I have had a history of gut problems: When I was a baby, I had a bad bout of gastroenteritis. When I was 12, I started having anxiety which materialised as nausea and vomiting. I got food poisoning when I was 19 and then campylobacter when I was 20. I had problems with nausea and constipation plus IBS symptoms (problems with raw fruits and veggies plus dairy) after that.
I had giardia when I was 22 and it recurred for several years. I had extremely bad gastroenteritis when I was 24 and then ongoing problems with diarrhoea and vomiting until I was 26. I went macrobiotic at 26 (mostly because my husband had active Crohn’s disease at the time) and I managed to recover, but always had IBS type problems when returning to a ‘normal’ diet.
At 30 I tested positive with blood antibodies for gluten, but my doctor didn’t tell me I was coeliac until I was 39. By this time, I had gastrointestinal symptoms as well as extreme fatigue and sore hands. I went gluten free. I became completely lactose intolerant and wasn’t able to eat dairy for five years.
Then my health got worse. About 18 months ago, I started getting sore joints, extreme fatigue and brain fog. I saw a rheumatologist who suggested I had psoriatic arthritis (my mum has it). I had pain in my hips, elbows, knees, plantar/heel (and sometimes back, neck and pelvis). I also had periodic pain in the backs of my hands and forearms.
I was extremely tired and had struggled to find the energy for exercise. My joints hurt so much that yoga and stretching caused pain that could last for days.
I had previously had shoulder surgery for an injury and ended up with numb/tingling fingers/thumb in my left hand that never went away (from the nerve block in my neck). For a year prior to working with Helen, I experimented with my diet – juicing, green smoothies, autoimmune protocol diet and then the keto diet. I did notice some improvement in my symptoms since starting the keto diet, but I didn’t know what I was doing (I was not sure I was even in ketosis). I reacted to lots of different foods (IBS symptoms) and so the diet was really hard for me. Most recipes I couldn’t use. I was hopeful from my results that ketosis could work for me but I needed help to sort out what to do with all my food difficulties.
When I approached Helen, I was feeling distressed to be in pain all the time. I often felt grumpy, sad, irritable and concerned about how my health was impacting my relationship with my family and my leadership role at work. I have always been able to use my diet in the past to improve my health, but this time it seemed so hard. I had essentially stopped exercising except for walking (slowly) and even some days I couldn’t do that. This was scary because I’d become so unfit in the last year that exercise seems beyond my ability. I seemed to lack motivation and energy for even day to day tasks.
It was a leap of faith for my husband and I both to jump into separate Health Engineering programs with Helen, but we both felt we wanted to step-change our health, and that was going to require us both to work with Helen as our functional nutrition specialist.
Helen provided a gentle framework to improve my health. We experimented with different foods to experience the impact on my health. I learned that taking risks with changing foods, and having systems to show how these foods impact my overall health is important.
I now have meal plans that are full of variety. I have been able to maintain my weight while still having strong periods of fasting each day, I now enjoy new foods such as homemade green soup, keto breads and chicken broths every day. I have learned how to measure my ketosis and track my symptoms.
Over three months working with Helen, I have healed more than I ever dreamed possible. I’ve learned so much about my body’s ability to heal. My gut pain and my nerve pain in my arm have decreased significantly. There have been periods where I have been completely pain free. I realise now that I don’t have to be in pain all the time!
Moving forward, I now have a vision of where I want to get to, a plan for evaluation, and the motivation to keep going with my journey.