I guess there is something particularly controversial about opening up to strangers and laying yourself bare, but in order to express the nature of what is it that I do, first I must tell you my story…
Note before you read: this one’s a lengthy piece and was hard to condense. I’ve gone into detail because detail is necessary to tell you about my journey. I hope this will help and inspire anyone going through chronic illness.
In 2012 I was beginning my second year at university and I couldn’t wait to return to student life. I had enjoyed the summer holidays but I was really excited to receive the freedom that came with living in a flat with my friends and partying most nights. I loved the atmosphere in Newcastle; it really gets my vote as the best student city. Everywhere you turned there was something that catered to students; bar-crawls, socials, student-nights, you name it – Newcastle is most definitely set up for the young and lively.
It was the first week back and I remember not feeling quite right. It was a very strange and surreal week for me and I still remember it clearly to this day. I remember being sat in the living room with my friends and something hit me like a wave – dread. It was something I had never experienced before but I knew I was having a panic attack. It started to rise within me as I became more and more anxious, so I quickly darted out of the room. As the feeling of panic passed, I tried to carry on with my day, but the feeling of unease was still there. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was as though something within me had broken and I didn’t know what it was or why it had happened.
I carried on the week as normal, trying to celebrate Fresher’s Week with my friends, but a few days later I was hit with another blow; my boyfriend nearly breaking things off. As you can imagine, ‘first-love syndrome’ took the better of me, and I was absolutely devastated at the possibility of losing him.
My reaction to this event was no less than you would expect from the average nineteen-year-old, but it’s safe to say that the stress somewhat contributed to catching an awful viral infection that just wouldn’t shift.
Over the next few weeks I was throwing my head over bowls of steaming hot water and bathing myself in VapoRub trying to clear what felt like the most intense flu I had ever experienced. As the weeks passed I just couldn’t believe that I wasn’t getting any better. Rather, my symptoms started to get worse.
The semester was beginning and I was struggling to climb out of bed in the mornings, awaking with muscle pain and soreness (it felt as though I had just ran a marathon the day before). I was going to lectures half-asleep, feeling as though I just wanted to curl up into a ball and snooze. At this point I felt that some intervention was necessary, so I went along to the doctors for some help. Despite the consensus of a viral infection, I was treated with a two-week dose of antibiotics and told to go back to my home in East Yorkshire and rest.
I took three weeks away from university to try and recover at home and, feeling a little bit better rested, returned back to Newcastle to continue my English Literature degree. However, I was disheartened to still feel under the weather, and couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I just didn’t feel ‘present’, for lack of a better word. I didn’t feel real. It was as though there was a haze or fog that clouded over my ability to think clearly; everywhere I looked, it was there. Everything I did demanded the ability to work that much harder to process and discern things. I’m sure people may have thought that I was pretty empty-headed, because my cognitive function was limited immensely.
On top of this, my feelings of anxiety seemed to get worse and I was suffering crying spells and symptoms of depression. My IBS became an even more debilitating problem than it once was and it just seemed as though my health was in a spiral of decline. It was absolutely terrifying.
Between September and December that year I was tested for everything under the sun. Lyme’s disease – negative, Glandular Fever – negative, the list goes on. Doctors were delivering no answers for what was happening to me, leaving me feeling incredibly lost and very alone. I saw countless GPs and specialists in multiple clinics, but not one conclusion was made. Meanwhile I tried to continue as a typical student, but I felt largely disassociated and concerned about my health at this point, making student life even more strained.
The Start of The Journey
As 2013 blossomed, my amazing mum shined light on an alternative approach. To tell you a little bit about my mum, she is the most inspirational and caring woman you could ever meet. She has always held a true passion for health and food, so it comes as no surprise that she was willing to do whatever it took for her daughter to get well again. Through her extensive research, she introduced me to nutritional therapy and naturopathy, where I began my journey in reclaiming back my health.
At the time, I had zero understanding of what naturopathy actually was. The alternative medicine approach all sounded a bit weird and wacky for me as I had no prior understanding of what was fundamentally involved.
As I quickly learned, naturopathy is a mode of lifestyle medicine that promotes wellbeing by addressing the root cause of a health problem. It considers the triggers of poor health and how people can make lifestyle changes in order to promote the body’s self-healing abilities to return to its natural state of optimum health.
