cool brown green water of the “river.” For a good portion of that experience I had to keep my eyes closed and recite things like the Nicene Creed just to keep the world from spinning. After I dropped her at the airport, I went home, took an icy cold shower and crawled in to bed. It was a miracle that I didn’t vomit, a miracle that we made it to the airport alive and that I didn’t drive off the road on the way home from sheer desire of ending the misery. Heck, when your head hurts this badly in a non-pain-kind-of-way, it only makes sense to drive off the road…

Instead, I came home and the next day I went yeast free. I can’t do this in grad school. I can’t afford to miss classes and exams for a migraine. I kept true for awhile. But it required a lot of planning. I have to bring lunch with me each day, I can’t plan on Chic-fil-A for meals. I struggle to eat out with friends, I have to say no to things like Dairy Queen on the first sunny day of springtime. And I’m hungry all the freaking time. I mean, let’s face it. Snap peas and almonds for lunch is not the same as a hearty sandwich stuffed with meat, lettuce, cheese and mustard. My mouth waters just thinking about it and I’ve been munching on said snap peas since I started typing this post.

Around November I gave up.

Then, last week I had several headaches and my digestive system was straight up ticked off for no apparent reason that I could decipher. I looked at what I had eaten and realized: bread.

I’m not gluten intolerant. I do however, occasionally come to a moment when my body dislikes so much sugar and starch. So I decided, after three days of feeling ill that I was done with it. I’m going yeast free again (mostly). My camelbak water bottle goes with me every where, as do a bag of peas and almonds. And you know what? I feel awesome. A little hungry, but mostly just great. Snap peas are sweet and yummy. Cherry tomatoes burst to life between my teeth with that tart edge to their sweet flavor. Almonds are like sugar candy, pecans too.

The funny thing about being yeast free is that food tastes better. Seriously, I can taste more flavor when it’s not blocked by all the fuss and production of normal food. I appreciate natural foods again and I don’t feel gross, oily and 300 pounds after each meal.

The best part is: I haven’t had a headache in three days; my body feels happy.

I think that yeast free is a tough diet and it’s not as though I’m going to be this way permanently (it’s more of a cleanse). I’m also doing it with exceptions (yogurt, for instance). My point is this: too often Americans want a quick fix and there are better solutions awaiting us. We want a pill that’s going to take away the pain, we want easy results and easy effort. The truth is, it’s important for us to take responsibility for our own lives and our own health. It may require effort and some amount of lifestyle change but it’s worth it. Not only is the reward worth the effort, it’s almost our duty to take care of ourselves. Especially as Christians, we’re called to steward these bodies, take care of them, love on them. Jesus, after all, inhabited one of these things; he didn’t just redeem sin, he redeemed creation. That includes the body which is now the new temple. Treat it well.


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