Our kitchen looks completely different than it did a few months ago. Almost everything that comes into our house is whole, unprocessed food, many of them from local farms. Making the farmers' market a regular part of our routine, making bone broth (stock) weekly, participating in a herd share to get raw milk, making our own butter, I never saw this coming...
Before I explain how this journey began 3 months ago, let me rewind back much further. As a kid I struggled with my weight constantly. I also have had digestive issues all my life with stomach pain and heartburn. Pepto bismol and Tums were always on hand and consumed several times each week. I was used to this being my norm and just thought my body was sensitive, no one told me something could be wrong.
While I was pregnant, issues with heartburn and digestion became worse as is often typical. Then after a few weeks of nursing, I noticed that Aaron showed signs of sensitivity to something in my milk. (Breastfed babies should pass yellow/orange stool, his was green and mucousy. Gross, I know.) I asked my mom and started doing some reading (What to Expect the First Year, Kellymom.com) and it was clear that something was amiss.
I had read that babies under 6 months can be sensitive to dairy in breastmilk (to the protein, casein, not the lactose), so I tried eliminating it from my diet. After a week, Aaron was 80% better, I felt better and I lost 3 lbs. To see if I could resolve some of Aaron's other issues like red rash-like dots on his face, I eliminated gluten in addition to dairy the next week. That did it. Aaron looked better, felt better, and was less fussy in the evening. For a while I thought I had things figured out until the drastic changes in my diet resulted in what I can only describe as an acidic/alkaline imbalance. I developed intense heartburn, the worst I have ever had. It was so severe that it ended up causing a burn on my esophagus resulting in swelling and terrible pain. I even went to urgent care to see if I might have strep throat then followed that up with a doctor visit which was hopelessly useless. For a week I could barely swallow. This was the last straw, I reached out to friends via social media and received some great references. Right away I scheduled an appointment with Season Johnson Nutritional Therapy.
Season was so helpful in teaching me about nutrition and developing a nutrition protocol for me to follow. I learned that eating fat does not make you fat. What?! Coconut oil is not only immensely healthful but fights bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Bone broth (aka stock) is full of minerals and vitamins that are very healing to the gut and body. Sugar completely derails the immune system. Cod liver oil gives an incredible boost to the immune system and brain development of little ones. The importance of taking food-based supplements, if taking them at all. Conventional living (antibiotics, sugar, fast food, processed ingredients, etc.) congests the liver. Heartburn is caused by too little acid in the stomach (makes sense why taking tums would cause temporary relief only to make heartburn worse the next time). One of the most jarring things I learned was that feeling sick or achy in daily life is not supposed to be normal, even once a month for women.
I continued to avoid gluten and dairy as well as adding new restrictions: no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol while trying to reset my body. I was also to add regular bone broth, lots of coconut oil, fermented cod liver oil, and supplements to support my liver and increasing my stomach acid content. I felt excellent! It was even sweeter that Aaron was doing better and better with the changes in my diet.
I continued to learn more about nutrition by reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. This book is the cornerstone of the developing real food movement and is based on the work of Weston A. Price, a dentist, who observed a connection between nutrition and health. Price found that when he compared the teeth and overall health of traditional people groups worldwide, he found that those who consumed a traditional diet (high fat, high protein from organ and muscle meats, raw grass-fed dairy, fermented foods) were vastly heathier and had straight, well-formed teeth in contrast to people from the same culture who ate a "modern diet" (foods from the western world, high in sugar and refined grains) who had poor health and crooked teeth.
I even convinced Brandon to join me after explaining to him all I had learned. He cautiously decided to give up gluten to see if it would have any impact on his digestive issues. And it did (much to his dismay ha!). We began the new year experimenting with new recipes and started to add cultured milk (homemade kefir) to my diet to see if it would be well tolerated by Aaron. No issue there. I started to frequent our farmers' market to buy local produce, pastured eggs, and grass-fed beef. I cleaned out our fridge and pantry, tossing anything that contained corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, gmo ingredients, and refined sugar. Our fridge and pantry look completely different with mostly whole ingredients and homemade items in jars.
If we weren't going far enough, Brandon found a herd share connection to supply our home with fresh organic raw milk. I was able to consume dairy again! Aaron didn't have any reactions. And this milk is unlike anything you've ever tasted. I also discovered that the sour leavening process in making sourdough bread digests the gluten (gluten is a protein found in wheat products that can be difficult for the body to digest). So we tried adding sourdough into our diet. We were happy to discover that it did not cause any of the negative reactions we had previously experienced. Woohoo!
While the wonderful world of healthful, nourishing fats has opened up to us, there are many things on our "don't eat" list such as:
- GMO ingredients (if a vegetable can become a pesticide, how can it still be food?)
- Corn syrup
- Canola oil
- Sodium nitrate (found in most bacon and lunch meats)
- Trans fats
- Chemical additives not found in nature
- Food dyes
- Conventional meats that have been treated with hormones and antibiotics
We are avoiding white sugar and refined flour as much as possible, but the list above are things that we try to never eat.
Nourishing food choices that we try to include in our diet daily are:
- Coconut oil
- Organic (preferably local, pastured) meats
- Grassfed beef
- Pastured eggs
- Bone broth
- Local, organic vegetables eaten with nut butters or cooked in raw butter (when eaten with fat, our bodies digest these more efficiently)
- Raw dairy
- Sea salt
- Fermented cod liver oil
- Nuts that have been soaked and dried
- Sourdough bread
- Organic fruit
Here are typical meals in our home now that we have started eating "real food":
- Pastured eggs scrambled in homemade raw butter with nitrate-free bacon and toasted sourdough
- Organic roast chicken or grassfed steak served with organic vegetables cooked in raw butter
- Organic chicken and vegetable soup cooked in nourishing bone broth
- Grain-free granola in raw milk
- Sourdough turkey (real, sliced roasted) sandwich with nitrate-free bacon and avocado
While it may sound restrictive, we feel great! Even after several trips, including air travel, and putting Aaron in children's ministry at church, we have yet to get sick. Our skin is glowing and our digestive issues are rare. As odd as it sounds, my eyes are even lighter in color from eating this way.
That is a very light rundown of our real food journey. I'm not sure what our diet will look like down the road and we will still eat out on occasion, however this is what we have committed to for our nutritional health in our household. And while I believe every person should commit to pursuing better health, it may look different for everyone! If it's just switching to organic produce or cutting out soda, then great!
We continue to learn more and are having a lot of fun in the kitchen as we pursue health in all areas of our lives--physically, emotionally, and spiritually.