Green for life
The word green provokes thoughts of sustainability, fuel efficiency, tightly-insulated buildings and recycling. While all these wonderful eco-conscious pursuits are worthy of our attention, the path I’ve been led down has focused my passion on the more health-conscious side of the green movement.
I’m all about going green when it promotes a pure, toxic-free lifestyle that allows our bodies to heal naturally and reach their fullest potential. I’m here to testify that purging your diet and environment of everyday toxins is not just a healthy spring-cleaning or feel-good undertaking. It has the powerful ability to completely change your life as it did mine.
At 20, I was the typical college student. I attended football games and sorority events with few cares beyond finding a costume for the next theme party. But within a week of moving into a brand new apartment complex my sophomore year, I was riddled with mysterious neck pain. I saw medical doctors, chiropractors, masseuses, Rolfers and internists who attributed my symptoms to stress.
But it worsened and by Christmas I had terrible back pain and leg cramps. I also developed an odd burning sensation in my face and a numbness that ran down my calves and arms. On drives back to Houston, my now-fiancé would wait patiently in the car while I got out half a dozen times to massage, stretch and walk away my pain.
And I’ll never forget grabbing a carton of milk only to have it fall out my hand due to weakening motor skills.
For the next two years I sought the help of 14 medical doctors from across the country, schlepping an ever-growing file of MRIs, CT-scans, EKGs, X-rays and blood work to every new appointment, all of which revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Although diagnosis like osteo-arthritis, hypermobility and even multiple sclerosis were thrown out, specialists were dumbfounded and none could find an agreed-upon source of my pain.
Muscle relaxers, painkillers and anti-depressants numbed me to the misery. I was on a first-name basis with the local pharmacist and my classes were scheduled around tri-weekly physical therapy and acupuncture appointments.
A green ray of hope
Then my aunt, Marilee Nelson, came into the picture. I knew she worked with chemically-sensitive individuals and believed in the body’s ability to heal naturally, but I didn’t understand how my body could heal on its own if it wasn’t even responding to the best that medicine could offer. Needless to say, I was doubtful. But I had nothing to lose.
Marilee asked few questions about my symptoms, but instead jumped into what I thought seemed completely irrelevant: “Where were you living when the pain started?
Had you recently moved, remodeled or used pesticides?”
My pain had set in only days after moving into a brand-new apartment. She explained how conventional building materials (new paint and carpet, plywood cabinetry, etc.) contain chemicals that could wreak havoc on one’s health and that people respond differently to such chemicals at different times.
Her personal story helped me grasp this new concept. In her 20s, a chronic kidney disorder had left her facing dialysis and a kidney transplant. Instead, Marilee pursued the use of food as medicine, an approach that enabled her to stop all medications and recover fully.
Years later, her 10-year-old son, Douglas, was exposed to pesticides that broke his immune system. Environmental specialists deemed him a “bubble child,” and said he would never recover. His sensitivities forced Marilee through an excruciating time of trial as she learned about the effects of the chemicals found in our food, environment and building materials.
Miraculously, as Douglas’ diet and environment were freed of toxins, his body gradually recovered fully. He was the first home-schooled student to be accepted into the Naval Academy and now, 10 years later, he’s a mission commander for the naval intelligence community.
This inspiring story sparked my own awakening. The deeper I investigated, the more shocked I was by the ingredients allowed in our everyday products. I threw out conventional hair sprays, body lotions, perfumes, dryer sheets and laundry detergents. How could I expect my body to come out of this when I was breathing in these chemicals daily?
Cutting out the killers
I also cut out all processed foods, including refined sugar and flour. I learned that they rob your body of necessary vitamins and minerals, the very things I needed most during this period of bodily distress. In addition, I began taking organic, whole food-based supplements.
My body responded slowly, but after six months I was able to get off all prescription and over-the-counter medications, both of which I haven’t taken since.
By this time, my best friend and roommate of three years, Kelly Blackstone, had witnessed the relief I experienced from this new regime. We shared this passion for natural healing and fed off each other’s thirst for more knowledge. We heard story after story of Marilee’s clients finding relief from her recommendations and were blown away by her discoveries and insight.
Our prior pursuits seemed less appealing and after graduation, we moved to the Texas Hill Country to shadow Marilee for two months.
That summer of 2008 proved to be life changing. We ate hearty, balanced, organic meals and rid our clothes and belongings of all chemical-containing products. Marilee’s home and office were free of toxic building materials, cleaning products, pesticides, mold and fragrances. We listened intently to Marilee’s back-to-back phone consultations, and our eyes were also opened to how exposures to both chemicals and electromagnetic fields affect the body.
That summer left me full of passion and 90 percent free of pain. I now have a new perspective on life and have overcome much of my past ignorance. I no longer think that “because everyone does this” and “because this item has been around forever” are justifiable reasons to partake in activities or use products harmful to my health.
There was once a day when pregnant women smoked cigarettes, asbestos was prevalent in building materials and x-rays were used as shoe-fitting devices. We now shudder at our lack of awareness. After all, isn't it our personal responsibility to become educated and make changes that will foster health, even in the absence of present scientific certainty?
I am grateful for the green movement, as I believe it has sparked a passion for a healthier environment and body, and an increased awareness that change is necessary. However, I do think it is unfortunate that many things are labeled “green” yet still include ingredients adverse to our health. Unfortunately, the products most prevalent today are laden with harmful chemicals, many of which evade labeling requirements.
My hope is that the standards of “going green” will rise up to meet the standards that God has set for our bodies. We were made to thrive in clean air and find nourishment from clean food.
When it encourages and emphasizes healthy living and the personal quest to prudently avoid products that could pose a threat to our bodies, it is good to be living green.
Allison Monteith and Kelly Blackstone are developing a Web site, Three Branches Health, providing education and products for a healthier lifestyle.