In the not too distant past I couldn’t even really have told you what an organic lifestyle was. Seriously, I don’t think I even ate a vegetable until I was in my late 20s. Sugar and carbs were daily staples; I couldn’t even have begun to imagine what it would be like living without white bread. What I didn’t drink in water I more than made up for in alcohol, another daily staple. I’ve never found it easy to gain weight and so high calorie foods were always on the menu. I’ve also never been a great lover of cooking – although I can cook, I struggle with finding any real passion in it. The perfect recipe then for a sweet toothed, fast food loving soul. Yip, I hate to admit it, but that was me.
I wouldn’t have described myself as particularly unhealthy, well, not my version of it anyway, but looking back I realise now that what I was used to living with was far from good health. I’d had asthma since I was 12, at the exact same time I developed hay-fever and allergies to pets, perfume, smoke, dust etc. Strangely these issues coincided with the exact same time I received a routine vaccination. No one has ever been able to tell me why these allergies literally appeared overnight, and for the longest time even I didn’t bother wondering about it.
I couldn’t breathe through my nose until, aged 16, I had an operation which opened up my nasal canal. Although now I could, I rarely did, mouth breathing is such a habit, and a bad one at that. Breathing through the nose allows for 2 important factors – 1. The air gets filtered by the hairs in the nose, and 2. The air is warmed before hitting your lungs. I regularly had colds, which would inevitably travel into my chest resulting in a yet another trip to the doctor and yet another prescription for antibiotics. Boy, if only I’d know then what I know now.
Fast forward to age 39 when I fell pregnant with my now 5 year old son. It’s the healthiest I’ve ever been, my diet was reasonably good, no alcohol of course and a very positive attitude, which has been something I’ve steadfastly cultivated over many years. A healthy, easy birth (yes there is such a thing – think casually face-booking only seconds prior to being told “ok it’s time to push”) and a healthy, happy, baby to boot. All was well.
The first year was tough; I worked from home and had taken on a new contract literally before I dropped. Rest was not even on my ‘to do list’. The first thing to suffer was my diet. Of course sleep deprivation was a given, so throw that into the mix, chuck in some stress, and after breastfeeding the return to daily wine drinking (one with dinner won’t hurt, right?) The end result a drastic decline in wellbeing. Another cold, sore throat, tight chest and against my better judgement another visit to the Dr, and another script for antibiotics. I knew I didn’t really need them, but habit said otherwise.
Cue the tipping point: a rampant candida overgrowth. If you know anything about candida you’ll know its stubborn beast. In its simple form it’s a harmless yeast, kept in check by a healthy immune system. But under the right conditions it becomes pathogenic and morphs into something far more sinister wreaking havoc on what has already become a fragile and exhausted body. It took me a while to recognise I was in such bad shape, but the body has a way of screaming louder when its previous messages have fallen on deaf ears. I became increasingly sick, and after more visits to the Dr, none of which helped, I finally realised that I needed to take responsibility for my health and seriously change my lifestyle.
Cue one of the biggest realisations of my life to date.
Gut health is one of two holy grails of health and well-being.
The immune system, 90% of which lives in the gut is the best line of defence against illness, and yet we trash our gut and destroy our immune system with every bite of that burger, every spoonful of sugar, every bottle of wine.
Diet needs to be the first port of call. Once I educated myself in gut health it struck me as incredible that I’d never made the connection between what I was eating and how sick I was. Even more incredible was neither had any of the 5 doctors I’d visited, not one had asked, “how’s your diet’?” Now I’m not Dr bashing, but if you continue using the Doctors like a repair shop, you run the very real risk of being caught in a cycle of sickness. The connection between our ailments and our gut health is a vital piece of the puzzle, which for most people remains missing.
My healing journey, as with most, is a long one. There’s not much I didn’t try but it really all comes down to this. Processed food is the enemy to gut health, and gut health is one of two keys to wellness (the other key is emotional health, but that’s a whole different story). My situation was drastic and called for a drastic solution. Out went the sugar, the carbs, the gluten (boy is that a big one), dairy, alcohol and anything processed. In came the greens, the fruit, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, home-made kefir, sauerkraut, rice malt syrup, raw cacao, almond milk and a whole range of other yummy organic substances. I became a green smoothie fanatic creating all sorts of wonderful recipes, all yummy, all giving me great nutrition, quickly and much to my delight, pretty effortlessly.
I’m far from 100% organic, but I do my best. I buy as much organic produce as and when I can, and I’ve also cut back on harsh cleaning products, now choosing to use mainly white vinegar, which by the way works a treat. In addition to good health, one of the biggest aspects of moving towards organic living is the expansion of knowledge and a mindset change that really enriches your life. Our health is our responsibility, and for as long as we continue to keep filling ourselves with processed junk passing as foods and accepting poor health as a standard, we’ll never really be able to experience what good health actually is.
My own poor health was a blessing, it was a wake-up call, one which I listened to, and one which has not only set me on the path to good health but has allowed me to help others do the same. Living as organically as possible, even if that means just a small change right now, will never be something to regret. We all have a responsibility not just to our own well-being, but to the wellbeing of our planet and organic living is a great way to help us to fulfill that responsibility.