My Journey to Raw Foods, April 2009-May 2011
For some time now I have felt that I should share one of the many journeys that have changed my life. I have always believed that we can learn, be inspired, and find answers to our prayers through other people and through whatever tools the Lord provides us with. In this particular journey I felt inspired to turn to Raw Foods.
It was the end of a warm September of 2008 when I first noticed I was a little stiff behind my knees. That year I had found a love for running and had been actively working out a year at the aerobics group I go to. At aerobics we stretch, lift weights, work all the core muscle groups, do all types of dancing, exercises, and Yoga.
I had run on a Thursday and later that day I remember doing cartwheels in the yard with my small children. The next evening I took them to a school carnival and when it was over we go in the minivan and as I sat in the seat my knees felt sore. “It’s probably just sore muscles from aerobics, or maybe I stretched them too much running or doing lunges.” Then I didn’t think much of it.
The next day I went to a BYU football game and noticed when I went to sit on the bench my knees again were stiff and going up and down the bleachers actually hurt a bit.
So the next week my husband and I decided I should go to an Orthopedic Surgeon, surely he could help me with my knees. He did x-rays, pushed on, and looked at my knees, concluding that I just had fluid in my knees and to just take some Naproxen for the swelling.
I went home and to my disbelief within the next week I gained 13lbs. and had pain and stiffness in every major joint. Needless to say I called the Dr. and he said to stop taking the Naproxen because I was probably allergic to it. I had come to the same conclusion, but he had no other advice for me.
So here I was; swelling and pain in my feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and hands. My hands had swollen 1-2 ring sizes and my wrists now had big bumps of fluid on them...and no one to help me. Okay, that’s not true. I said many prayers and I cannot tell you of the thousands of prayers my three little children said to “Bless Mommy’s hands to get better.” Finally my family Practitioner gave me some Prednisone for month and finally told me that it looked like Rheumatoid Arthritis and it would be best to see a Rheumatologist.
The next place we turned was to our Chiropractor. I wanted to try anything but another “Specialist.” The Chiropractor looked at my knees and adjusted them and said I probably had meniscus tears, releasing fluid. My Dad had also had that and told me it was a minor surgery with three little holes in the knee. It did not sound right. Surgery, just from swelling in the joints? I did not want to go that route unless I had to.
As a result, about 2 months later, still in pain each morning and taking medication daily, I entered the Rheumatologists’ office. I became unmistakably aware that I was the only one in the room under the age of 60. I was only 26 years old! “What am I doing here? Does this really happen to people my age? I am active. I try to eat well. Is it still a reaction to that Naproxen and it’s just lasting a long time? How did this even start?” As I thought on these questions my children played with the toys that looked like they hadn’t been played with in years. Finally, my name was read and I went back. After another examination of the knees and hands he concluded the only answer was medication for the rest of my life...and there were about four main types I could choose from. My mind started swirling at the thought of taking medication for pain the rest of my life. I had never even liked to take a Tylenol for a headache in the past... However, our main concern was that we wanted to, and felt we would have more children. He told us that taking medication while being pregnant could cause all sorts of birth defects, and then went on about the kinds of medication that were less likely to cause illness when I get “older.” We left feeling stumped and that I should never return to that place. In my mind I thought “Isn’t there something else?” “Couldn’t I get help, or even get better, without being given medicine?” Well, the answer was, not likely, when I was going to “Medical” doctors and specialists.
Again I felt there must be something that could help me and I was determined to get off the Prednisone, knowing it too could cause future illness. My test results for RA came back negative at that time, but I was told the blood tests often come back that way even when you have the illness. That was just more confusion to me.
We went back to our Chiropractor since he had started natural allergy testing (NAET) and we thought maybe this was all just a reaction to some allergy I had before the Naproxen.
