Cystic Fibrosis under control for Jess

Jess Headlam
This has completed our Valentine’s Day.It has been one of life’s great moments to be part of Jess Headlam’s life journey.
Jess and her new husband Cameron came to our home one evening a couple of years ago and I spoke with them about changing everything in her diet in an effort to keep her alive.Jess has Cystic Fibrosis and was struggling and holding on to life at that time. She was not able to spend more than 6 weeks out of hospital and Cameron was more than a husband. He was in charge of giving her drugs and antibiotics on a full time basis, he was her cook, her nurse and her carer – it was what he had to do for his love of his life.

The ‘recommended’ treatment in Cystic Fibrosis is to have a massive caloric load for energy needs. The ‘recommended’ way of doing that is to have it in the form of sugar and carbohydrate. That’s part of the reason that McDonalds made their way into children’s hospitals.

The problem is that most people with Cystic Fibrosis end up with Diabetes, and that means massive doses of insulin to control their blood glucose levels. The poor blood glucose control combined with immunosupression equals out of control infections.

By changing completely to a Low Carbohydrate and Healthy Fat lifestyle, Jess managed to turn her life around – and Cameron’s too.

Please read her story. It will make your Valentine’s Day, just like it has for Belinda and I.

Belinda Fettke BPhotography story of Jess and Cameron.

Buckle up for this amazing young womans journey. It is my honour to introduce you to Jessica (JESS) Headlam! Over to you Jess….Hi Pete,Thank you so much for your interest in my story. I would be thrilled if you would share my story in any way you feel called. I feel so compelled to share my story because I want others living with chronic illness to understand the impact what they eat has on their overall health. I eat very close to a Paleo diet but with the addition of organic diary to meet my caloric needs and the occasional potato.

I see so regularly people thinking they are supporting their condition with a ‘healthy’ diet when in reality what they are doing is poisoning themselves. Although I do see some change occurring within the healthcare system it is too slow and not nearly as far reaching as it needs to be. As I mentioned in the piece Wes sent you, it horrifies me that during a hospital admission I am provided an additional 400-500grams of sugar PER DAY, in addition to the ‘regular’ regime which is also high in more sugar, refined carbohydrates, little protein or vegetables and generally nutritionally poor food. For our health system to be sending the message that this type of food is acceptable and aids in recovery and healing is incredibly confusing to people. I understand you have done a little work around hospital meals and I so greatly appreciate this!

As you know, changing my diet and entire approach to food has been a catalyst in changing many other areas of my health. It taught me how important it is to listen to my body and find the tools that will best meet my needs instead of accepting generalised approaches. CF is a condition that is very difficult, if not impossible, to manage without the support of conventional medicine – especially in patients with severe presentations such as myself. However, what I have learnt is that in order to optimise the use of conventional medications ensuring my diet is best tailored to address the primary presentations of the disease means I can enjoy improved health and lower the number of medications I require. In making these changes in my diet I was also able to stabilise my health enough to qualify for a new medication that has greatly enhanced the benefits I was feeling from adopting dietary changes. This would not have been a possibility before I started LCHF.

I want the LCHF and Paleo dietary approaches to no longer be seen as radical by healthcare professionals, but the beginning of a paradigm shift within the health system. One that encourages and incorporates preventative and proactive healthcare pathways. The division that exists between conventional and holistic healthcare modalities needs to change so patients feel comfortable finding a combination of these approaches that works for them and are able to openly discuss this with all of their healthcare providers. This includes the ways they are supporting their health through diet.

I would be honoured for you to share the piece below not necessarily for me, but on behalf of those facing illness that need to hear it. Please let me know if you would like any changes made or anything added or explained.

Here is my story…..

I grew up being told I could eat whatever I wanted – whatever it took to keep weight on me. If that meant filling my body with McDonalds and sugar laden snacks so be it. As a child with Cystic Fibrosis my parents were fearful of what my future would hold and dare not go against the doctors orders even though it bothered them what the long-term consequences might be.

