Background of my interest in healthful living

by Don Hooser

        When I was growing up, I didn’t hear much about allergies. It seems that allergies were not so prevalent as today. When I heard about an allergy, it was usually “hay fever.” I felt a little superior, glad that I didn’t have any allergy, and assuming I never would have.

Don Hooser

        When I have felt proud about not having a problem or weakness, often I have ended up with a similar problem or weakness. I often wonder if God has a hand in this to humble me. For example, about 20 years ago I began to have an allergy to some kind of spring tree pollen, and a sensitivity to peanuts. Thankfully, those problems have been mild.

        It’s hard to believe how naïve we’ve been about the effects of chemicals in our environment. I shudder to remember my boyhood days when a spray machine went around town spraying insecticide for mosquitoes. A couple of times friends of mine and I would run behind it through the “fog” and “clouds.”
It has been a great blessing to me that I developed what became a lifelong interest in healthful living and good nutrition when I was a teenager. Several factors influenced me. Health and the sciences were always interesting to me. I was active in Boy Scouts and took several first aid courses. I majored in mechanical engineering for my first degree, so I was further impressed with how everything in creation is governed by myriad laws of “science” (laws of God).

        But the biggest factor was the death of my little brother, Roddy. He was 3 1/2 and I was 12 when he died. What caused his death? It started out as a “ordinary” sore throat, which often are from staphylococcus or streptococcus infections. And then he had a relapse when he went swimming too quickly after getting almost well. He had one or more penicillin shots. Roddy went into shock one evening and he was rushed to the emergency room. In those days, doctors did not readily suspect staph infection. They tested for meningitis and other things. He died before morning because the staph infection spread to his blood stream and it was not treated in time.

        I feel the main problem was the lack of the needed nutrition when he was sick—what to eat and what not to eat. My parents knew very little about good nutrition. We took no nutritional supplements. One of the main things my mom gave Roddy to eat during his sickness was ice cream because he had little appetite and the ice cream felt good in his throat. That was a big mistake, of course.
By that time, my brother, Randy, and I had sore throats. We were flown to Children’s Hospital in Dallas, where we quickly recuperated. Upon our release, guess what the doctor there prescribed? A multiple vitamin/mineral supplement “for the rest of your lives.” That made a big impression on me and my parents. We began to have an interest in nutrition.

        One more factor was my friendship in high school with Dan Nichols. I lived in Hughes Springs, Texas, and he lived in Atlanta, Texas, not very far away. His father was a medical doctor (and now Dan is also). On one weekend when I was staying with Dan over the weekend, I decided to get some free medical advice from his dad, Dr. Joe Nichols. I explained that whenever I got a sore throat, my parents took me to the clinic to get a penicillin shot. I asked him what he did for patients with sore throats.
His answer flabbergasted me. “I start by just prescribing Vitamin C.” I said, “You’re kidding me.” He said no, and explained that their sore throats usually cleared up quickly, but if the sore throats didn’t go away, he would prescribe other things.

        The next few times I got a sore throat, I took Vitamin C, and guess what? My sore throats went away! I thought this was a fabulous discovery! This was much nicer than getting a shot.

        I became increasingly interested in the work of Dr. Nichols. He was a medical doctor with his own clinic, but he also was extremely interested in good nutrition and healthful living. He operated an experimental organic farm on which he raised produce and sold much of it to local markets. He founded the organization, “Natural Foods Associates.” He published an magazine titled “Natural Food and Farming.” He was invited everywhere to be a guest speaker, including to Ambassador College at Big Sandy, Texas. He was an inspiration to me, and I learned much from his literature.

        Another huge factor that stimulated my interest in health is what I consider God’s calling of me to study and begin to understand His Word, the Bible, and to strive to live by it. There is a great deal of emphasis in the Bible on healthful living, a major way to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
And one more thing. I hear all the time about very serious health problems. In many cases, these are being suffered by relatives, dear friends, and fellow church members. I yearn to see them get well and I pray for them. And I keep thinking: “What else can I do to help?

        All of this has inspired me to pursue a life-long study into health and nutrition. My wife, Elsie, likewise shares this interest and I’ve learned much from her. Most recently, she introduced me to essential oils, which, if they are therapeutic-grade, have valuable health benefits. Some of the scents are very pleasant and therefore serve as healthful perfumes. Our efforts to maintain healthy lifestyles have been enormously important in our doing as well as we have in preserving the health of ourselves and our children.

        Now back to the subject of environmental illnesses and chemical sensitivity. In June, 2002, I will have served in the ministry for thirty-six years. Over the years I’ve increasingly heard complaints from church members about how cigarette smoke and strong smells in some buildings not only was unpleasant but had a serious effect on them. I was sympathetic and respectful, but I also wondered if these were fussy people being a little picky.

        Then a member had to stay home from an activity because an auditorium had new carpeting which made the member sick. This happened again later in another church area. Still later one member became very sick at her home and couldn’t understand why. Then she realized the cause was fumes from a new couch delivered to her home two days before. I began to hear more and more about the formaldehyde and other chemicals that are a part of many building materials and household fabrics that are “outgassed” into the air.

        My interest in chemical sensitivities began to greatly increase when I got to know some members in my former church area who are highly sensitive to most colognes, perfumes, and aftershave lotions. I talked with them many times about these sensitivities, and began reading information in literature and on Web sites about chemical sensitivities. At times I also saw them suffering with clearly visible severe symptoms from exposure to too much cologne in the air.

        During the last two years, I've talked with and heard from quite a few members and elders in our church across this country about the unpleasant symptoms, from mild to severe, that they experience or others they know experience as a result of exposure to colognes and other substances made of chemicals.

        Quite a few of our church members have suffered considerably from colognes for many years.
Another factor occurred in my life to give me more compassion for people with allergies, hypersensitivities, and intolerances. A skin condition began to bother me in the summer of 1997 that involved severe itching and stinging. I finally got the correct diagnosis after three years, after consulting four dermatologists and a few other doctors. It is dermatitis herpetiformis, an auto-immune disease that is an extreme intolerance of gluten, the protein substance in several grains, the most well-known being wheat, rye, oats, and barley. (Corn and rice contain no gluten.) The other gluten-intolerance disease is celiac disease which affects the intestine rather than the skin. Doctors don’t understand much about what causes auto immune diseases. Supposedly, there is no cure for dermatitis herpetiformis. To be symptom-free depends on maintaining a gluten-free diet.

        Many food products and additives are made from grains, so it has been quite a challenge for me since September, 2000, to learn all of the obvious and disguised sources of gluten. With dermatitis herpetiformis, it is not a matter of cutting most gluten out of one’s diet in order to avoid severe symptoms. One tiny crumb of bread can cause a flare-up. Some doctors say one molecule of gluten can trigger a reaction. So one must be meticulously careful to avoid the three C’s: foods containing gluten, foods contaminated with gluten, and foods that have come into contact with a substance containing gluten.
It sort of bugs me that the initials for dermatitis herpetiformis are DH. So I’m DH with DH. Having DH is a blessing in this way: Most junk food has gluten, so DH keeps me away from most junk food. There are still plenty of good things I can eat—all the fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, some grains—as long as no gluten-containing substances are added.. I’m very grateful that God has blessed us with a tremendous variety of wonderful foods.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned: