The “best” doctors across the Eastern seaboard told me I was crazy. Mayo Clinic told me I was crazy. Even though I was lying on a hospital bed hooked up to morphine to relieve my intense, mysteriously undiagnosed bodily pain I had for years, my colleagues thought I was crazy too. No one believed in the pain I was feeling. Did I give in, give up, or break down? No. I didn’t give up. Instead, I took matters into my own hands. And changed my own life.
I struggled for five and a half years with chronic leg swelling (20-30 lbs. of water weight every day by 3PM) and severe digestive issues while pursuing a marketing and advertising career in corporate America: VOGUE, Ralph Lauren Corporate and the NBA. I never let anyone know what was going on besides my family. I felt gross, embarrassed, bloated, foggy-brained, confused and frustrated. Instead of listening to me, doctors wrote me prescriptions for countless pills that didn’t work. How was a 26-year-old girl to go on a date with swollen legs and chronic pain when all she could wear were spandex and gulp down water pills instead of cocktails?
One evening in 2007, I was rushed to the St. Vincent’s Cancer Center in NYC with chronic low white blood cells. They performed a bone marrow biopsy only 10 minutes after I’d walked out the door from my job. I was told to start making appointments at Sloan Kettering- that I had leukemia. I exhausted all the doctors in NYC, NJ, Connecticut and Philadelphia, and had countless MRI’s, CT Scans, endoscopies, colonoscopies, X-Rays, blood tests, genetic tests, bone marrow biopsies, etc., only to be told that there was nothing wrong with me. I ventured out to Mayo Clinic in 2010 to hear all over again that there was nothing wrong- all the while my health continued to deteriorate. My general practitioner even told my sister that I was insane, and needed to take drugs to stop the madness. After having kale from a farmers’ market in December of 2010, I contracted parasites, pathogens, and numerous cases of bacteria overgrowth, was put on steroids and painkillers—and disability from my job. The worst part? My colleagues at the NBA thought I was kidding and Human Resources would call me on the phone to tell me that they didn’t believe me. The leg swelling got so bad I could barely move, and then I found huge cysts on the tops of my feet, which stayed for 3 years. No one could figure out what they were.
And just like Pam and Karen sitting at a bar in 2009, who decided they needed a change, to become “unstuck”, so did I. Clearly, the Western doctors, for all their degrees in the world, and my corporate job that did not support or believe me, wasn’t going to help me get any better. So I changed doctors, quit my job- and just like the promise of a new direction, I changed my own life. I sought alternative options. It wasn’t until I began working with an Integrative Medical Doctor that I learned I was suffering from heavy metal accumulation in my body’s tissues and that I was born without the gene to absorb folate- key in detoxification. I was confused as to why Mayo Clinic and all the hospitals didn’t find the heavy metal problems. I soon learned that Western medicine only tests for heavy metals in your blood and my blood’s heavy metal levels were great- it was the heavy metals in my body’s tissues that were affected. A urine test showed I was off the charts on every single heavy metal. I had to have my mercury fillings removed and replaced with porcelain fillings, a huge process that required a vacuum so that the heavy metals were not drawn to my brain. I started chelation (process to draw the heavy metals out through an IV) along with taking chelating agents such citrus pectin, vascular homeopathic drops and vitamins.
And as “crazy” as it may be, my painful experience led me to one of my greatest joys in life: helping others heal. I went back to school to learn more about Eastern medicine and nutrition. Using acupuncture, yoga, meditation, herbal medicine, and fresh, organic 100% whole, unprocessed foods, I healed myself and remain 100% symptom free nearly five years later. I’ve been lactose intolerant since I was a kid but also cut out gluten in college when I was so sick from eating foods such as beer and soy sauce. I am still unable to consume gluten and dairy (except an occasional Greek yogurt), as well as grains, oils, fruits and sugar. These past few years, I discovered I am allergic to sulfates and cannot digest packaged foods. Therefore, I eat like a cave woman, and follow a Clean Lifestyle filled with lean proteins, health fats and lots of veggies. It has changed my life and now it’s my full time job- helping others feel good and finding the real solution to their ongoing pain. I share my passion for and approach to ‘Clean Eating’ by focusing on natural whole foods and ingredients that are good for your body through my gluten-free blog, The Healthy Apple (www.TheHealthyApple.com), where I provide balanced, accessible and engaging information on the most basic components of good health. I also work as a Culinary Nutritionist and Personal Chef in Manhattan, helping people ‘Clean’ up their diet and get on the healthy-eating bandwagon.
For several years I was positive and held my head high, even though I was frustrated and felt like no one listened to me. Do I still have days when I have a stomachache? Yes, but my passion, my pride, my yearning to find an answer and help people just like me to not give up keeps me going. So, I thought I’d share with you a Clean recipe and a peak into my Clean Eating Cleanse that I work on with my clients – you can start anytime- whether you’re looking to lose weight, gain energy or just give your body a nice spring clean-up.
Gluten-Free and Vegan
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked black rice
- 1 pint organic raspberries
- 1 bunch of fresh asparagus, ends removed
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. shredded coconut
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Cook black rice according to package.
- Rise raspberries; set aside. Cut asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, asparagus, lemon zest, scallions, coconut, sea salt and pepper; gently toss to combine. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Remove from fridge; fold in fresh raspberries; gently toss to combine. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Serve chilled.
Guest post by: Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP, Editor-in-Chief of TheHealthyApple.com is a Manhattan based Culinary Nutritionist, Personal Chef, Professional Recipe Developer, Food Photographer and Writer specializing in simple Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free ‘Clean’ recipes for the home cook. Visit Amie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.