LEE HOLMES is the Sydney-based founder of Supercharged Food and the author of multiple books about good gut health. You can’t have good skin without having a healthy gut so here we discover how she started on her natural health journey and what keeps her motivated. Lee has just become a patron and an ambassador for the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM) in London.
As a little girl, Lee Holmes remembers foraging the British hedgerows with her mum and two sisters, looking for tasty treats to supplement the family’s diet. She would also spend weekends and holidays fruit-picking on the local Kent farms to help supplement the family’s income and so, she says, she had a humble and rural upbringing until the age of six when her single mother decided to move the family to Australia.
“We were what was known back then over here as £10 poms,” she jokes. But in truth, Lee’s father – a Colonel in the British Army – was no longer on the scene and so money was tight, and her mother had to be creative and inventive in order to put food on the table. Which meant growing their own fruits and vegetables was a no-brainer and that Lee and her sisters were raised with an appreciation of the cycles of nature, of where food comes from and of the work it takes to grow and cultivate food that brings vitality to the plate.
These then were the early childhood lessons about the importance of healthy eating and good food choices that found their way back into her life when her health eventually took a serious downward turn.
Wanting to travel as a young woman, Lee left school, went to hospitality and cooking school to become a chef and then became a flight attendant. She spent some time back in the UK teaching English as a foreign language, before working full time in teaching.
Then one morning, she woke up and decided she’d like a change of career and fancied working in the music business. For most people this would probably remain a pipedream, but this is Lee Holmes, businesswoman, successful author of nine health books and now a qualified clinical nutritionist too. And so, as someone who believes if she can think it, she can do it, ‘of course’, she found herself working with musicians. She became a busy and driven career woman and single mum to daughter, Tamsin, now 27.
“I was working hard and loving my job when one morning, I woke up and just couldn’t get out of bed,” she recalls.
At the time, Lee worked for ABC Music in Sydney where she ran the licensing department and had what most would agree was a dream job. But for months, she had not felt well. She’d been losing weight; her hair had been falling out in clumps and her body was covered in hives.
“I kept pushing myself but, eventually, I went to the doctor and started being passed from one specialist to another. I was 44 and really sick,” she says.
After multiple tests and scans, Lee was told she had a non- specific auto-immune condition and was likely suffering from fibromyalgia.
“I’d always thought of food as being medicine and so I remember asking if the doctors thought my health problems could be anything to do with my diet but was told no, there was no link,” she recalls.
Now on a medical diet of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and steroids, Lee eventually decided to take her health into her own hands to test the strong hunch she had that her problems were linked to her diet. She went food shopping, went into her kitchen and started cooking.
“I worked very intuitively, starting with introducing very gentle foods like Belly Broths,” she says. “I went back to cooking from scratch and started to use things like turmeric as an anti- inflammatory, and garlic as a natural antibiotic. And each time I reintroduced the foods I had eliminated, I would suffer a flare-up, so I knew my theory was right.”
Lee, now 55, says it took a full year to wean herself off all the medication which had kept her symptoms partially suppressed and by the time she turned 50, she had been formally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a painful condition in which the tissues of the digestive tract become inflamed and swollen.
“Back then, it was hard to find good quality information and to work out what was real and what wasn’t,” she says. “I definitely remember feeling I was using my own body as a science experiment.”
Lee’s experiment coincided with the rise of social media platforms like Facebook and, as she started to post her recipes and stories about how taking steroids had made her body ‘blow up like the Michelin Man,’ she started to find a voice that people listened to and began asking advice from.
Today, Lee is the author of nine books about natural health and using food and natural products to support good gut health. In 2012, she launched the business side of the Supercharged Food brand with a small range of food-based supplements designed to support good gut health and today, that range has expanded to some 20 different products which you can buy online and which are appearing in health stores across the globe.
With news of her appointment as a patron of the College of Naturopathic Medicine, she is planning to now split her time equally between her Sydney coastal home and the UK and says she’s got her sights firmly set on a base in Yorkshire.
Lee is living proof that the gut is what she calls the epicentre of good health and, until you tackle your digestive system, you cannot expect to have glowing and radiant skin or any other version of optimum health.
So here, she is sharing some extracts from her book, Supercharge Your Gut, including advice on healing your gut and then sharing the original recipes for those soothing Belly Broths she launched her own healing journey with.