Moving to the United States
I arrived in the United States in June 1989 while my husband arrived ten months earlier than I did.
Compared to China at that time, everything in the United States seemed so amazing and advanced: clean streets with greenery; beautiful parks and college campuses; high-rise buildings; fancy shops with fancy clothes; tall people driving fast cars; a wide variety of ethnic foods and restaurants; air conditioning in stores; automatic teller machines in banks; construction seemingly everywhere; and computers freely accessible in schools and public libraries.
I quickly found work as a computer programmer after my arrival to the United States. I had no experience with my company’s vast computer system and its customized software. Within a week, I had mastered the system and began programming. After only a few years, I was, in all but name, an IT manager, programmer, and part-time consultant for my employer.
When I arrived in the United States, I only had a few crumpled twenty-dollar bills; my husband had some four thousand dollars left from his fellowship. Within two years, we bought a home in suburban Boston. Within five years, we started our own business.
It was now clear that I could make the best use of my talents in the United States. I was part of the American Dream! Fascinated by this brave new world, I wanted to be a part of it. I scrutinized every detail of American life.
With time, I became concerned that:
- The fresh meats, vegetables, and fruit in supermarkets had little flavor or tasted artificial and unnatural
- Baked goods were too sweet
- Many Americans thoughtlessly consumed not only large amounts but also many different kinds of foods, drinks, medicines, and nutritional supplements, many of which contained dangerous ingredients with unknown or poorly labeled side effects.
Even so, I remained convinced that the United States was a great place and that I wanted to be a part of it. I left Chinese ways behind and began living like an American.
Adapting to the American Way of Life
Living with an American family
When I first arrived in the United States, my husband and I stayed with an American family. Unlike the home life I was used to in China, they were very casual about meals. They might not have breakfast and often skipped lunch. But they always had dinner and usually after 7. They also drank cold liquids throughout the day, even with meals. I stopped boiling water and heating milk. I started drinking cold tap water, as well as cold milk and refrigerated juices.
My first American cookout
My husband and I went to a Fourth of July cookout with standard summer fare: steaks, hot dogs, salads, and chilled sodas. I had never seen meat served in such large pieces before! I had a small piece of steak with a salad. I never had a green salad before. In Northern China, vegetables are always cooked except sometimes in the summer. I also had a hot dog on a bun. The hot dog did not taste like anything I had ever had. I washed it all down with a can of cold soda. Afterward, I was sleepy, lethargic, not energetic like I would have been in China.
After the party, I began educating myself about American foods and beliefs about foods. I quickly learned that they were very different from what I had learned and been brought up with in China.
Western beliefs about nutrition
I was fascinated by how American rice and flour never had mold, moths, or flies, never turned rancid, or became inedible. Later, I realized that rice and flour in America were often highly refined and artificially enriched. If American rice and flour were not fit for bugs and flies, could they be any better for people?
When I became pregnant, I took prenatal vitamins and mineral supplements as prescribed by my American ob-gyn. She told me that during pregnancy, I would need more nutrition and that deficiencies would likely jeopardize not only my health but my baby’s future health.
From doctors, media, and other people, I learned about American nutritional standards and nutritional orthodoxy for vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats:
- Fruit, especially citrus, is rich in Vitamin C
- Vegetables provide many minerals
- Sugar and high carbohydrate foods tend to cause obesity
- Too much red meat leads to high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, and cancer
I started paying much more attention to nutrition with my first pregnancy and carefully scrutinized food labels.
Eating only for nutrition
My family began eating only for nutrition and counting calories, just like many other American families.
Breakfast: usually boxed cereals with low-fat milk. But occasionally muffins, bagels, toast, waffles, crepes, fruit, or hard-boiled eggs.
Lunch: leftovers from dinner; a salad; or a ham, turkey, or chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato.
Dinner: salad with meat and bread; or stir-fried meat and vegetables, and rice.
Beverages: iced or room temperature water, chilled juice or cold milk with meals. We had cold liquids and ice cream throughout the year.
Eating out: after my two sons came along and our family business started to grow, my husband and I were very busy. We ate out more often, sometimes at all-you-can-eat buffets. The flavorful foods and all-you-can-eat buffets made me want to eat more. But even after eating more, I often felt hungry and snacked between meals on fruit, vegetables, crackers, and cereal several times a day.
I quickly realized that it was not good to eat out. Our meals at restaurants had few natural flavors but strong unnatural ones. Sometimes a chemical taste was unmistakable. These restaurants did not serve quality food but used industrially farmed ingredients. More food was needed to satisfy my body. After getting a big belly, I started cooking at home as much as possible.
I was surprised to learn how many foods were grown using artificial fertilizers, sprayed with insecticides, and contained artificial ingredients. I started shopping at health food stores for fresh, organic, and unprocessed food.
I ate more cautiously, both at home and when out. I still shopped and ate primarily for nutrition. I ate little meat and then only lean meat. I had mostly raw vegetables, fruit, and salads. A Chinese man even told me that I ate like a cow because I was eating what cows ate: leaves and vegetables.
Living like an American
Besides eating like an American, I also began living like an American:
- Using an air-conditioner when I was hot and sweaty
- Working in an over-heated office, wearing summer dresses even on the coldest winter days
- Exercising intensely at a gym
- Juggling work, family, and social life without time to rest and reenergize
In hindsight, it is hardly surprising that my health suffered.
Consequences for My Health
About four years after I came to the United States, I tired easily and often lacked energy. At night, I would often fall asleep before my children did, sometimes while I was telling a story or reading to them before putting them to bed. I was tired after lunch. I thought that it was because of a big lunch, so I ate smaller lunches and had larger dinners.
Fatigue was only the beginning
After a year of this, I began having spring allergies. My allergies became worse each year. The misery of sneezing, congestion, sore throats, tearing and itchy eyes, a runny nose, and headaches became unbearable. When I could not stand it any longer, I went to a doctor.
A Chinese doctor prescribed herbs. I made tea from the herbs, as directed. The herbal tea made me feel better when I had it twice a day that spring. However, there was no further improvement in the following two springs. The herbs alone no longer relieved my allergies. This doctor then recommended that I continue taking Eastern herbs and try Western medicine.
A Western doctor prescribed a non-drowsy allergy medication. Saturday morning, I took one as directed. That one pill made me sleep until Sunday afternoon. My husband checked on me to make sure that I was still breathing. The medication had alleviated my allergy symptoms for two days. However, I was frightened away from ever taking it again. Later I learned, the dosage was too high for people who had never taken Western medicine before. In addition, the medication did not cure my allergies but only temporarily relieved my symptoms.
Not only did I not find a permanent solution for my allergies, I started having even more health problems, one after the other:
- Dizziness and headaches
- Acid reflux and bloating
- Shorter menstrual periods with irregular cycles and blood clots
- Frequent pains in my lower back, chest, and knees
- Occasional arrhythmia
I was too busy: taking care of two children, managing a struggling family business during a recession, looking for a new career, pursuing a graduate degree in investment management, working at a high-pressure equity research firm, getting divorced, and getting laid off several times. I had no money when I left my husband because of his gambling and losses in the stock market. I was under extraordinary pressure to make money, not only for my own survival but for that of my children as well. I had no energy left to give any thought to my health or overall well-being.
“Many people don’t die from sickness but from ignorance.” What Hiroshi Nakajima said was especially true for me and my situation. I did not know how to take care of myself. Because of my ignorance, it is hardly surprising that I continued to fall apart:
- Frequent infections
- Frequent pain in my knees and ovaries, and other mysterious aches and pains in other parts of my body
- Unexplained lumps and bumps on my skin
- Tremors, fainting, and memory problems
- A breast tumor, a cervical tumor causing abnormal bleeding, purpura on my skin, and a dangerous vitamin d deficiency
My health problems adversely affected my life and my job performance
I was tired and needed more and more rest and sleep. Even though I was sleeping up to 12 hours a day, I still tired with no energy for work or anything else.
I had difficulty concentrating. I drank green tea to stay alert for business meetings, only to crash once the caffeine wore off. I had to use a small voice recorder to take notes for important meetings.
I could not hold a computer mouse steadily enough to move the cursor reliably. The more I needed to complete my work, the more my hands shook.
A few times at work, I was too dizzy to hold my head up. My head would fall to my desk as everything went black. There was nothing to do but wait for it to pass.
I was unable to press a gas pedal steadily enough to confidently drive a car.
One time, I passed out and fell to the ground in the parking lot at work. It was about an hour after I took a handful of different supplements recommended by a daily radio program. This could have led to a major or even fatal traffic accident if I had passed out just a few minutes earlier. I stopped taking the supplements, which had cost several hundred dollars.
My dental health also worsened. My breath smelled awful. My teeth were rotting. I had gum infections and bone loss in my jaw. My teeth looked terrible. Later I realized that the bad smell and dental problems resulted from health problems inside my body.
