Happy Gratitude Season!
I know the next 6 weeks can be full of joyful happiness as well as a deep sense of grief, of togetherness and yet isolation, of hopes for things that can be and mourning of things that have passed, and so much more.
I hope that this post finds you well and squeezing every drop of enjoyment out of the last few weeks of 2022. And as we naturally move into a season of stillness with the winter solstice coming up as well as the natural reflection of the New Year, it seems like the perfect time to share with you a frustration that turned into a soul stirring call to change my vocation...and to share with you a glimpse of what can be.
Side note - this isn't one of those limited time, must act now, FOMO messages that are currently flooding in via email and text. This new offering is here to stay and will be at this price point until the first day of spring - March 20, 2023.
I was introduced to the concept of a Gratitude Journal over a decade ago when I was struggling with burnout as a PA. The concept was simple - at the beginning of the day remind yourself that each day is a gift and that wonderful things are coming your way. And at the end of the day write down 3 things you are thankful/grateful for that are unique to that day.
That's the key word. You can't keep repeating your kids and significant other and pets. The reason? This limitation makes your mind reach and stretch and find new things each day. Weird things. Things like being happy you saw the pile of cat vomit before you stepped in it or finding gratitude that the impatient person driving behind you did NOT hit you - instead of focusing on the fact that he almost did!
Additionally actually writing these down helps cement the feeling in your mind - and who doesn't love a groovy notebook? I just found a site.....but I digress.
I invite you to pause reading and grab a dedicated notebook and pen. Think about a place you could keep them to be visual reminders to use them each and every night starting tonight. Do you need a reminder on your phone? I did until it became a habit. When would be a good time to spend 5 minutes in quiet reflection on your day to not only document your gratitude but also sink into that yummy feeling while you write it down? Could you dedicate a few minutes each day until the end of the year to give your brain time to gently retrain how it phrases your day's events? It may not be easy...I think around day 3 I hit a brick wall trying to find happy things. Now, I can often fill my quota before lunch!
Now that you are back, please feel free to read on about the epiphany that changed the course of my life.
The most frustrating thing to me as a patient was having bothersome symptoms - ones so bad that I went to that annual physical JUST to talk about them. Of course, the doctor agreed to run some of the labs on my list (never all of them - insurance limitations, ya know?), but the call back was always "everything looks fine"...and that was the end of the investigation.
The door was closed. Labs were 'fine'. So I guess I was too?!? I sure didn't feel that was true. But conventional medicine didn't have anything for me since I wasn't sick enough for a diagnosis. This cycle continued for years with symptoms increasing and answers feeling like they were slipping further and further away. My health felt like these grains of sand...where was I going to be when they were all gone?
I kept being given the advice to do the VERY same things that I had already told the doctor I was trying to do without results: eat less; exercise more; lose weight. The final straw when those exact notes were put in my chart with a new doctor who I had told flat out "I've cleaned up my diet to the point that nothing is left to change. I am exercising 5 days a week, but nothing is improving - I'm just exhausted all the time now. And weight loss seems less likely than finding a unicorn in my living room when I go home".
There wasn't much to be grateful for it seemed. I felt like this balloon - I wanted to soar and feel amazing, but I was just deflated and sad.
And then, on a day full of struggles and low on inspiration for gratitude, it hit me. I was grateful for the lack of answers and abundance of questions. I was thankful for those doctors who blew off my concerns. I was overjoyed that I wasn't sick enough to have a diagnosis, but also stubborn enough to not accept 'fine' as being good enough for me.
My friends, that's why I started this functional wellness journey - for myself, my family, and now you!
And just like in the image, I couldn't see the road ahead of me...but I knew what was behind me and was happy to be heading a new direction.
You see, the truth is that the conventional medical community looks at labs VERY different than the functional medical community.
And we both have our strengths.
Your doctor can diagnosis a disease and put together a treatment plan - maybe even one that saves an organ or your your life. They are amazing at emergency and life threatening situations, and I always recommend having a physician look at your labs especially when results are out of conventional range. But because of how the system is structured, most physicians stop there and don't progress to uncovering the reason and work to reverse it nor do they (typically) raise a red flag about a brewing problem when there is still time to easily reverse it.
But a functional medicine approach to labs is very different. We look at relationships and look for balance...or a lack thereof.
You see, those very same labs you get at an annual physical hold a lot of clues. When you look at them in a functional light, you can see imbalances and places that suggest that your system is struggling BEFORE that struggle gets so profound that an illness can be diagnosed by your doctor.
The most common diseases in our country are lifestyle driven, and they don't come out of the blue. For example, there are clues to type 2 diabetes for years, even decades, before numbers climb out of the reference range and you get a label applied to you. In these annual labs, we can see how your adrenals are responding to your life, if you are digesting and absorbing the food you eat, and if you are actually hydrating your body with all of that water you drink, and more. We can even see signs of specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
These everyday annual labs help me put together a plan to strengthen those weak spots and help your body rebalance as well as develop a customized plan with you to address lifestyle choices that may be standing in the way of your best health.
Together your physician and I can make a formidable team for your health.
I'm so happy to announce a new stair step into this health journey for you - one that shines a light on your labs in a new way AND correlates them with your symptoms. It's the first step to a full comprehensive review, and you can apply the cost towards that comprehensive review if you decide you want to take the next step. It's also a good first step if you are looking at a group program because it gives you more insight into YOUR unique needs and challenges as well as your strengths.
I invite you to schedule your Introductory Level Health Review with Labs today and get the most information you can out of those labs you have!
"I have adrenal fatigue"
It breaks my heart each time I hear a client say these words. You can see and feel the sense of control fade away as these words hang in the air. All that remains in the silence is a profound sense of helplessness - my adrenals...they've given up on me.
Often this phrase has come from a well meaning practitioner or a self diagnosis while trying to figure out why you feel empty and broken and just so tired all the time. I refer to it as feeling like someone is playing with a dimmer switch on your vitality or like you are a muted version of yourself.
But I detest that phrase 'adrenal fatigue' because it's simply not true. Your adrenals aren't tired. They definitely aren't fatigued. And they haven't given up on you. They are protecting you from, well, you. And this means once you understand how your choices are impacting your health (and your adrenals), you can make small sustainable changes and see your health return to the robust level you deserve.
Don't love science?
Your Health Message is that your body loves you and is doing the best it can with the resources you are giving it. To protect you, sometimes the experiences we want have must be put on the back burner so our bodies can focus on the things we need.
Want to get a little nerdy? Science time!
Our adrenals are little pyramid shaped organs that 'sit' above our kidneys in our lower to mid back on the back of the body.
They govern three things in our body - sex, sugar, and salt. They are busy little worker bees! It's an epic understatement to say they play a key role in not only keeping us alive, but also helping us thrive... BUT ONLY WHEN OUR SURVIVAL IS GUARANTEED AND FELT BY THE BODY.
Yes. I just yelled that at you. It's a key point in our health. Above all else, please remember that our bodies are looking to feel a sense of guaranteed survival before they can shift gears from
'oh, no, this person may not live'
'oh, yes, let's give this person all of the juicy goodness they want out of life!'.
When you undergo a stressful experience - mental, emotional, physical - the adrenal glands are obligated to pump out cortisol. Cortisol is amazing and wonderful and helps you run away from a predator. It's the shining star of our Sympathetic Nervous System (aka 'fight or flight' mode or as I call it 'survival mode'). The thing about cortisol is that it is actually very stressful on the body because it is forcing a LOT of resources to mobilize. Therefore, over time a decision has to be made to put the brakes on it.
It's like if you were in a car driving away from a threat. You would hold the gas down as long as possible until you HAVE to hit the brakes to keep from going off a cliff.
The body handles cortisol the same way.
It has to hit the brakes because the damage is building up, and it needs you to rest so it can repair the damage. And repair takes a lot of resources so you don't get the energy that you want. You can't.
Maybe you push yourself harder and harder and your body goes to the backup reserve system of adrenaline for the slightest stressor. And the crash on the other side of that is nasty. You can feel wired and tired or completely crashed out after your energy burst.
If you ever feel too exhausted to do gentle yoga, but feel amazing with an aggressive workout, that's a clue that your body has shifted to using adrenaline for stress. It's a powerful wake up to start paying attention to your choices and prioritize self care and rest.
So what do you do?
Thank your body for keeping you alive.
Appreciate all of the choices it makes every day for you - they are the best choices and most logical (even if they aren't what you want).
Take inventory of the choices you make because they impact the choices your body makes.
Are you hydrated?
Do you get enough sleep?
Are you moving your body in a way that is natural and fun and works into your life?
Do you breathe shallow or deeply?
Are you eating to fuel your body?
What thoughts are you feeding your mind with?
These are all things we can control - even if we need help formulating a plan and some accountability.
There can also be deeper imbalances in our bodies that take more investigation such as if there is hidden toxicity, microbial overgrowths, or unique blockages. Thankfully all of these can be assessed and addressed with a functional medicine mindset.
