My Inflammation & Autoimmune Story

Hi, I'm Vanessa Bond

BA, CNP, NNCP, AIP Certified Coach, Professional Advisor to IHN's Student Clinic

CEO of Bond With Health Inc, Founder of The Integrative Autoimmune Network 

Like most people who struggle with chronic inflammation ... I didn't know what it was or how it was connected to all of my symptoms & diagnoses. Thankfully, I knew exactly what to do when autoimmune officially walked into our home.

For the first 35 years of my life, I felt like CRAP. I pushed my way through chronic allergies, allergy-induced asthma, fatigue, constipation, IBS, terrible menstrual cycles, eczema that oozed, sinusitis, lower leg swelling, infertility, elevated rheumatoid factor, swelling and yo-yo weight.

I grew up in a medically-minded household. My mom was an excellent nurse and we had access to the best doctors in the city. I saw allergists and  internists ... even an endocrinologist at one point. I had bronchitis, tonsilitis, mono and strep. I used antibiotics, anti-histamines, allergy shots, biopsies & additional lab work, prednisone, nose puffers ... you name it. They even tested me for celiac at one point (rare and radical in the 80s). 

All the doctors knew things were "off" but no one ever mentioned the word "inflammation" or discussed how my symptoms were all connected.

But the truth was my body was severely OUT of balance and simply avoiding food sensitivities while relying on medications didn't help.

My body screamed for help ... extreme eczema, swollen face, swollen joints and brain fog throughout my teens, 20s and early 30s. I was the "rash"  kid at school and "flaky skin lady" in my 20s/30s that no one wanted to touch.

The 30+ years of medications did nothing to improve my situation. I still had major allergic reactions to the environment (especially mold), the topical steroids thinned my skin, swelling got worse when I started working in an office, I increasingly put on weight despite eating salad, fish and chickpeas for the majority of my meals, I developed fibrocystic breasts that prompted mammograms in my early 30s, I struggled with infertility, and my unpredictable belly & bowels would bloat and explode for no reason whatsoever.

 

My First Holistic Hell-Yes!

 

Everyone has a breaking point or an "AH HA" moment when it comes to realizing things aren't working and something needs to change. Mine was in 2007 with an outbreak of yeast under my armpits and on my chest. The doctor said the yeast was as a result of heat, told me to put some Canesten Cream on it and go home.

I said ENOUGH.

I researched root causes, got professional help and it changed my life.

We tested stool, food sensitivities and hormones. We worked on lymphatic drainage & cellular health (a key part of the immune system). I followed a customized plan that specifically targeted the imbalances showing on my lab work. This started by (1) opening pathways for toxin/waste elimination, then (2) removing the opportunistic & inflammation promoting bacteria/excess hormones/foods/habits while simultaneously flooding the body with good, and lastly (3) taking time to rebuild the gut, adrenals, thyroid and nervous system, for better resilience and long-lasting relief.

The process took six months, with some adjusting and revisiting the following year.

Not only did my rash clear up, my allergies improved - I no longer reacted to EVERYTHING! My cycles regulated, my energy soared, my eyes were clear, my face, nose & sinuses were no longer puffy ... I felt better than I ever had in my entire life, and I was hooked on natural health.

I was inspired go back to college for my THIRD degree/diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition.

 

Functional Nutrition: More Than Meal Plans

 

At the root of my issues for ALL those years (and for so many of my clients with inflammation and autoimmune) was candida overgrowth due to years of medications, antibiotics, birth control and constipation. 

So, when I went back to school, I selected a reputable college and I studied gut health, hormones, metabolism, pathology of disease, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals, ayurvedic medicine, holistic culinary arts, plus all the biology, chemistry and science courses to support treatment, which is a huge part of my current practice to this day. 

