Mother nature is a well-spring of healing solutions for many of our health problems. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of this and would reach out for medications instead. Moving us into the world of naturopathy, Timothy J. Hayes, Psy.D. interviews Rebecca Culley-Healey, ND, the owner of Hawthorn & Violet Naturopathic Services and Herbal Apothecary—a unique herb store that offers over 200 organic dried herbs, tinctures, and other natural health products. In this episode, Rebecca takes us into her areas of special interest, herbalism and genetics, and shares how strong of an impact the variety of plants from our natural environment has on our bodies. She then talks further about gut health, how it affects our mental health, and some of the holistic approaches we can take to take care of our overall well being better. Sometimes, the health solutions we are looking for may just be in our backyard. Follow along with Rebecca as she imparts her great knowledge about the plants and herbs that will keep us well-nourished and more.
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Holistically Nourished: Naturopathy, Herbalism, And Mental Health With Rebecca Culley-Healey, ND
Rebecca Culley-Healey, ND completed her studies at the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education. She was board certified by the American Naturopathic Medical Certification Board in 2017.
Rebecca, thank you for being here. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Thanks for inviting me.
You were highly recommended by someone who’s benefited from your services. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into what you’re doing and why you have such a passion for your work?
I have always been connected to plants. I’ve always loved plants and flowers. I thought what I was going to do originally was genetics. That’s what I studied when I was in college for the first time. I stayed home with my children for several years. Through the course of that, I started to learn from other mothers how helpful some of these natural herbs were, chamomile tea or a little bit of peppermint tea for an upset tummy and that sparked my interest. When my children were a little bit older and I felt ready to continue my career, I found a community herbalist. She was speaking of one of the groups that I was a part of. It triggered my interest.
I asked her about her training. She pointed me in the direction of a place called the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education in Michigan. Before I knew it, I was enrolled there. That was in 2012 that I started my studies there. It took about five years to complete the studies. At the end of that, I was able to sit for the National Board Certification to be a naturopathic doctor. Along the way, I was able to incorporate herbs at a deep level into my studies. I took additional training through Jim McDonald who is an herbalist here in Michigan. That opened my eyes to the variety of plants that grow around us in our natural environment and what a strong impact they can have on the body.
Tell us a little bit about how you offer your services and how people find you?
I have an office in Fenton, Michigan. I also am attached to a storefront that I opened a few years ago. People can find me on my website, which is HawthornAndViolet.com. People can read up on some of the services that I offer. One of the things that I discovered was that I would make all of these recommendations for people and sometimes it was hard for them to source it locally. Sometimes ordering things online got a little bit questionable. I started to stop folk herbs and tinctures that I could recommend directly to my people.
It’s been wonderful because the community can stop in and we can have a quick chat. They can pick out what teas they would like to try for themselves, tinctures, essential oils or CBD oil. One of the services that I offer that’s relatively new, one that I started offering, that incorporates some of my past studies which are genetics. It’s helping to match a person on a genetic level. We use some genetic information if they’ve had some genetic testing done with some other factors and find a unique nutritional program for them.
One of the things that I encounter a lot is when people come in to see me and other doctors that they come in with a symptom or a series of symptoms they want to get rid of or they want something to change specifically. My knowledge about integrative and naturopathic studies is that you tend to take a more holistic approach. You look at the system. What’s the most common pattern of things people come in to see you for? What does it look like when people receive a consult from you?
Often when people will come in, they’ll have some papers that they filled out beforehand that give me some idea of some of their history. We spend a long time talking and connecting. It’s different for everybody. Somebody might have a diagnosis of anxiety. Anxiety for one person may look a whole lot different than anxiety for another person. We spend a lot of time talking and connecting to figure out what that experience is like for that particular individual. Our appointments are up to two hours where we’re getting a full background history. After they finish, I may give them a few suggestions at that appointment. I will take some time to reflect on what we talked about, consult some of my resources and then I pull together a program for them in a written format.
