Archive for chronic illness

“Our life will never be the same again!”

Markus and Caroline GappmaierBy: Caroline Gappmaier

I always thought we ate fairly healthy. Baking our own bread from grains I milled, eating only a little meat, and then basically no red meat, no drinking of soft drinks, etc. Of course, I did have a sweet tooth and liked cheese very much (you know, I’m Swiss, and those of you who have tasted our cheese and chocolate will understand!). Then, our family experienced an extended period of existential stress which brought me health-wise to a point where I hardly could eat anything anymore. I had suffered from severe rheumatism before, with chronic pain mainly in my shoulders, but with all the other joints suffering also (which meant never being without pain day and night). But now with this added stress, my skin had turned so yellowish that even strangers would address me about it. Around my eyes were deep, dark circles. I kept losing weight. I had random itches all over my body all the time. I started feeling as if my body could stop working at any given moment. My thighs had white marble lines on them and going to the toilet smelled like walking into some of those old folks’ rest rooms. I had to leave early for everything because hurrying was too much and got me out of breath. All the while I had no strength to deal with any kind of extra stress. I felt depressed constantly instead of being happy and easygoing, as would reflect my personality. I was always worried and feeling bad. It was miserable!

Realizing things could not go on like that much longer, I adjusted my diet. I had already let go of all refined sugar products. When I realized that cheese caused feelings of anxiety, I stopped eating that, too. Finally, I started eating only the things I digested well and made me feel physically good afterwards: fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds). For one year, I ate nothing else. Fruits in the morning (usually a fruit smoothie with some flax seeds, brown millet and pure honey in it) and a mixed salad of vegetables and lettuce with some seeds and nuts in the afternoon. Today I think this saved my life. As I got better, I started to reintroduce other foods again. A few years later, as my husband, Markus, also struggled with his health, we felt we should change to a whole food, plant-based diet. Our health improved slowly, but surely. I was able to go back to a more normal life style in general again, feeling less depressed and having more physical energy and no pain. Happiness came back and in the (early!) morning I started to be fully awake again. No more lead in the bones or short breath.

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Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Discovering Joy!

by Jane Birch

This article is the first in an on-going series in Meridian Magazine on Discovering the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see “Discovering the Word of Wisdom.”

MM_Discovernig Joy Woman

In a church chock full of commandments, the occasional “freebie”—something totally easy to obey—is especially welcome. As a lifelong member of the Church, that is how I viewed the Word of Wisdom. I was sure I had it down pat. I’ve never even been tempted by a forbidden substance.

Then suddenly, without warning, my understanding of the Word of Wisdom was almost instantly transformed, and I discovered there is so much more to this wise counsel than I had ever learned in Primary. As a result, I have also discovered the joy of fully embracing all of God’s counsel.

A “Heart-Attack Proof” Diet

My enlightenment took place early one Saturday morning in August 2011, when I happened to hear Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigating a “heart-attack proof” diet on CNN. I had no risk factors for heart disease or any other chronic disease, but I was intrigued by the thought that the #1 killer in America could be stopped dead in its tracks through proper diet. I had to learn more.

I went straight to work, digging up facts on the diet, which was described as “whole food, plant-based.” It quickly became clear that it was not as outrageous, and was even more powerful, than I first thought. Not only is the diet known to prevent and reverse heart disease, it has also proven effective in preventing and reversing many of the other chronic diseases we’ve just assumed would strike most of us at some point or other, such as diabetes, strokes, digestive disorders, obesity, and many cancers.[1]

Chronic Disease Is Largely Preventable

There they were: study after study demonstrating that most chronic diseases are not the inevitable fate of the human race, but rather the natural consequence of what we put into our mouths every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This information was new to me. If most disease is preventable, why do more than 90 million Americans live with chronic illness, which accounts for 70 percent of deaths and 75 percent of medical care costs? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that

Chronic diseases—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis—are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S. . . . 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases.[2]

Note the top three causes of death in America:

  1. Tobacco use
  2. Poor diet and physical inactivity
  3. Alcohol consumption[3]

Latter-day Saints have #1 and #3 down pretty well, but despite the wisdom revealed in D&C 89, can anyone argue our diet is significantly better than the average American’s? We certainly enjoy lower rates of many diseases, thanks to not using alcohol and tobacco, but our rate of some diet-related diseases like diabetes appears to be higher,[4] and our obesity rate is significantly higher.[5] If we adopted a healthier Word of Wisdom-based diet and increased our physical activity, might we be equally protected against many more diseases?

