Julia shares her Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Recovery story (MCS recovery story) in this wonderful interview. In part 1 here, we explore how her illness came on in childhood and how she struggled with doctors and the label of having a psychosomatic illness.
Then, her MCS suddenly went into remission following a change in environment (makes sense given that MCS is often referred to as environmental illness) But 10 years later she was back in the throes of chronic illness and her multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) had flared worse than ever.
We explore what may have led to all these issues, the impact on her emotional state and mental health and the shocking adversity she faced during her journey with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) and the story of how she found a turning point for her Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) recovery.
Warning: This interview includes discussions around suicidal ideation! _______________________________________________________________________
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|Introduction to Julia's Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Recovery Story
|How Julia's MCS has been there most of her life since childhood
|Julia MCS symptoms from childhood - labelled psychosomatic
|Following respite, Julia worsened when travelling across the world
|After decades of illness, Julia makes the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Connection
|A list of diagnoses and treatments for chronic illness
|Julia explores the psychosomatic clinic for MCS
|Dan & Julia explore a traumatic history & head injury
|Julia's worsening at age 29 - finally a diagnosis of MCS
|What Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome (MCS) feels like
|The gut symptoms Julia experienced with MCS
|The chemical triggers that Julia experienced with MCS
|Julia's shocking outlook - Healing from MCS or Death
|Julia's Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) medical advice
|Julia's Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) turning point
|How Julia resolved her IBS gut issues
|Mould difficulties whilst homeless
|Julia's shift with ANS REWIRE - Psychological vs Neurological - The Diet Connection
|Deep Dive into Julia's diet for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
|Julia talks Brain Training and Chemical Exposure for MCS
Dan Neuffer: Multiple chemical sensitivity treatments that work are hard to find. There is no magic cure, and it doesn’t help that many people think that multiple chemical sensitivity or MCS is fake.
I have shared many recovery stories of people that have experienced multiple chemical sensitivities in the past, but most of them first experienced ME/CFS or chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
That’s why it’s my pleasure to share a multiple chemical sensitivity story with Julia who primarily identified with multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome as opposed to it just being another trigger or symptom of ME/CFS or fibro.
As Julia recovered from MCS using ANS Rewire, there was a special insights portion in the program around some of the brain training strategies and techniques that need the context of the education program, but I wanted to share as much as possible in the public portion to help people gain insights and possible treatment and strategies to explore for their recovery – regardless of whether they do the program or not.
This MCS recovery interview is split into two parts – this first part that talks about Julia’s journey and childhood accident that may have led to such an early onset as well as a detailed breakdown of her dietary approach.
Please note we do talk about Julia’s hardships, including suicidal ideation. If that’s not appropriate for you to listen to, please check out one of the other multiple chemical sensitivity recovery stories on the channel. Just visit the YouTube homepage of the channel and look for the playlist.
I hope you are inspired by Julia’s multiple chemical sensitivity MCS recovery success story.
Just a short but important message regarding the content of this podcast.
The ideas, concepts, and opinions expressed in this recording, website, and associated media and products are intended to be used for educational and information purposes only. Nothing presented is intended to replace your physician nor are they a substitute for medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment.
This podcast is provided with the understanding that the authors, guests, speakers, and publishers are not rendering medical advice of any kind.
I’m very excited to speak with Julia from Germany today. Julia is sharing her story of recovery from multiple chemical sensitivities and ME/CFS.
Hi Julia! Thanks for coming to share your story today!
Julia: Hello Dan! Thank you for having me!
Dan: You’re welcome!
There are people who have the illness start at all different ages. It’s quite often distressing when we see people even who are children have the illness start. Certainly, there were distinct points where your illness – as you described – worsened. I think it was around the age of 18 you were saying.
Dan: But you said you felt you had that illness your whole life.
Julia: Yes, I’ve been living with that illness all my life, but during my time in (3:59 unclear), it was a lot better. When I got back to Germany after flight and a lot of stress moving to a new country, it all tumbled down on me again. I eventually got to realise that I was reacting to everything that was around me – all the chemicals in the air and the food and the water – everything.
Dan: This worsening happened when you came back to Germany at the age of 18. Is that right?
Julia: Yes. Well, the symptoms got worse. I wasn’t aware why it was so, but the symptoms got worse.
Dan: What was it like beforehand? You said you had it all your life. Even as a young child you had it? What did you have? What did you experience?
