When I was 37, a health crisis hit me like a lightning bolt. I remember sitting in the gynecologist’s office. The look of concern on the doctor’s face unnerved me. She was going on and on about a gigantic fibroid sitting in my uterus. My mind drew a blank.
“What?” I thought. “How could that be? I had an annual check-up just a year ago and received a clean bill. What has happened to my body?”
I was in shock. My head dropped and I covered my face with my sweaty palms. Tears started dropping and I could not believe what I just heard. I said to myself: “I don’t need another bad news in my life right now!”
My father was dying from cancer on the other side of the world. I was devastated when this bad news dropped.
“Oh no! I don’t want to go to the hospital!” I was scared. I witnessed how my father was butchered in the hospital during his long treatment period. I never imagined that I might end up with the same fate.
“No! I’m not going to let that happen.” I decided to take things into my own hands. “I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!” became my mantra lurking behind every single move.
So I started reading books upon books on how to heal our body with natural methods. With each book that I read, I tried out the suggestions. Juicing, fasting, detoxing, and eventually, I went all out with a raw vegan diet.
After being on this diet for over half a year, I hit a brick! I woke up feeling like the sky was spinning and my world was literally upside down. “Isn’t this diet supposed to make me feel great?” The dizziness didn’t go away until two full hours later.
At that point, I knew in my gut that something was very wrong with my body. I mean, how come it felt like climbing a mountain when I was walking up a flight of stairs? How come my hair was falling out en masse and my skin was dry like a desert? And worst of all, I developed the worst acid reflux I had ever had, so much so that eating and sleeping became a problem. “No way,” I told myself. “Time to call it quits!”
One day, when reading a book about 100 superfoods for longevity, I came upon the concept of eating according to your blood type. I became intrigued. At the same time, I was tired of trying 100 different types of foods to make myself feel better. I mean, come on! How on earth can you manage to stuff down so many foods, each claimed to be a superfood? This was too overwhelming and confusing.
So, I picked up the recommended book that talked about how to eat right for your blood type, “Eat Right 4 Your Type” by Dr. Peter D’Adamo. Then, everything just started to make sense!
Once I learned how to eat the right foods for my unique body type, and avoided those foods that made me sick, my health turned around 180 degrees. Since then, for over 10 years, I have kept myself in good shape. I gained so much energy and felt better than ever.
Surprisingly, my painful menstrual cramps, along with all those PMS symptoms like headaches, acne, swollen and painful breasts all went away silently. In fact, all the cysts in my breasts that I had since my puberty also disappeared. I was shocked. For the first time in my life, I didn’t dread being a woman with all those irritating and sometimes miserable monthly inconveniences. I was able to go to dance classes without any issues.
Fast forward 12 years, I am in menopause, but I hardly have any symptoms and complaints like hot flashes, night sweats or mood swings. This is thanks to radical diet and lifestyle changes I made a decade ago. And the bonus of that is, I have been able to maintain a healthy weight and shape without depriving myself of delicious food.
Because of how amazing I feel, I decided to share what I learned with women who are going through perimenopause. I hope that these women can feel great once again like I do, and look forward to sailing through their menopause and enjoying the second half of their precious lives. This is why I’m doing what I’m doing, and I love every minute of it.
What about those fibroids? Well, it’s a long story. But the gist of it is, they had already grown too big before I started to turn my health around using natural ways. So eventually I had them removed surgically. But luckily I did not let fear overcome me and rushed into the operating room for a hysterectomy, which 9 out of the 10 doctors I saw suggested. I waited five years until I found a surgeon who was willing to preserve my uterus, and the operation was a success. The strange thing was, during those five years, my fibroids didn’t grow at the rate the doctors had expected, and I had absolutely no excess bleeding issues or pain. After the surgery, my recovery was phenomenal thanks to years of eating anti-inflammatory and healing foods. Since then, I have shifted my focus from managing disease to maintaining health. It has been an awesome journey!
To me, food means several things: nourishment for the body, fuel that gives me energy, medicine that heals and prevents diseases, elixir that keeps the physique youthful, art for the eyes and soul, and aphrodisiac to arouse the desire and lust for life!
My passion for food started when I was a child. My mother has a natural talent for cooking. After moving from China to Hong Kong, my mom learned to “modernize” her cooking while watching TV shows. She effectively taught herself and created her own homemade “fusion cuisine.”
