By: Julie Haws
About four years ago I started experiencing some chest pain. Being a dietitian, I search for nutrition-related answers to health problems. I read The China Study and also Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and followed this diet very strictly for about a year. Following this diet was an adjustment at first, but I was motivated because my symptoms went away, and I felt wonderful. People told me I glowed. Then I got pregnant with my third child. I experienced nausea and also extreme fatigue for much of my pregnancy. I normally rarely eat fast food or eat at restaurants, but I did during this pregnancy because of my symptoms.
A few months after having my daughter Amy I found I could not stand for more than a few minutes at a time without experiencing dizziness, sweating, and chest pain. After a year we discovered I had a condition called POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), which is basically a fainting disorder. I never fainted, but I would get close to it. I had days and weeks where I had to spend most of my days sitting or lying down. Anyone who has had 3 children under 5 years old knows what a challenge it was. It was truly debilitating. I couldn’t cook, clean, or shop much for about a year. My husband and family helped out a lot. When I started having these symptoms I did start to follow Dr. Esselstyn’s diet again, but I was not quite as strict with my diet, and I ate meat still a few times a week. My symptoms were about 60% better.
During this time I read my scriptures a lot and prayed and fasted that my body could heal completely. I had to fast with water or my symptoms would get very severe. I still was not able to stand for long periods of time and still had unpredictable spells. Around the time of my 40th birthday, I felt prompted to really read the Word of Wisdom. While reading it the following phrase stuck out to me.
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. (D&C 89:12–13)
This surprised me, and I wondered why before I had only read up to the word “sparingly” and stopped there? What is the definition of sparingly? The Word of Wisdom specifies what sparingly means, “only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” And then it repeats this counsel again in verse 15, “And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.”
As I studied the Word of Wisdom I also was impressed with the promise that those who follow this counsel will be able to run and not be weary and walk and not faint. My POTS had left me unable to walk for more than a few minutes without being close to fainting. I had the distinct impression that if I really followed the Word of Wisdom my POTS would go away. I had previously seen Jane Birch’s book Discovering the Word of Wisdom on the Internet and decided to order it. I am so thankful to her for writing this inspiring book!
As I followed a whole food, plant-based diet more closely, my health got much better. I do not follow this diet “perfectly.” I don’t think that is the goal really. I think you just try your best. I have found though, that the more closely I follow the principles of a whole food, plant based diet the better I feel, especially with my condition. It definitely is a motivator for me because I want to feel healthy and strong! My POTS is now 95% better. I do have some residual symptoms, but they are going away. I have been able to take walks for as long as two hours recently.
About the time I was reading the Word of Wisdom, I remembered a dream I had about 15 years earlier. I was applying for an internship for dietetics. The internships were difficult to get and about only a third of those who applied got internships. I fasted and prayed that I would get an internship. One night I had a dream that I was hiking in the Graham mountains (a place I camped with my family every summer when I was a girl) with other ladies from my nutrition classes. We found a cave and decided to explore it. I found the most exquisite jewels and gold pieces. I asked the other girls from my class if they had found any and they said no. I woke up from the dream and knew that I had gotten the internship. About a week later I found out that I had.
I realized when I was reading D&C 89 that there was actually another meaning to the dream I had 15 years earlier. Verse 19 promises, “great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” I realized that I was being shown that I would be blessed with hidden treasures of knowledge about health-related topics.
Much of my life has been related to health and wellness with my training as a dietitian. I worked in a hospital setting for about 7 years and was able to witness first-hand some of “the destroying angels” of our day: liver cirrhosis in alcoholics, lung cancer in smokers, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in those who did not eat with “prudence.” As a dietitian I am often amused or honestly somewhat bothered by the food trends of the day, the Atkins diet, the Paleo diet, the gluten-free diet trend. I always tell members that if it is not something that agrees with the Word of Wisdom I do not endorse it.
There has been a lot of the scientific research, books, and movies that have come out recently supporting a whole foods plant-based diet. It is confirmation of just how ahead of its time D&C 89 was in so many ways. We are promised great blessings if we follow it but so many of us don’t follow it fully.
I am grateful that Heavenly Father gave us directions on how to care for our bodies to “run and not be weary . . . walk and not faint,” (D&C 89:20) so that we may have the spiritual and physical stamina we need to fulfill our life’s mission!
Julie Haws (41) lives in Gilbert, Arizona. She has a B.S. degree in nutrition from ASU. She completed an internship in Louisiana to become a dietitian and practiced as a dietitian for 7 years in a hospital setting. She now has 3 active little kids and is enjoying this new adventure in her life as a stay-at-home mom. She loves cooking, art, and reading on many different topics.