At the age of 21, newly married and about to start a graduate role with a prestigious accounting firm, I suddenly found myself struggling with debilitating fatigue, a mental fog that made it near impossible to perform my job and left me questioning my actual intellect and ability along with numerous other health symptoms. After 4 years of visits to countless doctor’s and alternative health practitioner’s, many thousands of dollars spent on tests and supplements, I was still unwell and at the point that I could no longer work. Fortunately, by this stage I was working for a government organisation and had an incredible manager who wouldn’t accept my resignation and told me to take as much leave without pay as I needed in the hopes that I could get my health back. We had recently purchased our first home close to the Melbourne CBD but made the decision to pack up and move into my husband’s family’s coastal holiday home, near our hometown of Geelong and rent out our Melbourne home, with the hopes that a slower lifestyle without the financial strain of my lost income, might contribute to improving my health.
Thankfully at this time, on a friend’s recommendation and urging, I saw a new GP who suspected something wasn’t right with the chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis I had been given by other medical professionals. Finally, after a series of tests I was diagnosed as having coeliac disease, an autoimmune condition affecting the small intestine. Within 6 weeks of starting a strict gluten free diet I felt well enough to return to part-time work. Less than a year later I fell pregnant immediately with my first child. Three months post-partum I began to suspect something wasn’t right with how I felt. I was fatigued beyond what I considered normal with a newborn and my throat was constantly red and my voice hoarse. This time I was quickly diagnosed with another autoimmune illness, hashimoto’s thyroid disease. It took some months to get my levels within range but again whilst I felt better, I still didn’t feel that my health was at a level it should be.
Interestingly during all 4 of my pregnancies, besides morning sickness and even herniating a disk in my spine during 2 of them, I considered my health was at it’s best. When my second born started primary school his behaviour went from being a placid, easy-going child to one of aggression and erratic outbursts. I can’t say what made me go home one morning after a particularly upsetting drop off experience and search for answers however I think having to read food labels for my gluten free diet, I had noticed lots of “ingredients” that didn’t sound like food.
I came across a website linking behaviour to artificial food ingredients such as colours, flavours and preservatives. Removing these ingredients and even some natural ingredients with behavioural links we saw an almost unbelievable change in behaviour not only for our son but all 4 children within days. I was angry that these ingredients, many of which were banned in other countries, were allowed in our food products but even more perplexed that people advising the public on “healthy” eating rarely if ever mentioned these types of non-food ingredients. Searching for new recipes I came across Alexx Stuart from Low Tox Life which led me on the path of awareness about household chemicals. I had always been irritated by certain body washes, laundry powders and the like due to childhood eczema however I had never quite made the connection to it being chemically related and rather just assumed some products worked whilst others didn’t. I also naively assumed that there would be strict regulations on chemicals used in our household cleaning and personal products. Oh boy was I wrong.
My propulsion to question why and instinctual need for more information soon found me jumping down the rabbit hole to “research and investigate”. We made many changes along the way from the types of products we used in the home, filtering the water we drank, being mindful of our use of plastic and considered ourselves to be doing the right thing.
As I have discovered, this journey doesn’t have a final end point as there’s always something else to learn and in the case of my health, I never stopped wondering what piece or pieces of the puzzle I was missing. After a house move 4 years ago our entire family was diagnosed with Giardia. I required 3 courses of strong treatment to overcome it however my overall health seemed to continue to decline. I had a light bulb moment listening to a podcast about mould illness one day; we knew our home had some drainage/mould issues but would never have considered it a real problem until too many dots were being joined! I was diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) due to mould sensitive (24% of the population don’t make antibodies to mould and is closely correlated with the coeliac genome). Around the same time I began studying Building Biology as I had first-hand experience with a home making someone sick! Recently I completed Alexx Stuart’s Lox Tox Coaching course because I am so very passionate about sharing this knowledge far and wide!