One reason I became interested pursing the study and function of the human body and how food and lifestyle impact it was because of my son.
14 years ago my husband and I were told that our 1 year old had Spasticity in his legs, which is a form of Cerebral Palsy from an in-utero stroke. We were told it was something that could not heal but would not get worse. Time would tell how much it would impact his life but we should count on him having to miss a ton of school for doctors appointments and physical therapy throughout his life, getting many surgeries, probably not walking, and we would see what else with time.
We were absolutely shocked.
That is when I went to work figuring out…. WHAT CAN WE DO?
I call this ‘optimistic science and wellness’ and many degrees/certifications/internships later this is essentially what I practice today.
Although we had fabulous doctors from the get go we were treated as Levi’s diagnosis and not the person he was or the people we were (***see footnote about our amazing physical therapists) . It felt like no one was seeing us, no one was there in the docs office to talk to about what was happening in his body and what we could do to impact it. No one was interested in thinking into ways we could enhance his life and optimize how the rest of him functioned so he could thrive and live his best life. No one was curious with us. No one explained ‘what’s going on in there’ so we could better understand the big picture. And no one seemed second guess feeding Levi chocolate pudding, red jello, dino nuggets and white crackers when we were living in the hospital after his massive surgery hoping he recovered strong………
So I started researching, investigating, and thinking into WHAT CAN WE DO to help?
If he was going to miss so much school, have so many surgeries, and not walk how could we maximize how the rest of him functioned and increase his resilience?
I would have to dig into a lot of biochemistry and physiology but luckily I was already in healthcare and was off and running in no time.
With the help of our brilliant physical therapists, we had the muscular/mechanical part down. But I was curious what was going on physiologically with spasticity and how might that have happened. I was curious about his immune system, and what we could do so he wouldn’t miss more school for preventable viruses and infections. I was interested in what we could do to impact his brain function so he was as sharp and clear headed as he could be. I wanted to know how we could we best support him around healing from numerous surgeries. It was only later that I learned how important it would be to optimize how his digestive system worked top to bottom so he was able to break down all the nutrients he needed from foods so he could be his strongest self as well as reduce inflammation from poor digestion. I learned how important reducing chronic inflammation was. With years of studying I learned how important it was to support his liver so he was able to clear all the medications he would need for surgeries. We knew how important his diet would be to ensure he had enough energy to keep up as best as he could, knowing he was working 20 times harder than other kids his age to simply stand.
The list goes on and on. We wanted him to function as best he could knowing he would struggle for his entire life to walk, stand, tie his shoes, and carry a backpack. Turns out there was a lot we could do.
During these years I realized the incredible need to bridge the gap between doctors and patients. We need to think beyond a diagnosis and more into practical ways to optimize any situation. No one ever mentioned food or lifestyle to help Levi function.
So I went back to school to figure out how we could make an impact on the rest of his body and to bridge the gap that we experienced. I spent over a decade searching for what was missing. First I studied Holistic Nutrition, then I studied Natural Medicine, then herbs, and I studied Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition which proved to be the methodical, truly holistic, curiosity driven, and systems-biology approach that I felt was so sorely missing. I began getting curious around what drives symptoms and disease, what can we do at a foundational level to make an impact, and how to educate and support people to make appropriate and sustainable changes.
I call this “what can i do wellness” or “optimistic health and wellness“.
Now, I get to listen to people, I get to hear their story, I teach them about their body, and help them to use food, herbs and lifestyle to optimize how they feel and function. I dig into the science of ‘what is going on in there?’ so we can get an idea of the root cause, or what might be driving or impacting symptoms or disease. I understand that we are all unique and that our environment talks to our genes and impacts their expression. People come to me now with all sorts of goals, diseases, symptoms, dysfunctions, hormone imbalances, history and life experiences. I listen carefully to each person and we map out their body systems including digestion, immune/inflammation, environment, energy production, detoxification, hormones/neurotransmitters, spirit/resilience, and physical integrity. We dig into their personal goals, their unique history, and focus on optimizing how all their body functions at a grass roots and foundational level. I help people to see how everything we do impacts our health; including sleep, stress, mindset, diet, relaxation, movement, and more. I spend the time helping people understand the science of that. There is always something we can do to make a difference and to support our goals if we just understand what’s going on in our own body.
All of this, coupled with my innate desire to find unbiased truth, has let me to my life’s work.
I wish I had someone 14 years ago to join our team and dig into this with us. But I am grateful for our experience as it brought me to where I am today. And I am grateful everyday for our oldest son who is my greatest teacher and who I wouldn’t change a thing about. He is currently writing a hero’s journey short story for high school english. He doesn’t know it yet but he is his own hero in his own journey and he is definitely mine.
“Sometimes a journey is not about the traveler. It is not about a destination. It is about the bringing together of worlds. It is about lighting a path.”
― Thomas Lloyd Qualls
*****On a side note, I should mention that our physical therapists have always been our heroes and wonderful advocates for Levi and our family. Deborah, Amy, and Christine. They did spend a great deal of time supporting us and getting curious with us regarding Levi’s physical movement. I will be forever in debt to our magnificent PTs. It is in fact my goal to bring that kind of thinking, problem solving, curiosity and attention to my clients only for me using food, lifestyle and herbs.