They ended up getting emailed like a five-page plan that they can follow. That addresses a range of things. There’s a nutritional component. There is almost always an herbal component. There are supplements sometimes if maybe the food is going to be a little bit more difficult for them to get in what they need to for a short period of time. They take that information. I give them a couple of days to digest it and write down their questions. We have a follow-up fifteen-minute phone conversation that they’ve had a chance to absorb some of that information, then we go from there. We meet up again somewhere between 30 to 90 days later, depending on what the person’s needs are, to see how things are going and to tweak the program a little bit.The variety of plants that grow around us in our natural environment has a strong impact on the body. Click To Tweet
You mentioned anxiety. One of the things that we’re trying to do here in the show is help rewrite the narrative on mental health to one in which optimal health and well-being is possible and expected. We have a focus here on mental health. The traditional medical approach to mental health is medication and if we’re lucky, lots of therapy on top of the medication. I heard some things about how people say, “It’s fine for me to take this because this is all-natural.” They assume because it’s natural, it’s mild and it’s not going to conflict with any other medications they’re on. Can you speak to that? My knowledge is that some things are quite powerful even though they’re naturally occurring substance and may have conflicts with existing medications. How do you address that?
First of all, we get a list of medications that the person is on and we have a reference guide that we can double-check. One in particular that we hear a lot about interacting with medications is St. John’s wort. It got a lot of recommendations back in the early ‘90s when it became big. A lot of people started to hear about St John’s wort for depression. It can be helpful in some cases of depression, but it’s not the end all be all. It has a powerful effect on the liver. It uses the same liver pathways as many of our medications. Oftentimes what it does is it clears the liver pathway too quickly. If you have a medication that you’re taking that is required to sustain life or mental balance, and you’re clearing it out of that liver pathway far too quickly, that could be dangerous. St. John’s wort is one that does not match well with medications. It’s a good idea when we are choosing these different herbs to fully understand what medications a person is taking and make sure there are not any conflicts as far as liver pathways.
Do you do much work with people? Do you get many people who are getting treatment for any of the whole range of psychological or psychiatric conditions, and they want to get off of the medicine or they want to decrease the medicine?
Oftentimes, when people come in on medications, it is outside of my scope to take them off of their medication. I don’t do that. What I can do is help them at a foundational level to build themselves. An important aspect of mental health is the gut health. We have this gut-brain connection that is important. That is one area that we can work on intensely. There’s a thing called leaky gut syndrome or permeable small intestine where for some reason, the tight junctions and some people start to open up. Little bits of proteins from our food get out into the bloodstream that is larger than what should get out there. When that happens, the immune system starts to mount a response. There’s inflammation. When there’s inflammation, that can affect the nervous system and that can affect what’s going on in the brain.
We also know that there are certain bacteria that are friendly that we need to have in our gut. We need to have a wide diverse gut ecology. What’s happened over time with the change in our diet, taking different medications and different chemicals that we’re exposed to, that diversity in the gut has decreased over the course of the last 100 years, especially in the last 50 years. With that, we see an increase in all types of diseases. Whether it is something that’s affecting the brain, the nervous system and our mental health, but also physical problems. One of the cornerstones of naturopathy is that disease often begins in the gut. If we can address what’s going on in the gut, that can lay a nice foundation to start building off of. When a person is able to start building this stronger foundation, then they can work with their doctor to start stepping off certain medications.
Do you ever consult with the physicians about the support you can have for your patients and/or what might be needed for them to either decrease or wean off of some of the more powerful psychotropic medicine?
Usually, it’s the patient that is the go-between. I can present them with information to share with their doctor. One of the other cornerstones of naturopathy is the empowerment of the patient. Educating them to a point that they can advocate for themselves. When they can consult with their doctor and say, “This is what I learned. Here’s some research. What do you think about this in my particular situation?” Getting the patient to the point where they understand what’s going on in their body. It’s doctor as teacher.
