Healing With Nutrition
By: Michelle Shain
I found a lump. How many stories start like that? Sad stories, scary stories, inspiring stories… I don’t know yet what my story will be, but I’m working on it being a funny story.
A couple months back, I found this hard lump under my jaw. Being the reasonable person I am, I immediately took to the internet and diagnosed myself with cancer. Probably the bad kind. Aw, man, I was a goner.
I immediately called the doctor, who said it was probably due to my TMD (temporomandibular jaw disorder), but she put in a referral to an ENT anyway. A week later I’m sitting in the ENT’s office and he tells me that it is a lymph node and it is probably nothing but to be sure he was going to send me to have a CT scan.
Friends, let me tell you, that week between the ENT and the CT scan was the longest week of my life. I googled every single possible cause of hard lymph nodes. Some days I had lymphoma, some days I had incredibly rare forms of leukemia… and then reality set in. Googling does a lot of harm when you have undiagnosed symptoms, but you also expose yourself to a lot of interesting information.
I learned a lot about autoimmune diseases, like the fact that most hypothyroidism (which I have) is caused by an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. And that celiac disease is very clearly linked to Hashimoto’s disease. And that even if a patient doesn’t have celiac disease, gluten should still be removed as part of the course of treatment.
Say what? My doctor NEVER told me any of these things! Take a pill, she said! That’s all you need to do, she said! So I read and read and read some more… and realized that my doctor barely knows anything about nutrition. And neither does yours. Do you know that they don’t even teach nutrition in most medical schools? Further reading led me to discover that a lot of my symptoms over the past few years are absolutely, totally the symptoms of Hashimoto’s and I have a heck of a lot of celiac disease symptoms too.
This revelation led me immediately to researching nutrition and how to heal and nourish my body with food choices. If you’ve ever had health issues that caused you to go to the doctor more than once a year for your annual check-up, you probably know how it is. At some point, you go from being a regular patient to being a hypochondriac (45% of patients with autoimmune diseases are labeled hypochondriacs in the early stages of their disease). And once you are a hypochondriac in their eyes, they don’t take your issues seriously and you have to be a real pain in the butt to get any help. Clearly I am going to have to advocate for myself and educate myself as much as I can about nutrition and natural healing.
Some of you reading this may know this already, but my husband and I own Ob La Da, a small baking business in Marshfield, MA. We use local products in our baked goods, so I am well aware of the importance of supporting local agriculture and using farm fresh ingredients. Local food is not only more nutritious and fresher, buying local food supports the local economy and promotes sustainability efforts. But, honestly, I never really thought much about the little natural pharmacy that foods can provide for us, especially local raw foods that still have all their nutrients intact. And extra especially local, raw and organic foods that have all their nutrients don’t have any yucky, toxic pesticides.
One of the first steps I took to heal my body was to switch entirely to organic produce and increase my intake. It’s hard to find any local produce at this point in the season, but there are still great local resources for fruits and vegetables, like South Shore Organics. Besides that, check with your local farm stand. They may sell fruits and vegetables throughout the year that they store or import themselves. For example, you can still buy produce from Rise and Shine Farm throughout the winter at the Marshfield Winter Market or Plato’s Harvest at the Plymouth Winter Market. Even if you are buying bananas, you can still support local farmers by buying from local farm stands or farmers markets and businesses that support local agriculture (like South Shore Organics and Whole Foods). In fact, as a vendor at the local farmers’ markets, I have experienced first hand how it is even more important to support your local farms and local food vendors throughout the winter in New England so you can make sure they are still there for you in the next growing season!
The good news? The lump is not a tumor. The bad news? I still don’t know what is causing this inflammation in my body. Next stop is probably the rheumatologist. I’m also going to seek out alternative therapies, like massage therapy, acupuncture and perhaps consulting with a nutritionist.
I hope you’ll stick with me while I try to heal my body with food. I can tell you one thing: my head is feeling much clearer since reducing the gluten in my diet and I’ve lost 15 pounds without really making any changes besides removing wheat and eating organic. Imagine that? A baker has gluten sensitivity (probably). At least my gluten free customers will know I know what they are talking about!
Moral of the story thus far: Stay informed and advocate for yourself because your doctor is just a person and you are the only one who can decide if something is wrong with your body. And if you are reading the edible South Shore blog, chances are that you more knowledgeable about nutrition than your doctor!
Michelle Shain is a writer, artist, baker and graphic and web designer. She and her husband are the owners of Ob La Da, a locavore bakery in Marshfield, MA.
To support local farmers this winter:
- The Braintree Farmers Market is having a special Thanksgiving market this Saturday from 9AM-1PM at Braintree Town Hall.
- The first Marshfield Winter Market is November 17th from 10am-1pm at the Marshfield Fairgrounds.
- The next Plymouth Winter Market is December 13th from 2:30pm-6:30pm at Plimoth Plantation.