My journey to nutrition and wellness started with a health crisis. In 2004 while living in Vancouver, British Columbia, I was involved in a car accident that not only changed my life, but also changed the course of my life.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and while the car accident was an unpleasant experience at the time, today I look at this event as a gift. It is a gift because if it wasn’t for the car accident, I might not have found my passion.
What started out as a desperate need to feel better and to find relief from the pain I was experiencing, ended up leading me on a wonderful healing journey that not only taught me so much about myself, but about the human body’s innate ability for self-healing. This experience also eventually led to me finding my purpose in life.
If you had seen me after the car accident you would have thought everything was fine, because I didn’t sustain any obvious physical injuries like a broken arm or leg. However, almost immediately after the accident I started experiencing a wide range of symptoms that included chronic neck and shoulder pain, frequent headaches, chronic fatigue, extreme sensitivity to pressure, impaired memory, and the inability to concentrate for extended periods of time.
To say that the quality of my life changed for the worse is an understatement. I went from being a very active person who would get up at 5am every morning to exercise, to someone who couldn’t do very much because of the pain and fatigue. I went from having a sharp memory to having to write things down to remember them. I went from getting good restful sleep to having restless sleep most nights and waking up stiff and feeling wiped out. I went from being very energetic to barely having enough energy to get through my days (at the time I was working in a supervisory role in the Finance department of a publicly-traded company with numerous deadlines and responsibilities, not to mention stress, and to this day I am amazed how I managed). If all this wasn’t enough, I put on 20 pounds! 20 pounds may not sound like much to some people, but when you are only 5’1″, it shows and this made me feel even worse.
It was not until 2006, after X-Rays, an MRI, visits to a Physiotherapist, visits to a Myofascial Release Therapist, frequent visits to my own doctor (who kept reassuring me that the symptoms would go away, while at the same time prescribing pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs for my symptoms), and my weekly massage therapy sessions, that I was finally referred to a specialist. By this time my husband and I had moved and were living and working in Seattle, WA, but because the accident occurred in Vancouver, I was referred to a specialist in Vancouver. By good fortune I landed up getting an appointment with one of the top Rheumatologists in the city. After reviewing my history, doing a physical examination and running a battery of tests, she diagnosed me with a condition called Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia or Fibromyalgia Syndrome is classified as a medical disorder and it is characterized by chronic, widespread pain and extreme sensitivity to pressure (also known as allodynia). However in addition to pain, people with Fibromyalgia can also suffer from other symptoms like tingling of the skin, muscle spasms, restless leg syndrome, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, headaches, dizziness, irritable bowel syndrome, and impaired memory and concentration (commonly referred to as brain fog or fibro fog). Western doctors are not sure what causes Fibromyalgia, but they do suspect it is brought on by illness, stress, trauma or injury, and according to them there is no cure.
I remember getting the diagnosis and feeling very relieved and in some ways happy and validated, because finally I had confirmation that something was indeed wrong (it wasn’t in my head and I wasn’t imagining it!). My elation and relief however was short-lived, because soon after the Rheumatologist gave me the diagnosis, she proceeded to lay out my course of treatment.
What I didn’t realize at the time, is that western medicine’s approach to treating Fibromyalgia (and most other conditions) is simple – it is all about managing the pain and symptoms. So what this basically meant for me was drugs, drugs and more drugs. A few basic lifestyle suggestions like adequate exercise and getting enough sleep were included, but the emphasis was essentially on pharmaceutical drugs.
So on the one hand I got a diagnosis and on the other hand I got handed a prescription for steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the inflammation, pain killers to manage the pain, sleeping tablets to help me sleep, and as a bonus, I was told that I was fortunate I didn’t need anti-depressants because I wasn’t depressed! Fibromyalgia patients often suffer from depression too……..turns out I was one of the lucky ones.
For someone who dislikes taking pharmaceutical drugs, this approach did not sit well with me and I remember leaving the Rheumatologist’s office feeling very despondent. I became even more despondent when I started researching all the possible side effects of the pharmaceutical drugs that had been prescribed to me.
Upon returning to Seattle, I was really torn over what to do. Listening to my intuition, I made the decision to forego all the prescription medications that had been prescribed to me by the Rheumatologist (I didn’t even get the prescription filled) and decided to rely instead on the “safer” over-the-counter medications that I had been using up to that point to alleviate my symptoms. For me this meant a continuing reliance on Ibuprophen and non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs/NSAID’s.
In 2007, my husband was offered a job in Singapore and so we moved. We decided that it would be in my best interest if I took a break from work to try and get well (I was and still am extremely grateful that I was able to do this; what more can I say other than I have a wonderful husband!) . For the most part, my symptoms improved a little, but I was still waking up stiff in the mornings, I still had neck and shoulder pain, I was still getting headaches (although not as frequently), I was still experiencing fatigue and brain fog, and I was still carrying around the 20 extra pounds.
In 2010 after a vacation abroad, I had a terrible relapse and all my symptoms got worse. The pain was so bad and it was a worrying time because the Ibuprophen, NSAID’s and massage therapy were not providing much relief. I was conflicted because I knew I didn’t want to go back to conventional medicine (I knew what the course of treatment would be) and yet I needed help.
There is a wonderful saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will show up, and this is exactly what happened to me. One day while browsing at a bookshop, a book caught my attention. It was a book on food and natural healing, and the contents of the book blew my mind. Little did I know at the time, but not only would this book change my life and lead me to many other books on health and nutrition, but it would be the impetus for much of what I would do from there in both my personal and professional life.
We all start our healing journey somewhere and for me it started with the Macrobiotic Healing Diet. The diet itself seemed very radical and strict at first, but I was desperate to try anything that did not involve swallowing a whole lot of pharmaceutical drugs. I started by introducing some of the foods that are recommend on the diet like properly prepared whole grains and fermented vegetables, and I reduced my intake of processed foods and foods with artificial ingredients. I also switched to eating mostly organic produce.
After about a month of eating this way, I started noticing amazing changes. The first change that was very evident, was that my energy levels started improving. Some days I was able to walk up to 5 kms, something I couldn’t do since the car accident. I also started sleeping better and wasn’t waking up with any stiffness in my body, and the weight I had put on started coming off. But I really new I was on to something remarkable when the pain in my neck and shoulders, and my headaches went away. I felt like a new person!
I was so inspired by the changes that I saw in my own health that I knew I wanted to learn more about natural healing and using food as medicine. So began my studies in holistic health and functional nutrition. Although my healing journey started with Macrobiotics, my view on health and healing these days is greatly influenced by the teachings of Weston A. Price and the Ancestral Approach to health. That said, I don’t subscribe to one particular diet for everyone, as I am a firm believer in the concept of bio-individualy. Like snowflakes, we are all unique and our diets should reflect this.
While diet is fundamental to health, I believe that we need to take a holistic approach where we consider all the other factors that also affect our health. I’ll be the first to admit that while a change in diet did wonders for me, I also combined these with lifestyle changes that took my health to a new level.
A holistic approach to healing changed my life and it really shaped the way I think about my body, my mind and my spirit. It has taught me to care for myself in a way that I didn’t before and it has also reminded me to not take anything for granted. We are only given one body, so we must treat it with love and respect if it is to serve us well.
I am a life-long learner and my genuine desire is to continue to learn, grow and not only share what I have learned with others, but also guide and support them to be the healthiest they can be. When we are healthy, we can show up for life more fully, we can enjoy what life has to offer, and we can reach our full potential!
Professional and Educational Background
BioIndividual Nutrition Practitioner in training, BioIndividual Nutrition Institute, U.S.A.
Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner™, Nutritional Therapy Association®, U.S.A.
Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner, U.S.A.
Full Body Systems Graduate, Holistic Nutrition Lab, U.S.A.
Nutritional Therapist Certification, The Health Sciences Academy, London, U.K.
Functional Medicine: A Systems Approach to Reversing the Epidemic of Chronic Disease, Institute for Functional Medicine, U.S.A.
Introduction to Functional Nutrition: Clinical Solutions for Addressing the Underlying Cause of Disease, Institute for Functional Medicine, U.S.A.
Health Coach Training Program, Institute for Integrative Nutrition, U.S.A.
Accredited with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP) as a Certified Health Coach
Member of the International Association for Health Coaches (IAHC)
Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Kushi Institute, U.S.A.
Traditional Chinese Medicine 8-week Extension Program, The National University of Singapore, Singapore
Bachelor of Commerce Degree with majors in Industrial Psychology and Business Economics, University of South Africa, South Africa