More people are getting exposed to Robert Whitaker’s book, the Anatomy of An Epidemic. While it might be helpful to have medication in the short-term, most of the medications that are given for anything to do with schizophrenia, bipolar, manic-depressive episodes, depression, anxiety, over the long-term, they have negative impacts on our general health. It’s good to have people like you as a resource to help people who’ve gotten perhaps stabilized on medication, but don’t want to stay in it long-term to be able to develop an ongoing plan for their whole health.
There’s a place in Vermont that is called Inner Fire. I was privileged to do an interview with the founder of Inner Fire. What they call themselves is a proactive healing community offering a choice for adults to recover from debilitating traumatic life challenges without the use of psychotropic medications. They don’t force people to go off. They don’t say you can’t be here unless you leave your medications, but they have that holistic integrative, whole-person approach to mental and emotional health. That’s what I hear from most people I know that have naturopathic training and that’s your bailiwick.
Working with a person where they’re at if they are stabilized on a medication and they want to stay on their medication, by all means, working to support them. One of the ways that we can work to support them is we can figure out if that particular medication is depleting them of a particular nutrient. Do we need to pay attention to zinc? Do we need to pay attention to B6 because of this particular medication? We can help to support them on a nutritional or supplemental level to empower them to be able to continue to take their medication but to buffer some of those effects. There are some other things that we could do as well, as far as herbs that help to buffer the effects of stressors in life.
Whether that is chemical for medication or stress in general because any condition that a person has can become worse with ongoing chronic stress. We can buffer them with adaptogenic herbs, which are a newer category of herbs. It was coined back in the 1950s. There were researchers in Russia at that time who were looking for ways to help their workers to be more productive. Even though they lived in conditions that were sub-par, their nutrition wasn’t great and they had to work a lot of hours. They wanted to figure out a way for them to not be as impacted by that daily stress.
They researched several different herbs, including one that’s called eleuthero or Siberian ginseng. They found that the cortisol levels of these people were lower. They found that they were able to work longer, harder hours and not get sick as often. Not that that’s something we want to reflect in this society. It’s important for people to take time to rest and rejuvenate. If we are going to help buffer the unavoidable stresses in life, you’ve had a baby or you’re taking some medication that is stressful to your body.
You have to learn to work at home, homeschool your kids and not see any friends for months on end.
When we’re faced with these unavoidable stressful situations, this category of herbs, the adaptogenic herbs, which include things like ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Schisandra, holy basil and eleuthero, some of the different ginsengs, either individually or in a particular formula. If we can match a person to those particular herbs, we can help buffer all of these different stresses that they may be facing. Whether it’s chemical, environmental and personal stresses.
Do you have a story or two that would be illustrative of when someone comes to you, the herbal and the systemic approach you use has provided them significant improvement?
One of my cases that comes to mind that one of my favorites is, I have been seeing one lady in particular. She’s had many different stressors. She’s had a chronic viral infection that’s impeded her ability to work. Her anxiety levels took off with this. Everything changed in her life and on top of that, she was dealing with some chronic fatigue. We did some things that a very foundational level, as far as working on nutrition, working on getting her healthy. One of the things that made the biggest impact for her was when you were able to connect her to the correct adaptogenic herb for her, which was ashwagandha. It is an herb from that ayurvedic tradition and it’s from India.
It modulates the immune system. That means it helps to balance it. Whether you have an overactive immune system or an underactive immune system, it helps to balance that. One of the other things ashwagandha does is it has a tremendous impact on many people on their anxiety levels. She would experience anxiety that felt like a heavy pressure on her chest. It took a little while to find the right form for her. She was one of the people who didn’t do well with a direct tincture, for example, which is an extract into alcohol.
We were able to play around with it a little bit and found that a traditional way of using ashwagandha, which is to use ashwagandha powder in milk-like based substance with some warming herbs and it worked very well for her. She said that when she takes the ashwagandha, she does not have this heavy feeling of pressure on her chest that she associates with the anxiety. The anxiety levels have gone down tremendously. That’s one of my favorite stories about using adaptogenic herbs and how life-changing that can be for an individual because she was dealing with quite a lot with her chronic viral infection and everything changing in her life.
