When it comes to being in a dark place in life, facing the demons of an autoimmune disease, Lee Holmes knows this all too well... You wouldn't know that from looking at her today. She is the picture of health, glowing from the inside, out. You might recognize Lee's name from some of the nourishing recipes we have shared in the past, like her decadent Berries In Apple Cider Vinegar and her finger-licking good Seanuts.
Today we wanted to go deeper, past the recipes and share the story behind the woman who has created a world of healthy recipes and is helping save people one recipe at a time.
Lee is living-proof that you can improve an autoimmune disease through nutritious food and natural healing, and her personal story is truly inspirational.
A few years ago I was at a major turning point in my life and hungry for change. I was lying in a hospital bed which I had been in and out of for about 3 months, staring at the ceiling and I asked myself a simple question which, at the time, had no idea would have such a profound effect on my future. The question that was swirling around in my head seemed to make perfect sense, to me but others around me weren’t so convinced by what I was contemplating; I’d always been quite interested in nutrition and had studied it when I was younger, but this time I wanted to know even more about the food I was eating and whether certain kinds of foods could not only provide me with nourishment but actually become my medicine to restore and heal my body.
During this time I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and fibromyalgia which causes widespread soft tissue and muscular pain throughout the body and the symptoms are similar to that of arthritis. Most days I felt like an eighty-year-old woman bent over double and unable to get out of bed. I had hives covering my whole body and my hair was falling out in clumps around me. In the hospital when I was faced with the prospect of a dull and overcast life on steroids, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, the teeny idea that had begun to blossom in my mind, was slowly becoming a much bigger part of how I wanted my future to look.
I envisaged a future which would allow me to live freely and naturally and one that would see me healing my body with certain foods, and wean myself off the cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs I was having difficulty swallowing daily. I decided to try using “food as medicine” and the results have been transformational.
Food Matters: What was the trigger in your life that made you realize conventional medicine was letting you down?
At the time there wasn’t a whole lot of information that I could find on the subject of using “food as medicine” and I was starting to discover that there was a great deal of conflicting advice, especially on the internet. Fortunately for me, it just so happened that my turning point came when a friend of mine named Cleo sent me a link to the Food Matters DVD, which really opened my eyes to the concept. As I began to watch it something in the DVD really resonated with me and it made me cry. It was scary to think that I wanted to go against convention and try a different healing path.
I remember feeling really concerned about being criticized and made to look reckless and irresponsible because my choices were unconventional especially because the doctors were urging me to continue taking the steroids and anti-inflammatories for the rest of my life to help with the symptoms of my auto-immune condition. But something inside me was convincing me that this was the right path for me even though most of the people around me disagreed. I also didn’t want to just mask the symptoms with drugs, I wanted to get to the root cause. It was from that point onwards that I was truly convinced I was going to try and discover as much information as I could and become my own “Food Is Medicine” experiment to see whether I really could improve my symptoms myself without the use of prescribed drugs.
Food Matters: What role has food played in your healing?
Over the next few years my health improved dramatically with food and nutrition being one of the major components of my recovery. It’s only in recent years that scientists are beginning to discover the vital importance of the link between diet, and the types of food that you eat being able to directly determine and change the levels of certain bacteria in your gut. Changing your diet will change the kind of bacteria that you have; which will either support the strengthening of your immune system, or deplete its defensive capabilities. In my own healing the gut became central because I was trying to strengthen my immune system and create an environment where it was less trigger happy and the gut and immune system are intrinsically linked.
To give my digestive system time to recover, I went on a basic, elemental, and nourishing diet and I found this really gave my body the chance to repair itself. The foods I chose were foods in their closest state to nature. The more that nature is disrupted in your food, the less likely that your gut bacteria will know how to handle it. Eating the way that I describe in the Heal Your Gut eBook not only gave my system a rest and a chance to repair itself but also provided me with key nutrients my digestive system needed to function at its best; delivering healing nutrients to all the systems of my body and creating an environment where true healing could take place.
Food Matters: Do you believe your gut plays a crucial role in having a healthy immune system?
To begin my expedition into improving the symptoms of my autoimmune disease naturally I had to do a lot of research on the gut and how it affects your health. I found that your gut is not just your belly or your waistline; it’s the gateway to the health of your brain and immune system. Your gut health and immune system are inextricably linked. I discovered that approximately seventy to eighty percent of your immune tissue is located within your digestive system. The gut is often the first entry point for exposure to pathogens (bad bacteria and virus’ that can cause disease); therefore your gut immune system needs to be thriving and healthy in order to avoid illness.
This was one of the key drivers to my own healing, knowing that if I could heal my gut then my symptoms would start improving. In fact the gut mucosa connects with the largest population of immune cells in the body. These are also known as gastrointestinal immune cells; which come from the lymphoid branch of the immune system. Their aim is to secrete lymphocyte cells which attack harmful invaders. These lymphatic cells also form bundles known as ‘Peyer’s Patches’ which work together to protect the mucous membranes of the small intestines from infection. They do this by releasing specific white blood cells known as T-cells and B-cells to defend the inside of the digestive tract from infection, as well as the damage that they cause to the intestinal walls.
Aside from containing specialized immune cells, the particular strains of friendly gut flora that reside within your intestines are also critical for overall immunity. These guys act as mighty warriors for the immune system, and are dependable allies for immune cells; helping them to enhance their “natural killer” effectiveness and boosting their overall defense of the intestinal walls to prevent pathogens and infections being absorbed. This is one critical reason why maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut is so important. Without them, your immune system cannot do its job effectively, and in essence it is defenseless.
Food Matters: What are 3 of the most important insights you have learned in life so far?
That it’s important to live in the moment. That’s what being a yoga teacher has taught me. Also that daily meditation is a big part of healing yourself from within and finally that it’s important to try and take time out when you can to enjoy the simple pleasures. I have downsized my life and working my way to the bottom of the corporate ladder was the best learning lesson for me because it gave me freedom to find my true purpose in life and that is to have a relationship with self and to help others.
Lee's Favorite Nourishing Recipe - Supergreen Soup
❥ 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
❥ 1 onion, chopped
❥ 1 leek, chopped
❥ 3 garlic cloves
❥ 2 sticks celery, sliced
❥ 2 broccoli bunches, chopped
❥ 1 bunch kale, chopped
❥ 2 cups vegetable stock
❥ 1 can coconut milk (no additives)
❥ Pinch Celtic sea salt
❥ Freshly ground peppe,r to taste
❥ 2 tbsp lemon and nutritional yeast flakes to serve
Heat olive oil in a heavy based pan and brown onions, leek and garlic and add celery. Add broccoli and kale and stir fry for 5 mins. Pour in stock and coconut milk. Bring to boil and then simmer for 15-20 mins. Transfer to blender and blend until smooth. Return to pan to heat. Season to taste. Stir in 2 TBS lemon and sprinkle on nutritional yeast flakes to serve.
How Has Food Helped You Heal Naturally? Share Your Story With Us Below!