As I sit here reflecting on the last six months of my life, I struggle with the series of events that have played out and toiled over the idea of writing this blog to share my story. BUT, if my story can help one person, then it's worth sharing.
Around May of 2021, I started getting VERY random symptoms of sickness that would come and go every few days. We were experiencing many weather swings of cold/hot and the pollination was crazy, so I chalked the mucous-ridden eyes, random bouts of nausea, dizziness, fatigue, body rashes, frequent nose bleeds and pounding sinuses up to allergies. I hit my breaking point the morning I woke up not being able to see out of my right eye and every 30 seconds I had white flashes that went off in the corners of both eyes like someone was taking my picture with the flash on. I also could see black dots floating across my vision when I looked at anything solid-colored. I was in FULL panic mode, I called my eye doctor and got in right away. I was diagnosed with iritis - which is a pretty common eye infection resulting from swelling of the iris. However, when taking scans of my eye, Doc noticed some unusual spots on my retina, and decided to send me to an Ophthalmologist in La Crosse.
As I awaited my appointment, the pressure in my head could have blown it straight from my body, so my next stop was the Chiropractor. He got me adjusted and relieved much of the pressure but noticed my lymph nodes were very swollen and said something was definitely going on in my body.
The third and fourth Doctor I saw was a general NP who claimed my bloodwork was perfectly normal, and a behavioral and mental Doctor that I had to talk to after my NP thought my conditions were a result of stress and depression.
So now I sit here with an almost blind eye, a basket of horrible symptoms, and an invitation for therapy sessions....something in my mind was not adding up.
The 5th and 6th Doctors, my Ophthalmologists, were the breath of fresh air I needed, although conveying bad news, I was thankful to start getting somewhere with my investigation. At this point, it was mid-July and I was wondering if my conditions were ever going to improve. My conditions were getting so impactful, I was stumbling and having difficulties walking a simple straight line.
After some eye scans, it was discovered that I had what is called retinal panuveitis, which basically means every single layer of my eye was inflamed. In addition, most of the capillary junctions in my eye balls were compromised and leaching blood out into the open space of my eyes. Since this was occurring in both eyes, the Ophthalmologist was concerned I may have an autoimmune disease, as most autoimmune diseases can manifest in the eyes....so began my next journey with the Rheumatologist (full systems Doctor).
The Rheumatologist was a 3-month wait, so what the heck was I supposed to do for 3 months with these conditions? I decided I was not going to let these conditions deteriorate me, nor was I going to let my body get to the point where it had to rely on any pharmaceuticals. I wanted my body to fight this and get stronger as a result.
I changed my diet. Let me say that again....I did NOT go on a diet, but instead changed my diet. I listened to my body and adjusted to what my body craved, what my body needed, and what foods made my body feel good and energetic...the rest got tossed out.
I started with a whole, raw diet. What exactly is a whole, raw diet? Let's start with the "whole" portion of the diet. This means I try to eat as many whole foods as possible. A whole food is a food that has little to no processing or refinement that it has undergone. For instance, when I take my grass-fed steer to the butcher, he cuts it up, packages the cuts, and it goes into my freezer. The only processing done is the butchering process. There have been no additives, fillers, or preservatives added to the meat, making it a whole food. The next term "raw" has a slightly different definition in my mind. I think of a raw food as any food that comes directly from the Earth, the land. Nature's resources are whole and raw - especially in the area we live there is very little pollution, many fresh water streams, and abundant healthy animals. If we are harvesting a deer or pheasant, wild morel mushrooms from the forest, watercress from the stream, or trout from the creek, I consider this to be harvesting wild, raw foods. Raw foods are also considered a whole food because we butcher or wash the food, cook, and consume - there is very little processing/refining that occurs with these foods.
In total, I've cut out about 95% of processed foods out of my diet - which honestly was not much as I don't eat a lot of processed foods anyways. In today's World, it's near impossible to cut out processed foods, but I can say with confidence that maybe less than 5% of my diet is processed foods - this would include spices, some produce items, peanut butter, pasta, restaurant foods, and the occasional oreos (sorry, I can't resist!). Quick tip: when grocery shopping, shop the perimeter. There's no reason to fill your cart with canned and boxed items - these are FULL of preservatives, synthetic chemicals, dyes, conventional corn, and other disgusting elements. This also includes meat, dairy, and eggs. Just because you buy what you think is "clean" grocery store meat - it's not clean. Meat is usually injected with rubber-like additives to give meat a bouncy quality, and also injected with dyes and preservatives. Honestly, store bought meat can be just as bad as eating a "Beyond Meat" product - but we'll save that topic for a different post.
Austin and I raise and hunt for 99% of the meat we consume. We raise beef, pork, duck, and chicken, and hunt for venison and pheasant. We get an occasional taste for fish, and as we are not the best anglers, we found a little fish market in the town over that sells mostly locally, or USA sourced wild caught fish and seafood that contains ZERO preservatives or additives.