Julia: I was continuously ill, Basically, all my life, I’ve been the child that was inside watching the kids outside play through the window because I had a sore throat, lung infections, chronic bronchitis, continuous tummy problems and issues. Doctors always thought it was more psychosomatic.
Dan: Okay. Why would they think it was psychosomatic?
Did you have any particular stressors in your life as a child?
Julia: Obviously, I did have stress in my life. I changed country. I moved to Namibia. I guess there is always some type of stress that doctors can refer to, but actually, the reasons were different.
Dan: But you were sick already before you went to Namibia, weren’t you?
Julia: Yes. In Namibia, it got better. In Namibia, actually, it got better.
As I say, in a child’s life, there was stress factors. My grandfather passed away. I had a close relationship with my grandfather. They thought it might have been that, but it was even before that. My mum’s been fighting with doctors for a long time. After a while, the doctors were like, “Well, this mother is just nuts.” Sometimes, they don’t believe the mothers anymore.
Dan: It’s tricky because you were having these symptoms. Like you were saying, you had flu-like symptoms with the sore throat.
Julia: Especially as a child. You want to play. You want to go outside. Then, people tell you, “You are just pretending not to be well,” when you actually want to go outside, you want to play, and you want to be strong and healthy.
I have had this dream that always came back to me in my childhood where I was actually going to my auntie. She was living outside of town. We lived next to a heavy crossing – lots of pollutants. My auntie lived outside on a farm.
I had this dream where I was starting to run with the kids and I was falling behind because my strength just wasn’t getting there. But as long as I was running, all of a sudden, I could get the strength. All of a sudden, I was running. I had the strength to run.
That dream kept coming back to me – over and over again – because I just couldn’t do all those things I’ve wanted to do. By the way, the doctors tell you, “You’re just imagining it.”
Dan: Did your parents believe you at least?
Julia: Yes, of course.
My mum always knew that there was something wrong. She’s been to neuropaths with me. My mum has been trying a lot of things.
When we moved to Namibia, it all of a sudden got better. Different environment.
Dan: Fantastic. It must have been very exciting.
Julia: It was wonderful.
By that time, my tonsils were taken out. My parents believed it was the tonsils all along.
Julia: I thought, “Gosh! It was the tonsils!”
I came back to Germany by the age of 18 then it started all over again.
Dan: First of all, what a relief! Finally, you get the childhood at the age of 10. You were in a strange country, but at least they speak German over there – some of them at least. I guess you had a normal childhood between 10 and 18. You were fairly well in Namibia?
Julia: Yes, until I came back to Germany.
Dan: Until you came back. Okay.
You come back and – boom – it hits you again. When it first happened, what are you thinking? “Something happened!” or “This is like my early childhood when I was here the first time.”
Julia: First of all, I was trying to push it away because I was moving back to Germany. I had to adjust.
I had to adjust to a new culture. I had to adjust to a new job because, obviously, I got a job. I tried to push the symptoms away. I did that for a very long time – trying little things, changing little things in my personal life to deal with it, especially the heartburn.
I had constant heartburn with inflammation or the throat later on.
I tried different diets until it came crashing down ten years later. I had just qualified myself and got a really awesome job – good pay, 35-hour week, in town which was really good – and I couldn’t go there anymore.
One morning, I got up. After I finished my morning toilet, I was sweating. I was shaking. I didn’t have strength anymore. I was nauseous. I had vertigo and headaches. My husband looked at me. Back then, he was still my boyfriend. He said, “Julia, you are not going to work like that. Are you freaking insane? You can’t go to work like that anymore.” He was basically almost shaking me.
Dan: You had already been living with illness for ten years. During those ten years, obviously, in your childhood, you didn’t know what was wrong. You thought it was the tonsils which made sense.
But then, when you came off the plane and you started getting sick and you’re getting all these symptoms, did you start to notice that chemicals were affecting you? Did you notice that smells were affecting you or foods were affecting you during those ten years? Or were you just sick?
Julia: No, I was just sick.
After 11 years or something, I had a girlfriend. She came over every night because we did a lot of arts together. I noticed her perfume. She was wearing one of those old woman perfumes – horrible! A 20-year-old girl wearing the stuff that a granny usually wears.
I noticed that I was getting heartburn and actually feeling nauseous around that smell. I wouldn’t have thought chemical sensitivity. I didn’t know it.
