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Solving the Symptom Puzzle -Wellness through Functional Medicine

Each day, I woke up feeling like I had run a triathlon the day before. My joints hurt, my muscles burned. I was achy and tired. I experienced chronic pain every single day and every single night. What was going on with my body? Why was it betraying me?

Eleven years ago, I stood on the landing and started to cry because I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get up the six stairs to my bedroom. My husband, who had already tested positive for Lyme urged me to see a specialist. Soon I was on a three-month course of antibiotics, which alleviated some of the worst symptoms. I thought I was cured.

But no. Certain symptoms persisted and new ones cropped up. It became clear that something was very wrong. I consulted a battalion of doctors and specialists, presenting each of them with a neatly typed list of my bizarre and inconclusive symptoms.

I was variously tested for and/or diagnosed with Lyme disease, post Lyme fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism, and Sjögren’s syndrome. I became pre-diabetic. Doctors continued to prescribe a cornucopia of drugs. Nothing helped except prednisone, which is an effective but pernicious steroidal drug you cannot take long term because of the awful side effects (eroded bones, hair loss, weakened immune system, a hunchback). I was diagnosed with a “non-specific auto-immune disease.”

The information I was given was contradictory and confusing: eat gluten free, eat dairy free, eat nuts, don’t eat nuts, try low carb/high protein, eat high fiber/low protein, eat a plant-based diet, eat lectin-free foods, avoid nightshades vegetables, eat fruit, don’t eat fruit, take vitamins, don’t take vitamins because they could cause liver toxicity.

One doctor told me that I just needed to accept the fact that I was getting older. Seriously? I had tried everything that conventional medicine had to offer, and it was only making me sicker, so I decided it was time to investigate other options. I believed that someone, somewhere would be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out how to make me well.

When I first consulted with Dr. John Salerno of the Salerno Wellness Center (salernocenter.com), now located in the Sportsplex (he also has a long-standing practice in New York), I was polite but secretly skeptical. I’d been down this path many times before with other doctors, and gotten nowhere. However, a very small part of me was also hopeful. Maybe this doctor would unravel the enigma of my health woes?

Dr. Salerno is affable, smart, and he really listens. He is a symptom detective who analyzes your medical history and works systematically to find root causes of illness. Over the years, he has treated and cured thousands of patients who have presented with a host of different conditions. He is a whiz at diagnosis. Dr. Salerno predicted what my blood work would reveal, and he was right.

My hormone levels were a disaster—low estrogen, low progesterone, and testosterone so minimal that the lab could barely measure it. Apparently prolonged use of prednisone diminishes hormones. Who knew? My adrenal glands were in distress, and my thyroid levels were sub-optimal. Thanks to the frequent use of antiperspirant, I also had high levels of aluminum in my blood. And arsenic. Arsenic? Apparently rice and wine are to blame. Dr. Salerno encouraged me to adopt a low carb lifestyle and to choose organic wines. My vitamin D, C and B were also deficient.

Dr. Salerno also said possibly the nicest thing any doctor can say to a patient: “It’s not your fault.” I almost wept. I was so grateful not to be judged for my health challenges. He provided me with a list of supplements to take and prescriptions for bio-identical hormones. He tweaked my thyroid meds and customized IV treatments specifically for me (Dr. Salerno has 36 proprietary IVs for every ailment and condition imaginable).

Not everyone believes in using this approach to wellness, but all I can tell you is that I am a convert. Within six weeks of following a plan designed to balance my thyroid function, shore up my vitamin deficiencies, and stabilize my hormones, I felt and looked a lot better. I dropped eight pounds and the chronic muscle pain that plagued me for years diminished by 90 percent. My rosacea has calmed down and food sensitivities have disappeared. I no longer wake up at 3:07 am, unable to fall back asleep. My blood sugar levels are now normal. Am I running marathons? No. I am cycling, swimming, and feeling so much better. Functional medicine may not be for everybody, but it is the right choice for me.

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Weird Science – local innovative health & wellness advances

deep freeze Cryo-Arctic is a new cryotherapy studio in Mt. Kisco where they treat inflammation and pain by exposing the skin to temperatures between -150°C to -180°C for three minutes in a whole-body cryotherapy machine. The studio’s owner, Sean Dawson, says “I suffered from lupus for over 20 years. I realized that medication was not [...]read moreWeird Science – local innovative health & wellness advances

Fit for Life – A Gym For Every Need

Litchfield affords a wealth of outdoor activities from walking, hiking, climbing, swimming, to skiing and snowshoeing. To get in shape for these sports, it also offers a variety of gyms and fitness centers that cater to every need. Whether you want to pump iron, practice yoga or Pilates, have a go at a treadmill or [...]read moreFit for Life – A Gym For Every Need

How to Keep Your Skin, Hair, and Face Glowing And Safe

Surf, sun, and sand are a popular trio until they take their toll on your skin, hair, and face. So we asked some local experts how to keep your looks on the up and up as the temperatures go up and up. Here’s what they had to say. Hair Happenings The elements really take their [...]read moreHow to Keep Your Skin, Hair, and Face Glowing And Safe