If you’re someone who’s experienced anxiety and you understand it’s a tremendous energy drain. If you’re already dealing with other physical problems, which are demanding energy from your system to try and heal and recover, anxiety drained you all the more. I imagine she was getting quite a bit of relief in compound ways when that herb was working for her.
Working with people who have varying levels of depression, oftentimes, the people who are attracted to see me are people who say, “I don’t want to start a medication. What are some things that I can try first?” We’ve had several situations where we address things on a nutritional level. I can’t say enough about the power of B vitamins, particularly Niacin, B9 which is folate and as well as B6. It’s finding the right balance for a person. D vitamins are very important. We’ve heard of seasonal affective disorder. We recognize the value of the sunshine herb or the sunshine vitamin, which is Vitamin D.
Additionally, Omega-3 fatty acids which are rich in salmon and flaxseeds. The reason why Omega-3 is important is because it is anti-inflammatory. In our Western culture and our American diet, we tend to emphasize Omega-6, which are also essential fatty acids, but those are proinflammatory and Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. If you are experiencing lots of these different problems, there are some inflammation going on. There’s that gut-brain connection where there’s inflammation in the body that can have an impact on mental health. Focusing on those nutrients is important as well as focusing on the ecology of the gut. We know that there are certain strains of bacteria that are higher in people who have more depression and lower in people who have more depression.
Probiotics can be helpful. I know that there are some probiotics that are formulated specifically for depression and those can be helpful. More important than what you feed your gut with is how you feed your gut. Food becomes important. If you’re eating a bunch of junk food because you feel bad and it is an effort to prepare a beautiful meal for yourself. The problem with that is you continue to feed the bacteria in your gut and that’s who you get to grow. If you eat a lot of sugar, it helps Candida, which is a particular type of yeast, to start to grow. Candida interfaces with our endocrine system, our hormones and it sends messages up to the brain that says, “I crave sugar. I need sugar.”
It’s because the yeast in the gut is hungry and it wants to reproduce more. It causes sugar seeking behavior. If you go through a period of time where you’re like, “I know that it’s not me craving sugar. I know that it’s this yeast in my gut or different bacteria.” If you eat a lot of fast food, you have what blooms to different bacteria that start to happen. When you can start to shift your diet, you shift who lives in your gut and what toxins they are able to break down, what vitamins they’re able to produce for you, what conversions they’re able to help happen at the gut level so that you are more nourished on a very foundational holistic level. Paying attention to gut health is extremely important.
I understand that there are quite a few people that might be thinking this is woo-woo stuff or it’s experimental. As I was mentioning the residential treatment facility, Beatrice Birch, who was the Founder of that was an art therapist. She used to work over in Europe. When she came back to the United States, she was floored to discover how many people were put on all these heavy-duty medications and sometimes an entire cocktail of medications because they don’t do that in Europe.A very important aspect of mental health is gut health. Click To Tweet
What you’re talking about is a solid systemic look at what we as human beings need energetically, both from our chemical and food substance, from our mental and emotional, our community sense, our purpose in life and this is not a new concept. This is going back to what’s worked for hundreds if not thousands of years. It’s having the benefit of some of the more in-depth scanning and testing results to guide people like you when you’re introducing people into a balance in their body. What kinds of assessment tools do you use? Do you use blood tests, hair analysis? What are you using to decide as you were mentioning the B vitamins or the D vitamins and deficiencies?
Sometimes we use blood tests. I don’t have a laboratory in my office. We can send people for blood tests and we can get a clear level especially of their Vitamin D. That’s an important one that we would check frequently. If they’d had other tests from their doctor, certainly they bring those and we go over those. Hair analysis can be helpful especially when looking at mineral levels. Mental health is greatly impacted by exposure to heavy metals. Hair analysis does give us some good information on heavy metals as well.
