I would love to tell you that I always wanted to become a naturopath, but that would be a lie. Honestly, I didn’t really know what one was until I was in my 20s. I grew up in a middle-class, hard-working family where money was tight and the belief was ‘doctor knows best’, so naturopathy was never on the radar.
My first taste of naturopathy came when I was 20 years old. I was suffering with severe gastric reflux (now known as GORD), couldn’t really eat and was constantly in pain. I trusted the doctors (because that’s how I was raised) but after nearly two years of taking antacid medication, my bowels started to go haywire and energy levels were through the floor. I went back to the GP who didn’t provide any answers and suggested a laxative. At this point I became frustrated and felt there had to be another way.
This led me to see my first naturopath in Bendigo who basically changed my life. She slowly weaned me off all medication, taught me about digestion and the power of food and worked with me to dramatically improve my health.
At the time I was studying my first degree, living away from home and partying with my friends a little too much. I wish I could say that this all changed, but I still hadn’t ‘joined the dots’ fully. Plus, I was young and stupid (ah the days!).
In my mid-20s, while studying to become a teacher, I developed gall stones and had my gall bladder removed because, yet again, ‘doctor knows best’. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done something very different, but such is life! So, I let them remove an apparently superfluous organ and carried on with my life pretty much as I did before.
Fast forward five years. I was now living and working in the UK as a teacher and, towards the end of my three years there, I started to develop some odd symptoms including unexplained break through bleeding throughout my cycle. My spider senses were telling me something was VERY wrong, but I got totally messed around by the medical system. It was nearly four months later, when I finally came home to Australia and found a great GP, that I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Again, I had surgery, yearly check-ups and got on with living my life. Not that much changed.
Fast forward another five years or so and I’m heading towards severe burn out from teaching after being made redundant from a school I loved and then moving to a school that effectively broke me. I quit after eight months and thought I’d never return to teaching (of course I did, just in a different way). I was eating poorly and drinking too much to cope with stress. Around the same time, I ended a toxic relationship that had a significant impact on my self-worth.
I then went on a ‘health kick’. I lost 25 kg through counting calories and eating what, in hindsight, was a very restricted diet and exercising 1.5–2 hours every single day and looked AMAZING. I was tiny, wearing a size 8 for the first time in my life, and everyone I knew thought I was inspirational. Actually, I was malnourished and running on empty.
I reached a point where I could no longer drag my body off the couch to go the gym from sheer exhaustion. I was in complete adrenal burnout. My cortisol levels had flatlined and adrenaline was so high. I was constantly anxious, had terrible insomnia and felt ‘wired but tired’ all the time. I had ignored my body’s signals for way too long and kept pushing through. Now my body was screaming at me to stop.
It was at this time that I started to research nutrition and adrenal fatigue. The more I delved into understanding my body and the experiences I had been through, the more I wanted to learn. I discovered the magic of herbs (hello withania!), started eating better and looking after myself, giving my poor adrenals the rest and space they needed to heal.
This journey finally led me to where I needed to be. Thanks to a conversation with one of my gorgeous ex-students (who is now a wonderful myotherapist), I switched my online studies to a degree at Southern School of Natural Therapies in Fitzroy, and I haven’t looked back once.
Naturopathy for me is my passion. I am a giant science nerd at heart, and I seriously LOVE genetics and biochemistry. But perhaps even more so, I love the true ‘art’ of naturopathy that encompasses the whole person and gives us space to truly heal ourselves. When we can tune in to what our body, mind and spirit really need, and prioritise our health and wellbeing, we can achieve amazing things.
Be well x
Written by Denise Berry BHSc
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