Priscilla's Journey into Functional Medicine
Since I can remember, I have never felt 'well'. Growing up I was always sick with chest infections and asthma, and took a great deal of antibiotics. As a child I had a severe anxiety and insomnia, which took a high toll physically, as well as emotionally.
In my mid teens I contracted glandular fever which was the tipping point to becoming chronically ill, and developing chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. All test results showed I was 'normal' as typically is the case with chronic illness. My diagnosis from the leading specialist at the time was merely an unhelpful label, with no further insight about what I could do to get better.
I was a vegetarian which only made health matters far worse. My understanding of a healthy diet was lacking, and my fatigue pushed me to eat sugary, high energy foods to keep going. I managed to get through my VCE years of high school by sleeping after school, or in free periods, and somehow even made it through a university honors degree, but was always exhausted. In complete denial about my health challenges, I became a gym junkie and instructor and was so obsessed, I would teach several intense classes a day, eat high energy junk 'foods' and crash.
Suddenly, I lost the ability to talk.
At the time we all just assumed my voice problems were from yelling in classes, and I was misdiagnosed for months as having nodules on my vocal cords. After months of not being able to speak a word, and trying every possible therapy you can think of (allergy testing, kinesiology, anti-depressants, counseling, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, chronic fatigue specialists etc) my health was deteriorating. I went to health retreats, ate a very strict elimination diet, and weighed 55kg, a whopping 15kg less than I do now.
Those of you with chronic conditions will appreciate the desperate 'try anything' approach, and the mental and emotional toll that occurs as those around you begin to think you are either a hypochondriac, or worse, that you don't want to be well. The problem with chronic health conditions, is that they are often sub clinical in nature meaning traditional medicine struggles to detect what is wrong. To everyone around me, I looked like a young healthy girl. At one point I was even pushed into speech therapy because experts suspected I had simply forgotten how to talk. The emotional toll of being chronically sick, is isolating and painful, and it can feel like there is no way forward, and no one can help you.
In my third year at university, I began the 19 operations on my vocal cords to remove the aggressive pappilomas that stopped me from speaking for the best part of 2 years. Yes 19 operations, anesthetic, antibiotics and stressful invasive procedures. That is a lot of trauma on a young growing body, and a depressed immune system. After a few operations we switched to an aggressive drug that helped stop the papillomas growing back, and eventfully I went from having an operation every month, to every few months.
I finished my university Industrial Design degree with honors, and went out into the workplace with no energy, and full of depression. The chronic fatigue specialist had told me I would never teach aerobics again, and that I should stop ALL exercise, in order to get better. As I stopped exercise, depression hit an all time high, and after a month I decided to do what made me happy and go back to training. My love for fitness took over, and I eventually left my design job to be a full-time fitness instructor.
As a trainer and instructor I continued to burn the candle at both ends, and got away with it or so I thought. Just before I turned 30 I was hospitalised for pleurisy and was on an antibiotic drip for 5 days. 6 months later I was forced into an operation to remove cysts on my ovaries, (yet another symptom of a broken body.) I hit an all time low. My stomach function has never been the same since that unnecessary surgery.
On the surface I was a fit and happy instructor and personal training manager working non stop. In private I cried much of the time from sheer exhaustion, often didn't eat because I had no energy to cook, and didn’t sleep. Something had to change.
The conventional medical model is brilliant at treating acute disease and infections, but unfortunately not so great at treating people who are 'generally unwell.' The cycle of doctors visits, specialist and 'normal' lab tests is all too familiar for those of us who are chronically unwell. Chronic diseases and a lack of vitality result from our lifestyle choices, our nutrition, our movement and our quality of life, all key factors the conventional medical system doesn't address.
In 2011 I participated in a course that was exactly what I needed to shake up my world, and show me the power of nutrition and supplements, and pull me out of my health hole. That course sparked my quest for wellness over fitness, and ignited my thirst for knowledge on how to get better. From there I have studied obsessively to become an functional medicine practitioner. I have completed courses on detoxification, lab testing, gut health, sleep, stress, recovery, mold illness and neuroscience. I am a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, and a Kresser Institute Trained Provider in functional medicine, and evolutionary health.
After working with a functional medicine doctor for who charged me $90 for 10 minutes, and who had minimal knowledge on nutrition, and couldn’t remember what we had discussed in our last visit, and wouldn't even explore some of the issues I was suspecting, I am determined to do better. Although I am limited in ordering blood tests and prescribing medications, I can order a wide range of insightful functional tests, and know I can deliver incredibly practical solutions to those who are struggling with their health. My wish is to help people like me feel better by providing answers and guidance the conventional medical system cannot. With functional lab testing, a lifestyle based approach, and an enthusiastic health coach by your side, sustainable health change is not only possible, it’s probable.
If you are struggling with feeling your best, I would love the chance to help you enhance your quality of life. There is a better way!