You mentioned another gentleman who does herbs in your area. How did you hook up with him? How do you know him? Is it Jim McDonald?
He’s well-known through the herbalist community. After hearing about him 10 or 12 times from an herbalist who at least seemed to know what they were talking about, I checked out one of his YouTube videos and I thought, “What an interesting guy and what a wealth of knowledge.” I signed up for one of his year-long herbal intensives. I learned an amazing amount of information. I refer to it frequently with my clients. I appreciate the fact that he would take us out into the field and help us to learn to identify plants, tell us how they’re prepared and be able to introduce our people to a plant, like, “This grows in your backyard,” or “This grows in the woods near your house,” and “These plants are here and if you want to learn about them, it’s yours for the taking,” which is empowering for people to learn that they can make their own medicine. They don’t have to spend as much money as if you had to buy everything from a health food store.
If this particular plant or herb is growing in my backyard, what has to happen? Do I have to reach over, pick it up and start chewing it? Do I have to do preparations? What can we learn from you about how complex this is? Do I have to become a chemist?
No. People have been using plants forever since the dawn of human civilization. People learned early on that there are lots of different ways. There are some ways that are better to work with certain plants than others. For most plants, you can pick them, dry them, pour hot water over them and then drink them as a tea. That’s one of the most simple ways to do it. I also teach people how to make tinctures, which is an alcohol extract. Alcohol is great at helping to pull out certain constituents from plants. Oftentimes, we’ll use 100 proof vodka because vodka is very clean on a molecular level. It doesn’t have things that take up different molecular spots.
It’s able to pull as much from a particular plant as possible, whereas rum might not be able to pull as much. We use 100 proof vodka. We chop up the plant. We put the plant matter in the vodka. We shake it on a regular basis like every day or so for 4 to 6 weeks. We can strain the plant material out and what’s left is an extract of the potent constituents in that plant. That’s as simple as it takes.
You’ve got this 100 proof vodka. You’re not serving it as a cocktail drink. You just take 1 or 2 drops added to the tea or something like that. Is that how you use a tincture?
With the tea, you would have to drink a whole cup full. If it’s something that tastes bad, that’s sometimes hard for people to choke a whole cup full down, but it becomes concentrated when it’s in the alcohol extract. You’re able to take 10, 20, 30 drops in a small drink of water and swallow it down from there. It’s helpful. For humans, it tastes terrible. If we’re wanting to conserve plant materials, if it’s something that you don’t have a whole lot of, if you want to make it last for the winter and you can’t dry enough for tea for the whole winter, a tincture is a good idea.
A tincture as a possibility. There’s making a tea out of an herb. What other ways do we find these plants, whether we’re getting them from you at your apothecary or you were finding them in the backyard? What are the ways that are there to prepare or ingest these herbs or apply them maybe and don’t ingest them?
It can be as simple as dandelion leaves, which you can buy from many farmer’s markets. You can buy them as capsules in a health food store or you can order them online. People can ingest them like dandelion leaves. Dandelion leaves are bitter. In our American diet, we tend to avoid the flavor of bitterness. Bitter is important for all of our digestive function. When our taste buds detect bitter, which we have taste buds not only on our tongue but down into our digestive system and to a certain extent in our lungs as well, it causes a whole series of reactions to occur. We produce more bile and more gastrin. All of these hormones that are important for digestion that helps you to extract the nutrients from your food.
For mental health, being well-nourished is important. Bitters are important for mental health. They’re very grounding for a lot of people. It’s helpful for gas and bloating. It helps people to have regular bowel movements, which is also important for mental health too. If somebody is constipated, not only is that going to affect their mental health, but also for toxins to sip back through the bowel, into the bloodstream, that’s going to impact mental health too. Having a regular bowel movement is super important. Bitters can certainly be an important aspect of that.
When you’re talking about dandelion leaves, are you talking about putting them in salads?
