My dear friend Elisabeth and I were pregnant together with our first babies—my oldest and her daughter Alyce (a-leese) in this testimony. This story about how a new understanding of health and how God created our bodies brings so much joy to my heart. I was a pleasure to dialog with Elisabeth about the value of healthy food—in health but also how that relates to all of life. These stories are why I love what I do. These stories are the Shaklee Effect.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” –Hippocrates
Guest post by Elisabeth Enos
I’ll admit, in the area of health, I have lived a pretty blessed life. Up until my pregnancy, I had never been hospitalized. I have never broken a bone, had a food allergy, wasn’t stung by a bee until my early twenties, and have only had the flu a handful of times in my entire life. So when I got the call from my doctor’s nurse regarding my 25 week ultrasound, (you know the one where they tell you whether you are having a boy or girl), I was stunned. Well, more like hysterical. Her voice still rings in my ear,
“Mrs. Enos, we have found something on your baby’s left kidney and we are going to ask that you make an appointment with a maternal fetal specialist.”
“What does that mean?!” I gulped between tears that came so fast, my throat hurt from lack of proper breathing.
“Honey, I’m sorry. I really don’t have any information other than that. But please know, sometimes these things can be false readings. That’s why you need to make the appointment.”
But her silver lining in my cloud of fear was nothing more than an illusion; something was wrong with my baby’s kidney and they couldn’t be sure what until she was born. So, every month, sometimes every two weeks, I trudged to the maternal fetal specialist’s office for another ultrasound just to monitor and make sure nothing else had gone awry. Thankfully, it didn’t. My precious daughter was born pretty quickly on a Tuesday morning at the end of April, and she came out with a beautiful Apgar score. All was right with the world.
She had a VCUG done the first day of life, which is where they catheterize you and place special ink in your body to monitor how the urine flows in and out of the kidneys and bladder. The diagnosis became clear: she had kidney reflux. This condition arises when the ureters, the tubes that attach from your kidney to your bladder, are curly versus straight. This causes urine to back up into the kidneys, which also can make some people more susceptible to urinary tract infections. And with reflux, a UTI is a big deal because now you have infected urine directly in a major organ, leading to a kidney infection.
Alyce had the worst possible case one can have. On a scale of one to five, with one being the least amount of reflux, Alyce was a five. Not even a day old, she was assigned a pediatric nephrologist that placed her on antibiotics for preventative measures, the thought being that if she did have bacteria in the urine, the antibiotic would kill it and lessen her chance of infection.
Until the age of three years and eight months, Alyce has taken a “preventative” antibiotic. Every. Single. Day. She has been assigned a pediatric nephrologist, urologist, gastroenterologist, and psychologist to monitor her condition. All this fuss over a birth defect that I was repeatedly told by the best of the best doctors care was “not life threatening.”
Could have fooled me.
So, I did what any mom would do. I took my daughter to her $500 doctor’s appointments that were always located in downtown Chicago at the heart of either rush hour or my daughter’s nap time, gave her medicine, and tried to feed her what I thought was a proper diet. I breast fed her for 15 months, gave her homemade baby food, and did my best to keep her away from germs.
It really wasn’t all that bad and I actually started to forget about the condition until she got her first UTI at 8 months. We had all contracted (accept for me, thank GOD!) a horrible stomach flu at Christmas that was quite debilitating. I just thought Alyce, being still an infant, was having a hard time getting over it. Really, the flu had turned into a UTI. She became lethargic and droopy, and when her urine output stopped, I finally rushed her to the ER and she was hospitalized for four days. We spent her first New Year’s in the hospital.
She received intravenous drugs and oral medication after we left to kill the bacteria. After she recovered, our urologist explained to me that since Alyce had been on antibiotics since birth, she had grown a resistance to amoxicillin, so now she needed to go on a “stronger” preventative antibiotic.
