Well hello there! I'm in a fantastic mood. More so than normal. My amazing friend Larissa is getting married next month and I am on a sky bird to Scottsdale to party with 16 sassy babes.
Now that we have that out of the way, I wanted to dive in a little bit into alternative medicine. How's that for a segue?
Maybe it's just a new fad, or a growing awareness due to social media, or part of our cultural cycle, but it's seems to me that mainstream medicine is getting the boot.
Western medicine, while touted as the more scientific and "safe" route, is currently being looked at by many with fresh eyes. Do we need all these prescriptions? Should we have health providers that assist us in proactively maintaining our health instead of just treating the issue after it's already occurred? Does this treatment really get to the root of the problem, or just does it just cover it up with chemicals?
Now before I go on, I would like to state that I in NO WAY renounce Western medicine. If I am in an accident, laying on a table about to die with my body ripped open, and I have a choice between a Shaman with sage and sandalwood, and a doctor in a white coat with a scalpel, I'm going with the PhD. But in my day to day health, and even in the event of cancer, or illnesses that I have time to research and experiment with, I 100% think we need to be open to thinking outside of the box.
Yes, Tylenol almost immediately relieves pain. Yes, Claritin will kick my allergies to the curb within an hour. And yes, antibiotics will rid me of bacterial ailments. But at what cost?
What price am I paying to temporarily relieve uncomfortable symptoms? Not only do I want to know the long term effects and possible imbalances that ingesting certain chemicals could provide, but I'm a believer in letting things run their course. That's a personal preference and I would never hold anyone to the same ideology, but it's important to note, because that's what led me on a path to meet with an Ayurvedic Doctor.
After the Whole30 my digestive system was on strike. I was bloated, I was backed up, and I did not feel, shall we say "light" or "spry." Don't get me wrong - I loved the Whole30. It completely reset my eating habits and cravings. But part of the reason I was excited to do it was to find out if I had a food intolerance so I could possibly lean out, be more regular, and feel my best.
Unfortunately I did the opposite of lean out and was a bloated mess at the end. (I did love the fact that 30 days of no booze didn't do shit for me. My skin wasn't better, my head wasn't clearer, my stomach wasn't flatter. So I'll drink as much wine and whiskey as I want now without the nagging in the back of my mind that I'd feel better if I didn't. Best result ever!)
So after The Whole30, it was back to drawing board. If it wasn't gluten, dairy, or sugar, then what was making me irregular and bloated?
I had stumbled across Ayurveda during an iPhone blog/instagram rabbit hole trip one day. I identified with Vata constitutions and the idea of ancient medicine (I use the term ancient loosely, I know compared to other Eastern medicines it's not nearly as old) and I loved the idea of eating in season and balancing your diet with the weather and climate. I also firmly believe that natural is always better. It was a form of medicine I hadn't heard much about, so I dove in.
To put it simply, Ayurveda is an Indian medicine that is often referred to as the sister medicine of Yoga. It is based on the premise that we are all composed of 3 Doshas: Vata, Kapha, and Pitta. Each of us has different balances of each of these Doshas. I am considered more Vata (small frame, sometimes frail, thin dry hair, dry skin, gets cold easily, etc.) So the idea is that I need to balance this dry, light, coldness with lots of warm, heavy, nourishing foods; lots of fat and oils; especially in the winter. The last thing someone who is prone to dryness and coldness in the winter wants to do is eat dry, cold food. So as a Vata in the winter I need to increase my intake of soups, healthy fats, hot teas, and cooked veggies. For more information on Ayurveda, I found this site the most helpful in the beginning stages of research.
Fast forward a few weeks and I google Ayurvedic doctors in my area and do a little digging (literally one of my favorite past times - jack of trades, master of none...) and end up making an appointment with an Ayurvedic Doctor in northern Colorado.
Side note: I have a high deductible health plan through ADP and while most alternative medicine is not covered by many providers, it does qualify as an eligible expense for my HSA account. So while the appointment wasn't cheap ($175 for an hour and a half I believe) I still didn't have to pay out of pocket.
The initial appointment was an hour and a half. I filled out a lot of paperwork - but.not your typical paperwork - more like lifestyle paperwork. She wanted to know what my morning routine was, how I handled stress, what growing up was like, how I spaced out my meals and what I ate, if and when I meditated, and what my exercise routine looked like. She analyzed my skin, the color of my tongue, the texture of my hair, and my facial bone structure.
She was very nice, very knowledgeable, and even let me stay and talk to her for over 2 hours and didn't charge me anything extra. Her office was calming, and the overall experience was great. She took a week to review what we had talked about, and got a game plan together for me.
A week later I came back for my follow up appointment. I was given a five sheet pamphlet on what she had determined to be my constitution, and what I needed to do bring balance back to all 3. It included a summary of where I was at currently, foods to eliminate, herbs to include, and recipes for both. Her main concern was that I had bacteria in my gut that was feasting on sugars and not only causing my bloating, but King-Of-The-Hilling the rest of the nutrients reaching my insides and keeping them all for its own growth and sustenance and therefore blocking the positive outcomes that should occur with a healthy diet.
For the next two weeks I was to meditate with a certain breathing and vision exercise daily, along with what I concluded was a human de-worming drink. Sorry guys, that's what it was. I was to drink the herbal mix with castor oil and two boxes of the de-wormer, and steer clear of sugars, alcohols, dairy, and gluten.
I held back the tears.
I had JUST gotten done with the Whole30! Didn't she understand that I had held myself to a strict standard and not cheated ONCE?? FOR 30 DAYS? And now was sitting on her yoga pad with her notebook and essential oils and was telling me I would have to eliminate gluten, dairy, sugar, and alcohol all over again?
But I was willing to try. The idea that I could actually kick this bloating had taken over. I hadn't realized how uncomfortable it was until there was hope that I could actually remedy it.
So I took my herbs and de-wormer and gave it a go.
The stuff was gross. No way around that. Castor oil, powder that tasted like dirt, and banana flavored de-wormer. Yum.
Oh! And the meditations. You guys. I have NEVER had problems controlling my bladder when I sleep. Even when I was so hammered people put condoms on my face and took pictures in college, I never had bladder issues. But one week of grounding meditation where I focused mainly on the pelvic region and the release of that area, and I wake up in the middle of the night mid pee! Say what you want, the meditation was clearly working...
So I I did it. To be honest, I gave it about 80% effort. We had a weekend cabin getaway planned and I wasn't going to bail on wine and steak that was already planned for. So I did the best I could up to that point.
And it worked. Mostly.
While the bloating didn't subside as much as I'd hoped, the other 3 digestive issues I was having completely cleared up by the end of the two weeks. And that was just with me giving it 80%.
But still, at that moment in my life I was not ready for a large lifestyle shift.
I also am not ready to leave my physical body up to spirituality and a prognosis that didn't actually take a look at anything inside. I was left feeling a little bit like she just guessed. She obviously guessed right l, but the type A side of me wanted to see a blood test and some X-rays.
I think a mix of traditional medicine philosophy with modern medicine statistical data would be the most helpful for both my brain and my heart. So, while I haven't been back to an Ayurvedic doctor, I have taken a few tips and tricks from it along the way.
What I found most helpful was the simplest change to make: drinking my water at room temperature. Also not eating my veggies raw too often, and grounding meditation. I saw improvements from all three.
I also am interested in seeing a Naturopath Doctor as well. From what I can tell, that specific practice seems to combine the science and holistic philosophies I am looking for.
But, until I have a couple grand to play around with, I think I'll just keep drinking my water warm and cooking my veggies and meditating - while also remembering to always listen to my body.