Chronic Illness…and the Food Connection to Healing – Part 1

You’ll definitely want to read this post, if only to know about the goat milk phase. There was one. It’s over and I don’t recommend this for you, it does not promote family unity or peace as I learned the hard way.

I do however have other ideas so that you can heal AND eat tasty and nutritious healing foods. You don’t have to go hungry in order to heal your body.

I have learned so much about nutrition and healing, and I want to share some of that with you, whether you struggle with chronic illness or if you just like learning about food and cooking in general. I am fortunate to have both priorities in my life and while I would love to not have to cope with food allergies, I’ve chosen to embrace it and have fun while making amazing meals.

I do believe there is a strong connection to some chronic illness and stress or trauma. I also believe that there are many supportive treatments that can help, and one of those is good nutrition and healing foods.

Enjoy!


I have always struggled with low grade stomach problems. My stress level is very much represented by my stomach, and I’ve always known that since I was a kid. When I get stressed or anxious, I don’t eat, or I don’t eat well, and it’s not a good combination.

I end up feeling far worse from eating the wrong foods or not at all, then the initial stress that caused it. Sometimes I don’t even know that I am stressed until I notice I’m not really paying attention to food and that’s my cue. Also, my stomach still hurts any which way I go, so it’s a lose lose situation.

Eleven or twelve years ago, I got interested in running, which is a completely different subject, but relevant to how I started to get interested in health and nutrition. I had never been active in my life, never played a sport, and never pursued a healthy lifestyle, and running was a game changer for me.

I fell in love immediately, and as I kept running, I wanted to feel my best and stay healthy so that I could really enjoy my new found love. Running has fundamentally changed my life in many ways and I’ve learned more about myself from it than any other endeavor.

It truly was the catalyst of my exploration of nutrition and a whole new world opened up to me at that point because of my new found interest.

Anyway, back to talking about food. I was feeling really good physically, minus my typical stomach troubles, and enjoying learning new things about health and food. I grew up in a family where convenience foods were a staple, and the variety was limited, so I thought that convenience foods were necessary to a healthy diet.

You might think this is exaggerating, but it’s not. I simply had no idea. Initially, I thought ‘healthier eating’ meant that you shopped the boxed foods in the organic food stores. was revolutionary to me that you could buy ORGANIC CRACKERS AND CHIPS!

I began learning more and reading labels and realized it exactly the same ingredients in those boxes and cans, usually just labeled organic, which is pretty meaningless and just costs a lot more money. Lesson learned.

E.coli & Autoimmune

Around the same time, I was exposed to e-coli, unknowingly. We had a home well that got contaminated and all of us were sick for months, but we thought we had sicknesses that were typical of families with kids. By the way, not all e-coli is the Jack in the Box kind, so none of us died, in case you were wondering.

During that whole ordeal, my gallbladder mostly stopped working. I didn’t know the e-coli was to blame at that point, and I got my gallbladder removed because I was miserable. That wasn’t a great decision, because gallbladder surgery wasn’t a cure all, and it left me with lingering issues.

In addition, this whole illness caused me to become gluten intolerant, along with a few other food allergies. Fortunately all were fairly minor, but I had persisting issues, along with my already sensitive digestive conditions.

Our whole family was affected by the well water issue, and we all struggle at different levels with food and health issues to this day. Avoid e-coli! That’s my best advice.

I also developed and/or was diagnosed with several autoimmune conditions (including Reynaud’s and Lichen Planus) during this time, which I don’t know the origin of, but I’m sure the e-coli didn’t help because my body was so overtaxed.

Autoimmune conditions are very frustrating because it’s literally your immune system mis-firing. It takes longer to heal from illnesses and you never know when it’ll go crazy again. Most people have more than one, and they are chronic and pervasive. Keeping the immune system under control is not easy. There’s no cure, only management. I stay sick longer when I get ill, and sickness or ill health can cause my autoimmune conditions to flare up again.

Regarding my autoimmune troubles, my conspiracy theorist part of me reflects on all the hot summer nights when I was a kid in Idaho growing up with the windows open for the cool breeze (no air conditioning in the 1970s in our home) while the crop dusting planes flew over the fields right next to our home, literally on two sides, spraying the crops with pesticides, and also, by extension, spraying us.

It was the late 70s and 80s after all. Who knows what chemicals were being sprayed. I’ll never know, and I actually don’t want to know, but I do find it interesting that two of my other siblings, one step and one biological, also struggle with multiple autoimmune issues. Is it a coincidence? I think not.

So, all that said, I started getting way more serious about food at that point because I was sick and miserable, and I wanted to get back to running. I had lost weight, and that was fine, but I definitely got a little too thin and it was not because of stress, it was because of illness.

I look back at pictures from that time, and I can tell I wasn’t feeling well. I was weak and thin, and I desperately wanted to heal. We had 4 kids at home at that time, I worked full time, we ran a business, and I just didn’t feel well, ever.

