WORDS Vanessa Finnigan
PHOTO Luisa Brimble
Sometimes our greatest life challenges, can show us who we really are! Seven years ago Lee Holmes received two diagnoses which turned her whole life around and her healing story over subsequent years has inspired people from all over the world to not only live and eat consciously but create yummy, wholesome food, easily.
Imagine for a moment, your health deteriorates over a number of years. You’re a single mum working full-time and for a long time you have felt constantly fatigued; like your body isn’t working properly, you start falling asleep in work meetings, you come out in hives, your hair falls out in clumps on your pillow and you lose a lot of weight in a month without any real explanation. Then one morning you wake up and you literally can’t move…
These were some of the symptoms that Lee could no longer ignore which eventually led to a diagnosis of a non-specific autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia. After a big search; going from one specialist to another, in and out of hospital for six months, she came across an amazing immunologist Professor Wakefield who finally made the diagnosis.
Initially she was prescribed a concoction of medications and said the side effects from these were almost worse than the symptoms of her illnesses. This didn’t feel right to Lee so she started to ask questions and noticed when she ate processed meals and foods with additives/chemicals, her symptoms flared up. Lee’s light bulb moment was when a friend bought her the ‘Food Matters’ DVD, and straight away the ‘food as medicine’ philosophy resonated with her whole being.
So she obtained permission from her specialist to make changes to her diet and stopped eating foods that were processed, or had MSG, preservatives and additives. She also cut out caffeine, alcohol, sugar and gluten and started to feel a lot better. Lee eventually weened herself off all the medication she was taking by keeping her diet clean and simple. She added anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric to her daily regime and increased the amount of raw garlic she consumed, which meant she was able to cut down on the antibiotics she was prescribed. Even though she had studied nutrition and went to cooking school, she didn’t find a lot of people who could assist her at the time with natural healing so her holistic approach was based on her own research and trial and error.
The relationship between stress and her illnesses became another important factor to address. She reflected on her hectic work schedule seven years ago when she headed up the ‘ABC Kids Music Team’, winning record labels such the ‘The Wiggles’ and ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’. While she loved the job, the stress of budget deadlines and long hours took its toll. “Stress was a big part of my illnesses. I noticed during really stressful times, my fibromyalgia symptoms would flare up,” she said.
Lee’s holistic search to heal her life opened up a whole new world. She cast the net wide and explored the area of holistic wellness, becoming a yoga teacher and travelling to India to study Ayurveda. Lee mentioned, “with fibromyalgia, changes in weather conditions can lead to flare-ups, if you do too much you’ll get pain but if you don’t do enough you can get really stiff, so finding what works for your body, (for me it’s walking and yoga), but it is all about balance.” Living according to your constitution really appealed to Lee and she has integrated this Ayurvedic concept into her work, life and cooking. “All I wanted was to make simple beautiful affordable recipes that would improve people’s health,” she said.
It was only natural that Lee desired to share the information she found with others. But when she started a small blog to share her tips, recipes and experiences, she wasn’t expecting to receive such a big response. People shared their auto-immune symptoms and a lot of common stories were expressed, such as: being prescribed steroids and then blowing up like the ‘Michelin Man’. Lee said she was inspired by their tips and they were inspired by her information and so they supported each other in an online forum which has had lots of ripple effects.
Lee eventually found a naturopath and nutritionist and felt a big part of her healing was restoring the state of her gut health. She also interviewed gut experts from all over the world and discovered they all agreed on these three areas:
1. Have diversity in your diet and all the colours of the rainbow.
2. Have a high plant-based diet
3. Reduce stress for good gut health
When Lee was 17 she would get cystitis and be put on recurrent antibiotics which reduced all the good bacteria in her gut so healing was a priority which took time. “I believe the gut is the epicentre of the body, 80% of the immune system is located there. Our gut health is connected with our weight, our cravings, hormones, digestive health, mood and the way we sleep. Our gut flora is like a community which has conversations with each other in a biochemical way. And we need some bad bacteria to keep that balance too.”
Lee shared, some diets don’t have enough fibre rich foods and she believes it’s not good to restrict food groups. Also, if you do eat something that is not that great for you, it’s best not to worry and ruminate about it but instead move on and make a different choice next time. For people who are unsure of where to start with making changes to their life and diet Lee suggests, “make changes layer by layer and do it slowly. I did a four-week easy-to-digest diet to start with. Raw food and salads gave me bloating so I ate everything that was cooked or squished or smoothied.” Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in the gut so she avoided all forms but now her gut has healed, she has raw honey and a bit of coconut sugar.
“It’s taken a few years to get my energy levels back and I’m about 90% healed, it’s not just about looking at your diet, it’s looking at everything holistically,” she shared.
Lee teaches yoga every week and also goes to classes herself twice a week and to further manage stress, she listens to online hypnosis CDs. She has always gone to church from a young age and still does for the reflection time. She believes so many people don’t give themselves this sacred time and it’s what is so needed in our society.
Family time is also a special part of Lee’s life and she loves making her healthy, wholesome creations in the kitchen for her husband (whom she married last year) and two stepsons who are 11 and 15. She also has a close bond with her 22-year-old daughter whom is currently studying philosophy in Sydney.
Lee is a rare balance of ‘power house’ creator and kind, gentle, wise soul. Her healthy, creative heart focus is clear. Lee Holmes is an holistic nutritionist, wholefood chef, yoga and meditation teacher and the best-selling author of seven books. Her latest book is called, ‘Supercharge Your Gut’ and for more information visit:
Lee’s Morning Rituals:
• Oil pulling, tongue scraping and dry skin brushing.
• Every morning Lee walks her dog Oscar Smidmore (who has his own Facebook page and is a gorgeous Shitsu-Maltese-Schnauzer cross with Jack Russell). She loves having a Chai and taking her own ‘Love Your Gut’ powder.
• Lee eats two days a week for digestibility and does intermittent fasting.
• She has a late breakfast: usually a smoothie or eggs or porridge.