From Columbia’s community of Western-trained medical doctors, to individuals seeking greater health and wholeness through natural remedies, the city’s population of holistic advocates and consumers is on the rise. And the professional know-how and whole food consumer options are meeting the need.
Each month, books and magazines in the large spaces labeled “health and wellness,” “nutrition” and “diet” tout the latest news and advice. Although much of this ancient, rediscovered information is invaluable, the sheer volume is daunting and sometimes contradicting. It can be enough to discourage anyone from dipping a toe into the holistic world of natural remedies.
Rachel E. Hall, MD, knows this feeling. After graduating from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and completing a residency in family medicine at Palmetto Health Richland, Dr. Hall enjoyed a year-long fellowship in obstetrics for the family physician, an area of medicine she especially loves. She then accepted a faculty teaching position for USC’s residency program. Dr. Hall began to practice yoga, and over time she felt a growing desire to learn more about options beyond traditional medicine.
Dr. Hall recalled attending a conference on treating diabetes. “It was sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, and we saw one slide on diet and exercise and the rest of the slides were on drugs.” Dr. Hall’s curiosity grew when a flyer came across her desk which she nearly tossed into the trash. The cover sported a woman in a yoga pose meditating on the beach and was entitled: The 12th Annual Science and Clinical Application of Integrative Holistic Medicine. She was skeptical that the conference would be approved for her continuing education hours, but, notably, it was approved without dispute.
The conference changed the course of her personal and professional life. Dr. Hall found herself bobbing her head up and down in agreement. To her relief and excitement, she looked around at the 300 other clinicians and realized she wasn’t the only one convinced of the power of integrative holistic medicine.
After becoming board certified in Integrative Holistic Medicine, Dr. Hall created her business named, significantly, Expect Wellness.
Employees in the health food industry, such as Garner’s Natural Life, Rosewood Market and Deli, Earth Fare, Whole Foods and Good Life Café, meet people whose attitudes span the spectrum. Sometimes people complain that they just don’t feel good and lack energy and are beginning to suspect that what they are putting into their bodies, such as refined sugars and processed food, may be the culprit. Others have already begun the research and are enthusiastic about the next step.
The word “journey” is often spoken by people at this stage. Then there are those who are critically ill, and in addition to receiving traditional medicine, urgently want help and support to save their lives. Sadly, there are also persons who believe it is too late and too hard to live healthier, although the evidence shows any steps toward health are beneficial.
Buying organic nutrient-dense foods, plus good supplements is expensive. Stage four cancer survivor Anne Buck, former marketer for Good Life Café and frequent speaker on the holistic lifestyle around the greater Columbia area, became convinced after much personal research that if she were going to live, she had to jump into the raw, holistic camp.
“The more I read, the more motivated and excited I became,” Anne says. “I wanted my story to be like the countless stories of other cancer survivors. I learned that every cell has its own job to do, and when we introduce toxic or altered foods, normal cell and immune functions are affected. I gained a new appreciation of the order, complexity and beauty of the created world. Processed foods just don’t make sense at the cell level. Continual consumption eventually causes things to go terribly awry.
“I switched to a completely plant-based diet and eliminated all refined sugar for the first 18 months following my diagnosis. All of my tumors disappeared after only five months. I was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The only perceived side effect I had from chemo was hair loss. I attribute the lack of side effects and rapid tumor reduction to the integrative approach,” Anne says. “My oncologist said what the two of us were doing was working, and I have to agree.” So as Anne made the transition, she avoided the center aisles of the grocery stores. Eliminating pre-packaged foods offset the higher cost of organic whole foods.
Getting Started: The Gut
It is widely accepted in the medical community that gastrointestinal health is the root cause for many health issues, including brain function, mental health, a strong immune system, vitamin and mineral absorption, dopamine release, digestion … and on and on. This is the reason for the numerous cleansing programs and probiotics available on the shelves.
There are 100 million nerve cells that line the GI tracts, and to function correctly this Enteric Nervous System in the gut continually communicates back and forth with the brain. An April 9, 2015 article in Cell Journal, written by Jessica Stoller Conrad, refers to the gut as “your body’s second brain.”
According to Kristi King, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an imbalance in good and bad bacteria causes inflammation and impedes function, including the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is linked to depression, ADHD, dementia, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, food sensitivities, a weak immune system and other problems. Thus, the first step toward health is to provide the GI tract with good bacteria, or probiotics. Foods packed with this flora include yogurt, kefir, sour pickled foods, sauerkraut and the fizzy drink called kombucha.
