The brain is a strange organ

For those of you who didn’t know, I had the privilege to be interviewed on a radio show called Kids Health Revolution Radio (https://www.voiceamerica.com/promo/episode/95671 ) about my journey with Victoria. It was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed being able to talk about what we have been through and are still going through for that matter, as there are still things to be addressed in Victoria’s health. This interview was very therapeutic for me, and I have to say it felt really good to be listened to and to be able to talk without a filter, so thank you for the opportunity, Deborah Morgan.

Before and after the radio interview, I had a few chats with Victoria to make sure she was ok with what I was going to say, and to debrief about what had been said. It made me realise that she hardly remembers those 3 years of struggle with her illness. She only remembers certain specific things, like the incident 2 years ago where her body was hot and cold at the same time, and I felt like life was leaving her body. That day was a huge trauma for me, and it was for her as well, to the point where this is mostly what she can remember.  The other thing she recalls is going to the lab to get her blood drawn and being scared of nurses hurting her, because of her thick crocodile skin that prevented them to see the veins. The rest, everyday life as it was, has been locked away somewhere in her brain.

When I realised she had forgotten most of what she has been through, I wanted to talk about it and trigger some kind of lightbulb moment, and get her to access that information, but I realise now that it is a defence mechanism to protect herself from pain. It is very common for people who have had trauma in their life to forget what happened, in order to protect them, and help them live their life without having to deal with it for a while, until they are safer and stronger to do so.

I feel like, although my daughter is healed physically, she does not yet feel strong enough, nor safe enough to want to go to that part of her brain and deal with those memories. I wondered whether I should help her recover them and whether it was healthy to keep things hidden in the brain that way. I have decided to let nature take its course and let Victoria decide for herself if/when she wants to remember…or not. I guess this is also part of my learning curve, allowing her to take responsibility for herself. So hard to do.

I guess I still want to share my experience about this journey, because like a lot of mums out there, I learn as I go along. I make mistakes. Sometimes I can correct them, sometimes I just have to let go, and find a way to not feel guilty about it, and move on. Even after all the success and the accomplishment, I still question myself a great deal as a mum in general, and especially as the mum of a child who once was sick, but not anymore. As I said before, illness is a journey of self discovery, and this experience is a 2 for 1: 1 sick person, but 2 benefit, which means that both my daughter and I have grown from just her being sick.

 

I’m a little puzzled…

…by the following. Let me explain.

Ok, so I told you that Victoria’s eczema is completely gone, right? People who have been reading this blog know all the different therapies she has tried, some with success, some without. Those who haven’t read the blog know that she has been on some “diet”. Anyway, in both situations, everyone has seen the improvements on more than just the physical level, I mean the results are pretty fantastic, if I may say so myself 😉

So, in the light of such change, how come some people still cannot acknowledge the relationship between what Victoria has been doing to get better and the drastic results on her health? I get some “situation at home is more relaxed, so less stress, so less symptoms”, “she’s grown out of it”, “it’s luck, it’s a coincidence”, bla bla bla…

Sure, stress is a driver, but not a trigger, and there is no such thing as a coincidence. It is about understanding what is going on inside the body and doing what it takes to bring it back into balance, and that is what Victoria has done. She can talk about leaky gut, inflammation, and autoimmunity like a true pro. She knows that she has healed herself and I want to publicly celebrate her for that, as it is hard for her to deal with scepticism, especially after such a long and painful journey.

Let me remind you that eczema is not just a physical disease, it is debilitating and can turn into a proper autoimmune disease like it did for Victoria. It starts with a damaged gut which is the seat of the immune system, leading to an immune reaction that does not switch off, and the body ends up attacking itself. Most chronic diseases start in the gut. It is not a theory, it is a scientific fact, a reality. When we heal the gut lining and repopulate the microbiome with good bacteria, we reverse the symptoms and regain overall health. That has been Victoria’s work for 2 1/2 years and the results speak for themselves.

This post is about helping people understand that we can be proactive in getting better. The body always wants to heal itself and wants to get back into balance, if only we give it what it needs to do so. There is a reason why we get sick. If we understand it, we can and will get better by  feeding our cells properly and allow them to function as they should. It’s not rocket science, it’s actually quite rational. I have seen many people with chronic diseases get better with nutrition and other therapies, so all I’m saying is The Proof Is In The Pudding.

