I grew-up in the Midwest, where food was everything. Lots and lots of food everywhere. Food means community, food means family, food means love. Food at family gatherings, church potlucks, baby showers, funerals, school events. Casseroles, Jell-O salad, ice cream trucks—so much delicious food.
Food got even better when I moved to California, and I had a French boyfriend in my 20s. He taught me about dining, taking time with food, oysters and French cheese. He taught me about the pleasure of food.
I first learned about the power of food as medicine when my Kaiser nurse practitioner refused to treat my PMS with the birth control pill. She told me “If you don’t want PMS, change your diet.” So, I bought a book on healing PMS with food, started eating more vegetables and less sugar, and the PMS nearly went away.
At the same time, I was working at the EPA as an environmental scientist, regulating water pollution that runs off from large animal feeding operations. I learned how powerful the dairy, beef and poultry industries are. I learned how we produce our food in this country.
Food as medicine took on a new meaning when I entered naturopathic medical school. I started seeing the power of food to transform people’s health, including my own. My first year of medical school, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s. It’s an autoimmune condition that causes hypothyroidism. I had been feeling sick for a long time. I had eczema all over my arms and legs, deep cystic acne, terrible digestion, panic attacks and fatigue.
One of the most common drivers of Hashimoto’s is gluten. When I first tried taking gluten out of my diet, I had a lot of resistance, because gluten tastes so good, and it’s everywhere. I also didn’t feel much better. It wasn’t until several years later when I went on the paleo diet, that my health completely changed. Going paleo created one of the most profound changes in my health. No more eczema, fatigue or brain fog. My digestion cleared-up too. I felt like a normal human being. I got my life back.
Accepting this new way of eating has been a journey. There’s grief—the sadness of missing the foods I’ve always loved, of traveling abroad and not trying every food in that country. There’s shame that my body is different and requires people to sometimes go out of their way for me. There’s the isolation—not being able to eat at every restaurant or at a lot of people’s houses. And there’s been guilt, eating a lot of meat while knowing the cost to our climate and planet.
I’ve had all of these feelings, while at the same time seeing how dramatically better, I feel eating this way. When I travel, I have energy and I’m clear minded. I can get through my day with ease and support other people with their health problems. The antibodies to my thyroid have nearly gone away. I’m at the point now, where I would never go back. The pleasure of those foods doesn’t outweigh the health benefits I get from not eating them. I’ve found pleasure in the way I eat now. I choose my health and wellbeing.
Editor’s note: Jenny is my naturopath, and I credit her for helping me get my life back on my own Hashimoto’s journey. This is not a sponsored post—I asked Jenny to share her story in the hopes it would inspire others to seek another opinion for how to heal, starting with their diet. Learn more about Jenny and her practice at https://www.drjennymann.com/
Dr. Jenny Mann has over a decade of medical experience. She has helped thousands of patients to heal from chronic illness. Because of her years in integrative family practice, she is well versed in both conventional and integrative medicine.
Dr. Mann is passionate about helping people break out of ‘cycles of illness’. She loves seeing people start to understand what’s truly causing the illness and move into a state of feeling good each day.
Dr. Jenny understands the struggles of digestive issues and autoimmune disease because she has struggled with these same issues. After living in the Brazilian Amazon in college, she returned with severe digestive issues, which developed into fatigue, eczema, and brain fog.
Doctors weren’t giving her any answers.
In her first year of medical school, she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition. She spent her education focused on learning about the root causes of autoimmune disease, and how to treat them.
The key for Jenny was healing her digestive issues. In doing so, it was as if a curtain lifted, and her vitality and energy came back stronger than ever.
She has dedicated her practice to helping people find this healing, and she has helped hundreds of patients to heal their digestive issues (IBS, gas and bloating, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s), and other autoimmune and autoimmune-like conditions (especially people with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s, Hashimoto’s, and chronic fatigue).
Dr. Mann understands the pain and frustration of wanting to participate in the world but being unable to because you are held back by digestive issues, fatigue, and illness. She loves supporting her patients to heal and loves seeing them transform and get their lives back.