Introducing the Person behind Temple Health
This is me. Ashleigh Salter - in the photo to the right I was 33 years old ( I think - if my maths is good enough), with two small children. I was in South Africa on a trip there with my husband (child free!!) for my cousins wedding. This was the holiday when everything changed. This was when my life changed and ill health followed.
Now, don't get me wrong - I had a fantastic holiday - flying Business class thanks to my sister who works at BA, who got me on a Friends and Family standby ticket. It was so good to have a break away from being called mum, and instead just being a wife and normal person called Ashleigh. We had many restaurant meals of fried calamari - my favourite...during this holiday. With a Corona (when it wasn't anything other than a beer with lime!) or a Prosecco, the sun on my face and enjoying being back in my home country, albeit on the other side to my birth town.
This first ever blog is something I have been putting off and had been unsure about, because it felt exposing and opened me up to vulnerability - I was living in my comfort zone. I have taken my own health coaching advice and gone for it, after being convinced by several people to make my health journey known, and to show others how health can be scary, but how it can also be changed, improved. How you can feel well again! It is not a quick fix, and overall health takes perseverance and a desire to change. I do feel though that through my journey over the last couple of years, I have learn so much about myself and about health, from a natural point of view (naturopathic), and feel so passionate about continuing my learning, as well as helping others to feel well again. I know how it feels not to feel well. And how I took my health for granted before this experience.
So, I wanted to tell you a little about me, and a little about my story and where it all started for me. Or certainly how health coaching and my journey into that started, initially. Going back to my South African trip away, it was a couple of days prior to the above photograph, when my husband and I were road tripping back along the Garden Route to Cape Town, that I experienced sudden pain and then a gradual worsening of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). We arrived at our hotel - The Table Bay (we had saved our posh, amazing hotel experience for the end of our holiday to go out with a bang!) and the first thing I asked was to see an emergency doctor. He came within a couple of hours and gave me super strong, broad spectrum antibiotics. This did the trick, and got rid of the UTI, but little did I know at that point, that it had also annihilated my gut bacteria - good and bad. The trouble is, when there is no good bacteria, it leaves much more room for bad bacteria to multiply, and leaves you open to infections.
It was at this point that I was unlucky enough to get C difficile - a severe bowel infection, usually only seen in people over the age of 65, who are already hospitalised. It is also usual for people with this infection to be hospitalised due to severe diarrhoea and fluid loss, as well as weakness and extreme exhaustion. I did not feel well. A trip to the GP, blood tests and (the first of many!) a stool sample later, I was told of this infection and was given yet more strong antibiotics to rid myself of the bowel infection. 'Great' I hear you say! Not great......although truth be told, it was unlikely that I had any good bacteria at that point, so unlikely that those antibiotics did any further damage on that front. However, due to the C difficile infection, several layers of my digestive tract were stripped, leaving me unable to digest and absorb food well, and further complicating matters by insisting I now had several food intolerances - none to be confirmed and fathomed at this point.
I was told my the GP that I had IBS and was given no further support or advice following the C difficile infection, apart from to suggest a try the LOW FODMAP diet - which is a very restrictive diet, but one that has been suggested to improve IBS sufferers symptoms. I was retested with bloods and another stool sample 6 weeks later (meanwhile still experiencing severe digestive issues), to be told I was fine, and had no infection markers. I WAS NOT FINE. They referred me to see several people over the following year, including a Colorectal Specialist (Nice!!), a Gastroenterologist and a Dietician. The Colorectal Specialist did several tests including scans, blood tests and contrast dye tests, to conclude that I stop eating wheat. Symptoms (which ranged from diarrhoea, bloating and pain, to brain fog, depression and acne) continued, at a slightly reduced rate, but by no means concluded. The Gastroenterologist (who was a 39 week wait on NHS!) told me after several further scans, tests and a radioactive marker test told me that there was nothing he could do for me as it was diet related. By this point I wasn't eating much due to being on the LOW FODMAP diet still, and losing weight at a steady rate. I went to see the Dietician, who advised me that the best course of action was to eat rice most of the time, as 'it would bung me up'. Charming. I do want to, at this point, put in a minor disclaimer, that I am very thankful for the NHS, and all who work their hardest to give people their health and independence back. I just felt a little unsupported and fobbed off at this point, because one of these professionals was able to work with me for longer than their allotted time, and were often running late. The NHS is stretched, underfunded and like anywhere, has people who are less productive than others.