Months went by testing and “passing” allergies. I wanted to believe it was helping, but truly I still woke each morning with sleeping hands and arms, stiff knees, and barely able to walk. One day I remember thinking, “the medicine doesn’t do much, and I just won’t take it today.” I felt the regular stiffness that day. However when I laid down on the couch that evening, I soon realized that I could NOT get up. All my joints hurt so badly. Finally my sweet husband helped me over to our counter where I ate some food, bawled my eyes out in pain, and resorted to the necessary evil: medication.
I prayed many days and nights. It hurt to bend, to sit. I could not kneel to pray with my family, they knelt around me while I sat on the couch. Functioning as a young mother of 3 was not the easiest, though I tried my best to keep a positive attitude. I couldn’t often pick up my children and changing a diaper put my hands to sleep. As did many things, such as holding my toothbrush, brush, or weights. My hands could not open all the way, nor could they close. I would wake in the night crying because my hands were so asleep that they burned! I had no idea if it would end, or I would be this way the rest of my life.
I did have hope though, and a testimony of The Gospel of Jesus Christ that never wavered. I knew I would learn something from this trial, I prayed to know what I was supposed to learn. I had faith that whether my current trial ended the next day or not at all in this life, I would be the best I could and never give up searching for answers. I was given many blessings and one thing that resounded in my head was the blessing that I would be lead to the “right help.” Whatever that would be, at the time I had no idea.
More months passed and I slowly tried to cut down on ½ mlgs. of Prednisone at a time. Oh the pain each time I tried. I did go down a few mlgs. over the next few months, but not without much pain. I continued working out; having been told keeping my joints moving would be the best help besides meds. Some days I felt the workout was too hard; I could not put my hands straight on the ground to do push-ups or yoga, and my hands fell asleep until they burned while lifting weights and I often had to put them down. Yet, I kept working out.
Little did I know that April 1st 2009 was about to be the day my life would change. I went to aerobics like usual and afterwards we had our monthly potluck. Our instructor, Lara, had inspired me a lot the year before in terms of getting in shape and running. I held her in high esteem and thank her to this day for her uplifting words.
This particular day she was talking about something she had been into that last six months, a few of those I had not been able to work out at all, thus not hearing about it previously, she said she had “gone raw”. I truly had no idea what that meant other than she seemed to be eating exceptionally healthy, and looked great. She told me that she had some kind of illness and had gone to get some herbal remedy to help when the lady in the store told her that she had cured herself of cancer through food. As she spoke I felt goose bumps all over my body and got tears in my eyes. She continued to tell me how great she felt, all the while something inside of me started to get a nervous feeling. Like something was about to change, and that I needed to go home and ponder on what she said. A couple of girls were going over to her house to try some “Raw cookie dough” after aerobics, and she invited me. Well, I always liked the raw cookie dough I had eaten before baking cookies, so I thought “why not.” At her house she quickly whipped up a batch of this “dough” using almonds, vanilla, salt, and something that came from a cactus...agave? What was that? It tasted great though and I thought, I guess I could eat this stuff instead of real cookies, but something in me was still luring me to come contemplate the matter.
That night my children all went to bed perfectly, a rare occasion, and my husband had a church meeting to attend to. I was alone and ready to ponder. I started out writing in my journal. Then I prayed long and hard if this “Raw Food” was the answer I had been waiting for. Before I even had to speak the words aloud, I knew that I was suppose to do it..whatever “it” was. I then went through many scriptures, about foods and how God sent foods on plants, (fruits and vegetables) and seeds and grains for us to eat, and they were used for healing. I searched The Word of Wisdom in Doctrine and Covenant section 89 to see if this was in line with what I already believed. It was, and as I read and pondered, my knowledge that maybe the body really could heal itself came full bloom. I knew I had to try, yet I knew very little about it.
I wrote down everything I had learned that day. What I could eat: fruits, vegetable, nuts, grains, and seeds, nothing cooked, canned, processed, white sugar, white flour, and nothing from animals; meat, dairy, eggs, fish, etc.
