And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.
For months now I have been on a journey of healing in my body, mind and my spirit. I can easily look back and see a series of breaking points. Emotional breaking points that drove me to brutal honesty with myself and others. Mental breaking points that meant I had to take time and space for myself in order to just be okay let alone be a good wife and mother. Spiritual breaking points that meant I had to let go of everything, including my life and my family and relinquish them into God’s gracious and loving hands. As a former missionary death to self is not a new concept, though it is one I haven’t exercised to this extent in a while.
Back in the autumn I did a post about discovering I still had parasites, most likely from my nomadic life and wild travels while on the mission field… you can read about that here if you have the stomach for it. This was following a swift decline in my health after struggling with at least a 6 year bout of undiagnosed autoimmune disorder. I can track many of the symptoms back to childhood, but the most dramatic changes began in 2015 when my husband Steve had to move overseas to start a job and the children’s and my visas were denied. On Christmas Eve. And his job started the next week. Moving forward a few years, a replaced amalgam filling, losing the ability to run because of an injury and discovering I didn’t like living so far from any real extended family support, we moved home… and I was happy for it, but my health continued to decline until it reached an event that put me in the Emergency Room with a 280 BPM heart rate that wouldn’t slow down… and I knew something was terribly wrong. I had been struggling to bio-hack my symptoms and body with the help of an amazing Naturopathic Doctor, and my health started going up before it went down again. At the hospital I honestly thought I was going to die or have to live my whole life with intense physical pain and the inability to eat anything but organ meat. (Yep. That was real…) I was so severely anemic that I had decided to try the Carnivore Diet and I was eating liver and heart… not nice, let me tell you. Especially not for a veggie loving fermented food blogger… but veggies gave me intense physical pain. It was almost crippling. My gut just couldn’t handle it and those neurotransmitters were sending alarms all the way up my spine and into my neck and brain… trying to tell me that I was in trouble. Actually to be fair to the organ meat the heart wasn’t too bad… once it was slow cooked and taken out of the skin it was like a roast. Anyway, back to it. There I was in the hospital with a saline I.V. because my sodium levels were low… and they couldn’t really find what was triggering the tachycardia other than my salts being low. And I eat a LOT of salt. I had been reading and implementing the Hashimoto’s Protocol by Dr. Isabella Wentz and I was at the very end when she mentioned that if symptoms were not improving there was likely an infection of blastocystis hominis or another gut infection. Now… I remembered the blastocyst… from my stool test of 20 years back. It came up as one of a dozen remaining parasites after a year of prescription parasite medications and protocols, which my body did not handle well at the time. (Understatement. I can’t remember 3 months of my life and I gained 50 pounds.) Little did I know I was a mutant, so… that didn’t work so well. Back to September of 2019; there I was in the hospital, crying out to God to let me stay and see my babies grow up. I did that whole thing… you know, where you make promises? “Please let me raise them. I don’t want to leave my family yet. I’m okay if I can never eat veggies again and if I’m in pain. I’ll still love you.” And then it dawned on me… it all came together like an epiphany and I realized I still had some of those critters from 20 years back on a foreign exchange, and probably had parasites from when I was out in the boonies of Cambodia… and who knows wherever else because I always accepted hospitality with a smile in any and every country I ever visited from Norway and Germany to Morocco and Ethiopia.
So look. Everyone has parasites. Most people’s body’s keep them in check with good genes, a bit of stomach acid and some good gut bacteria. Also, most people have a microbiome built from one or two places… you can have two extremely harmful parasites in your system but one can cancel out the toxic excretions of another from the same region. But you mix 20 countries and 10+ gene mutations and I was a recipe for helpless. Did I mention I have 10 gene mutations that have to do with Methylation and detoxification? MTHFR is just one, I have a double copy of it and I think it’s no coincidence that it looks very close to a curse. I also can’t maintain good gut bacteria on my own. It says right there in my raw DNA. I highly recommend finding a good Naturopathic Physician who can upload your 23andme raw data to puregenomics.com so you can see what you’re made of, literally. It’s mind blowing and described me down to a T including my ability to build muscle quickly and that I crave fermented foods… and on top of that it gives you a list of recommended supplements and amounts. Super handy tool, really!