Dan: During those 11 years, did you go to doctors? Did anyone diagnose you with anything?
Julia: Yes, of course, they diagnosed me. They diagnosed me with autoimmune diseases and intolerances and histamine intolerance and (12:19 unclear) and lots of little things they diagnosed. They put you into little heaps and then they look at each and every single one but they never look at the whole body and the whole system and the resonance of it.
Even when I went to natural healers, they saw that I was poisoned. For instance, TCM medicine, I tried acupuncture. He put me into three months. For a time, I was sick for three months. He saw I was intoxicated and he pushed all the detox buttons he could. My body just couldn’t handle it. There you got your (12:19 unclear).
I’ve spent a lot of money on many different things, actually.
Dan: You said autoimmune. Did they diagnose you with a particular autoimmune condition?
Julia: First of all, my thyroid was taken out. They thought it was Hashimoto. Then, they diagnosed me with (13:33 unclear) after they looked at the material. That’s where it started off.
Dan: They diagnosed you with what after the Hashimoto?
Julia: Thyroiditis (13:52 unclear).
Dan: You had your thyroid taken out?
Dan: Fatigue – was that a big symptom during those ten years?
Julia: Yes, it was, and it got worse and worse.
Dan: Did they diagnose you with ME/CFS at this stage?
Dan: They thought maybe the fatigue was due to the thyroid issues?
Julia: Yes, of course, because my levels were still jumping – like they usually do with Hashimoto. They go up and down even though you take the same medication all the time. They said it’s usually that.
Dan: When you had your thyroid taken out, and presumably you had been on thyroxine, did the symptoms get better? Or did they stay the same?
Julia: It was still levels up and down. They couldn’t regulate that. They couldn’t understand why they couldn’t regulate it – just like they couldn’t understand why I have got high cholesterol even though I weighed ten kilos less than I should. It’s cholesterol, right?
Dan: Yes, cholesterol.
Presumably, when you say you had high cholesterol – I don’t know, obviously – was it high triglycerides? Do you know?
Julia: Yes, it was.
Dan: You must be thinking of yourself as a sick person, right? This is just who you are.
Julia: After ten years, I had been to the psychosomatic clinic. I realised, “Maybe my tough African life was a bit too tough. Maybe I’m all nuts. Let’s try to meditate even more.”
Chris said, “Look at you. You are at the middle of yourself. There you stand sniffing. What’s wrong? That is not psychosomatic.” Actually, my partner told me all along, “Julia, don’t put it down to your nervous system or to your psyche. It’s actually your body reacting.”
Dan: It’s not imagined. You aren’t making it up.
Julia: I just went back to ignoring it because you get used to it until a certain stage that you can actually keep that up. For yourself, you just reason, “Well, you’re nuts.”
Dan: Did you have a super tough time in Africa? Did you have trauma?
Julia: Yes, I did.
Dan: What kind of things had you experienced?
Julia: A car accident over leaving my home when I was 16 due to my parents’ religion. Basically, it goes into religion.
Dan: Okay. It was a tough emotional time.
Dan: What about when you were in Germany the first time under the age of ten? Did you have a tough emotional time then? Did you have trauma then?
Julia: No, actually, I didn’t.
Actually, I did have a trauma when I was a small child. I slipped and fell on the back of my head. I had a physical trauma, but I did not have emotional trauma.
Dan: How serious was that fall? What happened?
Julia: It was pretty severe. That’s my brain border – what do you call it? Blood brain border.
Dan: Blood brain barrier?
Dan: Were you in the hospital?
Julia: Yes, I was in the hospital. I had a concussion. It was a real slip in the bathroom.
Julia: Straight on the back of the head. If someone asked you, “Did you fall on the head?” Actually, I did fall on the head.
Dan: Actually, the head touched first. How old were you when that happened?
Julia: I was two. I was really little.
Dan: Did you – or your parents – ever think that maybe that had something to do with all those years you were sick in Germany?
Julia: They didn’t.
Only later through my own research and when I got in the whole MCS topic, I realised that that was probably the initial.
Dan: Let’s jump forward 27 years to when you were 29. Sadly, things get worse. You got your awesome job. You were qualified. You had been wrestling with feeling sick, fatigued, and all these flu-like symptoms predominantly. You have had thyroid issues. You have had your thyroid removed. All of this stuff. Suddenly, things get even worse, and you were not going to work that day.