Faint echoes of the promises in the Word of Wisdom began to emerge:

I, the Lord, give unto them [all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings] a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. (D&C 89:18, 21)

More on this later . . .

What Is a Whole Food, Plant-based Diet?

The whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet I discovered on CNN is simple, yet dramatically different from my daily fare at the time. “Plant-based” means foods from plants rather than animals. “Whole foods” are plants as they are when they are harvested from the ground or the trees, before they are transformed in factories into highly processed substances never seen on a farm.

Here are the three main principles of a whole food, plant-based diet:

1. Whole, relatively non-processed plants are the foundation of good health. They are the powerhouses of nutrition, beautifully designed to fuel our bodies.

2. Animal foods are not needed for nutritional purposes and unavoidably contain substances that can be harmful. They should be kept to a minimum, if eaten at all, for optimal health.

3. The bulk of our calories should come from starchy plants, which are primarily grains, such as wheat, barley, oats, rice, and millet. These are the foods that have fueled large, healthy populations throughout history.[6]

If this diet sounds dramatic, consider that eating this way can eliminate up to 80-90 percent of all chronic disease. Is suffering from heart disease, diabetes, or a stroke any less “dramatic”? Would eating a diet that helps us achieve optimal health and our ideal weight, and that protects us from most chronic disease, not be worth some effort?

Evidence the Diet Works

If I was going to change my diet, I wanted solid evidence that a whole food, plant-based plan would deliver. Here are just a few of the facts I found compelling:

  • In populations of the world (past and present) where the food is generally whole food, plant-based, the incidence of non-communicable chronic disease is ridiculously low.
  • People who move from such areas of the world to the U.S. and adopt a more American diet start to develop the same chronic diseases as Americans. The same thing is happening to entire nations as they introduce more meat, dairy, and processed foods into their diets. Clearly, genes alone do not determine our health.
  • Cardiovascular injury can be scientifically measured after only one fat-filled American meal. Imagine the damage done by three meals a day, 365 days a year! Scientists tell us that even our children now show early signs of beginning cardiovascular disease.
  • People with chronic disease who adopt a WFPB diet quickly experience dramatic changes in their health and are often able to dispense with former medications and recover their vitality.
  • Even people with advanced chronic disease are able to halt, and in many cases reverse, the progression of disease when adopting a WFPB diet. No other diet, for example, has been proven to have this effect on cardiovascular disease.[7]

Connection to the Word of Wisdom 

As impressive as all of the foregoing was, the clincher for me was opening the Doctrine and Covenants to section 89 and re-reading those familiar verses. After understanding the power of a WFPB diet, I found myself reading this section with a very different perspective. To my amazement, I realized the Word of Wisdom also consists of three simple dietary principles, principles that precisely parallel the three WFPB principles listed above:

1. “All wholesome herbs [i.e., plants] God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving” (vss. 10, 11, emphasis added).

I guess I had never thought about the word “wholesome” or considered that the intense modern processing of plants, which strips them of many of their nutrients, may not be what the Lord has in mind. Stripping plants of their nutrients does not sound very prudent.

2. “Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; And it is PLEASING unto me that they should NOT be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine” (vss. 12, 13, emphasis added).

Oh yes, I had seen these verses before, but since no one ever talked about them, I assumed they could be safely ignored. But why exactly would I want to ignore something that “pleases” the Lord?

3. “All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth; And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger” (vss. 14, 15).

In a day when grains, particularly wheat, are under a surprising amount of criticism, I’m thankful for the Lord’s words to help evaluate the evidence. I also noticed the additional emphasis on saving animal flesh for times of need: “only in times of famine and excess of hunger.” I wondered why the clarity of this phrase had never struck me before.

In short, I was impressed by the discovery that the diet modern science shows can prevent and reverse chronic disease is the very diet the Lord gave to Joseph Smith in 1833!

MM_Discovernig Joy_Planting TomatoesI Make My Decision

My study of the health benefits of a WFPB diet and the way it amazingly matches the counsel in the Word of Wisdom had a powerful impact on me. I can well remember the impression that came to my mind: “This is the way we humans are supposed to be eating. I had better eat this way.” If people had told me I would someday be convinced to give up all junk food, much less animal foods, I would have thought they were crazy. The strange thing is, this change of diet turned out to be no sacrifice at all. I can testify that changing my diet has been one of the most joyful adventures I have ever experienced.

Although I didn’t have any serious diet-related health issues when I started this new way of eating, the change in my health was nonetheless dramatic (at least to me). First, I quickly lost all of the remaining excess weight I had put on since high school (some 25 pounds). My total cholesterol went from a borderline 199 to 130 (a level at which heart disease is practically non-existent). In addition, all of the small, annoying health issues I’d simply dealt with disappeared (good riddance)! I felt great, I enjoyed plenty of energy, and I finally began sleeping well. Beyond these physical blessings, however, I am even more grateful for the distinct spiritual blessings I have received—including a much greater appreciation for this beautiful earth our Savior created, an enhanced receptivity to the Spirit, and a marked increase in feelings of peace and joy.

Two Meanings of the Phrase “Word of Wisdom”

I feel I should break here to make an important clarification. I realize now from experience that some people feel threatened by the idea that a careful reading of D&C 89 might suggest they may not be “keeping the Word of Wisdom” after all, so I need to be clear: I think it means nothing of the sort!

We commonly use the phrase “Word of Wisdom” in two very distinct ways in the Church. The first is plainly the most important. Our Church leaders have determined that the standard of worthiness for keeping the Word of Wisdom is abstaining from all alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and harmful drugs. I fully sustain this standard, and I want to be clear that I believe anyone abstaining from these substances is fully keeping the Word of Wisdom and is fully worthy of the privileges contingent on obedience to this important commandment.

But there is a second way we commonly use the phrase “Word of Wisdom” in the Church, and that is in reference to the entire text of section 89 in the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains much more wisdom, advice, and blessings than are covered in the few prohibitions. This is the meaning of the phrase “Word of Wisdom” I’m using in this article.

Who May Benefit from This Counsel?

If you are fully satisfied with the blessings you have obtained by obeying the Word of Wisdom according to the Church’s worthiness standard, and if you are fully satisfied with your health and do not anticipate having to deal with any of the chronic diseases that can make life so very challenging, this article may not be useful to you.

This article is for those who desire increased physical or spiritual blessings and are intrigued by the amazing promises given in D&C 89, promises that pertain to following all of the wise counsel in this beautiful section. These other verses may not be “commandments,” but we don’t need to be commanded in all things in order to receive blessings; we can do things of our own free will (see D&C 58:26-27). I simply offer some ideas to consider.

I am not suggesting that every Mormon must be vegetarian, nor would I ever insist anyone must abstain from all meat and processed foods. That is a personal decision each person must consider, given our own understanding of what is appropriate. It is not our place to judge one another or to forbid anyone from eating certain foods (see also 1 Timothy 4:3; D&C 49:18; and Romans 14). God does not forbid us from eating meat. In fact, He has ordained the flesh of animals for our use—but only under certain circumstances.

If it is pleasing to Him that we reserve the consumption of meat for times of need, perhaps we should carefully consider what compelling reason would we have to do otherwise.

Are We Claiming All of the Blessings of the Word of Wisdom?

Hugh Nibley once declared, “On the whole, the Seventh-Day Adventists are better keepers of the Word of Wisdom than we are.”[8] Indeed, Mormons are often compared to Adventists because both groups are urged to avoid alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. But in addition, Adventists are encouraged (not commanded) to be vegetarian, and about a third eat a plant-based diet. Many other Adventists eat meat more sparingly than Mormons, who, by and large, are meat eaters. Our meat consumption, in fact, is comparable to that of the general population.[9]

As a consequence, where both religious groups enjoy significant health blessings, the vegetarian Adventists are significantly healthier and live longer than meat-eating Mormons.[10] Could it be that the Adventists not only live the Word of Wisdom better than we do but are also enjoying more of its promised blessings?

President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “We believe that the Lord, when he gave the Word of Wisdom, was speaking to all the people in the world.”[11] The Adventists are not the only ones leading out in eating a Word of Wisdom diet. Many other people, religious or not, have also switched to a WFPB diet and are reaping related blessings.