What You Need to Know About CBD and Why it Matters

Imagine trying to rope a bronco—wearing a pair of Prada pumps. That’s how Ridgefield area shoppers feel navigating the nascent, unregulated, yet exploding Wild West industry of CBD. Tackling this uncharted territory involves a steep learning curve—an ability to understand and verify a product’s purity, legality, and safety, not to mention determining which product type [...]read moreWhat You Need to Know About CBD and Why it Matters

Weed Between the Lines – Cultivating a New World for Medical Marijuana

Governor Ned Lamont has been vocal about ending the prohibition of recreational marijuana use in our state, yet federal law still treats cannabis as a highly addictive controlled substance, with the same classification as cocaine and heroin. The conflict between state and federal law seems tantamount to the contrast of old world with new. In one scene we see a seedy drug dealer selling dime bags on a corner and in another, a clean, organized state-of-the art dispensary. The image of a user transcends from hippie or street thug to clean-cut business people and grannies wearing track suits. This might leave some to wonder how our neighbors and friends really feel about marijuana legalization in our state.

Fairfielder Chris Mayle has a deep personal interest in medical marijuana. He and three partners opened Advanced Grow Labs (AGL) in 2014, which was recently acquired by a publicly traded company named Green Thumb industries. Located in West Haven, AGL researches, develops and produces medical marijuana products—nurturing the progress every step of the way—from plant to finished product.
Current occupation notwithstanding, Mayle is an interesting man to know—intelligent, insightful, and incredibly proud of the business he and his partners have built. He is also the son of Peter Mayle, the author of the New York Times bestseller, A Year in Provence. Mayle believes medical marijuana products are natural, plant-based pharmaceuticals that will continue to make a big impact on the health and comfort of the people who need them. “I think we have just scratched the tip of the iceberg on this,” he says passionately. “I think we will look back in 100 years and say, ‘I can’t believe we didn’t figure that one out sooner.’ ”

“Doctors are starting to believe that THC is having a profound impact on people with a variety of illnesses,” Mayle says. Sarena Kelly, an APRN with Advanced Rheumatology Center of Bridgeport, has seen the positive effects in her practice. “Researchers have identified two different types of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies that have a direct effect on pain and inflammation. Thus, the therapeutic effect of consuming exogenous cannabinoid is to directly reduce pain and inflammation.”

In fact, Connnecticut’s medical marijuana program has recently extended the medical indications for multiple rheumatic conditions. “In our practice CBD or cannabis therapeutics are considered a safe complementary treatment for patients who are receiving, have failed, or are intolerant of standard of care therapies,” Kelly says.
“We need more research to figure it out, but with diseases like Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, and ALS, CBD has been very helpful,” Mayle says. “CBD alone won’t do it. But CBD combined with THC is known to relieve symptoms of myriad diseases including MS, Crohn’s disease, HIV, glaucoma, cancer, and many more.”

One Fairfielder, Christy Damon Jeffremow, eschews the use of opiates and now relies on medical marijuana to help alleviate side effects from chemotherapy. “I have no shame shouting from the roof tops all of the ways that marijuana has helped me,” she says expressively. When she first got her prescription she went to the closest dispensary, located in Branford. “I was nervous at first, but everyone there was extremely helpful in suggesting which strains would work for me. They recommended a sativa “Tangerine Haze” for nausea and an Indica “Girl Scout Cookies” for migraines.”

Perhaps the best way to understand the art and science behind the business is to tour a facility like AGL. The first thing worth noting is the fanatical “operation-room-like” attention to cleanliness the lab requires. Each employee must stand in a high-pressure air shower every time they enter the lab to blast off bugs or other impurities. Each of the 50 employees receives a clean uniform they must wear each day. Access to the labs is monitored closely through digital key fobs and security cameras.

First on the tour is a meeting of the mother plants and their baby clones at several phases, and then, as Mayle says “you get to see where the magic and the medicine happens” in the grow room where strong artificial sunlight showers the plants, creating lush greenery with huge, sticky marijuana buds. From here they are harvested, then dried or processed.

The processing facility features cutting edge machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are operated by cheerful millennials who pridefully explain the science of their particular role. In the state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, every baked treat is measured and created with precision to ensure each holds the proper dosage of medicine. “Connecticut is by far the most stringent of all states when it comes to purity and regulation for this medicine,” Mayle explains.

Fairfielders have mixed feelings about the legalization. While most are impressed with what they hear about its healing and medicinal properties, one Fairfield Dad disagrees. “I fear that recreational marijuana becoming legal will impact safety on the roads and the quality of work produced by our working population, who might not keep recreational use to after-work hours. Making marijuana legal for recreational use could also make it more available to younger people and send the message that’s “it’s fine.”

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Kripalu brings its RISE program to businesses near and far

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Hidden rivers are where locals escape from summer crowds

As the prospect of summertime looms, life in the Berkshires begins to slow down to a pace that invites relaxation, exploration, and an influx in population. For many, venturing off the beaten path is mandatory, and retreating to the banks of a nearby river—to lie across a lounge chair or a blanket, to swim, and [...]read moreHidden rivers are where locals escape from summer crowds

Mom Squad — Helping new mothers embrace motherhood

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The timing couldn’t have been worse, but the result couldn’t have been better. Maya Donald was 24 and exceling at her job in customer service for a telecommunications company, when she learned that she was pregnant. She’d also just ended a romantic relationship with the baby’s father. Having an infant at this point in her [...]read moreMom Squad — Helping new mothers embrace motherhood

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