We often refer to our gut by saying "I have a gut feeling..." and often times we trust that 'gut feeling', yet we don't often pay much attention to what we put in that 'heart center' of our being. So this is a story about my journey in healing my gut and a beginners course in reading ingredient labels.
What is “reading ingredient labels” all about anyway? Well, I began wondering about the foods I was putting in my gut quite a few years ago, during my cancer recovery, I had discovered how food was impacting my health and wanted to know what was in the foods I was eating. On these labels, I found words I couldn’t pronounce, let alone know what was being added. Often times, I’d get to a certain portion of the label and stop, …it was a long list! I would then decide, do I continue to read, put it down or buy it? At the time, that was based on my initial interest in the product. If I wanted it, it didn’t seem to matter what was in it. Yet as I became more adept at this new skill, I began finding better versions of the product that contained healthier ingredients.
Then in 2012, I found out I was reacting to 17 of 30 other ‘food groups’, including and because of gluten. Then there was a huge amount of importance placed on label reading. My health depended on it.
Wait! What is meant by a “food group”? Well, for instance, I was reacting to the mustard seed family, which not only meant I needed to back off mustard for a certain amount of time, it also meant, no more cabbage, broccoli, kale, and other foods related to the mustard seed. In a Google search, I found an article "Plants of the Mustard Family" with this quote regarding the Mustard Seed Family…”Interestingly, six of our common vegetables--cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale--were all bred from a single species of mustard,” And a Google search was required for each of the 17 foods.
To make a significant impact on my health, I immediately stopped eating the foods/food groups as fast as I could. I had already stopped eating wheat a few months previous, so by the time I found out this further information, I began removing the others. That was right before Thanksgiving and I had a quick awakening to the enormity of my situation, the emotions attached to food and eating healthy.
The ritual I eventually developed for reading labels was to put the product back on the shelf if there were lots of words in the list of ingredients, as there was at least one thing in it I couldn’t eat. That cut the task in half and when I found labels that had larger print, I was enticed to read on. It was a daunting task and I often felt the tears welling up in my eyes when it was time to get more food. This became easier when I remembered the labels of the food items I could eat. With the saved time, I'd find comfort or ‘reward’ foods to honor myself and my accomplishments.
Fast forward to today. Yes, I still read some labels, but for the biggest part of my food intake, I select produce and other foods that don't require labels. My local grocer calls me the "organic lady" as most of my time is spent in the produce section. I then ‘process' the food myself; that way I know what's in it. Today, I'm aware of what foods I can have, as well as those I choose to not eat, which has eased the process significantly. And going to restaurants is easier, because I'm familiar with what might be in certain foods and most restaurant chains now have a Nutrition/Allergen book available, listing the ingredients in the menus' selections.
So, do your gut, and your health, a favor and read labels. It’s quite an education, especially for us Americans. Unlike many places around the world, we go to the market and have unlimited choices for the foods we put in our mouth, yet we know very little about the contents of that food. Reading labels gives you the opportunity to make healthier choices. Or better yet, eat foods that don't require labels because they are whole foods.