Where are the Mormons in all of this? Having received the Lord’s counsel in 1833, we should be as well ahead of the world in sound dietary practices as we are in other dimensions of our religion. Instead, we (or at least, I) have had to be taught by those outside of the Church to realize what a treasure we have in D&C 89! Experts like Colin Campbell, John McDougall, Joel Fuhrman, Neal Barnard, Hans Diehl, and Caldwell Esselstyn are among those who can teach us quite a bit about the principles found in the Word of Wisdom.

Mormons Waking Up to the Word of Wisdom 

Since changing my diet, I have shared my re-discovery of the Word of Wisdom with hundreds of other Latter-day Saints and have seen the light turn on for many of them as well. When I introduce a WFPB diet to Mormons, I don’t even need to mention the Word of Wisdom; they get the connection.

Discovering the Word of Wisdom by Jane Birch

Discovering the Word of Wisdom by Jane Birch

In late 2013, I published a book detailing my experience: Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (see the first two chapters of the book here).[12] In the course of writing this book, I solicited stories from other Latter-day Saints who are converts to a WFPB diet. As the stories poured in, I could see that the WFPB way of life has begun to impact the Mormon community. I feel great joy in witnessing what is happening as Mormons “wake up” to the Word of Wisdom. I am now featuring their stories on a website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

Discovering Joy!

Yes, we live in a Church chock full of commandments. But we know that God’s commandments, far from restricting our freedom, are the doorway to the greatest freedom—and joy! The Lord tells us that the faithful and diligent will be “crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few” (D&C 59:4). Why would we want to ignore any of the Lord’s counsel and miss out on any of His precious blessings?

I testify that heeding the counsel in D&C 89 brings marvelous blessings. We have the Lord’s promise that those who obey this counsel and walk in obedience to all of the commandments,

. . . shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. (D&C 89:18-21)

I should have known that a Church so blessed with commandments needs no freebies!

Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (2013) and many articles on the Word of Wisdom. She can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

To view all the articles in this series, see “Discovering the Word of Wisdom.”


[1] T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health (Dallas: Benbella, 2006).

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion,” August 13, 2013. (Emphasis added to the quote.)

[3] Ali H. Mokdad, James S. Marks, Donna F. Stroup, and Julie L. Gerberding, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association 291, no. 10 (2004): 1238–1245.

[4] Sterling C. Hilton, Ray M. Merrill, and Jared D. Sturgeon. “Comparison of Causes of Death During 1994–1998 Between LDS and non-LDS in Utah.” Utah’s Health: An Annual Review 2000–2001 7 (2000): 39–49.

[5] Philip Mason, Xiaohe Xu, and John Bartkowski, “The Risk of Overweight and Obesity Among Latter-Day Saints,” Review of Religious Research 55, no. 1 (March 2013): 131–147.

[6] John A. McDougall, The Starch Solution (New York: Rodale, 2012).

[7] Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (New York: Avery, 2007).

[8] Hugh Nibley, “Word of Wisdom: Commentary on D&C 89,” 1979.

[9] Lester E. Bush, Jr. Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints (New York: Crossroad, 1993), 67.

[10] See the series of studies cited in “Do Vegetarians Live Longer Than Health Conscious Omnivores?” (February 2014).

[11] Spencer W. Kimball, “Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?” Ensign (May 1975): 4.

[12] Jane Birch, Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective (Provo, UT: Fresh Awakenings, 2013).

Meridian Magazine – “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” series by Jane Birch

Meridian logo

Disclaimer: The first 20 articles were written before Meridian updated their site in Nov. 2014. When these articles were converted to the new site, many small, random formatting errors were introduced. Please ignore these errors and enjoy the articles. I welcome feedback on the content!

See also: Articles and audio by Jane Birch on the Word of Wisdom and WFPB nutrition.

Discovering the Word of Wisdom Basics

Discovering Joy!

The Flesh of Beasts, Part I

The Flesh of Beasts, Part II

Where Do You Get Your Protein?

Wholesome Herbs and Every Fruit

Food Addiction

Healthy Fats & Vegetable Oils

All Grain Is Good

The Danger of Displacing Grain

Wheat for Man

What About Dairy and Eggs?

Commonly Asked Questions

Word of Wisdom: Why Aren’t We Told How to Eat?

