My interest in optimising health and well-being with multiple sclerosis comes from personal experience. I was diagnosed with MS in 2011 (initially RRMS, then revised to PPMS) when my daughter’s were just 15 months and 4 years old.
I was 36 and a yoga teacher at the time of my diagnosis. I was running a yoga studio and therapy centre - my dream job after escaping a stressful career in London. However, like the analogy of the swan paddling furiously under water, everything at the time looked serene on the surface but was a different picture underneath. I had a thriving wellness business but my own well-being was less than thriving. I was teaching others how to be more relaxed and mindful but was completely stressed and mind-full myself. Luckily (or as it turns out detrimentally) I could keep up appearances because I was adept at suppressing emotions and dealing with internal conflict. This was a well trodden path from my childhood.
Until MS stopped me in my tracks. My world flipped and I was struggling to find any meaningful answers as to why I was ill (the long term pattern of chronic stress and putting myself at the bottom of a priority list hadn't dawned on me yet). Primary care offered me drugs in an attempt to suppress the over-active immune response but also a feeling of passivity that I wasn't comfortable with and I was determined to explore every way I could to be healthy for as long as possible. So I opened a book about MS and diet by Dr Terry Wahls which ignited the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
We moved house and I handed the keys of the studio over to a wonderful yoga teacher and I continued teaching yoga for love rather than as a business. In 2013, I enrolled onto a 4 year Nutrition Diploma at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London, a leading school of science and evidence-based Nutritional Therapy in the UK. When I graduated I specialised in hormonal health at first and then refocused on helping others with MS, which has turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
The more I learnt, the more I needed to know and this desire has driven me to continue studying and researching long after graduating as a Nutritional Therapist. I qualified as a Nutrigenomics practitioner with Lifecode GX offering a range of specialist nutrigenomics DNA test panels that inform how inherited health risks can be mitigated through personalised nutrition and lifestyle change and I also trained in Functional Medicine with The Institute for Functional Medicine.
And earlier this year I celebrated becoming a certified Wahls Protocol®️ Health Practitioner with Dr Terry Wahls . Something I did not think would be possible in 2018.
Let me explain..
In 2018, I suddenly experienced a huge decline in my MS health and symptoms after I fell badly on my knee. The inflammation from the injury did not resolve and this physical stress combined with a LOT of psychological stress did not turn out to be a marriage made in heaven for MS.
I suffered a lot - I had problems with bending my left knee, foot drop, balance problems, debilitating fatigue, excruciating nerve pain, muscle spasms and spasticity, vision problems, brain fog and I wasn’t able to sleep for any longer than an hour before the pain and stiffness would wake me up - it was a real smorgasbord of delights.
Following an MRI, I then received a new diagnosis of Primary Progressive MS over the phone (cheers interim Neurologist) and faced the prognosis of a fast, progressive decline which, from where I already was, felt unimaginable and devastating. My mental health rapidly declined.
I stripped everything back to its core because I just couldn’t cope with anything “extra” at that point. I simplified my life, said no to everything and everyone and put huge boundaries in place like a fortress around me.
I also started, for the first time in my life, to properly prioritise myself and my health. I overhauled my already seemingly healthy diet and started following the Wahls Paleo™️ diet (level 2) as well as focusing on the other pillars of health - sleep, movement, stress management and connection.
Amazingly, despite the dire prognosis, I slowly but very surely started to notice a change in direction. Like an ocean liner turning in the sea. My energy levels began to increase, my sleep quantity and quality started to improve and the pain and muscle spasms reduced. And then more glimmers of hope, my vision started to improve (apart from a bit of age related long-sightedness!) AND the brain fog lifted. I was even able to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Neuroscience from King’s College followed by the Wahls Protocol®️Health Practitioner training.
It’s still a work in progress. I’m not professing to be running marathons or climbing mountains BUT I am seeing improvements in my balance and gait using electrical stimulation with a Neubie device from Neufit.
And I’m practicing and enjoying yoga and meditation again on a daily basis (ish!)
And I’m grateful for all of it. All of the sweet highs and all of the bitter lows. I feel more awake now and true to myself than I ever have. I’m a better practitioner as a result. I understand the depths of suffering, I understand the fears, the frustrations and the struggles. But I also understand that anything is possible, that diet and lifestyle changes are powerful, that given the right resources the body can and wants to heal and that there is always hope.