Yes. For sure get a clean source of dandelions. If your neighbor sprays or if you’ve got pets that maybe are peeing on the lawn or something like that, you want to avoid that. Incorporate them a little bit at a time. Some other greens that we’re familiar with that are in spring green like endive, radicchio, arugula, all of those are bitters as well. If we introduced a little bit of bitters at the beginning of a meal, that can get the whole digestive process moving. Some people don’t like to do it that way. You can get bitters as an extract, as a tincture and you could put a little sprayer or dropper on your tongue to get those digestive juices flowing.
What other unusual leafy substances might we be looking for?
One of my favorites that are coming into bloom is wild bee balm or Monarda fistulosa. It’s coming into bloom. That one is great for the digestive system. It’s also anti-microbial. It has a very clearing scent. It helps clear the mind. It gets this crazy little purple flower on it. It can be used in place of oregano. It’s got a similar flavor to oregano. You can use it as a spice in your food. You can dry some and put it in your spaghetti sauce in the wintertime. There are all fun ways to incorporate herbs.
Are you looking at the flower or the leaves of that wild bee balm?
It’s the flowering tufts. For that particular plant, if we harvest it as it’s coming into bloom, that’s when all of the chemical constituents or the energy of the plant is most concentrated in the upper parts of the plant. It’s a very aromatic plant. We use the flowering tufts, which means the tufts stems, leaves and the flowers. You take that, you can dry it and make tea out of it. It’s great for the bladder. It’s antimicrobial. It can be something that somebody can use if they’re prone to urinary tract infections. One of the other herbs that are a native to Michigan that I do rely on for a lot of people with regards to their mental state is called skullcap.One of the cornerstones of naturopathy is that disease often begins in the gut. Click To Tweet
If there are all of these irritations coming at you from the world around you and you want to put a hood over your head and retreat from the world. Smells are annoying to you, sounds are annoying to you, maybe your spouse and the way that they chew is about to drive you out of your seat. All of these irritations are affecting your stress levels. Strong scents and strong lights are making you very cranky and irritable. Skullcap is one of the herbs that you can start incorporating more like a tea or a tincture. People start to find that their irritation levels start to come down.
For me, for example, when I start getting stressed out, I clench my jaw when I’m working. When I’m taking a skullcap, I don’t do that as much. My dentist can tell. He said, “I can tell if you’re grinding your teeth or you’re clenching your jaw.” When I’m good at taking my skullcap, I don’t get those comments from my dentist. That’s a good one especially for people who think they’re doing fine and then all of a sudden, they blow up for a minute and yell at people around them. They’re like, “That felt better. I got that off of my chest.” Those are some of the hints that skullcap might be beneficial for that person.
How do you take it personally?
I take it as a tincture. It’s easiest to take as a tincture. A few drops in water or sometimes I’ll take it straight if I’m in a hurry. It doesn’t taste great, but you get used to it if you’ve been taking tinctures for a while.
I remember years ago, someone told me that oregano oil was good for antiseptic and fungal, etc. They said, “Put a few drops under your tongue.” I did. I’m one of those people who can tolerate some hot sauces and some strong flavors. I went to the family and said, “This is the greatest thing.” I have a family that had a lot of upper respiratory infections and, “Here try this.” Not one person in my family talked to me for a year after that. It’s a little weird taste in your mouth for a few minutes and you get healthier, but they weren’t having any of it.
I do have to warn people about the flavor of tinctures when they go to try them for the first time. One of the mistakes sometimes that people make is they’re like, “She said to dilute it.” They’ll dilute it in a big glass of water and then every sip taste pretty bad. I tell people to put in a small amount of water and then maybe have a chaser if you need afterward. Chase it with a more pleasant tasting tea or a little juice.
It’s okay to wash it down. Some of these people say, “You don’t get the effects unless you hold the oregano oil in your mouth under your tongue for a period of time.”