Because there are so many probiotic strains, Dr. Hall recommends, in addition to consuming probiotic-rich foods, a good supplement that has 40 to 50 billion cfu’s with at least 10 different strains. She cautions that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements, so be careful when buying. In fact, the three other supplements that Dr. Hall recommends for everyone, regardless of what ailment is being treated, are a plant-based multivitamin, a good fish oil and vitamin D-3 as cholecalciferol. Buy from small holistic stores or a certified doctor. These supplements are important for overall strength and health. Before beginning any supplements, consult your doctor. Some supplements can interfere with medicines, or may be unsafe for pregnant women or children, for example.
Dr. Shelly Jones of Chiropractic Wellness Center practices chiropractic with a vitalistic philosophy, which boils down to the understanding that the body is designed to be healthy, and everything the body does, all day long, is with that goal. Dr. Jones says, “The first step I take with my patients is to make any corrections to the spine, re-establishing its function so the nervous system can do its job, which is to coordinate adaptive responses for the body to function and heal.” The next process is to remove acid from the body, or alkalize the body, and Dr. Jones recommends dietary changes and nutritional products, such as sodium potassium bicarbonate to this end.
“What I hope for all of my patients,” says Dr. Jones, “is to experience that ‘aha!’ moment; to realize the more optimally your spine and nervous system are functioning, the better you can perform in every area of your health and life.” From that point of view people become inspired to listen to and support what the body is communicating. “We may need Western medicine to intervene in a crisis or traumatic event, and that is when it works best, but it doesn’t need to be a lifestyle.”
In his influential book, Food is Your Best Medicine, Henry G. Bieler, MD states, “The primary cause of disease is not germs but rather toxins from improper foods, lifestyle and stress.” Once those toxins are on the way out, it’s time to look at the kitchen as the new medicine cabinet. Summer is a great time to follow another accepted healthy habit: eat fresh and local.
Turmeric, Ginger and Cardamom
Turmeric, “Queen of Spices,” is a common herb used in cooking around the world. According to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, it contains “a wide range of antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also loaded with protein, fiber, niacin, vitamins C, E and K, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc, and can boost oral health. Turmeric is most commonly thought of as a curry spice, but it can also be added to fish, eggs, smoothies and salads. Ginger and cardamom, cousins to turmeric as part of the Zingiberacae family, share many of the same health benefits.
Go ahead and add lemon to iced tea and fresh, cold water. Packed with antioxidant properties, vitamin C and folate, it can be used medicinally for the treatment of headaches, throat infections, indigestion, arthritis, insect bites and even dandruff. In fact, most commercial shampoos leave toxins in the hair, so in addition to drinking the juice of a lemon, applying diluted lemon juice on the hair follicles promotes a healthy scalp.
The beautiful Aloe vera plant, part of the Aloaceae or lily family, is used by moms and doctors to treat burns of all kinds, including sunburn. A snap of the stem and the medicinal gel instantly soothes. Research on this ancient plant is pointing to other remedies, from relief of heartburn to slowing down the spread of cancer. Because it is designed to live in dry climates, the leaves store water. “The combination of the moist leaf and special plant compounds called complex carbohydrates make it an effective face moisturizer and pain reliever.” When purchasing Aloe vera, be cautious about the quality, because often the pure aloe is only a minor ingredient.
Garlic is considered a “superfood” because of its wide-ranging health benefits, from its antiviral properties, its many vitamins and nutrients, and its healing impact on everything from earaches to bug bites. According to the National Cancer Institute, “Several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers.”
These healthful effects occur when two substances within the garlic cells, alliin and alliinase, mix together and become an enzyme called allicin. The kitchen becomes a chemical laboratory when garlic is chopped or crushed. Eating garlic raw preserves the allicin, so for fresh summer meals add it to homemade salsa, dressings and pesto. If cooking with garlic, first crush the cloves, wait 10 minutes, then add it to heat. This allows the chemical reaction to occur and do its healthful magic.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Don’t forget the organic apple cider vinegar when packing for the beach. It will come in handy for sunburned skin, as well as jellyfish stings. Apple cider vinegar can be applied topically, added to bath water for a good soak or consumed. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used raw apple cider vinegar for a multitude of things, and since 400 B.C., the list has been growing. From non-toxic cleaning, to weight loss, wart removal, shiny skin and energy boost, this natural remedy can positively impact home, health, beauty, hygiene and food.
Not yet a part of the growing number of enthusiastic consumers journeying toward a more holistic, natural lifestyle? This summer, stop by one of Columbia’s many holistic establishments to see what’s going on. Don’t get overwhelmed — just listen to your “gut.”