About a month ago, when I was deep in my MS episode, most of my body being numb with parathesia and my torso constricted with the MS hug, I sought out a holistic center while desperately waiting to see a neurologist. My symptoms had peaked and I was calling a new doctor everyday. I went there knowing full well I would probably be going on a lifelong medication and figured it would be good to have a balance of both disciplines and implement a healthier lifestyle to counteract any side effects. This was before I had MRIs confirming the lesions in my neck and brain.
The Integrative Wellness Group is situated on the waterfront in Belmar. The decor is high end and the views are beautiful. It looks like a spa. I had set up a consultation requesting help with my symptoms, not really sure what to expect. I was scheduled for 2 separate tests and a meeting with Dr. Nicole Riviera. Dr. Nicole is a chiropractor with various certifications in functional medicine as well as the author of a cookbook, Eat for your Gut which focuses on diet to reduce inflammation inside the body.
The first test involved a machine called a Bio-Scan. This machine follows the meridian principles in acupuncture and is supposed to measure energy waves in your body as a tool to diagnose everything from allergies, mold, emotions, and organ health. Since acupuncture was and still is helping my symptoms I was more inclined to give it a shot. Supposedly all substances create a unique measurable frequency and emitting these wavelengths via little electrodes taped to your fingers and measuring the reaction tells whether or not your levels are balanced, chronic, or acute. As I sat there watch the list of over 300 items tested I was skeptical but desperate. Next, I met with Dr. Nicole and she went over my entire life history. She stressed that since her practice was holistic, she looked at everything and there were many layers of ones condition that could be a product of environment, health, stress, etc. In her office I also wore these headphones as part of a Bio-resonance machine. I didn’t realize this at the time but apparently it was a treatment. This machine claims to diagnose and treat every known pathological condition. The headphones emit light waves to correct and disrupt frequencies emitted by organs and tissues that are stressed. I have to admit when I was doing this I was skeptical, staring at the screen where the software uploaded stock images of various organs and tissues as they pointed to all these dots that they were identifying and correcting. The Dr. then referred me for pages of blood work and I was led into another room for my last test. The last test was the hardest one to accept as legitimate. I was so over it by then. Autonomic Response Testing is where you lie on a table and girl 1 holds your arm and holds her hand up for girl 2. Girl 2 is grabbing little vials of various substances and then making contact with girl 1 who has her hand on my arm. Somehow some kind of reaction is being measured. I was embarrassed to even being going through this test but like I said I was scared and in pain, unsure of the cause.
About a month and a half went by until I saw Dr. Nicole again. She was away for 3 weeks during the time my blood work was supposed to come back but it worked out for the best because during that time I had gone to four different neurologists until comfortably settling with the MS Center at CentraState in Freehold. I had met different personalities but they all gave the same diagnosis and recommended similar treatments.
Finally, the time had come to go over all of this crazy blood work and hear what functional medicine had to say. I went in there with my MRIs which I bring to every appointment and Dr. Nicole didn’t even look at them. She had already laid out a treatment plan based on the energy tests and my blood work. I gave her a little update on all of my findings, my diagnosis, and my proposed treatment plan, being tysabri or ocrevus depending on further blood tests. She completely disagreed with my treatment plan which was shocking. She said that she treats a lot of people who have taken these pharmaceuticals and they were still ‘not better’. I explained to her that the infusion was to treat the active lesions in my neck and brain and was not for treating symptoms. I showed her my blood work from my neurologists and she looked it over. She then dropped somewhat of a conspiracy theory in my lap. She pointed out that I had tested positive for three bands of Lyme and traditionally, to qualify as Lyme positive you must test for five bands. She claimed that I do in fact have Lyme and Lyme is proven to be a cause of MS.
According to a couple of rogue scientists, Lyme spirochetes have been found in the central nervous system and brain underneath iron buildups in deceased MS patients. Dr Nicole said I needed to boost my immune system to treat the Lyme. She went on to say that neurologists and infectious disease doctors don’t communicate and this is the problem and so on. I asked her if I went to an infectious disease doctor would they say I had Lyme? She said “Yes definitely, this is not a super sensitive test its Labcorp, you totally have Lyme.” I was kind of dumbfounded. Up until now everything I have read and heard about regarding MS said that there is no known cause for MS. I was under the impression autoimmune diseases are just one of those things that happen. She was hitting me with a whole new diagnosis. Looking over the blood work requested by Dr. Nicole, I notice that she never herself asked that I be tested for Lyme which is even weirder. But I guess everyone has a little Lyme? Is that how this works?
