Against the Odds with Louise Usher
Manifesting. Achieving. Inspiring
Deciding to heal.
Medical intervention is lifesaving. We know this. Those who save lives are incredible and we need eternal gratitude for all who have been touched by these people.
There is zero doubt in my mind about this. There are times we simply need help.
The final year of my degree has highlighted the importance of taking control of one’s own health; mind, body and, as always, spirit (although that’s not often mentioned in my science degree.)
Biochemistry, physiology and the body are miracles. How does everything work together so synchronously for us to thrive as humans? I honestly believe a certain degree of miracle must be present. Being designed so beautifully, our cells and organelles are factories for our health, without them, we have no oxygen. Without oxygen; no life. Without lungs; no oxygen…you see my point? Symbiosis is truly ever present, and when things go wrong we sometimes need to ask why.
Laying blame is wrong, as no one wants to be sick. No one chose to make him or herself ill. Yet the chronic diseases we see so prevalent in this world are often preventable. This is a fact. But do we know how? Why do we suffer such illnesses? Can they be reversed?
Research, research, research is the answer.
The information is out there. Sadly, often our doctors simply do not have the time to go through finer details and we can be left wondering what to do next.
Knowing finite details might just switch on the motivation for change.
I have a story rather like this.
Forever a sick child, I was given antibiotics on most occasions. There was a time the primary reason for visiting the doctors was to ‘get some antibiotics’. Now we know this is not the best route to take on all occasions, though lifesaving in others. Now we know antibiotics are to fight bacterial infections, hence the name. My teenage years were also troubled with health issues; infertility, hormonal problems and other chronic pain manifestations.
NB: My symptoms here will not be described in detail but please be aware of a few descriptions approaching.
Many surgeries, all nonspecific and seemingly unrelated, followed and a general feeling of not being my best came to a head in 2009. Serious issues from the gut were stopping me in my tracks and putting on the brakes of life, until the symptoms were so bad I was heavily losing blood all day, every day. The GP seemed to think more surgery might be needed and gave me a follow up appointment (which was not treated as urgent). Things got worse. I ended up in the hospital having surgery and biopsies where I was told they were looking for harmful tumours.
How could I share this with my parents? They had already buried my brother and there was only me left. You can’t help but think of the worst-case scenario, but I should have worked harder on relaxing inside as much as I appeared to be outwardly.
During the surgery, I was informed that my colon was heavily ulcerated. They suspected ulcerative colitis. Immediately I began research – specifically into inflammatory bowel conditions. It’s known as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and is the collective term for Crohn’s and colitis. Being inflamed anywhere in the body is not a good place to be. Yet already I was motivated and determined to do what I could to help myself.
Results were in. The biopsies showed Crohn’s disease. A disease of the digestive system present anywhere from the mouth to the anus. It can also penetrate right through the tissue layers, which is life threatening. Alongside this were gastritis, a hiatus hernia and flattened villi (showing Coeliac disease – a gluten allergy). So, though this sounded a pretty grim story with the potential need for lots of surgery, I became determined.
Burning candles at my desk late into the night, I read further while I waited for more medical appointments. Finding a diet called The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I read a book by Elaine Gottschall, “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Why had I never heard of all this stuff? You can heal from your nutrition? You can heal your gut and it changes everything, even mindset! I was astonished. I requested an appointment with a dietitian at the local hospital and I began eating the way the book instructed.
Science moves on quickly and I’m pleased to say that, today, the NHS does now recommend the low FODMAP diet, for those struggling with digestive health, which is not too dissimilar to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Yet in 2009, I left the dietitian clinic in floods of tears when they spoke to me of ‘a varied and balanced diet’ and showed me the Eatwell Plate full of grains and starches. I remained polite, but inside I was screaming! I knew this was wrong and had already begun eating bone broths and eliminating sugars, as well as the gluten which had been harming my body all these years through allergy.
My gastroenterologist gave me a long list of prescriptive medicine to use. Two of them were essential at the time but turned me inside out with pain so I got off them as soon as I could do so safely. We had a heated conversation; I was frustrated – his exact words were, “You can’t deal with Crohn’s without medication or surgery.” I cried but I was determined. I would. I would beat this without medication or surgery, after all I knew what I had read. Keeping an open mind to what he said was unthinkable to me.
Everything changed. I continued to spend much time in the kitchen with careful preparation of my nutrition, continued to research, began to wear bikinis in case he was right and I needed abdominal surgery…
Beginning a running regime, I was determined to run a race in totality. Just 5k, that would do. Dance has always been my passion and I began to compete, doing great with my amazing dance partner and ending up finalists of the nationals going from 160 couples down to 5. We didn’t win but that didn’t matter.
My body transformed unrecognisably. I was feeling fit and well, the horrific symptoms I saw before surgery disappeared within 3 weeks.
The following summer, for the first time, I had no hay fever. My constant ear infections which also needed previous surgery (and meant I’d lost my hearing bones in one ear), had gone. Totally.
Never in my life had I felt so amazing.
More difficult conversations with the gastroenterologist led to us ‘agreeing to disagree’. I knew then that diet was the key to making significant improvements. While this was a dramatic way of eating, it was necessary to heal. If I’m honest, things have slipped since and I can feel it. But I know I can easily pull things back to see the same wonderful results over and over.
They say you are what you eat. You are, definitely, a product of your absorption. While my degree has taught me much about the systems of metabolism, I feel the important lesson to pass on is to listen to your body. This far, 9 years later, I am blessed to still be in better health without surgery or medication. My Crohn’s went into remission after 3 weeks and that is where it has stayed.
* If you have any health concerns I would always recommend seeking the advice of a health professional as well as listening to your body.