Lessons Learned- Trip to Crete, Greece

When I was extremely sick with chronic Lyme disease, one of my most debilitating symptoms was environmental and food sensitivities. I could spot a mold problem long before any diagnostic test. Cleaning products with ammonia or bleach would trigger a severe asthma attack within minutes. Toxic, non-moving air in closed hotel rooms would keep me up all night with an overwhelmed liver. It was very hard for me to eat out in restaurants. Ingesting conventional animal products would cause me to vomit within the hour. Glyphosate laden wheat products would cause diarrhea and an inability to properly digest food for a week. For these reasons, I developed an intense fear to traveling and eating out. I could recover from symptoms when I had my clean “safe space” of a home and home cooked meals. Traveling became panic inducing and out of the question for a couple of years.

3 years, 32 liver flushes, hundreds of coffee enemas, and an impeccable plant based diet later, my health had vastly improved and my husband and I planned our first trip as a family to Crete, Greece where much of his extended family resides. Oddly enough, I had no anxiety or fears traveling across the world with a toddler to stay on an island for two and a half weeks. I was not concerned about our living arrangements, as staying in someone’s home with good air flow is enough to get a good night’s rest. I was not concerned about the food, because the Mediterranean diet is put on a pedestal in the health world. I was excited to dive into the mineral rich, tasty produce. I was not afraid of any hiccups or issues that may arise, because we were going to be with lots of family who has our best interest in mind and willing to help resolve any issues that may arise.

Lesson #1

When you let others cook or prepare food for you, you risk acute illness and disease.

Right after we arrived at the airport in Crete, we were expected to go straight to my husband’s grandmother’s house to meet the relatives and eat a meal. Even though I wanted to go straight to where we were staying and rest, I obliged as this was a new culture and felt it best to go with the flow. I quickly learned that the familial expectation was to eat lunch together everyday that had been prepared by an aunt or grandmother. I felt uneasy as I am used to preparing everything my toddler and I ingest. I obliged with this expectation for several days. I felt “off” during this time and was quick to blame any malaise on jet lag and being introduced to a new microbiome. It wasn’t until my baby, Athena, was vomiting for the second day, I was extremely nauseous with stomach cramps, and my husband felt digestive discomfort, that I decided to say enough was enough. I was no longer willing to let someone else prepare food for me. Soon there after, everyone recovered and we were finally able to enjoy our stay.

Lesson #2

There is junk food everywhere. Living a healthy lifestyle is now a choice, even in the Mediterranean.

The food we were ingesting that made us ill was still plant based and gluten free. When someone else prepares food there is risk for poor quality ingredients, rancid ingredients, poor preparation methods, and additional unwanted ingredients. Even though some of the dishes were similar to what I prepare at home, we were exposed to refined sea salt that contain anti-caking agents (hello aluminum), rancid olive oil in large quantities, and refined sugar. For example, we were given what they call “Greek candy”. I was told it consisted of roasted sesame seeds and raw honey. Later I found out that they add brown sugar and “fructose”, heavily refined sugar derived from fruit, to bind the bar together. My family has not ingested refined sugar in months, so it reeked havoc on our systems.

Lesson #3

The Mediterranean has Westernized.

I was sitting in the Venetian port when I opened my first restaurant menu. I could not believe what they were selling: hamburgers, ice scream, soda, and most dishes containing some sort of animal product. This was surprising to me, because Greeks are known for eating animal products sparingly. Their cuisine is typically vegetarian unless there is a holiday or special occasion. This menu was something I would find at a restaurant in America that I would never chose to visit. The disease inducing food we frequently see in restaurants in America is also widely available in Crete. As a consequence, the health of their population is quickly deteriorating. Although their rates of obesity are lower, a visit to the beaches will prove that most people are now overweight and carrying excess fat around their mid section. Beautiful healthy bodies of a healthy weight are becoming the exception when just a few decades ago they were the standard.

Lesson #4

When the land offers you an abundance of fruit, simplify your diet and life by eating mono fruit meals for optimal hydration and health.

As soon as we started sourcing and preparing our own food, we found an abundance of fresh fruit at produce stands across the city. It is near impossible to find seeded watermelon in Boston, so we were stoked to dive into copious amounts of watermelon. We decided to start each morning with a watermelon cleanse. We cut a large watermelon in half and ate straight from the bowl until we couldn’t eat anymore. Our kidneys would feel slightly overwhelmed when we hit our limit, so we would lie down until it passed. This type of breakfast hydrated us for the whole day, prevented our skin from burning, and has had lasting effects boosting our kidney health. We snacked on mono fruit meals of sweet doughnut peaches, cucumber, tomato, nectarines, and fresh squeezed orange juice. When fruit is allowed to fully ripen on the tree and be eating soon thereafter, the flavor is so rich that there is no need or desire to add anything extra.

File_000

Lesson #5

Your health is more important than any societal expectation.

In most culture, the food traditions are an integral part of social experiences. People want to cook for you as an act of love. People want to dine together and discuss the cuisine. There are expectations to eat together from similar dishes. These traditions are worthless if and when they lead to disease and a decrease in vitality. Each individual is solely responsible for what they put in their own mouths. While awkward and uncomfortable, I no longer hesitate to bring my own food to social gatherings and refusing to eat anything that I know will not nourish my body and lead to a greater state of vitality. It is a form of self-love and self-respect to choose to ingest only what properly nourishes your body.

Lesson #6

Traveling Abroad can create an increased need for breastfeeding a toddler.

Before our trip, I was nursing Athena in the morning, once or twice during the day, and at night. I was finally able to leave her for an extended period during the day without having to worry about nursing her. I have been delaying weaning, as I knew it would be very helpful to breastfeed during our international flight. I was surprised by how often and how much Athena wanted to nurse abroad. We went from almost weaning to a breastfeeding relationship reminiscent of that with a 3-month-old infant. She was attached to my boobs night and day. After the rough adjustment to Greek cuisine, she became very picky about what and how much she would eat. She rarely drank water, so she nursed for food, hydration, comfort, and security. It was a very difficult stress on my body, but I was grateful for the ability to nurse her on demand to smooth over any difficulties while traveling with a toddler.

File_001.jpeg

In conclusion, my trip taught me very important life lessons and help to solidify much of the health and wellness wisdom I have gained over the past few years. The food that we eat lays the foundation for the state of our health and wellness. It is an individual responsibility to take care of our bodies and fuel our bodies with nourishing food to the best of our ability and knowledge. It is time to create new recipes and new traditions that will lay the foundation for healthy individuals and therefore healthy populations.

Leave a Reply