I was never fussy growing up when it came to food. In fact, I was a pretty healthy kid, always picking fruit over chocolate and sweets. When I was 18, I moved out and started exploring the world of cooking. I mostly bought items we used to eat as a family and cooked similar meals. A few years later, I began having issues with my digestion.
For many months, I was back and forth with doctor appointments and healthcare specialists. I was in a lot of discomfort and no one could work out why. It was a very frustrating experience and so I began to take things into my own hands. At first, I thought that maybe I was lactose-intolerant as I used to be when I was first born. However, cutting out dairy didn’t seem to help.
I then decided to go down a more holistic route. I went to see a healthcare specialist who worked with natural remedies and approaches. At first, I was very skeptical and so I went into the appointment assuming I wouldn’t get much from it. I was very wrong. A few intolerances were discovered, including the main culprit—wheat. Within just a few weeks of cutting out wheat, I felt completely healed.
At first, it was a shock adjusting my diet as I used to eat so much wheat. It took a few months of learning new recipes and food groups before I really took control of my diet. At the time, I didn’t realize the impact this learning would have on my future.
Within the first year, I had learned so much about the effects of food on my body. I couldn’t believe how long I had suffered and how cutting out just one ingredient could make such a massive change. I felt so much happier and content and it got me thinking, what else am I putting in my body and how could it be affecting me?
Since the age of 15, I had always suffered from acne on my face, chest, and back. I tried everything from creams to pills to drinking lots of water and changing my skincare products. Nothing seemed to work. I would often sit up late at night researching what I could do to defeat my skin issue. One thing kept popping up again and again, and I used to ignore it. That was until I witnessed the effects of cutting out wheat. What I kept seeing on every website was how dairy can cause bad skin. I was nervous to try avoiding dairy as I was also juggling being wheat-free. A few months into cutting out dairy, I noticed my skin calm down a lot. It was still far from perfect but I was on the right path.
In more recent years, I have also learned how food can not only have an effect on your body but also on the planet. This has been the main motivation for me to become vegan. At first, I tried going pescatarian and vegetarian before deciding to commit fully to veganism. Again the effects on my body have been incredible: I feel healthier and happier than ever before.
This year, I was again having issues with my skin. After lots of visits to a variety of doctors and healthcare experts, it was discovered that I had mild PCOS (polycystic ovaries syndrome). It wasn’t detected for so long as I didn’t have many of the other common side effects. I decided to pay a visit to the same holistic health specialist who helped me with my wheat intolerance. He suggested that I avoid nightshade foods (eggplant, tomato, potatoes, peppers, okra) and caffeine to help with my skin and my PCOS.
I was really reluctant to give this a try as I was already a wheat-free vegan. Going out for dinner with friends or visiting family was going to get even harder. I decided to give it a go for a few months to see if I noticed any changes. It has now been over 6 months since I made this new diet change and my skin has never looked so clear. Again I have been fascinated about how much food can impact your body as well as your lifestyle.
I have spent years struggling with bad skin, being self-conscious over it, having digestion issues and avoiding social situations that involve food. Now though, I am so happy with myself and my diet. Sometimes it can be hard to explain to others why I don’t eat so many good foods but it really is worth it.
Sometimes when we get used to living with something, we forget we can change it. For example, my skin had been bad for so many years that I had learned to just accept it. Taking the time to address my issues, working out what best works for me, and making sure I apply energy into my diet and lifestyle have made such a difference to my mental and physical well-being.
I have now applied this learning to all aspects of my life. I often take the time to sit back and check in with myself and when I find an issue, I take time and energy to find what works for me to heal and progress. It’s definitely not always easy or a quick fix, but it has been so important to me to find balance and inner peace.
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Photo: Anna Ashbarry