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.
Meg was definitely motivated to stop eating any of the offending ingredients and follow the doctor’s advice because she was desperate not to hurt. Luke, our youngest, and six at the time, was pretty willing to make the changes because he too struggled with some belly pain, and being so young, he wasn’t so addicted to processed foods! But for the adults and teenagers in our house this wasn’t quite as simple—until… the Spirit confirmed to us that we were on the right track, and every one of our family of six adopted this new lifestyle that very day. That could not have happened so seamlessly without that spiritual confirmation and witness. I was amazed at the faith every member of the family exhibited at this time of need.
Meg noticed a difference within days of the change, which was such a relief to me! The distended belly that she’d had for a couple years began to recede, and her pain and discomfort was much alleviated in a matter of six weeks. She lost twelve pounds and was feeling much more energetic and happy.
As the weeks turned into months we gradually made more changes. We started by cutting out all highly processed foods (chips, cereals, pretty much anything packaged). Still searching for answers, we switched over to a whole food, plant-based diet in July 2014. We stopped consuming meats of any kind, and we keep all other animal product consumption to less than 5% of our dietary intake.
We want to be self-reliant in matters of health, not dependent on the medical community. So often doctors and other health professionals lack information or knowledge regarding how what we eat affects our health, even giving misinformation. We’ve studied things out in many scientific journals; we’ve consulted with others who live this lifestyle, including doctors and other health professionals; and we’ve made subtle adaptations along the way as we’ve learned more and more.
Our yardstick is the Word of Wisdom—the science must agree with the Word of Wisdom. I am amazed at what we’ve learned over the past year about nutrition, the food industry, exercise, chronic illness, clarity, etc. I am so very grateful for the Word of Wisdom, for continuing and personal revelation, for prophets, and for the privilege of getting to “experiment upon the word.” The Lord will answer our prayers. Often it takes lots of effort and study on our part to receive those answers, and often a great deal of sacrifice, but they come.
My thoughts about the Word of Wisdom have changed a lot this past year. I’m no longer skirting parts of the revelation, knowing the choices I was making were not the best and not in accordance with the Word of Wisdom. Now I am following through with all I know and keep learning to make educated and healthy food choices and to teach my family these principles. I feel the Lord has truly blessed my family to be able to make such drastic changes so rapidly. I am gaining greater appreciation and love for God’s creatures, and I am recognizing how diet affects me physically, but also spiritually. I notice the promptings of the Spirit more readily. I’m more outgoing and confident so I can focus more on serving those around me. I feel more in tune with my husband and children.
I was looking at the record we started on our bedroom mirror, still there to remind us of where we’ve come from. I’ve dropped fifteen pounds since October 2013 without the express intention of weight loss, and this was the first holiday season that I passed through without gaining 5-10 pounds (and yet I felt completely satisfied and never missed those white chocolate covered Oreos that used to call my name!). I love how that is a natural blessing of WFPB eating! I grew up in a home of yoyo dieting, watching members of my family lose lots of pounds just to gain them and more back, over and over again. I noticed then that “dieting” made me focus too much on food, and I didn’t like that, so I never got into it, though I did struggle with body image for many years. I am grateful for and astounded at the elements of true nutrition I am only now learning as an adult.
Each family member has had their own motivation for changing their diet, but my husband’s was his predisposition toward Type II Diabetes, dangerously high cholesterol, and achy legs. One year ago his cholesterol level was 1,500—you read that right. Not a typo! Scary. It scared him so badly he didn’t even tell me the findings, just that it was “really high.” In October 2013, we quit eating highly processed foods and the doctor put him on cholesterol-lowering medication. By spring of this year his cholesterol had dropped to 260, still 60 points above the 200-ceiling for the normal range, but so much better. But he still wasn’t feeling much better. That was before we gave up animal products. In November, about a year after medication but only four or five months after starting WFPB, my husband told me the latest readings from his blood test. His cholesterol level is now—drum roll please…130…!!!!!!!!! All I can say is … “W.O.W.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Leslie Mantlo is 43 years old and lives with her husband and four children in Grand Junction, Colorado. They enjoy singing and performing, hiking, reading, playing, and anything together. Leslie is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom, and currently a student in the BYU-Idaho Pathway program with interests in pursuing a study of Nutrition in combination with the eCornell program. Meg, the 11-year-old, is set to see specialists in Denver for her continuing achy joints to determine if this is yet a G.I. problem or possibly rheumatoid arthritis.