I had been waiting for years.
The day I moved out of my parents' house I stopped eating meat. Born of my big/sensitive heart and a desire to not pay someone else to do something I was unwilling to do myself (ie: kill animals), I enthusiastically quit eating meat for most of a decade. I always viewed it as a personal choice, one that did not effect how I viewed the omnivores in my life, but an extremely important one when it came to "living my truth".
From an ethical place I think I did the right thing by following my heart. Each of our hearts knows our own unique truth, and at 18 this was mine. (I'm sure for many of you it is still your heart's truth today.)
But I had a belly ache.
I had often had belly aches as a child and after a few years on a legume and grain based diet I nearly always had a belly ache. Diarrhea, a crampy gut, and other unpleasantries were the norm and each meal I ate would end not when I was comfortably full but when my stomach hurt.
In my possession at all times were various over the counter treatments including Imodium, gas-x, lactase, and tums. I was in sorry shape. Western medicine wasn't any help, labeling it as "irritable bowel syndrome" and telling me to continue to take said pharmaceuticals daily into perpetuity. No "cure", no recommendations to change my diet, just "take this pill."
And so I did. Unhappily but not aware of other options for years.
And then I noticed something.
The more vegetarians I met, the more belly aches complaints I heard. Not all of course, but nearly everyone I knew who complained of chronic digestive woes were also vegetarian or vegan. And something clicked. I believe a vegetarian diet can be a healthy one, I decided, but perhaps not for me. I slowly started eating meat again, first fish that Pete and I caught ourselves (me crying for twenty minutes in the bottom of the boat after killing the fish I caught), then venison from my dad. Only wild game for the first years and that only occasionally, then slowly branching out into locally farmed organic meats."Happy meat," I called it. It was the only solution I could see to bridge my belly ache with my ethics.
It never occured to me that not only had I been eating a vegetarian diet but I also had taken antibiotics, eaten conventional food, drank chlorinated city water, and taken birth control pills. Only the food layer had occurred to me so at that time it was the only correction that I made.
Fast forward another decade after returning to a non-vegetarian diet. My belly still hurt. Not as much, but it still hurt. Eventually I gave up gluten and a few other trigger foods but it still was there. And dark circles beneath my eyes and an edge of un-wellness that I couldn't put my finger on. It was like a shadow, barely perceptible but present.
Then in 2004 as if by magic I stumbled upon a book at the coop called "Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet." Without even opening the book every cell in my body confirmed that it was my right answer. My intuition was screaming out for the information in this book. I thumbed through it then and there, standing in the isle at the coop then turned around my full shopping cart, putting most of my items back on the shelf. I filled my cart with nuts and nut flours, honey, eggs, meats, fruits, and vegetables.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was designed to heal children (and adults) with severe gut imbalances and was found to also reduce or reverse many mental health issues. The diet, if strictly adhered to is said to correct everything from irritable bowel syndrome, chrone's disease, celiac, autism, colitis, and ADHD – among others. It spoke to the underlying imbalance of a gut that isn't working as it should.
I read the book cover to cover and started "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet" just a week later. Within three days the stomach ache I had carried with me for nearly two decades was gone. Completely gone. I honored the diet for a year and found all of the digestive symptoms I struggled with since childhood disappeared. So did my eczema, dark under eye circles, and malnourished appearance. It was pretty sweet. My gut healed by this diet, I returned slowly to "normal" omnivorous food and saw no return of my symptoms.
I joked that after being on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for one year I ate all the animals I saved during my decade as a vegetarian.
Fast forward a few more years, to today.
I'm still well. I still eat "happy" meat and limit my grains. We live primarily on traditional foods, based on whole foods, bone broths, vegetables, and soaked or sprouted grains. But those grains. And that sugar… they are so seductive. So I eat more of them than I should and my belly churns and howls when I do. It's too much, I know. And I've come to think that we all (in our house and much of our society) have digestive systems that are a bit out of balance. Gut flora is imbalanced by chlorinated water, antibiotics, birth control, and environmental toxins. And I believe all four of us have signs of a flora or candida imbalance: thrush and colic as babies, sugar craving, a little eczema, and a sporadic red rash on Lupine's chin.
So in the next couple of weeks we are embarking on the GAPS diet (a variation on Specific Carb. that includes traditional foods and probiotics) as a family. While giving up grains, sugar, and most dairy isn't something that sounds like great fun at the surface, I am actually stoked to be heading down this healing path once more. I've done it before and know we can do it again, and I believe it will heal and nourish us on many levels.
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Thanks to Tiffany who introduced me to the GAPS diet this autumn. I'll get you your book back, I promise!