Growing up and to this point in my life I thought being healthy was adding some iceberg lettuce to a turkey sandwich, maybe a small salad on the side of my plate of meat, dairy, and canned foods, drinking so much cows milk per day, and eating a few fruits, exercising, and drinking water.
I had a lot to change, but once the confirmation came for me, I knew that the Lord would help me in the changes I needed to make.
The very next day I ate fruit for breakfast, a salad for lunch and a big green smoothie for dinner. Over the next while I felt hungry, then moody, (part of detoxing the body, I now know) then light, but overloaded with information I was reading mostly from the internet, and recipes. I liked the raw desserts right away, and kept them a staple from the start.
A couple weeks into this I was still making “normal” meals for my family, while I ate differently. It was a bit challenging, I wasn’t tempted by the food, it actually started making me sick to smell, but it just felt odd eating differently from the rest of my family.
One night my husband realized that I was changing, not only my body was shedding unneeded weight, but I felt happier and clearer in my mind, and he thought it would probably be easier for me if he climbed aboard. So he decided to pray about it for himself, and we did together. Once he received the confirmation to join in, it was much easier for us to have the "raw lifestyle", as we started to call it, because we weren’t just going to make these changes for a “diet.” The more we learned, and continue to learn, the more we know we are supposed to have a vegan/raw lifestyle.
Over the next few months I put all my faith and trust in the Lord as I continued eliminating prednisone out of my life. Finally, one day it was almost gone and I just threw it away. Now, I still had pain. But by then it was bearable. I tried to run again and the first time it felt like running through a wall of thick mud, but I kept at it. I was not going to give up the battle.
I wish I could say I have stayed raw the last 2 years. But it’s not true. I did eat meat again..but it tasted harsh and actually not very palatable at all. After we tried our old “comfort foods” and things we use to eat, we found that not only did they taste weird, we felt bloated and even sick afterwards. Many prayers were said on where to go from where we were at.
About 8 months after starting the Raw food lifestyle, I was able to become pregnant without risk of any drugs in my body. My swelling had reduced dramatically over the months and I did not hurt in my joints. I can’t say exactly when it happened, it’s not like it was over night. But I do know it was a process to get to that point. Once I was pregnant I began throwing up, like I usually do, however this time it seemed worst than ever...for about 3 weeks...then it stopped, all my joints were normal, my wedding ring fit, and I had no more swelling at all. The sickness stopping was a miracle for me, because my 3 previous pregnancies I was sick at least once a day, most of the 9 months.
Well, we were overjoyed and incredibly grateful to be pregnant and to have this blessing of healing. I went on to have the healthiest and most “normal feeling” pregnancies I’d ever experienced. We continued to eat a high percentage of raw foods, mixing in a few vegan cooked vegetable and grains and felt that was a good place for our family to stay.
While pregnant, there was of course a slight worry that the “swellings” would return after I had the baby, as I was told those with Rheumatoid can sometimes have symptoms go away during pregnancy only to come back by 6 weeks postpartum.
However, I am now happy to announce that I had my baby 9 months ago now and he and I are so healthy. I do not have swelling in my joints at all. On a rare occasion I feel tingling or a small about of tightness in my hands from holding something a long time, or keeping them in the same position a long time, but not even comparable to what it was. Actually I hardly notice anything pain wise, and there is no swelling at all.
We now continue very high raw lifestyle, having few meals of cooked or processed vegan foods, however with some weeks all raw just because we like it and feel better.
What I mostly feel is gratitude. I am grateful that I was lead by my Heavenly Father to move to the amazing place I live in, in a Stake that has an aerobics program that put specific people in my life at the perfect time, so that I could expand my knowledge, and through my Savior Jesus Christ, my life could be changed for the better.
I am grateful for my amazing, supportive husband who is my best friend for eternity! He also tries all my crazy new creations.:) I am grateful that we were given so many incredible foods from the earth and I now love experimenting with new ways of eating them, but I am also happy just eating an apple. Once again, I am so grateful for the guidance by my Heavenly Father, for me, to turn to Raw Foods.