I had always been proud of my beautiful thick and shiny hair. Now every day, handfuls of hair would fall out onto the floor. I lost more than a third of my hair. I was afraid I would soon be bald. My bad health was taking my beautiful hair away and leaving me with gray, frizzy, dry hair.
My face was wrinkled and made me look old. I did not recognize the face in the mirror.
Because I was so sick and rapidly becoming even more feeble, I had to stop working. I had no income, received no help, but had a very worn out and sickly body and two children to provide for.
When you have good health, you can want everything. When you have poor health, you only want to be healthy.
I had to put my American Dream and everything else on hold, and care for my sick body first.
My Medical Adventures
I saw a chiropractor, massage therapists, and an acupuncturist for my health problems. Every time one problem went away, a new one took its place.
I had a deep cleaning for my teeth and gums. This did not solve my gum problems, and the periodontist said I needed gum surgery.
After my doctor analyzed abnormal cells found in a Pap smear, she referred me to a gynecologist. The gynecologist performed a punch biopsy and endocervical curettage to remove abnormal and precancerous cervical cells, followed by additional tests. Even though the immediate results were negative, this was not the end of my problems.
Not long afterward, I began having abnormal discharges again. Those gynecological procedures only took away the unhealthy cells from my cervix, but did nothing for my underlying problems.
Then I went to a Chinese doctor for my cervical problems. She recommended acupuncture and certain medicinal herbs. She told me upfront that she could not make any promises.
I needed to visit many more specialists:
- An allergist for my allergies
- A cardiologist for my arrhythmias
- A neurophysiologist for my tremors and shakes
- A gastroenterologist for my digestive problems
There were no specialists or prescriptions for my tiredness. I did not know what type of Western doctor, if any, dealt with a lack of energy, mine or anybody else’s.
Problems kept coming, one after another. I did not know what my next problem would be or which medical specialist I would need next. My list of doctors kept getting longer and longer.
I could keep seeing doctors and taking all kinds of medications and treatments for my different symptoms. These, however, all too often had their own side effects, which caused in turn, even more problems. A common side effect of many drugs, prescriptions or otherwise, is tiredness and fatigue. The prescriptions, the drugs, the pharmaceuticals themselves could easily be making my fatigue worse.
I canceled my appointment with the gynecologist for the six-month follow-up exam. I still had the same cervical problems. I did not want another operation. The gynecologist might find that I had ovary and breast problems as well like the Chinese medical doctors had found. Then, even more treatments and operations would be needed. A different approach was called for.
The Dire State of My Health Made Me Step Back and Think Hard
Only after so many unresolved health problems, did I start to think really hard. What was wrong with me? What should I do? What could I do?
I thought about how I had cured my younger son’s cough when he was in the third grade. The cough had lasted more than three weeks and would not go away. I took him to his pediatrician twice but the pediatrician could find nothing wrong. At the time, I was busy both with our struggling business in a recession and with preparing for a new career. I had forgotten about making soup for my son’s cough. I could only think about doctors and medicine. I went to the medicine counter at a Chinese grocery in Boston after class one night. I told the woman at the counter about my son’s dry cough and asked for an herbal medicine. Instead of giving me something, she told me to make soup with Chinese red dates (jujubes), pork, and watercress.
I got all the ingredients for the soup at the Chinese grocery and prepared the soup the next day. My son, however, had no interest in the soup. I could only get him to take three spoonfuls. But just those three spoonfuls cured his cough.
This started me thinking about how food and drink were used in China to treat and cure illness.
Food strongly affects our health. I thought that maybe I was eating seriously wrong foods and that this was the root cause of my health problems. What else could it be? I had made major changes to my diet, exercise, routine, and lifestyle after I came to the United States.
Were diet and exercise not working, or was I getting old and weak? My two sisters and my classmates were either older or about the same age as I was. They did not have the many medical problems that I did. My sisters and classmates were still eating and exercising in the traditional Chinese way.
It had to be changes in diet, exercise, lifestyle and emotional life causing my health problems.
I now saw how important diet and daily activities were to my life and health. This, along with my previous academic and research experiences, led me to the search for the fundamental cause of illness and methods to get to an energetic, healthy, happy, and long life. The two companion books are the results of over 6-years of dedicated research and practice.
I believe there is no illness incurable except old age. It is just that we need to know the cure. I cured all of my illnesses, and have a mission to help as many others as possible who are still suffering from their health problems. My mission leads me to devote my life on health consultations.