LDS Leaders on the Word of Wisdom

Why the Preoccupation with the Prohibitions? Read More→

“The Spirit confirmed to us that we were on the right track”

Mantlo FamilyBy: Leslie Mantlo

My daughter Meg, now 11, has struggled with bellyaches, headaches, stiff achy joints, and troubled sleeping for many years. I have taken her to the doctor time and again, but there have never been any real answers. It has been so frustrating. When I have taken her in, the doctor would attribute her bellyaches to constipation, which was partially true, but she wouldn’t really take the problem seriously. Her “solution” was to prescribe the regular use of laxatives (to a small child?) and give her gummy fiber supplements.

We tried everything the doctor suggested, hoping for results, but we never got lasting results, maybe a day or two of relief was all. It was very trying, especially for our daughter. No matter what she ate or drank it ended in a bellyache. She wasn’t sleeping well at all. It got to the point where she was not able to concentrate during learning activities so schooling was incredibly challenging.

I finally heeded a friend’s advice to contact a doctor in Colorado Springs that she’d had great success with. I counseled with him on our daughter’s symptoms, and he immediately suggested that she likely had an intestinal yeast infection. He made many dietary recommendations that, initially, I found pretty heavy. He pulled us off of white flour, white sugar, cow’s milk, artificial colors and flavors — all five days before Halloween 2013. I was like, “What are we supposed to eat if we can’t eat any of that???” He also prescribed particular supplements, including probiotics, and asked us to faithfully keep food diaries.

For me this was “experiment upon the word” and “come and see.” We were at a point where we just needed solid answers and solutions. We needed for our daughter to get better. We needed a medical professional to take the situation seriously. It was affecting all of us. So we jumped on board, supplements, food diaries, and all, faithfully! It was very challenging, but I was amazed at how our whole family rallied around our daughter. We all did this new diet together.

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“Satan no longer has a hold on me through pain in my body and addiction to food”

Cynthia SumnerBy: Cynthia Sumner

During my first year of marriage I started experiencing the effects of eating a mostly processed “dead food” diet. I gained almost 50 pounds during my first pregnancy, but after losing the weight by eating better and exercising, I kept losing without trying. I began to feel sick. I was hungry no matter how much I ate, and I had no energy. Every morning I woke up with very painful hunger pains. I had to sit on the side of my bed with my head over my knees. I felt hot and had absolutely no energy. I had a horrible headache every morning as well, with congestion in my ears and sinuses. The congestion in my ears was so bad that one or both of my ears were completely plugged. I would eat and then feel hungry within an hour. I was unable to go for walks or work in the yard, something I loved to do. I had a hard time staying awake to read a book to my baby. I was very backed up and felt constantly bloated. I chose to be happy, but I felt irritable all of the time.

I had many experts look over me and many tests done, but no one could help, so I felt compelled to search things out on my own. I knew something wasn’t right, and I wanted to figure it out. As I was led to people, books, and resources about natural health, the most profound and powerful feeling moved through me from head to toe, and I knew that my body could heal. The Spirit whispered to my heart through the gift of the Holy Ghost that I was born capable to heal. It makes sense! We are creations of a loving Heavenly Father. Look at the magnificent mountains, breathtaking sunsets, beautiful fields of flowers and trees. We are the most precious creation of all. Surely we are born capable to heal!

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“My journey of discovery began when I was diagnosed with MS”

Vicki YoungBy: Vicki Young

In April 2004, my doctor ordered a brain MRI, because I was having a lot of migraines. The MRI showed lesions in the white matter of the brain, indicative of a demyelinating disease such as multiple sclerosis (MS). She referred me to a neurologist who said that I didn’t have MS. Four days later, I was rear ended in a car accident. I had whiplash and pain in my left shoulder. After a few months of physical therapy, there was no improvement. I then had a MRI of the cervical spine, which showed lesions. And so my journey of discovery began when I was diagnosed with MS in January 2005.

When I was diagnosed with MS I felt relief to know that was the problem. When the first neurologist told me that I didn’t have MS, I didn’t feel that was right. Then a few days later I was in the car accident. I think that Heavenly Father wanted me to be diagnosed with MS. When I was diagnosed, I was thinking, what is going to happen next? Of course, I would have liked to have kept on going with a lot of energy for the next 20 years, like some people do, but that was not to be. I am OK with where I am now because of what I have learned in overcoming my challenges. I remember one person saying, “After 10 years, you will be in a wheelchair.” I am so glad that is not true!