How did My Approach to Food Evolve?
Interestingly, I learned to look at food’s medicinal qualities in a brand new way in my late 30’s, after having experienced a crisis in my family’s and my own health.
Since then, I have been following a highly personalized approach of choosing food. It is one that is rooted in science and based on blood type and genetic attributes.
I didn’t invent this nutritional approach. I am forever grateful for naturopathic doctors Dr. Peter D’Adamo and his father, Dr. James D’Adamo, for coming up with this ingenious concept, which was supported by clinical evidence and the positive results reported by thousands of patients over the past few decades.
The Back Story
How did I arrive at this critical decision in my life, to choose only food that is found to be compatible with my blood?
In 2009, I was diagnosed with huge uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts, and I started looking for natural ways to heal my body. During the process, I found many wonderful tricks and secrets. But I also stumbled many times while I experimented with fasting and with many different kinds of diet, including the raw vegan diet.
One of the most useful healing methods I found was the “Blood Type Diet.” Since I started to follow it closely in 2009, I have healed from a myriad of ailments, many of which had bothered me since childhood. These ailments included digestive problems like stomach aches, bloatedness, and constipation; cold sores, severe seasonal allergies, headaches, PMS, excess mucus, frequent colds and flus — the list goes on.
It is my wish that my content here will provide some inspiration and guidance to those of you who are struggling with chronic health issues but are determined to improve your health and well-being through natural means.
The reason why I have relied on the “Blood Type Diet” — which later developed into an even more personalized approach based on the epigenetics principle — to support my physical health is simple. While “we are all one,” the human race comprises a variety of genetic attributes, including blood types and ethnicity, as a result of the evolutionary needs for survival in challenging environments. Each of us has inherited the specific attributes that our ancestors adopted in order to survive and thrive. And so we’ll do well by feeding our bodies with the “fuel” that best fits our genetic traits.
As such, no one diet can address the specific needs of all individuals. One man’s food is another poison. This age-old adage is not only figurative but literally true!
Eating according to your specific type helps you avoid the “poisons” that contribute to weight gain, low energy, mood instability, brain fog, compromised immunity and increased chances of chronic diseases.
It helps boost your immune system, adjust your weight to what is optimum for your unique body, increase your vitality and longevity, plus a lot more. As a bonus, if you eat only what’s good for you, you will naturally not be wasting money on “edible poisons,” so it will help you save money.
This is a continuation of my blog post on how I experience my native Chinese food culture and adapted it to my current health needs. See Part 1 here.
In Chinese society, food and health are never separated. Even as a kid, I often heard about the medicinal effects of this food and that food. Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts are deeply ingrained even in everyday conversations. When you have eaten too much of a certain food or some junk food, you would immediately hear someone tell you, “That would give you ‘hot air”—meaning you’re flared up inside. “Drink some cool tea!” (traditional herbal tea). So the awareness of achieving “internal balance” is in each and every fiber of the Chinese soul. Even Western-trained physicians in Hong Kong would tell you what to eat and what to avoid after a physical exam.
In addition, I would often hear my mom talk about the medicinal values of certain foods, such as how the goji berry improves our eyesight—even before this berry became known as a “Super Food” in the West. My dad, who loved to serve us fruits after the dinner, would often say, “Fruits are good for your digestion.”
No wonder I had a cultural shock when I first arrived in America and found the food culture completely different! One time, I asked my college roommate if she wanted an apple. “No, thanks! I’m not hungry.” I didn’t realize until then that fruits were considered something to fill you up. For me, fruits were more like a snack for enjoyment and for the various nutrients and digestive power in them, and weren’t necessarily eaten when one was hungry.
One day, also at college, I had a strep throat and went to see the doctor. At the end of the consultation, I asked him what food I should avoid. He said, “Nothing. Just eat anything you like, as usual.” I asked if I should avoid drinking soda or eating ice cream. He said, “No! It doesn’t make any difference.” I was shocked. In Chinese culture, when you are sick, eating or drinking cold food or drinks is a big No-No.
I didn’t think much about these “weird” statements after being “assimilated” by the American culture.
Only until almost 20 years later, when I developed huge tumors inside my body, did I start to remember the connection between food and health once again.
Merits of the Traditional Chinese Diet
Having studied and experimented with dozens of different diets (not weight-loss programs but ways of eating), I can finally appreciate the traditional Chinese way of eating. Mind you, what I appreciate is its essence, not necessarily the details. I’ll talk more about that later. But what is the essence I’m talking about?
As I mentioned in my last blog, or Part 1 of this series, the beauty of the Chinese diet is a wide variety of ingredients in small amounts every meal to achieve a balance. The French do so par excellence as well, and so do many other traditional diets. Today, because of how deeply the modern way of “convenience eating” has impacted people’s health, “movements” have sprung up to correct the general nutritional deficiency or imbalance in the modern human population. Among these movements are the paleo diet, various autoimmune disease protocols, as well as the Wise Traditions Diet promoted by the Weston Price Foundation.
These various ways of eating aim to reintroduce a “wiser” way as espoused by our ancestors. It would be easier to relate to these diets if we simply imagine how our grandmothers or great grandmothers would cook and eat. They did not avoid fat, meat or animal organs. In fact, almost all parts of the animal were consumed, as it was not that often that they could get a hold of meat. Broth was drunk regularly and considered the key to good immunity and healthy skin. There was no processed or packaged food whatsoever. Artificial preservatives and flavorings were non-existent. Fermented and cultured food was a regular part of the diet.
All of these qualities can be found in Chinese culture as well. So when I read “The China Study,” I was flabbergasted. OK, it is very likely that a certain part of the Chinese population eat mainly vegetables and remain healthy, but my understanding is that, throughout the thousands of years of Chinese history, people ate mainly vegetables out of poverty and not of choice, and whenever there was a chance to eat animal flesh, it was a sign of abundance. There is a funny concept within the Chinese diet and Traditional Chinese Medicine called “nourishing the same shape with the same shape.” In practice, it means if you have an illness in one organ, you can simply eat the same organ from another animal to cure the disease. I remember that when I was a child, my mother cooked pig’s lung soup for me to cure my bronchitis. One theory says that because of the general lack of animal protein in the old days, any part of an animal, when ingested, would augment the person’s health. That kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, when a modern diet attempts to leave out an entire food group that has been traditionally eaten throughout human history, one has to question why. I’m not going into details about why I think it is problematic as this is not the main theme of this article. But I do want to make one point: It is totally understandable to leave out specific types of food in order to avoid toxins and harmful effects they have on our body. And this attempt can often reap dramatic positive benefits in the short run. But to permanently leave out an entire food group, which our human body has evolved to consume for our optimal nutritional needs, is inherently flawed. There are almost always ways to find alternatives within the same food group and sources that are clean.
Adapting Chinese Cuisine to Modern Scientific Findings
For the same reason, I personally have changed the ingredients of my meals from what the Chinese traditions call for, to those that are specifically geared toward the unique needs of my body. After having learned about the scientific basis of the Blood Type Diet, Genotype Diet and SWAMI, I started to apply that knowledge to my own food tradition. The result was a revelation of why there have been some contradictions in the advice given by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners.
For example, when a person is sick with a cold or flu, a TCM practitioner would give the advice of not eating chicken because it is “poisonous” to the patient at this time. But sometimes one would hear another practitioner say, “Don’t eat beef.” Well, which one is right? Personally, I have put this to a test. I had eaten beef when I was sick, but it didn’t make me feel any worse. In fact, I gained energy and recovered faster. The same goes for chicken. But how come some other people feel worse when they eat either of these when sick? Another example is that I often hear people say that eating mangoes is “damping,” which means it promotes stagnation inside the body and leads to digestive and skin problems. But I have found that even if I eat a mango every day for a sustained period of time, I never have any problems.
I have found that the answer lies in individual blood types. Chicken is an “avoid” — and thus acts like a poison — or Type B and AB individuals, whereas beef is an “avoid” for Type A and AB individuals. Because I am of Type O blood, I never have any problem assimilating these two types of meat. In fact, I thrive on them, provided the sources are clean (i.e. free range chicken and grass-fed beef). The same goes for mangoes — a beneficial fruit for Type O. Those who experience issues are likely to be Type A and Type AB folks.
