By: Frances Lea, Holistic Nutritionist, Core Expectations

My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when she was about 65 years old. Most of her family members also had the disease. In fact, her mom, her grandmother and several aunts and uncles died of it. If they didn’t die of Alzheimer’s they were taken by cancer or diabetes. To say that disease runs in my family is an understatement! And that is just on my mom’s side of the family.

My dad has diverticulitis and was recently diagnosed with COPD. One of his brothers has Alzheimer’s and the other brother died of cancer. His mom had dementia and his father died of cancer.

Both of my parents suffer(ed) from arthritis.

My brothers and sisters also have their share of health issues. My brother, Doug, passed away March 9th, 2015 of heart disease.

Some people would think that whatever your family has it means that you are destined to get the same. Genetics DOES play a big part on whether or not we get an illness or we don’t. Lifestyle plays even a bigger part.

I am the youngest of six children. My oldest sister is 15 years older than me.  Everyone else is at least 5 years older than me.  I always felt that I was watching what my life was going to be in 5….10…15 years from now. But that isn’t the case anymore, I live a different lifestyle from my family. I decided that genetics wasn’t going to take me down.

We grew up on a lot of quick, inexpensive meals. KD, Chef Boyardee, Campbell’s soup, Hamburger Helper, etc.  It was easy to make inexpensive meals to feed a family of 8 on a budget.  We had a lot of fresh meat, potatoes, and vegetable meals as well. My mom always made sure we had vegetables and fruit but some were canned as they were fast and inexpensive (especially in the winter). They were advertised as just as good (if not better than fresh).

As my siblings grew up and moved out, they too, fed themselves on a budget and craved the food that brought them comfort. I did too. They were good and easy and cheap. They brought happiness and memories that we loved to our lives. We didn’t give it any thought that these foods were unhealthy.  We were all pretty thin, so weight was never an issue.

We didn’t know any better.  The research wasn’t really there.

After my mom’s diagnosis, I started getting interested in nutrition. Having a family of my own fuelled my curiosity. I wanted to do the right thing for my daughters, my husband and myself. Curiosity became an obsession. The more I read about the harmful things in food, the more I wanted to get that crap out of my life and out of my family’s life.

My mom deteriorated as I learned more. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help my mom by the time I knew about Alzheimer’s and the relationship with food.  But I could help myself, my daughters, my husband, and siblings.

Genetics plays a big part in whether or not you get a disease, but there is more to it than that. You see, Let’s just think of it as this: there is a “switch”, in all of us, and you can make a choice: to turn it on or keep it turned off.  Maybe eating well, exercising, living happy, keeps that switch off until your 40, 50, or even 80 or 90. The end result is being healthy, laughing, having fun, enjoying life well until your much older. OR:

Eating processed foods, not exercising, smoking, living an unhappy stressed life turns that switch on at 20, 30, or maybe earlier or later in life. Maybe that lifestyle has you getting the flu or colds all the time. Maybe you get diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, IBS, celiac, diabetes, or even cancer! In my case, maybe I will get Alzheimer’s disease, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to get it in my early 60s, like my mom. Maybe I’ll get it, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll be 80 or 90. I will get to watch my daughters go down the isle, see and remember my grandchildren. I will enjoy my life!

The truth is, you are what you eat. We’ve all heard that before, but let’s think about it. What goes in, doesn’t just go out. It gets processed and absorbed. The good stuff nourishes our body. It strengthens and enhances it. Our skin glows and our hair shines. People around us get sick and we don’t! All this is a part of eating great wholesome, unprocessed food. The food gets processed in our kitchens and our bodies, not in factories, and chemical labs.

If your eating processed foods, your body doesn’t recognize most of the stuff you put into it.  It stores a lot of it and it sits, and sits, and sits.  While it sits, it gets absorbed, it wreaks havoc. It feeds our cells so they can’t work properly. It grows things that aren’t supposed to be there. It kills off our good bacteria. We get sick. We feel tired. We ache. We feel crappy. We gain weight. We are unmotivated.  Life sucks.

On March 1st, 2014, I laid with my mom and told her all about my life. What she had missed for the last 15 years. I told her about my kids and my husband. I told her how I studied nutrition and how I was going to my damnedest not to get Alzheimer’s. I told her how important she was and how much I loved her. She was my mom.  She was my best friend.  She was my everything.  I said goodbye.  My mom died on March 2nd, 2014.

Why do I eat healthy?  I think you know the answer.