Eat, Pray, Trust

The last blog article I shared was all about trust. Trust God. He will always have you. He will carry you. He will cover you. I find it ironic that this blog article is more about questioning. It’s about always questioning, researching, and being very involved in your own family’s health and even your own family’s diagnosis.

While I am very grateful for health professionals, and even have two family members who are nurses and a good family friend who’s a doctor, I know that the only person who knows my body or my family the way I do is me. We can be the best researchers and “co-diagnosers” when we decide to take our health into our own hands as much as possible.

How What We Eat Affects Our Health

The first time I started doing my research to try to discover what was going on with my family’s health was when my son Joseph was eight years old. He was constantly having migraines, and we were worried. We took him to his pediatrician, who ordered an MRI on his brain. Of course, as we mommas often do, my thoughts went to worst-case scenario, and I was worried about him possibly having a brain tumor.

In the end, it turned out that Joseph’s sinuses were really inflamed. So his doctor gave us a prescription for nasal steroids and told us to start using that to help with the inflammation.

I had researched steroids before because I had battled eczema on my hands and looked into steroid cream to help heal them. But when I had researched the different creams, I also learned that over time, the creams thin the skin, so I had decided not to use them.

So when Joseph’s doctor recommended giving him a steroid nasal spray, the first thing my mind went to was, “But won’t that possibly thin the skin of his nasal cavity?”

It was enough to get me thinking. As soon as we got home, I opened up my laptop and began to research. I started looking up headaches in 8-year-olds, and then considered that almost all of my young kiddos would have horrible gas pains and would get terrible eczema on their hands every winter.

Within about 20 minutes, I found my answer. Gluten. I discovered that kids who are intolerant to gluten will often get migraines, terrible gas pains, and eczema on their hands. 

That day was the beginning of our gluten-free journey. This was not an easy decision, as much of our food was comprised of macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, sandwiches, etc. The gluten-free bread, crackers, and other food items were not popular at the time and were very difficult to find and expensive, to say the least.

Tough as it was, within two weeks, our kiddos’ hands cleared up, and from that point on, Joseph rarely had headaches, and the screaming gas pains from all of my younger children were gone.

This began a new phase in our parenting. Trent and I began to research everything. We learned how important it is to listen to our gut, do our own research, and always ask questions.

Our family has been pretty darn healthy over the years, but I can say any time we have been sick, we’ve been able to do the research, come up with a basic diagnosis, and then when needed, consult with a doctor. 

Very rarely have we had to turn to medications, but when needed, we’ve always been so grateful that they are there. It’s crazy what we’ve learned about food and how it affects our bodies, too. For example, did you know that eating processed foods like white flour and white sugar can cause anxiety and depression? That all of the preservatives in many foods that we find in those middle of the store grocery aisles can leave us feeling overall sick and tired?

It was such an eye-opener for our family to see how much the food we were eating was affecting our bodies. Over the years, we have “cleaned up” our eating. We regularly do not eat gluten (as it clearly affects our family), we focus on buying whole foods, and we cook most of what we eat from scratch.

And, we research pretty much everything. We have learned about hormones in the meat we eat, pesticides on vegetables and fruit, and effects of additives and sugar on our bodies. The more we have learned, the more we have been able to change our lifestyle and food choices to help us feel better and have more energy on a regular basis.

Importance of VITAMINS

This past February, I started having some health issues. My legs became covered with eczema and were extremely itchy all the time. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, scratching my legs, and was in constant pain from all of the itchy bumps and sores. This isn’t the first time that I’ve had eczema, but it is the first time that it was this bad and definitely the first time that it’s lasted this long, as we’re now in the month of August and my legs are still covered with eczema. 

Early spring, I was hit with heart palpitations, which seemed to get worse every month. A friend finally pointed out that it always seemed to happen right before my cycle. My chest would tighten, I struggled to breathe, and my heart would continuously flutter.

Then there were the hot flashes, the migraines, one thing after another. I wasn’t sleeping. I had a hard time keeping track of my thoughts. I was tired, overwhelmed, and always in a state of not feeling good.

As we were praying hard for answers, I found a doctor who practices functional medicine and finally made an appointment. I didn’t want to spend any money on myself for doctors. We had a million other priorities, but my husband insisted, and I knew I needed to go.

The doctor ordered quite a few tests to get to the bottom of what was happening in my body. We checked vitamin levels, blood levels, thyroid, and hormones.

Even though I didn’t 100% know what was going on, based on my research, I was already pretty darn sure the doc was going to tell me that I had thyroid issues, hormone issues, a MTHFR gene mutation, and depleted vitamin levels.

When the blood test results came back, the doctor told me that I was extremely low on vitamins like vitamin D, B vitamins, potassium, iodine, and a handful of others.

The other tests revealed that my thyroid was low, and my hormones were practically non-existent–although my husband said he would beg to differ on that one, LOL.

When we eat healthy, it’s pretty easy to think that we get most of what we need through the food and vegetables we’re eating regulary. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Studies have shown that the amount of nutrition in our food today is not equal to the amount of nutrition that was in our food when our parents and grandparents were growing up. Due to over-farming, pesticides and numerous other issues, our soil is depleted, and our fruits and vegetables are, too.