Ready to take the next step? Schedule your free Health Strategy Call today here.
Yours in healthing and wellness,
P.S. Remember above when I said the adrenals govern sugar, salt, and sex? In a follow up blog, I'll dive into this deeper so you can really appreciate your lovely adrenal glands even more.
"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
What a ridiculous thing to tell children, and yet I grew up hearing it all the time. It somehow implies that physical pain is more - it matters more and has more value - than emotional pain, while also telling us that emotional pain doesn't hurt or that it is wrong of us to let it hurt...that words are only words so they can't hurt us. It's not a saying I've chosen to ever let my children hear me say, but the words still haunt me.
You see, our thoughts either build us up or break us down. We are the only species that sit in our thoughts and ruminate in the past, and it causes a lot of pain because it tells our nervous system that we are not safe, our survival is not assured, and all of the life experiences that we want are put on the backburner until our survival is guaranteed.
A lot of health issues fade away when you learn that your body is trying to keep you safe and is responding to the signals you are giving it by your choices and environment. Some things we can change. Some we can't. But we can always work on how we perceive what is happening to us. More on this in a later post!
Circling back around: our thoughts matter. A lot. And our thoughts are made of words, which means the words we use to describe ourselves and talk about ourselves matter. And all of this is a long winded way to introduce you to why I call myself a Functional Wellness Consultant and not a Functional Medicine Practitioner.
My training is in Functional Medicine through The School of Applied Functional Medicine (the premier school in the world to learn about functional medicine) and the Academy of Functional Wellness, where we learn to apply functional medicine concepts in a way that never loses sight on the foundations of health that we MUST have in place. I also have a Masters in Health Science from the Duke School of Medicine and worked in the medical field for 20 years. To say it feels natural to say I am a 'medical provider' is an understatement, and yet I'm purposely choosing different words for my new career.
So let's start with "what is functional medicine exactly?".
Functional medicine looks at the body as a whole to see how everything is connected to what we call a 'root cause'. A core reason. It's a way of thinking that constantly asks 'buy why' over and over and over until we know why...and then we have a pathway to follow back to the source of the issue. It's rarely a straight path and it's never the same for each person. If you think of it like a journey, there are lots of side quests that we take and all for an amazing reward at the end - your optimal health. It's also a journey that goes at a different pace for each person and is a different overall length as well. There are no set protocols in my practice.
And even though functional medicine differs from conventional medicine in a lot of very important ways, there is still that word - medicine. A word that implies a relationship where you tell someone your problems, and they hand you a solution. It implies an authority figure that you may not feel comfortable questioning. And it implies that you are somehow broken.
So I choose functional wellness consultant. Let's break it down.
Functional. I specialize in the functions of the body. How the body works and why it works in this way. With this knowledge, we are armed to understand the interconnectedness between body systems as well as the relationship between our choices and how our bodies respond.
Wellness. Our natural state is one of wellness. It can be hard to believe when you live with chronic pain or even daily body discomfort that is annoying. And if you are someone with GI discomfort of any type from heartburn/reflux to 'bathroom woes', the idea that your norm could be different seems impossible. If you have received a devastating health label (diagnosis), then it is so easy to feel like your body is broken and has betrayed you. It took me years from receiving my cancer diagnosis to realize that my body wasn't broken and didn't betray me. It was quite literally doing its best to keep me alive. And when you really learn and internalize that truth - that your body is making the best choices it can to keep you alive - you can find comfort in the wisdom of your body. You start to realize that all of your symptoms are an attempt of your body to communicate with you and tell you what it needs more of as well as what it needs less of. And when you maximize what your body needs, minimize what is harming it, and prioritize an environment of healing THAT is when healing and ultimately wellness occurs.
Consultant. Consultant denotes the partnership I have with my clients. They rely on my expert knowledge as much as I rely on their feedback and willingness to explore their health and pay attention on a level that is often new to them. As a consultant I give advice, and then we work together to find a way to fold this advice into their lives in a sustainable way. I may be an expert in the knowledge that I have, but my clients are the expert in their bodies.
To say working with Root Cause to Wellness in an independent program, group program, or privately is a different experience than any you have ever had is an understatement. If you are ready to start on your private journey with me, you can get started today here. If you still aren't sure if functional wellness is right for you, you can schedule a free 30 minute Health Strategy call here. And if an independent or group program to establish the foundational steps is best for you, here is your link!
I look forward to supporting you on your health journey wherever it may lead you.
Yours in healing and wellness,