Chronic Illness, God and your Health

Our Journey With God Into the Land of “Gluten and Dairy Free”

I’ll never forget the night that my husband and I huddled in the hall, with fear in our hearts and tears in our eyes.  We said a prayer that God would please let us discover what was causing the terrible infections plaguing our son at the tender age of three.  We prayed that his 103 degree fever would break and that his rapid breathing and eczema all over his little body would heal.  God gave us peace that night.  His fever broke and he finally slept

For the past year in a half, without warning, Nathan would awake with tonsils red, swollen, and hurting.  We’d go to the Dr. for another antibiotic, and another steroid treatment.  Recovery would be short-lived and then another two weeks of illness followed.  If it wasn’t the tonsils, it was his ears, upset stomach, or his nose running constantly.  This night, was the final straw.  We went to the Dr. the next day, and after no sleep that night, they told me that the tonsils needed to be removed because of their size.  ” I thought swollen tonsils were an indicator of infection?, ” I said.   “Well, they won’t be able to block his breathing anymore if we take them out”, she said.  “But won’t his throat still swell and his sinuses still become infected?”  “Yes”.  A look of disgust and impatience beamed across the nurse practitioner’s face because time was ticking  and she had other patients and some more antibiotics to hand out.  So….we decided not to do the surgery.   No more band- aids!  This was it.  No more treating symptoms.  We needed to get to the root of the problem.

After some research, I began to suspect that Nathan might be suffering from some sort of food intolerance.   I made an appointment with a DO named Dr. Mercola.  Their office did an Elisa IGG blood test on Nathan which tested his blood against 90 different foods.  (Today the best test for this is the ALCAT test.)  I was shocked and amazed to find that Nathan was intolerant, not only to strawberries, but to nine other foods as well.  An elimination diet was recommended, along with some supplements, and our life changed for the better.  I wish I could say it was the end, but for us, the journey was only beginning.

“Stepping out of the band-aid box”of the prescribed treatments, meant embracing new ideas and new ways of living.  Three of the nine foods that Nathan tested positive for were the big ones!  Soy, wheat, and dairy. It was soooo hard to stop eating those foods.  I was struggling for the first 2 weeks at the grocery store, until I met a lady at the grocery store that had a son allergic to all foods except for two!  I couldn’t believe it.  I cried for her that night.  It made me put what we had to carry into the proper perspective.

In the beginning, my family and Joey’s family really thought we were crazy.  They told me how milk was good for Nathan’s bones and how I shouldn’t be taking these vitamins aways from him.  How could I not let him eat birthday cake at his cousin’s house?  “There’s nothing wrong with him”, they would say.  “I think this is all in your head, Stephanie.  You are being a fanatic”.  It was very tough to stand against.  Plus, I had the school to deal with.  At his kindergarten, candy was used as a positive reinforcement tool, much like you would train animals with treats.  I complained, but didn’t get anywhere with that.  Healthy eating was not a part of their plan. The Lord taught me through these experiences that we often have to stand against the crowd in our life for truth.  It’s often hard when we are pushed.  Sometimes, we fall, but He wants us to get back up and stand again.  Hebrews 5:14 – But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Eventually, our family came alongside our journey and both sides began to fully support Nathan.  They would even make him special food for all of our holiday celebrations.  It meant so much to him.

Today the United States is starting to accept the reality of food intolerance, food allergies, and healthy alternatives for children but years ago, we were pioneers.  Back then, there were some grocery store alternatives, but they tasted awful.   I started experimenting and I can laugh now about our little veggie cakes, nasty pancakes, and flat biscuits because I have learned so much and cook healthy now with ease.  So the years kept passing, and we moved at least twice before we ended up in Singapore where everything seemed to come with soy sauce.

