Last week I attended the book launch of Deliciously Ella written by the very lovely Ella Woodward and published by Yellow Kite. Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few months without access to social media or newspapers, you probably know the story. Ella is a reformed sugar addict, who suffered a debilitating auto immune illness in her early 20's that rendered her totally without energy and barely able to walk. She decided to take her health into her own hands and has turned her life around by adopting a plant-based diet free from sugar. Two years on she is in excellent health with none of the life-limiting symptoms, she has a number 1 book on Amazon, a column in The Telegraph and 270,000 followers on Instagram. In every way Ella is exuding health, vitality and creativity.
Ella is certainly not the first person to be struck down by a mystery illness for which mainstream medicine has no diagnosis or solution. More and more frequently people are suffering from illnesses that are hard to pin point and even harder to treat. Autoimmune disease is on the increase and I increasingly see it in my patients struggling to conceive. Yes treatments are offered, but they are often as bad as the problem and cause new symptoms, without addressing the root cause. And so people are turning to food and lifestyle changes in order to manage and heal their health and fertility, often with incredible results.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fanatic or a radical and I take an integrated approach to health. I work closely with medics and many of my patients are referred to me from the medical profession. I know many brilliant doctors and consultants who make a difference to people's life everyday. But here's a thing; sometimes medicine and harsh drugs are not the answer and sometimes they make things worse.
One of the problems is that we were brought up to believe that we could live however we wish and that if anything went wrong the NHS would pick up the pieces and mend our broken bodies and minds. This turned out not to be the case and the NHS is struggling to fulfill this promise. Don't get me wrong, when I had cancer I was looked after by some incredible people who saw to it that I got all the care I needed. They nuked the cancer, cut it out, fried my body with chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiotherapy and then I was left to my own devises. But I was given no advice about food, no advice about lifestyle - "come back and see us in a year" I was told.
I am extremely heartened to see younger women taking responsibility for their health. Many issues I see in clinic affecting women's fertility can be traced back to earlier in life; hormone issues such as PCOS often stem from a diet full of sugar and lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables. When I was in my 20's young women would live off a sandwich for lunch, a packet of Haribo in the afternoon (because they have no fat in them), washed down by diet coke (full of aspartame) and 20 fags and an after work bottle of white wine on an empty stomach. Have you any idea what that does to your blood sugars? There are a number of young health wellness warriors promoting a wholesome and healthy attitude to food; Deliciously Ella book is excellent, as is Hemsley & Hemsley and I look forward to Madeline Shaw's Get The Glow in the spring.
I hope that this generation learn from us; look after your health, it is the most important asset you have. You may think that your health and your fertility is a given and that when you decide it's the right time to have a baby it will somehow just happen. Apple and Facebook have both launched initiatives to freeze female employees eggs; but this is only part of the fertility story. It does nothing to protect the environment in which the eggs must implant and grow and does nothing to educate the woman as to how to live in order to protect her health and fertility. Giving a false sense of security and the message again that you can live exactly how you wish without consequences. Your health is in your hands; a healthy attitude to diet in your 20's will go a long way to protecting your health and your fertility later in life; make sure you pass this message on to a younger woman in your life.