Candice Billings, Certified Holistic Nutritionist
Like the majority of Americans, I grew up in a household where eating meat and dairy was a normal part of our daily meals. We had eggs with bacon or cereal with milk for breakfast. We had deli sandwiches with potato chips for lunch. For dinner it was chicken with mashed potatoes, or something of that sort. We also had no shortage of soda, frozen treats, and other sugary or salty foods to snack on between meals.
I ate this way every day for the first half of my life and for as long as I can remember, I have suffered from intense gastrointestinal (GI) or digestive problems. The symptoms would come on randomly after eating a meal. I would have sharp pains in my digestive tract and feel extremely bloated, or I would be nauseous after eating. Most of the time after eating I would also feel extremely fatigued.
I went to see different doctors throughout my childhood and my mother even had to take me to the emergency room a number of times because my stomach was in so much pain. But even with having tests, scans, and blood work done no doctor was ever able to diagnose me or find anything wrong.
Although I did grow up in a household where meat was served at most meals, I never really enjoyed eating meat. As I grew older I significantly cut meat out of my diet until I eventually was completely vegetarian. I lived on a vegetarian diet for several years and I really thought that I was eating as healthy as I could. But during this time my symptoms of pain and bloating, nausea and fatigue never went away.
A couple of years ago I decided to go see a new doctor because my pain was becoming more and more frequent. This doctor recommended I have a colonoscopy procedure done so they could check for any abnormalities in my colon that could be causing my symptoms. After my procedure my doctor told me that he was very surprised to have found a polyp inside my colon and he removed it and sent it off to be tested. A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue that grows inside the body that usually does not show any signs or symptoms and can go years without being detected.
After the results came back from the lab my doctor had me come back in for a follow-up appointment. I was told that the tissue removed from my colon was pre-cancerous, which means that it was an early sign of colon cancer in my body. If it would not have been removed it had the potential to turn into colon cancer. My doctor told me I would need to have a colonoscopy every 3-5 years for the rest of my life in order to make sure pre-cancerous tissue does not come back. As for the pain, bloating, and nausea I was suffering? He was unable to diagnose me with anything, but wrote me a prescription for a pill I could take every day that would relax my colon to hopefully prevent pain. That was the end of my appointment.
After this appointment I felt both startled and defeated. Here I was, in my 20’s and already showing early signs of colon cancer. It seemed to me like there was nothing I could do about it. I would have to have screenings every 3-5 years just hoping that I didn’t develop this deadly disease. This was terrifying. I also felt defeated that once again, they were not able to find any reason for my stomach pain, so I would continue to have to live with that as well.
For the next few months I continued my regular life, including my eating habits of a vegetarian diet. At this time I was studying public health in school, specifically about nutrition. I was researching information for a paper I was writing and I happened to come across a book called The China Study. This book caught my eye because it read on the cover “The most comprehensive study on nutrition ever conducted”. This statement seemed very interesting to me and although I didn’t really know what to expect, I purchased the book and read it cover to cover. I was blown away by the information! This book taught me how important the relationship is between the foods you put into your body and the outcome of your health. I continued digging deeper and found even more books with evidence-based nutrition studies that prove how the relationship between consuming meat and dairy promote not only colon and other cancerous growth, but heart disease, diabetes, obesity and tons of other diseases.
At this time, I was still on a vegetarian diet. But like many vegetarians, dairy was a big part of my diet. I also ate eggs for breakfast most days. After reading this research I decided to try a completely plant-based diet and eliminate all animal products from my meals.
Within 1 week I was already feeling positive effects from changing my diet. My energy and mood improved significantly. So much so, that some people even commented on my energy level and I had not even told them I made any dietary changes! Within 3 weeks I did not suffer from any more stomach pain. No more bloating, no more nausea, no more fatigue! A lifetime of living with these symptoms and no doctor was able to find anything wrong with me. I removed dairy and within weeks I am cured of these symptoms!
I am sharing this story with you because I am hoping to spread a positive public health message. We are told our entire lives that we need meat and dairy in our diet, when in fact, it is just not true. At one point in time people thought that smoking cigarettes was harmless, and now we all know that smoking increases your risk for developing lung cancer. The same exact thing holds true for consuming animal products. There are hundreds upon thousands of evidence-based studies that prove animal products promote disease but fruits and vegetables prevent, treat, and have the ability to reverse disease. I don’t think the message could be any clearer! I don’t want you to just take my word for it, do your own research, or even just try to limit meat and dairy and incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet and see how you feel. Like many people, I thought that I was eating a healthy diet and I had no idea the damage I was doing to my body.
If you are thinking about changing to a plant-based lifestyle but have no idea where to start, feel free to reach out to me through our website at radiantlifeproject.org.
As always, thank you for reading and allowing me to share my story with you.
Books I have read and think you should read too:
- The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health
- How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
- Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure
- Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole: Your Guide To Optimum Health
- Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It
Candice is a certified holistic nutritionist focusing on a plant based lifestyle. After battling years of pain and discomfort she was able to cure herself with a plant based lifestyle and is determined to spread awareness to others. She is also a yoga practitioner, MPH student, urban garden volunteer, and a loving cat momma.