There’s something to be said about taking certain things sublingually because it bypasses the digestion and it gets right into the bloodstream. If it’s something that isn’t alcohol-based that tastes terrible, alcohol is a pretty good carrier and it’s easily digestible, which is one of the reasons I prefer tinctures over capsules. Not everybody’s digestion is 100% and you might lose some of the herbs through the digestive tract. You might not absorb it all before it passes through the digestive tract. I’m taking it as a liquid. It passes easily.
If you have somebody who’s got a problem with addictions and doesn’t want anything alcohol-based, is there a way to get a tincture in that doesn’t involve the vodka?
There are other substrates that you can use, other solvents. There’s something called vegetable glycerin that sometimes can be used. It doesn’t hold as wide of a variety of things but it’s considered to be perfectly acceptable. Teas are a great choice. My husband is a substance abuse therapist. Sometimes, people will come into my store who are dealing with that very problem. I stock especially some of the nervines. People who were trying to find some support when their nervous system and maybe their B vitamin status suffered through their addiction process.
Using things like skullcap, milky oats and B vitamins are some of the most helpful for these people. We have tinctures that are commercially prepared that are vegetable glycerin based. You can also use vinegar to draw certain things out of herbs. A lot of times there’s vinegar-based tinctures as well. It sometimes pulls more mineral-based things than some of the alkaloids that we’re looking for. My first choice if someone can handle it is an alcohol-based one. If not, it’s typically the glycerides.
When you’re talking about vinegar, is it white or apple cider?
A lot of times it’s apple cider vinegar that people will use. Some of the acidic acids are going to pull some of those constituents.
Are there some aspects of your work that we haven’t even touched on yet that you want to share with us?
One of the things that I mentioned briefly in the beginning is working to fine-tune somebody’s nutrition. I mentioned that one of the interests that I studied in college before I went to Naturopathic School was genetics. I learned a way to marry the two. I help people to figure out that nutritional plan that’s useful to them and we look at some genetic factors. If they’ve had a test like 23andMe or Ancestry.com, we’re able to extract some information from that raw data. That’s one of the pieces of information we use. Another piece of information that we use is we do several different measurements to the body to try and figure out left to right symmetry, length of torso compared to the leg, upper body, lower body, upper leg and lower leg.
Some of those things are clues to some of the things that they were exposed to in utero. There are some epigenetic factors that mean above genetics, which means how the environment impacted the way your genes are turned on or turned off or up-regulated or down-regulated. We look at blood type. That’s an important component as well because our blood type is an expression of our immune system. It’s part of what we use to recognize self and non-self. It’s not only that identifying marker on the surface of our blood cells, but it can be through our digestive tract as well. I use all of that, put it together in a program that I have, and figure out what foods are going to most benefit a person.
It’s been interesting to see some of the changes that have occurred for some people. I can speak to my own personal experience. I feel like I’m a pretty healthy person, but I’m sure there’s probably something that can shift. One of the things that I learned is that tomatoes are something I should not eat, which was terrible for me because tomatoes are my favorite food. That was difficult. I was like, “I’ll give it a try and see.” In the course of that 45 or 60 days, I didn’t notice a big change that happened outright. That’s very common for people. Things are shifting gradually with your emotions and what’s going on in your body.
Sometimes you don’t recognize it, but when you add it back in, that’s where the experiment occurs. When you add it back in and you’re like, “I remember feeling like this.” For me, it was inflammation and I didn’t realize how much inflammation I had in my back muscles. I always felt like I want someone to push on my back. I want a massage or something like that. I didn’t realize that was slowly dissipating over that 45 to 60 days. I felt it when it came back. I hear that story over and over from people. I had no idea that that food impacted me. Remember, inflammation is such an important aspect of all kinds of things that go in balance in the body. It for sure impacts our mental state as well. Reducing inflammation is primary. It’s key to helping to balance a person’s state in their body. Different people experience it in different ways. For me, it was in my muscles, for other people it’s very much on an emotional level.Reducing inflammation is primary in helping balance a person's state in their body. Click To Tweet
Did you decide that for the most part, you’re going to exclude tomatoes from your diet?
