It took thousands of miles of hiking for me to realize how important food was to my performance on the trail. On my first thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, I thought that hiking and backpacking was a great excuse to eat anything I wanted and still burn off the calories. I overloaded my system with sugar and processed food and at the end of the trail I was aching, lethargic and bloated.

On my next long hike, the Pacific Crest Trail, I corrected my diet to include healthy, nutrient dense, whole foods but I overcorrected to the point where I wasn’t taking in enough healthy fat or salt and I often felt weak and depleted. 

It took about 5,000 miles for me to customize my diet to include a blend of high energy foods like chocolate covered banana chips and Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips with plenty of fiber and protein rich foods such as nuts and nut butters, organic dried fruit, healthy energy bars, beef jerky, tuna, freeze-dried veggies, and whole grain chips and crackers.

Food, like hiking, is a journey. In total, I have hiked about 14,000 miles of long distance trails and it was my most recent hike, on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail when I realized that food could be used for more than energy and nutrition, but it could also help heal injuries and cure sicknesses.

The first round of medicine I picked up at Earth Fare wasn’t for me, but for my husband Brew. We had to rush to him to the Emergency Room the second night of our hike because his chest hurt and he was having trouble breathing. We soon learned that he had a viral infection that caused that caused the sac around his heart to swell. The condition, pericarditis, is treated with prescription anti-inflammatory. But we also treated Brew with Turmeric Tea, dried pineapple rings, and trail snacks that included ginger, organic oats.

Our second round of medicine was for both me and my eleven-month old son, Gus. I was still nursing when I started the hike. Walking 15 – 20 mile days caused my milk supply to plummet. I was lightheaded at the end of the day from hiking and nursing and Gus was hungry and fussy because his energy was going to the trail. I quickly realized I needed to up my protein and fats. I started eating more and more often on the trail. I also added lots of hardboiled eggs, Justin’s Nut Butters, and Earth Fare Cookies to my diet. I quickly felt better and Gus continued to put on weight. A month into our hike, Gus spiked a high fever. I was thankful that I could nurse him back to health and I was sure to include lots of nutritious liquids and probiotics in my diet so he would get them too!

The final stretch of the hike was on sandy beaches, the unstable tread caused my Achilles tendon to flare up and feel like someone was stabbing my leg right below my calf. I never identified a food that cured Achilles tendonitis, but I certainly learned what needed to be avoided. Anytime, I ingested a large amount of gluten or sugar my leg felt worse. On a hike I can usually eat quick carbohydrates without any trouble, but walking through the agony of tendonitis taught me that scaling back some of these triggers could help me feel more comfortable during the day and allow me to keep going.

It took hiking nearly halfway around the world to realize that food is more than just the energy that keeps you going, but it should also be the first line defense against sickness and injury. I am grateful for modern medicine but I also know that whether I am trying to hike a long trail or take care of a sick family member I am going to turn towards natural sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods as a means to feel better and stay strong.

I want to thank Earth Fare for helping to nourish my body... and helping to heal it.