I was in a mess. My poor husband had me in tears most days, in frustration, and in fear of what my future held, with declining weight, energy and physical abilities, not to mention the impact this was having on my mental health, and quite honestly, that of our little family too. At the time of becoming unwell I had 2 small children who were 3 and 1. They were not getting the best of me, or even half of me. My husband wasn't getting much of a wife either. and I did not return to work, so was at home, feeling unwell and unable to cope. It really wasn't a happy situation. I also felt I couldn't share this with anyone, because it felt like such a silly reason to be so unwell, an at the time, I blamed myself for being weak and felt that I should have continued, to push through and soldier on for my 2 children and husband who needed me. Friendships definitely suffered too, as a result of this, because I was no longer able to go out, due to lack of energy and physical ability, as well as my dietary needs holding me back, with the fear of eating something that would make me feel worse than I already did.
So....what did I do? I found myself a Nutritional Therapist - who was my turning point. She listened and put me on a plan to improve my health. We tried a number of approaches, and diet changes. Some worked, some didn't. I had a comprehensive stool sample taken (which involved collecting multiple samples across 3 days - before being shipped to USA for testing - gosh - more well travelled than I was at that point!) - which was so interesting! The information that they can tell you from just analysing your poop is amazing. Back then, I didn't understand it so much, and didn't grasp the importance of poop like I do now! Still wouldn't want to look at it daily, or be a tester or lab tech in the poop sample labs - I'm sure they suitably impressive job titles to make up for their sh*t job....). Annnnyway......we continued, and worked together for a number of months (and started working together at least 14 months after the initial infection! why did I wait so long to find this woman!?). Seeing the changes in my health and the easing of my symptoms struck a chord in me and about 4 or so months after working with her, I decided I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to help people with their health, and give people hope that it can improve. I still wasn't sure exactly how, and didn't have £20K+ for a degree in Nutritional Therapy (considering I had already been to Uni twice, and had a BSC (Hons) and an MA). I let fate (or God, in my life) show me the way, and Health Coaching presented itself.
I started studying Health Coaching with the College of Naturopathic Medicine, which was still not cheap, but it felt a good investment. I knew how awful I felt, and I knew how much of an impact natural health and food as medicine had. I wasn't fully better (spoiler alert....I'm still not....but more will be said on that, another time), but I was at least able to function more fully, and could be there for my children more. Unfortunately a lot of damage had been done with my wider relationships, but it's also a good way of seeing who your true friends are right?! The ones who stick with you through the good and the bad times.
So - Health Coaching was started - and I loved it so much that I studied at at double the rate that was given to us (I had a year to study this online course, with live tutorials at various points to keep us on track). I did this during lockdown number 2 (I think?! or maybe 3, or both?! I lost track - and didn't actually care what number it was - it didn't make a difference!) in October 2020 til March 2021, while home schooling and keeping my toddler off too so that we could create a family childcare bubble that felt safe. My drive to help others feel well again through natural means is what got me up early, staying up late and reading/ listening to podcasts in any spare moments - plus a fair few hours where I was left to study while my husband took the kids for a walk - thanks!!
That's enough for today! I've overloaded and given you a whistle-stop tour of my journey into Health Coaching up until this point. It can slow down from here.....
The moral for today is that health and your body are not fixed. It can all be changed, improved (or the opposite if you let it happen) and enjoyed again. I wish I knew this in the midst of the pain, ongoing symptoms and the emotional upheaval.
I will leave you for now - with one final thought....
'You are as strong as you want to be. Think it, and it will happen!' Temple Health.