What happened from there on? How do your symptoms then progress over the next couple of years?
Julia: They got worse and worse.
After six months, we figured out the cause of it. We finally got the topic of MCS. Then, it took us another six months and a lot of money to finance a doctor to give me a scientific diagnostic.
After that, we gave up everything. We left for Uruguay because my thought was, “I was well in Namibia. I can’t really go back to Namibia because my permanent residency expired due to my long absence.” I had been in Germany for too long. I couldn’t go back to Namibia. We thought, “Where do we go?” We took the globe, we spun it, and Uruguay seemed a pretty good place, so we went to Uruguay.
First of all, we were searching for a healing environment because it was clear to me that my body needed to calm down off the toxins. My nervous system needed to calm down. I thought the ocean was a good way to work brain waves synchronised. The body calms down. I always figured the ocean is very healing to me because I’ve been living at the ocean for two years.
Uruguay didn’t quite work out. We came back. We were homeless for quite a while.
Dan: You actually got diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity. What was life like?
Tell me, what were your main symptoms? What were you feeling like?
Julia: You feel as if you had run a marathon and then you had a really hard party because you won that marathon, then at 6:00 in the morning you go to sleep, and you wake up at 9:00 in the morning. That’s how you feel like.
Dan: That sounds exactly perfect, actually. That’s a great description.
Julia: Your complete body is exhausted. Every cell is exhausted while you are fighting with toxicity in your brain, you are really slow, and your head aches.
Dan: What would happen if you smelled things? What kinds of chemicals or smells were an issue?
Julia: It started with brain fog, first of all. I felt nausea.
Basically, if you take a plastic bag, you put some glue in there, and you sniff it, that high is what MCS actually feels like. You feel that high. Your head gets really heavy, thinking gets hard, speaking gets hard. You have problems finding the right words, and the rest of the body follows. Your tummy starts going, “Did I get something wrong? Did I do something wrong?” Your skin starts acting up.
Basically, your whole system screams at you. “Get the hell out of there!”
Dan: What kind of tummy problems did you have?
Julia: I did have constant heartburn. I did get bloating, runny tummy, and the opposite. Basically, you get everything.
Dan: Constipation and diarrhea, yes.
Julia: You get cramps – a lot of cramps, obviously – along with all of that.
Dan: What were the triggers? We talk about chemicals and smells. Specifically, what kinds of things would bother or trigger you?
Julia: It was even chemicals that I didn’t smell sometimes. Sometimes, I would be in a place and I would get symptoms and I didn’t even know where it would come from. It was even chemicals that I didn’t smell. Basically, every scent, every newly bought item because they are all newly produced. If something was gassing out because it was newly produced.
Dan: Like the new car smell?
Julia: Yes! Some people actually like that.
Dan: Perfume, petrol, cleaning products.
Julia: Yes, all of that.
You actually start avoiding all of that. You end up in a safe room because apartments are not even safe because, as soon as you go into the corridor, the woman outside has been cleaning the corridors outside and the smell comes.
You have to imagine your sense of smell is 400 times stronger than that of normal humans.
Dan: I always used to say that I have got the smell of a Labrador – like a dog. Interesting enough, even after I have recovered to some extent – not the same, but to some extent – I would say I still have an enhanced sense of smell.
Julia: I still do have a good sense of smell, but I don’t have the problem of when I’m having people. I don’t smell them on my clothes and hair and skin anymore. I do not have that anymore, but I still smell way better than the rest of the population.
I am still not using chemical products in my home. If you know it’s harmful, why should you use it? I think it goes along with that because a lot of my friends that don’t live chemical-free without MCS actually smell better, too.
Dan: You become housebound or bedbound?
Julia: Yes, I was bedbound.
Dan: How long were you bedbound for?
Julia: It wasn’t one time. It was time and again.
Most of the time, I was bedbound. Then, I’d have a good day where I could actually go out – maybe even take a small walk around. I’m talking about maybe 500 metres then I’d go back completely exhausted.
Dan: This period where you were bedbound, how long did that last? Housebound was in essence on and off. Was it a couple of years before you started the program?
Julia: I was one and a half years, I guess.
Dan: What are you thinking now? What’s your future like? Is this it? Are you going to get well?
What’s your husband saying?
