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Photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash

“When you have your health, you have everything,” writes American author Augusten Burroughs. His words ring true today as I reflect on our current global health crisis and my personal healing journey.

For the first 18 years of my life, I took my health for granted.

I ate whatever I wanted.

I hardly exercised or spent time in nature.

I worked myself to the ground.

I made little time for self-care.

I didn’t think I needed to change my lifestyle because I felt fine…until I didn’t. One month into college, I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), an autonomic nervous system disorder that turned my life upside down with debilitating symptoms ranging from pre-fainting spells to extreme dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems and more. …


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Photo by Tessa Simpson on Unsplash

As I struggle to cope with the new reality of COVID-19, I can’t help but feel an odd sense of deja-vu. The anxiety, the uncertainty, the loss — they all feel strangely familiar. I remember a time not too long ago when I was also stuck inside, unable to plan, consumed by the fear of an invisible illness. It was a chapter of my life called POTS, a chapter that defined my college years and changed my entire life trajectory.

Just one month into journalism school at Rutgers University, I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), an autonomic nervous system disorder that turned my world upside down with debilitating symptoms ranging from near-fainting spells to extreme dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal pain, insomnia…and the list goes on. Practically overnight, I transformed from a fully-functioning, energetic high-achiever to a barely-functioning shell of my former self. Looking back, it’s a complete miracle I managed to get through each day, let alone succeed in school. …


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Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

In recent years, there has been much discussion about the poor state of mental health in the United States — and worldwide. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to make matters even worse.

For many of us, anxiety levels are reaching all-time highs as we struggle to cope with the new reality thrust upon us by COVID-19. We might feel irritable, anxious, fatigued or depressed. Perhaps our moods fluctuate throughout the day. All of this is completely normal, and it’s important to accept how we feel. …


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Photo by Davide Baraldi on Unsplash

Dear Corona,

I must say you are quite the impressive foe: invisible and silent with a mind-boggling global reach. It feels like you snuck up on us in the middle of the night. We had heard nervous whispers about you for months, yet most people shrugged them off and carried on like nothing would change. Then all of a sudden, everything changed. Life as we know it ground to a halt as the entire world shifted focus to fighting you. Each day, more and more people are being called to the front lines, unknowingly selected for the fight of their lives — the fight for their lives. …


How an innovative nonprofit fights for justice in the heart of Kentucky’s food deserts

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In our sea of processed food and soaring chronic disease rates, it can be hard to believe that the tides will ever change. Yet change is coming, evident by the brave individuals and organizations across the country fighting for a healthier tomorrow. These are our lighthouses, shining their bright light to guide us through the daunting maze of food system reform.

One of these lighthouses is New Roots, a community-run nonprofit working to bring fresh food to those who need it the most.

New Roots operates out of Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville, which is plagued with food deserts. Over 120,000 Lousivillians suffer from food insecurity, meaning they lack access to adequate healthy food. Grocery stores across the city have been closing at startling rates, leaving residents with little choice but to rely on convenience stores and fast food to survive. …


Volunteers wanted for sugar research supporting groundbreaking food-scanning technology

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Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

Dr. Robert Lustig and a team of researchers have invited the world to join an innovative citizen science project working to map out all of the sugar in America’s food supply.

The independent, volunteer-driven initiative — called the Sugar Matrix Project — was born when Lustig realized his initial “56 Names for Sugar” merely scratched the surface. By now, the UCSF endocrinologist is aware of at least 300 names for added sugar, and several hundred more might still exist.

“The food industry uses all of these different names for sugar in an attempt to hide behind them,” Lustig said. …


How I Rewired my Brain and Reclaimed my Health

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Photo by Avery Steadman on Unsplash

“All passengers with disabilities are welcome to pre-board,” the TSA officer announces over the intercom system.

I smile to myself as I gaze out the magnificent windows in Jacksonville International Airport, watching the sun climb higher and higher in the spring morning sky.

Up until now, I gladly accepted the offer to pre-board. Besides, I was quite used to life with Postular Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), an autonomic nervous system disorder with symptoms ranging from pre-fainting spells to extreme dizziness and fatigue. …


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Photo by Devon Divine on Unsplash

There are few decisions we make each day that are more important than what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The impact of food on our bodies and minds goes beyond words. Diet has well-established links to the chronic diseases plaguing society — diseases like heart disease and cancer and diabetes that are responsible for over 70 percent of deaths worldwide. In the United States alone, diet is considered the single most important risk factor for mortality.

Yet if you look at what most of us eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and all the hours in between), you would have a hard time concluding that food matters much at all. Besides, over 60 percent of our diets consists of highly processed foods laden with refined grains, sugar, additives and inflammatory seed oils (more innocently known as vegetable oils). Most of us pile these products into our grocery store carts with hardly a glance at the ingredients lists. …


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Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Our modern food landscape is spectacular, isn’t it? Walk into the average grocery store, and it appears as if you’ve entered food nirvana. The aisles overflow with a dizzying array of items, from Oreos and Cheez-its to Kashi and Greek yogurt. The products call out from their home on the shelves, singing masterfully-tailored appeals to entice each kind of consumer. Some might be captured by the mouthwatering packaging, others by the impressive health claims… and for a number of us, it’s simply the memory of a taste we just need to experience again.

There was a time, not too long ago, when the food we ate did not come in a package. Labels were non-existent, as were the complex ingredient lists we’re accustomed to today. We simply cooked and ate real food. Yet those days are gone, replaced by the industrial food complex that has embedded itself into the very fabric of American life. Our processed food products — our chips and granola bars and hummus packs — are just so convenient, so affordable and so pleasurable that most people can’t imagine life without them. …

About

Manya Ronay

Rutgers University journalism graduate conquering POTS while writing about lifestyle’s connection to disease.

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