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Special Report: Using Food As Medicine

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Kristina Amelong of Madison said she suffered a chronic illness more than 20 years ago

"I went to the mainstream medical doctors to begin with and I wasn't getting any better,” said Amelong. “My gut was like a sunburn all the time and excruciating pain.”

She said she also suffered with severe chemical sensitivities.

"I couldn't go to grocery stores, I could hardly be around people with the chemicals in their hair or perfume or any of those things so it was very debilitating," Amelong said.

Amelong said she needed to figure out how to get well. Her research lead her to start a colon therapy clinic and really learn how foods work with the body. This led to her online business, The Optimal Health Network, that's now international.

Today, you'll find Amelong growing most of her own food. Before her illness she was working in fast food. She grew up on sodas and mac n cheese as a teenager, later turning to alcohol and partying.

"If you're in so much pain and you don't know what to do, you feel like you're dying you figure out what you need to do to be wel," said Amelong.

She credits her brother's untimely, tragic death to taking this alternative path as well as the people she met in the years following his death.

"I got into the 12-step program and it was like a year later I became chronically ill,” Amelong said. “It was so devastating to have gotten that far and then be bedridden for a year."

Dr. Robert Coleman is a naturopathic doctor in Madison. He helps patients find alternative treatments.

NDs receive the same training as an MD, but in addition to that, they focus on nutrition, herbal and physical medicine and homeopathy.

"You kinda weave a lot of the old traditional style medicines and healing practices with that,” said Dr. Coleman. “If you're thinking about a disease state and you ask what can affect it the most and it's actually what you eat."

He said that's where our vitamins and energies come from and that's part of his focus.

According to Dr. Coleman, an ND looks at the whole person, their lifestyle and medical situation to help create a custom health plan.

"What are your habits? Do you eat breakfast, do you eat lunch, do you eat dinner, what are your snacks like,” Coleman said he asks of patients. “All that factors into how that person extracts their nutrients, how they actually incorporate that into stress responses, fight an immune reaction or an infection.”

Amelong is a long-time patient of Dr. Coleman. Now, she's taken the extra step to author a book, ‘Ten Days to Optimal Health.' She recommends avoiding gluten, dairy and sugar for 10 days allowing you to see how your body reacts.

She recommends her clients eat as many vegetables as possible. She said the fiber, minerals and nutrients are as important as a large variety of vegetables.

Amelong eats this way each day.

"We used to be grazers so our gut microbiome is built on a whole variety of fiber types,” said Amelong.

She balances her diet with healthy fats, clean protein and good quality water. Dr. Coleman agrees with this as well. He wants to make sure patients do their research.

"Yes, you can use your plate as your prescription,” said Dr. Coleman. “Just make sure you have enough on there.”

Using food as medicine is very specific to your illness and what combinations of foods might help.

Dr. Coleman said most importantly realize that changing habits is a gradual lifestyle change and to work with your doctors to create a plan that’s right for you