Healing Through Nourishment

By Erin Webb

I came to Brooklyn Herborium, first as a customer with hormonal acne, sensitive and reactive skin, red and raw-feeling patches on my face and chest that looked a lot like rosacea, and very dehydrated skin. One of the first things Emma recommended was getting off the Metabolic Rollercoaster and sent me home with NO EVIL, Sense & Sensitivity Mist, and instructions from her blog post, Diet for Incredibly Good Skin. Since then, I’ve joined the team at Brooklyn Herborium and seen my skin bounce back. There have been other more internal problems I’ve been dealing with for over a decade that, to my surprise, have begun to heal, as well.  

In 2002 I took antibiotics for the very first time. My parents had always relied on home remedies and natural medicine when I was growing up and luckily we hadn’t needed them–until my wisdom teeth came in. My stomach started to hurt within a few days of taking the antibiotics (I also had auditory hallucinations, but that’s a whole other story). I’d always had a sensitive stomach but now it was unruly and unpredictable. I was away at college and pretty clueless as to why it was hurting so bad. I had terrible heartburn, to the point that I was carrying around a giant bottle of Pepto Bismol and taking swigs from it all day. I was also having sudden digestive attacks that made me run to the bathroom, and such extreme bloating that my stomach would swell painfully to the point that I’d throw up from the pressure.  My reactions to food were so unpredictable that my eating habits became inconsistent, at best. Food often felt more like an enemy than a friend. It was hard to tell what was setting my stomach off.  Sometimes, it seemed like there were no safe things to eat. This relationship with food followed me into my 30s. Add to that a stressful and emotionally draining job, and I was often too tired to prepare a meal. There were many nights where I told myself cheese and crackers were a sufficient dinner (they’re not).  Up until five months ago, my days often looked like this:

Wake up too late to make breakfast because I was exhausted. Commute an hour to work then hurriedly eat a croissant or a yogurt. Feel ravenous again within an hour of eating “breakfast”.  Eat a snack and then work for 5-6 hours straight without taking a lunch break. Get hangry. Eat a rushed and too small meal because my break was only 30 minutes. Immediately get a stomach ache, feel shaky, and foggy. Feel exhausted and wiped out for the rest of the day. Snack on raw almonds or an energy bar. Then commute an hour, getting home around 10pm and eating dinner around 11pm.  And repeat.

Over the last two years, I felt more and more worn out and fragile. I also began to have severe pain and stiffness in my neck and hands that impacted my ability to work. After a doctor ruled out rheumatoid arthritis, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was frustrated and felt stuck by the diagnosis because the term is more of a catch-all for different types of chronic pain with unknown root causes, than a condition with a clear treatment path. It’s also an invisible condition. I look normal, but I’m in pain most of the time. It’s very easy to overextend myself, leading to days of exhaustion, extreme brain fog (I’ll forget common words), severe pain, nerve flair ups, and dizziness.  It was disheartening that my illness was beginning to define me.

So back to my first important visit to the shop. If you look at wellness blogs about a lot of these ailments, the most common advice you’ll find is to make drastic changes to your diet, like eating only whole grains or avoiding them completely, going on a restrictive elimination diet or detoxing.  Healing yourself requires hard work and sacrifice. But here was Emma telling me just to eat more gently– eat white rice instead of brown, cook vegetables well so they’re easier to digest, and eat three meals a day with 3-4 hours in between and no snacking (so I wouldn’t have such severe blood sugar spikes). And eat ghee. Lots of ghee.

But it couldn’t be that easy, could it? I figured following this advice for a while couldn’t hurt.

The positive changes from this “diet” and using the Between You & the Moon products snuck up on me. I went from a constant state of inflammation to realizing that it had been a few months since I’d been laid up on the couch with a heating pad. My tolerance for foods has gotten a lot better. My skin looks healthy and happy. My dreaded hormonal breakouts barely make an appearance.  And a side note about hormones, along with the hormonal breakouts, I also have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (for me: depression, anxiety, irritability that lasts two weeks out of my cycle) that has gotten so much better since following these guidelines. That was something I thought I’d be stuck with no matter what. I’m blown away that so many issues have improved just because I’m feeding myself well.

Not to say that my journey is done. I recently fell into a pattern of stretching out the hours between my meals. And guess what? The stress bumps on my chin popped up immediately and my neck and hands started aching again. This was proof enough to me that I must meet my body’s basic needs in order to heal.  It was always me versus body, two opposing beings. The body that once felt foreign to me can now be trusted and relied upon. 

When I get asked what products I’m using or what changes I’ve made, people are surprised when I tell them that a good chunk of the work has been following these (really tasty) guidelines to meet my body’s basic needs. The meal planning does take a bit of work and eating well costs money–but I’ve chosen to invest in that however I can, and I’m lucky to work in a shop where I can get most of the ingredients I cook with.

I think it’s hard for us, myself included, to accept that simple and invisible changes like nourishing our bodies can have such a giant impact on our health and wellbeing. We’re told that our bodies are born to dysfunction and that we must drastically restrict our diets to “fix” them. Or that we’re full of toxins and that the only way to get back to a healthy state is to detox, detox, detox. Compound that with the superficial standards of beauty placed especially on women, and the message internalized is that we must avoid and restrict to be worthy human beings. But we are worthy of nourishment. Embracing that, is healing in more ways than you would expect.

My Routines

Skincare:

Cleansing: I oil cleanse with NO EVIL at night.  Always removed with a warm, wet washcloth.
Sow Your Wild Oats 2-3x a week, usually when I shower or before bed.
Clear Complexion Clay once a week.

Moisturizing: Because my skin can be reactive, Emma recommended I use NO EVIL for my Moisture Duo.  I use 3 drops of oil and 6 pumps Sense & Sensitivity or Clear Complexion Mist. Cow Fart Juice dabbed on breakouts. In cooler months, I dab 3 drops of NO EVIL on my face as a barrier protector after letting the Moisture Duo absorb into my skin.

Body: Infused Coconut Oil and Instant Alchemy (magnesium seems to help my nerve stuff and my muscle stiffness)

Teas: Stress Bump for Chin Tea and Inner Strength

Favorite meals:

Jasmine rice with lots of ghee mixed in, topped with fried eggs, bacon, and sautéed spinach (that I steam at the end with apple cider vinegar). Garnished with tamari, sesame seed oil, and fermented ginger and carrots from Hawthorne Valley Farm.

Chicken and sourdough dumpling soup with homemade bone broth.

BLT with an egg on top from Brooklyn Commune

Homemade applesauce with cinnamon