I grow some. In the summertime, I deal with it. I take certain herbs to help me balance that out. For the most part, I’d given them up. Only the garden-fresh ones is where I’m at. It’s hard.
I get that from a lot of people that even if they find out that there’s a semi-adverse effect, whether it’s someone who’s not an alcoholic. They get a little headache or they feel sluggish after drinking, but they still like to party with the family. Occasionally, they’ll do that.
It’s about making an informed choice. This is something I never knew was hard on me before, but now I have the information. I can make an informed choice to maybe switch it out for something else or to buffer the effects when I do choose to have a tomato or have a glass of wine or something like that.
Tomatoes is one that I’ve heard where people say, “I abstained from the tomatoes.” A lot of people do what you do. They don’t eat them during the winter. They only eat them fresh from their garden because that quality and flavor are so much better. They’ll say, “I don’t have them on my salad, but I save it so I can have the pasta sauce.” They’re doing a little balancing act.
I had no idea before I went into this. I consider them healthy food and I try to include them. I was like, “It’s a vegetable, they’re rich in Vitamin C and lycopene.”
Did you know that your body was doing different stuff with it? Am I understanding you to say that you discovered through genetic information or measurements of different parts of your body that that was something you should look at excluding to see what the impact was?
That’s right. It’s taking all of those bits of information. It’s a fairly comprehensive program. It looks at different types of meats and what ones are beneficial for you. It looks at different types of legumes and which ones are beneficial and harmful, which ones are neutral, all categories of food. It’s interesting because you’ve heard the saying, “Jack Sprat could eat no fat. His wife could eat no lean.” That’s my husband and me. We’ve got some overlap, but he’s supposed to eat a heavy meat diet, pre-paleo, avoid greens. Whereas I’m the opposite. I’m supposed to be mostly vegetarian and most greens seem to be okay for me.
You mentioned that it’s a comprehensive program. Does the program have a name?
It is called SWAMI. It is through the D’Adamo Program. Dr. Peter D’Adamo is a naturopathic doctor who for two generations had been working with blood type. He’s elevated it to a fine-tuned level by including the genetics and the epigenetics component. A lot of people have heard of the blood type diet before. It seems that helps people 70%, 75%, maybe 80%, but then you put this other layer on. It becomes personalized and opens things up for people. We’ve seen some great results with it.
Is there a way for people to work with you even if they can’t make it to Michigan?
We probably could to a certain extent. I’d have to show you how to do some measurements for the SWAMI, in particular, but I do offer telehealth services as well for naturopathic consultation.
If people want to reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
Reaching out to me via email, [email protected] It’s a great way to reach out to me.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your information with our audience. I look forward to staying in touch and finding out what you’re doing. Maybe we’ll have you back and talk about how we use your services when it’s not as sunshiny.
Thank you, Timothy.
Rebecca Culley-Healey, ND completed her studies at the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education. She was board certified by the American Naturopathic Medical Certification Board in 2017. Her areas of special interest are herbalism and genetics. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology with an emphasis in genetics, psychology and women’s studies. She is the Owner of Hawthorn & Violet Naturopathic Services and Herbal Apothecary in Fenton, Michigan, a unique herb store that offers over 200 organic dried herbs, tinctures and other natural health products. She offers consultations in-person and online, as well as classes on herbalism and other natural health topics.
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About Rebecca Culley-Healey
Rebecca Culley-Healey, ND completed her studies at the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education and was board certified by the American Naturopathic Medical Certification Board in 2017.
Her areas of special interest are herbalism and genetics. Rebecca also holds a BS in biology., with an emphasis in genetics, psychology and women’s studies. She is the owner of Hawthorn & Violet Naturopathic Services and Herbal Apothecary in Fenton, Michigan, a unique herb store that offers over 200 organic dried herbs, tinctures and other natural health products.
She offers consultations in person and online as well as classes on herbalism and other natural health topics.
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