Julia: Dan, we have to talk straight here. I was never accepting that. I was having a three-year plan – either healing or death – because it was clear to me what MCS was doing to my partner. I could not have that for 15 years. Sometimes, patients suffer 15 to 20 years before they die of cancer because of MCS.
I made a very early decision to either heal myself or kill myself.
Julia: Because that life was not me. I am very extroverted. I have to be amongst people. I do art. I like to go into the world. MCS was not a life for me.
Dan: What did the doctors say when they diagnosed you with MCS? What did they say was causing it? What was the cause? What can you do to get better?
Julia: Reduction of exposure.
Dan: That’s it?
Julia: Reduce exposure however possible you can which makes you a prisoner of your own house, basically, obviously.
Dan: How do things turn around? Obviously, you were saying you had a plan. You were going to get better and all of this. Obviously, I think there’s a lot of knowledge you gained through a lot of medical appointments with a lot of specialists – this and that and all these tests.
How does this change from this paradigm of this nightmare of illness and these stories of tests and ideas. Were you diagnosed with mast cell issues as well?
Julia: Actually, I was not. I was diagnosed with histamine intolerance, but I didn’t go any further into the topic because I thought, “Well, the doctor doesn’t know how to help me with it anyway, so why should I know?”
Dan: Fair enough.
Then, you got all this stuff. How’d you turn this around? How’d you find a way to fix this?
Julia: First of all, we found a place which was right next to the forest because one thing that I was always aware of was that I will need Mama Natura to help me overcome this. The house was right next to the forest. It wasn’t perfect “MCS perfect” but it was perfect enough.
We made that house MCS-safe. I was eventually looking for a program to do the healing because I knew, if I had everything set, I would need something to retrain my neural system.
Dan: You had come to the conclusion. You had tried the psychosomatic route. You thought, “Hey! Maybe it was the trauma and all of this.” Did you try some treatments? Did you try and look into psychologists or anything like that?
Julia: I was in a psychosomatic clinic. I actually realised that blah blah doesn’t really make it go away. I have never seen that treating something in only one way made sense. I have always been searching for something that heals both the cells and the spirit – both things at one time.
For trauma, for instance, I find EFT very helpful because it gets at our cell which is really important.
Dan: Did you then think it was psychosomatic?
Julia: I thought that for a long time. My partner was actually the one that thought, “I don’t think what you’re doing is going anywhere.” Back then, I wasn’t working with EFT. I was meditating a lot back then thinking that would heal it.
Dan: Then, your view changed. It wasn’t psychosomatic per se, but it’s a neurological condition.
When I realised it was MCS, I did my research, and I basically came to the conclusion that you needed a program to heal both of them – the neural part and the body part.
When I finally found an environment that I could heal in, I decided, “Which program am I going to take?” The other two programs were too neuro-based for my taste, so I decided to take your program.
ANS Rewire – best choice ever.
Dan: It resonated with you – because rather than looking at it and saying, “It’s the brain. Therefore, we focus on the brain,” – you appreciated the fact that it was looking at physical healing strategies because obviously you are physically sick. It’s not like it’s imagined. The blood tests can’t be wrong.
You go into the program. What was your experience? Were you already doing a lot of the things in the program? What strategies did you have? What happens?
Julia: Let’s go into what I did already because you brought in a couple of things that I was so grateful that I had already worked with those tools and I was already familiar with them.
For instance, meditation is extremely helpful to get you back into the healing state. That was one of the things that I had already done. I was already eating clean food. I had already found the right environment. I was already living toxic-free. Those were the things that I did, first of all.
I had my gut treated. I did that in Uruguay which was helpful.
Dan: How did you get your gut treated?
Julia: You’re not going to like that, Dan.
I went three months vegan.
Dan: How did that improve your gut?
Julia: I went three months vegan with efficient microorganisms. I treated it with microorganisms and, of course, some supplements. I didn’t do it by myself. Actually, I lived with a yogi for three months in Uruguay while we were homeless. I had to cook for her and prepare for her. It was (33:40 unclear) so we adjusted to her vegan lifestyle. By that, actually, my gut got well.
Had you been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome?
Dan: Do you know about the low FODMAP diet?
Dan: Was that vegan diet compatible with the low FODMAP diet?
Julia: Up to a certain point, I think.
Dan: But you weren’t focusing on which particular foods to eat?
Julia: No, I was cooking for Dora. That was my job. I was cooking for Dora when I was feeling well because her son had the same illness. She knew where this was going. I was cooking for her when I was feeling well, but we were eating her diet, and that really helped me.
I’m not living vegan anymore. I have been vegetarian before and vegetarian now again but less cheese products, I guess, because of the blood sugar topic.
Dan: What was your vegan diet specifically? What did you actually cook and eat? What would you eat? Rice? Potatoes?
Julia: We had a lot of quinoa, for instance. We had some potatoes along with pumpkin and nuts. We always had some greens along with it. We ate a lot of avocados which are really good.
Dan: Some good fat, yes.
Julia: Dora did vegetarian right. It was really nice to see that you can do it right because I didn’t know about it before that. I have actually included some of those things that I learned there in my diet now.
Life doesn’t happen. Your cooking changes.
Were you eating beans and things? Fruits?
Julia: Of course!
Dan: Beans, legumes, lentils?
Julia: Yes, of course, which didn’t go along with my histamine poor diet anymore, but I have realised – even though it was painful in the beginning – it did work eventually. You eat what you have to.
Dan: Even though you ate foods that weren’t compatible with your histamine diet, you found that still your gut improved?
Julia: Yes, it did.
Dan: But you didn’t improve the rest of your body?
Julia: I was still struggling. Unfortunately, we also had mould in that house. Mould was a long companion by our side through our homelessness, actually. We were living with people that also had mould in their houses. It was horrible.
Dan: What an adventure, especially when you are not well and all of that.
Julia: Yes, and somewhere you don’t even speak the language.
Dan: You don’t speak the language. Suddenly, you are given a vegan diet and – boom! – your gut gets better. You must have been excited at least to have some relief.
Julia: Once the gut got well, it was a lot easier because that gives you a lot of pain. I still had pain in the muscles from time to time, depending on exposure, but healing the gut is also one very essential point into going into healing because, if your gut is not well, how are you going to build up strength?
Dan: Absolutely. In fact, this is a common theme in people’s recovery.
You go into the program. You go into ANS Rewire. Tell us all the stuff that you did that you were already doing. You said you already a clean diet. You had meditation. You had a healing environment. You weren’t triggered too much because you were next to a forest in a house that was MCS-friendly. You weren’t being triggered too much.
What else had you already been doing when you went into the program?
Julia: When I went into the program, that was basically it.
I did some yoga when I had the strength to, of course. If I didn’t, my husband always gave me muscle massages. At least my system would get stimulate. That’s what I did before I went into the program. Then, I went into the program and realised one very important point is blood sugar. I didn’t get to that myself.
Dan: That’s when we were starting to understand the neurological connection as opposed to psychological connection. In other words, it’s a neurological disease. Therefore, it’s not about the mind. It’s about everything because the brain is in the centre of the body. All the stuff that’s really happening in the body is affecting the nervous system as much as stress or stimulants or your senses.
You changed your diet. Obviously, that must have been a bit of a shift from the vegan diet because, obviously, a vegan diet can often be high in sugar. You’ve got to eat heaps of potatoes so that you’re not hungry if you don’t have a steak. Or you’ve got to eat a lot of legumes. If you eat legumes, you will probably find that it’s more filling, but if you eat broccoli alone, you are going to be eating all day long.
Julia: You cannot live off broccoli alone!
Dan: Man cannot live off broccoli alone – neither can women!
Julia: Also, if you have a vegan diet, at least make it really well-balanced. Otherwise, it’s not going to be filling and – yes, Dan – you need more food.
Dan: Yes, and it’s interesting we talk about what is a healthy diet. “Is vegan healthy?” “Is vegetarian healthy?” Some people say, “Is paleo healthy?” Again, it’s not really about any of those diets.
It’s about what diet you are eating when you are eating vegetarian or vegan or paleo. Some people eat a paleo diet and live off sausages. That’s not healthy! Some people eat a vegan diet and live off cupcakes.
Julia: All that convenience food. Why are you vegan in the first place if you eat a sausage?
Dan: You might as well have a German sausage, right?
Again, it’s about understanding what actually affects our health. This discussion is often about vegan and vegetarian. Now, when you go into something like any diet that restricts whatever foods – whether it’s a histamine diet, paleo diet, whatever – you’ve got to say, “What am I really eating?” because it’s so easy to eat a vegan diet and live off cupcakes and you’re missing all the nutrients in the world.
