Deborah Niemann, Certified Health Coach
I grew up eating lots of fast food, frozen food, and other convenience foods. And I was sick constantly. At least once a month, my mother was taking me to the doctor for something. My mother believed I was just a sickly child because the doctor said there was nothing that could be done about my repeated illnesses.
When I got pregnant with my first child back in 1987, I read about how your diet affects your health and the health of your baby. That was the first time I’d heard of that connection. If we changed our diet, maybe my children wouldn’t be sick all the time like I was. So, we gradually started cooking more from scratch and eating less junk food. Just how bad was my diet back then?
I was drinking a 2-liter bottle of soda every day! When I got pregnant, I switched from diet soda to regular soda and congratulated myself for consuming less artificial ingredients. I started ordering cheeseburgers instead of plain hamburgers because I thought the added “cheese” would provide some calcium for my unborn baby. Thankfully by the time my baby was born, I had read a few more books and had a better idea of how to actually improve my diet.
It worked! Not only did I find myself hardly ever getting sick, my children almost never got sick. They grew up having no idea what it meant to have the earaches that had plagued me as a child. The few times they did have a sore throat, it would only last a few hours. The only time my oldest child ever had antibiotics was for Lyme disease, and my son only had them for an abscessed tooth. My youngest never had antibiotics until she was bitten by a cat at age 16.
In 1997 my elderly father came to live with me. He had type 2 diabetes and was on nine prescription medications, four of which were for his diabetes. I took him to an endocrinologist who specialized in diabetes, and within one month, the doctor had discontinued all of the prescriptions. By simply changing my father’s diet, we were able to keep his blood sugar within the normal range, and it stayed normal until he died a few years later following a fall that broke his hip.
By the time I hit my 30s, I considered myself very healthy. I’d go five years between colds and ten years between bouts of the flu. I had a few aches and pains, but I thought that was a normal part of aging as I reached age 40. Then in 2007, I had a muscle spasm in my back that was so bad it landed me in the emergency room. I was misdiagnosed with a gallbladder attack, even though all of the tests were normal. I declined to have my gallbladder removed at that time, and a month later, my neck locked up. I could not turn my head from side to side. I was diagnosed with arthritis and later with a bulging disc. I learned at that time that if they do MRIs on random people, many of them have bulging discs and no pain. I wondered why. A few years later when I was diagnosed with arthritis in my knees after a fall, I also learned that the level of arthritis in your knees is not correlated with the amount of pain you have. Again, I wondered why.
In January 2014, I was accidentally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, which is normally associated with hypothyroidism. In this disease, the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid and eventually kills it, so it can no longer produce the thyroid hormones that control pretty much every system in your body. Typically a person is not diagnosed with Hashimoto’s until they are suffering from multiple symptoms of hypothyroidism because testing for antibodies is not done routinely. However, I was tested for it because I had nodules on my thyroid, which were accidentally discovered during the MRI of my neck. The endocrinologist told me not to worry about it. There was nothing I could do. He would just routinely do blood tests, and when my thyroid stopped working, I’d take artificial thyroid hormones daily for the rest of my life. I didn’t like that idea and started reading.
First I removed gluten from my diet. Then I started taking supplements specifically for supporting my thyroid. Then I accidentally discovered I was sensitive to potatoes, so I removed them from my diet. A few months later I discovered more food sensitivities. In the interest of time and space, I’ll skip the details here. Today I’m happy to say that I have put my Hashimoto’s in remission. My antibody levels went from a high of 139 to only 11 today, which by most standards would be considered normal. During that time, I have also seen other minor health issues (reflux, asthma, constipation, muscle soreness) reduced or disappeared. Without trying and without ever going hungry, I just happened to lose 38 pounds. I intend to continue working towards wellness until nothing hurts and everything works.
The question that several people have asked me is … how did I wind up so sick when I was eating so well? Apparently, I had developed a number of food sensitivities, probably related to intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut). As my immune system continued working overtime because I kept consuming foods that it saw as the enemy, it then mistakenly started attacking my thyroid. Stress probably also played a role as 2013 was undoubtedly the worst year of my life. Both of my in-laws died, as well as two of my three dogs and one of my favorite goats. I had also written three books in three years, which meant I was working 14 hours a day, and I was in the midst of writing the third and promoting the second when my in-laws died.
What have I learned from all of this? There is not simply one thing that causes health problems. It’s generally a perfect storm of improper diet for the individual, stress, lack of sleep, and genetic predisposition. Of course, we can’t do anything about that last one, but that last one by itself does not cause disease. It needs the environmental triggers for a disease to actually happen. It isn’t easy to keep ourselves healthy in our modern world, but it is possible.
How can Healthier Paths help you?
Our main goal is simply to provide you with information. There is no one-size-fits-all diet, exercise, or wellness regimen. You will have to figure out what works for you, and we’ll help you sift through the volumes and volumes of information out there! I want you to treat yourself as you’d treat your best friend — be forgiving when you make mistakes and be encouraging of healthy habits. It’s been proven that people don’t change by feeling guilty or shameful, so stop beating yourself up! The Healthier Paths “diet” is simple: if it’s healthy for you, eat it; if it’s not healthy, don’t eat it. And if it’s healthy, you can eat as much as you want. No one ever got fat eating spinach, and yes, you can put butter on it!
“The foundation of success in life is good health: that is the substratum fortune; it is also the basis of happiness. A person cannot accumulate a fortune very well when he is sick.”
Certified Health Coach
Deborah received her Health Coach Certification from the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, founded by world-renowned physician and author, Dr. William Sears. The Institute is a leader in science-based health and wellness education that focuses on the four pillars of health; Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude and Nutrition (L.E.A.N.). A certification by the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute is obtained only after completing the extensive course work and meeting all requirements. Once certified, a Health Coach possesses the knowledge, tools and resources to make a positive difference in the health of others.
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