How a health meltdown taught founder Elaine Morrison that beauty is an inside job.
The journey that would completely transform my relationship to wellness and beauty began in 2013, when my health took a complete nosedive and I built it back up from within. I was a vegan pilates instructor in my mid-40s working in sunny California, doing all of the things that women in the wellness industry do to stay fit and fabulous. I was energetic, vibrant, and on top of my game, when without warning, some strange changes started to occur.
My symptoms began with a new pair of pants that wouldn’t zip up, even though nothing about my diet or fitness had changed. Next came the fatigue that wouldn’t go away even after ten hours of sleep. My skin lost its glow, becoming dry and lackluster. Then, a chilling question from my hair stylist: “What’s going on with your hair? It’s breaking and falling out.” What on earth was happening to me? I read Sara Gottfried’s The Hormone Cure and the lightbulb went on when she described my exact symptoms and their cause: a thyroid autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s.
It took multiple doctors and ultimately a Naturopath to learn that my thyroid was barely functioning and Hashimoto’s was indeed to blame. I began medication and was feeling better – that is, until the little red dots started appearing on my stomach. Within 10 days of noticing them, my body was completely covered from ankles to scalp. I was so embarrassed that I took to wearing long sleeves despite the summer heat, and kept my hair down in the hopes that none of my pilates clients would notice. Thinking these little red dots were an allergic reaction, I was taken off the thyroid medication. But the dots wouldn’t budge.
After a dreary montage of doctor visits, I found myself in a medical dermatologist’s office wearing a tiny gown, laying under a blinding light, surrounded by an exam room full of residents. In this rather bleak setting, I was diagnosed with my second autoimmune disorder in six weeks – guttate psoriasis – followed by the grim prognosis that lupus would be next. I remember standing in my shower after this appointment with barely enough energy to wash my hair, wondering if it was all going to fall out. My long brunette hair had always been such a central part of my identity and confidence, and the thought of losing it along with my health, vitality, and beauty made me dissolve in tears. It all felt like too much.
Despite feeling deeply overwhelmed and afraid, I’ve never been one for doom and gloom. Since my body clearly needed to recharge, I started my healing process by slowing down my schedule and taking a hiatus from the gym so I could rest and rethink my approach. I started reading everything I could get my hands on about reversing autoimmunity through diet, and even though this was not the route endorsed by my doctors, I had nothing to lose. I began an auto-immune Paleo diet – first eliminating gluten and dairy, then slowly adding fish to my repertoire after 24 years as a vegetarian and vegan. Collagen came up again and again as an important supplement for hair, skin and nails so I added that in too. Within a matter of months my labs had so drastically improved that the Hashimoto's was completely reversed. All the psoriasis faded away, and to my delight and extreme relief, my hair stylist informed me that little baby hairs had starting to fill back in.
Coming out on the other side of this experience left me with an unshakeable belief in the profound interconnectedness of health and beauty. And so I launched Elaine Wellness with collagen, not only because it played such an important role in my healing, but because it serves as a potent reminder that small changes in our diet can be completely life-changing.