So, the mode of treating my chronic illness was through lifestyle medicine. Despite my qualms about it, I had no other option but to take this route because I was terrified at feeling this way forever and, given no other options with conventional medicine, I was absolutely determined to get well again.
I spent time consulting with a naturopath in order to put the puzzle pieces together of what was causing my ill health. He examined the ecology of my gut through a functional stool analysis, assessing what pathogenic microbes were present and then comprising a plan to eradicate them.
My results showed that I had candida, a systemic yeast overgrowth in the gut which can cause chronic symptoms (such as the fatigue) I was experiencing every day. As I was told, the Candida albicans in my gut fed on sugar and yeast and (much to my dismay) I was told to go on a strict sugar and yeast-free diet as a mode of treatment.
Whilst on the one hand I was elated to finally feel like I knew what was going on with me, I don’t think I realised at the time that this was just the first step in my recovery. I had absolutely NO IDEA about the life-changing journey ahead of me…
I came to learn that the state of my gut was at the root of the chronic symptoms I was suffering with, realising that candida albicans, antibiotic use, digestive dysfunction (IBS), dysbiosis (bacterial overgrowth), parasites, stress, weakened immunity, the oral contraceptive pill and a poor diet all had their parts to play in its debility.
IBS is something that I had silently suffered with since the age of 14. I would often become terribly anxious about social events, knowing that I would often start to feel bloated and heavy at times when I was out, especially after eating. It was something that I never openly acknowledged and hid from the people around me. I often thought that IBS was a commonplace of everyday life and that I just had to get on with it, like anybody else that had it and that I should hide behind it in embarrassment.
It was only through this more debilitating chronic fatigue that I realised how important it was to address my digestive dysfunction as I now know only too well. It seemed like my whole body was a walking toxic dump that would thrive on all of the foods that I was eating, namely sugar. I was told that any form of sugar that I ingested would cause a feeding frenzy for the candida.
Not only that, but I had periods where I would wake up with a full-blown hangover when I hadn’t even touched a drop of alcohol! I later found out that this is because candida albicans in the gut can release a toxic by-product called acetaldehyde, which is the same chemical compound that induces a hangover! So there I was, being told the harsh truth that no student wants to hear – quit sugar!
Now, I have always loved food. Like everybody else, I would often celebrate life with food. Food is something that undeniably brings people together and being told that your health problems need to be tackled through diet is one of the most daunting things you can ever hear. I was told to refrain from all forms of sugar (as well as yeast) and that, the stricter I was, the quicker my recovery would be. This is where the change began.
I initially took the news with a pinch of salt and wondered what was really going to happen by simply cutting sugar from my diet. I jovially considered the benefits like any other teenage girl would (i.e. weight loss). But the more and more I thought about it I was propelled to follow the diet exactly because, honestly, what other option did I have?
My initial belief was that the diet would be 6 weeks maximum and I was under the assumption that the stricter I followed it, the shorter the span of time until I could go back to my old ways and return to student life. It’s so funny when I reflect back to how I thought that was how it was going to be, so straight-forward and so black and white (I was clearly very naïve!).
Starting out, I cut out sugar in all its forms. In case you were wondering – that meant no refined sugars or natural sugars, so even no fruit! The anti-candida diet was very low GI and I was left on a diet of eggs, vegetables and brown rice. I forget to mention that at this time I was also a vegetarian of 14 years, making the meal planning an even harder battle.
DISCLAIMER: I do not professionally encourage this type of dieting for the general public. This is just a recount of my own personal journey.
I begrudgingly followed the plan, propelled by the desire to start feeling better. I remember the first morning as I started the diet, waking up to what I thought was a bland breakfast of boiled egg, rocket and tomatoes. I had gone from carb overload to an extreme makeover of leafy greens overnight. My tastebuds were most definitely not prepared and I couldn’t wait for the next 6 weeks to be over.
I remember the initial moment of telling my friends about the naturopathic protocol and they were very supportive to begin with. However, I suppose that at the age of 19, it can be hard for other people to relate to something so radical, especially when I was met with waves of certain people saying, ‘I couldn’t do what you’re doing, I could never give up sugar’.
