Sagdrina Jalal has suffered through health issues for as long as she can remember. It wasn’t typically incapacitating, that is, until she became pregnant.
During her first pregnancy, doctors thought her symptoms were a one-off experience of preeclampsia. When the symptoms reappeared during her second pregnancy, the one-off was ruled out.
When it got even worse for her third pregnancy – to the point at which she was bedridden and hooked up to a heparin pump to prevent her blood from clotting, which could have killed her and her baby instantly – the diagnosis was changed to an auto-immune disease.
Jalal and her baby survived the ordeal, and Jalal set out to solve her medical issues. Unfortunately, the true diagnosis wasn’t easy to pin down. Doctors would offer a diagnosis and refer her to a specialist, who then offered another diagnosis and another referral.
“No one seemed to know exactly what was wrong with me, and no one had a true plan for restoring my health,” said Jalal.
Jalal suspected there may be connection between her health issues, and her father’s repeated exposure to Agent Orange during his three tours in Vietnam. Jalal was conceived shortly after her father, who died of Leukemia in 2015, returned from war. Their symptoms popped up around the same time.
“[My father’s experience] definitely had an effect on the way I see things,” said Jalal. “I knew that I needed to do something different.”
She recalled an experience with a previous doctor after her first two children were diagnosed with asthma. The doctor suggested Jalal cut milk from their diet and monitor their symptoms. They diminished significantly.
“That experience let me know that food can directly affect your health,” said Jalal.
At the time, Jalal developed a fitness and nutrition consulting company, and one of her new clients was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis. The client was told she would be in a wheelchair by her mid-forties.
Not on Jalal’s watch.
Doctors advised Jalal’s client to take supplements and to stop eating tomatoes, which were deemed too acidic. Instead, Jalal looked up the nutrients the supplements were supplying, and started shopping at her local Farmers Market for food with the same nutrients.
That’s when a lightbulb went off. Jalal realized that tomatoes weren’t the problem, it was the fact that tomatoes were available year-round in grocery stores.
She also realized the illusion of variety at grocery stores was misleading.
“I didn’t realize how many varieties of squash there are until I started shopping directly with farmers at the market,” said Jalal.
Able to boost nutrients through local food and balance acidic content by eating seasonally, her client’s symptoms disappeared.
In 2015, Jalal joined forces with the Georgia Farmer’s Market Association. GFMA is a non-profit organization that supports producers, provides technical assistance to market management, and improves healthy food access for consumers. She also presented about these topics at the 19th Annual Georgia Organics Conference in Columbus.
“GFMA is thrilled to continue growing in our second year and take our message to more and more people,” Jalal said. “I feel blessed to be able to share what I’ve learned to help others across our state define what a healthy community is to them. ”