But even if you’re eating a lot of good vegetables, you could be missing proteins and fats.
Julia: Exactly which is really important.
Dan: But, obviously, you ate a vegan diet and that was a big part of your recovery presumably. Did you change your diet? Did you start to eat animal products when you went into the ANS Rewire program as part of your recovery? Or did you stay vegan?
After curing my gut, and after I left (41:51 unclear) I was back to vegetarian. When I was back in Germany and I knew where I could get good clean milk products, I was back to vegetarian. I cut down on the milk products and added more fats and more proteins.
Dan: What kinds of fats and proteins?
Julia: It made me really fat!
Dan: You said you were ten kilos under so that’s no problem.
What kinds of proteins and fats did you then eat and still stay vegetarian?
Dan: Did you eat eggs?
Julia: No, I could eat eggs, but my tummy disagrees with them, unfortunately.
Dan: You ate a lot of nuts, basically.
Julia: I also make this one special bread which is basically made out of seeds, oils, and good spices.
Julia: I had that as a snack in between because the blood sugar topic was – as I said – very helpful for me. That was a snack in between. That’s how I changed my diet once more.
Dan: If you don’t mind, I’d like to explore this in a little bit more detail because I think diet can be really, really important. A great deal of people in the CFS, fibro, MCS community are vegans.
I do write a little bit about why I think that is, why it can be unhelpful to eat a vegan diet, how that affects our neurotransmitters, our blood sugars, and why it can predispose us to developing an illness like this, but obviously – as you’ve pointed out – the fact is that you used the vegan diet to heal your gut and you recovered during a vegan diet. The devil is in the detail.
Julia: During vegetarian.
Dan: Vegetarian, okay. You had some animal products there.
Julia: I think it didn’t make that much difference. I tried to keep the dairy products low.
Dan: The reason I want to explore it is because there are a lot of people who choose to be vegan – not out of health reasons but for personal reasons. They think, “Can I recover? Can I not recover?”
My recommendation is to eat a balanced diet and to eat a range of products. As you know, in the program, we scale it. If you have issues with this, then maybe you shouldn’t be eating gluten. If you have issues with this, then maybe you shouldn’t be eating dairy and so on. That’s why we encourage people to work with a naturopath or an integrative doctor to finetune their diet.
However, if you then go and eat a vegan diet, how do I eat a good one? You recovered with one. You clearly got enough fat and protein and stabilised your blood sugars and good nutrition. First of all, I think the thing to take is we can do it with a vegan diet. That’s the first takeaway, I guess.
Can you give us a rundown what kind of breakfasts, what kind of lunches, what kind of snacks, what kind of foods you would eat, specifically if you had certain things that gave you a range of fats and proteins? How would you make that up?
Julia: For breakfast, I always liked my cereals. I take my oats and I add a bit of rice milk to that. Usually, I like a bit of coconut oil with it also because of the health effects. I add a spoon of coconut oil to that and – what do you call the sugar that’s made from the birch tree? – basically birch sugar from the birch tree. It’s also very good for the teeth and it doesn’t go to your blood sugar. I add a bit of that to it.
Sometimes, I like linen seed because it’s also very good for the tummy – maybe not if you have a leaky gut, but if you cope that’s very good.
Dan: Did you crush the seeds?
Julia: Yes, I did. I crush them then I stir them into my oats. That’s for starters.
Two hours later, I had a bit of that bread that I was talking about.
Dan: What kinds of seeds are in there? All pumpkin seeds?
Julia: Pumpkin seeds, linen seeds, and sunflower seeds. Then, you use coco oil and a couple of other special ingredients. I did write a book called Histamine Hysteria and the recipe is in there.
Dan: Good plug! I like it! Good on you!
That’s basically a lot of fat and some protein in there. That’s really nutritious, right?
Julia: Yes, it is!
Dan: Super nutritious. You eat that, and that’s really going to take the balance away from the cupcakes.
Julia: Yes, so I did that in between snacks because I had three snacks.
For snack time, I always have a bit of that bread with something fresh. I like to have either a bit of cottage cheese – not too much; just a little bit – and a cucumber or a bit of red pepper. I really like red pepper with it.
Lunch time, I used to have something like potatoes, for instance. Now, in this cold time, I also like to adjust my diet to the climate when I’m Germany because the climate here is ugh. This time, I would do something like potatoes with pumpkin and sesame seed roasted along with it. Maybe a bit of broccoli – a little stir of that.