At 21 years old my health hit rock bottom. At a time when my friends were pursing travel, social lives and careers, I was exhausted after having my daily shower. My lungs were failing, I had recently been diagnosed with CF related diabetes and I was hit with the news I would need to starting working towards a lung transplant. I knew this wasn’t a path I wanted to go down. In an effort to prevent this I radically changed my life, moved interstate and my then boyfriend quit his job to take care of me. When spent four years focusing only on keeping me alive and with a lot of hard work; up to eight hours of treatments a day and a comprehensive team of healthcare professionals, I bought myself more time.

In 2013 my husband and I were married. It was an emotional time and I now know the pressure I felt to organise ‘the perfect wedding’ was because I thought it would be the last gift I would give to the man who had given up so much to keep me alive. Three weeks after the wedding I became the sickest I had ever been. Options for conventional medical treatments were becoming limited and my doctors were at a loss as to what to do.

It was at this low point in my life that I met a wonderful doctor by the name of Gary Fettke. Gary’s own health challenges had inspired him to look into ways of improving his health through diet. Gary is an advocate for the low carb high fat (LCHF) approach and generously educated me about how I could take a proactive approach to my health through diet. Although what Gary was telling me was completely different to anything I had been told by my team of healthcare professionals, the more I learnt the more it made sense for my health needs.

CF affects the body in many ways predominantly damaging the organs through high levels of infection and recurring inflammation. Both of these things thrive on sugar and are exacerbated by fluctuating blood glucose levels. CF patients also have a very hard time absorbing nutrients and are often prescribed a cocktail of ‘nutritional supplements’ for extra calorie intake. Although considered ‘food’ a pharmaceutical degree is required to understand what is in them and they are laden with ingredients such as corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and poor quality oils for taste and texture.

At my lowest adult weight I was 37kg and although I am only petite at 157cm, I look back at those photos and hardly recognise the frail body I see. Weight was a constant challenge and required endless planning of meals and snacks throughout the day to prevent rapid loss. During stays in hospital I was put on a high calorie diet consisting of snack packs with up to six cans of coke, chocolate, chips, jelly, noodle cups and cordial all delivered daily for weeks or months at a time. It was not unusual for me to be consuming more than 500 grams of sugar a day.

When I started working with Gary he taught me to look at food in a new way. Instead of focusing on weight and numbers I learnt to focus on nourishing my body and how to serve it in the highest possible capacity. For the first time I was looking at the things I was doing for my health not just as part of a daily routine ‘that had to be done’ but as ways to show myself love and respect. I was learning to listen to my body and what it needed.

Since starting LCHF two years ago, my lungs have dramatically stabilised, my insulin needs are almost non-existent and for the first time in my life my weight is no longer a concern. Changing my approach to what I was eating was the starting point for me to get back to basics and understand my body so I could make clear choices about my health. This has included making changes and incorporating new conventional-based therapies into my life, but with an understanding that what I eat builds the foundation for every aspect of my health care. The combination of these things has transformed my life and allowed me to do things such as travel, study and start a business that I would have never imagined in those dark, unwell days.

I don’t see the way I nourish my body as being about focusing on a diet, eliminating food or being pigeon-holed into a set of guidelines, but about eating real food in an educated and mindful way and with an understanding that it is the most fundamental act of fuelling my body; physically and emotionally. In choosing to be guided by the LCHF principals, it has taught me so much about myself that goes far beyond food and made feel empowered, confident and in control of the choices I make for my health.

It would also be amazing if you would be happy to link to either of the following pages:


I am sure you are already familiar with this but Gary Fettke’s work can be found here:

Thank you so much for the support and interest Pete. I am hugely appreciative of all the work you do to help change peoples hearts and minds about food and health, it is a great honour to connect with you. I think Charlotte has so kindly organised me some tickets for this weekends Brisbane event so I will look forward to hearing you speak then.

Thanks you so much Jessica xo