Tag: functional medicine

Listen to the Whisper: Why I Fired My Doctors

What makes someone a “good” doctor?

Do they fill a prescription for you without needing to see you?

Do they give you their cell phone number?

Are they available after hours?

Do they have short wait times?

Maybe you answered, “yes” to all of those questions.

I would like to suggest we ask more important questions.

Do they help you stay well?

Do they optimize your health?

Do they explore the root causes of your symptoms?

Do they treat you like a person instead of a patient?

Think about yourself for a moment. 

Do you ever deal with headaches? Fatigue? Bloating? Sore throat? Anxiety? Indigestion? Constipation? Allergies? Bronchitis? Sinus infections? Acne? Joint pain? A cough that won’t go away?

For the most part, when we’re feeling unwell, we either self-medicate or seek the help of a physician. We schedule an appointment, spend more time in the waiting room than in the doctor’s office, and often walk out with a prescription or a referral.

We temporarily “get better”…until we get sick again.

I don’t envy doctors. They are in a tough spot these days.

They are tasked to do more with less, follow time-consuming and often complex protocols mandated by the insurance industry, and are so overbooked they have limited time to spend with each patient. I believe most of them have chosen health care as their profession because they genuinely want to impact lives and help people.

But, as patients, we’re not feeling heard.

An analysis from the journal Family Medicine found patients speak for an average of only 12 seconds before being interrupted by resident physicians. Over the course of the average 11-minute visit, the patient typically gets only four minutes of airtime.

Four minutes.

That’s less than the commercial break of your favorite TV show.

We’ve accepted that this is okay.

But it’s not. 

The current system isn’t working.

Doctors’ hands are tied, as they aren’t reimbursed for spending an hour with patients to gather what could be key information that could ultimately help them identify the root cause of their illness. Not only that, but a majority of the current medical school training is geared toward disease progression, diagnosis and treatment, not prevention and healing. As a result, many of us remain in a state of less than optimal health and accept that as reality.

It’s “normal” to have headaches, get the flu, and be tired every day…isn’t it? 

We can come up with reasons why we feel the way we do. But, what I’ve learned by listening to dozens of people’s stories is the importance of listening to the whispers our body sends us. 

I’ve learned this in my own life. I had deemed it “normal” to get ear infections every year. At one point in my life it was “normal” to have a surgery on a bi-annual basis; I had six before the age of 16 to “fix” issues in my ears and sinuses. It was “normal” to get bronchitis twice a year for over five years. It was “normal” to have acid reflux every day and take medicine for it for ten years.

Normal Commong

I didn’t question any of it for the longest time.

And neither did the nearly one dozen doctors I was seeing.

As I started to reflect, learn more about the body as an integrated system, and have conversations with people who had healed themselves, I started to realize that “dealing with it” wasn’t my only option.

About three years ago, as I learned more about the pivotal role of food in helping us be well, I started becoming frustrated by the conventional, diagnose-and-treat health care system and the physicians in it.

Why were none of them asking about me and my life? What I was eating? What might be at the root of why I was seeing them?

They were quick to prescribe a medication, send me to another specialist, or run another diagnostic. And, to be honest, like most patients, that’s what I thought I wanted.

“Just give me the quick fix, doc.”

None of them offered me what I needed most at the time.

Permission to ask questions.

A listening ear.

Time.

Hope.

Hope that I could be well.

Hope that I wasn’t “destined” to take medication for the rest of my life.

Hope that my body was resilient and wanted to be well; if only I would get out of its way.

It was during that time that I started parting ways with doctors who had been diagnosing and treating me for most of my life, masking symptoms without attempting to get to the root of what was wrong.

I met a few holistic health coaches, who first opened my eyes to the potential for healing as a result of their education and their own healing journeys. I experienced the benefits of “removing the tacks” myself (eliminating trigger foods like dairy) and noticed how quickly my body responded.

The first winter I went without congestion stunned me. Could it be possible? Did I not have to deal with these recurring health issues all the time?

Over the next year, I would be introduced to and served by a number of health care practitioners who would change my life, help me regain and restore my health and vitality, and influence the direction my career has taken.

They helped me listen to my body’s whispers.

body smart

From a local chiropractor trained in integrative health to my integrative medicine doctor / acupuncturist and functional medicine nutritionist to the latest addition to my health care team, an integrative medicine dentist, I now feel heard.

They know me as a person, not a patient.

They ask me questions instead of just telling me what to do.

They spend time with me rather than rushing me out the door.

They understand the body as an interconnected system, not a disjointed set of symptoms.

They are humble and don’t assume they know it all; they encourage me to tap into my intuition and signals my body is sending me.

I am healing.

I have hope.

So, what about you?

Have you been to a doctor for testing because you’ve felt something isn’t right but were then told, “Everything’s fine!”…even though you know it’s not?

Are you feeling like something is “off” but don’t know who you can turn to to help you figure it out?

Do you want to partner with a practitioner who will listen, seek to understand you, spend time with you, and help you heal and find hope in your situation?

I’m not willing to wait for the health care system to figure this out. It could take a very long time. Instead, I’m taking my health into my hands and am encouraging you to do the same.

If you live in the Baltimore area, here is a list of practitioners I trust, who will listen to you and help you get to the root of what’s wrong. If you’re outside of this area, use this link from the Institute for Functional Medicine to find a “root cause” practitioner in your area.

Whatever you do, hold on to hope.

Believe healing is possible.

And remind yourself of this truth.

IMG_7791

Top 10 Steps to Optimal Health: Go With Your Gut!

If you feel less than awesome in your body at this very moment, keep reading. What I’m sharing today could literally change your life!

Today, we’re talking about a topic that is near and dear to me because of my personal healing journey to identify food sensitivities, get myself off of a chronic disease medication, and heal my body.

What I’ve learned about the digestive system and its role in keeping me healthy has transformed my life. I have dealt with some form of sickness for most of my life, but addressing the underlying system and root causes has helped me feel better. 

For the longest time, I felt like what I was dealing with was “normal” because it was all I’d ever known. (Doesn’t everyone get ear and sinus infections and bronchitis and reflux??). On what seems like a daily basis, I either hear stories about, talk to people dealing with or read about frustrating struggles with health issues that SEEM to be “normal” because they are common.

Normal Commong

From indigestion, migraines, asthma, acne, irritable bowel syndrome and heartburn to depression, anxiety, diabetes, and constipation, we’ve grown to think of these things as normal because so many people we know deal with them.

So what’s the secret?

Good health begins in the gut, the digestive system.

Did you know that over 50% of our immune system lies in and around our digestive tract? And that’s being conservative. Some experts report that as much as 70-80% of our immune cells are in and around our digestive system!

That means EVERYTHING we eat and drink goes through that system and affects it. Everything.

There is a strong link between what we eat and drink and how we feel.

I’m excited to share some potentially life-changing information with you in today’s post. I had the privilege of learning from one of the best and brightest in the field of nutrition and gut health, Dr. Chris D’Adamo from the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine.

Check out his top 10 tips to optimize YOUR gut health to start feeling better today!

With Dr. Berman and Dr. Chris D'Adamo before his keynote

With Dr. Berman and Dr. Chris D’Adamo before his keynote

1) Acknowledge and believe that you don’t have to live with these symptoms just because you always have!

The body has a remarkable ability to be transformed and heal when we give it what it needs and take away what is hurting it.

Consider something like depression. It’s a complex condition without a sole cause or treatment. BUT, when you learn that over 90% of our “happiness hormone” (serotonin) production occurs in the GUT, it makes sense to look at healing the gut as a way to boost our mood and feel better. Aligning with functional medicine doctors can help you determine the true root cause of your condition, not matter what it is, and even it seems to have no connection to your digestive system.

2) See a gastroenterologist to rule out any serious gastrointestinal disorders.

I’m talking about Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcers, diverticulosis, infections, ulcerative colitis, gallstones, and colorectal cancer, among others.

If you’re looking for a gastroenterologist who has been recommended to me by Dr. D’Adamo, contact Dr. Jim Novick at GBMC in Towson. If you want to find someone near you, search for a provider at the Institute for Functional Medicine’s website here.

3) Try an elimination diet for at least 2 weeks.

Two weeks is NOT the same as forever. I promise.

Think of going through an elimination diet as “removing the tacks” you’re sitting on that are causing you pain/discomfort/less than awesome health. The ultimate goal is to remove as few foods as possible while optimizing your health.

Suppressing symptoms with medication is just like sitting on a sharp tack and holding an ice pack on the spot to numb it rather than removing the tack completely.

Remove the tack

Sometimes we are eating foods that are literally making us sick and causing us to stay there, no matter how much of the good stuff we add in. For me, those foods are dairy and gluten (the two most common allergenic foods).

Once I removed them from my diet, everything from congestion to sinus and ear infections and acid reflux went away.

Check out these AWESOME resources about how to do an elimination diet on the Institute for Functional Medicine’s website. Try it. These practitioners restore hope to health care.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 8.45.54 PM

4) Reduce or (ideally) eliminate artificial sweeteners (including Splenda).

Aspartame, found in Diet foods and drinks, and also known as Equal and Nutrasweet damages the healthy balance of bacteria in our digestive system that keeps us well.

Sucralose, the sugar in Splenda, has been associated with weight gain and potential involvement in irritable bowel disease. Sugar alcohols (anything ending in “-ol” like malitol) can have laxative effects and disrupt healthy gut function.

If you or someone you know is trying to get off of artificial sweeteners, watch the free documentary Sweet Misery. In the meantime, your best bet for a real sweetener (in moderation) is raw honey because it contains prebiotics and probiotics.

5) Wean off of acid-blocking medications (under doctor supervision).

antacids

I’m talking about the Prilosecs, Prevacids and Nexiums of the world. They have NOT been studied for long-term use and can often ultimately do more harm than good.

They are symptom “shushers.” Many of them (PPIs – proton pump inhibitors like what you see above) work by shutting off our body’s stomach acid production.We NEED stomach acid to break down our food, so we can properly absorb and use it. We don’t want to shut off this natural function of our body.

Believe it or not, many people who are diagnosed with acid reflux may actually have LOW stomach acid, which was the case for me. I rarely felt true hunger and often felt like my food was just sitting in my stomach after eating, taking its sweet time to digest.

As a result of taking acid-blocking medications for almost a decade, I messed up my body’s natural stomach acid and wasn’t breaking down proteins properly into amino acids or creating vitamin B12 (essential for energy and hundreds of other functions in the body).

Oops.

Guess what I’ve learned since then? We need the building blocks of protein to build everything from hormones and neurotransmitters to hair, skin and nails. I also learned I was deficient in stomach acid, so I had to supplement with hydrochloric acid (under the supervision of my nutritionist) to restore my digestive health.

Here’s my story of how I healed and got off of my medication….for good! Talk to your doctor before altering medication, and if your doctor is not open to doing this, find a functional medicine doctor, who will support you.

protonix

6) Heal the intestinal lining.

Bone broth and the supplement l-glutamine can both help us heal our intestinal lining.

Homemade bone broth contains amino acids that build and heal the gut lining. Here’s a link to learn about the health benefits of bone broth and how to make it yourself.

Buy yourself some bones* at your local market (MOMs Organic Market carries them), and make it yourself. Make sure they are from grass-fed, pasture-raised, humanely treated animals.

 

7) Choose fermented foods carefully.

They are a component of most traditional diets and naturally contain probiotics. Focus on miso, natto, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and fermented yogurt.

I find Farmhouse Culture sauerkraut (lots of varieties!) and Bubbies (both pictured below) at MOMs Organic Market. Hex Ferments in Baltimore is another great place to buy lots of different fermented foods.

I used to HATE sauerkraut, but now that I know how good it is for my health, I have tried several kinds and have learned to enjoy it.

I used to HATE sauerkraut, but now that I know how good it is for my health, I have tried several kinds and have learned to enjoy it.

A lot of people ask about yogurt for probiotics. Most processed yogurts in the grocery store are heavily processed and contain more sugar and additives than healthy bacteria. For a review of over 100 yogurts and a ranking from best to worst, check out this guide from the Cornucopia Institute. Dannon and Yoplait are in the bottom 5!

Check out your local natural or health food store (or Whole Foods and Wegmans) for healthy fermented food options.

8) Consume prebiotic fibers to feed the bacteria in the gut.

We hear a lot about PRObiotics these days but not too much about PREbiotics. Prebiotics are fermentable fibers that FEED probiotic bacteria.

We want the good guys to get the food they need to protect us and strengthen our immune system.

Sources of prebiotic foods include buckwheat, chicory, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), burdock root, onions, garlic, asparagus, green tea, and blueberries, to name a few.

Prebiotics

Clockwise: onions and garlic, asparagus, sunchokes, burdock root, buckwheat groats

9) When it comes to probiotics, you get what you pay for.

According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are “live microorganisms that can provide benefits to human health when administered in adequate amounts, which confer a beneficial health effect on the host.

In other words, probiotics are “good” or “healthy” bacteria because they support digestive health. Not all bacteria are bad! And since 70% of our immune system is located in and around our digestive system, it makes sense that supporting digestive health will boost our overall health.

Choose products that specify the strains of bacteria in them and that have research behind them. You also want them to be shipped on ice/cold shipped to protect the delicate, living bacteria. A few that were mentioned in the workshop were Natren, Garden of Life Raw, Theralac, and VSL #3. I’ve been using one recommended by my nutritionist called HLC MindLinx by Pharmax.

Probiotics are most important for people who have been on antibiotics, have digestive or autoimmune issues, or who will be traveling out of the country.

Keep in mind that different people respond to the same probiotics differently, so just because something works for a friend of yours doesn’t necessary mean it will work for you.

10) It’s not just WHAT you eat that matters, it’s HOW you eat, too.

Eating mindfully (slowly, chewing thoroughly, without distractions) is key to healthy digestion.

There’s a reason we call the gut “the second brain.” The brain impacts the bacteria in our gut and our gut health impacts our brain. It’s a two-way street. When we eat under stress, our body processes food differently, and we don’t get the most out of our meals.

Prioritize food enough to slow down and savor it when you eat.

If you’re going to take the effort to eat well in the first place, don’t you want to get as much out of that nourishing food as possible? Optimizing our gut health is key to making that happen.

An Inspiring Day of Hope, Happiness and Integrative Health in Baltimore

I first saw signs advertising the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine’s Health & Wellness Conference a few years ago.

The topics and speakers always sparked my interest, but the timing never seemed to work with my schedule, so I never went.

After spending the past three years learning how to listen to my body, help it heal from years of medication use and poor diet, and optimize my health, I’m more passionate about the power of functional, integrative medicine than ever before, and I knew I had to go.

For the first time ever, the conference was held downtown at the Institute for Integrative Health’s facility on Fleet Street in the old Broom Corn factory. The recently renovated building has been converted into an open, inviting, vibrant space designed to provide an environment for innovative thinking, convene leaders and visionaries to promote true health care, reverse the sick care crisis, and educate the community about integrative health.

IMG_8908

Attending events like this and being surrounded by such brilliant, passionate, like-minded people energizes and inspires me and reminds me of why I do the work that I do.

As I wrote back in January, there is a special gift that comes from being with “your people.”

The conference started with some mingling and breakfast provided by my go-to healthy and nourishing meal choice in Towson – Zia’s Café – and Belvedere Square – Plantbar.

Daniela Troia, who owns Zia’s Café and Plantbar at Belvedere Market, uses whole, unprocessed, nourishing, vibrant food as a platform to promote health and wellbeing in Baltimore and beyond.

Not only did they serve breakfast, but they also provided snacks of veggies and hummus, fresh cold-pressed juices, wraps and salads for lunch and a chocolate ganache brownie for an afternoon snack. YUM!

IMG_8961

Following the morning mingle, everyone convened for a Welcome to Wellness led by a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Dr. Brian Berman. He is the President and Founder of the Institute for Integrative Health and Director of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine.

Dr. Berman has dedicated his career to researching and promoting complementary and integrative medicine, and in 1991 he founded the first U.S. academic medical center-based program for integrative medicine.

He started the conference by asking,

“What is wellness? What is health?”

Those two words have a range of meaning depending on whom you ask.

Dr. Berman’s comment about how integrative health can change the future really resonated with me. I share his vision:

IMG_8954

YES!

I firmly believe this to be true and am honored to be part of such a transformational movement that has already helped and will continue to help so many people restore and optimize their health.

We were then led through a centering morning chanting session with monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery, who will be at Baltimore Yoga Village in Mt. Washington speaking, singing, praying and creating a sand mandala from now until May 14th.

To learn more about these events, click here.

monks

The rest of the day was filled was passionate speakers sharing the latest research and life learnings about a variety of integrative health topics.

While we know food is important to overall health and is something I write about a lot on this blog, non-food nourishment is equally important.

The conference was filled with both forms of nourishment and truly focused on integrative health and the connections between our mind, body and spirit.

The first session I attended was about the science of happiness and forgiveness and was co-led by Drs. Delia Chiaramonte and Dahlia Hirsch.

IMG_8959

A whopping 50% of our happiness is hard-wired and inherited while a mere 10% is influenced by our circumstances. That means 40% of our happiness is changeable. We have the power to influence that.

The most fascinating thing I learned in the session on happiness was that writing and talking about negative things in our lives increases our happiness, while intentionally dwelling on and THINKING about positive things that happen boosts our happiness. Talking and writing about positive things doesn’t change our happiness, but dwelling on the negative decreases it.

So, when bad things happen, write or talk about them, but try not to mentally dwell on them. When good things happen, think about them over and over again.

We can actively increase our happiness by doing these things:

  • Identifying and using our strengths and making note of how we’ve used them each day
  • Looking for the good, even in tough situations
  • Purposely ruminating over positive experiences (instead of forgetting them and fussing over the not so good stuff)
  • Nurturing social connections
  • Committing to a gratitude ritual, whether it’s keeping a journal, reflecting on three appreciations before bedtime each night or writing a gratitude letter to another person and reading it aloud to them

As we shifted from happiness to forgiveness, we were challenged by Dr. Dahlia Hirsch to consider,

“What ideas are running your life? Your body?”

This resonated with me, as I’ve been struggling with some negative thought patterns lately and feeling “stuck” in my thoughts and my body. It can be so hard for us to forgive ourselves and other people.

IMG_8885

She reminded us that we CHOOSE what to focus on. We can either focus on being frustrated, stuck, annoyed or angry, or we can choose to forgive to free ourselves from those feelings.

The question that stuck with me the most was this:

“What do I have to give up to have peace?”

It’s something each of us can ask ourselves.

Whether it’s a feeling, a relationship, a job, a wrongdoing, or something else entirely, what are you holding on to that is preventing you from having peace in your life?

We transitioned from happiness and forgiveness to the healing power of touch. I’ve experienced this myself in the past through massage therapy, chiropractic care, and most recently, acupuncture. Donna Audia, the main speaker for the talk, is an integrative therapy nurse and team lead for the integrative Inpatient Care Team at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

She opened with talking about the anti-inflammatory response of shock trauma patients to acupuncture and had to make a shift in her own mindset from “intubating and sedating” patients to using healing touch to help and heal them.

Donna captured her patient philosophy in one brief statement:

healing patients

I LOVE that.

Imagine if every health care provider adopted that same mentality. The epidemic of health that Dr. Berman is calling for could be here sooner than we thought!

What stuck with me the most from our session was the knowledge that 20 seconds of continuous touch releases the bonding, trust, and safety hormone oxytocin – for both the giver AND receiver – assuming the touch is wanted.

As part of the session, each of us had an opportunity to buddy up with someone else at our table and alternate giving each other light back rubs. My partner was a beautiful young woman named Maura, who at the age of 19 is discovering what health means to her, as she has battled with weight and smoking, but is determined to change her life. I encouraged her that what she is going through and growing through will ultimately be used to help and inspire others.

It’s in our struggles that we become relatable and real and connect to other people. Imperfect people are the greatest inspirations.

I plan to stay in touch with her, so I can continue to follow her journey. She will be a voice of change one day, and her story will impact more people than she ever thought possible.

She said something so profound that I had to write it down:

IMG_8953

Wow. Wisdom from a 19-year-old. Isn’t it true for so many of us?

We’ve so deprived ourselves of genuine, meaningful, healing human touch and connection that we reach for other things to satisfy and fill us – from food to alcohol to cigarettes and even credit cards.

The next time you hug a loved one, see if you can hold it for at least 20 seconds or offer to give them a back rub for at least that long.

There is healing power in touch.

Before heading to lunch, I attended a session on increasing sustainable, healthy local food led by Louise Mitchell, who has worked with one of my company’s clients, Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown.

IMG_8897

Louise taught us about the importance of eating locally, which usually means the food has traveled under 250 miles from farm to table, whereas most conventional food has traveled anywhere from 1,500 to 2,400 MILES before it reaches us.

A lot of the tips she shared about how to make eating sustainable, locally grown food more affordable are captured in this blog post about how to eat organic without going broke.

She also shared great information about the harmful health effects of pesticide use (what is sprayed on conventional, non-organic produce to keep it looking “perfect” and bug-free):

pesticides

I learned about the work of Dr. Jim Duke, and the “green farmacy” he grows on his farm in Fulton, Maryland, where anyone can volunteer. I plan to check it out this summer! To learn more about his work and the farm, click here.

One of the most useful tips Louise shared was how to pick the highest quality and safest meats and poultry, so here you go. We want to eat:

  • Pasture-raised pork and poultry
  • Grass-fed and grass-finished cows, dairy products, and lamb. This means they are fed grass throughout their entire lives rather than being grain-finished, which is what helps “fatten up” and marble beef, but is not how cows are designed to eat. Check out the Eat Wild website to find sources for this type of meat near you.

Also, I teach this in the workshops I lead, but it’s worth reiterating that the word “natural” on a food label is unregulated and has nothing to do with how the food is produced. Don’t buy the marketing hype!

To learn more about sustainable farming, check out these resources:

After lunch, I was honored to attend a keynote presented by Dr. Chris D’Adamo, a nutrition researcher who is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine. He also teaches workshops at the Institute for Integrative Health.

With Dr. Berman and Dr. Chris D'Adamo before his keynote

With Dr. Berman and Dr. Chris D’Adamo before his keynote

We learned the top tips to optimizing gut health, which many of you know is a passion of mine because of my own healing journey. I’ll be sharing those tips in a separate post because there was just so much great information that I can’t do it justice by summing it up here!

Dr. D’Adamo shared how over 50% of our immune system activity is in our “gut,” which starts in our mouth and ends, well, you know where 😉

Because of poor diet, stress, alcohol intake, and years of antibiotic and medication use, many of us have compromised our health and immunity and are dealing with the consequences in the form of everything from bloating, abdominal pain, reflux, allergies, and colds to rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and anxiety.

According to Dr. D’Adamo, the bottom line is this:

symptoms

That’s right. We can heal and be well. The body is incredibly resilient. We just need to give it half a chance to do its thing.

Dr. D’Adamo will be teaching a series of workshops about What Science Says about Dietary Supplements in May and June, and I will definitely be attending! Click here to learn more and register.

After going through an energizing movement routine led by Lynne Brick, we finished out the day by attending a few more workshops.

IMG_8924

The first was a healthy cooking workshop led by Jennifer Helene, who emphasized the message that it’s not about deciding between being healthy OR enjoying food.

It’s about having it all.

Healthy food can be both nourishing and delicious, and I seek to constantly reinforce that point in every recipe post I share on this blog.

She said it’s about becoming the best version of ourselves and planning for the space between where we are now and where we want to be. It’s about making a commitment to our health and ourselves and not letting excuses get in the way.

As Jennifer said,

“Invest today to save tomorrow. Be in action every day without guilt.”

She shared some delicious recipes with us, and you can find more of them on her website.

The second part of the experiential workshop was led by Susan Weis-Bohlen, an ayurvedic expert, who taught us about the different doshas – mind/body constitutions that are reflected in our physical characteristics, temperaments and emotional traits.

My friend Susanna having her ayurvedic pulse points read by Susan Weis-Bohlen

My friend Susanna having her ayurvedic pulse points read by Susan Weis-Bohlen

I learned that I am DEFINITELY Pitta dosha, known to have a “fiery nature” in both spirit and body.

According to the Chopra Institute, “Pittas have a powerful intellect and a strong ability to concentrate. When they’re in balance, they are good decision makers, teachers, and speakers. They are precise, sharp-witted, direct, and often outspoken. Out-of-balance Pittas can be short-tempered and argumentative.”

#NailedIt

Want to discover your dosha? Check out this free quiz.

To learn more about Susan’s ayurvedic and vegetarian cooking classes at her home in Reisterstown, check out this link.

The day closed with a workshop that dove deeper into digestive health, specifically as it relates to adverse food reactions, allergies, sensitivities and intolerances led by Erin Peisach, a registered dietitian who sees patients at the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine. I’ll include the highlights from her workshop when I share the write-up about Dr. D’Adamo’s session in a future post.

Reflecting on the day, a few key insights stood out to me that summarize the mindset behind the day.

IMG_8956

Sue Berman, Dr. Berman’s wife and Executive Director at the Institute for Integrative Health, noted,

“It’s great to have a day to be nourished in so many ways.”

I wholeheartedly agree. I wish more people could experience what TRUE nourishment looks and feels like and how transformational it can be for our health and our lives.

So many of us look to a TV show, book, “expert,” or doctor to “fix” us and tell us what to do. Part of what I’ve learned along my journey to healing my body and boosting my health is that I have responsibility in the process. I had to start listening to my body and stop ignoring and suppressing the signals it was sending me about how I felt.

That’s the secret. 

At the close of her session on ayurveda, Susan Weis-Bohlen declared a truth that captures the essence of functional medicine and integrative health and the gist of the day. I hope it resonates with and inspires you to start paying attention to your body and take back YOUR health!

power within

My Trusted Health Providers & Top Resources to Help You Heal Your Body Naturally

If you missed it, be sure to check out my last post about the 8 Steps I Took to Heal My Heartburn and Acid Reflux Naturally after being on medication for almost ten years to suppress my symptoms.

Aligning myself with functional medicine practitioners has been the key to getting well and turning my health around.

I wrote about that aspect of my journey and functional medicine (including an awesome TED Talk!) in this post and offered this reflection in closing:

IMG_7791

I truly believe that because of what I’ve experienced in my own life.

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about how I healed a decade of reflux, I wanted to share with you some excellent books, websites, and healthcare practitioners that have helped me and can help you move to the next phase of your healing journey.

1) Read a Book to Learn More

These are two of my favorite books on the topic of digestive health:

books

Think of Digestion Connection as more of a reference book than light Saturday morning reading material. Having said that, whether you’re dealing with reflux, diabetes or migraines, Digestion Connection is a great resource to have on hand to help you make sense of what’s really going on in your body and begin the healing process.

Dr. Lipski is one of the international experts on digestive health, and she is located right here in Maryland. Although she doesn’t take new patients anymore, she has a list of recommended nutritionists on her website that are spread out across the U.S. I’ve listed my favorite local (Baltimore-based) nutritionist below.

In Clean Gut, Dr. Junger explains digestive health, dysfunction and disease in a way that the average person can understand. He outlines how the digestive system works and how our digestive health is at the root of most illness and disease, even seemingly unrelated conditions like depression and asthma.

He offers guidelines for how to put yourself on an elimination diet and includes quite a few delicious recipes – several of which my husband Bill and I have tried and enjoyed.

Clean Gut's roasted kabocha and curried tahini sauce. SO good!

Clean Gut’s roasted kabocha and curried tahini sauce. SO good!

Another book that has influenced my thinking about disease and why we get sick in the first place is The Disease Delusion by Dr. Jeffrey Bland.

Every medical school should have this book as required reading. One of the underlying themes is a fundamentally different way of thinking about disease in the first place:

Our genetic inheritance tells us more about how we should live than about the chronic disease we are doomed to suffer. We are not doomed at all.

Dr. Bland’s approach focuses on taking away the things that are the problem (removing the tacks we’re sitting on!) and providing the things that are missing (giving our body what it needs to repair and heal).

diseasedelusion

2) Look Online

Here are some websites that contain great information about how to heal the “gut” naturally and address conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as well as other chronic health concerns.

I’ve shared these links with dozens of other people who have come to me with questions about how I healed myself:

  1. Why You Have Reflux, Bloating, Gas and Burping and What To Do by Josh Gitalis
  2. 7 Steps to Reverse Acid Reflux by Dr. Mark Hyman
  3. 3 Simple Steps to Eliminate Heartburn & Acid Reflux by Dr. Mark Hyman
  4. 15 Natural Remedies for the Treatment of Acid Reflux and Ulcers by Dr. Joseph Mercola
  5. What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About GERD by Dr. Amy Myers
  6. Get Rid of Heartburn and GERD Forever with 3 Simple Steps by Chris Kresser 

3) Find a Doctor…& My Trusted Health Professionals!

If you want to find a healthcare provider who can help you consider ALL of the options for addressing reflux or whatever disease is troubling you and who can help you get to the ROOT of what’s going on in your body, search for a functional medicine practitioner near you using this link. Search by zip code vs. city. I find it works better.

Keep these things in mind:

  • Functional medicine practitioners may often recommend that you keep a Primary Care Physician (PCP) relationship for addressing other health needs, but they will be a fantastic complement to that doctor. Keeping your PCP within your health plan’s network can also help you order lab tests that may be covered through insurance but would otherwise cost more through an out-of-network provider.
  • Some participate with health insurance plans but some don’t, which means you will often have to do more than pay a $20 copay. In other words, these practitioners are often “out of network.” I’ve found it to be cheaper to partner with them long-term, since I actually got answers and got better and, as a result, was able to stop seeing 5 other specialists who were very well-meaning but just helped me suppress symptoms. Call their office and ask if they participate with your insurance.
  • Ask what packages they offer. They may offer a certain number of sessions for a set fee, which often means not having to deal with insurance and have predictable payments. That can provide relief in and of itself.
  • Even if they are out of network, you can usually use FSA, HRA, HSA funds to pay for their services. You’ll just need to submit paperwork as you would for any other FSA/HRA claim.

top docs

Here’s my list of trusted professionals in the Baltimore area (pictured above in the order listed below):

  1. Dr. Mary Jo Fishburn (The first doctor I saw who did my nutrient testing and helped me on my healing journey. She is also an acupuncturist.)
  2. Dr. Janene Martin, Sunlight Natural Health (Naturopathic doctor who runs the clinic where my nutritionist, Kasia, works)
  3. Kasia Kines, Holistic Nutrition Naturally (My amazing nutritionist)
  4. Dr. Bill Rollow, University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine (My parents’ doctor)
  5. Dr. Gerard Mullin, AKA “The Food MD” (I’ve not yet met him but checked out his website and see that we align in our thinking about gut health.). He has written several books on digestive health that I want to check out, including The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health and has a new book coming out in June titled The Gut Balance Revolution.
  6. Nava Health & Vitality Center. Nava Centers are currently open in Columbia and Chevy Chase, Maryland and are opening soon in Rockville and downtown DC. Their approach combines the best of Eastern and Western medicine to help patients heal and optimize their health. Their leadership team and practitioners understand that the body is an interconnected system and take into account the WHOLE person, not just their overt symptoms. I’ve also been a guest blogger for them since last summer.

nava

There you have it! Those are the ways I’ve naturally healed my body and the additional resources I’d recommend you check out if you are tired of feeling frustrated about your health and about seemingly “normal” yet bothersome symptoms like reflux and want to start feeling better.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and this information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any health condition. Rather it’s a reflection of what I have learned on my journey to heal my body. Never stop taking medication without consulting your doctor, as there can be negative side effects to doing so. If you have concerns about a particular health concern, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), I highly recommend seeing a health care provider who understands that there are and is open to trying alternative approaches to treating (and even reversing) reflux.