 

The end of a journey leads to the beginning of a new one

I have just read all my posts again and it has made me very emotional and very happy at the same time. Today, I can say that Victoria has overcome her eczema 100%. There are no symptoms anymore, no more flare ups. Her poor crocodile hands are soft, supple and smooth. Her face and neck look like baby skin. Her whole body looks really healthy with a nice pink colour.

The best thing is…she is sleeping well again, and I have only learnt that recently, as she forgot to tell me “oh, I’m sleeping like a baby, did I forget to tell you? Sorry. Oups” :). Sleeping through the night again has made a tremendous impact on her energy levels, her mood, her school work, her grades and her friendships.

I can see the sparkles in her eyes again. She laughs again. She can travel safely and not have to worry about her food, the bed she will sleep in, the number of cream pots she has to take etc. It is so wonderful to see her live again, it brings tears to my eyes to see her like this or even to think about it, like I am now.

The journey with eczema has ended, but the journey of health is only beginning. She has realised that the GAPS diet really works for her and she likes following its principles, even if she allows herself some extras. At the tender age of 16 (17 next week), she understands that her health is her responsibility and in that sense, she is wiser than most adults I know.

So now, a new chapter begins for both of us in different ways. Her life is just starting and she is going to be a wonderful teacher for many people, as I am sure she will share her story with the world. For me, the lessons I learnt from this painful experience have been amazing and have helped me be a better mother, a better person, and certainly a better practitioner. I am inspired by my daughter’s strength and resilience, and I do share her story with my patients: if she can do it, so can they.

Victoria and I are closer than we ever were (I did not even think it was possible 😉 ), since we had to rely on each other for all these years. I already said it but I shall say it again, my daughter is my hero. I admire her for everything that she has done to get herself out of that situation. It takes great courage and willpower.

We can now live our own lives and continue learning, sharing and evolving. The saying “what does not kill you makes you stronger” is true. We can overcome anything and everything. I shall continue with regular updates on Victoria’s health, as well as go into details about the immune system and so on as promised, so watch that space.

 

Still moving forward

 

It is Christmas time, again, and looking back I now realise how much has been done and how much better Victoria is. Last Christmas, she was still quite sore and her skin was raw. Her body temperature was out of whack and we had to walk every night before bed to get her hot body to cool down. She was scratching all the time and her poor arms and legs were bleeding on a regular basis.

Things are so different now. She has baby skin on most of her body and the crocodile skin on her arms and hands is getting smoother by the day. Her face is glowing. She is sleeping much better. She is happier, more carefree. She hardly ever scratches, only when she is hot. She is enjoying school, she has fun. It is heart warming to witness the changes.

She is doing it all herself, taking responsibility for her health. Her body is so strong now, she has even managed to relax the GAPS diet and introduce new foods, like sweet potatoes, quinoa, hummus, the occasional piece of wholegrain toast. buckwheat pasta etc. I feel like she still needs to follow the main rules of the GAPS, but being able to make some exceptions without a flare-up is a totally new thing and it shows such progress.

No matter how bad the damage in your body, you can always improve your health and often, you can heal yourself. It takes determination, courage and a lot of patience. I shall repeat it over and over, but I am so grateful to my daughter for the trust she has put in me. It has empowered me as a mum and as a nutritional therapist. It is one of the most powerful lesson I have learnt through her and by watching her. She has inspired me and gave me more faith in what I do.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

 

Now, time to explore the mind

Although Victoria has been doing a lot of work on herself with many reiki sessions (reiki is about allowing the body’s energy to flow freely from head to toes. It’s a very gentle therapy. I call it the massage of the mind, and it also helps the body): she takes time to breathe deeply and properly, she meditates, she rests her mind everyday, but it still feels like something is preventing her from healing completely, and she is still not sleeping (it has been 5 years now).

It is  very frustrating  when you feel you have done everything possible in that situation, and you know there is a block somewhere, but where? What is it?

I do believe there is no such thing as a coincidence. In October, Victoria injured herself at football and had to go to our favourite physio, Heather, who knows a lot of people and practitioners. She mentioned a homeopath she has known for a few months and who uses a bioresonance machine to read into every cell of the human body and get to the core of people’s problems. That sounded like something that might help Victoria, so we made an appointment.