Since Chinese Medicine is an amalgamation of wisdom gathered from folk medicine, and regional differences in China are huge and numerous, each piece of advice collected could have come from a particular region where a certain blood type is dominant. For the same reason, I suspect that the predominant proportion of the subjects studied by T. Colin Campbell in “The China Study” were likely to be Type A individuals, who thrive on a largely plant-based diet supported by soy protein. Of course, I don’t have the capability or resources to analyze this thoroughly, so my theory, which I am putting out there as food for thought, comes from my own intuition and long-time observations within Chinese society.
Typical Chinese Ingredients to Avoid
I also have realized that the traditional Chinese way of eating, which has become “bastardized” in today’s fast-paced urban areas of China and other large Chinese communities around the world, does have a lot of room for improvement.
For example, because of the general lack of nutrients and dubious way white rice is grown and processed, and because white rice is at the basis of a typical Chinese meal—the volume of which is way out of proportion for a healthy diet—I would recommend eating basmati rice, especially basmati brown rice, as well as other unmilled rice from organic sources. In terms of the volume, I would de-emphasize it for Type O folks, who generally don’t do well with grains, and those who are either pre-diabetic or diabetic.
There are a number of ingredients that are very common in traditional Chinese cooking that certain blood types should look out for. Soy sauce is one of them. Soy sauce is made with two main ingredients, soy and wheat. Soy is beneficial for the majority population within Type A and AB individuals (known as Secretors), neutral for the rest and an “avoid” for the minority population within Type B and O (“Non-secretors”). However, most soy today is GMO. As for wheat, it is an “avoid” for all except for being “neutral” for Type A and AB Secretors. However, wheat is a very problematic food for most people today, the reason of which will fill an entire book! Suffice it to say, for the purpose of this article, that wheat-germ agglutinin in the wheat, the higher proportion of gluten than any time in wheat’s history, and the carcinogenic glyphosate that is widely sprayed on today’s wheat crop, are three big reasons to avoid it totally, especially if you have any chronic diseases or weight issues. What it all boils down to, is that really only Type A Secretors can benefit from soy sauce, provided that it is the wheat-free version, known as tamari.
Personally, I have eliminated soy sauce from my diet since eight years ago. The excessive mucus that I had to contend with every single day has completely disappeared. To find out what I use in lieu of soy sauce, click here and download the recipe. Sometimes I would joke that the reason why you see so many Chinese people spit or cough up phlegm is that they eat too much soy sauce!
As I mentioned above, wheat is indeed a problematic food, but you will find lots of wheat-based items used in traditional Chinese dishes, such as noodles, won tons, dumplings and all the wraps you find in “dim sum.” I would go for rice-based alternatives instead, such as rice noodles.
Another common ingredient is corn starch. Cornstarch is inflammatory and an “avoid” for all except for Type A Secretors (neutral for them). But you see it being used in all the sauces in Chinese stir-fries at restaurants.
Speaking of Chinese restaurants, did you know that the most common type of oil used for the dishes is soy oil? Soy oil is by far the cheapest of all oil, and as I have mentioned, most soy today is GMO. So whatever dishes you order, most likely there is going to be some soy in it–if not the soy sauce, then the cornstarch or MSG.
MSG, a neurotoxin, is an all-too-common ingredient in dishes at Chinese restaurants and take-outs. As MSG is derived from corn, and most corn today is GM, even if you don’t get an immediate reaction from it such as headache or extreme thirst, imagine what long-term consumption of it would do to your body!
One more ingredient that I have sworn off of, which is ubiquitous in Chinese cuisines, is pork. Pork has the highest viral load among all domestic animals. And the way they are raised and fed, including how they eat their own feces, highly increases the presence of parasites. This could cause unimaginable harm to our body — some of which are hardly discussed in the medical community at all. Pork raised at the farmstead back in the old days in China might have been an extremely good and efficient source of protein. However, in today’s industrial farms, the reality is a far cry from that. Sometimes, my Chinese friends would joke that I am a Chinese Muslim. Well, in a way, I find that the Muslim and Jewish abstinence from pork to have some protective effect on their health.
The easiest way to adapt Chinese cuisine to healthier standards and to our bio-individuality, is to make stir-fries dishes using ingredients that are compliant to each blood type. If there are different blood types within a family, make sure all ingredients are either neutral and/or beneficial. Some ingredients that are “avoids” for certain family members can be cooked or set aside on the dish so the whole family can enjoy it.
