Hi, I’m Bree – mother to two wonderful girls, wife to an awesome husband and father, a teacher for exceptional students, an outdoor educator, and a wilderness guide. Actually, Brad and I met teaching outdoor education and leading wilderness trips in Northern Ontario, Canada.
We have always shared a love of nature, adventure, and healthy living. Some of the happiest years of my life happened when we were young, relatively carefree and doing what we loved, working with people in the outdoors, surrounded by a strong community of friends.
Maybe the pressures of having to “grow up” led us to make “responsible” and “mature” decisions and we settled into a life in Toronto where I got a job as a teacher; we bought our first house, got a dog and began our family – we had two beautiful daughters Ayla and Farrah.
Life was good, busy and full of love. I loved being a mom and taking care of our family.
One Moment Changed Our Lives Forever
Then we were thrown a curve ball. When Ayla was 18 months old, she had an anaphylactic reaction to something she ate.
By the time she was 3 years old, she had been identified as having allergies to eight common foods: dairy, eggs, sesame, fish, nuts, peanuts, mustard, and shellfish. We were shocked and went food took over our lives. Everywhere we went we had to bring her “safe” food, were hesitant to leave her with others and didn’t trust eating out at restaurants.
I did what any mother would do, focused on keeping her safe by providing her with all her food, checking labels, at least, three times, etc.
As life went on, we kept vigilant about food safety and our two girls developed beautifully but there was always an underlying stress that she would ingest some of her allergens.
We had a nice life in Toronto. I was working full-time, constantly running from task to task. The weekends went by without any adventures and our time outside was usually limited to going for a walk in one of the ravines, or playing at the park.
Brad and I knew something was missing in our life but we weren’t ready to fully face it.
Then one day in my mid 30’s, I started having pain in my fingers and wrists upon waking. Over the next few months, the pain became severe and left me waking up at night with my hands in a locked position, fingers stiff and swollen. The I started having pain in my toes, wrists, and neck. I was so tired that I would come home from work and have to go to sleep. I wasn’t able to continue my usual activities, couldn’t open a pickle jar or chop hard vegetables with a chef’s knife and I was constantly dropping things.
Like most people do, I went to the doctor and was referred to a rheumatologist. The day that I visited the rheumatologist, she did a thorough examination and analyzed my blood work. She turned on her swivel stool and told me I had Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
I had read about different possibilities and done a fair share of research on RA. I knew that RA was an autoimmune disease that was considered incurable. It starts out by affecting certain joints in the body and can lead to permanent disfigurement with physical limitations, and even death if left untreated. I felt the floor drop away from me.
How could this possibly happen to me? A healthy, fit women, who ate well and exercised a lot? I thought I was making good decisions – eating low-fat foods or avoiding fat altogether; being aware of calories; eating whole grains; not eating meat or chicken but choosing processed vegan “meats” instead; exercising intensely at the gym, at least, 4 days a week.
Before I could digest the doctor’s diagnosis, I had an appointment booked with a nurse to learn how to self-inject a drug called methotrexate (rheumatology’s gold standard for many new RA patients).
It was a lot to process. At least, I had caught it early and my MRI had not shown any permanent damage. Still, deep down, I was devastated. This wasn’t me.
How was I to be a beacon of positivity and hope for my family when I was living each day with pain, limitations, fatigue and frustration?
The Fork in the Road
Fortunately, I’m married to a man who obsessively researches subjects that affect and interest him. During those initial weeks, our research guided us to alternative health approaches. We found many cases where diet and lifestyle were playing a major role managing autoimmune diseases.
This was the turning point for me. Either, I could continue on the allopathic road of being on heavy medication for the rest of my life, or, I could take matters into my own hands and make some serious changes in the way I was living.
I decided to do the latter and it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I went off the medication (much to the dismay of my doctor) and set about healing myself through pure, natural nutrition and lifestyle adjustments.
We embraced a whole foods diet, eliminating processed foods, gluten, factory-farmed protein, soy and sugary snacks. We eat home cooked meals comprised of organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, and dairy, organic, pasture-raised chickens, and eggs while incorporating healthy fats into our diet. What I discovered is that a Paleo diet works best for me and has brought me back to my active self, where I am pain-free, fatigue-free and feeling better than ever.
Within 18 months, I was back at the gym lifting weights, feeling more energized than ever before, able to keep up with my kids at the park, didn’t need to nap after work AND all of my pain, swelling, stiffness, fatigue, and limitations were gone!
Not only was I able to take care of myself but I was able to take much better care of my family.
A New Approach To Ayla’s Allergies
These changes have been enlightening in dealing with Ayla’s allergies. I am no longer looking at her foods as either being safe or not, regardless of how they are made. Instead, we have adopted a whole foods approach which has taken the stress and pressure off of finding her “safe” packaged foods. I have the assurance that the foods I am feeding her are actually those foods and not processed with the contaminants of her allergies.
This approach focuses on foods that are healing, alkalizing, decrease inflammation in the body and rejuvenate, energize, and strengthen the whole body. Interestingly, Ayla can now tolerate dairy, eggs, tuna, and mustard.
Brad and I have both overcome health struggles (Brad’s story) and we kept going with the momentum. We sold our house in Toronto and drove across the country with our family, camping in many of Canada’s beautiful provincial and national parks. We are now living on Vancouver Island, where we have incredible access to nature and our weekend adventures include hiking, surfing, biking, climbing, camping and more.
As we settle into our new life, I am strong, healthy and happier than I have ever been. Healthy living has become my passion and I am continuing to learn by studying Function Diagnostic Nutrition. I am excited and inspired to share the knowledge I have learned on my journey with you and hope that you’ll find valuable information here that you can apply to your life to help you take control of your life.