As is true for many health care practitioners in the field of functional medicine, I began to think “outside the box” of traditional western medicine as a result of my own health challenges. This began for me during menopause.
Menopause was extremely challenging for me, triggering severe, unrelenting, daily migraines and debilitating depression. I was treated with typical hormone regimens, and recovered enough to function, but never felt like myself again. True recovery came when I met a compounding pharmacist who taught me about Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT). When I started following her recommendations, I finally felt fully well again and regained my former vitality and sense of wellbeing.
The next step began when I recognized that my chronic digestive problems and weight issues were most likely due to Yeast Overgrowth Syndrome – something that we are taught in medical school does not exist. When I changed my nourishment to discourage the growth of yeast, I lost 1/3 of my body weight (70 lb!) and felt better than I had in about 20 years! My low-level fatigue, depression, and brain fog were gone!
The Power of Nourishment:
This experience was a very compelling example of the immense impact that our nourishment choices have in creating our health and wellbeing (or lack thereof). I wondered to myself, “Why don’t they teach this in medical school?” This natural approach to healing seemed much more effective than giving people lots of prescription medications and was much more aligned with my values.
The Power of Your Microbiome:
Now, 15 years after I first discovered how the balance of organisms in our gut affects our health, the medical establishment is beginning to acknowledge the truth of that observation. They now recognize the tremendous importance of our microbiome (the name for all the bacteria, funguses, and parasites that live within our gastrointestinal tract) and its role in causing such conditions as diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, fatigue, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, weight loss resistance, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune disorders, and more.
At this point I was fully dedicated to learning all that I could about Functional Medicine, a new field of healthcare devoted to finding the root cause of illnesses and reversing those causes as naturally as possible through nourishment, supplements, movement, and detoxification. I began practicing these principles and found that my patients were recovering their health more quickly and that I enjoyed my practice of medicine much more.
In my quest to help some of my sicker patients who seemed to have “Mystery Illnesses,” I mentored with a local mold-literate doctor who had trained under Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker. Dr Shoemaker researched and helped to define Mold Toxicity, or CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome). I learned his protocol and began using this with my patients, some of whom had great success. But others continued to suffer… What was going on with them and why weren’t they getting better?
My Own Mystery Illness:
Then, after emergency surgery for a ruptured disc, I developed my own debilitating “Mystery Illness”. Within 3 months of surgery I was experiencing overwhelming suicidal depression, and gradually over the next 6 months developed worsening fatigue, joint pain, cognitive dysfunction (“brain fog”), and cold intolerance. It took me 2 ½ years of determined searching to finally figure out why this had happened to me: I had Lyme Disease and Babesiosis. I had most likely been infected thirty years earlier in medical school, and the surgery along with exposure to high doses of steroids was the triggering event that activated the dormant illness.
Lyme and other Tick Borne Diseases:
I was stunned! No one had taught me anything about this in medical school! How could this be happening to me?
So, while pursuing my own treatment, I also set about learning everything I could about these conditions. Could this be the reason many of my “Mystery Illness” patients did not respond fully to the Shoemaker Protocol? I was blessed to mentor with, and be treated by, a local Lyme Literate doctor who had been treating Lyme for over 25 years. Over the next few months I learned that these very complex illnesses are much more common than we realize, and that there are not nearly enough trained health care practitioners who know how to diagnose and treat them. I also discovered that many of my Mystery Illness patients had diagnosable Tick Borne Diseases as well as Mold Toxicity. As we began treating the chronic infections and removing the toxins from their bodies, they began improving.
And so, I decided to become a Lyme Literate Doctor myself.