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In our Taking Command of Your Eating Pattern we discuss Food as Medicine. Here is a story from a Nurse Practitioner, Bethany Sprague, about how the philosophy of Food AS Medicine Has helped not only improve her own health, but that of her child.
How did I arrive at understanding how food can heal? My story starts 15 years ago when I developed an autoimmune thyroid condition. I did not have any understanding that it was even possible to use food treat and reverse autoimmune conditions. I went to specialists that used radiation to ablate my overactive thyroid. Finally, after about 2 years, I started to feel normal again. I never had a conversation with any of my specialists that discussed nutrition or any lifestyle tips to help me through the very rough road.
Fast forward to having children. My first was only 2.5 years old when she also developed an autoimmune disease. Children of mamas with autoimmunity are 2-3x more likely to also have their immune systems revolt. I went into protective momma bear mode. I did for her, what I could not do for myself. I sat in the local medical library and researched like crazy. To my knowledge, no literature reviews ever studied children with autoimmune diseases and using food or diet changes to affect outcomes.
I had an understanding there must be options. At no point did any of our specialists or pediatricians ever suggest a diet change. But, I was a part of a Crossfit Gym and had done a Paleo challenge, so my nutrition education was just starting to get online. When my daughters condition was nearing “chronic phase,” our next recommendation from her Hematologist was using an immune modulating drug also used in treating cancer patients. I made the tough decision on the phone one day with my best friend lamenting the uncertain future.
Through tears, I said I will do anything to avoid using that drug. I made the decision right then to change her diet. At that point, it couldn’t hurt. I placed her on an elimination diet & saw her body respond beautifully. Within 1 week her blood counts normalized and the autoimmune disease was halted. Today she is a thriving 6 year old who loves to dance, paint, cook, and says she will be a nurse practitioner one day!! This proud mama has not stopped protecting & I will constantly be evaluating the input of food and supplements in the bodies of my family and clients.
The power of food and even supplements on the body can change the reaction of enzymes in cells and can affect how DNA is turned on or off. This means the activation of the immune system can be turned on and off by food, nutrients, and ultimately gut health. The power of our microbiome (the bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc that live in and on us) is just starting to be discovered in modern medicine. The microbiome is highly regulated by the sources of nutrition aka food we eat! I find this remarkable and complex. I have now dedicated my practice to learning about the tools and skills to understand how food impacts and becomes medicine in our very complex bodies.
-Bethany Sprague, FNP; Functional Medicine Family Nurse Practitioner