My story

How I learned what doesn’t work

I successfully ruined my health at high school, the first requirement for becoming a nutrition and health enthusiast. The second step, learning what doesn’t work, was waiting for me at the university.

I felt great after high school. I started swimming a lot, I went to the gym from time to time, and most importantly I was on my own, away from home, and free. There was just one problem: I was pretty much used to home cooked meals and I never really had to worry about food. I was getting into sports nutrition, so I studied what and when I should eat to recover best from my swim or weight-training sessions, but my main meals sort of flew under the radar. A lot of vending machine baguettes, KFC meals, pasta with ketchup or plain rice when I “cooked” at home, sugar-laden morning cereals, chocolates for dinner, and way too many sweetened drinks. Looking back now, only one word comes to mind: awful!

I started noticing I felt sort of tired and a little bit ill more often than not. I had respiratory infections I couldn’t seem to shake off for most of the year and several other little health-related annoyances. So I decided to fix it and go with the recommended approach. Plenty of those healthy grains, as little as I could of the dangerous fats and cholesterol, frequent meals, little portions, and more fruits and vegetables. I was happy that my morning cereal with milk and orange juice and my big rice lunches were already in line with the recommendations. I started eating a lot of yogurts, dried fruits, and sweet baked products as healthy snacks. I cut down on eggs, reduced my meat intake, and tried to limit the number of chocolates and sweets I ate.

And the results came fast! My digestion got a lot worse, I constantly had a sore throat, and I started having pains in my stomach. It all culminated one day when the stomach pain was in the general area of the appendix (yes, I used Google to diagnose myself with an acute inflammation of the appendix) which made me go to the emergency room. They told me no appendectomy is necessary and that I should come back if it persists. It didn’t, but it came back few weeks later. The same thing happened again: went to the emergency room, where the doctors found nothing and sent me home. It was pretty scary this time so I didn’t let up. I wanted to know what was wrong. I went to my GP and told her everything. She sent me to a quite a number of doctors, who checked out all of my organs, did blood tests, and even tested for celiac disease. All tests came back negative except for a slightly lower-than-normal white blood cell count, and I was pronounced healthy. I was offered to either have a bit of my intestine cut off for a biopsy or a recommendation to a psychiatrist. In the doctor’s eyes I was clearly bringing all of my issues on myself by worrying too much.

I was quite annoyed and disillusioned with what the doctors did and how they approached a patient that doesn’t fit the standard diagnosis. Maybe I was unlucky with the doctors I came across, maybe not. Either way, I felt like I only had one option left: figure this out on my own.

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