We’ve all watched the movie The Matrix. Good ole Keanu (whoa!) as Neo realizes that he has been living in this made up world and everything he knows gets completely flipped upside down. The deciding moment is this scene:
You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth.
Well hello, my name is Neo (Je-Nni-eo?), and I have officially taken the red pill and gone down that rabbit hole.
I spent a solid 37 years of my life living the standard American life, eating the standard American diet (for which the acronym is appropriately SAD). It was easier–and way less scary–than the world we’ve been occupying for the past few months, where I’ve started to feel like some giant alien spider monster is going to attack us wherever we go. I had gotten glimpses of the “other side” along the way, and I’ve always considered myself to be not quite “crunchy” but more of a “chewy granola bar” when it comes to my parenting. But I’ve never been much of a chef or a baker, and we have depended heavily on processed foods and takeout for sustenance. My kids ate Goldfish and Chips Ahoy, dipped their veggies in Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing and ate a “normal” amount of Happy Meals.
Enter Rory, our little girl with apraxia, and for the first few years of her life it was SAD all the way. Girlfriend loved chicken nuggets and french fries just as much as most kids, and because we’ve been conditioned to think that this is a normal part of childhood it only bugged me a little bit that going through a drive through once a week was a normal part of life. When we first noticed that she wasn’t talking, we started her in speech therapy just as our pediatrician advised, and while we briefly contemplated the thought of trying to take her gluten & dairy free just because I’d heard it might help, we gave up after a few days because it was too hard. I really did not think that there was a connection between her speech and her diet. For autistic kids, maybe, but Rory wasn’t on the spectrum.
We learned so much about apraxia after we got her diagnosis last summer, most of it pretty mainstream stuff, the craziest thing being the use of fish oil (which is actually a super controversial topic in many apraxia organizations and groups), which we tried and didn’t see much success. I would chase every rabbit hole I came across online or on Facebook: foot baths, laser therapy, B12 injections, and then one day, the Nemechek Protocol. It excited me like nothing else had before. When I read the basics, I was completely hooked and we started it right away. After two weeks we started seeing results and I wrote a blog post about it and started contacting everyone I could possibly think of that it might benefit to tell them about it (yep, crazy lady, that’s me!). It was truly the red pill that took me down the rabbit hole, and it was only the beginning.
While much of the Nemechek Protocol is about keeping things simple and not complicating the process, I kept researching and learning and my brain kept exploding the more I found out. We had a hair test done and realized Rory had a lot of food sensitivities and was nutritionally deficient in choline and vitamin E which led us to eliminate a lot of foods from her diet and start supplementing following Kelly Dorfman’s Best Dyspraxia Program Ever which focused on adding choline and vitamin E to promote speech. That one got her vitamin E and choline levels back to normal, but it wasn’t a silver bullet so we discontinued it and will keep an eye on her levels. We also pursued food allergy and intolerance blood testing (because she has awful poop) and found out that she is basically allergic to life right now because of her leaky gut (which per Nemechek, I believe to be caused by SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth). Her true strong IgE allergies include gluten, soy, egg whites and clams while her intolerances include beef, pork, turkey, corn, apples, blueberries, bananas, chocolate, vanilla, and sooooo many other things.
So we are currently eliminating everything her body is reacting strongly to, which is quite a feat. It has essentially forced us to stop depending on processed foods and feed her whole foods without ingredients. And while our whole family hasn’t completely gone elimination diet with her, we are trying to eat less crap and focus more on eating healthy foods without a ton of omega 6 oils (thank you Nemechek) and really reading the labels of everything that comes into our house. Carter and Collin (8 and 6) are annoyed that Mama is making them eat healthy now (imagine that said with disdain and eye rolls).
So here I am, 37 years old and finally realizing just how bad the status quo is when it comes to food. Here are my top 5 Nutrition Matrix gripes:
- GMOs: Say what you will about genetic modification, but the mass quantity of GMOs and the glyphosate/Roundup that is entering our bodies when we consume them CAN’T be a good thing. I really believe that the increase of Roundup has a direct correlation to the rise in neurological issues in children today because of its effect on the gut biome. We haven’t completely eliminated GMOs from our diet yet, but I am working on it. It’s entirely possible that they really are completely safe, but my gut is telling me to run.
- Artificial Colors: After going to see Erin Brockovich speak last month, my friend Katie and I have decided that we need to become the Erin Brockoviches of food, and artificial colors are at the top of our hit list. Why, oh why do we feel the need to have so many artificial colors in everything?! My favorite example when looking at my kiddos’ candy stash was a cherry airhead, which had not only the expected RED food dye, but also BLUE, and TWO different YELLOWS. So four food dyes to make red. Is that asinine or what? If other countries can demand better, because yes, they do, why can’t we?
- Gluten: And gluten, which most of us consume in mass quantities, is also inflammatory and the enzyme it produces in your gut, Zonulin, actually contributes to leaky gut, which contributes to so many other issues. I read this today from Amy Myers, MD and it really spoke to me: “It is estimated that one in 30 people have a gluten sensitivity – meaning eating gluten causes inflammation every time they eat it. What’s more, an estimated 99 percent of people with gluten sensitivity are undiagnosed, so they are fanning the flames of their inflammation without even knowing it.” Gluten sensitivity can also cause rage and aggression, and most people who have issues with it actually crave it more because it produces a drug-like reaction in your body. We have cut it completely from Rory’s diet, but we still have a long way to go for the rest of us.
- Folic Acid: In tandem with the gluten, there’s folic acid, which is used to “fortify” foods like bread and cereal. Rory has a MTHFR gene mutation, which impairs her methylation cycle and makes her body not process folic acid into methyl-folate properly, which is needed for fueling so many other processes in the body. While I still have SO much to learn about this whole MTHFR world (and yes, I do swear most of the time when I talk about this acronym, but we try to call it Math-Fer when around the children) this article I read today about folic acid made my blood boil, especially since I realized that Rice Chex, one of Rory’s favorite foods which miraculously doesn’t contain any of the 8 million allergens we are avoiding, is fortified with folic acid. Cue temper tantrum! (Which applies to both Rory AND me, because telling her she can’t have her favorite things is making me CRAZY!)
- Omega 6 Oils: Finally let’s talk about those omega 6 oils I mentioned: soybean, sunflower, safflower, peanut, etc. They are fine in moderation but they are literally in every snack food we eat, used in every restaurant especially fast food (hello chicken nuggets and french fries, I’m talking to you) and when we consume them in mass quantities like pretty much everyone in America does without the proper balance of omega 3 oils, they put our bodies in a constant state of inflammation. Now for most of us, we don’t notice anything out of the ordinary. I’m pretty healthy, the boys are pretty healthy, I always just kind of assumed that while junk food wasn’t GOOD, it wasn’t all that BAD in moderation, but then Rory came along and forced me to take a good hard look at everything I was putting into their bodies. The ingredient lists on processed foods are horrifying when you stop to read them and omega 6 oils are nearly always there right at the top along with 4 or 5 different ways to say “sugar.”
I could keep going, but let’s stop there for now. I will conclude by saying that it took me a few months of squeezing my eyes shut and covering my ears because I really, really didn’t WANT to take that red pill when it came to our food. I wanted to be blissfully ignorant and just go on feeding our family the way most of America feeds their families. And I know that we still have a long way to go, myself included, to be where I would like us to be. So if you are reading this and you’d rather take the blue pill, I totally get it. But if you or your child is struggling with neurological issues, autoimmune issues, or migraines, I’d like to offer you this little red pill.