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Nutrition & Stress: How England and Chicken Saved My Life

20 J0000009UTC 2011

The inevitable plague of the nutrition student is that she will a) begin to think that every ailment has fallen upon her and that b) treat herself as a nutrition and supplement guinea pig with all kinds of fascinating home, natural, herbal and fortifying remedies.

The truth is that my classmates and I have discovered ailments we never knew we had (parasites from a decade lived in Nepal, H.Pylori bacteria, Lyme’s disease and some weird genetic anomalies too) and that, yes, we do guinea pig ourselves out, especially when we are short on dough. We do elimination diets to learn about our food intolerances, up our antioxidants and immune support and (shockingly) try to get more sleep.

I finally accepted just the other day that I have what we call adrenal fatigue. My adrenal glands, in charge of much of the endocrine system (hormones, neurotransmitters, heart rate, temperature, metabolism, sodium/potassium, stress, sleep), are flat worn out. Thus, so am I. What brings a person to this state? Lots of things can– but namely stress. Stress from the inside like a bacteria, parasite or virus or prolonged stress from the outside world. Lots of people have that. And, guess what? Lots of people have adrenal fatigue. No more get-up-and-go.

English manor house

I was in the kitchen smashing sweet potatoes and thought that if it were not for England and chicken I probably would have fallen down from adrenal exhaustion and not gotten up a long time ago– a couple of years before nutrition school; then I never would have known about adrenal fatigue or written this entry.

After a good deal of personal chaos, relational loss and inside turmoil I should have picked myself up, given myself the ‘suck it up’ speech, gotten a new job and given it some hustle. Instead, I spent my life savings (not much) and went on a spiritual retreat in England in the middle of winter. I stayed in an old, drafty manor house in the countryside with a bunch of strangers. I tended gardens, cleaned old banisters, tried to chop wood, read dusty books and had simple meals around huge wood tables. I was cold, foreign and completely safe in that place. I had nowhere to be, nothing to do and nothing to be. I simply was, for six weeks of my life. I started breathing, just barely, again. Enough to come back home to ‘real life.’ Locating space to relieve stress will save actual cells in your body. It’s true.

And chicken. I don’t know when this started but my husband and I started buying, preparing and eating whole chickens. Not frozen, rubbery breast pieces. Not red-and-white striped buckets of breaded legs. The whole chicken, sucking the meat off of every bone. Why is this important? Because before this, I was not getting nearly enough clean, healthy protein— like much of our culture. Through protein our bodies build themselves again each night– heal wounds, grow hair and nails, build neurotransmitters for brain function, build hormones for sex and other (lesser) functions and carry on countless functions we never have to consider until those functions fail. Before the whole chickens, I was pretty much starving. Chicken began to repair me.

Now I am working on the rest— the coffee and alcohol will go, so I can begin to repair those sad little adrenal glands that have so much power over the whole body and mind. When the fog lifts perhaps a trip to England, or maybe just a celebratory chicken dinner.

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