So even when we’re eating a healthy diet, it’s important to find supplements that will balance the vitamin levels in our bodies. Another important fact to remember is that not all vitamins are created equal. Many vitamins have fillers or additives. Many contain trace amounts of harmful ingredients. It’s always good to research a brand before buying into it.

As far as brands you can trust, I’d ask friends, find a good nutritionist, or read trusted reviews on the Internet. I’ve heard that Costco has quite a few clean vitamins. After my doctor’s appointment, I purchased quite a few pharmaceutical-grade vitamins from my doctor as they are usually 99% in purity with no binders. A good brand that I have also found is called “Pure Encapsulations.” 

Good vitamins are not the cheapest vitamins out there, which can be frustrating if you’re on a tight budget or have a big family like we do. At the same time, it’s so important to make sure that whatever we’re putting into our bodies is clean, so it’s actually helping us to become healthier, not causing the opposite effect.

I’m happy to say that my heart fluctuations have stopped, as have the horrible hot flashes, and the overall feeling of unwellness. I’ve been on these new vitamins for three months now and am so grateful for the changes I’m seeing in my body and, more importantly, my brain.

Finding Balance

When we begin to do the research and become actively involved in our own health, it can be overwhelming. If you struggle with the “all or nothing” mentality as I have over the years, it’s even harder. It can feel impossible to do everything right without becoming completely overwhelmed or worried about going broke over the cost of everything.

To be honest, there have been times when knowing everything we’ve learned about food has been overwhelming, because the more we learned, the more impossible it seemed that we could actually eat food and be healthy. That being said, over the years, we’ve learned that an all or nothing mentality is too overwhelming and difficult with this many kiddos, so we’ve learned to find balance so we can enjoy life, yet still strive to be healthy. 

We purchase organic foods when we can, but don’t stress about what we’re unable to buy in the organic or grass-fed section. We also have those days when we order Little Caesar’s pizza, or we buy the kiddos Doritos and let them have a coke or root beer. Sometimes we even head over to our favorite burger joint, Spelunkers, and enjoy a big juicy burger and fries. Those days don’t happen very often, but we’ve found that a little bit of balance has been good.

We’ve added vitamins into our daily routine and just try to stay aware of what we’re eating and how everyone feels so that if we need to tweak what we’re doing, we can make those changes.

We’re bound to have struggles in this life, but when we look at the bigger picture, it always comes back to the fact that our body is a vessel to take us from this life into the next.

michelle hillaert

Due to a life-long battle with OCD and perfectionism, when I get overwhelmed with the “what ifs” and the imperfect nature of our lifestyle, I have to turn back to prayer. I ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us on anything that needs to change and then go back to trust. Jesu ufam tobie…Jesus, I trust in you.

We’re bound to have struggles in this life, but when we look at the bigger picture, it always comes back to the fact that our body is a vessel to take us from this life into the next. And when we do have health issues or struggles, we have a wonderful opportunity to give it back to God, offer it up, and then sit in that trust.

There’s always some sort of lesson we can learn in the midst of it all, whether it’s working on our patience, working on being better at offering up the pain and discomfort, or offering up the pain we feel when a family member or friend is hurting.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, “What am I supposed to learn from all of this? What is God calling me to?”

Then we do our best and leave the rest to Him, because as always…He’s got this.

About Author

Michelle Hillaert brings more than 25 years of experience in roles relating to technology and communications to GIVEN. With an undergraduate degree in Communication Arts from Franciscan University of Steubenville, her portfolio includes emergency management, web, application and graphic design, marketing and social media management, podcasting, and online consulting. In her previous employment, Michelle played a major role in the development and improvement of internal systems as well as the development and expansion of the Quality Management System. She also managed processes and communication with stakeholders in major application builds of state-run programs. In addition to this work, Michelle has dedicated herself to helping women live their full potential as a doula, life and fitness coach, motivational speaker and author. Having four daughters, nine sisters, and having journeyed with many women over the years, Michelle has experienced first-hand how as women, we often hesitate to respond with our gifts because we don’t recognize that we are uniquely gifted and that the world – especially those we encounter on a daily basis – needs us to share these gifts. In light of this, she has a passion and proven capacity for flourishing young women in the Church through mentoring and leadership development. Michelle has found that transformation often happens in those quiet moments of prayer and reading the works of the saints, such as the “Dialogue” by St. Catherine of Siena and makes daily reading and continual growth an essential part of her day. Outside of work, Michelle has been married for over 23 years to her husband, Trent. They reside in Front Royal, Virginia and together have six children, 2 in college and four still at home, along with three dogs, a cat and 27 chickens. She is a soccer mom and singer who loves leading praise and worship. “It’s only when we truly know how unspeakably much we are loved by our Father and how He is constantly pursuing us – even in those moments when we’re running in the opposite direction – that we can come to understand that our identity lies in His love. With this knowledge, we are able to step out in confidence and as inspired by St. Pope John Paul II, live fearlessly.”

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