I grew up in Hong Kong, a predominantly Chinese society. At home, my mother followed the food tradition of a typical Chinese household, providing the family with three meals a day, made with mostly fresh ingredients shopped in the outdoor markets on the same day.
Dinner was a full-on family affair. We always ate at exactly the same time every day—7pm, and the whole family would sit down to eat a meal that consisted of a big bowl of broth, a small bowl of rice, a dish each of vegetables, fish/seafood and meat. In each dish, there was a variety of different ingredients, and the colors of the food made the dinner table a wonderful sight to behold.
So, already in childhood, I established the habit of eating a wide variety of food with a broad spectrum of tastes, including bitterness and spiciness—all of which contributes to balanced nutritional intake and proper detox. In fact, the Chinese style of cooking packs a lot of different nutrients in a single chopstick scoop! In every meat or fish dish, there will always be a number of vegetables, herbs and spices. The “foundation” of the meal is a bowl of rice. So we never tend to eat too much, as we would pick from the dishes laid in the center of the table, and stop when we have finished the bowl of rice. Of course, when we are really really hungry, we would pick more often from the dishes and maybe refill the bowl with a bit more rice.
The reason why I am telling you this, is that I recently read about how the French family eats and how it contributes to healthy figures—and I wanted to add my two cents ;-). To my surprise, there is a great deal of similarities between the French way of eating and the Chinese way of eating, with the exception of how the dishes are laid out. The Chinese style is more “communal” whereas the French style is more “individual.” But in both cultures, we tend to eat a great variety of foods in moderate quantities at each meal. Freshness of the ingredients plays a very important role, and so does “togetherness.” All of these qualities add an extra dimension to the concept of healthy eating. Yes, it matters a great deal what you eat. But how much, at what pace, and with whom we eat our meals also play an immeasurable role in how our body assimilates food and makes it beneficial for our overall health. I am sure the Chinese and French ways of eating are not the only ones that value these qualities. I believe this is the case in most traditional cultures. It is with the prevalence of the “modern” lifestyle that we’ve gradually lost the wholesome habits that were once a norm.
First, the sit-down dinner gave way to TV dinner. Then, came the computer. For the sake of convenience and to save time, the prepackaged meal—loaded with preservatives and additives of poor nutritional quality—was born. And when we eat in front of the TV or computer, without focusing on the food itself, our internal sensors of whether we are full or not are turned off. We eat mindlessly, shoving down bite after bite into our throat and losing track of how much we have eaten and whether we are already full or not. On top of that, social isolation (e.g. not having someone to share meals with) and other stress factors could lead us to soothe ourselves by filling our stomach with “comfort food” (which, in many cases, take the form of ultra-processed junk food.) This could eventually lead to binge eating.
I had my first experience of binge eating when I was in college. Having moved from Hong Kong to the United States, I was all alone in dealing with all the stress related to adulthood, loneliness and cultural shock. On those lonely nights of studying for exams, I would drink multiple cans of Coca-Cola or Mountain Dew, and gobble up a whole box of graham bear or Oreo cookies in one setting. I was desperately trying to soothe the anxiety inside me by mindlessly munching on sweet food and downing sugary beverages, which seemed to perk up my energy level for short bouts. None of those really helped me feel better after all, but I plowed on for four years, relying on junk foods to get me through my heavy workload, social isolation and rejections. This, along with the unhealthy food and ways of eating that I picked up, contributed to the ballooning of my weight. Already by the end of the first semester in college, I added 20 lbs to my petite frame of 5’3″, and my waistline measured 30.” My struggle with weight would persist throughout my college years.
In my “Westernization” process, I embraced all the foods that were unheard of or scarce when I grew up — milk, cheese, frozen yogurt, deep-dish pizza, bagels, muffins, thick American-style pancake towers, buffalo wings—you name it. Those were “novelty” items that soon became addictive to my palate. I was so bored of traditional Chinese food after having eaten it for my whole life! I ate loads of these American foods on a regular basis, and fell in love with the “all-you-can-eat” style restaurants at the same time. To me, being able to eat without restrictions and at incredibly low prices was “heaven.” And on busy days, I would eat in front of the computer while working on my papers. All these new habits didn’t do my health much good. But it would be a long time afterwards that I realized the consequences.
