You were diagnosed with UC in 2017 – can you walk us through the moment you were told and what your present-day self would say to you at that moment?
This is an interesting question. At the time that I was diagnosed, my gastroenterologist told me that I was going to be ‘married to this for life’. I hated him for making that comment, but if it wasn’t for his pessimistic attitude towards my health, then I wouldn’t be where I am today (operating moxie health).
If I knew back then what I know now, then I would have been able to challenge his outdated perspective on how IBD can be managed through diet and lifestyle. And although I may have it forever, it doesn’t mean that I have to deal with the consequences of it daily.
How has your diagnosis impacted the friendships/relationships in your life and how has it affected your social life?
I relocated from Australia to the US while I was diagnosed, so I was in the process of making new friends anyway. My US friends were certainly carefully selected as I needed buddies who didn’t drink, or party (in comparison to my Australian buddies). And who were health-conscious.
To be honest, though, it has been extremely hard. I was in a new relationship, where it went from drinking and eating whatever we liked, to a life where every move was so calculated. The biggest challenge has been navigating myself through social/drinking situations. I recently went on a wine tour with my family in Perth and by the end of it I broke down in tears because I felt so excluded from participating. It’s isolating.
Digestive conditions have been traditionally shrouded in shame/embarrassment. Why do you think this is and how did you overcome this?
I think that the reason why digestive issues are so embarrassing is because of the preconceived, ugly symptoms they come with (passing gas and lots of stool). That needs to change.
From a very early age, we’re forbidden to discuss our bowel movements because society has deemed it as ‘unladylike’ or ‘bad table manners’, which in hindsight is stupid because our bowel movements are one of the only things that can indicate that something is wrong with us.
We can overcome this by starting the conversation, and then backing it with evidence that it’s important to be able to speak with transparency about this topic so that we can seek the help that we need.
One of the goals of moxie is to educate our community on the importance of a holistic/integrative approach – what exactly is this and can you tell us from your first-hand experience why it’s so important?
It is an anti-inflammatory diet, lifestyle, and environment. The more you educate yourself with the value of eliminating inflammation from every avenue of your life, the more likely it will be that you’ll have control of your own health again.
Once upon a time, when we had a problem we’d bandaid it with western medication and never consider why our bodies are being ridden with illness in the first place. My mother has always taught me the complete opposite. She has always encouraged an organic approach, using organic food products. Prevention is better than cure, right?
When I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I knew that I was doing something wrong. I had been on heavy medication at the time, I was traveling a lot and under a lot of emotional stress. It was a time bomb waiting to happen.
The anti-inflammatory approach is what has saved me in so many ways.
Since launching moxie, can you share some interesting facts you’ve learned about digestive health that you didn’t know before?
I’ve learned so much. What was most fascinating to me was the ‘anti-inflammatory’ diet.
I thought that eating salads, raw fish and corn products (to avoid gluten) was great for my digestive health, but found out very quickly that I was wrong, thanks to my nutritionist.
My whole life I’ve always eaten salads. News to me that salads can actually dramatically impact the gut, as it takes longer for our digestive tracts to breakdown raw foods. And corn is just as inflammatory as gluten, and raw fish is filled with bacteria.
You’re based in NYC: the environment is an important component in the healing process – what tips do you have for navigating recovery while living in a big city?
To be honest, I am yet to figure it out.
Although I have joined groups/communities that understand my issues, New York has been a really hard city for me to heal, because it’s loud, it’s polluted and although it’s New York, the quality of life is nowhere near like I had it back in Australia. I also believe that my microbiome makeup is heavily influenced by my Australian surroundings (environment, food, water, etc.) So New York is a whole new ballgame.
This year, however, I endeavor to figure it out. My plan is to relocate to an apartment with more natural light, buy lots of houseplants, have an essential oil diffuser running at all times, adopt a daily routine of therapeutic activities (cooking, meditation), find a therapist to solve inner emotional issues and continue with my medical practitioner who I have ongoing access to.
So, that’s what I would recommend to others. Turn your house into a home, create a happy/balanced routine, cook your own meals (so you know what’s going in them), and connect with a community who understands you. Create as many comforts as possible.
Stress is such an important factor in our overall digestive health – what do you like to do for fun and what are some of your favorite ways to relax?
Stress can be the leading cause of so many digestive health issues (for me it was).
I play with my dog. She’s my therapy. I love her so much. I think the key to finding something that eliminates stress, are the things that really ‘put you in the moment’ and make you forget about everything else. For some people, that’s exercise, or cooking or even reading!
Find whatever puts you in the moment and do it for at least 20 minutes per day. It really helps manage stress.
What is something you can’t live without (in the context of your health/recovery)?
Again, my dog. And matcha 😉 And moxie. It gives me the drive to help heal others.
But in all honesty, it’s definitely my support group. My husband has been incredibly supportive in helping research ‘new/crazy’ alternative routes I find. He’s also supported my new diet in eating what I can only eat too. My parents have been incredible, as well as my amazing business partner, Louise. And of course, my nutritionist has helped me establish a healthy eating plan for my digestive health issues.
I think what I’m trying to say is that building a supportive community around you will be the most valuable thing that you can do.
What would you say to the person who has lost all hope in their recovery?
If you give up, it’s only going to get worse. I know it’s hard, but you’re not alone and there are so many other people out there who are on similar or even worse health journeys.
We should feel blessed to be alive and although some days these diseases make us think otherwise, we need to remind ourselves of the beautiful things that we do have, rather than the things that we don’t have.
Also, don’t be so hard on yourself. We are allowed to have days that we don’t feel ‘good’ but on those days, just find one thing to be joyful for.
In the meantime, find a purpose to be alive! And connect with likeminded people so you don’t feel so isolated.
What are your personal and health goals for 2020?
Health goals – I want to continue finding out everything I can about my body, so I can be as healthy as possible. I also want to be physically stronger! I may consider boxing or other resistance training that helps tone and build muscle.
Personal goals – Dance more, laugh more and start to really enjoy life a lot more (the past two years have been way too serious. I’m ready to have fun again).