Beginning in 2000, even before I was diagnosed with MS, I started to have gastrointestinal pain nearly daily. In 2003, my doctor ordered a scan that showed that my gallbladder was only functioning at 30% capacity. The surgeon said that my gallbladder needed to be removed, which he did, but I still had pain for years after that.

I also had tingling and numbness in my left foot off and on for years, and I had a tremor. After I was diagnosed, I noticed problems with my balance, making me trip a lot. By August 2006 I had fatigue so bad that I was not able to work anymore.

In August 2006, I got my first book on eating a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet called Original Fast Foods by James and Colleen Simmons. The authors explain all of the benefits of eating a whole food, plant-based diet, like Daniel’s diet in the Old Testament. The information in this book resonated with me. They talked about the Word of Wisdom and quoted many prophets and other Church leaders on the benefits of living the dietary guidelines in the Word of Wisdom.

After reading the book, I made some changes in my diet. I already did not eat much candy, pop, or meat, but now I started eating more fruits and vegetables and less dairy. I used to eat a lot of dairy. I had three or four canker sores nearly all of the time and yogurt and ice cream tasted good. They seemed like the only things I could eat when I had canker sores. I was surprised to see that with this small change of eating less dairy, I was getting fewer canker sores. What I thought was soothing to my sore mouth was actually the cause of the problem!

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I heard the Savior say, “You are going to be okay”

Patty ButtsBy: Patty Butts

My journey with chronic fatigue began over twenty years ago when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction (CFIDS) and Fibromyalgia (FMS). I was so ill my doctor wanted to give me medical disability. After four years of agony, I finally said to my doctor, “I either want to get better or I want to die.”

Since then, I have drastically changed my diet, recovered, finished a doctoral degree in Holistic Nutrition, and have more energy than I did 30 years ago. My passion now is to educate others and give them hope for recovery.

It began with a sudden onset. I had gone on the Fit for Life diet, eating fruit in the morning and vegetables in the afternoon. I didn’t realize I had candida and eating fruit was like pouring gasoline on a fire….fueling systemic candida. I felt like a walking corpse. While trying to walk or get out of bed in the morning, it seemed as if I was beating a dead horse.

With each step I took my feet felt like I was walking on pins and needles. The pain was excruciating, not only in my feet, but in every joint and muscle. My lymph nodes ached and were swollen. My kidneys, my liver, and my spleen hurt. My doctor did a round of blood tests and found the blood tests were normal. Nothing was wrong with me. I felt like I was dying, and he found nothing wrong with me.

My doctor prescribed an anti-depressant that caused tardis dyskinesia (swelling of the tongue because of an allergic reaction to medication). My tongue became thick, and I couldn’t enunciate my words properly. My mouth was constantly dry. While attempting to sleep, I felt like I was doing round after round of backward somersaults. My life was so out of control I thought I might die and knew I could if I stopped fighting to get well and just stayed in bed. When I stopped taking the antidepressant, the side effects of dyskinesia went away.

The doctor then referred me to a counselor who recommended Prozac as the panacea for everything. By the first week I was more depressed than ever and by the second week I felt suicidal. Since then I have learned about the gene mutation MTHFR that doesn’t allow the liver to detoxify. Therefore, taking a medication that the liver cannot detoxify can cause suicidal feelings. All mental health begins in the gut. The counselor recommended doubling the dosage. No way was I going to double the dose. I had done some research and found I was not the only one who responded to Prozac that way.

Some of my friends and family thought I was faking my illness because I looked okay. Others knew me to be hard working and dedicated and knew I was really ill. I looked okay, but I couldn’t stand up without leaning on a wall because I was so weak and dizzy. My short-term memory was fouled up. Concentrating and thinking was a chore and trying to read was difficult. I wondered if I had an early onset of Alzheimer’s. I was depressed, and it seemed I was being sucked into a black hole.

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Responses to Meridian Comments

Note: When Meridian Magazine updated their site in Nov. 2014, some of the responses I had written to comments from readers were lost. For convenience, I’ve posted the comments below. See also links to all the articles in the “Discovering the Word of Wisdom” series.

I so appreciate all of you who take the time to read my articles on Meridian! Thank you also for the comments. I enjoy reading your insights and responding to your  questions.