I am sharing my experience and my realizations because I want you to know that if you struggle with binge eating or have trouble controlling the amount of food you eat, you are not alone, and that there are habitual and emotional reasons behind it. Will power, portion control or counting calories can only go so far. But if you become aware of why you need to eat beyond the point of satiation, then the real solution of turning the habit around is just around the corner.
Mindful eating is a good start in building a healthy relationship with food. Here are some simple steps you can follow:
Sit down properly for each meal.
Lay your food in an attractive way on the dish or bowl.
Look at your food, say a little “Thanks” to it before you start.
Savor each and every bite.
Eat slowly. Chew thoroughly.
Before you take the next bite, check in with your stomach. Listen to it carefully. Is it hungry? If so, keep eating. If not, stop for a moment, then listen again.
Stop when you are “almost” full. Eating till 75%-80% full is what those people in the Blue Zones—the longest-living human beings—habitually do.
Ask yourself these questions:
Are you eating to support your health and well-being?
Are you using food as a drug to numb your anguish, loneliness or suffering?
Are you using food as a tool to punish yourself when you “screw up” in any way, such as feeling that you have “fallen off the wagon” if you are on diet?
In the second part of this series, I will be talking about the concept of food as medicine ingrained in the Chinese food culture. I will also be analyzing how some of the traditional ingredients used in Chinese and other Asian cuisines are excellent while others may not be all that healthy for some of us. To read the second part, click here.
Many of my readers have asked me whether I was able to naturally shrink the huge uterus fibroid tumors that I had about a decade ago through dietary changes. So I’ve decided to write a separate post to follow up on my health journey, originally recounted in this blog post here.
During my half-year trial with the vegan diet, my two fibroid tumors did shrink by 1/3 of their original sizes. I was elated when I saw the ultrasound scan results and used them as a validation for the vegan lifestyle I was fervently pursuing.
But, as I mentioned in this post, the initial success was followed by a backlash of side effects in the rest of my body. And so I continued my search and eventually arrived at the best kind of diet after a long process of self-experimentation and elimination — the Blood Type Diet. After being on the general Blood Type Diet, I continued to fine-tune my diet by experimenting with the Genotype Diet, which is a different system created by the same naturopath who propagated the concept of the Blood Type Diet, Dr. Peter D’Adamo, the author of New York Times bestseller Eat Right 4 Your Type.
The Genotype Diet did not seem to suit me very well so I decided to give SWAMI a try. SWAMI is a software written by Dr. D’Adamo, which is the most personalized approach and combined the benefits of both the Blood Type Diet and Genotype Diet. It gave me a unique food list as well as exercise and supplement recommendations based on my blood type, genetics, personal health history, current health conditions, family health history and more. Once I started following the recommendations of SWAMI, my health was on an upward trend down to the minutest details.
Tricky Emotional Factors
However, when it came to the fibroids, it remained a tricky challenge. For five long years, I was actually able to keep them relatively stable in size. The fact that they did not expand in size was a testament that the individualized SWAMI diet was superb in keeping inflammation and abnormal cell growth at bay. In addition, unlike most women with fibroids who suffer from excessive bleeding and severe pain or cramping during their menstrual periods, I did not experience any of those symptoms at all. In fact, my periods were normal and painless — an immense improvement from what I had experienced ever since I started having them.
But, one day, I felt extreme discomfort — the fibroids were expanding so rapidly in my pelvic cavity that I felt tremendous pressure and bouts of pain. I remember vividly the day when I felt the pain. I had to give a business presentation to an audience who came from all over the world. But the demanding work was not what caused the stress in my system. What happened was that right before I left home for the presentation, I was faced with a shattering truth from my ex-husband, who engaged in a behavior that was totally unacceptable to me.
Shock waves of negative emotions — of anger, disappointment, feelings of betrayal and shame — went through my body in a very short time. What made it worse was that I had to act stoically and pretend that nothing had happened when I went on the podium to give my speech. I squeezed out fake smiles and tried to be as composed as possible, but a volcano of anger was boiling underneath the surface.
After this traumatic episode, I realized that I had to do something about the situation — I needed to take care of the expanding tumors once and for all, and then deal with the rest. An ultrasound check revealed what I had suspected, which was that the fibroids — and the ovarian cysts — had expanded substantially. The size of the fibroids were equivalent to that of a five-month old fetus.
Luckily, by this time, I was given a recommendation for a surgeon who, unlike the nine previous ones I had consulted — was willing to perform myomectomy instead of hysterectomy on me. This meant that my uterus would be preserved, despite the perceived difficulty related to the sheer size and shape of my fibroids.
I was so grateful for this surgeon. At the same time, I was grateful for the naturopathic doctor whom I had been seeing remotely, Dr. Ginger Nash, who specializes in female hormones and reproductive health as well as the Blood Type Diet. According to Dr. Nash, the fibroids themselves were producing excess estrogen, which was feeding back into the hormonal system in a vicious cycle. Since the fibroids were of a substantial size, it would be best to surgically remove them. After that, I could then “focus on health” instead of disease management. This made a lot of sense to me. After trying so hard for so many years and feeling utterly frustrated, I realized that it was time to end this Sisyphus battle.
The surgery consisted of an abdominal myomectomy and ovarian cystectomy. It lasted for two hours and was a success. I was back on my feet relatively quickly. In fact, I was able to talk normally right after I opened my eyes and have normal bowel movement the next day! Even the nurses were impressed. I attribute the bounce-back to my long-term devotion to feeding my body with only the highest quality of food that was compliant for my blood type. This optimized my digestion and absorption of all the right nutrients my body needed.
During my six-week home rest, I continued to eat mostly beneficial and “diamond” foods based on my SWAMI food list. The healing process went really well. The recuperation time doubled up as a precious opportunity to reflect on what I had gone through in my journey to heal myself.
Before, during and after the surgery, I had gotten tremendous support from my family and friends. I was overwhelmed by their warmth and love, and at the same time really enjoyed being enveloped by this feeling. Receiving love without feeling compelled to give back was something I was totally unused to before this surgery (this was caused by a false belief instilled in me during my upbringing, and strengthened by my mother’s modelling).
I had always been an over-giver and self-sacrificer, and no matter how much I gave, I still felt that I didn’t do enough. Much later on, I realized that this was due to the fact that I was seeking validation from others to make me feel whole — and the way to seek validation was to give of myself and expect appreciation for my efforts. So asking for and receiving love — and enjoying it as my birth right — was a completely foreign concept to me!
I especially remember the words of a friend from the Blood Type Diet/Genotype Diet/SWAMI online community:
“The BTD/GTD/SWAMI may have helped to prevent the fibroids, but sometimes once a disease state is established it just can’t be reversed by diet. You fought the good fight and you are to be admired for that. You can now enter into your surgery knowing you did your best to avoid it, but accept it with grace. Whether or not you reversed your fibroid condition, we all know that you are healthier for all the years on the diet. It’s hard not to worry about what others think, but assure them you are more healthy and fit than you were before.”
These words had meant so much for me and put me at ease. I realized that I did not have to feel defeated for what seemed to be a “failed” attempt to cure myself. Quite the contrary. I had fought a good battle and finally arrived at the right place at the right time. No effort was wasted as my wholesome and personalized diet proved to have given me a solid foundation that led to a speedy recovery.
Emotionally, what I felt immediately after the surgery was gratefulness. I was grateful simply to be alive!
The physical scar — quite a big one — healed over time, and I was able to finally flatten the bulge in my belly after consistently working out, doing HIIT/running every day for a whole year and eventually going back to my beloved ballet class.
However, the emotional scar took much longer to heal, and I can definitely attest to the fact that unseen and silent emotional traumas could do much more harm to our well-being than physical pain. Having made that comparison, though, I must add that there is never a clear-cut separation between the two. One can contribute or lead to the other, often subconsciously. My experience and that of many others have informed me, that physical ailments and diseases often have emotional roots. While the physical suffering was hard for me, because I had to manage the “inconvenience” of living with the symptoms of carrying heavy tumors in my belly, I actually feel grateful for the experience.
