To be completely honest, I’ve been putting off writing this entry for a few weeks. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know where to start. Then it hit me: just start at the beginning. Brilliant right?!
Some of you may know this, but just over two years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Areata, which causes hair loss. My hairdresser discovered my first bald spot – it was a perfect circle, the shape and size of a loonie. I’ll never forget the feeling the first time I ran my finger over that silky, smooth circle. I’d never felt softer skin. It was terrifying! My hairdresser told me it was Alopecia – it was caused by stress and my hair would grow back. This was the first I’d heard of Alopecia. I'd no idea of the journey it would take me on. All I knew was that it scared the shit out of me.
Over the next few weeks the hair on my head fell out in fistfuls. From thick and healthy to dry and straw like, it was literally dying before my eyes. Showering was hell; clumps of hair clogged the drain. Brushing my hair was torture; I’d fill a garbage can to the top, as tears filled the sink. My entire head tingled, an incredibly strange sensation, and within a month I’d lost 90% of my long, strawberry-blonde hair. The same hair I’d dyed every colour under the sun all my life; treated, heated and straightened the crap out of on a daily basis. The regrets were sharp and real. The sorrow almost broke me.
I, of course, saw my family doctor and she recommended I see a dermatologist to begin treatment – cortisol injections into my scalp. She didn't talk much about the fact that Alopecia is an autoimmune disease or how and why I may be losing hair, except that it was hereditary and stress-related. I left her office feeling confused. I had an autoimmune disease. Even with my limited knowledge, I knew that diagnosis was serious enough that I should look a little deeper at what might be causing the autoimmune response in my body – it had to be more than the average stressors of everyday life.
As my hair loss continued, with the help of some very special people I decided to take some control back by shaving my head. I sat on the toilet while my best friend and husband got the clippers up and running. This was the first time my husband actually saw the extent of my hair loss. I’d felt so hideous that I'd been wearing hats, a wig and headscarves, even while I slept. Of course the damn clippers died after a few rows of hair – fat tears rolled down my face; it burned with a level of embarrassment I’d never felt before. The only option left was a full BIC job. That was something! I felt like an Alien, exposed and naked in a room full of gawking people. But, at the same time, there was a sense of power in it. The shedding no longer had a hold over me. I was in charge now, bitch!
That's when I decided to get a second opinion and see a Naturopath. In my first visit, the amazing Dr. Jennifer Parsons at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Healing told me there were other treatment options, ones that would specifically address the autoimmune response happening in my body. She explained that autoimmunity is linked to what we give our bodies – food, personal care, environmental stressors, etc. In its simplest terms, an autoimmune response occurs when the body doesn't like something it’s coming into contact with on a regular basis. This can lead to a leaky gut, which means your intestinal wall is more permeable than it should be so food particles and other toxins leak into your bloodstream. Your blood doesn’t recognize these foreign invaders and your body triggers an immune response to try to fight them, manifested in chronic inflammation. Over time, this can lead to an autoimmune response; in my case Alopecia Areata. For someone else, it could be any one of the many autoimmune diseases: MS, Lupus, Celiac disease, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Endometriosis, Type 1 Diabetes or Chron’s disease. There are too many to list and they are all on the rise today.
I won’t get into the specifics of my treatment (feel free to DM me if you want more info) but in a nutshell, I instantly cut gluten and dairy from my diet and did an overhaul on the products that came into contact with my body. These included makeup, personal hygiene, household cleaners, laundry detergents, dish soaps. You name it. I researched it and if the ingredients weren't clean, adios! This was an incredibly eye-opening experience. It’s hard to believe how many harmful toxins are in the name brand food and products we all use on a daily basis. How is this legal?!
The sad truth is, we live in a society driven by corporate greed. Marketing ploys like little pink ribbons or the words low fat, tell us what products are ‘safe’ to consume even when they’re not. Western medicine is designed to treat disease with pills not prevent it, while big pharma corporations pocket the profits. Encouraging us to consume garbage keeps us sick, which keeps us taking pills - and so the dirty profit engine runs on. It’s total BS.
But now for the positive, as this shit’s getting grim (even for me). There's hope and I see it in the surge of clean, green products, as many more join the shelves every day. There's hope in us collectively waking up as people; learning not to eat up everything the pretty labels tell us, learning how to read the real labels on the back of products and ultimately, gaining a better understanding of what we consume in our daily lives.
As my journey to living my best life continues, I become more and more excited about sharing my personal experience with the world. Trust me, I'm by no means perfect, or an expert. But my passion has led me to earn a certification in integrative nutrition coaching from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) so that I can make a career of helping others find wellness too. And, that’s really the point of this blog. I’ve learned so much from my personal journey; from drifting through life, eyes closed - eating crap and not taking care of myself - to getting sick and being forced to wake up. It’s my hope to use this blog as a way to share some of my learning with you. If it results in a few more conscious people on this planet, I’m good. But if it actually inspires you to set out on your own path to personal wellness, I’m freakin pumped and I’ll do everything I can to provide a little guidance in these words along your way.