I want to hear from you! Have you had a physical healing experience that has transformed your health or life? Feel free to share your story below 🙂

How Functional Medicine Has Transformed My Health & Life

My goal in writing this post is to introduce you to a new way of thinking about health and approaching health care.

One of the keys to my healing journey has been partnering with healthcare professionals who are trained to understand my body as an integrated system rather than a series of disconnected symptoms.

Today, I feel better than I’ve ever felt, and you can, too.

doctor_of_future

For most of my life, I was diagnosed and treated by multiple physicians, who prescribed me medications of some sort at least once a year – medications that, over the span of several decades, damaged my body and compromised my health.

Because of my painful, chronic ear and sinus infections, I started seeing specialists when I was four years old and was prescribed countless doses of antibiotics over the next decade. By the time I was in high school, I had been through a half dozen ear and sinus surgeries. Scarring caused by all of the infections eventually resulted in a 40% hearing loss in my left ear, which I still have today.

At the age of 19, I started seeing a gastroenterologist for digestive health issues and was put on the acid-reducing medication Prilosec. I ended up staying on a variation of that medicine to control my reflux until I was 28 years old.

The odd thing about all of this? I thought it was normal.

I had bought in to the idea that I needed to see a specialist for every symptom and take “a pill for every ill.” No one was asking what was at the root of my health issues. I was frustrated.

What if it didn’t have to be that way?

What if I could figure out the underlying causes of my discomfort and pain? Was it possible that my ear and sinus issues were related to my digestive problems? Could what I was or wasn’t eating be at the root of why I was sick?

Until recently, I didn’t know that 70-80% of the immune system resides in and along the wall of the digestive tract. Since everything we eat goes through our digestive system and, therefore, interacts with our immune system, how can what we eat not affect our health?

Like so many people, I figured all of the specialists I was seeing would have made connections between what I was eating and why I was sick and in less than optimal health.

Unfortunately, traditional medical school training is focused on diagnosing and treating illness with relatively little education about the significant role of proper nutrition.

In fact, the 2010 Nutrition in Medicine project, which surveyed all 127 accredited medical schools in the U.S., revealed that doctors receive about 20 contact hours of nutrition education in medical school, down from 22.3 hours in 2004. Only about 25% of schools required a dedicated nutrition course.

The bottom line? Nutrition education in medical schools is inadequate, especially given all that is known about the role of food as medicine.

I’m optimistic that this will change in the coming years as prestigious institutions like the University of Maryland, Harvard, Duke, and Yale serve as leaders in preventive, integrative, and functional medicine and nutrition. While less familiar to the general public but widely respected in natural healing circles, I hope students hailing from schools like Bastyr University will play a greater role in our future healthcare system.

In addition to the changes I’ve made on my own to heal my body and restore my health through nutrition, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from reading books and hearing lectures by dozens of renowned physicians and nutrition experts, including Drs. Mark Hyman, Joel Fuhrman, John LaPuma, David Katz, and Alejandro Junger along with nutritionists, Tom Malterre, Kasia Kines and Kimberly Snyder.

A new wave of medicine that looks at the system, not just the symptom, is coming. Health care professionals who know that a focus on diagnosis and treatment isn’t enough if we want to have vibrant health and be well are pursuing training in functional and integrative medicine.

Are you curious about functional medicine from the perspective of a medical doctor? A doctor who has used this approach to heal dozens of his own health issues and thousands of people who were sick and tired of feeling sick and tired? This video could change the way you look at health forever:

I’ve been fortunate to partner with several health care practitioners who are trained to understand and have experience healing patients by tapping into the diet-disease connections. They are helping me heal my body and undo years of damage.

For the first time in my life, I’ve gone a full year without taking a prescription medication or even so much as an Advil.

For the first time in my life, I’m able to understand the underlying causes of why I was sick for so many years.

For the first time in my life I’m hopeful, no longer in the dark about my health, and inspired to continue my healing journey and help others do the same.

We can be well and stay well. Health and vitality can become the new normal.

Want to find a functional medicine practitioner where you live? Check out this link!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: