Very few (if any) of you know the story behind my husband's health in the last few years.
In 2004, my husband went to our insurance company and applied for life insurance. We'd only ever had the normal life insurance through his employer before that time and so we had NO IDEA what we were in for.
The insurance company (State Farm) came out to our home (in the form of a nurse) and took weight/blood/vitals. Then we got a phone call two weeks later. Or, at least, I picked up the phone two weeks later and had to talk to a State Farm person who was not allowed to talk to me due to "privacy concerns" (he's my HUSBAND!!!!). The State Farm person informed me that she couldn't tell me anything about it, but that my husband's insurance application wasn't just being DENIED, but that we needed to take him to a doctor. Like, NOW.
So I yelled and screamed at anyone I could in State Farm in order to have them fax whatever the hell it was that was so incredibly awful to a doctor that we knew so that SOMEONE SOMEWHERE could tell us what was going on.
Long and short of it: he had shockingly high blood test results that indicated that his liver was in trouble.
But we didn't drink. And he'd been vaccinated against everything in the world (aka: every Hepatitis he could). So we started down the path of trying to find out what was wrong with him and what could be done about it.
Our journey took us through a few specialists in the Orlando area (where we live) and when it became obvious that they all wanted to do surgery (a liver biopsy) I didn't even hesitate: we took him to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
This was all three years ago, in 2004.
So we were accepted by the Liver Transplant Center at the Mayo Clinic and he went through rigorous diagnostic testing (and a liver biopsy) and at the end of it all he was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that had actually gone even further and turned into what is called NASH or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
In translation, his liver was sick and not functioning well. My husband had acquired nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which means that a layer of fat had attached itself in and around the liver. His liver wasn't working well and his disease had progressed an extra step to being nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. His liver was inflamed and he was beginning to form scar tissue.
His doctor, as all doctors are at Mayo, was wonderful and kind and helpful. He basically told my husband, look. You're 34 years old. Your liver is unhappy. This won't kill you immediately but it will play a role in killing you in early middle life. You need to lose weight and try to keep this from getting worse. Your liver is already inflamed and gathering scar tissue. This is serious.
But the doctor didn't have much ability to tell us HOW my husband should lose weight. The doctor, I would like to point out, was quite trim himself and didn't look like anyone who struggles to maintain a healthy weight.
Telling someone randomly that there's something wrong with them and that they need to lose weight is just so.... vague. Lose weight? How?
So my husband and I sort of wandered around in a fog for a while. The only way I'd ever lost weight in my life was with Atkins and it would be just as helpful to cure my husband's liver disease as it would be to cure my high cholesterol!! But it was the only way I'd ever lost weight! What to do??
Well, we slowly made changes. We started eating more fruits and vegetables and started losing weight. It' s been a real journey, trying to figure out what will work for us. I've tried to talk about it in different places on my blog and I'm not done yet, but since this is a new post I'll try to sum up what my husband did, because it was different from what I did.
But first, let's talk about the results.
Above, you see the liver value bloodwork function markers, which are the AST, ALT and GGT. Three years ago, when we learned that my husband's liver was in trouble, you can see that his values were WAY above normal.
Last week he had to go to a physical for his job, and they took his blood, which will have been the first time since his liver diagnosis that we've checked to see where he is health-wise. (Why did we wait so long? I don't know and can't answer that. I suppose it's because we were scared? But there was no need to be!) And look at what God and his diet have done!
This shows that his liver is now functioning BEAUTIFULLY. Isn't that a miracle? And, just as an added bonus, I threw in his cholesterol (which had been elevated but not too high) and his Triglycerides, both of which have changed significantly for the better.
I just cannot even tell you how happy we are that my husband's liver is healthy again. And it's all, and I mean ALL due to lifestyle changes.
It was very and I mean VERY slow-going. I would say that we didn't change much of anything the first few months - at least- after his diagnosis. It was too overwhelming. We ate like normal Americans who eat the SAD (Standard American Diet). We LOVED barbecue and Mexican food. We LOVED meat/potatoes/bread/desserts. My husband's favorite meal, that I fixed all the time, was roast and mashed potatoes and homemade yeast rolls from scratch. With gravy from scratch. I cooked like that Every. Single. Night. In fact, my husband was almost addicted to ice cream. Ice cream was his major weakness and now he does his absolute best to stay away from dairy, and I'm thinking that staying away from dairy probably was half the battle of bringing down his liver disease!
We were both overweight. As I've written before, my BMI was 32.7 and his was 37.5! At this point, he has lost 77 pounds since his 2004 liver diagnosis, and his BMI is now 26.8 while mine is 18.5.
So, anyway, initially we just started trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our diets. He didn't care as much for steamed vegetables, though he would eat them, but he would eat salads in abundance and he would eat fruits. We started trying to cut back on meat, which we basically ate for three meals a day, and we did all of this slowly.
Now he and I, even though we live 4,000 miles away from each other, have transitioned into basically a no-fat vegan diet (him less strict in this than I have been). It's been during this transition and weight loss that my husband's body has healed itself, which our bodies desperately want to do if we will just let them. He actually has eaten eggs for breakfast some mornings (so while my diet is almost 100% vegan his has been vegan but with eggs in the morning and the occasional meat dish but not very often).
So- his diet has been raw and cooked vegetables, salads, fruits, sometimes eggs, never dairy, maybe once a month meat, oatmeal, soy products (like soymilk and soy protein powder for fruit smoothies in the blender) beans (lots of beans and bean products like refried beans and beans on his salad) and brown rice. It's pretty much what you'll find in:
Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. This book sets forth the way to recover from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and steatohepatitis (as well as obesity and high cholesterol and Triglyceride levels) as evidenced by me and my husband.
You can read more about Dr. Furhman's way of eating here and Dr. Fuhrman also has a website. I got his book out of the library, together with other books about holistic dieting by maximizing fruit and vegetable intake: dieting and healing for wellness. Other forms of this kind of diet are discussed in books by Dr. McDougall and a diet by Dr. Dean Ornish. But, in the end, our weight loss and health gain journey is ours and ours alone. Each of us must walk that journey for ourselves and figure out, along the way, what will and will not work for us.
It truly is a miracle. My husband's health has been restored by walking away from how we used to eat and embracing a new way of eating. Praise God!
And here's a picture of my husband, me and Youngest taken a few months ago: