I met Natalie Lenka in the Facebook group “Vegan Fruit Detox” that has been probably my most major obsession recently. I have told everyone about it, and they are mostly like, “that’s weird”.
They just don’t get it. But I have learned so much from this fascinating group of people led by raw vegans Squeegee Beckenheim, who I previously interviewed in “How I Cured Myself From the Suicide Disease”, and our interviewee today, Natalie.
Natalie has a similarly fascinating recovery story and is extremely knowledgeable about raw food and healing. I guess if your life depends on it, you read EVERYTHING and educate yourself.
I was so impressed with Natalie that I knew I needed to interview her and somehow get a part of her story out there, cause as you will read there was a time she was so in pain she was scooting around her room and the only thing she felt she had to live for was her dogs. I hope you enjoy the story of her incredible recovery and the fact that she went what most people would consider totally “off the deep end” only to triumph and heal herself. I think that is amazing. Without further ado:
10 Questions for Fruitarian Natalie Lenka
1. What was your illness before you started raw food?
When I started raw food it seemed like everything was wrong with me. I had symptoms of and tested positive for several auto immune conditions such as drug induced Lupus, connective tissue disease and fibromyalgia. In the summer of 2013 I got to a point where being in the sun gave me pins and needles and my knees were so swollen I had to scoot across the floor on my butt to get around on bad days. I cried into my pillow on Labor Day when everyone was going past my house to the beach but the sun was giving me stabby stabby pains. I wasn’t a very good sick person and thought it was incredibly unfair.
I also had Lyme Disease, chronic headaches, awful depression, reoccurring strep infections, Epstein Barr, PVC arrhythmia, prediabetes, hypoglycemia, severe anxiety, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, painful arthritis in my knees, mind fog, leaky gut, candida, chronic yeast infections and constant GI pain and bloating. Every day was filled with pain, fog and fatigue and all the simple things I enjoyed like exercise and travel slipped away. I didn’t want to live but I have 4 neurotic dogs that needed me so after exhausting medical options I became determined to find a way out for all of us. I couldn’t hold a job and couldn’t afford any more doctor stuff so this had to work.
2. How did you find out about raw food and what convinced you to try it?
I am a firm believer in divine guidance and have never felt truly healthy. In 2008 I was drawn to John Fuhrman’s Eat to Live and also the 80-10-10 Diet by Doug Graham. I was unsure about high fruit and unwilling to release alcohol or bread at the time so I switched from a pizza diet to lots of gluten free boxed food, green smoothies and more vegetables. I felt better but never got the benefits of going all the way.
In 2013 everything fell apart for me when I was diagnosed with Lyme and autoimmune conditions and became unable to work. My insurance refused to cover a rheumy and instinctually I knew that for so many things to be wrong with me, the problem must be holistic. I tried going to a doctor but she poisoned me with 3 months of antibiotics for the Lyme which made me feel even sicker and made me unable to digest any food at all.
I started with an elimination diet out of desperation to see if anything was making my symptoms worse. I felt great when I fasted on green juice so I started with that and added fruits and veggies back one by one. I found that all grains, legumes, nightshade vegetables and animal products made me feel bad again. I remembered that 80-10-10 was a diet of just fruits and vegetables so I dusted off the book and on Dec 1st 2013 decided to forever change my diet, including a cooked meal for the first few months, then fully raw.
3. How quickly did you start feeling the benefits and what were the first changes you noticed, if you remember.
I started with fruit and greens all day and a steamed veggie dinner at night. For the first 3 weeks I felt I was dying, as my body cleaned and parasites such as candida died off. All of a sudden I could walk well again so I started college which was a huge step for me. 6 weeks in to my detox I went on a 4 hour hike in the Hawaiian mountains but still struggled with a little fatigue and seasonal allergies.
I decided to do all raw as a 2 week cleanse in May and I felt like I was alive for the first time in my life. My depression vanished and I had so much energy I joined a gym that week. Within 3 days my allergies were gone. It’s now almost 14 months later and all the conditions I originally had stay in remission as long as I am strict with my diet.
6. Can you describe how you feel now on a daily basis and how it is different that how you used to feel? Is being 100% raw really as blissful as people say it is?
I used to feel trapped in a body that wasn’t working for me. I had untreatable depression and was tired and in pain all the time. I loathed myself and no traditional medications seemed to work. Inching towards healthier eating such as organic foods and raw foods wasn’t an answer for me.
Going all raw has been the most incredible time of my life. It’s 100% different. I wake up happy to be alive, feeling positive and very productive. When I am not going through healing, I can be happy regardless of my surroundings – meaning raw food is a tool that truly helps me find inner peace and happiness. Only by changing ourselves can we change our lives.
There isn’t bliss all of the time because sometimes I am healing or I eat something that reacts badly. I just found out that cacao triggers my arrhythmia for example. I still feel frustrated sometimes but I go back to that happy place quickly and effortlessly. I also find that I need to keep a certain amount of bananas in my diet to keep the bliss – for people with chemical imbalance based depression like mine – bananas help the brain produce serotonin. That’s why monkeys are always so happy!
4. Did you ever think raw food wasn’t working and did you ever lose hope?
When I first went fully raw I was so nervous about high fruit, but felt really good. I jumped right onto a ‘watermelon island’ where you eat only watermelons and felt like I was hit by a bus. I felt weak and dizzy so I sat and googled the protein content of watermelons. I was convinced that the fruit was killing me. Now I understand it was just a ‘healing crisis’ because I am very athletic and eat mostly fruit with incredible results. The watermelon made my body clean out faster than I was ready to handle.
5. Do you have any advice for people whose doctors tell them they don’t know exactly what’s wrong with them and can’t fix them. Do you think they should give raw food a go and why?
I think doctors are a fantastic resource for acute conditions. However, in my experience very few understand the link between nutrition and health. We live in a world built on capitalism so unfortunately business interests have crept into nutritional and dietary advice. I read that McDonalds was a huge sponsor at the last convention for nutritionists. Other than Dr Furhman, very few doctors are encouraged to do their own research and incorporate it into their practices – even though Hippocrates taught that 90% of illness begins with what we eat.
For chronic conditions, medical professionals are trained to treat symptoms rather than look at the root cause. Unfortunately, if you don’t address the cause of an illness, more illness will develop which is why I believe I ended up with so many different conditions at the same time.
There was no magic pill for me – and I don’t think raw food healed me either. However, I believe that raw food empowers the body to self heal. The average American diet burdens the digestive system, adds toxins into the body and takes up all the body’s energy to digest. Raw food is natural and simple – giving us vital nutrients as nature intended and leaving our bodies free to regenerate and heal. I also think raw food diets also eliminate things we shouldn’t be eating in the first place like dairy and gluten. I have a functional medicine doctor now who tells all her patients to get off those two things and has seen many people heal – everything from autism to autoimmune. It’s just not worth feeling bad for the sake of food addictions.
I think everyone should try raw foods – because you have nothing to lose! We test our drugs and run disease trials on monkeys because they are so similar to us – yet don’t think to try their natural diet to see if it better suits us. If I hadn’t tried raw foods my life would be so different. I would be loaded up on medications and deeply in debt. No food is worth feeling terrible.
7. What was the hardest moment for you when you were going raw? Can you tell us some of the struggles you went through.
The hardest struggle I think is realizing and accepting that you need to make a choice between comfort foods and health. When we are sick, our greatest pleasure is often food. When I started I would dip back into potatoes, rice or other starchy foods and for 5 minutes of pleasure I would experience poor health and terrible cravings for a few days afterward. Learning not to self-sabotage was quite a process. So I was nice to myself and wrote notes to remind myself how bad it felt. Some people can handle eating raw and switching onto cooked foods. I can’t and I’m good with that.
Lack of support from worried friends and family is always an issue, so when I started I really wanted to make some friends who were just as excited about how raw foods were transforming their lives. It was really hurtful when people close to me couldn’t be happy for me even though I was miraculously healed. Now I am confident about my choice and it doesn’t bother me what people think but at first I was so self-conscious. Luckily I met Squeegy Beckenheim online a few weeks into eating 100% raw who has been a great support on my journey and we decided to start our own Facebook group called “Vegan Fruit Detox” to meet even more like minded people. As I type we are coming up on 1300 members in just 3 months.
8. What was your cleanse experience like with blessed herbs and were you nervous to try it? Do you think cleanses are helpful? Do you think a herb cleanse is better than say a mono fruit cleanse like banana island?
The Blessed Herbs Colon Cleanse Kit is less herbs and more a combo of psyllium and bentonite which act like lint rollers in your GI tract. It expands in your GI tract and sticks to accumulated waste and the combination exits you. TannyRaw recommended the kit so I bought it with confidence and was amazed at how much better I felt afterwards, and I still do.
Eating clean does not automatically make you clean, even after 8 months raw some of the things it removed were scary and old. I loved it so much I bought another one! You can find instructions to do your own psyllium/bentonite cleanses online for free but as I was new to cleansing I liked having everything set up for me with careful instructions. Plus it tasted great! I’m not a big fan of herbs because I think they can enhance detox at times but can also overload people and cause negative reactions. I reacted to several herb products before I stopped bothering. As I did most of my healing on fruit – I would focus mainly on that and then free herbs from the yard such as dandelion, burdock, purslane and plantain. Live plants are so much more potent than anything you can buy. So I throw weeds in my smoothies from time to time but think the best cleanses are mono fruits. Banana island is incredible for depression.
9. Do you think anything can be healed on raw food?
I think healing is a combination of body, mind and spirit. I did a lot of affirmations and positive thinking through my journey and researched constantly to give myself faith in raw foods. However if someone went into raw foods with a bad attitude, perhaps it wouldn’t work? Our minds are just as powerful as raw foods. And as I said before I believe raw food removes the obstructions inhibiting healing but we also need to provide rest, positive thoughts and intentions. It also depends what raw foods are being eaten. I follow mostly fruits and greens but some fasting and cleansing is needed too. A raw vegan also had to get heart surgery from eating too much fat. I think rather than focusing on raw – the best approach is asking: is it healthy?
In my research I have seen everything from brain cancer to MS healed through fasting, raw foods and fruit. So I believe anything can be healed on raw foods but perhaps not every case if that makes sense? On a etheric level, if it’s someone’s time or they have a terrible virus healing may not be possible. However, eating raw certainly gives us the best chance we have to stay healthy. It’s not about immortality but just feeling amazing on a day to day is enough for me.
10. What advice would you have given to yourself when you first began your healing journey?
Cleansing! I would have used enemas and the Blessed Herbs kit on a regular basis to avoid horrible pain and headaches as toxins left my body. Another rule is to take it slow. Unless you have cancer, detox and healing doesn’t need to be dramatic and painful. I think being good at self-healing is figuring out what releases toxins at a tolerable rate, rather than stressing the body. The only thing I would change overall, would be doing this sooner!
Thank you so much Natalie!
Check out Natalie’s youtube channel (It’s great): Fruitnat
Join the group “vegan fruit detox” on Facebook if interested in learning more.