I am thankful for what my body’s innate wisdom was telling me, loud and clear — that something was wrong! Something needed to be addressed, and it was shouting at me with the ever-expanding size of the fibroids. The body was ill at ease, and the onus was on me to become a detective and find out what was wrong in my being. And thus I started an emotional healing journey, which has been ongoing since the day after my surgery.
The Journey of Emotional Healing
Initially, I relied on a wide array of modalities, mostly esoteric and “spiritual” ones, to help me do the digging and strip down layers upon layers to get to the core of my “dis-ease.” I used meditation, the Healing Code, German New Medicine, BodyTalk, Mindscape and countless other “modalities” and self-help books to help myself understand what was causing my body to create a such big tumor in my womb. One idea that stood out came from Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book, “Women’s Body, Women’s Wisdom.” In this book, Dr. Northrup explained the emotional root causes for different diseases that women are most prone to, and the explanation for fibroids is that the creative channel is stuck, as the uterus is the seat for the creative of life.
I was very puzzled at the time when I read this, and could not comprehend the meaning for many years. I thought I was a very creative person — have always been — and wondered how or which part of my creativity became stuck. Little did I know, that my self-expression was muted in the toxic relationships that I had had for a long time. For a decade and a half, I was married with a man who, much to my chagrin, is a Narcissist (and I only realized that post-divorce).
Unbeknownst to myself, a part of me had been suppressed — the sides that wanted to be heard and seen by the world were not allowed to come out, squashed by the Narcissistic personality of my ex as well as my own co-dependency on this relationship. Co-dependent because I had an insatiable need to be validated and an endless insecurity about deserving love simply for being who I am.
As I did not have the tools nor the courage to express my anger and disappointments through the years, I stuffed all the pain down to the womb until it manifested in the form of fibroids. It grew into a baby — a “pain baby” that was crying to be heard.
The Deep Dive
I did not write these words lightly, nor did I come to the conclusion easily. It was the result of an intense and grueling period of self-reflection, self-examination and self-therapy. During the course of my healing, I came face to face with the origin of this toxic relationship. It originated in my relationship with my own mother, whom I discovered to have strong narcissistic traits and with whom I had a co-dependent relationship and from whom I never learned the skills of drawing healthy boundaries.
Over the course of the past two years, I came face to face with all the past traumas and triggers that lived a life of their own in the invisible ties between mother and daughter, and realized that those unhealed parts actually set myself up for an unhealthy love relationship that simply repeated and amplified the same pattern that I had lived in since childhood.
I’m very glad to say that after the tough and invisible inner work, I have finally come to a place where I have left my dysfunctional marriage, found peace with myself and started to make peace with the relationship with my mother. This peace has a spill-over impact on all aspects of my life, so that I can now finally live with the innocent joy that I was born with.
As for the pain and disease that I have overcome, suffice it to say that despite all the healing “modalities” that promised miraculous healing, the one single tool that I have discovered to be the most effective is writing and sharing my own stories. Authentic self-expression is the healing balm that goes deep under the surface, and it gives me a channel for my innate creativity. It also allows me to lean into my pain and sufferings, for the only way to transcend pain is to go through it.
I have also awakened to the power in telling and sharing stories with trusted ones — those who are open to listening and are non-judgmental; those who envelop us with love that doesn’t have any strings attached.
I don’t know how telling this very intimate story of my life would help you understand your own health issues. But I know that what is universally true, is that we cannot simply be healthy and well by treating a disease with “masking tapes” — all that promise to get rid of the outward symptoms. We need to dive deeper, much deeper, into the darkness of our souls, and gather the courage to face whatever demons are there or else they will come back and haunt us again and again, either in the form of physical ailments or mental diseases/mood disorders. I invite you, therefore, to look inwards for all suppressed truths and conflicts, and better still, to share your stories with trusted ones as a means to heal your soul, and thus your body.
In some ancient African tribes, the shaman/medicine person/healer would ask four questions that are equivalent to the modern “intake form” at a physician’s clinic:
When was the last time you danced?
When was the last time you sang?
When was the last time you told a story?
When was the last time you sat alone in stillness?
There is much wisdom and power in these inquiries. I hope to leave you with these questions in case you are seeking ways to heal yourself and become whole and well once again. And if you need a non-judgmental someone to tell your long-suppressed story or to guide you through the process of inquiry and healing, please feel free to reach out to me for a consultation. Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me in private. I wish you truly well!