To tell you the truth, I would probably tell you the exact same thing myself, if I was not so desperate. As much as I had my fair share of people’s opinions (those calling me out for doing a diet for weight loss or aesthetic purposes), the truth is, I genuinely felt so terrible that I just had to throw everything into what the practitioners recommended.
As the diet was underway, I thought that it would all be over in 6 weeks. However, my naturopath was surprised to see how slow my recovery was, as my symptoms had barely improved. I was devastated to be told that I couldn’t introduce any foods and was advised to keep going with the diet throughout the summer holidays. It was the most frustrating feeling, as one part of me contemplated what point there was in carrying it on at all (it was clearly sacrificing my happiness), versus the other side of me, a much harder prospect, knowing that I would have to live with this chronic illness for the rest of my life with no hope of recovery.
I specifically remember my naturopath telling me that there are people that bounce back quickly to full health, and then there are those that don’t. “Those who don’t”, he said, “are the people that should never give up and will value their health and the lessons learned more than anybody else one day”. Six years have passed as I am writing this and I can now say that he was right.
Impacts of the Illness
It is hard to put pen to paper when it comes to writing about my illness, but to define it exactly, it is almost as though you are having an outer body experience. I felt like I just existed for those years. I was here, but I was not here. A surreal haze swept over me in the form of a severe brain fog that made me feel continuously drunk and uncoordinated. As much as doctors can assess people for ailments that are diagnosable by blood test, this illness was not so easily tangible.
Just like life, this illness was not so clearly defined or black and white. It is not like a virus that comes and quickly goes. I was living with this continuously, day in, day out, for 5 years. There were good days of course and then there were the bad days, but nevertheless, the condition was always lurking.
The fact that the illness carried on for such a long time took a real psychological toll on me. That was the hardest part. Thinking that life would always be ‘tinged’ with this fatigue and mental haze was an overwhelming and incredibly scary feeling; I was not prepared to live like this forever. This is why I threw everything into naturopathic regimes.
As a student, all I wanted to do was meet new people and go out and live life to the full. I had to go on nights out sober and I always felt like the boring one, even though I wanted to join in just like everybody else. People always asked me questions and I hated it. It wasn’t long before some friends started to say things – and it was particularly difficult for those that were close to me as they tried to grasp an understanding of what was going on – which I am sure is virtually impossible for any outsider.
Looking back now, I can’t say I blame them. Maybe I wanted them to understand, but I couldn’t expect them to, I should have just asked for their acceptance more than anything. As much as they could walk away and act like everything was all okay, for me, it wasn’t and for every single moment I was battling, behind closed doors and behind my pretence that everything was okay – I was struggling to stay afloat.
In the holidays when I would see friends for an hour, I would later need to go home and sleep. Time was passing in a warped time zone and it felt very much like I wanted to sleep away the next few years just so that I could be over all of this. The more I slept, the quicker the days passed. This felt like a good thing because I felt like the longer I waited, the closer I was getting towards reaching my goals of recovery.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / M.E
Whilst I hadn’t openly referred to my illness with a diagnosable medical label, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E) was the term given to me by a specialist down the line but a diagnosis that I refused to willingly take on. I knew that, medically, the illness had no cure and so I did not want to acknowledge that there was no hope for my recovery.
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Post-Viral Syndrome (PVS) or Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) is an illness that affects the nervous system, immune and many other body systems, resulting in chronic exhaustion and numerous other potentially debilitating symptoms (Lisman et al 2007).
In a book by Dr Kristina Downing-Orr, she calls CFS ‘total or near-total physical and psychological body breakdown syndrome’ where the body is unable to recover following on from a medical trigger, such as a virus (Downing-Orr, 2010). This leaves the sufferer with a perpetual state of ill health that can specifically impact the nervous, immune and digestive system.
Alongside the severe and persistent fatigue, common symptoms that come with M.E/CFS include:
- Cognitive impairment, including memory problems, brain fog and lapses in concentration
- Painful muscles and joints
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as those common in IBS (indigestion, bloating, gas, diarrhoea or constipation)
- Stress-related symptoms (anxiety, panic, and difficulties tolerating stress, for instance)
- Development of food intolerances or changes in existing ones
- Increased sensitivity to chemicals
- Repeated flu-like symptoms
The illness is often blighted both by social stigma and a lack of professional understanding of the subject, which makes the condition even harder for any sufferer to deal with.
