Health & Wellness

Your Bagel or Your Leg

by Wendie Trubow, MD, MBA January 27, 2017
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My husband and I were recently at a party and got to talking with a woman who has terrible peripheral artery disease (PAD). So terrible, in fact, that she has had multiple surgeries to graft veins from her leg onto the areas in both of her legs so that she could get bloodflow to her legs.

The surgery worked well for her first leg, but failed for her other leg.  She was getting progressively worse – with this issue, oxygenated blood can’t get to the legs and feet, and it’s very painful, and can lead to loss of a toe, or even the entire leg – until a new doctor agreed to try a graft… one last time. If this graft failed, she would have to have her leg amputated.

My husband and I have a unique perspective because we work with extremely ill people and help them to heal from issues that others view as inevitable and progressive.

Listening to this woman discuss her issues was heartbreaking. From our perspective, she was suffering terribly from inflammation that manifested itself in her legs. Every person’s inflammation occurs differently. For some, it’s acne. For others, weight gain, joint pain, foggy brain, or depression.

We began gently probing with her to understand her thoughts about her illness. Did she feel it was inevitable? Was she interested in altering the course of it?  Could she see herself making any changes that might positively impact her health?

We spent some time discussing food with her and its potential impact on health. In our work, we frequently recommend people stop eating allergenic foods to see if they feel any better. The top allergens we often recommend removing are: gluten, dairy, and sugar, followed by soy, eggs, corn, nuts, legumes, and fish/shellfish.

She was completely intrigued; she’d never heard that food could impact her health! For her, it was unlikely that any change she made (including removing the top allergens), could reverse her peripheral artery disease, but it was potentially possible to slow its progression, and save her leg.

So my husband asked her straight out: “Allison, could you see yourself removing gluten from your diet? It’s could potentially make a difference for you.”

Allison’s response?

“I could not imagine my life without my daily bagel, and would never want to try.”

We asked: “Even if it could help your circulation and prevent the loss of your leg?”

She was clear. “No. Never. I would never stop eating my daily bagel.”

I was crushed.  I could so clearly see what was possible for Allison around her health, and if I were faced with losing my leg, and someone said I could get healthier if I stopped eating something, you can BET I would at least give it a try.

But she couldn’t see past her bagel and how she would feel deprived if she didn’t eat it every day. What was worse was that she couldn’t even consider that there was a relationship between what she ate and her health.

So here’s the truth. The food you eat matters. It can make you feel good, or it can contribute to you being sick. Sometimes feeling better IS as easy as a change of diet, and sometimes balancing out health requires more than just food.

Most people don’t have issues that are as dramatic as Allison’s, but many of us suffer from problems that are treatable through a functional medicine approach. Headaches, women’s issues, high blood pressure, fatigue, and all the gastrointestinal unmentionables… they’re all fixable! And no, it’s not normal to suffer from these issues, although it IS common.

I always tell people that there’s a spectrum. Sometimes the problem is worse than the cure, and sometimes the cure is worse than the problem. And sometimes you’re not sure!

But if you don’t feel well, I’d say it’s time to try something new! I invite you to consider eating whole, unprocessed foods (meaning nothing pre-prepared, from a package, or made in a factory) such as vegetables, whole grains, meats, fish, poultry, and fruits.

Stick the bagels in the freezer; they’ll be there if your experiment fails.

(PS: DO NOT do this alone; see a functional medicine provider for guidance!)

Got a topic you’d like me to cover? Email me directly at info@fivejourneys.com.

Originally published by Huffington Post.