Smug. That’s what I felt when I climbed the stairs, listening to a woman catalog all the foods she couldn’t eat. Her trainer nodded sympathetically as I made my way to workout. See, I used to be like her.

I’ve shared I’m not a health expert: I’ve just been desperate enough to try desperate things on my quest to shuck pain. I don’t recommend pregnancy to cure your hiatal hernia, and a gallbladder cleanse might not cure your lactose intolerance, as it did mine. But bro-knowledge, especially at the gym, has taught me that talking to other people about the “crazy things” they’ve done to solve health issues can be enlightening. This post is about how raising back-yard chickens presented a cure for my digestive system, allowing me to eat greens after over a decade of my body rejecting them. At nineteen, doctors couldn’t figure out why I would suddenly get really sick whenever I ate greens. It was a mystery treated with medications and eliminating a lot of usually-healthy things from my diet.

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For years, Kevin and I talked about getting hens. Once we moved to a property just less than a ½ acre, we started researching how we could make that happen in an urban landscape. We eventually found the right coop, the right set-up, the right chickens and got started. The hens settled into the backyard, and we continued to read and talk to people about care. As we figured out their winter diet, Kevin reread Patricia Foreman’s City Chicks. She talks about probiotics and the importance of including them in hens’ diets—it was then, Kevin made the leap. A Whiteacre hen.Maybe some of my digestive problems were at the bacterial level? Perhaps the hens and I weren’t so different?

This was a little before the big probiotic campaign in the food industry. Now, you can find lots of foods that advertise probiotics and their health benefits—just glance at the dairy section of your local market. When Kevin started to change our diets to include more probiotcs (he’s the chef in the family), we began with Kefir (a yogurt drink that retains many strains of bacteria in its processing). This helped immediately, and I found within 6 months of daily use, I was able to go off stomach medications that I’d been prescribed for years.

picklesWhat made the biggest difference (and has us out in the garden cutting spinach for smoothies every morning) was when I received the Perfect Pickler as a gift and we started pickling our own foods. We made homemade kimchi, salsa, pickles (you name it, we’ve probably pickled it—we went a little pickle-crazy), and as we integrated those fermented foods into our diet, we also started to add greens—both raw and cooked.

It’s been about three years, and I don’t have a list of can’t eats anymore. I stick to my probiotic regimen, and I’ve stayed off stomach medications too. Our family’s diet has evolved to include many more vegetables and whole grains, which helps improve everyone’s health.

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Probiotic. Beneficial to life. It’s incredible such a small helper can make such a big difference in my life. Maybe your’s too. It’s my hope we keep talking, blogging, researching our body’s health quirks. Conversation connects us, gives us hope, offers, sometimes, unusual solutions.

The hens help by foraging in the garden for an afternoon.

The hens help by foraging in the garden one afternoon.

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