Allison Harris reached out to us on Twitter when we asked women to share their Wellness Stories with us. And we’re so glad she did. Allison is a mom, a licensed esthetician (with a medical certification) and the owner of Karma Healing Solutions. She’s been passionately involved with holistic health for twelve years, but two years ago due to Fibromyalgia, she was forced to re-evaluate everything she thought she knew.
HBP: Tell us how old you were when you first became ill and what your life was like at the time.
Allison: I was 29. My two kids were 3 years and 1 year old. And I was running a full time business doing facials and holistic treatments.
HBP: So it’s safe to say your schedule was full.
Allison: Oh, yes. More than full. It was very hectic. But I loved what I was doing.
HBP: But then in the midst of it, you started having healthy problems. What were the first signs?
Allison: I was having back pain, body pain, headaches, fatigue. Then I became depressed because I was in so much pain all of the time. My hormones were messed up.
HBP: So naturally, you went to doctors to get a diagnosis. What happened? What did they say?
Allison: I visited a lot of doctors. Fibromyalgia affects so many different parts of the body that you’ll run from doctor to doctor. It’s more of a syndrome, so doctors have a hard time figuring it out. Finally, someone will step back and look at the whole picture. I saw six doctors before one of them figured it out.
HBP: Six? That must be so frustrating to be ill and no one can give you an answer.
Allison: It is. You go to specialists who are only looking at their part, so they’re putting you on meds for one thing, but there are all of these other things wrong. They were giving me pain meds and all sorts of other things that I initially thought were helping me. But later I realized, this isn’t helping me and it’s giving me all of these side effects.
HBP: Is that when you decided to try alternative medications?
Allison: Yes. I believe there is a place for Western medicine. But preventative and alternative have their places, as well. When I realized the Western medicine wasn’t helping in my situation, that’s when I realized I had to do something different. I started looking at everything I was putting on and in my body. As a skin care therapist, I was telling my clients to watch what was going into the body and what they could do to help their skin. Why not me?
HBP: What’s the tie-in with what you were putting on your body, like skin care products, and your symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Allison: Fibromyalgia made me very sensitive to fragrance and synthetic ingredients. I started to get rashes and other problems from my regular skincare and makeup. And as my illness progressed, I was bedridden for eight months. During that time, I began to throw myself into researching what goes into the body and how that affects it. Even as an esthetician, I didn’t realize certain things – like there are no laws regulating what can go into your hair and skin care products. If I didn’t know that, then consumers certainly didn’t know. I learned about law and marketing. Products that I was using and that I thought were natural turned out not to be. They’d have two or three natural ingredients and the rest were sulfates and parabens. I researched how these things were harming my body instead of helping it.
HBP: It sounds like there’s this cross over between beauty and health for you. You began researching how these things contribute to bad health and so you stopped using them. Did that help in your case? Did you see a change because you stopped using toxic products?
Allison: I didn’t just stop using those products. I began blending my own essential oils. I started blending more for my own pain symptoms and other problems. Those gave me more relief than those heavy drugs they wanted me to go on. I couldn’t tolerate the drugs. I didn’t want to go that path. I thought there had to be something else that could help. I started looking at things that were antioxidants, natural anti-inflammatory, herbs and other supportive methods. That’s really how it started.
I also changed my diet. I eliminated gluten, sugar and dairy – foods that cause inflammation in the body and contribute to pain.
HBP: Let’s backtrack. You said you were not able to function for eight months?
Allison: Yes. I was in bed for eight months. My health deteriorated slowly until I wasn’t able to function. I’d lay in bed with my laptop and watch seminars about alternative healing, aromatherapy and all kinds of things. I also got involved with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I felt like I was learning some significant things and I needed to be an advocate and educate other people. And just when I was diagnosed, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s 30. I thought, this isn’t normal. I wanted to know what was going on with the cosmetics industry. Why are so many young women getting sick? I felt a responsibility to share what I was learning.
HBP: How are you doing that?
Allison: I do wellness seminars, community workshops and one-on-one consulting. I talk with women about the importance of educating themselves and being their own health advocate. I can also address specific questions about skin conditions and how natural products can help.
Having a clinical background and the experience treating acne with chemical peels and lasers in a doctor’s office, I can say that the ingredients in organic things can treat and get good results for acne without the heavy treatments. I’ve used the really heavy stuff. Now all I use is the stuff without these ingredients with the same effect. That was a no-brainer. I switched over to that for my clients.
Throughout my career I’ve worked alongside a dermatologist and plastic surgeons. I also worked with a group of OB/GYNs because there is a strong correlation between skin and hormones. We’d see people with hyper pigmentation, sensitivities, eczema and acne that correlated with their hormones.
HBP: What would you say to someone who says, “I don’t have sensitive skin or Fibromyalgia. This information isn’t important for me?
Allison: With the Fibromyalgia, my skin reacts immediately to the bad stuff in cosmetics. Now I consider that a blessing. Some people may not get an immediate reaction. But the accumulation is there. Those products are creating formaldehyde in your body. My body was screaming out, “This isn’t working for me.” That was how my body’s alarm system was. Somebody else may not have that initial reaction, but down the line you don’t know what affects you. We’re learning these things about ingredients that are classified as carcinogens. Big brands are saying it’s so small, it doesn’t matter. Maybe. If you were only using one product. But none of us are using just one product. And worse, we’re using some of these products on our children. I want to empower women with what I’ve learned.
HBP: So you’re doing workshops and making your line and you seem to be in a great place with your health. Are you back to your previous hectic schedule and therapies?
Allison: With the Fibromyalgia, I have limitations. This is something that you have. It’s not like I took this and I’m cured. But what I’m doing now allows me to function and have a better quality of life.
I can’t do massage 8 hours a day. I have gone from doing professional treatments to creating a line of bath and body care and aromatherapy. I enjoy that and I know what goes in it. I know there are all organic and safe ingredients in what I’m offering women. I learned what could make a really good product and how to do it without all the junk.
HBP: So do you consider your line as part of your outreach to women, as well?
HBP: How else is your life different from before your illness?
Allison: I’m a lot happier. I feel a lot more empowered about my own body. A lot more in control of my body and what happens to me and my children. Much of this has affected me as a mother and what I’m using on my kids and how I can help them be as healthy as they can.
HBP: What do you want women to take away from your story? What’s the most important message here?
Allison: You’ve got to give your body the best chance you can for it to be healthy. Some things are out of your control, like air pollution or your genes, but there is a lot that you can do. What you choose to put on and in your body are even more important than your genes sometimes. I could have laid there in bed for all of those months and been miserable. But I chose to do something for myself. Talk to people and do your research. No one else is going to do it for you.
Note: Wellness Stories are not meant as medical advice. They are for informational purposes only. If you have a medical condition, please see your physician or alternative health practitioner.