I know all too well that as a CFS/M.E sufferer, my friends never understood and neither did doctors. It is an incredibly hard place to be when you are lost within the world of health and medicine, not knowing where to turn for answers or support.
What makes M.E/ CFS such a hard condition to understand is because no sufferer deals with the exact same symptoms as each other. People can have M.E. in different degrees and of course, symptoms can fluctuate on a daily basis.
M.E. can affect people through an array of different symptoms and spectrums in varying severity from day to day. I know what I experienced and, for me, it was, incredibly real and life-changing. Yet when I speak to other sufferers, their illness manifested in a different way, with less impact on cognition, digestion and food intolerances and more so on fatigue and body pain. It just goes to show it is not just about feeling tired all of the time, a whole host of other symptoms can be present.
As a result of my illness I developed a range of food intolerances, particularly to gluten grains and cow’s dairy. This was during a period where I thought I was able to introduce more foods back into my diet, and after experimenting with this I was surprised that I couldn’t tolerate these foods. I was advised to remove gluten and dairy from my diet as a result of the intolerance but also from learning that they may be underpinning a lot of my symptoms, since these foods had been associated with inflammation (Punder et al. 2013), which is common in chronic diseases such as CFS.
On top of this I started to become intolerant to even more and more foods. Absolutely anything I ate would just not sit well and I would leave the table feeling absolutely terrible after a meal, with severe bloating and digestive discomfort. There was a period where I was having to have weekly colonics in a bid to make myself feel better, that’s how bad it was.
I was told this stemmed from something called ‘leaky gut’, which meant that the cells lining my digestive system had become permeable, enabling pathogens and food proteins to filter into my bloodstream, a place where they should not be. Intestinal permeability is believed to trigger widespread symptoms such as those I was experiencing with CFS and so I decided to take measures to tackle this.
I embarked on a diet free of gluten and dairy, then eventually switched to a paleo diet in an attempt to heal my gut. I removed grains, legumes, dairy and gluten (to avoid irritating my gut) whilst increasing consumption of gut-friendly foods. I experimented with drinking bone broth (rich in glutamine, an amino-acid known to promote the healing of intestinal cells), whilst incorporating prebiotic foods (Jerusulum artichokes, raw asparagus, onions, garlic) and probiotic foods (e.g. sauerkraut, kefir) in order to encourage microflora balance in my gut.
My Relationship with Food
As a result of making so many dietary manoeuvres, I used to feel a lot of isolation surrounding my diet. I felt like everything surrounded food and by breaking the social norm and opting onto a certain dietary regimen it can be considered very taboo. Because I changed my dietary habits I always felt like people treated me differently.
Food was all around me. Hearing the words, ‘let’s catch up for a drink’ and ‘lets go out for dinner’ made my stomach turn with anxiety. Now came the need to explain myself and my situation. Again. Sometimes I just didn’t want to get into it but the topic was unavoidable and there I was again, having to explain about my health problems and what I was doing to try and beat them. It was always the bottom-line. Anything I did, everywhere I went, I was concerned about the food around me as it became a huge trigger for a lot of my symptoms.
It was honestly the most exhausting thing in the world (in spite of my physical exhaustion) and it felt like all freedom and spontaneity had been taken away from life. Planning my life around food became a mundane chore that I was doing because I felt like I had no other choice in reclaiming my health. This really ruled my mind-set and an intense fear of food became embedded within me.
I realised the importance of altering this and have since worked on rebuilding my relationship with food again. Knowing that, in spite of my food intolerances, I needn’t be fearful of food is a powerful reminder. Being anxious around a food can incite symptoms in itself and it almost becomes a ‘catch-22’ with food intolerance. If your body is in a state of stress whilst eating then of course symptoms can arise as a result.
Whilst M.E was the medical label given for my condition, I will say that for a while I looked at my illness through an entirely different lens. Many angles and root causes were the way I approached it as I unravelled back the layers, much like peeling an onion to try and get to the bottom of it.
The process of using alternative therapies can be immensely daunting and time-consuming for anybody (not to mention expensive!). It would often take a few weeks for my testing kits to be delivered to my flat, followed by weeks waiting for delivery to the foreign laboratory and then waiting for the test results to come through and be interpreted by practitioners.