After graduation, I first worked at one of Canada's top professional-grade supplement companies and then at naturopathic clinics where I specialized in digestion, metabolism and inflammation for seven years. Here, I wrote a medically supervised weight loss program and hosted group programs targeting various root causes (hormonal imbalances, inflammation, gut health, lymphatic health, metabolic health) using food, supplements and lab testing.

And while this was going on, I was raising my kids. My daughter had always had some funny health indications that no one could pinpoint. I took her to her pediatrician and naturopath, and asked to be tested for celiac, allergies and food sensitivities (negative). We even did stool tests like I had. Only slight, normal imbalances came up, which we addressed.

This is also why I was heartbroken when my daughter was diagnosed with a rare rheumatic condition called CRMO (similar to JIA or RA) in 2018 when she was 11 years old. It's a dire auto-inflammatory disease that has strong genetic influences, and often leads quickly to methotrexate and biologics as it can attack growth plates, vertebrae and jaw.

 

Why Did Autoimmune Develop?

 

Did "natural" fail us?

The good news is that we had been doing MANY things right. There are reasons why she was able to avoid really harsh medications while treating her disease and has only ever used Naproxen when she was first diagnosed.

Thankfully, all of my years experience and training helped me navigate the functional lab testing & specialists to quickly identify and eliminate triggers, as well as medical & genetic testing with her MD. Despite having no obvious symptoms and twice testing negative to celiac, genetic testing came back positive and her pediatrician and rheumatologist both recommended cutting out gluten for good, which is something everyone with autoimmune should consider.

My own testing showed the celiac gene, diverticulosis, and my eczema outbreaks ... the rheumatologist suspects PsA, that has yet to express itself. What I had been doing in my 30s and 40s kept things in check.

Using the functional pathway, I was able to map out a plan ... using the best of both natural and medical, working WITH her medical doctors, not in isolation as many people do. It meant disregarding what some natural experts deemed "gut health gospel" and listening to what was best for my kid.

You see, the one area where lab tests failed was identifying nervous system imbalances that drive disease and symptoms.

For all autoimmune, there is are common nervous system imbalances or traumas that come up ... ones that drive a hyper immune response and poor gut health, which sadly many experts and patients ignore as they hyper focus on opportunistic bacteria, as I once did.

Two months before her very first flare (collarbone), my daughter and I were mugged. She watched her mom (her "protector" and person that was supposed to keep her safe), getting dragged down the street.

The timing of the mugging and her first flare is NOT a coincidence, yet it was completely disregarded by most, with the exception of a dear friend (medical doctor) who recommended therapy for PTSD, which we got on right away.

And this is what opened the door to autoimmune. 

Her overactive nervous system + puberty (hormone transitions are common time for AI spring up) + a common bacteria she had picked up from either school or travel + Genetic predisposition ... ALL of it created the perfect storm for her autoimmune to rear it's ugly head and change her childhood.


An Integrative Approach For Better, Long-Term Outcomes

 

Previous to these events, I would have told you that improving autoimmune is all about gut health. It's not. Nor is autoimmune an inflammation spectrum where you're good one day and bad the next.

 Your immune health does not operate in isolation ... it's connected with ALL the systems in your body. The good news is ... you can positively influence so many of these internal conversations.

Getting on the right diet & improving digestion/gut health is essential for everyone with inflammation and/or autoimmune. Food builds strong foundations with every bite. You can't build health on shaky foundations.

Some people benefit from gut healing protocols and supplements right away. Others need to focus on simply eating more, especially protein, healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants to support cellular health & detoxification. I find many also benefit from lymphatic support depending on their symptoms, and ALL benefit from nervous system support ... building stress tolerance. 

But knowing and doing are two different things.

Learning to thrive with a chronic illness requires a tool kit that is customizable to YOU, your body and your life ... One that includes easy actionable resources that serve you on good days and bad, so you can continue to work, play and stay in control of your body ... for the long term.

And this is where most people need the most help because they're not getting the support they need to successfully make & sustain the recommended changes on their own ... to stay motivated, feeling confident and connected in their bodies, no matter what life throws in their path.

