By Sari Huhtala
Ask anyone who has embarked on a journey to find true health again – a real journey, not just a health craze that happens on a whim, but something of substance, a lifelong journey – what landed them on the path to change and most would agree they have experienced what they call a “waking moment.” Like the 50-something-year-old woman who’s never exercised a day in her life and realizes she’s gained so much weight that she can’t get off the couch to help her grandson who desperately needs her help now. Or the 30-year-old mom who’s just too tired to kick a soccer ball around in the backyard with her preschooler.
For Natasha Rueter, that waking moment came at a time when she was pregnant with her first child in her mid 20s. Having grown up experiencing chronic headaches, allergies and sensitivities, asthma attacks and bladder infections, it might have been easy to shrug off the symptoms and accept the theories physicians gave her to explain away the ailments. These chronic conditions had become pretty normal in her life; until a new normal surfaced – monthly yeast infections. Is this really normal? she began to question. And if it was normal then she wondered how on earth she could possibly be the best mom to her child, and raise a healthy child, if she was laid up on a couch all the time suffering with migraines and fatigue.
“I started to have yeast infections every month, feeling very low energy, gaining weight, getting acne,” Rueter, who lives on Manitoulin Island, remembers.
“I went to a million doctors, it seemed, and the only advice they could give was to tell me to take this pill or that.“
“The last doctor I went to said, “You probably could just get off of sugar, but I don’t think that will help much. It’s just how you’re made.””
Others suggested maybe it was all in her head, or maybe she was simply growing older.
“When I was pregnant with my first son, I thought, ok, this is crazy,” Rueter says. “I’m going to take responsibility for my own health.”
She would begin regular consults with a naturopath and turn her health around.
“It opened my eyes up to this whole new world; this possibility that I could get better.
“I found out I was so filled with yeast and candida,” she says, and because she was pregnant at the time, she would need to follow through with all of the dietary recommendations given by the naturopath in order to rid her body of the candida, rather than embark on a course of intense candida cleanses.
“I was off all fruits for six months and all refined sugars, and I have been off all refined sugars to this day.”
She also started probiotics to bring back healthy gut bacteria. She suspects continual prescriptions of antibiotics, due to ongoing lung infections while teaching in Korea, were the culprit behind the onslaught of the regular yeast infections, she says.
“I’m a pretty determined person so when I was told by the naturopath if you do this you’ll be fine, I did it.”
Seven years later, with three boys ranging in ages two to seven tugging her energy in all directions, she could very well be the next poster child for a high energy mom. Her secret? Eat real food – real good quality food.
It’s a pretty basic concept, she says. She and her husband simply started spending time reading the ingredient labels on everything they purchased, and upped the quality of their food.
“We haven’t changed our eating habits, just the quality. I eat anything, but only in good quality. Today, I would never have a store bought cookie or muffin, but back then I would.”
It’s really about swapping out lower quality foods that create a health deficit, like any highly processed foods, refined sugars, for foods that nourish the body. Small changes, like switching up cheap, white or wholewheat refined flour to red fife wheat or spelt in baking and buying local hormone and antibiotic-free meat, all make a difference.
“People say it’s expensive to eat like we do, but I argue that no, it’s expensive to drink, buy expensive cars and boats. We try to keep things simple. We have different priorities. Where ever we are at, this is the greatest space.
“We know in our hearts it’s the most important thing for our children, so we’re not just going to say it’s too hard to keep up this lifestyle. I want to give my kids a super strong foundation of what’s important. It’s a lot of work, but I believe it’s the right thing. It’s better than screaming fits and headaches.”
“We always tell our kids that if you feel good, you’ll think well. I feel the most important things are real food, water and love.”
Rueter likes to call the rhythm she is in as the “happy cycle; the more good food you eat, the better you feel,” she says. Speaking from experience, she says it beats the vicious cycle of eating bad food, feeling tired and cranky, then eating more bad food, and so on.
Change is never easy, and it’s a lot of work to be a conscious eater, she says, but what better reward than higher quality of life for oneself and for one’s children?
“I feel like I’m unstoppable, like I can do anything. I have so much motivation and energy. Before, my motivation and clarity of thought was lacking. I can be more understanding and calm with the kids. It’s hard to remain in that space if you’re tired or cranky and your head hurts. I have three kids and I have lots of energy.”