How footballer’s wife Julie Neville ditched chemicals for a healthier life

Julie with Phil, and their children Harvey, 15 and Isabella, 14.
Julie with Phil, and their children Harvey, 15 and Isabella, 14.
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Hurling some betablockers prescribed by the doctor into a rubbish bin, Julie Neville felt it was a cathartic moment where she was taking back control of her life.

Only hours earlier, she had felt her chest tighten and an overwhelming feeling she could not breathe and feared she was having a heart attack.

Julie Neville, wife of Phil Neville who has written a book with tips and recipes for healthier eating using superfoods

Julie Neville, wife of Phil Neville who has written a book with tips and recipes for healthier eating using superfoods

In reality, Julie, 42, was having a panic attack which was the culmination of two years of struggling with her own health and looking after her poorly daughter Isabella who was born three months early and has cerebral palsey.

Julie who lived in Lancashire for many years with footballing husband Phil but now lives in Valencia, Spain, explains: “Our son Harvey was only one when I became pregnant with Isabella.

I only found out I was pregnant at three months and Isabella was born 11 weeks later so it felt like a very short pregnancy.”

Julie felt unwell throughout the pregnancy and at 27 weeks, her waters suddenly broke in the middle of the night. Julie says: “Phil was in Dubai on a training camp with Manchester United and my parents were in Spain.

Julie with Phil, and their children Harvey, 15 and Isabella, 14.

Julie with Phil, and their children Harvey, 15 and Isabella, 14.

“I rang my sister and we went to the hospital and it was all panic stations. They gave me injections and scans and carried out foetal monitoring. I felt full of panic and wanted to protect my baby.

“I remember saying to my sister: ‘If the baby is born tonight, I don’t think it will survive.’

“Phil got a flight back from Dubai and they took us into the neonatal unit. I just remember hearing beeps and seeing all these machines and lights and almost fainted and had to go out.

“Seeing all those sick babies was the first time it hit me about what lay ahead for us.”

Julie had to have an emergency Caesarean Section under general anaesthetic after she started haemorrhaging. Doctors needed to get Isabella out quickly as her heart had stopped.

Isabella was born at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester weighing 3lbs 2oz but her weight plummeted to 2lbs 14oz. When she was just 12 hours old, doctors told her devastated parents they didn’t think she was going to make it.

Julie says: “Isabella was very ill for a long time. She was in intensive care for two months and had several blood transfusions, suffered a stroke and was left with cerebral palsey.

“Isabella had several years of being constantly admitted to hospital and I just did not seem to pick up after her birth and went from one health problem to another.

“For three years of my life, I have no memories as it all seems a blur. I was functioning but struggling to get through each day with no enjoyment.

“I just desperately wanted my baby to be healthy and to be healthy myself.”

Julie suffered a blood clot in her Caesarean scar and collapsed twice leading to doctors realising she had acute glaucoma and she had to have emergency eye surgery to save her sight.

Julie also had to take medication for an underactive thyroid.

Julie says: “It was just one thing after another and was horrific. Then I had the panic attack and was given the betablockers. I remember looking at them thinking: ‘It is just another tablet to counter another symptom rather than the root of the cause.’ I thought: ‘There has to be a better way’ and realising I didn’t want another drug to put in my body, I threw them away.”

Julie went home and began researching natural ways to heal the body and studied medical journals. Julie says: “I realised we were putting all sorts of chemicals into our bodies every day and the harmless effects of them.

“I ordered a skip and myself and the children threw everything in the house which contained chemicals into it. We binned everything from shampoo to body lotions to foods, medicines and toothpaste.

“I remember Phil coming home and saying: ‘I think you are having a breakdown.’ He said it jokingly, but looking back, I probably was. However, it was a really positive moment.

“There was a slight problem when it came to brushing our teeth that night as we realised the supermarket didn’t stock natural toothpaste. However, we replaced everything I had thrown out with natural and organic products.

“The most interesting thing I discovered was how food could be used as natural medicine. We changed the things we ate and replaced them with healthier and natural ingredients. Within a month, the energy levels of the whole family had increased and our immune systems had improved dramatically and no one was getting coughs and colds.”

It is now more than a decade since that life changing decision and Julie reveals she and her family have not had antibiotics or over the counter medicines during that time.

She explains: “Our bodies are very capable of fighting off infection because we are giving them the right fuel. It’s a bit like a sports car. You wouldn’t fill it up with rubbish fuel.”

However, Julie says that is not to say the family don’t enjoy treats. “Nothing is banned and we all still have sweets and chocolates. We have an 80/20 rule. If we do everything right for 80 per cent of the time, you can do what you want the other 20 per cent of the time.”

Initially, Julie went vegetarian and cut out all caffeine and everything she ate was organic.

She explains: “I needed to shock my body into healing. But now my body is fully healed and I have re-integrated meat and fish back into my diet.

“Isabella used to be very sick with a low immune system. But now she has become very strong with a great immune system.

“When Isabella was 18 months old, doctors told us she would probably never walk or talk and thought she was deaf in her left side. They were going to fit a feeding tube as she did not have the ability to swallow and they thought she might never toilet train and would have learning disabilities.

“However, Isabella was walking at the age of three-and-a-half, toilet trained at four-and-a-half and she never stops talking!

“She didn’t have a feeding tube fitted and although she has continuous treatment, she is very determined and leads a completely normal life. Isabella goes to a high achieving school and is in the top half of her class.

“She is a happy and sociable girl who always has a smile on her face. She has enriched our life so much.”

Julie firmly believes she healed herself with superfoods. She says: “Superfoods saved my life. Before making these changes in our diet, I felt I was going from one serious health problem to another.”

Julie says the smallest changes can make the biggest difference and it is easy for anyone to introduce superfoods into their lives.

“The whole family felt a lot healthier and had increased energy and better skin within months.

“Even Phil commented after six months how much better he felt. I think he initially went along with it all to keep me happy but he soon saw the benefits and felt he had more energy and recovered quicker after training and games.”

Julie was born in Bury and she and Phil have been together for 21 years and married for 18 of them. The couple married in Rawtenstall and lived in the Crawshawbooth area of Lancashire for 10 years but have now been in Valencia for two-and-a-half years. The couple’s son Harvey, 15, plays for Valencia.

Laughing, Julie says: “I spend half my life at the side of a football pitch - and it is much nicer when it’s sunny and warm than when it is cold and freezing.”

Julie has written a book Superfoods: How To Make Them Work For You to share how easy it is to incorporate nutrient rich foods into recipes.

She explains: “The recipes in the book are everyday things anyone can make. There are things like healthy burgers, healthy breads, homemade granola, healthy curries, grape and kiwi ice lollies and avocado mousse.

“It is just about being more inventive and incorporating super oils and nuts into recipes.

“I have always loved cooking but now it is about having that extra knowledge of knowing what the ingredients can do for your health.

“As a family, we all feel healthier and superfoods have had a very positive effect on our lives.”

Julie Neville’s book Superfoods: How To Make Them Work For You is published by Pen and Sword and is priced at £14.99.