I am thankful to be thriving now after decades of health problems. The gratitude I feel for my own health transformation propels my work helping people restore their brain health. I assist others to use diet and lifestyle to treat drivers of cognitive decline in a cost-effective way because we all deserve to fulfill our potential for vitality and cognitive clarity.
Though my story has a happy ending, it didn’t get off to a great start. My first signs of depression emerged after I was temporarily taken from my mother as a toddler. My childhood included lots of severe gut pain, bloating, headaches, and a summer spent lying around listlessly at age nine, wanting never to have been born. By my twenties, my medical diagnoses included irritable bowel syndrome, pre-diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, chronic depression, and insomnia. I was working as a research associate within the medical school’s Dept of Neurobiology at that time, so my health insurance and proximity gave me access to prestigious UCLA doctors. Their prescription medications didn’t help much and these well-meaning physicians failed to address the underlying causes of my chronic health conditions.
Although I was supposed to be in the prime of my life, I often felt awful and desparate for help. Then, one sensible doctor advised me to stop drinking the freshly squeezed orange juice I had believed was quite healthy. This simple dietary change immediately reeled in the blood sugar roller-coaster I was on and got me wondering: how else I could use food as medicine?! So, as my irritable bowel started to become disabling at age thirty, I took my healthcare into my own hands. I relied on my education in human biology, scientific training evaluating evidence, and desire to self-experiment. In the days before the explosion of health information on the internet, I slowly tested my personal hypothesis that eating, exercising, and living in a way that was more biologically appropriate for humans would improve my health. I gradually alleviated all the conditions that had incapacitated me. My improved health allowed me to conceive my lovely daughter in 2005. I felt like I had climbed out of an abyss and wondered how much higher I could climb.
My daughter inspired me to garden, source foods directly from farmers, and learn to cook delicious dishes from these ingredients, resulting in family meals that nourish our bodies and souls. The experience of postpartum sleep deprivation incited me to delve into aspects of health beyond diet and exercise, like sleep and community.
My journey wasn’t without setbacks. I wasn’t yet deeply invested in developing stress resiliency. After my younger sister and father both slowly died from cancer and I experienced a couple of relationship calamities, the sum of the blows seemed to unleash my genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease and my newfound health collapsed a bit. On the upside, these afflictions fueled my desire for a more rigorous and comprehensive understanding of lifestyle medicine.
In my late thirties, I went back to college to complete numerous UCSD courses in subjects including metabolic biochemistry, clinical nutrition, and kinesiology. I attended Ancestral Health Symposia both at UCLA and Harvard where I found my tribe and embraced the “mismatch theory”. And I became actively involved as a public health advocate. Eventually, I was drawn to functional medicine teachings about the interconnections between our complex physiological systems and psycho-social-emotional selves.
Although modern medicine can perform miraculous interventions for injuries and acute conditions, it lacks incentive for up-front investing in preventative health measures that would spare us prescriptions, procedures, and avoidable suffering later on. My life experiences sparked a drive to be the healthcare professional that could have been life-changing for myself and my family. I missed out on a lot of my youth feeling awful. I had been unable to afford premier holistic healthcare. Conventional healthcare had too often failed me and my family. I decided to become the change that I was seeking in healthcare.
So, in 2016, I started training in unconventional medicine to become a functional medicine health coach—a value provider of true preventative healthcare who uses diet and lifestyle to address the underlying drivers of both mental and physical illness.
During my health coach training, an incident shifted my being. My mother jumped off a bridge. This was a wake-up call about the preeminence of mind and spirit—that many of us, especially me, need to deal with stress, relationships, fears, and negative self-talk differently if we are to be truly well. Functional medicine elucidated how emotional, social, mind, gut, and brain health are intimately intertwined-—how the body affects the brain and how the mind influences the body.
With synchronicity, Dr Bredesen had recently published his 2016 paper “Reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.” The paper had me reflect on my grandmother’s decline with Alzheimer’s dementia. She had truly been the sweetest person in my life. To think that her dementia could have been prevented! The diet and lifestyle of Dr. Bredesen’s Reversing Cognitive Decline (ReCODE) Protocol™ lies where ancestral health and cutting-edge science converge. My previous career and travels have made me a person who gets fired up by cutting-edge science, unconventional thinking, and ancestral health.
So, at the end of 2017, I was primed for the opportunity to work a Bredesen-trained doctor with decades of experience utilizing integrative medicine. I went on to take Dr. Bredesen’s “Reversing Cognitive Decline Advanced Clinical Training” myself. The coalescence of opportunities, life events, and my passions cemented my career path. Optimizing brain health became my calling.
As I currently coach prevention and reversal of cognitive decline, I remain true to my roots by staying grounded in evidence-based science. At the same time, I use critical thinking and cultivate wisdom about diet and lifestyle therapies which do not yet have randomized controlled clinical trials in humans. And because I have always lived on a tight budget, I strive to steer people with cognitive issues toward true healing in a cost-effective way. I help people realize that if they are willing to invest time and effort into lifestyle medicine, they can make positive progress along their spectrum of health. Often times, the holistic health measures don’t have to be expensive or complicated to be powerful enough to reinvigorate you.
I continue to pursue my own life-long journey to rebalance and heal. I put the numerous aspects of the ReCODE Protocol™ into my daily life in an easy-going, affordable way. I get abundant pleasure from my Ketoflex™ diet, eat a lot, and don’t calorie count. I exercise in ways that I love, including local hikes with my daughter and/or friends. After many failed trial runs, I’ve settled into a regular meditation practice that compels me by easing my mind and helping it function better.
At the time of writing this in 2018, at age 48, I genuinely enjoy more overall wellness than anytime previously in my life. For instance, I feel strong, coordinated, and mobile for every activity I want to do. This contrasts my youth when I was labeled “uncoordinated” and never participated in a sport. Since adopting the ReCODE™ diet and lifestyle, my brain can finally pick up choreography enough for me, a non-dancer, to take urban dance with trained dancers less than half my age. Compared to the stifling depression that shrunk my world in the past, I stretch myself daily as a solo entrepreneur in a pioneering field of healthcare. I’m amazed at how both my body and mind are flourishing more in midlife than before. I’m finding my groove and I’m finding fulfillment in helping others do the same.