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Viewing Food as Medicine to Help My Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy

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The advent of autumn ushers in not just a chilly breeze, beautifully colored leaves, and the smell of wood-burning fires. It’s the season where food and drink consumption kicks it up a notch or two. It’s always been my favorite season — the pumpkin this or pumpkin that, yummy stuffing with gravy, and the variety of decorated cookies, cakes, and pies.

But one of the most common symptoms for people with adult-onset myotonic dystrophy is gastro-intestinal discomfort. It’s the earliest symptom I experienced dating back to my childhood when I always felt bloated after a meal. I just accepted it as natural until I went to college and began to experiment with my diet. For years I thought my condition was due to anxiety or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It wasn’t until I was diagnosed in my mid-30s when I discovered its part and parcel of this rare genetic condition.

Thankfully over the years I’ve been open to experimenting with my diet and have found great relief. I gradually became a vegetarian – first cutting out beef and pork, and years later omitting fish and poultry. This helped a lot. I tried being a vegan for a few years but found  my body craved eggs and yogurt… so I adjusted.

Eventually it dawned on me: just being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you’re eating the best food. I’ve met plenty of vegetarians who may not be eating animal products but are still eating a highly processed diet. My GI system has improved immensely since I’ve focused on fresh, organic, whole foods. How close to the source is what I’m putting into my system? If it came out of a box, it’s definitely not fresh, but it also may have high sodium or fat content. In the last few years I view food as my medicine.

There is no pharmaceutical treatment for myotonic dystrophy. The best way to keep me healthy is to maintain a healthy lifestyle – good, fresh food and regular exercise.

I’m always eager to learn more about nutrition and how certain foods can assist my health maintenance. My most recent discovery is the power of fermented foods. The microorganisms in fermented foods are what pre and probiotics are all about. Eating the fresh fermented food is tasty as well as a digestive aide.

I know my diet may not work for someone else with myotonic dystrophy or anyone else with digestive problems. I didn’t adopt these habits overnight but cultivated openness over years. It’s just seemed natural for me to try different foods rather than taking pills to offset the ill effects of other foods.

Editor’s note: Please consult a professional before starting or stopping a diet regimen.

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Thinkstock photo by marilyna

Originally published: November 14, 2016
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