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  • Julisa

What? I have to sleep connected to a machine? Really?!? Maybe not...

I started experiencing insomnia while getting a divorce and living in an old, moldy, poorly maintained house. This started a 23 year journey to discover that I had a health condition that I’d never heard of. Along the way I learned a lot about our “health care” system and what people go through to get help. I had a Boulder naturopath tell me he wouldn’t work with me if I didn’t commit to $1500 of out of pocket tests on the first visit; a package of tests he has all new patients take. I had a “functional medicine” nurse practitioner load me up with handfuls of supplements which destroyed a Christmas trip to Italy because of completely overstimulating my nervous system so bad I lost 10 pounds in two weeks and couldn’t sleep without ambien. I had another “functional medicine” nurse practitioner tell me that adrenal fatigue was a fad and that she wouldn’t work with me because I was already doing everything I knew to do to get well, and that meant to her that I wouldn’t let her “be the doctor.” I could go on and on.

Last year, in 2018, after my dental hygienist told me that I had sleep apnea (which no one previously had discussed with me), I went to the Colorado Sleep Center. It was Sept. 11, when I first walked into this place which has the lobby of a busy mid size hotel across the street from the hospital. Judging by the fancy website and the total lack of competition for treating sleep apnea, I thought these guys were the best Boulder had to offer for my problem. Five months and $1500 later, I wasn’t sleeping all that well with my CPAP machine either. Only absolutely exhausted, desperate people are willing to pay a lot of money to have a machine force air down your nose all night. People have described it as trying to sleep with your face in the slip stream of a car on a busy road. You can’t talk because of the suction generated by opening your mouth.

When I had my last appointment at the Colorado sleep center, I told them that I was still not sleeping well. They told me that the next step was cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to train me to follow all their rules of “sleep hygiene.” I knew that wasn’t the issue, because I had seen my insomnia go through all kinds of ups and downs which were never tied to following their rules, such as getting out of bed (rather than meditating, which often got me back to sleep) if I was awake in the middle of the night. I realized that what the Colorado Sleep center does is sell three things: dental devices, CPAP machines, and CBT. They don’t actually figure out why you are snoring and having trouble breathing and what your body is asking for.

My acupuncturist had been helping me deal with this insomnia, but she didn’t have a diagnosis either.  I decided to try another acupuncturist who also practiced functional medicine. I mentioned a small factoid that my husband had recently uncovered on Google. Aged cheese is associated with insomnia and I’d been eating more and more of it over the winter, thinking that my sleep issue was all mechanical. The sleep center told me that it was just because I had a small airway. They never said a word about inflammation or that anything about my diet would be worth investigating. My new acupuncturist said the magic words that changed everything, histamine sensitivity. I went home, looked it up, went on a very low histamine diet and the sleep apnea started vanishing. My CPAP machine will go on Craig’s list, I guess.

What is the moral of my story, you may ask? Well, I would say three things: no matter how fancy the doctor, or how non-mainstream the practice, beware of the profit motive and be sure to think for yourself. Secondly, be willing to do your own research, and third be willing to keep trying to get the help that actually helps. The medical model does not incorporate an understanding of toxins and inflammation issues that is commensurate with the massive impact they are having on our health. We all have to find a way to balance thinking for ourselves with some help from Dr. Google, and being persistent and careful about getting good medical help or advice. I have a lot of experience helping clients navigate this maze, both in terms of finding good help, and implementing various diets, detoxing, working with the gut/brain connection and navigating changing needs over time. I think the psychological and the physical aren’t really naturally separate. This healing journey can be very stress inducing, or it can be an opportunity to do really valuable internal house cleaning. I can say without hesitation, that my journey lead to a depth of understanding of myself which has helped me to become healthy in a deeper way than I would have imagined. It is a lovely journey to come to really get what your body needs and learn to be nurturing toward yourself as a matter of habit. Diving deep into my yoga and meditation practices were a big part of my journey. I’d like to help you discover what your keys to success and health are.

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