As some will know, I recently celebrated my birthday. Lucky for me, I was gifted with an appointment to see a nutritionist and iridologist (two in one) on the big day (not intended to sound sarcastic, truly).
Why a nutritionist you ask? Because I’m someone who has suffered from tummy aches and pains intermittently since I was a teenager. Basic issues of cramps and gas, hunger even after I’ve eaten, and low energy levels after consumption.
This usually emanates during times of stress or worry, so as an anxious person you can imagine this is quite frequent (during my final exams of school, we were convinced I had appendicitis until the day after my final exam and my symptoms conveniently disappeared – I wasn’t faking I swear).
I’ve always naively tried to dissociate my digestive problems from what I ate, until about four years ago I confidently self-diagnosed as lactose intolerant. I wasn’t far off the mark and cutting out lactose (when it suited me) temporarily fended off my symptoms.
After moving to Madrid; and completely changing my lifestyle I was rather dismayed when my problems with food continuously lingered.
I had cut down my alcohol consumption by about 60%, I ate healthy (and lacto-free), I exercised more than I had previously (in my whole life, probably), received a relatively new source of Vitamin D and had a regular sleeping habit of eight hours. I was ticking all the boxes, and yet, my energy levels fluctuated, plummeting after a meal, my stomach angrily churned every day and no matter what I ate, I still felt truly rotten.
But what is an iridologist you ask? I had never even heard the term either until I met one. Iridology is “an alternative medicine technique whose proponents claim that patterns, colours, and other characteristics of the iris can be examined to determine information about a patient’s systemic health”. Took that straight from Google, clearly.
In other words, they look at your eyes and tell you the problem with everything in your anatomy.
Honestly, I thought I was meeting a standard nutritionist, so when she began to draw pictures of my eyes and explain the map of my body that they offered, I was hesitant.
Honestly, I initially thought she was a bit woo-woo. I have dabbled in alternative medicines, but I don’t necessarily want them to solely determine my future health. Nonetheless, I participated, because I had nothing to lose.
She showed me each point of my anatomy and where it was reflected in my eye. Within two minutes, she told me my spleen was tired and overworked, my thyroid was slow and my intestine was inflamed and acidic. It was difficult to digest the matter-of-fact tone she used while diagnosing through my eye, but I remained composed.
She handed me a mirror and explained that the white lines that encircled the pupil in my pale blue eyes, was my angry intestine. That systematic display was enough to make me bite.
Wow, I gushed. I see it!
By the time she told me that a dark spot at 12 O’clock on my iris meant I had psychic tendencies and that I was very sensitive to other people’s energies, I was utterly engrossed.
Yes, I thought to myself. I have always been able to sense the moods people carry and the atmosphere of a room. But that’s for another post, another time.
Finally, she pricked my finger and although content with my spiritual awakening, I was glad to see some good old western medicine in use. She popped my blood sample into a contraption, and we waited for the results.
I sat in silence, gazing around at the Buddhist statues and listening to the meditation-esk flute-based music that echoed in the hallway, while the nutritionist began to write hastily as the results beeped in. I subtly peaked over at her work, trying to determine what all the numbers meant besides my mostly favourite foods.
Three, four, and five, she began, means you are intolerant and cannot have these foods. I laughed nervously, but her lips didn’t falter. She began to nonchalantly list all my earth-shattering intolerances.
Pork, Beef, Lamb. Okay fine, I’ve been trying to stop eating meat anyway.
Gluten. Oh no. Now I’m going to be one of those, I thought.
Beer containing gluten and wine. Shudder.
Potatoes. What cruelty is this? Potatoes are a rite of passage for Irish people.
Strawberries. What nonsense? Why?!
The list went on, but that was the bulk of it. I inhaled sharply trying to process my doomed sentencing.
And then came the list of supplements, my heart pounding in my ears as I wondered, can I really be a health food supplement and a gluten-free kind of girl? Is it in my nature?
Slipper Elm to reduce stomach inflammation, Digestive enzyme to help break food down, Good bacteria to heal my digestive system and tablets for a thyroid boost.
I smiled and thanked her as I took the paper and left.
It was the morning of my twenty-fourth birthday and one hour with a nutritionist/iridologist had completely changed my outlook. Ok, mostly regarding food. But that psychic comment left me whirling…
I’m not one to enjoy food fads of cutting out food groups or overconsuming a trendy product, and I despise people who sacrifice gluten for no reason other than thinking it unhealthy. I don’t believe in order to eat healthily you need to deduct any food group (as long as you aren’t intolerant) because balance is key. I don’t believe in the 5:2 Diet, Juice diets, or intermittent fasting. I don’t believe in restrictive diets full stop.
The problem is that every item we buy from the supermarket is overly processed, high in sugar or high in preservatives, with unknown chemicals to keep us hooked. She told me I was intolerant to dextrose and sorbitol, two words I had never heard before. Two chemicals that I have recently noticed are hidden in my peanut butter and any low fat or diet products. It’s almost unfair that labels are filled with words that mean nothing to us, and we are expected to knowingly work our dietary needs around it.
Aside from the fault of consumerism, we have our over-indulgent and greedy selves to blame, for eating more than we need or consuming a few too many treats, constantly wearing out bodies down and not listening to them.
Perhaps it was necessary for the nutritionist to put it in my language, terms I can relate to; she told me that my current diet was wasting my money. She said I was constantly putting food into my body that it didn’t like (even when I thought it was healthy) and it avoided absorbing nutrients and just worked on expelling it, leaving me run-down and frankly, still hungry. It surely didn’t help with my increasing money anxiety, but it created an indisputable point that I needed to hear.
I’m lucky that I was gifted this appointment and the supplements because I probably couldn’t afford it otherwise, and would still be stuck in limbo. So, for any other broke gals out there with similar troubles, keep a food diary, listen to your body and try to get to the bottom of it. Don’t assume the obvious foods are to blame. After all, I’m apparently intolerant to mushrooms and kale, two items I previously would have bulked up on, classing them as healthy.
The nutritionist explained that my gut really is my second brain, and that consuming disagreeable foods was blocking my creative flow and adding to any feelings of anxiety or stress. She reassured me that a healthy gut legitimately equals a healthy mind.
I always had an inkling that there was something wrong, that my energy levels seemed too low for my age and that I should be more productive with my time.
I had simply dismissed myself as lazy, easily tired and repetitively lacking energy. I originally thought it was a teenage thing, and then I thought it was a hospitality thing, but now, I exercise a lot, I do yoga, I meditate, I eat well, I have a regular, healthy sleeping pattern and I don’t work too much. I had tried all the tricks in the book and was still exhausted after a normal day. I was never one to be up at the crack of dawn or stay productive until the small hours of the morning, but still, my ability to go to sleep at any point of the day (If I dared) was surely abnormal.
I’m pleasantly relieved, that it wasn’t all in my head and that I have the potential to improve. I am joyous to say that I am not just a lazy person.
It’s been one week of the diet and supplements, and I do feel a shift. A spring of energy and a creative flow, a fresher glint of positivity, and a clearer head (and intestine!).
Perhaps I’m speaking too soon, perhaps I was cheated, perhaps it’s inaccurate, but it’s amazing what the placebo effect can do.