Thirty-six-year-old Cassandra Hope is a happy, healthy registered holistic nutritionist (RHN), certified life coach, and certified personal trainer, based out of Leslieville, Toronto. She is also the founder of The IBS Academy & the founder of Healthstyle by Cassandra Hope, and an award-winning entrepreneur (Notable.ca 2015 entrepreneur of the year). Today, Cassandra lives a positive, uplifting and spiritual life in Toronto, but this hasn’t always been the case.
Cassandra had to learn to overcome a lot of personal hardships – including mental health challenges and chronic infections. In the beginning, life was tough for Cassandra whose mother suffered from alcoholism. With 21 per cent of the Canadian population at risk, or suffering alcoholism, it’s usually well understood that the disease impacts not only those who have it, but also hurts those around them.
This was no exception for Cassandra who was forced to grow up quickly and take care of herself as her mom couldn’t do so. At the age of 10, she watched her parent’s relationship fall apart and her mother quickly move into a relationship with another man, who after a few short weeks turned out to be mentally and physically abusive.
For two years, Cassandra sat by and wondered whether her mother would feed her, if there would be enough money for hydro or if she would be woken up in the middle of the night to acts of violence so horrific they are unimaginable to the average person.
Thankfully, after two years, Cassandra reached out to her father to seek safety. At the tender age of 12, Cassandra would say her last goodbye to her mother.
Her life improved with her father, but the lack of nurturing in those early years would severely impact her emotional development and eventually lead to high anxiety, depression, insomnia and unhealthy relationships all symptoms reflective of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As she got older, Cassandra eventually chose to self-medicate, using high amounts of alcohol and a variety of drugs to ease her pain and suffering.
Drugs and alcohol are a fairly typical mix for those in their 20’s but for Cassandra, her usage was excessive. She was unable to turn it off and her anxiety was overwhelming, sometimes leaving her bedridden for entire days at a time.
In her 30’s she knew she wanted to change. This wasn’t the life she wanted to live and wanted to clean up the “mess” she had created for herself. In addition to her mental health, she knew she was suffering physically, eventually being diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
From her family history, she knew she was vulnerable to addiction and chose to do some genetic testing to identify her susceptibility. At no surprise, the results identified that Cassandra had the at-risk allele for the gene associated with an inability to bind dopamine in the brain efficiently. This created an inability to carry dopamine for an average amount of time – leaving her at risk to addiction in times of stress.
As she started her journey to recovery, she first tried Neurofeedback Therapy which is a direct training of the brain to function more efficiently. The brain waves and actions are observed from one moment to the next and the brain is rewarded for changing its own activity to more appropriate patterns through a gradual learning process. Neurofeedback trains self-regulation which is a necessary part of good healthy brain function. Self-regulation training allows the central nervous system to function more efficiently.
Cassandra had great success with this therapy, but it still didn’t get her to where she wanted to be. She continued to suffer physically with digestive issues and decided to meet a homeopathic and naturopathic doctor. But the recommended health plan still wasn’t working. She continued to suffer with intermittent IBS, sleeplessness and anxiety. For Cassandra, her biggest desire was to simply, “hold down a job.”
She then began the SIBO program which is a restore program for those with stomach problems and IBS that provides the tools, products and motivation in a step-by-step system to reduce symptoms of stomach issues. The program works to improve gut health for the long-term and develop the necessary habits to prevent recurrence.
After completing the program Cassandra felt relief in all areas of her life, she was able to identify that the IBS was a root cause of much of her emotional and mental health difficulties. For the first time, she was excited to finally have identified a solution. She could work all day without needing a nap and be addiction-free but still had inflammation; creating poor ventilation for toxins. This would mean, that while she had significant improvement and relief, she would still go through regular cycles of feeling poorly.
During the summer of 2017, Cassandra started smoking cannabis with her boyfriend. In a few short weeks, she began to experience feelings of depression. She stopped immediately but while she reflected on those weeks, she realized that all her IBS symptoms had disappeared, meaning her stress levels were low, nervous system was calm and generally felt pretty well.
She knew she needed to investigate. This was the first time she had experienced this level of relief. She completed some research and identified that cannabis increases melatonin but reduces serotonin – the reason for her depression – so continuing to smoke it was not an option. With the vast array of cannabis options available, she decided to seek help and recommendations for the right product. This would lead her to CBD ground hemp capsules.
“I was amazed at the instant results,” said Cassandra. “I had high-energy levels and all my symptoms disappeared. I was finally at the 100 per cent that I had been wishing to be at for so long.”
Cassandra takes one pill at the end of her day and it helps her sleep, “like a baby.”
She has been taking the hemp capsules for six months and says the results are, “undeniable.” For her, PTSD created this downstream effect that impacted all areas of her health. She did everything she could to respond to the stress – pharmaceutical medication, healthy diet, active lifestyle and spiritual healing – but nothing seemed to fully work. This personally identified treatment finally gave her the relief she had sought after.
Now, Cassandra hopes to help break the stigma against this therapeutic plant. She wants to support people in changing their perceptions and help them understand the true abilities it has, including inspiring – hope.