Annie, 57, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 26 years ago, believes an alternative approach to health and wellness literally saved her life.

Australia is in the grip of a wellness revolution. More people than ever are juicing, quitting sugar, seeing alternative health therapists, doing yoga and meditation, living off grid, growing organic vegetables and making their own vegan cheese. We meet one Australian who says the alternative approach to health and wellness literally saved her life after doctors said she’d wouldn’t survive for five years.

Australia is in the grip of a wellness revolution

A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis at age 31 and the five year death sentence that came with it was the kick that prompted Annie Infinite of the Sunshine Coast to get serious about alternative lifestyles and natural healing.

Now age 57, Annie got the first symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at age 29. By 31, the mother of three was in a wheelchair and crippled by agonising pain as her central nervous system starting shutting down.

MS affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing a range of symptoms including problems with movement, balance and vision. Unfortunately, the diagnosis took months because MS is not usually associated with pain. For Annie though, the pain was “horrendous, agonising and unthinkable”.  Some doctors even told her she was just being “lazy”.

There are several treatment options available to help manage symptoms but no known cure for MS

Finally, a diagnosis was made and with it came the doom-laden prognosis ‘you’ll probably be dead in five years’. Annie’s initial reaction was despair and she seriously thought about taking her own life.

“There was a winding road over a high hill called the Devil’s Elbow on the way home and I debated allowing my car to just fall off the edge into the ravine,” she says.  I came really close but a voice whispered in my ear, ‘no’.”

Eventually, it was the question of who would raise her children when she was gone that sparked Annie into action. Basically, she decided to live. Not to just exist or survive but to really live. She just had to figure out how.

Happier alternatives
Annie had already been introduced to alternative medicine when, as a young mum, her first child was diagnosed with ADHD. So sugars, preservatives and food colouring were removed from her daughter’s diet. The result was a staggering improvement in the child’s emotional balance and mental reasoning.

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Annie enjoying a day out with her granddaughter at the aquarium

“From that point on I started to learn more and more,” Annie said, “so when I was diagnosed with MS, I used that knowledge to get me back on my feet again.”

Today, Annie is very much alive, well and free from MS symptoms thanks to a natural health regime. Initially, there was a lot of trial and error. Some things worked well while others had no effect.

The therapies that Annie believes worked for her included massage to keep her muscles from deteriorating, intravenous Vitamin C, homeopathy, energy healing, meditation and mindfulness, mostly fresh, local organic or biodynamic food, and making and consuming her own fermented foods including kefir, kombucha and fermented vegetables, which are proven to boost the immune system into working order again. Annie says she also used green foods like green barley and filtered alkaline water to alkalise the body and reduce inflammation.

Her road to recovery though was also about a change in attitude, says Annie. She believes the biggest difference to her health was taking charge of her life. She started living her life the way she wanted. She stopped being a people pleaser, although it took a huge effort.

Annie believes the reasons she ended up in a wheelchair with MS included heavy metal toxicity from high levels of tin and lead, possibly from when her father worked the mines in Mt Isa; feeling trapped in an extremely unhappy and stifling marriage; being a “good girl”, as well as eating a modern diet high in sugars and processed foods.

Annie believes her change in lifestyle now keeps MS symptoms at bay

Now a yoga and meditation teacher with a Masters in Energetic Healing, Annie also holds several diplomas in natural healing such as homeopathy and Bowen Therapy. This change in lifestyle has literally been the difference between life and death and now keeps the MS symptoms at bay.

“I watch my nutrition on a daily basis. It’s a matter of making sure I never go back into that wheelchair. I also meditate, do yoga and take care of my body, mind and spirit every day,” she adds.

“I am MS symptom-free and use my health indicators not as an indication of my physical health but of my joy factor. If I have any inflammation in my body for any reason, I look for the ways I am limiting myself in life, what habits, perceptions and beliefs are colouring my decisions and choices and then choose what to do next.”

Off the grid
Annie is just one of many thousands of people in Australia looking for answers to health and living not found within a mainstream culture that favours pills and surgery.

From organics to alternative therapies, juicing, energy healing, yoga, meditation and eco and off-grid living (choosing not to be connected to basic utilities), eco living, the wellness movement is transforming the world and nowhere more so than here in Australia.

Of course, it is always important to continue to seek advice and help from a recognised health professional

Annie believes the change for a natural approach to health is driven by a yearning for a healthier and simpler way of life and a reconnection with nature.

“We have woken up and are asking: ‘Is this all there is? Is life nothing more than work, sleep, traffic jams, rush and hurry and sports?’ We’re also worried about the Earth itself. How can it sustain so much destruction of its forests and pollution of its air and waters yet still sustain life?”

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Annie embraced nature and improved her diet

The signs of these changing attitudes can be seen in all corners. There are people forming communities on large parcels of land, building tiny homes so that villages of like-minded souls can come together and live off-grid, surviving with permaculture, forest gardens and a few animals like chickens, duck, and goats where everyone shares the workload.

Eco villages
An example of this is the Goolawah Co-operative, a land-sharing venture near Crescent Head, NSW.

About 4.5 hours drive north of Sydney, Goolawah was started in the year 2000 with the aim of building a community in an affordable rural location. It also aims to promote organic produce and permaculture, alternative technology, arts and music, and environmental values.

It’s by no means the only such community in Australia. According to the Fellowship for Intentional Community, there are 67 co-living communities in Australia. One of which is the Cascade Cohousing in Australia. Housing 40 adults and 14 children, the group aims to reduce the environmental impact of their lifestyles.

Then there’s the Tasman Eco Village, Australia’s first eco-village, as well as the Off Grid Vegan Commune in NSW and Moora Moora in Victoria, a co-operative residential community made up of about 50 adults and 20 children.

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Off Grid Vegan Commune is a village for vegan free-spirits interested in living an off-grid lifestyle (Photo: Off Grid Vegan Eco-Viillage NSW/Facebook)

According to the website, the group lives together in six small hamlets located on a co-operatively owned 245-hectare property situated up Mount Toolebewong just east of Melbourne.

Annie hopes to live in just such a community one day.

“I will more than likely end up living in one of those off-grid sustainable small communities, filled with my friends, living off the land,” she says.

“I hope we are all going to wake up to the truth that we don't need all that 'stuff' to keep us happy. That fresh, organic or bio-dynamic food is the true way to health and wellness. That wellbeing doesn't come in a magic pill, it comes from living a fulfilling life with time to spend with loved ones, growing your own food, meeting new friends and cultivating older friendships.”

Please always consult your recognised health professional before altering or beginning any new treatment. Natural health alternatives should not be considered a replacement for traditional treatment.

Have you or has someone you love experienced positive health results by taking the natural approach? Join the conversation below.