I would often wait with anticipation at every consultation, phonecall and email, to see if my digestive tract was clear of the pathogenic microbes that were underpinning my symptoms. No matter how hard I worked on my diet and refraining myself from foods (whilst also supplementing on anti-fungal, anti-parasitic and anti-microbial herbs like a crazy person!), the process was agonisingly slow and it felt like half the battle was just waiting, waiting for the day when all of this was over.
The Misunderstandings of Invisible Illness
One of the hardest battles during my battle with M.E was the relationships that ended for me. I became really hung up on people not wanting to see me anymore and people talking about me behind my back because I wasn’t the ‘fun Lauren’ they used to know. I became fixated on this because everything that happened I naturally associated with my illness and my methods of coping with it. It really did change everything.
I felt like people didn’t want to know me anymore because I was ‘boring’, sick or because I couldn’t socialise in the way that I was socially expected to. I just didn’t feel understood. Just because I looked healthy (my skin was great, I had lost some weight), did not mean that I felt it inside.
I was mobile, yes. I could go out of the house, yes. But that didn’t mean that everything was okay, and it just reinforces the notion that people can be fairly closed-minded when it comes to invisible illnesses. If you can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist to them. Only my family close to me could know the true extent of how it affected me on a daily basis. Truth be told, I focused way too much on what I had lost than I did on the amazing people that were still there supporting me, like my family and those friends that stood by me.
As months turned into years of working with natural health practitioners, I was slowly but surely improving and I was becoming in tune with my body and my symptoms. My gastrointestinal symptoms had largely improved as well as a lot of my other symptoms. My intestinal flora was becoming more into balance, with the help of some fantastic probiotic supplements I discovered as I was clearing the yeasts and eradicating the parasites, but my worst symptom was still hanging around; an overwhelming brain fog that made me feel like I had the brain of a 70-year-old!
As I worked with my naturopath on my diet and supplementation regime, the real message that he wanted me to take was that I needed to not only change my dietary habits, I ultimately needed to change my lifestyle, too. This is where the concept of naturopathy comes in.
Naturopathy works by not simply changing the foods that we eat (as much as this is crucially important), the missing piece of the puzzle is that everything else needs to change, too. We need to monitor our stress levels, get adequate rest, ensure that we are thinking positively and staying in the right frame of mind throughout the day in order to optimise wellness and recovery from illness.
I came to realise that even though I was strictly adhering to the dietary plan, I wasn’t managing my stress levels or taking care of my mind during a very stressful period of my life.
It may sound silly, but just having the right people around you is crucial as well. There are many people that go through life surrounded by ‘toxic’ people that do nothing in place of a person’s health. As much as it is important to stop eating unhealthy foods, we also need to detox our life of bad people, bad emotions, bad thoughts and behaviours.
From this I began to practise meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques that left me feeling calm and relaxed throughout the day. It really helped me psychologically in terms of dealing with stress and any bad days or setbacks with my health.
I started to meditate and become fully aware of my actions and behaviours. When my body would start to speed up and I noticed I was talking really fast, I would sense the need to slow myself down and remain in control. The practise of mindfulness was something I was totally unaware that I was doing, but as soon as I heard of the therapy, I quickly realised that this was a great way of helping me to manage my symptoms.
Being aware of our behaviours and bringing yourself into the ‘now’ is incredibly important in all aspects of life. Whether this is when you are talking, going about your daily routine, or eating – it is important to be aware of your thoughts and attitudes and remain in control of the task at hand, rather than distracting ourselves with thoughts of the past or the future. Remain in the moment.
I began to start becoming positive and optimistic about the future as I was in my final year of university and, when thinking about graduating, I started to wonder what my career path would be. This in part made me anxious as there was a question in the back of my mind about whether I could handle the working world because of the state of my health yet, one of the most important things was that I knew that I needed to do something that would make me happy.
I thought that if I surrounded myself in an industry of wellness and nutrition, the easier it would be for me to self-treat and also to ensure that I am in the best position to recover my health. So I decided to enrol in a Nutrition and Naturopathy course in London, largely motivated by my need to know more and get over chronic illness once and for all, but also in order to use my experience to help other people going through similar battles with their health. I wanted to turn my stumbling block into a stepping stone, and that’s just what I did!
