From sick gut to happy wholeness
“I’ve had problems with my stomach ever since I was a baby. All through my life I had tests, and no one could figure it out,” says Asheville resident Carol Conrad. She sought help from several angles —a gastroenterologist and a naturopath; different medications and supplements — but nothing worked.
“Finally I got so frustrated I looked up functional medicine doctors,” she says.
She turned to physician Susan Bradt at Family to Family, an Asheville integrative medicine practice. “Dr. Bradt suggested I do a comprehensive elimination diet, which rules out all kinds of food that might be triggers for me,” says Conrad. Doing the diet and learning what her food sensitivities were “solved lifelong problems,” she says. “All of it cleared up when I knew what the issues were.”
Bradt, a board-certified family physician, says she often uses the elimination diet with her patients. In medical school, she was taught that there are only “true allergies,” the ones that show up in allergy testing; but in practice she finds that “with the American diet and so much processed food, many people become sensitive. They get mild but chronic symptoms, so they don’t really realize [what’s causing problems],” she says.
“I’ve had so many people get on the elimination diet and their lives have changed unbelievably, because they learn their body is reacting to all kinds of stuff. It could be intestinal symptoms, joint pain, chronic migraines, depression, eczema, it could be any number of things,” Bradt says.
Conrad was blown away with how much better she felt — so much so that she went back to her old doctor to share the good news. She was flabbergasted to learn that her doctor knew about the diet but felt like “it would be too difficult for the patient to follow,” she says.
“It is a miracle,” Conrad says about her health improvement. In addition to the digestive issues, Bradt has helped Conrad reduce her high cholesterol using a natural supplement. “She has helped me in so many ways,” Conrad says about Bradt. “I feel so much better because of her and it has been so totally positive and powerful what she has done for me,” she says.
A neck-down transformation
“I woke up on Dec. 28 in so much pain I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t move my head. I couldn’t eat, it was bad,” says Asheville resident Lauren Sowers. “I had all the symptoms of whiplash but nothing to really account for it; there was no car accident,” she says.
The only thing she could think of was the stress of moving with her 2-year-old daughter and husband across the country and the physical strain of moving. They had only been in Asheville a week when the pain started.
“I tried all these conventional approaches to the problem,” she says, including seeing a doctor, taking anti-inflammatory medication, and trying chiropractic and physical therapy. “I had very minimal results, maybe what could be expected, but it just wasn’t lasting,” she says. Moreover, the chiropractic and physical therapy sessions were painful, and she had trouble getting herself to go back.
After eight months of suffering and fearing surgery might be her only option, she sought help from Nancy Hyton, an acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and owner of the Center for Holistic Medicine. “From the first treatment, I had a longer period of healing. It gradually went from where I could go a week before the pain set in, to two weeks, then a month. That is a health maintenance time frame I’m pretty comfortable [with],” Sowers says.
Once she could lie down comfortably, she added massage with Robert Kochka, one of the center’s massage therapists. “Robert was really awesome. The two treatments working together helped me a lot,” says Sowers. Within four months she was back to doing yoga.
“The whole situation, I think, was caused by stress,” says Sowers. She had moved across the country twice that year with her family, first from Ohio to San Francisco, and then from San Francisco to Asheville. Moreover, while in San Francisco, her husband was doing an intensive work training program and often not at home. “It was very exhausting; I was like a single parent, and then the moving.”
“I think what acupuncture did was reestablish the baseline for what my muscles should be like when they are at rest; slowly I learned to be at a resting state,” Sowers explains. “Now when I notice my muscles leave this state, where before it would just escalate and escalate … now I can redirect myself back to baseline.”
“I think in Western medicine, everyone comes at you with pills and abrupt fixes rather than seeing wellness as a journey. When you start with the integrative side of things you’re not there to be fixed; you’re there to start a new path,” Sowers says. “I feel like this is so awesome about Asheville — the community that is available to help with that.”
Susan Bradt, familytofamily.org or 251-2700
Nancy Hyton, and Robert Kochka centerholistic.com or 505-3174