Enter the goat milk phase…

I needed to heal. Just ask my family, I went through some phases in learning what that healing looked like. There was a goat milk phase, there was an organic only food phase, and there was a paleo phase.

Oh wait, there was also a kefir and kombucha phase, in which I had things growing in the pantry. No regrets! I think my family has some nightmares though. Actually, don’t ask them, it will start a legitimate family fight. We’ve chosen to sweep this issue under the rug and avoid the conflict.

I started to heal through those phases though, and choosing whole foods over processed foods was a game changer. I felt so much better, generally speaking, and I began to run again which helped with my stress levels. I didn’t love being tied to a food regimen though.

I can’t follow a ‘plan’ very well, it’s too restricting. I learned all I could and avoided the foods that bothered me. Jason took an interest in food too. He’s more adventurous than I am, generally, so he was willing to try most things. He was not a fan of the things growing in the pantry and the goat milk though, I’ll just say that! Oh wait, I forgot we weren’t talking about that anymore.

If you struggle with chronic illness, you know exactly the hard journey it is to health. It took me a couple of years to really learn how and what my body needed and didn’t need.

I learned to make bone broth, and to make healing soups, and comfort foods with natural ingredients. We started buying grass fed beef, and free range chicken. We bought eggs from our neighbors and purchased organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. I learned about alternative flours, dairy free chocolate chips, and making my own salad dressings and sauces.

It’s truly amazing what you can make in very little time, if you have your pantry stocked with some basic ingredients. I’ll teach you how to do some of these basics and some of the things I learned through my journey. I do recommend avoiding the goat milk phase for the sake of keeping your family intact.

Natural Medicine and Healing

I have always been a big fan of natural medicine, so that was a help to me during this time as well. I respect traditional medicine too, but I lean very far to the natural side. Our family naturopathic doctor is amazing and he provides us with tons of natural options and will provide us prescriptions when we need them.

I choose to exercise the natural options first, and that’s worked well for me. I do take one prescription for my autoimmune issues (low dose Naltrexone – which is compounded medicine) and that has helped keep things pretty well under control, along with my food intake.

The journey took a long time. Patience.

After that period as I started to heal, I relaxed in to a more moderate diet, mostly avoiding dairy and gluten, and eating whole foods. It’s amazing to me that once your body heals, you can go back (slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully) to eating some things as your body tolerates them. Others, you need to avoid for good.

Your body will tell you. You need to get to a baseline level of health first though, otherwise, your body just freaks out with every food choice and you have no idea which foods bother you and which foods you can still eat.

I missed bread and cinnamon rolls and I still do to this day, I won’t lie. But when I started to feel the benefits of eliminating those choices, it became easier and I started exploring gluten free options to still have tasty food and some treats once in awhile. I reintroduced some dairy, mostly raw cheeses and ‘hard’ dairy, because those bothered me less than ‘soft’ choices, like yogurt.

Over time, I relaxed on my food choices even more and I would eat gluten now and then. I stayed with some of my staples though, the high quality meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. Those habits have persisted, no matter where I am at in my health journey.

This worked for me for several years. It was a new normal and I was running marathons, eating well, and being mindful of my choices, and enjoying cooking. Last year things took a downturn again.

Now I’m healing again in 2021.

In the past 9 or 10 months in 2020, I really fell back in to some of my old eating habits. I was stressed and distracted and food was just not a priority. I love candy, and red licorice has gluten in it, and it became a staple.

I also love dry cereal as a snack, and I started eating more processed foods. I felt fine and I just ignored some of the small symptoms that were happening with my body. I stopped cooking as much as I used to, and focused on other things.

I would come to regret some of those choices very much when I faced a major health issue in July of 2020. That said, there’s no way I could have seen what was coming, so live and learn, right?

That July 2020 health issue is a post in and of itself (it’ll be part 2) because I found myself starting from scratch again and healing my body. This experience was pretty serious and I had to start from the ground up, even more than I did back in the day.

I’m thankful because I knew what to do, and I used a lot of the previous knowledge I gained to help me recover this time around. I knew the commitment and perseverance it would take, and I fully committed to that. I’m about 6 months in and doing well. I have a way to go, but I can see such improvement from where I was.

I’m thankful for my food history and all that I have learned so far. There is so much to experience with food, and Jason and I are continuing our journey. It’s been fun to explore it together, and he is an amazing cook.

Long gone are the days where he would run the barbecue grill and make up crazy concoctions with Hamburger Helper. For that we are all thankful.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be a chore to eat well. My health depends on it, so I’ve chosen to make it fun and to explore as many things as possible. I can honestly say that I am enjoying the journey, even minus those cinnamon rolls and a quality block of sharp cheddar cheese.


Thank you for reading along. If you are a fellow chronic health or autoimmune person, just know you are not alone. It’s hard. Others don’t often understand how confusing and difficult these issues are, but we are not powerless and we can heal. I’ve done it, and I’m doing it again. Warm up some bone broth and follow along.

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