NEWS.COM.AU // CO-FOUNDER BLAIR TELLS THE STORY OF HIS HEALTH JOURNEY
AS A male model, Blair thought he was living a relatively healthy lifestyle.
Moving to London at the age of 21 from his home in Melbourne, the young model landed jobs with some of the world’s biggest fashion houses — including Calvin Klein, Georgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Dior.
His career relied on his looks, so working out, and sticking to a strict eating regimen very quickly became a way of life.
But there were exemptions. To gain further work, Blair needed to mingle and network on a regular basis.
This resulted in late nights, substance abuse and eventually a condition that almost cost him his career.
By the time Blair reached 23, he fell ill with a stomach condition that left him bedridden with blood in his stool, debilitating abdominal pains and a chronic lack of energy.
“Part of the industry meant being quite social during the week — going to parties, lots of drinking and taking supplements while at the gym training ” Mr Norfolk, who is now 31, told news.com.au.
“The industry is all about looking good rather than being healthy, so living this lifestyle lead me to develop Ulcerative Colitis, but being young and feeling like I was invincible, I ignored it.”
The stomach condition continued, and Blair continued his partying ways despite doctor’s advising otherwise.
It wasn’t until five years later than the condition, which is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, started to have an aesthetic impact on the young model.
While on a shoot in Los Angeles, Norfolk noticed a small pink mark appear next to his left eye.
Dismissing it as a result of “too much sun”, he ignored the unusual looking spot.
Eventually, more of the marks started to appear on his face — and while they inflicted no pain, their appearance caused more damage than the Ulcerative Colitis.
“In that industry, looks and attractiveness is very important,” he explained.
“While the marks had less of an impact on my health, visually it was a lot harder to deal with as my income relied on my looks.”Travelling to Australia to seek advice from a dermatologist, Norfolk was diagnosed with Vitiligo — an auto-immune disorder that stops cells from producing pigment. The main symptom of vitiligo is flat, white spots or patches on your skin. Initially, the vitiligo may start as a patch of skin that is paler than the rest but gradually, the patch will become completely white. Michael Jackson had vitiligo which caused his skin to lighten.
The most common type of vitiligo, is thought to be an auto-immune condition. This means that your immune system (the body’s natural defence system) does not work properly.
Before long, Norfolk said the marks appeared on his hands and forehead.
“Modern medicine doesn’t have an answer to the cause of this condition,” Mr Norfolk said.
“The first six months, I was able to cover the marks with small amounts of makeup.
“But every few months, my agency would call me in to take digital photos, and they started to ask what was wrong with my skin.
“I would tell them it was just a temporary rash, or a fungus from a trip. They believed me in the short term, but then clients started to complain because makeup wouldn’t cover it up anymore.”
Blair started to panic, fearing it was only a matter of time before he’d no longer make money as a model. In a desperate bid to find a cure, he turned to experimental drug trials online — hoping something would fix the condition.
“I went online, and tried anything I could,” he said.
“Some things made me sick, other things made the condition worse. I was in depression, realising what this worsening condition meant for me. I went to every expert possible, trying every miracle cure and natural cure available. But nothing worked.”
At 28, Blair went on a raw vegan diet, and would do week long water detoxes to try and reset his immune system.
As his auto-immune condition meant his white blood cells were attacking healthy cells, he hoped that resetting his body through a raw diet and fasting would do the trick.
“It started to help,” he explained.
“My skin started to slowly clear, and my stomach stopped getting flare ups.
“But this diet wasn’t a sustainable way for me to live. I’m a normal guy who likes to go to a BBQ and drink a class of wine. For me, my life doesn’t really cater for a raw vegan diet.”
With diet looking to be the only way of helping his condition, Blair started to research supplements that would have a similar impact to a raw vegan diet — but without having to stick to a restrictive diet.
“I quickly began to research for quality, clean and natural supplements to complement my new lifestyle and realised there wasn’t a single one on the market that met my high standards,” he said.
Blair decided to join forces with two friends, who sympathised with his condition. Together and along with doctors and scientists, Blair developed Activated Nutrients Daily Superfood for men and women in July 2015, which he believes has assisted in getting his Vitiligo under control.
“I have been using this plant-based supplement alongside my well-balanced lifestyle since 2015 and within six months of launching, have experienced profound effects on my health,” he said.
“I no longer have symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis and my skin has completely stabilised.”
But while the supplement may have worked for Mr Norfolk, dermatologist Dr Monisha Gupta of the Pigmentary Disorders Clinic in Sydney, said a supplement or change in diet won’t necessarily work for everyone with the condition.
“He wasn’t eating well, he may have also had a family history for auto-immune disorders as we are not aware of his medical history,” Dr Gupta told news.com.au.
“This condition is unpredictable. Sometimes, we can have a patient who has one patch, and it stays the same their whole life.
“For others, it can be very rapid and spread to other areas of the body.
“Occasionally, we have people who repigment spontaneously. This can be because something changes in the immune system and it goes back to normal.”
Dr Gupta, who specialises in pigmentary disorders, said that while Mr Norfolk’s claim of a change in diet resulted in the clearing of his skin, this isn’t considered a “cure” by any means.
“We can’t say something like this supplement will work for everyone,” Dr Gupta explained.
“A trial of one patient doesn’t prove a treatment for everyone. A cure is something that goes away and stays away. Vitiligo is a treatable condition but may not be cured.
“While I do see the merit of a good lifestyle and healthy eating, I don’t think we can support a superfood or a supplement program alone as curing this condition.”
Dr Gupta said in her experience treating Vitiligo, patients showed the best response when prescribed topical creams and incorporated light treatments.
“For people with Vitiligo, we do blood tests to determine other underlying conditions,” she said.
“Otherwise, we prescribe topical therapy [steroid and non-steroid] and they have light therapy which results in satisfactory outcomes.
“If the lesion is stable we can even perform surgical procedures to bring pigment back.
“I always tell patients with any skin condition to eat healthy and maintain a balanced lifestyle because that will impact the immune system in a positive way.”
Originally published on news.com.au on 10 April 2017