I founded Stellar Health quite a while ago now, and I don’t think I’ve ever written about how I became a nutritional therapist.
I didn’t wake up one morning as a child and decide this was my destiny; instead it happened as part of a journey I never quite expected. But I’m so glad it did!
Read on to find out what led me here!
Work hard, play hard
Back in 2007, I was a fun-loving 23 year old design grad, living a typical free and easy life, hanging out in the Irish bars in Edinburgh. I worked hard all week as a commercial interior designer - which I hated - just so I could party hard all weekend with my housemates. I even jetted off to Ibiza with the girls when we fancied it! I was having a great time! I had grand plans for saving up and traveling the world. I met an amazing guy (who’s now my husband!) and we began making plans together.
And then I got hit with something that many women go through. It’s almost a right of passage. But this time it literally stopped me in my tracks. So much pain and no amount of cranberry juice helped. That meant no more partying. No more weekend trips. Essentially no more fun. I was in agony. Needing to pee all the time urgently and it burned.
Trying to get help
I went to the GP, who diagnosed a urinary tract infection (UTI) and prescribed me standard antibiotics. When these didn’t do the trick, they gave me another round with a different kind of antibiotic. And then another.
Tests were showing that there was no infection present, yet I still had all the symptoms - burning sensation, urgency, and needing to go every 20 minutes, pelvic pain, bladder pain...it was debilitating. And they couldn’t explain why. It was such severe pain, essentially a UTI without the actual infection part.
Stumped by my case, they made various referrals: gynae, urology, uro-gynae, STI specialists…
They thought it was fairly simple, and ran tests for pelvic inflammatory disease so they could prescribe me various drugs, but those came back negative, and all their other tests were inconclusive. More dead ends.
I was told by one specialist doctor, “oh it’s just thrush”. Absolutely no way! I knew what that felt like and this wasn’t it. I couldn’t leave the house or even carry my own shopping. It seemed he’d rather fob me off than actually refer me to someone who could help.
Eventually I got a diagnosis...
My GP finally decided I had something called “interstitial cystitis” (IC) - even though the urologist had told me this was impossible because I was “too young”. She rang me to break this news and told me over the phone that I’d “just have to learn how to live with it”.
I was absolutely devastated. It demonstrated that she had no idea of the pain I was in, or what I was going through. She showed no empathy whatsoever.
I changed doctors but, despite them having tonnes of understanding and sympathy for my condition, they still had no idea how to help. I was in a new relationship and I had zero sex life, I constantly worried and was unable to leave the house and I had to put travel plans with him on hold.
My life had done a complete 180 from the carefree existence I had before. And I just kept getting told, “there’s nothing else we can do for you. You’ll just have to manage it.”
I didn’t know what to do. Keep putting my life on hold or bite the bullet and head to Australia as originally planned?
We headed Down Under
After much deliberation and worrying about how on earth I'd cope on a long-haul flight with my pain and discomfort, we packed our backpacks and headed for Australia.
It turned out to be the best decision ever.
Getting the support I needed
I made an appointment with a naturopathic nutritionist, Daniella, who’d worked with IC before. And she suggested I get further urology tests, as well as referring me to a female health physio.
At first, I was wondering what on earth a female health physio could do for my chronic IC, but she diagnosed me with pudendal neuralgia, and treated my tight pelvic floor, helping me to relieve the painful pressure on my bladder.
After my awful UK experience, I had my doubts about the urologists in Sydney. However, I was given tests that had never even been mentioned in the UK, including a cystoscopy to see what was going on in my bladder.
They diagnosed me with trigonitis - inflammation of the trigone (base of the bladder). The bladder lining was irritated and inflamed, and stemming from the initial UTI. They gave me diathermy (where they apply heat to the cells in the hope that it stimulates new ones) but it didn’t seem to work.
It was such a relief to be listened to - and heard - by health professionals.
