My qualifications in naturopathy, nutrition and Functional Medicine – along with my extensive studies of human nature, behaviour, mindset and psychology – all began because I was trying to save my own life.
Most health professionals start with their own story, and I am no different. Aged 17, I was violently sick whilst on holiday (a combination of a slight infection, rich food and a bit too much alcohol).
This moment altered the course of my life forever, initially hurling me into months of constant sickness (literally), accompanied by drastic weight loss. Obviously, but sadly, I spent many years being misdiagnosed, labelled and mostly told I was mentally ill, suffering from eating disorders.
The truth took years to find, and along the way I had to deeply question and analyse myself, my life, my emotional world and my psyche. Quick to value others’ opinions above my own, for a long time I really did believe the professionals’ judgements. And yet something really wasn’t right.
Persistence and determination took me to eventually finding the real diagnoses: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (or EDS, Type I – a genetic, connective tissue disorder), with accompanying non-coeliac-gluten-sensitivity (NCGS – again, genetically diagnosed), GERD, GI dysmotility, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), histamine intolerance (suspected to be Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, or MCAS), kryptopyrrole syndrome, hypothalamic amenorrhea, a parasite (or three) and intestinal permeability issues leading to multiple sensitivities and immune dysregulation and dental occlusion issues with vagal nerve involvement.
Because I spent so long without a diagnosis, to finally understand the laundry list of conditions above (after approximately 8 years) was nowhere the end of my health journey. Deep research, fundamental biochemistry understandings and encyclopaedic knowledge of gastrointestinal function and nutritional interactions with the GI tract, the immune system and the microbiome were essential for my survival and reduction of symptoms.
The phrase ‘saving my life’ isn’t said for effect. In my life I have been seriously overweight and dependent on sugar and I have also been all the way down to weighing just 4 ½ stone (28.5 kilos or 63 pounds) – and that is not a typo.
I have lived through deep trauma inside my physical body and at one point even had a ruptured oesophagus and was placed on TPN (intravenous nutrition). I have been ‘fed’ by tubes (nasally and straight into my stomach), battled with eating, battled with my body and at every turn had to battle disbelief, scepticism and judgement from others – and myself – regarding why I was unwell and how I could heal.
The work I do now, therefore, is founded on the strong principles of understanding the physical body and its complexity, interactive networks and the impact of mental and emotional states on the functioning of our forms.
But it incorporates a deep understanding and resonance to the emotional and psychological side of dealing with chronic illness, but also addressing immune and digestive issues through the truly holistic stance of recognising that food, mindset and self-awareness are fundamental to becoming at peace within our bodies and lives.
I also have a profound awareness of the complexity of our relationships with food – because I have lived through countless iterations of nutritional behaviours, from being dependent on sugar to complete avoidance of food, and everywhere in between these two extremes. I understand our relationships with food are fundamentally tied to our relationships with our body – and this becomes a minefield when attempting to manage chronic illness through nutritional restrictions.
I am now a normal and healthy weight, with a deep awareness of my body and the signals it gives me. I have no symptoms of POTS, histamine intolerance or GERD and, whilst I manage my digestive system carefully, I do this from a place of receptivity to life and to embracing my body and health. I am testament to the fact that diet is but a small part of healing from chronic illness, immune sensitivities and GI distress. I bring my holistic approach, psychological coaching and emotional support (along with my Functional Medicine education) to helping my clients discover their own routes through chronic and debilitating issues and complicated, troubled relationships with food, their body and life itself.