When we arrived in LaPaz, I did not eat unless I could be positive there was no milk or flour in the food. It is amazing how frozen in fear I am about ordering food because of the nonstop worry of getting sick. A mom of 4 just has no time for constant health problems. When we arrived in Ixiamas, I discovered that bread is a cheap staple (1 Boliviano for 2 pieces of bread the size of large dinner rolls). Also, since the bread was made with only butter, lard, and flour -no milk! – I decided to try it. It tasted good and I felt fine. After this surprising success, I tried the milk from a friend’s cow. No symptoms! I could not believe it! It seemed I was able to eat everything here! The only time I have gotten sick is when I ate at a burger chain restaurant and a store that served previously-frozen empanadas. Later a friend told us those places served “fast food”. I do notice that if I consume too much milk I will get a little congested. I try to space the dairy consumption out so that I only have dairy every other day.
I have not had one headache while in Ixiamas, while in the States I usually had one every two weeks. I have not gone to bed all stopped up or woken up by a sneezing attack. When I eat flour, my tummy does not feel horrible and bloated. In the States, I typically got sick after eating out. No matter how fervently the restaurants promised they did not have milk or flour in their foods, I always seemed to spend the next day sitting on the couch feeling horrible and trying to get well.
Let me be clear. In America, I could not have any gluten or dairy. Even when I was extremely strict with the foods that I ate, I still became sick. I could not eat trace amounts of dairy without experiencing flu-like symptoms for 3 days. And if I had flour, I would have intense stomach cramps for at least a day.
So how is this possible? Why did I spend so much of my life sick in the States since my childhood? How is it that I am well in Bolivia?
I think I know the answer. There are little to no chemicals used in food production here. Vegetables and fruits are picked from the garden and go straight to the market. After the cow is milked, the milk is poured into a rinse- out soda bottle and sold. We buy the food and then we eat it – that’s all. There are no planes spraying chemicals and no huge factories manipulating food with additives. There are no FDA regulations, no Monsanto, and no companies enforcing rules for how things must be prepared, processed and packaged. And the water is clean; it comes straight from a spring in the mountain. It is not treated with added fluoride or any other chemicals “to make sure we are healthy.”
And Ixiamas is FAR from sanitary. Nobody boils water before using it. No one runs around washing their hands or using hand sanitizer before serving each meal. The bathrooms that most people use are nothing more than a hole in the ground. Everyone deals with free-roaming farm animals wandering through their homes, stores and restaurants. The roads are covered in dirt and when a motorcycle drives by, dirt flies everywhere.
I believe all the rules and regulations in the States surrounding food production were destroying my body. Almost everything made me sick. The chemicals were affecting my brain as well as my organs. Two of our children had almost as many problems as I did and I felt hopelessly sure that their issues would only continue to worsen as mine did. In America, I felt like I could never trust restaurants or packaged foods. When I couldn’t pronounce the ingredients on the side of the box, I knew I was in trouble.
I have believed for a long time that the chemicals were destroying me. I felt helpless to find an answer. Affording the good stuff was killing our budget (and I wasn’t sure I could trust the health food stores anyway). The only solution I could think of was to grow my own food. But then I even wondered if the air, soil, and water would be free enough from chemicals for me to ever be well.
I realize that some people eat whatever they want in the States and do not get sick. But I know so many people that feel awful like I did. And then there are the many illnesses that people have that can be treated with healthy food: America is rampant with cancer, diabetes, acne, ADD, ADHD, arthritis, autism, and asthma (wow that’s a lot of ‘A’ words).
For our family, being able to eat without throwing up, not spending hours in the bathroom, not needing medicine, rarely getting sick, and not feeling crazy and out of control are worth everything to us! We are more than aware that we are not prolonging our life by eating this way and we are not health food nuts. We just want to feel well!
With excitement I will say it again……when I eat in America, I get extremely sick. When I eat those same foods in Bolivia, I feel great. My family feels awesome too. I don’t know what else to think other than unlike America, there are no chemicals, additives, or genetically modified foods here. You may think the labels “organic” and “all natural” in the fancy stores means the food is healthy and chemical-free, but I do not believe it. I do not believe our family can escape sickness when we eat in America.