Our lives turned upside down one morning in 1987 when our 12-year-old daughter, Emily, displayed flu symptoms. But this was a flu that didn’t go away. After a month a doctor decided she probably had ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and should rest as much as possible.
Years of Emily attempting to go to school but ending up spending yet another day in bed, years of going from one doctor to another and one alternative practitioner to another, were made infinitely worse when my husband Thor, also began to feel chronically tired, mentally and physically, and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Friends and family constantly passed on possible treatments and finally in 1993 we heard of a clinic that was having success with M.E. It sounded very strange to us: fasting and eating only raw foods but we were beyond desperate by that stage.
What happened was a miracle
After a nine day water-only fast Emily started to feel energy coursing through her body. As she learned about the benefits of eating only raw foods (fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds) she decided she would never go back to horror of being virtually bedridden. Her father and I were thrilled beyond words and happily started on the necessary changes to our diet as well, with the result that his energy levels also returned. Twelve years after returning from the clinic, Emily eats only raw foods and in this time she has completed her schooling, university up to masters level and now has a demanding, fulltime job. Thor and I eat more than 90% raw food with just a cooked vegetable (a potato, mealie or mushroom) added to our evening salad and we all feel wonderful.
So what do we eat?
Fruit for breakfast, and as much as we need to feel satisfied, with fruit snacks during the morning. Emily, being at work, finds it easier to eat fruit during the day but Thor and I have a salad for lunch with plenty of avocado (and tomato, lettuce, celery, spring onion, cucumber, peppers and perhaps cauliflower, broccoli or peas) and home-grown sprouts with a tahina or nut dressing. Thor and I add a little natural yoghurt to our fruit for Vitamin B12.
Why does this work so well?
Because the enzymes which are present in food have not been destroyed by cooking and processing, and all the foods are high in vitamins and minerals since there are no empty calorie foods such as sugar. The carbohydrates are in the form of fructose in the fruit, the oils are polyunsaturated oils in the avocado, nuts and seeds, and the proteins are in the form of easily digested amino-acids in the fruits and particularly the vegetables. Did you know there is as much protein in a banana as there is in human milk to feed a baby that is growing more rapidly that at any other stage of life? And moreover it is a water-rich diet since the fruit and vegetables have a very high water content.
The biggest surprise to us however has been the way in which eating as we do has made us become ecologically aware. We were just like thousands of other environmentally unconcerned South Africans until somehow the beautiful whole fruits and vegetables we were eating managed to penetrate our minds and souls as well as our digestive tracts.
If you care about your food, you don’t want some idiot to genetically modify it so that it is no longer what has perfectly evolved over millions of years, you don’t want your fruit sprayed so that it is toxic to your body as well as to insects and birds, you don’t want chemical fertilizers used that enable soil to be used even though it is depleted of trace elements while the chemicals destroy the rivers and seas. And as we became aware of the need for uncontaminated food so too we became aware of the need for uncontaminated air: we ache each winter’s morning as we look out over Durban and see the haze of pollutants that clog the lungs and burden the bodies of every resident of Durban.
And so eating as we do has made us re-prioritise our lives. We’ve made the adjustments which make it possible to spend time each day caring for our bodies through exercise such as walking and yoga, to spend time with those we love and to strengthen relationships rather than fight our way to the top of a financial mountain which will leave us with the money which we have learned can’t buy health or happiness. We’ve learned that a daily meditation, a quiet time of gratitude for life’s abundant goodness, a time of asking blessings on those we love but also on those we don’t, and a time to open to the abundant wisdom of the universe, is the source of a gentle happiness.
A joy that wasn’t there in the days when we thought happiness depended on getting to the top in a harsh and cut-throat world. The turning point in our lives wasn’t really the illness, it was the choice we made to conquer it. With the decision to eat only foods in the closest possible state to that which our earliest ancestors ate came the unexpected consequence of a mental move away from some of the values and pressures of industrial civilization and has brought a spiritual awakening that we didn’t know was possible.