When it comes to produce, Austin and I grow what we can - sadly I was a horrible gardener last year, but we have beans, beets, potatoes, onions, and squash. The rest of my produce comes from the food co-op in Viroqua, WI. The majority of the produce is sourced from local farmers of the Driftless region - all the produce has a little sign that says the farm name it was sourced from, location, and a little picture of the Farmers, so you feel even more connected to that food you are purchasing. This is important to me because this food has practically a zero carbon footprint because it wasn't trucked in from California, and because it was sourced regionally, it can remain raw and fresh so preservatives and wax coatings are not needed. Did you know if you take most of your root veggies and apples you can scrap the wax layer off of them from a traditional grocery store - and you probably had no clue you were putting that inside your body, did you?
The next big step I made was removing coffee from my diet. This one killed me a little bit as I was used to drinking probably 2-4 cups of coffee per day. I still drink coffee once in a while, maybe a cup every 2-3 weeks, but I stopped drinking it daily - my body reacted much better when I didn't have coffee. I started drinking locally sourced herbal tea with 1 spoonful of local raw honey - the honey provides natural sugars to your diet in addition to stimulating your immune system against allergens in the air due to the pollen of which the honey has large quantities of. In addition, I started drinking kombucha 1-2 times per week. Kombucha is a fermented tea - when you first start drinking it, it definitely has an acquired taste, but I love it now. It is a very powerful gut booster, as it's fermented properties help to improve your gut microbiology. We would not be able to digest any food if it wasn't for gut microbes. By taking care of the gut microbes, we have the ability to better break down our food and uptake nutrients that we can utilize in our body's processes - this is called having bioavailable nutrients.
The next changes I made were subtle, but important. I increased my meat intake, so now Austin and I eat meat just about every single day. We typically eat red meat - beef and venison, but will have pork or chicken 1-2 times/week as well. As I have battled for over 15 years with anemia, red meat is an important source of iron, which my body needs. For anyone that says "meat is bad, don't eat meat"...please take the time to educate yourself on the nutrient deficiencies caused by a meatless diet. I HIGHLY encourage you to check out the "Sustainable Dish" podcast, which you can find a link to below. The other subtle change I made was reducing my carb intake - this means breads, pasta, and grains. I bought a pasta maker, so I will be making egg-based pastas in the future and completely cutting out store-bought pastas.
The last two things I make sure I do are get enough sleep and go outside often. I cannot stress enough how important a good night's sleep is - if you are tired, go to bed at 6pm! You're an adult, you can do whatever you want :) Also, go outside and take a walk during the day..on your lunch break, in the morning before work - even if you walk to your mailbox to grab the mail, it's doing something outside! I started taking Ellyeska (my Great Pyrenees) out for pasture walks in the late afternoon. From our house down to the river, it's about 1/3 mile one way. It will allow you to breathe in the fresh air and take time to enjoy the World around you and clear your head. It's good for both physical and mental health.
So now let's fast forward to December 2021, when I finally was able to get in to see the Rheumatologist. Mind you, I was supposed to see her in September, but I caught a cold and the Doctor wouldn't see me, so my appointment got pushed another 3 months - don't you just love our healthcare system...
Anyways, at this point, I had almost zero symptoms - no dizziness, no nausea and vomiting, no head pressure, no more snowballs (the Ophthalmologist formally gave the white flashes in my eyes a name), no more black dots across my vision, no more blurred vision, and from my November eye follow up, my capillaries were healing nicely an I only had a few spots in my peripheral vision that were leaching still. The Rheumatologist still wanted to run a copious amount of tests, and I just wanted to figure out what the heck was wrong with me! After about 30 different blood tests, 7 urine screens, and a chest x-ray, everything came back NORMAL. In addition, I had lost 20lbs and went down 4 pant sizes.
WHAT IN THE WORLD.
After a frank conversation with my Rheumatologist, she admitted that there's a thing called "long Covid", meaning Covid can have residual impacts several months after you have contracted and gotten over the virus. This can occur regardless of whether or not a person is vaccinated - the spike proteins are a nasty thing that can cause a lot of damage. It can take up to 15 months for phagocytosis to deplete the body of your spike proteins completely, according to Dr. Peter McCollough. That is all I will say about Covid - please do your research and understand the virus and how it impacts your body, WHETHER YOU ARE VACCINATED OR NOT. Sorry, this virus does not discriminate.
I will never have full clarity on what was going on in my body for most of 2021, but I do know that I treated my body better than I ever have, and my body was able to overcome my illness, gain strength, and I am now the healthiest version of myself that I have been in a very long time.
None of us know what our future holds in terms of our health and well-being. If 2021 taught me anything, it was that prioritizing me and my body was an absolute necessity. We so easily get caught up in the material World, living fast-paced and trying to work ourselves to death, that we leave our well-being and health behind.
As we head into 2022, I am focusing on my health and wellbeing, focusing on my personal relationships, focusing on taking my growing farm business more seriously, and focusing on my Family.
This year, I am going to do a better job of conveying the "WHY" behind why I live the way I do, and I hope that I can inspire others to do the same.
This is the beginning of a new year and a new journey - please join us for the ride. :)
Sustainable Dish: https://sustainabledish.
Viroqua Food Co-op: https://www.viroquafood.coop/
Dr. Peter McCullough on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/embed-podcast/episode/0aZte37vtFTkYT7b0b04Qz