A WOMAN who has learned to live with a debilitating condition using nutritional therapy has launched her own business to help other people take back control of their own health problems. Sarah Dunn found out more.
IT took two years for the nasty parasite which had invaded Claire Gillis' body on a scuba diving trip in Malawi to make its presence known.
And when the symptoms did appear – stomach pains, water infections, constant tiredness – it was a worrying time for her as she struggled to work out what the problem could be.
Eventually she and the other pals she had been with on the African trip diagnosed with the parasitic disease bilharzia.
Treatment was straightforward: antibiotics to clear up the infection.
But sadly Claire's body never fully recovered from the trauma and feelings of tiredness, dizziness and a lack of motivation stayed with her over the months and years ahead.
She said: "I just kept going back to the GPs telling them I was still ill – I remember sitting there and just sighing, because it seemed like it was all I was saying all the time.
"They gave me another course of drugs – which they don't normally do – but tests showed that I'd definitely got rid of the parasite but it seemed like my body just couldn't get back on track."
Claire admits the illness did not come at a good time since she was just finishing her social sciences degree course in Manchester – a period when she was "working and playing hard", which must also have had an impact on her condition.
But things continued in the same fashion over the following years – experiencing spells of general wellness before being struck down again.
Aged 26, she was working in the Your Nuts health food shop in Broomhill, where a general interest she had always had in herbal remedies and alternative medicines began to develop.
"I started to look more closely at my diet and how it might help me and my condition," the 32-year-old said.
"It was while working there that I was inspired to take up a course in nutritional therapy as I wanted to learn more about the physiological elements of the body and how different nutrients impact on it."
She signed up for the course at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in Manchester, working on her studies at the same time as juggling a full-time job.
The impact of this hectic lifestyle was a major relapse as she approached the end of the programme, when she finally received a clinical diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome.
"There was a change in me then," she said, "I accepted that there was something wrong with me. I took the pressure off myself at that point, allowed myself the time to rest and recuperate, rather than just trying to fight through."
Today Claire, who lives in Manor Oaks Road, manages to control her condition through her diet and lifestyle.
She has now set up her own business, Integrate Nutrition, to teach other people how to do the same, taking the control back from their illness or condition.
It works through a private consultation which aims to get to the root cause of the problem, rather than just being handed a treatment for the symptoms.
Claire explained: "It's about looking at our different body systems and how they function – for example, the digestive system can be greatly boosted by the use of herbs, while balancing blood sugar levels can help promote energy and motivation.
"I find it all absolutely fascinating. Everyone knows the things they should be eating, that fruit and vegetables are good for you.
"But when you start looking at how and why they work and the different jobs they can do for the body and how it affects your wellbeing, it really is interesting.
"What I want to do with this business is raise awareness of the relationship that exists between what you eat and how you are. I want people to realise that it's not all about funny diets or being thin – it's about achieving good health."
For January Claire has also launched a special detox package but is quick to stress: "It's a modern detox – it's not about fasting or juicing everything in sight.
"It's about using a diet that boosts all things that support good health, particularly focusing on the gut and the liver. It involves an initial consultation, and then an information pack and a course of supplements which should be followed for two weeks.
"People can also tell me about particular problems they might be experiencing – anything from difficulty sleeping or concerns about cholesterol levels – to make the package more personalised."
Claire said: "I want people to realise that it's often about making simple changes which can have a big impact on their life."
Visit www.integratenutrition.co.uk call Claire on 0114 249 3422.
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