The machine read a lot of emotional and psychological things Victoria was experiencing, thinking and feeling, without even recognising them. I know it may seem freaky to all of you who base knowledge on science, but come on, do you really believe we can explain everything? I don’t. All I know is that the mind and the body are connected in ways we can’t even begin to comprehend. The mind is very powerful and any trauma, hurt or unresolved issue can express itself in/on the body through many symptoms…like eczema.

I am not going to describe what Victoria’s unresolved issues are, as it is  private, but releasing everything that was stuck is helping her move forward in the healing process. She hardly scratches now, she is happier and she sleeps much better. Her skin looks amazing and her whole energy is lighter, as if a weight was being lifted off her shoulders. I feel like I’m getting my Vivi back, that little girl who was so confident, joyful, happy, surrounded by friends all the time. I see the sparkles in her eyes again. It feels so good to see her enjoy life after so many years.

The journey is not over, we know that, but she is overcoming its last hurdle. I am so proud of her and happy for her. She has been doing so much to get better and she is still willing to do whatever it takes to reach the goal of health and happiness, and you know what? She is only 16. What an inspiration!

 

 

 

 

Healing is not a straight road

So…the summer holidays are over, and it’s time for a catch up.

The last 3 months have been quite rocky. The last time I wrote, Victoria was doing really well, despite her exams. However, due to sleepless nights and stress, she had a meltdown when her exams were over in June. Her mood was very low, she was sleeping a lot during the day, but not at night, and she started scratching more.

We decided to relax the diet for the summer, in order to help her feel better. It worked somewhat, but there was another emotional/psychological crash after her GCSE results on 20th of August. It had nothing to do with her results, as she did really well, considering her tiredness, but I felt she was relieving the accumulated tension and anxiety, a little like a post traumatic stress symptom.

The thing with eczema is that, although stress is not a cause, it certainly is a trigger, and this is a perfect example. Victoria’s journey is also mine, but on a different level, as I’m not the one dealing with the illness directly. As a mum, I am feeling incredibly frustrated, sad and sometimes really angry when I see some setbacks, as I am afraid we might go back to where we were, even if I know we shall not, as her body is now so much stronger.

I am realising now, that healing the body is actually the easy bit. The real challenge is healing the mind, and that takes much longer. Victoria is very intense, very generous, very giving, very empathetic (too much sometimes) with everybody, apart from herself.  She needs to make peace with what happened to her and move on. She has already done an amazing job on all aspects of herself, but this is the last stretch, and one of the hardest.

So what I’m saying is that healing is not straightforward, we don’t get better and better, and then it’s over. There are a few bumps, some bigger than others, some more painful, but I think it is important to look back and see the improvements that have been made, and not focus on what still needs to be done. Although the illness is Victoria’s, that journey is teaching me many lessons for which I am grateful. There is still a lot to accomplish, but we are eventually seeing the sun shine at the end of the road.

Oh ye of little faith!

We are now in June and a lot has happened. Victoria, my husband and I went to Paris for a few days in February for half-term, where we saw some friends and family. Everyone knew of Victoria’s illness, but they had not seen her in a long time and were shocked by the state of her skin (which had already improved a great deal by then). I had a lot of comments about how hard it must be for her and I was asked whether there was anything that could be done to help her, to which I would reply “There is and she is doing it”.

I would like to go back in time and discuss people’s reactions when I told them Victoria was handling her health naturally, through diet and lifestyle.  Although I totally understand why people would be puzzled at the idea of somebody not taking drugs to get rid of a problem, I found it hard noone asked the big question WHY: why does she have eczema? why no medication? why this diet? why are you sure this is helping? I became very fierce and defensive over Victoria, as I did not want her to deal with the sceptics, she already had a lot to deal with and that was MY job.

How do I explain that mainstream medicine cannot cure chronic diseases? How do I explain that I know for sure that Victoria will come out the other end eczema free? How do I tell people that when you give your body what it needs, it will heal itself?

Well, I did, I tried, but unless there is an instant result, people will not believe you, even people very close to you. It’s not that they do not want to believe, but they are scared and come on, let’s face it, they think you have lost your mind. I know they do, I have seen the look in their eyes. I understand, I do, but Victoria and I felt really lonely on this journey, and we just had to learn to not justify ourselves but wait for the time when she would be and look better.

You know what???? That day has come, yes it has. She is looking and feeling amazing. Her beautiful face has baby skin all over it, including the neck, her arms are smooth although her crocodile hands are still healing (but looking clear), her legs look great also, we do not change the bedding anymore, she hardly ever scratches, and the best bit…she is back to playing sports every day and takes regular baths (water used to hurt her skin before). She is going through her GCSE exams as I am writing, and she has had no flare-ups at all. The only things that still need to be sorted out are her underactive thyroid and insomnia, but that’s only a detail 😉 We are nevertheless at the very end of this journey, and it feels amazing.

This is the message I want to send out there. It does not matter if you think the people you love are making the wrong decision according to you, because it might be the best decision for them, and all they need from you is unconditional love, without judgement. Also, whenever something is wrong with you physically, psychologically, emotionally, ask WHY. Things do not happen without a reason, and by knowing the why, you will find the how to get better. I was too wrapped up in my life to see all the signs Victoria’s body was sending (thrush, dry eyelids, glue ears, swollen stomach…), and I did not act early enough. It is a deep and valuable lesson for us, and once again, I shall be forever grateful to Victoria for believing in me as a mum and as a nutritional therapist.

Make sure  those you love know you love them, and show them in actions, support them all the way.

I shall continue sharing my experiences, as well as Victoria’s progress, so keep on reading. I am going to be talking a lot more about GAPS, since it has become a major part of my life at home and as a practitioner.

Fast forward until this January

Last summer, Victoria thought she was making too many exceptions with her diet, so she decided to follow it as strictly as it was required: not easy when you are on holiday in some really nice country with beautiful food, but she hung in there and results were great.

Then, she went back to school and started having big flare ups again: yes, I think stress is definitely a major trigger for her, as well as the rubbish food they serve in schools. We then decided she would bring her own lunches into school, as well as a flask of broth (bone broth is an essential part of the GAPS diet and has to be drunk 3 times a day). She immediately felt better and has really been enjoying drinking her broth at school. I just had to get myself organised and batch cook to make sure she had enough meals and broth for a whole week. Once you do everything ahead of time, it is not that bad, really.

So in that time, she was still on Ciclosporine, she was still seeing the naturopath and she was also seeing a reiki practitioner to deal with her stress and energy. Reiki is a therapy that rebalances the body and the mind’s energy. I call it the massage of the mind. It makes us rejuvenated, energised and happy.

A few weeks after having started reiki, Victoria came home from school one day, and did not look well. She was exhausted and as the evening went by, she was getting worse. Her body was very cold and she was shaking like a leaf. She had not eaten anything (and for those who know my daughter, they know that food is the most important thing in her life, before football 😉 ). I started investigating the pediatric A&Es near my area and I told her if she remained like this, I would take her to the hospital. She said “sit next to me, don’t leave me”, and that really scared me. I did not want to panic, and decided to wait for a while and keep her warm. She felt better after an hour, and slept all night. The next day, she slept all day. By the 3rd day, she was feeling better and went back to school.

You are not going to believe me, but after this incident, her skin looked much better, smoother, and her body temperature was finally normal, not hot and cold like before. I believe she went through a healing crisis, where her body was getting rid of a lot of toxins at once, making it quite weak for a while. This episode made her stronger to the point, where she told the dermatologist  she did not want to be on medication anymore. He was flabbergasted: he thought she had decided to put up with her eczema for ever, and she said “I’ll be ok”. We agreed to keep in touch to give him updates on Victoria’s situation. It was a funny situation, because as a doctor who only believes in mainstream medicine, he had no clue Victoria was getting better thanks to natural medicine. She was laughing and said “let’s send him pictures when I’m cured, and then let’s tell him how I did it, he needs to be educated”.

After that, she was relieved to be medication free and felt, that nothing could hold her back anymore and she could start to heal properly.

That was a real turning point, as for the second time, she had made an important decision for herself, and was very proactive in her healing. Deciding to get better was the key to her health.