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“The Word of Wisdom is bringing me back to health”

Phyllis BessenaireBy: Phyllis Bessenaire

My health adventures began in February 1986 just before I turned 32. A couple of weeks before my birthday, my aunt was visiting and talking about wanting to “lose weight.” I told her that I was losing a lot of weight. She asked me what diet I was following. I told her, “None! I eat what I want, and I still lose weight. It’s wonderful!” She looked at me and said, “You need to be checked for diabetes right away.” All I knew about diabetes was that my grandma was diabetic at the end of her life. When she came to visit, Mom always bought “dietetic ice cream” packaged in individual cubes about 2 inches square. Although I disliked ice cream, I loved sharing this with her, so I looked forward to it. For me, it meant fun times—how ignorant I was.

Going to the endocrinologist right away confirmed that I was, indeed, diabetic. He told me we would have to wait and see if I was Type I or Type II. I was a little old for Type I and very young for Type II. I remember going to church that Sunday. My son was transitioning from nursery and my daughter was new there. The nursery leader and I were very close friends so I told her the news. That was when the bottom dropped out of my world. She told me about someone in our ward whose son had just died as a result of diabetic complications. I was a mother of a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. To think I might DIE of diabetes sent me into total depression.

I called my home teacher (my husband was not a member of the Church), and he came with another brother and gave me a blessing. I will always remember his words to me that day. He said that if I lived the Word of Wisdom, it would be as if I never had diabetes. I had tremendous faith that this would be my lot. I lived the Word of Wisdom very religiously, or so I thought I did.

I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes mellitus, which used to be called “adult onset diabetes.” It usually begins when a person is in their 50s to 70s, not when they are 32 years of age (although because of our diet, it is becoming more prevalent among younger people now, including teens).

I started insulin, and after a while, I began a diabetic “honeymoon.” It is called this by endocrinologists because of the way the pancreas responds to added insulin at first. It gives the pancreas a boost, and your blood sugars drop to normal range without insulin. Well, somehow I thought that meant I wasn’t diabetic at all. Like so many others, I made a big error in judgment and after a few years of decent control, I thought I was cured and began eating more sugar, etc. Boy was that stupid!!!

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“I felt so great I never looked back”

April AshcroftBy: April Ashcroft

My mother passed away when I was 5 years old, so my brother and I went to live with our paternal grandparents. Grandma had diabetes at that time, and Grandpa was diagnosed shortly thereafter and then died suddenly of a heart attack in his early 70’s. Throughout my adolescent and teen years, I witnessed my grandmother suffering greatly with the consequences of her disease. She was in and out of a rest home in her later years and during my many visits with her, I saw not only her suffering but the suffering of others in the rest home. This made a huge impression on me as a young child.

I’ve also seen the suffering of many others in my family. My mother had died of cancer at a very young age. My father had heart disease and was eventually diagnosed with diabetes. He died about a year later from pancreatic cancer. My maternal parents both had diabetes and heart disease and suffered strokes. One of my mother’s brothers had diabetes, heart disease, and eventually kidney failure, so he went on dialysis. After 5 years, he took himself off because of the great suffering he had experienced. My mother’s sister was diagnosed with diabetes in her early 40’s. She also has heart disease and has suffered a stroke. She continues today to live with the impact of these diseases.

Over the years I’ve thought about family members plagued with chronic diseases and wondered: Are these diseases and their suffering my destiny? Am I doomed because of my genetics? I was concerned about this at an early age. I did not want to go through what I saw my family and others going through. So I decided in my early 20’s that I was going to do everything in my power to avoid what many would say is my genetic destiny.

I now find it a blessing that I began to battle my weight after high school because I went from being sedentary and a bit lazy to being very dedicated to exercise. I thought that was going to keep me healthy. Unfortunately, my commitment to exercise turned into an obsession, and before I knew it, I was on a vicious cycle of dieting and exercise in my early 20’s. Worse, it was discouraging to see women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s who were still struggling to maintain their ideal weight. I hated the mental madness of the dieting game, and I did not want to still be dieting when I was 40! I firmly believed that Heavenly Father didn’t want me spending so much time and energy worrying about my weight. Along with being consumed about my weight, I felt terrible. At 21 I was fatigued and tired all the time. I couldn’t understand why at this young age I felt so bad. I wanted to have energy and be active and healthy. I believed that Heavenly Father wanted that for me as well.

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