Nutrition, lifestyle, digestion and nervous system practices that first target & correct root imbalances and then build you back up  support are essential in helping my daughter and clients stay in control their bodies. 

Evidence? Check out my home page or testimonials in our membership. Personally, my daughter has been in remission for her CRMO for 4 years. She still has to work on her health, but she's living life on her terms.

For this reason, the majority of my online clinic is focused on helping individuals target & correct imbalances that drive inflammation, fatigue, pain, digestive issues, skin outbreaks and metabolic concerns, like blood sugar, cholesterol and weight.

Many of my private clients and members have some sort of rheumatic disease + additional diagnoses like IBD/IBS, MS or thyroid issues, which requires care and attention to ensure the work we do outside of the doctors office integrates seamlessly into their larger healthcare plan.

True to my roots, I use a combination of functional nutrition and lab tests to help my private clients create a customized roadmap, and in 2022, launched  The Integrative Autoimmune Network where I teach members how to become their own health detectives and advocates, nourishing body & mind in the right way.

It feels good to go back to the doctor with progress.

It's my personal mission to help bridge the gap between medical and integrative care for those with rheumatic & inflammatory conditions so no one is left wondering what they can do at home. I want every person to feel empowered in their health and hopeful for the future, not matter what.

Some quick credentials (because experience matters): 

  • My diploma and certification as a Certified Nutritional Practitioner allows me to¬†work with clients across North America. I have additional professional training & certifications in gut health (IBS, IBD, SIBO, Candida, Parasites), endocrinology and nutrition, fat loss and blood sugar balancing, the Autoimmune Protocol, as well as functional lab¬†testing.
  • I am a professional advisor to the student clinic at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition, helping students write their first client protocol. This is the school where I graduated with a diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition in 2013, requiring 700 in-class room hours and coop placements.
  • I am a member in¬†good standing of the Canadian Association of Natural Nutritional Practitioners, which qualifies for many employee benefits packages for insurance claims. Maintaining¬†membership requires continuing education credits each and every year, as well as mentoring to new practitioners.¬†¬†
  • On graduation from IHN, I worked at CanPrev, one of Canada's leading professional grade supplements companies that manufactures nutraceuticals, homeopathics, herbal remedies.
  • My client-based training began in two of Toronto's top naturopathic clinics¬†(The North Toronto Naturopathic Clinic & Higher Health Naturopathic Clinic), where I supported clinic patients with a wide variety of conditions, including adrenal fatigue, weight loss, PMS, skin health, cancer, autoimmune and metabolic syndrome. The doctors also mentored me in lymphatic drainage and select homeopathy to address imbalances.
  • I currently collaborate with health care teams,¬†naturopathic &¬†functional doctors and other healthcare professionals, including fitness, chiropractic and mindset experts¬†
  • In my first career, I worked in corporate communications, helping research and launch the very first iteration of Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty and The Canadian Cancer Society's Relay For Life ... two amazing initiatives that continue today, 22 years later. My Bachelor's is in Political Science and French and I have an additional college diploma in Corporate Communications.
  • Personally, I've had a full life full! I grew up in small town Canada, lived in rural France in my 20s and currently live in a massive city (Toronto). I've climbed a mountain, flown a plane, and been spelunking and scuba diving. My first job was selling apples on a country roadside stand and I've won national awards for my work in corporate communications.¬†I learned how to downhill ski at 37 yrs so I could keep up with my kids, broke my knee skiing at age 38, and then moved onto hiking the hill instead. I'm a small town girl at heart, and I like to spend weekends in Collingwood, Ontario where we rent a part-time home and I know the farmer's market vendors by name. Pizza always has been and still is my favourite food, but it doesn't like me, so I eat it only on occasion (gluten free of course). I believe in having a positive relationship with food because you need it to survive ... who wants to feel deprived when you're working on feeling well?

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