Anna Collins was introduced to the idea that food can be thy medicine earlier than most.
When she was eight years old, her mother discovered a book on the healing power of food and began to change the family diet.
She introduced pulses and brown rice, cut out refined foods and sugar, despite the protests, and went to the chemist to get olive oil, the only place it was available in the Dublin of the mid-seventies.
In about six months, her daughter’s health began to improve. The infections, nosebleeds and hay fever became less frequent as did the endless trips to the GP and resultant doses of antibiotics.
The book, Nutritional Science and Health Education by C. Curtis Shears, and her mother’s use of it would later inspire Anna Collins to look for a way to recover from chronic fatigue syndrome and go on to help countless others with a range of illnesses from IBD and food allergies to autoimmune conditions and arthritis.
But that was some way off. When she left school there were no courses in nutritional therapy.
“Dietetics (managing disease) didn’t seem to fit the bill. What I wanted was to help people become well by changing their food choices,” she tells Feelgood.
She studied History of Art and English Literature instead and pursued a career in fine art and antiques in London and Dublin.
Then, in the early 2000s, she found the course she had been looking for and went to study at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition in London before going on to get her degree in nutritional therapy at Bedfordshire University.
It couldn’t have come at a better time because in 2004, she faced ill health again. She got a virus that November and never quite recovered from it.
“I remember sitting at the top of the stairs and asking myself: ‘How will I be vertical for the rest of the day?’”
The recurrent infections were back. She had absolutely no energy and, at times, found that she was slurring her words.
It would take her until 2012 to discover that she had Lyme disease and that she had probably picked up the condition, which is spread by infected ticks, as a child playing near her home in the Dublin mountains.
A series of vitamin injections in 2010 gave her enough energy to join a hillwalking club and it was there that she found out about Tick Talk Ireland, a support group set up to encourage awareness, prevention and treatment of Lyme disease in Ireland.
As her mother did before her, she started to do more research and discovered a book by Stephen Buhner that described how herbal protocols could help heal Lyme disease.
“It wasn’t airy, fairy stuff; it was meticulously researched and scientific,” she says.
Using herbs, antibiotics, infra-red sauna, a supplements programme and a special diet, Anna Collins nursed herself back to almost full health. She says she is at about 95% now.
Her own experience and her work with clients have shaped her belief that we have the potential to heal ourselves from a wide range of illnesses.
“What I now believe is that if someone is able to eat and drink, if they have someone to support them and they can prepare food and also work on mental techniques, the possibilities for healing are unlimited,” she says.
Our systems, she continues, are laid low by three factors – stress, toxicity and inadequate diet.
Her own diet choices supported her on her journey to wellness. She ate more protein, more veg, fewer grains and excluded sugar which, she says, can suppress the immune system for up to three hours after eating it.
“Food that is natural is critical. If your grandmother would not have recognised the ingredients, don’t put it in your mouth,” she says.
But health is about more than just good food; it is about recognising that the mind and the body are not separate, she says, emphasising the need to develop a meditation practice.
Personally, she follows the work of Dr Joe Dispenza.
Ultimately, she wants to help her clients, whom she sees in person in Dublin and on Skype, to develop the skills and knowledge so that they won’t need her any more: “My work is about helping the person to help themselves.
"We have more power in our bodies than we think.”