A Flash Course in Optimism (Mindset and The Missing Link)
I was asked to give a talk about my experience of M.E whilst offering some nutrition advice, and someone pointed my attention to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) as a recovery method for CFS/M.E sufferers.
I had never heard of NLP before, but it really got my attention and I wanted to find out more about it. NLP is a form of self-development training that trains you in some very special and important skills, such as helping people who have become stuck in their lives or stuck with problems in their health.
When people sign on to learn about NLP, something has happened that has halted their natural healing cycle. NLP looks at why that healing process has got stuck; what has got in the way of the body trying to naturally recover.
It examines how we can improve the way our physiology works and looks at the interaction between our mind and body with reference to the power of the placebo effect. It works on how we can coach ourselves, enabling the brain to control the body in a more useful way. NLP focuses very heavily on our language, thoughts (those that are quite often subconscious) and our neurology, on how can we change our thoughts in order to change our health.
Having poor health is a really unfortunate thing that teaches you the importance of all the good in your life. Learning to become optimistic and gain a positive outlook on any improvement is absolutely key to recovery and celebrating every good aspect within your life. Taking on board a spiritual, philosophical approach to life has really broadened my perspective in combatting this illness and I would absolutely recommend this course to anybody struggling with chronic illness who has a willingness to help themselves.
NLP really helped me in healing my relationship with food. I gained the confidence and ability to introduce some foods back into my diet and conquer a lot of anxiety I had gained around food over the years. Having so many intolerances and being told to remove a lot of foods certainly had its impact on my approach to food and it was about time that I started to find more of a balance and not be so fear-driven.
Not only did NLP help me when it came to my diet but it also helped me with anxiety and energy issues. I became more aware of when my body was slipping into ‘fight-or-flight’ mode (this is a stress response of the nervous system) and was able to work on calming anxious feelings in order to enhance energy and also reduce anxiety, which ruled a lot of digestive and cognitive symptoms for me.
Despite my body still being intolerant and sensitive to certain foods, NLP helped me to achieve a sense of comfort in my mindset around food, rather than being so fearful around what I am sensitive to. In my opinion the best way to be is to stay in tune with how my body is feeling and not become scared of food. This can be a problem in itself and of course trigger all kinds of symptoms. The mind is so powerful!
Where I Am Today
5 years on I am proud that I have completed three qualifications; I received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Nutritional Therapy and Naturopathy diploma. Against it all I managed my way through a degree and two diplomas whilst trying to build something in honour of my experience – ARDERE. I’m not shy to say that I’m really proud of that.
I have worked on building my mind, body and health up from defeat and working specifically on my health and fitness, something I have become truly passionate about in the process.
In April I ran the London marathon as a celebration of having overcome so many obstacles with my health.
I have gained a thorough personal and professional understanding of the human body and what it means to be ill and what it means to be well. I want to share this experience to make other people feel better in their own skin.
Through all of my own insecurities and health hang-ups, I think hidden answers can be found and there are ways of approaching things through our diet and lifestyle that we didn’t even know where out there. Ultimately, I want to show people that amidst struggle there is always hope of recovery if we try to take more responsibility for our health rather than remaining passive about it.
Going paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, elimination diets, gut healing protocols, colonics, live blood analysis, mercury detoxes, NLP, exercise therapy, supplementation, you name it, I’ve done it.
These are all approaches and were a way of me dealing with a not so easy time in my life. Whilst I’m not one to advocate one sole thing as I don’t believe that there’s a one-size-fits-all, I think the journey I went on led me to reclaim my health back and lead me to where I am today.
I’m sorry if this doesn’t help anybody else out there in terms of pointing you to one specific diet protocol, supplement or ‘magic cure’, but it simply highlights there are avenues we can choose to deal with our problems and ultimately give our bodies the best chance of reclaiming health and attaining the best chances of recovery.
Alternative therapies and lifestyle change really did save me and shape me into the person I am today. Indeed, it can be difficult when an evidence-base comes into question, however, when challenged with no conventional outlet or treatment route to go down, naturopathic routes were the best thing I could have ever done when left in the dark with my health, and there is now increasing evidence behind natural therapies more than ever.
