"Raising Vitality is the Medicine of Miracles"
by Clinical Herbalist, Alene Sidle
This is a case example of what happens when a client is supported to restore the foundations of health, rather than relying on herbs alone to do the work. In such cases the vital life force bubbles up and space is created for the individual to take healing into their own hands. The clinician provides the client with tools to be an active participant in their own healing journey. These tools alter the terrain of physiology to create positive change and allow the body to truly heal. Vitalism is based on the idea that the body, when given the right foundation, knows how to heal itself. The foundation of health includes; a correction of nutrient deficiencies, ensuring adequate sleep, proper movement or exercise, addressing root causes of inflammation by screening for food intolerances, spending time in nature, and using our herbal allies to support us while making these changes. This list may seem short but these life changes are monumental to one's health and vitality. The case below is a testament to this premise.
A 45-year-old woman who tends toward a cold and dry constitution with 2 children came to the ACORN clinic presenting with: body tension and pain, diagnosed B12 deficiency, anemia, recurring herpes outbreaks, extreme dandruff, anxiety, and intermittent diarrhea. We will call her Mrs. G for confidentiality’s sake.
Mrs. G came in with low energy and menstrual pain. She was getting herpes outbreaks in correlation with her monthly cycles. She was feeling run down and at a loss of what to do, Mrs. G is also a recovering alcoholic. She tends to eat mostly from the farmers market and enjoys eating organic whole foods. However, would allow space in her diet to eat occasional junk foods 20-30% of the time. She loves bread, butter, and cheese. Mrs. G has a known sensitivity to soy products which caused her severe abdominal pain and diarrhea, but she would still eat them occasionally.
In these symptoms Mrs. G was showing patterns of leaky gut caused by food intolerance that was diminishing her nutrient absorption and liver clearance. When I first brought up the idea of food intolerances and the possibility of an elimination diet, she was very resistant and said that she did not want to explore that option. She did not want to restrict food in any way.
"My main focus was to build Mrs. G up through supplementation, increased protein, herbs, and a whole food diet.
The supplements that I recommended are essential to building a foundation of health and these are majorly lacking in our modern-day food supply due to soil depletion. They are nutrients the body needs to function properly."
This is the supplement protocol she agreed to do:
Multivitamin to give the body a base of essential nutrients.
Magnesium, Mrs. G was presenting with many signs of magnesium deficiency including; cramps, muscle stiffness, poor liver clearance, low energy and anxiety. Most people are magnesium deficient because of soil depletion. Magnesium is essential in over 400 enzymatic functions throughout the body. I recommended she take 600 mg of magnesium per day in divided doses of 300 mgs taken morning and evening.
Omega 3 fatty acids, 3,000 mg of EPA/ DHA combined per day. This is a therapeutic dose for 1 month and then dropped down to 2,000 mg. With our modern diet most people are not getting enough omega 3’s to balance out the relative omega 6 intake. Omega 3’s are powerfully anti-inflammatory and moistening to the system. Signs of Mrs. G’s omega 3 deficiency were anxiety, pain during menses and mood swings, and dandruff.
Vitamin D, 5,000 IU per day. When we had our first meeting it was in winter when the body does not produce Vitamin D from the sun. Vit. D supports healthy immunity, connective tissue integrity, stable moods, lowered inflammation, reduced muscle pain, and repair of the gut lining.
B-Complex, as directed on the bottle until finished. There are B vitamins in the multivitamin I recommended, however in order to fill her nutrient reserves I added 1 bottle worth of B vitamins. B vitamins support liver detoxification, hormone regulation, mood, energy and immunity.
Vitamin C, 2,000 mg per day to support iron absorption and connective tissues. Alcohol abuse strips vitamin C from the body.
Mrs. G was showing signs of protein deficiency in her symptoms of fatigue, depression, and issues with hair and skin. Protein boosts energy, builds the blood, restores connective tissue and detoxifies the liver. For her body weight she should be eating between 70-140 g of protein a day. Ideally getting 25-30 g at breakfast. I had her start doing general protein counts throughout the day and realized that she was not getting over 30 g per day. When she increased her protein counts she noticed that she had more energy, was less anxious, and more satiated throughout the day.