And so round and round we went. And she kept getting infections. UTI’s that required hospitalizations because the types of bacteria Alyce kept contracting were “mysteriously” pathogens that had built antibiotic resistance and needed harsher drugs. So we would stay in the hospital. Get more IV drugs. Take another oral medication. And then start back up on a preventative antibiotic.
In the meantime, Alyce’s diet had gone down the tubes. Listen, I am not a picky eater. I have always loved brussel sprouts, begged for more beets, and outside of boiled liver and onions, there is not a meal I won’t eat. But my daughter….she is the pickiest eater on the planet. She is a much better eater now, but to this day, broccoli will make her gag.
And then on top of it all, seeing your kid suffer tons of catheterizations, endless doctor’s appointments, too many trips to the ER to count, you kind of just want to make them happy. So if it was a particularly trying day and she wanted fries and chicken nuggets, why not? I mean the esteemed children’s hospital we paid tens of thousands of dollars to, had a fast food joint located in their facility. They obviously shared the same feelings as I did, right?
But this poor eating led to laziness and negligence in our nutrition. To top it off, over the years I had developed into a germaphobe and basically couldn’t leave my house without a Lysol can. I will self-admit, I got so bad, I sanitized the hand sanitizer. Making eggs was like suiting up for open heart surgery; one drip of egg white on the floor and I practically put on a hazmat suit because I was so afraid Alyce would touch it and get some sort of infection that would lead to a UTI. And then we would be back in the hospital.
I avoided family. I avoided friends. I lived my life in a bubble. No, honestly, not even as happy as a bubble. It was a cage. A prison. A tormented life of fear over the next infection. When is it coming? When?!
And they did keep coming. One after the other. We would have months of good health here and there, which would help me calm done some, just to be replaced by seasons of illness. When we moved into our new home this past August, that’s when it really got crazy. Alyce didn’t have UTIs, but she was sick all the time. From August to early December of last year, she had four ear infections, croup, the flu, some sort of crazy throat infection, and finally, the worst UTI of her life. This UTI was odd because all her other ones were contracted from E. coli, which is usually the culprit behind all UTIs. This time though,it was a drug-resistant, mutated form of the common bacteria called pseudomonas. Pseudomonas is everywhere. It’s on you right now, it’s on your walls, it’s in our soil, it’s not that big of a deal. But this particular strain was a real nightmare and the only way to fix it was by giving her a potent antibiotic, so strong in fact, that the nurses told me it is commonly used for kids with cancer. She received this intravenously for 15 days, three times a day. She went home with the IV in her arm and I got to play nurse for two weeks, giving her medicine that took 45 minutes to administer. Me, taught by a nurse, of how to open the PIC line, give her saline solution, then the drugs, followed by a round of blood clot medicine.
It was incredible. An experience that I would find to be one of the worst, and also best times of my life. While still in the “worst” stage, I cried out to doctors, pleading with them to please tell me if there was anything I could do to prevent these infections. All answers were, “No. Give her the daily antibiotic.” There was a corrective surgery, but interestingly enough, Alyce didn’t qualify because of some other medical issues that could have caused major complications. My astute, highly sought after urologist even finally looked at me and said, “Guys, your daughter is really a mystery to me. She falls into the small percentage of cases where I don’t know what course of action to take next.”
Why, God? That is all my mind, my being, my heart could utter. It was not out of anger though. I promised Him a year ago, after going through so many seasons of being mad at Him, that I would never, no matter what trial he wanted me to endure, get mad at Him again. Never. So I pleaded, like a mother in labor, “please show me the way. Please show me the way.”
That’s the amazing thing about God’s Promises: He does show the way! He told me I needed to change Alyce’s nutrition and quick. I didn’t know how. But I knew He would show me. I contacted my friend Harper for information on Shaklee supplements. I knew her family enjoyed great health and that would be the start. She and her nutritionist discussed the importance of changes in diet and the value of nutrition and pointed me in the direction of supplements for Alyce like Alfalfa, an immune system support supplement called Nutriferon, and a kid’s fish oil chew for brain, eye, and immune health development (Mighty Smarts). I ordered them right away.
But there was more to the puzzle, more pieces to find. As I was sitting there feeding her another not so nutritious lunch, my husband “randomly” started reading to me an article on coconuts. It said that coconuts are antifungal, anti-parasitic, and basically go into the body and remove bacteria and viruses when consumed. I did a double take. ‘Are you serious? I never knew that!’ My mind started to churn; ‘what if Alyce ate coconut? Would that possible naturally kill the germs causing her UTIs and other illnesses? Is it as simple as feeding her the right foods?’
So I went on the hunt, devouring books, articles, documentaries, pod casts, anything I could find on boosting the immune system through food. And I learned about how the immune system actually works. Seriously, my faith in God never grew so large until I learned about what this complex personal army can do! It is an amazing function of our body that unfortunately has been untapped and beaten up by years of eating processed food, refined sugars, and bad meat.
Immediately, Alyce went off all refined sugars and eventually processed foods. She won’t eat greens or carrots, so I bought a juicer and juice heads of kale, carrots, green apples, and pomegranate seeds for a special super drink she consumes twice a day. We avoid foods that contain vegetable oils in their ingredients list as best we can, and do avoid ALL packaged food that contains soybean oils. We eat a lot of coconut in any shape or form: oil, shreds, flakes, water, milk, manna, etc. We replaced all white sugar with coconut sugar. We eat sprouted bread that contains no flour. We only eat organic produce and meats, and this summer, we are praying to be able to afford a service that delivers our produce, meat, and eggs straight from a local, organic farm in Illinois.
My philosophy with health is this—get as many nutrients as we can from our food, then “supplement” with supplements. Ideally, we should be eating a diet where we receive all our nutrients from food, but unfortunately, that is usually not the case. As much as we try, it is almost impossible to eat a perfect diet and our food supply is not what it used to be and our foods don’t contain the nutrients they used to. As much as I might try, getting Alyce to eat fish is impossible, so she gets fish oil. I give her the alfalfa supplements in her green juice that I make because it is just another boost of those phytonutrients that keep her immune system up and going.
And as for my daughter? She is a completely new child. She used to have fevers at least once a week. She was timid and anxious around children and usually cried at the few play dates I kept. She had tantrums every day, multiple times a day, and was addicted to sugar, fat, and oils. Today? Not a single fever, sniffle, bad night’s sleep since we changed her nutrition. Her attitude has changed, her speech improved, and she interacts well with other children. We are not in a cage; she can explore the world freely and will actually be starting preschool in a few weeks. You know, that germ filled place where kids sneeze in each other’s faces? Yeah.
But I am not afraid. God has shown me the grace and calling He has for us to live healthy, eating a whole foods, non-processed diet that He created! He did not create Bagel Dogs. Sorry rabbit, no more Trix at my house. But he did create dates, and delicious grains that allow me to make her a breakfast that not only keeps her healthy, but tastes better than Red 41 and high fructose corn syrup. I have lost weight, so has my husband, and I don’t count one single calorie. My husband’s sister who is 16 years old and lives with us, has had asthma her whole life. She doesn’t anymore. My allergies are almost completely gone and my brain is so alive, I actually have more time that I used to. Seriously. I don’t have to lament on the couch because I am worn out, anxious, and tired. I use that time to read, write, and help others change their eating habits. My marriage is happier. And honestly, I feel more connected to God because I am putting in my body the very things He created for us so we could be healthy and live out His Purpose.
I mean, after all, isn’t that what makes life worth living? If you don’t eat right today, don’t fret. Just make changes NOW and not tomorrow. Seek out people who are living the healthy life. Ask questions and don’t stop until God brings you the answers. My family and I are not magical people. Anyone can enjoy this health, I truly believe that with all my heart.
Most importantly, God gave us this life to enjoy. What’s stopping you?
Thank you for reading my story.