Getting to the end of the school year

One thing you need to understand if you don’t know this already is that when you take medication on a regular basis, you also have to deal with undesired effects from it called “side-effects”. By the end of February last year, Victoria was taking an immuno-suppressant drug called Ciclosporine. It is a medication that is given for life to people who have had a transplant, in order to avoid their new organ being rejected by the body. It turns down the acquired immune system, the one our body has learnt to build up since we were born.

Victoria’s immune system was switched on all the time and it was starting to attack her own body: that is the principle of autoimmune diseases, when the body attacks itself and the immune system gets out of control due to too much inflammation to deal with. The dermatologist wanted to bring down the body’s immune thermostat in order to re-teach the defense mechanism to work properly: switch off the heating and reprogramme the body basically.

The idea made some sense, however as a nutritional therapist, I know that inflammation is a chronic condition that can only be treated naturally, but since we decided to follow the conventional way as well as the Gaps, we had to trust the doctor. There were many downsides to the Ciclosporine. First of all, it gave Victoria many undesired symptoms like facial and body hair, bloating, constipation, cramps (it depletes the body in magnesium), nausea, headaches etc… Secondly, Ciclosporine affects kidney and liver functions and Victoria had to have blood tests done once a month to check she could tolerate the medication.

Having blood drawn was a total nightmare for poor Victoria. We would go to the lab next door to the dermatologist in central London, and most of their nurses are dreadful and lack experience. To be fair, Victoria’s arms were quite hard to handle with the holes in it, lichenified skin (it’s when the skin has been so damaged it becomes hard like a crust), bleeding and water retention (another side-effect from the medication), therefore only experienced nurses could manage to draw blood from her. It was tough everytime, but she hung on, never complained and her tests were always good.

So basically, her life was going from one appointment to the next for her health, and I’m not even mentioning dental, orthodontic, eye appointments and so on… She was exhausted all the time, but still found time to do her homework. At the end of the school year, her body was beginning to function better. She had gotten rid of all her parasites, she felt more upbeat, she got better at football and tennis and last but not least, her grades went up drastically. She was still struggling with her skin, but she could see an improvement in all areas of her health. It all got really encouraging, especially after a fantastic parents’ evening where all her teachers congratulated her for her great results. I was a very proud mum and most of all, I was so happy for her. All her hard work was paying off.

Way to go Vivi!!!!!!

Happy New Year 2015

Each 31st of December, we wish everybody everything for the year to come: happiness, joy, prosperity, health. Every year, we also make promises to ourselves, promises we hardly keep, as we soon get fed up with them and our old habits come creeping back into our lives.

Why do we let ourselves down?

Why do feel under pressure to make a change at the same time as everybody else?

Why do we feel like we have to make the same changes as everyone else?

How about we made just ONE change that will make a difference to us?

There is only one answer to these questions: we should want to make a change and really feel it with our heart. We are hardly 100% into our decision, that is why it is so hard to stick to it, and there is not a set day to do it either, we have to feel it is the right moment.

Being healthier and making changes is not about losing weight or becoming fitness freaks, it is about loving who we are inside and out, and accepting ourselves as we are: that is the key start to feeling better. We are always criticising ourselves “I’m so fat”, “I’m so unhealthy”, “I’m so stupid” etc… We are giving ourselves a hard time, most of the time, and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Of course, I’m not saying everybody does that, but many of us do. I know I do on occasions, even if I have been working on being more positive about myself for the last 8 years or so. So, what if this year’s change were about shifting our thoughts: instead of the negative, thinking positive. Instead of wanting to lose weight, embracing our body. Instead of criticising ourselves, looking at how beautiful we are. Instead of feeling depressed, making a conscious decision to feel joy and happiness.

Victoria’s eczema is a really tough experience for her, for me and the whole family also, but by concentrating on the good, I have realised I am letting go of the stress I used to feel before. There are a lot of positives. Being on the Gaps with Victoria, I have been feeling a lot better physically and mentally. Looking at her skin getting better brings me incredible comfort that she is on the right path. Laughing with her brings me joy. Watching her get stronger mentally and psychologically is heart warming.

So…I would like to wish you all, my readers and friends, a very Happy, Healthy and Beautiful New Year. May your lives be filled with peace, health, success and great joy.