After this I started a general gut cleansing protocol plus some specific supplements like S. Boulardii and Berberine to deal with B. Hominis and Mastic Gum to deal with a possible H. Pylori infection (because the two often go hand in hand). It was supposed to be 60 days but my N.D. warned me that for as long as these things have been in my body it might take years. Well… I’m nearly a year in and have been slowly winning, and losing, and winning the battle against these little jerks. I’ve rotated my foods, changed my supplements, eased back in some vegetables with careful preparation, learned to temper keto chocolate (that was fun) lost more parasites, gotten ill and over run again and then changed supplements and lost some more. I’m using some really well formulated ones now from Plexus, which seem to be the missing link to my protocol so far. They’re kicking out the bad microbes and activating the good… and have chelation agents to bind heavy metals and toxins and flush them out of my system. So I’m feeling worlds better. Like… running 5-6 miles without pain, better. I also use a mimosa pudica supplement and that acts as a sticky agent that pulls parasites and holds on to them for dear life, so when you have something like Bio Cleanse in your system you lose them rather than hold on to them to keep recirculating toxins… and their progeny. Gross. Moving swiftly on.
In all this fighting for my life and climbing the massive bio-hacking learning cliff, I have realized some things needed to change and my blog was one of them. It can no longer be solely about fermented foods… because my life is significantly more complex than that. I’m not consuming as many but they are still vital. I am also not eating the same foods as my family because I am so limited in what my body can tolerate that I could not do that to them. I make separate meals breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually lately I have had a breakfast of a frothed MCT and Collagen latte with my stovetop espresso and manual frother so at least that is less fussy.
I have begun a journey of clean advocacy with Beautycounter, whose mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. Because most people don’t seem to know that our personal products are not actually regulated by the FDA. We have only banned 30 toxic chemicals in the US, while Canada has banned 600 and Europe has banned 1,400. Beautycounter has banned a whopping 1,800 ingredients that are known to be harmful to human health… many of which you’ll find even in “clean” and “organic” products. Watch out for greenwashing, folks. Check your products on the EWG. You can download a pocket sized “Never List” from here to check the big ones against your products or the shelves at any store. The most popular container for carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting, hormone disrupting toxins are FRAGRANCES, which can contain upwards of 30 different man made chemicals that are not regulated by the FDA but are actually protected as “trade secrets” because they are proprietary formulas. A company has no legal obligation to tell you what is in them. That should concern you. What sits on your skin all day should concern you the most… because your body’s largest organ does not filter that stuff through your liver first… it absorbs it and moves it into your blood stream to move all around your precious body, affecting your vital and reproductive organs. Skin creams, makeup, body lotion, baby products… should all be first priority for replacing with safer, cleaner versions. The next priority should be things that wash off your skin like shampoo and conditioner, hand and body soap, household cleaning products etc. Switching to glass, stainless steel and cast iron are healthy choices so that plastics are not leeching chemicals into your food and then your body when you eat and drink. Taking your shoes off at the door prevents you from tracking in things you have picked up while out and about, such as glyphosate and other toxins or parasitic organisms; because we don’t want our children or pets rolling around in that either.
And that’s not all! I will be homeschooling this year which brings a whole new dynamic to motherhood and being self-employed! I want to be able to share that journey as well as it is the one my kiddos are most excited about. I want to be able to share about marriage family life, mental health and self-care, finding boundaries and loving others well.
In all these life changes I have found a sweet joy in being able to help others who are experiencing similar health issues who maybe haven’t had the capacity to research for themselves. It is something I am working to make a viable part of my life and so I will be moving my Cultured Bite to a new domain that will allow me to express all these areas and be a resource for those who might need help, or just for those who are interested for a loved one. With the encouragement of my husband and some very good friends, I am launching brennaamay.com to be that platform. I am finishing up a certification in Nutrition Coaching and hope to continue on to a Masters in Nutrition at some stage, but the advent of Covid-19 and homeschooling my beautiful little people has pushed that back yet again. We shall see what is next. It is a new journey, a new wine, and it needs a new wineskin to contain it. So here is a little preview (logo by Taimani Emerald Reed):
I love this image… it reminds me that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Psalm 24:1) and that in God and Christ we have everything we need for life, joy and healing. And I mean that in the fullness of the word. In both prayer and in all the resources he has given us on this earth because they go hand in hand.
Thank you for reading… I know that was long but I am excited for this new stage of life!
What are you looking forward to in this next season? Are you are homeschooling? Are you building a business? Are you retired? Are you trying to heal? What would you like to read from me in the future? These are not rhetorical questions…