I like using coco milk along with my food. If I make sauces, I like making them with coco milk. I think coconut also has got a lot of good essential fats and nutrients that we need.
Dan: For sure.
Julia: I like working with that a lot.
Dan: Lunches were basically a different range of vegetables and potatoes in essence.
Julia: And nuts, yes.
Dan: Did you eat rice or pasta or anything like that?
Julia: Yes, actually. Sometimes, I ate a bit of pasta, but not too much. We do use (49:19 unclear) – a very exclusive noodles that we get here in the organic store. Too expensive, but too good.
I do use rice – white rice. I think it’s very important for others to know that there is always the one thing which is super for everyone – just not for your body.
I’m living the vegetarian lifestyle, and I’m feeling better since I’m vegetarian, but when comes to food – because my body really reacts allergic to animal products – I realised that they were related. But someone else might really need meat for his body constitution. I think that it’s very individual.
Dan: It is.
Julia: What we all need is a lot of power.
Dan: That’s right.
It’s important to get the right nutrients, but it’s important to eat a diet that is right for you, but also right for you at the time right now. What was right for you yesterday or last year might not be right for you now. It changes. During our recovery, it often changes. One cannot eat things, but we have to eat things, then it changes as we move along.
I love the fact that you listened to the whole message about tailoring it, and – even though I talk about a balanced diet in the program – you said, “How can I make that happen with a vegetarian diet?”
What about dinnertime? What would you have for dinnertime? A lot of beans, lentils, and all of these things? Are we doing a lot of curries and stews, basically?
Dan: Salads as well?
Julia: It’s difficult. I like fusion kitchen. I take something from the Italian kitchen then I mix it with something from the Indian kitchen. Those are my two favourite ones. I take a bit of the German along.
In the evenings, we usually eat bread. I try to change that a bit, but it’s the self-made bread that we do with spelt flour and carrots and lots of good ingredients.
Dan: What would you eat with the bread?
Julia: Avocado or hummus, for instance. I love hummus!
Hummus – I do in a thousand varieties because you can do anything with it from Italian style with olives and Italian spices like oregano, basil, cumin, and garlic to Indian style with a bit of chili, cucumber, coriander, and stuff like that. You can do a wide range of variety with that to get some taste.
Dan: Did you eat all the different fruits? Did you eat a lot of fruit?
Julia: No, because of the blood sugar.
Dan: But you ate some fruit?
Julia: We had some sour apples sometimes.
We live in Germany. Things are going to be completely different in Ghana from two weeks from now, but here in Germany, the fruit we get is very limited, so I like to get the food that we have in the area.
We like to buy local – berries mainly and apples and blueberries sometimes.
Dan: What about salads? When your guts were bad when you were in Uruguay and you were having that diet that helped you heal your gut, did you find that you ate predominantly cooked foods? Or did you eat predominantly raw foods like salad and fruits? Or was it a mix?
Julia: I do not eat raw food.
I have realised that my tummy does not agree with raw food. It doesn’t like that much because I already had such low power in my body. If it’s raw, it has to do such a lot to get it through there, so I prefer to have everything cooked. Salad? No, absolutely not.
Dan: What about salad foods like cucumber and tomato and things like that?
Julia: Those were fine.
Dan: But a carrot was going to get cooked before it got eaten?
Up until today, I still don’t eat green leaf salad. I still don’t like that. My tummy obviously doesn’t. There are still two things that my tummy doesn’t like – raw salad and eggs. It doesn’t agree with it. I’m fine with it.
Dan: That’s fine. Fantastic! Thank you for sharing that!
I hope the message that is coming through is (1) about tailoring your diet and (2) we can recover with a vegan diet. Obviously, you ate a good vegan diet – not cupcakes vegan, but a good vegan diet – nuts, seeds, oils, avocados, and also beans. Beans, lentils, and legumes can be troublesome. But, again, it has to do with how things are prepared – obviously, chickpeas and all of that.
Dan: That’s a great message.
Great! You’re doing all these things with your diet and it’s helping, but what else? What’s this brain training stuff and what are you doing with the chemicals? How do you move forward?
That’s the end of part one of the interview. Check out part two where we discuss how Julia used other strategies like brain training for her recovery.
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