Bodytalk: We cured ourselves; Don't give up hope if you have a long-term illness conventional medicine has failed to treat. These three women all suffered serious health problems for over a decade before finding an alternative cure of their own.
Doctors couldn't beat my IBS
LUCY Pook, 40, suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for 15 years before finding relief by changing her diet. She is now a nutritionist and lives with her 21-year-old daughter in Brighton.
"After I had my daughter I was soon a trim size 8 again. But when she was a few months old, my stomach gradually expanded, making me look six months pregnant.
"I had diarrhoea, wind and stomach pains and my self confidence sank. But my GP told me to go away and put up with it. IBS wasn't heard of then.
"I saw four or five doctors over the next few years. I was prescribed peppermint oil to break down excess fat and had a course of acupuncture, but neither worked.
"I was a trained dancer but by my late 20s I was so bloated I stopped performing and could not work. That's when I started studying nutrition. I figured that my problems had to be due to what I was eating.
"I cut out milk because I always bloated up in the morning after eating breakfast cereal. This helped, but I was still tired. I became so interested in food that I started formal training to be a nutritionist.
"On my first day at college the teacher explained how important water is to good health, and I was horrified to realise that since giving up tea, coffee and milk I'd been depriving my body of fluid.
"The next day I drank eight glasses of water and my symptoms literally disappeared overnight. I've also gradually cut out wheat, after I worked out by trial and error I had a wheat intolerance that also triggered my IBS symptoms.
"My diet is now full of organic fish and vegetables, brown rice and big salads instead of pasta, pizza and red meat. I haven't been to a GP for five years and I feel fantastic."
Here's what you can do
IRRITABLE Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is commonly linked to stress and lifestyle. There's no official cure but doctors may prescribe drugs that prevent spasms.
CHANGING your diet can help - if you have a wheat intolerance then swapping bread, cereals and pasta to salad, vegetables, fish and brown rice may relieve symptoms.
Call the IBS Network Helpline on 01543 492192 or see www.ibsnetwork.org.uk
Contact Lucy Pook on 01273 232 862 or log on to www.bodyandsoulsolutions.com
Changing the way I looked at life helped me to battle ME
RUTH Pike, 28, is a singer who lives in Stithians, Cornwall. She had ME for 10 years before a visit from a life coach changed everything.
"As a teenager I was a perfectionist and a high achiever. On my 18th birthday I started getting pains in my hands and wrists but I ignored them.
"In school I became very stressed trying to be the best at everything. At the same time I was trying to ignore the discomfort, which had started to spread to other parts of my body.
"But I sank into depression and dropped out of school before my A-levels.
"By 20 my whole body was racked with pain and I was completely bedridden.
"I was seen by countless psychiatrists who all tried to put me on anti-depressants, which I refused. It was several years before I was diagnosed with ME.
"I tried an anti-candida diet, which cuts out sugars and is recommended for ME sufferers, but it didn't work. Three years ago I took a course of micronutrients designed to combat the chronic fatigue associated with ME. I had slightly more energy but still felt very low.
"Finally, last month I was introduced to Phil Parker, a life coach who specialises in a self-help technique called The Lightening Process.
"He explained that I was using my high-achieving, perfectionist energy in a very destructive way.
"I was absolutely brilliant at being ill, but Phil taught me I could be absolutely brilliant at being well again, simply by re-programming the way my brain looked at life.
"Incredibly, after the first session I got up and started walking around my home like a normal person for the first time in 10 years. I don't believe ME is totally psychological and I am still
physically very weak, but I feel alive and healthy.
"It's been a long road but thanks to alternative therapy at last I am well again."
Here's what you can do
MYALGIC Encephalomyelitis (ME) is a controversial syndrome which causes tiredness, muscle pain, lack of concentration, panic attacks, memory loss and depression. Patients show no signs of disease that can be diagnosed. Treatments include psychological help, exercise, allergy treatments, analgesics, antibiotics, antidepressants, antiviral drugs and hormone treatments.
The Lightening Process - a life-coaching technique that claims to teach the patient how to regain control if they have been suffering from depression, anxiety and stress. Proponents say the patient learns how to recognise the thought patterns that have caused their destructive feelings and change them.
Contact Phil Parker on 0870 446 0101 or see www.hyp.no.com for more on The Lightening Process.
Contact the ME Association on 0870 444 1835 or see www.meassociation.org.uk
Natural oil finally got rid of my asthma
JENNY Barrett, 28, works in public relations and lives in North London. She was asthmatic for 13 years before finding a natural cure.
"My asthma started when I was 14. I woke up in the night having a terrible coughing fit, gasping for breath and feeling itchy all over the inside and outside of my chest. From then on I suffered from asthma attacks up to three times a week.
"My GP gave me a Ventolin inhaler to use in the morning and at night, plus a blue emergency one to use during attacks. I didn't like breathing in chemicals and the blue one made my heart race, but I didn't think I had an alternative.
"Then last October a friend recommended a supplement called Lyprinol.
"It's made from New Zealand's green-lipped mussels, and contains fatty acids that help relieve symptoms. I didn't think it would work, but I tried it anyway. I was amazed.
"Within a month I'd completely stopped using my Ventolin in the morning, and a few weeks later I stopped using it at night too.
"Now I just carry my blue inhaler for emergencies, but I can't remember the last time I had an asthma attack. I consider myself cured, and I just wish I'd looked for an alternative years ago."
Here's what you can do
ASTHMA has no known cure but is commonly controlled by inhalers containing steroids.
MARTIN Dockrell of Asthma UK says: "A study this year showed that Lyprinol can help to reduce daytime wheeze in people with asthma who are not taking steroids. However, we would suggest that if you want to try it, use it to complement the medicines prescribed by your doctor and never stop taking a course of steroids without consulting your GP."
Call the Asthma UK Adviceline on 08457 010203 or see www.asthma.org.uk
Lyprinol (pounds 12.95 for one-month supply) is available from chemists, on 08707 200955 or via www.lyprinol.co.uk
CORE VALUES: Lucy Pook beat IBS with health food; LIGHT TRAINING: Singer Ruth used the Lightening Process; GOOD WHEEZE: Jenny says her asthma is cured; Pictures: ROGER ALLEN/TIM ANDERSON/SAM MORGAN MOORE