Living in a state of food-fear
While all this was going on, I got caught up in trying to figure things out myself by scouring forums for an answer. They were toxic places with unqualified people giving out inappropriate advice.
And there were (and still are!) people in there trying to sell dodgy "supplements" and creepy pyramid schemes with "proof" they worked. All they were actually doing is preying on vulnerable people who were desperate for help.
Reading conflicting and unscientific advice, I became terrified of food. I cut out everything — gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol…
I cut out so many different foods that my diet pretty much became rice, porridge, plain veg and meat. I was scared of putting anything in me that might make me feel worse.
Food is friend, not foe!
Then Daniella, my nutritionist, came along and helped me realise that food wasn’t the problem. She helped me see food as medicine.
She told me how I needed vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients. How I needed good quality foods, to balance my blood sugars and energy levels. She explained how my nervous system needed nutritional support. After worrying for so long my adrenal glands were exhausted and I was chronically stressed. My body needed support with its immunity.
Thank god! Finally! Some guidance! I now had permission to eat. An expert to say that food isn’t the problem. “Your bladder is in chronic inflammation and chronically stressed. It’s not recovered from infection well.”
Daniella took me on an anti-inflammatory journey with a whole foods approach. I started to eat again! She tailored supplement and herbal recommendations that were right for me. And - to my utter surprise - I didn’t get worse. In fact, my symptoms gradually got better.
Working with the female health physiotherapist alongside the nutritional support really helped. The combination of the two was brilliant.
I was feeling empowered and gradually needed to see them less and less. And I was much better equipped to deal with any flair-ups because they’d taught me what to do.
A change in my thinking
Mindset became really important for me. I knew from my experience of forums that it’s very easy to get trapped in a negative mindset. So I began to focus on positivity.
Eating better made me feel better, which meant I had the energy to move more, meaning I felt even better! I was doing guided meditations and visualisations and became a real believer in “Where your mind goes, your body follows”. Because if you truly believe you’re going to get better, your chances of recovery are bound to be better.
Facebook groups and Google searches help people spiral into negativity, because consuming poor information slows progress to recovery. Once I stopped doing that, and got the help I so desperately needed, I had hope.
You need to find someone you trust to support you nutritionally to get back to a better balanced life. It is entirely possible.
You don’t have to “manage” things. Some doctors and urologists out there don’t seem to want to explain, they just do “their bit”, the way they were trained, with no joined-up thinking. I recommend finding a nutritionist who’ll help you on your way to recovery.
I'd found my calling
When my partner got offered a job in the UK, we headed back to Edinburgh and I decided I wanted to retrain as a nutritionist.
My experience in Sydney made me want to help others. My life was truly transformed by food. I wanted to help people in pain who weren’t getting the help they needed. I wanted to bring hope to everyone who was suffering like I had.
I'd had such a shit experience beforehand - as a woman being fobbed off by medical practitioners - I wanted to make a difference. To ensure that women are heard.
And when I had support from these incredible women in Sydney, who offered me guidance and empathy and who actually listened to my worries and to how bad the pain was, something lit up inside me. I wanted to be able to do this too.
So my next journey began...
3 years of training for my post graduate Diploma in Naturopathic Nutritional Therapy. Which led me to starting my own business, Stellar Health, and I specialised in gut health.
I wasn’t immediately ready to talk about my own transformational journey. But now I am, and I want you to know that for me, this business has never been a job. It’s my way of making a difference to the lives of people who are suffering and to help more of you to feel better more of the time. Sharing my story is one way I can do that.
I know the transformation that comes from treating food as a friend rather than foe.
And nowadays, I am in such a good place that I only occasionally have to check in with my female health physio (every few years) for peace of mind and to make sure everything is still okay.
That's how a UTI changed my life!
If any of this rings a bell with you, and you'd like to talk with a nutrition practitioner who "gets it", then please get in touch. I would love to see if, working together, we can help you feel better again. You can send me an email here.
And you can follow me for nutritional information and inspiration over on Instagram!
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