I recommended a leaky gut and liver support tea of peppermint, chamomile, fennel, licorice, plantain, burdock, St. John wort, marshmallow, orange peel, ginger, cinnamon, and raspberry leaf. This formula changed a couple times during our visits to switch it up. She loved her tea formulas and they helped with some of the digestive issues. Even though the tea was helping to heal the gut lining and reduce inflammation it was not getting to the root of the inflammation which was a food intolerance.
"Even though the tea was helping to heal the gut lining and reduce inflammation it was not getting to the root of the inflammation which was a food intolerance"
I gave her some herbal remedies to alleviate her symptoms while she was making changes in her diet and lifestyle. These included a honey paste herbal formula for pain, a topical oil for pain, a topical treatment for herpes outbreaks, topical hair rinse and hot oil treatment for the dandruff. All of these remedies helped to a certain extent, but they were mostly palliative rather than curative, as they did not get to the root of the matter. She enjoyed doing them and they all seemed to fall away from her treatment plan as she started to feel better. The herbs helped her feel like she was in control of her own healing, but they did not resolve her symptoms completely.
Evolution of the Case
After 2 months of working together Mrs. G made a lot of changes. She optimized her protein as instructed and did all the herbal remedies prescribed. The pain in her body had been going down and was not as debilitating however she would still get symptom flares. Her dandruff was clearing up and she felt the hair rinse was helping. She had only had one small herpes outbreak and her anxiety was better but still would have occasional bouts of it.
Her diarrhea was the main complaint at this point. She was tired of it. We talked about food intolerances again. She was still resistant, but at this point she was willing to hear me out. The fact that she was willing to listen about this subject showed me that her vitality was rising. Something in her saw the value of what I had to say.
"We talked about food intolerances again. She was still resistant, but at this point she was willing to hear me out"
I sent her some educational information about food intolerances, some recipe resources and substitution ideas. Over the next couple of weeks, we had some conversations back and forth about how food intolerances can be like addictions.
To my surprise Mrs. G had cut out gluten on her own accord by our next visit. She was delighted to find that 75% of her digestive issues had disappeared. She felt like she could see clearly now that all the work she had been doing to nourish her body with a focus on getting adequate protein set her up to make this leap. By the time she was gluten free for six weeks, her diarrhea had resolved. She felt clear headed, emotionally stable, and her brain fog was gone. She still was experiencing some body pain which led me to believe that there may be another offending food. However, this is where the case ends for now. She is open to doing a larger elimination diet to see if there are any more offending foods. We have yet to schedule the next appointment.
"This case showed me how to trust in a person's vitality"
This case has been so beautiful to watch. It is a wonderful example of when you give the necessary nutrients to function properly the vitality rises and people surprise even themselves in the changes they are willing to make. When I first started meeting with this client I never thought in a million years she would be open to an elimination diet. By supporting her boundaries, filling her nutrient reserves and continuing to educate her I watched my client transform before my eyes. As some of her inflammation went down it allowed for more flexibility in her own ideals, she was able to soften and the space was created to try something new. With the elimination of gluten she was able to resolve some of the primary issues that had been vexing her for years. When we first started our journey together she could never imagine living without gluten and now she cannot imagine living with it. As some things get better in the body, other lingering issues get louder. I trust when the time is right she will take the next step in her healing journey. She now has the tools to accomplish this on her own when she chooses.
This case showed me how to trust in a person's vitality. If I show up with compassion, support and education, a way will be made to transform chronic issues into resolution. As an herbalist all I can do is share the tools for the client to implement, but they are the ones that have to do the work. In school we are told to “support the resistance, yet tell the truth.” We can never push someone into making health changes unwillingly, and yet there is an obligation to share the knowledge of our clinical experience to provide an informed choice in healthcare. With small attainable goals set over a period of months you can watch people climb mountains.