I didn’t know it, but soy sauce not only had soy in it which  he shouldn’t have,  but it also contained wheat.  His health really went down hill and he began to become very emotional and disorganized at school. He could barely make it to class with his books and folder and would lose his homework daily.  He was also sneezing daily, and would have a horrible rash all the time.  Then he began to gain weight rapidly to the point of a swollen look.  I took him to an Endocronologist and had him tested for Cushings disease.  I was relieved when the tests came back negative.  They also tested his thyroid and tested him for diabetes, but nothing showed up.  He was now 13 years old and I felt like we were going backwards again.

After we moved to Atlanta, we prayed and prayed and the Lord led me to an article about gluten intolerance.   It said, “People who are gluten intolerant have a sensitivity to wheat, barley and rye”.  I pulled out our old food panel test.  Bingo!  I made the connection.  Nathan’s test showed that he was intolerant to all three of those foods!  Thank you Jesus!  We took him off of the gluten and he grew three inches that year, his rash went away, the brain fog no longer bothered him, and he had a great year without being sick.  In fact, we didn’t have any antibiotics that year. I then took him to the Dr. and had the blood work done for Celiac Disease, but because we were already off the gluten, he tested negative, which was fine with us.   I think the Lord was watching out for us.  We were told that if it is working to remove the gluten then he should continue to live gluten-free.  We read everything we could find about gluten-free living and celiac disease and saw that more and more of Nathan’s problems had been gluten related.  It was as if a light came on and we saw inside the closet of this illness and what we needed to face.  It was scary! The Lord taught us through this to face our fears with a positive outlook and to depend on Him. Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Nathan’s new reality was a life of being gluten-free or endurance of  severe conditions later on.  Most of his favorite sauces and spices had to be eliminated.  No more cheating.  Life was getting tougher for my young man.  He had to face reality and reality was tough.  It was also tough on the family.  When we would go out, the focus was on Nathan and what he could eat and not eat.  I had to change the way I cooked at home.   It was a family affair because it’s like having an alcoholic at home.  If you don’t support them, they are set up to fail until they can take it on as their own.  God taught us the reality of this verse, Romans 14:16-19 “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding”.  After three years of supporting Nathan sometimes well and sometimes, not so well, we were able to bring back in some of the old foods that we enjoyed and he was strong enough to control his diet on his own.  God taught him that with restraint, come blessings.  He was changed and more concerned about keeping his temple in tact than satisfying immediate fleshly desires.

Nathan also learned that this was His burden to bear with God and not to ask others to accommodate him.  Parties, get togethers, etc, were for people and to celebrate occasions and not about what he couldn’t eat.  I think this was the best lesson he learned, but probably the hardest too, because American life revolves around food along with your fellowship.   American life also revolves around selfishness vs. selflessness.  If gluten-free was available, he would ask for it, but otherwise, he did not demand his rights because God wants us to be selfless, not selfish.  Philippians 2:4 – Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The journey still continues and Nathan’s illness has turned into a passion for me.  I strive to help others going through similar circumstances.  As well, Nathan has become interested in food science and would like to study GM foods and how they are effecting us today.  He is a biochemistry major at LeTourneau University in Texas.  He is concerned for others and has a heart for people.  He still struggles from time to time especially with hidden sources of gluten, and he is researching now how to repair his gut that was probably damaged along the way from the years of gluten intake. I know that the Lord has an answer for him and through his obedience of taking care of his temple, God will bless him for his efforts.  He has been an inspiration to many people, especially to me.  I pray for him daily and am so proud of the way he has grown up.  His burdens deepened him as a person because his outlook reflected the Holy Spirit which resides inside his body.  Although discouragement touches his life from time to time, and he has setbacks, he is quick to bounce back and see the positive.   I love him so much and know God  has big plans for his life.

If you are struggling with a Chronic illness, remember that God provides hope, and sometimes it is in the form of a medicine, or a medical treatment or surgery.  Then again, it might also be a lifestyle change, or eating differently.  If this is the case, I pray that you are strong enough to resist your flesh and try because your life or your child’s life is precious and you only have one life here on earth to count for Christ and He wants our best.  I hope you have been encouraged and I pray that your journey to better health is full of God’s peace that passeth all understanding.

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