I just wanted to start off by saying that sharing the experiences with my health and the journey I’ve had over the past year is not easy. I am usually a very private person and not someone who overshares easily. But writing this is a way of helping me to stay motivated with my changed and improved lifestyle, eating habits and to help further heal both physically and emotionally.
I have always been a massive foodie (to say the least!). Always loved food, had a passion for cooking, baking and…. overindulging! I would eat anything and everything, was never overly picky and and always loved trying out different flavours. I had always been a massive sugar monster, eating chocolate bars and cakes and well, sometimes didn’t have the healthiest of diets. However just over a year ago, completely out of the blue, things got complicated with my health, I got very sick and along with other lifestyle choices my food habits had to change for the better.
In early 2016 I started getting terrible reactions on my body. My main symptom was a very horrible case of hives all over my body, everyday no matter what I ate, drank or did. After 3 months of going back and forth to the doctors, I was finally referred to a specialist and was diagnosed with something called Chronic Urticaria. A condition where everyday you have severe raised, painful, itchy hives all over your body (excuse the graphicness) including the face and sometimes swelling of the mouth and eyes. I thought I’d feel a sense of relief, finally being diagnosed in the hope of a solution, but unfortunately that’s not how things went. After I was diagnosed, there was no more information. None. Not why I’m having these reactions, what causes it, and the worst was when I had to hear that ‘it was incurable and could only be managed by a combination of very strong medication’ – I couldn’t help feel fear and frustration. I was also informed that Chronic Urticaria has no time frame to it, it could last for a month or could last for 10 years.
And only after a very long and dragged out 9 months I started getting a few answers.
In December 2016 as well as the hives, I started having very sharp upper left stomach pains. They were unbearable. Nothing like I’d experienced before and so back to the doctors I went. Again, only after a month or so of being in and out of the hospital, I was tested and diagnosed with a bacterial stomach infection called Helicobacter Pylori (H. Pylori for short.). This H. Pylori infection turned out to be linked – and the reason for my severe hives was down to my stomach infection (despite being told over and over again that it was very rare and not worth looking into).
The H. Pylori infection aggravates and eats away at the stomach lining (again apologies for the graphic descriptions). It over produces the natural acid in the stomach, which has a lot of histamine in it, hence the allergy like reactions i.e. hives and swelling.
The feeling of relief was overwhelming, to finally, after a year of pain and despair, have some answers. But the next part was to heal and try and get better…
Unfortunately after a long time of over consuming prescribed medication (and a good variety of them as well!) my body was no longer responding and I even became allergic to most of them. So when I was being prescribed things for the H.Pylori, I would often have very bad allergic reactions or suffer from the most indescribable pain in my stomach. Eventually I had to stop taking them completely, because the prescribed medication was making my body weak and helpless.
Before I was diagnosed with the stomach issues, I’d already started to make the link between food and the hive breakouts. I’d read a lot about healing through food, and eating to cleanse your body. To my surprise, cutting out things like processed food, sugar, gluten, dairy and red meat made a massive difference to my hives. From then on I made a massive effort to eat naturally, mainly plant based, and concentrate on anti inflammatory food and drink. Then, once diagnosed with stomach complications, I’d realised why the food was making a difference and that the reason I was sick was because of complex digestive problems. After that I took real charge of my food intake.
It was amazing – after around 4 to 6 months I started to see real positive results. I discovered natural supplements and probiotics (also a lot of research), and along with a healthier diet I was on my way to leading a normal life. I cannot describe the relief and happiness I felt when I started waking up everyday with no pain, no hives, no anxiety of whether or not I was going to feel ill that day, not having sleepless nights anymore and start becoming myself again.
I now stick to a mainly plant based diet, with the exception of occasional seafood and chicken. I am not overly strict and know my body so well now, I know what works and what doesn’t. And I feel like that’s so important, to know your own limitations and not cut out everything just because. As I mentioned, I went through a lot of trial and error with food and drink and it was a slow process. I only started off with a very simple healing diet, and only when I felt progression I started implementing other foods into it.
The things my body does not agree with and foods I no longer feel are good for me are; gluten, wheat, dairy, refined sugar, excess amounts of alcohol, spicy foods and red meat. Every time I’ve gone back to eating these foods my body immediately reacts in a bad way, and I get so much fear and anxiety for being sick the way I was that it’s just not worth it.
Over the course of this time my whole life changed, I had to turn my back on my career. I had to leave several jobs after trying again and again to push myself, and only ever made it so much worse. I had no social life at all, and the only people I would see was my partner Elliot who I live with. He took care of me every single day, stayed up during the nights, took me to every single doctor and hospital appointment and held my hand every step of the way. He never gave up on me and showed me endless amounts of love, care and kindness.
I also saw my family, especially my mum, who was living through it with me and felt huge amounts of empathy, like she was going through it all as well. She spent every waking moment researching ways to help, ways to stop my symptoms and fed me my only sense of positivity and hope when I felt like I was in darkness. She’s an utter inspiration, and it’s thanks to her and Elliot I came out of it at all – sounds pretty deep and dark, I know. But at those times I felt such loneliness, isolation, fear and pain that I became quite afraid of my emotional state as well as my physical.
I’ve now managed to get back on my feet and most importantly feel so much healthier and happier. This experience has by far been the hardest and the most rewarding. It’s made me realise just how much we shouldn’t take our health for granted, and if you really put your mind to it and have strong will and positivity it’s amazing what you can achieve.
Now, I can’t imagine going back to the way I was eating. I feel so good in myself, I know I’m healing everyday and I also feel an incredible sense of excitement for this improved lifestyle change and love that I’m still learning everyday.
I would love to hear from you, if anything similar or even un-similar has happened to you please do get in touch. Ask away and I look forward to hearing from you.
Do check out my other posts for recipe inspiration.
Thank you, Lo xx