Next I told her about my symptoms and how they accelerated for 11 days and then started to decrease. She matched up the dates to when I was last there, January 28th to when my symptoms finally started to reverse, January 31st and stated that her headphone treatment was the reason I got better. This was a bold claim and again I probably had the dumbest look on my face. HUH?! She told me the Bio-resonance machine was a treatment, and asked me if I was asleep at my last visit. I just stared at her unable to process this outrageous statement and annoyed at her comment. She looked a little frustrated and really laid down the sales pitch. I felt lost and overwhelmed with information.
Dr. Nicole went over my treatment plan. A binder containing various supplements I should take, a diet plan based on my O+ blood type, and a weekly schedule of various treatments. I asked her if this diet plan was just based on my blood type or was it tailored based on the other results. She said it was based on everything but I wasn’t convinced. It read just like a printout for O blood type diet conveniently with recipes and various local organic butchers and farms where I can shop for my high end groceries. As she went through the pages of all the things I can and cannot eat I felt like she was reading my horoscope. “Oh it says avocados are good, but mango is not, very interesting.” Its very easy to google O blood type diet, I found it and its all the same information.
The other treatments prescribed in the plan were an infrared sauna, chakra balancing, brain mapping and neuro-feedback, more energy work. The supplements recommended were a detox shake, collagen powder for GI support, chlorella pyr as a detox/binder, methyl b12 for the nervous system, cordyceps for immune support, para clear B and anti parasitic, deep purple for antioxidant support, and colorado hemp oil as an anti inflammatory. I walked out tired and confused. All the energy testing left my body stressed I did feel that.
The more I thought about my visit the more dissapointed I was. I went in there thinking this was going to be a supplemental treatment plan to complement or coincide with the infusions recommended by the neurologist. For a practice which claims to be holistic, they are only really out to sell their treatment plan and disregard other specialists. We had a little phone call appointment 2 days later, I’m assuming to close the deal. I told her I didn’t really feel comfortable disregarding the neurologist and only going with her. She said that the pharmaceuticals would be shutting down my immune system while they wanted to rebuild it so it would be counteractive to do both.
Now I don’t fully trust Big Pharma or the holistic discipline but I do have common sense. I would imagine that a balance of everything would be the best route. Healthy eating, exercise, and some strong medication to kill this thing in my neck that is eating away at the myelin surrounding my nerves. I also imagine my neurologist wouldn’t deter me from pursuing a healthier lifestyle to counteract the toll these medications will take on my immune system. I don’t believe in anything 100% so I try not to disregard anything 100% either. I don’t want to defame their practice or the practice of functional medicine I’m sure there are many people that feel better with these treatments. I do feel I am not the right candidate for this being newly diagnosed with active lesions in my neck and brain. I also feel that it is extremely risky and dangerous for them to be deterring someone with a chronic illness from receiving a potentially life saving treatment. If I was a little more gullible with some extra money, I could very well make this dangerous choice.
I want to share this information with anyone who has chronic illness or pain so they are aware of this option before they invest their money. Functional medicine is not about integrating a healthy lifestyle with pharmaceuticals to help with the side effects. Functional medicine focuses on diet and non-invasive energy treatments to cure symptoms. Energy treatments that involve sending radio waves and light waves via electrodes and headphones. People suffering from life long diseases and chronic pain can easily be taken advantage of if they don’t advocate for themselves and get second, third, and fourth opinions. I can understand functional medicine for someone who has undergone treatment for active lesions and still doesn’t feel better. Myelin damage can sometimes be permanent after the lesions are no longer active. Experimenting with different diets can surely help to repair your health. However I do not recommend this treatment for someone who is undergoing an active demyeliniating episode. Also I have made an appointment with an infectious disease doctor and will be checking the Lyme disease claim.
I hope this extensive and honest account will help anyone on a similar journey.