Learning about other peoples health and plant-based journeys always inspires me, yet I don’t often talk about my personal journey. I hope this post inspires and helps some of you out there!
It’s funny how in life the circumstances we deem to be negative, so far from our envisioned life can actually lead us on a journey to something even better, maybe where we are supposed to be.
Health issues as a Teenager
At 16 during my final exams, I had a fainting episode and spent the afternoon in A&E because my blood pressure wouldn’t increase enough. We thought it was simply a one-off but over the next year I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and as an outpatient at the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham I had regular appointments with a specialist, therapist and physiotherapist. I was so exhausted from regular activities like college and walking so regular naps were a necessity. It was hard to focus and everything was just…fuzzy.
Diagnosis & Treatment
After a few years of waxing and waning symptoms the passing out, low blood pressure and multiple other symptoms came back a lot worse and it was affecting my ability to work and study. My dad took me to see a cardio specialist who very quickly diagnosed this as Neurocardiogenic Syncope, a form of Dysautonomia. Dysautonomia is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system. In real terms, the stuff your body does on autopilot like blood pressure regulation, digestion, temperature control etc. doesn’t work how it is supposed to and you can get a multitude of debilitating symptoms.
It was a relief to finally know what was wrong and that it could be managed. To this day I have to drink a lot of water and eat more salt than everyone else, and I can’t go too long without eating. Oh, but the medication. I was put on a strong corticosteroid and literally felt so ill I thought I was dying. The other drug, Midodrine, works but again comes with so many negative side effects like pins and needles in your head and you can’t lay down for hours after taking it.
The Fabulous Deliciously Ella
It was around this time plant-based food blogger Deliciously Ella was gaining popularity. She had a form of Dysautonomia and used a whole foods diet to totally reverse her condition. This sounded perfect but as gastrointestinal issues like IBS were a symptom for myself I couldn’t eat a lot of the nutritious alternatives she suggested. It prompted a further journey of following a LOW FODMAP diet, discovering that I was totally intolerant to gluten and lactose. After ‘resetting’ and settling my digestion I was able to incorporate a lot of the whole foods Deliciously Ella uses such as legumes, garlic and certain fruits and veg. My diet wasn’t terrible before but I had no idea how good food could taste when it was all fresh and healthy!
Healthy & Plant-Based!
Slowly but surely my health was improving, gradually moving to a fully vegan diet about 18 months ago. I came off the blood pressure drugs, using a healthy diet, exercise and more mindful lifestyle as my medicine (and I’ve never felt better!). In college I worked for a plant-based consultant firm, seeing in action the amazing changes in the food industry and the stories behind it.
It’s undeniable the incredible impact food and lifestyle has on health. Yet, as so many have experienced, medical professionals are not convinced of this. My doctor was concerned about my vegan diet, and couldn’t correlate this to the ‘healthiest blood test results of someone my age she had seen’. Of course, I still eat vegan ‘junk’ food sometimes and eat some things that are processed, but my body brings back symptoms as a reminder that a plant-based diet and positive lifestyle really is the best medicine.
Whilst I maybe didn’t have the crazy teenage years I’d hoped for and find myself graduating two years later than my peers, I wouldn’t change it. I believe the struggles are what shape us and lead us to something even greater, where we can use our experiences to better the lives of others. I’m so grateful for all the people and experiences I’ve had through this plant-based journey and look forward to all the exciting adventures to come!