It got me to understand how to lead a healthier path and learn that health truly does begin from the lifestyle that you lead. I really do believe this. Naturopathy is highly underestimated, and it is a fantastic tool to uncover information about why our bodies illicit symptoms that doctors cannot fathom.
My Future Goals and Aspirations
Ultimately, my goals for the future are exciting. I would like to use my story as a bridge to share my experience with CFS/ME and tell other people that there is hope out there; there are alternative therapies and there are lifestyle changes we can make that can support our body’s healing abilities and we can ultimately recover. I want to help people to understand more about nutrition and how they can eat well to take care of themselves and their health. I want people to understand how leading a healthy lifestyle can stand them the best chance of fighting chronic disease as a preventative approach. I speak from first-hand experience that healthy lifestyles can do wonders for us.
As a result of this my sister, Nicole and I have teamed up to shine a light on healthy living. Through everything that we do at ARDERE we aim to make people feel good within themselves. Whether this is through creating one of our healthy recipes, or simply lighting an ARDERE candle in a bid to relax, we want to make you feel good – mind, body and soul. Simple lifestyle adjustments have been so powerful in helping me and so I want to pave the way for others to do the same.
To summarise my understanding of CFS/M.E I would argue that it is physically and psychologically exhausting but also incredibly confusing, not knowing how your health is going to be each and every day that you wake up.
It is psychologically draining and distressing because it always feels like one thing hits you after the other. It is difficult socially because you get compartmentalised into the category of being a hypochondriac when really this is not the case. I wanted more than anything to be healthy but I battled each day against symptoms trying to knock me down, despite my best efforts to get well.
I think there is a long way to go in CFS research and whilst functional medicine, gut health, dietary adjustments and lifestyle interventions absolutely helped and saved me in many ways, I fundamentally believe that more funding needs to go into orthodox medical research of this incredibly complex condition in order to best tackle future treatments.
I hate that there are so many people out there in the dark suffering with CFS and not having a support network available to understand or provide treatment protocols to help these patients, especially when there are cost constraints in looking at alternatives. It is a highly controversial medical issue, but I don’t see this as a reason for professionals to not take it seriously.
My aim with ARDERE is to provide a community for people to learn more about functional (i.e. lifestyle) medicine and approaches that I used to help me reach where I am at today and spread awareness about chronic illness. Whether you have CFS, anxiety, depression, IBS, I want you to know that there are so many things out there to help and I want this space to be a support system for anybody going through difficult periods with their health and their life.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this very personal journey of mine.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it” – Helen Keller
Downing-Orr, K. (2010). Beating Chronic Fatigue. Croydon: Piatkus.
Lisman, S.R and Dougherty, K. (2007). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for Dummies. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Punder, K and Pruimboom, L. (2013). ‘The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and their Role in Inflammation’, Nutrients, 5 (3), pp. 771-787 NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705319/
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WOODLAND MOSS & AMBER
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GREEN FIG & HEDGEROW BLACKBERRY
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Beginner’s Guide to Meditation for the Overactive Mind
Find it difficult to meditate? Don’t worry, I’m right there with you! I’ve had a love-hate relationship with meditation for as long as I can remember. I was first introduced to the practice a few years ago by my mum who started to read up about its incredible health benefits. She gained an interest by...
Sweet Potato Pecan Brownies
I get a lot of people asking what they can do to make a healthy dessert. Whilst my first advice would always be to consume more fruit for your sweet fix, I am also realistic in knowing that sometimes this just doesn’t always quite cut it. This sweet potato brownie provides a unique twist on...
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Highlights of our most recent blog articles
A Very Special Introduction…
We have a very special introduction to make this Monday morning! We would like to introduce you all to our official new member of the ARDERE team! Alex aka ARDERE Alex or our baby seal pup as we like to call him. This little fur baby is responsible for office moral and keeping us all...
Nature – Why Does it Make Us So Happy?
Whether I’m going for a walk in the park, countryside or on a beach, I instantly feel more at peace within myself when I’m in nature. I know it has this effect on so many of us, but why is this? The Japanese have long realised the beneficial health and mood effects of being in...
Our M.E. / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Event
This week was a milestone for us at ARDERE HQ. After sitting on other panels and doing our own talks at wellness festivals and events, we organised our very first ARDERE event, to raise awareness about a chronic illness really close to our hearts, M.E / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. We really wanted to do this...
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