Monday, January 27, 2014

Gratitude for Food Allergies

I recently received a copy of the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom, which advocates for a whole-foods, plant-based diet as the healthiest diet available to humans.  It has caused me to ponder, yet again, the question, "If my children outgrew their dairy and egg allergies, would our family go back to eating the way we used to?" Wouldn't I just be so thrilled to be able to go back to eating cheese, cheese, and more cheese, like we did when we were vegetarians for so many years? Surprisingly enough to my former self, my answer now is "no," for both health and religious reasons that go hand-in-hand.

In Discovering the Word of Wisdom, the author, Jane Birch, argues that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the diet most in accordance with the guidelines for health (known as the "Word of Wisdom") followed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For those who may not be familiar with this code of health, it is a scriptural revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith that states that meat "is to be used sparingly; and it is pleasing [to God] that [it] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine" and that "All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground." Surprisingly, considering the clear directions given to us that we are to consume vegetables, fruits, and grains as the mainstays of our diet and use meat only in times of food scarcity, not many members of our church are vegetarian, let alone vegan. The book contains many testimonial accounts of people who have reversed numerous chronic ailments by switching to a vegan, whole-foods, plant-based diet, which they felt was more in accordance with what we consider to be God's law of health. The scientific and anecdotal evidences provided in the book and on the related website are compelling, and while even I had not thought that my religion encouraged a vegan diet, I found myself persuaded that such a diet is certainly in accordance with the commandments we have been given. "Perhaps," I started to think to myself as I read, "this is why my prayers for my children to be healed of their food allergies have not been answered in the way I had hoped..."

In the months following my son's diagnosis with severe food allergies, I had an almost constant prayer running through my mind, pleading with the Lord to heal him. But as I prayed, I always felt in my heart that it was the wrong prayer: I knew that I was not praying for the Lord's will, that this challenge was here for a reason and that He wasn't going to just take it away. Still, I grieved for the loss of the life I expected as a mom, with family trips to Baskin Robbins and endless boxes of macaroni and cheese. I was not ready to give it up.

 When I had my second child, I prayed that my new-born daughter would be spared from food allergies. That prayer was not answered either, and at first I despaired.  I mean, I cried and cried, and cried some real crocodile tears. I thought I couldn't have any more kids: How could I purposely give another being such a life of deprivation? How could I feed my children?  Up until that point, I had been operating on the assumption that my son's whole allergy fiasco was temporary. When I saw Abiline's numerous allergic reactions, I gave up that delusion and stopped fighting against the path God had so clearly laid out for me.  I completely changed my diet to align with my children's and went to work in the kitchen figuring out a new way to cook without dairy, eggs, or nuts.  I quickly saw the benefits of a vegan diet, as I got sick much less frequently and had revitalized skin and over-all energy. Still, if you asked me back three years ago if I would have gratefully gone back to a vegetarian diet if my kids could join me, I would have answered with an emphatic "Yes!"

So what changed my mind?  A recent trip to an organic dairy farm scheduled by an unassuming fellow pre-school co-op parent played a part. If that is how the allegedly pampered organic cows are treated-- kept in perpetual pregnancy with their calves taken from them at birth, calves that are then forced to wean from cow's milk so that humans can drink it instead--there is no way I can ever support the dairy industry again with good conscience.  If I still had some dairy desires after that, they were smothered when I read Discovering the Word of Wisdom, which gives many of the same arguments as The Kind Diet for why the consumption of any and all animal products damages our health, the earth God has blessed us with, and the animals he has entrusted to our care, coupled with many persuasive religious arguments for how God would want us to care for our bodies. (I must admit, though, I am not ready to go oil-free as the die-hard whole foods, plant-based diet eaters demand. A little olive oil on my roasted sweet potatoes? Yes, please. For those with healthy weights and cholesterol levels, I see no reason to live a completely ascetic existence.)

Don't get me wrong: I would love for my children to outgrow their food allergies, so that they would not have to live a life in fear of anaphylaxis and possible death if they come into contact with the wrong foods. We would all gratefully do without that part of the food allergy reality. But, all in all, I consider the allergies our family has been given as a blessing that has forced us to take better care of our bodies than we would have ever done if we could have chosen to keep eating dairy and processed junk foods. If the day came that we were no longer forced to eat this way, I would still choose to do so.

This recipe is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday Whole Food Fridays Wellness Weekend

1 comment:

  1. I also feel this way. I was not a vegetarian prior to my son's multiple allergies. It's easy to be vegan now since my son is allergic to dairy and eggs (along with several other things) AND after having seen Forks Over Knives. If I hadn't been forced to pay attention to what I was eating or feeding my son, I would still be eating the crap I was. I can't tell any difference in how I feel physically, but I feel better in myself for making this positive change for my family.