How this mama transformed her own severe depression with food, and then used the same knowledge to heal her baby’s allergies.
It took me many years to realise that everything that happens in my life is happening FOR me.
While I’d always repeated the words ‘everything happens for a reason’, underneath, I still didn’t accept or understand that the tough bits – the challenges, the fear, the broken parts – were actually a gift. It was my chance to heal, to rise up, to overcome something in my life.
It was all happening FOR me.
It’s hard to see that at times. Especially when life seems to send you one thing after the other, right?
You’ve got severe depression, and then, your baby has severe allergies? Are you kidding? How can that all be happening FOR you?
But it is, mama. As the beautiful Sharon Selby attests.
Sharon‘s start in mamahood was marred by depression. A darkness and lack of energy she’d never known before overshadowed the early days, and whilst the medical profession were ready to go down the anti-depression path, her intuition told her otherwise. And so started her journey back to herself.
But, the Universe wasn’t done! As you’ll read below, it seemed she had more to learn about her inner strength and the healing power of good food – and how what was happening FOR her and her son really was a beautiful gift.
What was the transition to mamahood like for you?
I’ve always had great energy and a great attitude about everything – very productive, and loving, and joyful – whether it be about my work or my friends. But motherhood really knocked me. I struggled with postnatal depression, and because I just kept pushing through, I was eventually diagnosed with severe depression two years later. Not only was my mental state crumbling, but so too was my physical state.
I developed year-round asthma and year-round hay fever. I had constant headaches, and really bad fatigue – I just had no energy. And that, of course, also didn’t help my mental state. I was on a lot of prescribed medication and steroids, which the doctors said I would be on forever. Around the same time, I also had a miscarriage, and my mum was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. So, everything happened all at once. By the time I was diagnosed with severe depression, I was looking at going down the path of anti-depressants.
So why didn’t you start the anti-depressants?
The Universe works in mysterious ways, and even though I could have started with more drugs, somehow I had the thought that maybe I’d just start with really clean food. Because food had become my comfort, I thought maybe I’d give that a try. The truth was, I was eating biscuits all the time: I’d hang out for my child to go to bed so I could binge-eat and binge-watch TV. There was no joy in my life. And so, one day I just decided, ‘OK, you know what, I’m just going to cut out gluten, dairy, and sugar.’ I actually have no idea why the idea came to me. None of my doctors had suggested it! But after two weeks, I started picking up some energy and my headaches disappeared, and I didn’t get all the colds and flus that I used to get.
Five months later, I’d come off all of the medication I’d been told I’d be on forever, and I’d been relying on to just breathe.
Best of all was my mental state. I was starting to feel like myself again, but better. The core of me was the same, but now with this understanding of food as medicine, I was even better than before. I had new energy and new joy. I was absolutely shocked at how much food had changed my life. The most profound thing was the joy that I started feeling again. I had energy! I started going to the gym in the mornings – I’d never even done that in my life!
I had more energy in my thirties than I did in my twenties.
And so, I decided to study nutrition.
That’s amazing! And so from there, you thought your journey was done – that it was just going to be about mums and their food, right?
That’s right. I started my blog ‘Beat the Treats’ – because beating that comfort food was were it all started for me – to help other mamas, and I thought that would be it. I’d share it with other women, and it felt so good to be able to do that.
But then, the Universe once again had its own plan, and gave me a little boy with a long list of allergies, and my lesson started all over again.
I’d never heard of the type of allergies my second son Cooper had. First we were dealing with dairy, then we realised it was soy, because soy and dairy have very similar protein. Then it was eggs, and he would throw up all the time and had terrible reflux and pretty bad eczema. Luckily, through my knowledge, I was able to stabilise those symptoms.
But then I also found out he was very sensitive to natural food chemicals. Not artificial ones, but natural ones that come in most fruit, so he only had pear for the first 16 months of his life, because everything else he’s throw up or be up screaming all night. On top of that, because he was allergic to dairy, the only formula I could give him was a prescribed formula that tasted, and smelt, horrific, which he wouldn’t take. I’d have to put things like maple syrup and vanilla in there, just to try and make him try, but he wouldn’t. So, I ended up breastfeeding him for 18 months, which meant I had to be on that very strict diet too. We basically had a list of safe foods, because the list of foods we couldn’t eat was too long.
Because of my knowledge of nutrition, though, I knew that his allergies were just a symptom of digestive stress, and that if I could get some good food into him, his gut would gain strength. 70-80% of the immune system is housed in the gut wall, so my mission was just to make sure that what he was eating was very healthy.
The problem with allergy babies is their gut lining gets compromised with little holes – little punctures throughout their gut lining. So, little food particles escape into their bloodstream. When that happens, the body doesn’t recognise it and thinks it’s an enemy and will attack it. So, whether it’s rice, corn, or beef, it will attack that food, and then when they eat it again, it will attack it automatically again. So, I just knew I had to seal that lining around his gut.
It was a lot of work – short-term pain for long-term gain – but by 16 months, Cooper outgrew all of his allergies and food sensitivities, including egg and wheat, and now we are only dealing with a very mild dairy intolerance now.
This is what I now share in my Raising Babies with Allergies program. It’s full of all that I’ve learnt, and the most amazing collection of experts, and I support all the mamas on their journey too. It’s been so amazing to witness these women change their family’s lives. It’s the most satisfying thing ever.
With so much cooking and caring for your little boy, on top of ‘normal’ mamahood, how have you looked after yourself?
Sometimes my self-care is great, othertimes, I’ve let it slip to the bottom of the pile again. But the thing that has never changed since I first started is how I look after my body now. My diet is my saving grace. I don’t even really think about it any more, because I’ve trained myself to eat this way.
In fact, when I started feeling better, I actually did some very gentle personal training, and my trainer said to me, ‘Sharon, what are the three things you value the most?’ The first thing I said was, ‘Health,’ and he said, ‘Gosh, no one’s ever said health. They’ve said, “Money,” or, “Love,” or whatever.’ And I said, ‘Yes, but you can’t have any of that stuff without having your health.’ That was a real moment for me.
And what have you learnt about yourself through this?
That I’m actually really tough – and in a good way. When you overcome something like that, and prove your doctors wrong, and you did it all by yourself – there’s a strength there. When I finally got clear of the mess internally, I began to recognise myself again. I found that joyful, fun person again. I just had to find my way back to her, and that was through changing my diet completely. So many mums lose themselves completely in the process of looking after their little ones, but if we have the right support, and we really put our health first, we can find our way back again.”
Sharon’s 35 day program Raising Babies with Allergies is an amazing holistic approach to helping you AND your baby through allergies and food intolerances. Including insights from various experts – and a module on self-care with me! – this will walk you through all of you need to know to identify, heal and thrive as a family again. Starts MONDAY OCTOBER 23RD. Sign up now.