My goal is to inspire others to believe that it is possible to restore their health. I want to shed new light on autoimmunity and change the conversation around how we think and speak about it. Together, we can shift the dialogue from saying “I will never get better” to saying “I am getting better and better every day.” You can rise above your diagnosis and become an advocate for your own healing. It is oftentimes that we need to see other people’s healing journey to light a spark of fire to get us moving!
As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kounthea Richards.
Kounthea Richards is a Health Mindset Strategist and founder of Kounthea Richards & Co., where she helps mom-leaders and execu-moms with autoimmune conditions reclaim their health, confidence and inner sexiness. After overcoming Lupus, Kounthea is changing the conversation about the way we think and speak of autoimmune disorders. Her mission is to shift the dialogue to emphasize the role of lifestyle and mindset in health recovery. She works with leaders from federal government agencies by facilitating her signature “4 Lifestyle Pillars to Wellness Model” to help them find relief in their symptoms.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
In 2013, I was diagnosed with Lupus, a debilitating autoimmune condition. I was extremely sick and overwhelmed with chronic pain and anxiety. Lupus affected almost every organ in my body. It attacked my kidneys, my brain, my heart, my skin, my blood and my bones. My life turned upside down. Ironically, it was the most challenging, yet beautiful and special time of my life. I was pregnant and it was the beginning of what felt like a never-ending rollercoaster ride.
I didn’t think it was possible to get better, because numerous doctors told me that there was nothing I could do about it. Frustration drove me down the road of self-education, where I dove into the science of healing and found various examples that illustrated how it is possible to reverse autoimmune disorders.
Once I understood this new knowledge, I started removing my triggers, adding nourishing foods into my diet and changing my attitude about this supposedly incurable dis-ease. I have learned that recovering from any chronic autoimmune disorder requires a mind-body healing approach. While striving to achieve optimal physical health is essential for recovery, it is equally important to work on your emotional health. This means doing the inner work to identify and release unhealthy repressed emotions that have put your nervous system in a constant state of fight or flight. This discovery is the bedrock of my full health recovery.
Today, I no longer identify myself as a person with Lupus, because I reversed all of its symptoms. I am healthy, confident and thriving in every aspect of my life!
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?
I started experiencing symptoms in the summer of 2012, where I was diagnosed with Raynaud’s Syndrome, a connective tissue disease that causes a decrease in blood flow to your fingers and toes.
A year later, in 2013, I was officially diagnosed with Lupus. I believe what brought it on was a number of factors. At that time, I was living a high-stress lifestyle — my career was demanding, I wasn’t getting enough rest, and I definitely wasn’t eating healthy. My diet consisted mainly of processed foods, white sugar, gluten and dairy. Those are known to be highly inflammatory foods that wreak havoc on your health, but the one thing that really did it for me was chronic stress. At that time, while juggling with my stressful career, I was also pregnant. The emotional pressure that I was experiencing leading up to the pregnancy was extremely high. With so many things going on, I believe that the emotional stress alone was the main factor that triggered the onset of the autoimmune disease.
I experienced a mindset shift. Every time I would leave my doctor’s appointment, I would come out feeling depressed and sad. My husband would often say, “You were fine before you went there and now it’s like there’s a dark cloud over your head.” I didn’t understand where he was going with that comment. Then I started to become more mindful of my reactions to those doctor’s visits. I realized that it was my thinking, the stories I was telling myself any time I received negative feedback from my doctor. I allowed it to make me unhappy and stressed. Think about it, I would go into the appointment feeling fine and healthy, but I would walk out like I just had a bad surgery.
You see, the only thing that changed was my perception, my attitude about Lupus. I believe that speaks volumes!! That’s what made me realize the powerful impact that words have on your psyche. It’s all about perception. In my opinion, your outlook determines your health outcome, not the prognosis!
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness?
I have been on various podcasts and active on Instagram. This has allowed me to share my story of recovery and provide practical action tips to help autoimmune sufferers get better. My goal is to inspire others to believe that it is possible to restore their health. I want to shed new light on autoimmunity and change the conversation around how we think and speak about it. Together, we can shift the dialogue from saying “I will never get better” to saying “I am getting better and better every day.” You can rise above your diagnosis and become an advocate for your own healing. It is oftentimes that we need to see other people’s healing journey to light a spark of fire to get us moving!
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
Don’t internalize or be defined by the limitations of your label. You are not your diagnosis. You have more control than you think to start taking back your health. Studies have shown that about 10% of chronic illnesses are due to your genetic predisposition, while the other 90% are due to environmental factors. This is an incredibly empowering statistic. Start viewing your autoimmune condition as a wake-up call, so you can begin to fix what’s not right about your lifestyle. Then, start re-assessing your habits and changing them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My loving, amazing and resilient husband. When I was extremely sick, he played many roles as my caretaker, my doctor and most importantly “mommy and daddy” to our newborn daughter. I honestly don’t know where I would be or what condition I would be in without him. I am truly blessed to have him in my life.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When I fully recovered from Lupus, I made a commitment to share my story with the world. My mission is to enlighten others by showing them that it is possible to recover and thrive after being diagnosed with a so-called incurable dis-ease. So, I started Kounthea Richards & Co., where I help mom leaders and execu-moms struggling with autoimmune conditions reclaim their health, confidence and inner sexiness. I understand them because I was once in their shoes. It lights me up to show them that they can still excel in their roles as a mom, a wife and a leader in their profession without jeopardizing their health.
I help them identify and remove environmental triggers that are causing inflammation inside their bodies and I guide them to uncover the mental blocks that are preventing them from getting better. Moreover, I teach them the inflammatory implications of chronic stress, which is prevalent in today’s modern society. Most people are not aware that their emotional state directly impacts their physical health.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
- We are not as weak as you may think. In fact, many of us are very resilient go-getters in spite of our condition.
- Our immune system is healthy and strong! Just because we have been diagnosed with autoimmune disorders doesn’t mean all of us are immune-compromised! There are many of us who eat for health to promote strong immunity against viruses and infections!
- We are capable of working out and lifting weights. Contrary to the stigma, many of us (I am included) have the strength and stamina to do cardio and lift weight.
- We can enjoy the sun without flare-up! It’s all about knowing your body’s tolerance. In fact, getting vitamin D from the sun is one of the best ways to absorb it. The absorption rate is higher than taking the supplement.
- Be empathetic, but don’t pity us. Sometimes we just need more time to decompress. Let us have our moments and reserve your judgment.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela
Early in my health journey, I had so many limiting beliefs about my ability to recover from Lupus. I believe a lot of it came from years of social programming. Society has convinced us that when it comes to our health and well-being, we are taught to look outside of ourselves, instead of going within to get better. I am a living example that healing is an inside job. Your body is an intelligent self-healing organism, constantly striving for homeostasis (balance). It can only work optimally when you feed it with the proper nutrients and give it adequate rest. Living in stress locks you in a disease state.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
The Dalai Lama. I think anyone can truly benefit from his calm, peaceful and healing presence, given the current global state of uncertainty and fear. I believe it would be a very therapeutic experience for me to pick his brain. I would ask him: “How do you keep the outside noise from affecting your inner peace?