On Your Marc

You may be wondering why a CPA with a background in corporate accounting has changed his career path to holistic health.  Good question.  

My Accounting History:

My accounting career began at the age of fourteen, as an accounting intern at a law firm in NYC, with my dad. We rode the train together during my summer and winter school vacations, departing a PATH train at the World Trade Center, and then walking several blocks to our office building near the South Street Seaport.  That was an exciting time for me in the big city, as I grew up in the suburbs of Central NJ.  I had that job through college (and built up a substantial music collection buying records – yes vinyl – at J&R Music World on Broadway).  I then interned at a public accounting firm as a bookkeeper, before moving on to another public accounting firm, getting experience in both audit and tax in NJ and NYC.  I then left to become a tax accountant, and then a financial analyst, in various departments of a bank in Central NJ.  And finally in my most recent corporate job, as a senior financial analyst at an educational testing company.  I saw a lot of change during these ventures, some favorable for me personally, some not so much.  In the end, I felt that I had crunched enough numbers, and was ready for a new challenge.

My Health Story:

Back in 2006, I was unable to sleep for a month straight.  Oh, I did get a little sleep every third day or so due to exhaustion.  But for the most part, I stared at my ceiling for a month.  Upon bringing this to my doctor’s attention, he immediately began pushing sleeping pills on me.  My instinct was to NOT take these pills, but I eventually gave in.  The sleeping pills did not work, so I was subsequently prescribed stronger sleeping pills.  And when that did not work, I was given a stronger drug that was not a sleeping pill, but simply had a side effect of drowsiness.  Again, I hesitated but ultimately went against my better judgment and tried it for eleven nights.  Once again, I remained awake.  Only this time was different.  The drug had caused chronic stomach pain and acid reflux.  So what did I do?  I went to a gastroenterologist.  After getting several procedures and tests done with no real conclusions, the doctor prescribed a drug that lessens the amount of stomach acid, thinking that too much stomach acid was causing my pain.  Once again, the drug did not help my condition, and only made it worse.  In the end, the gastroenterologist said there was nothing else that could be done for me.

One conclusion I drew from this process is that drugs are used by M.D.’s as a first line of defense against many health issues.  However, as I learned years later, while drugs are sometimes a real necessity in certain situations, using drugs as a first line of defense is not the best course of action if all it does is mask a symptom and does not resolve the underlying issue.  Let’s look at an example.  If I get a fever or cold, my body temperature rises and mucous build up naturally occurs.  Why?  To fight off the bug.  The hot temperature attempts to kill off the bug, and the mucous build-up tries to capture the bug, allowing us to eliminate it quickly when we blow our nose or cough it up (sorry for the gory details).  If we immediately take aspirin or other drugs to quickly drop our body temperature or eliminate the mucous, our body is left defenseless.  Looking at it another way, our bodies are made to be able to repair themselves, if given the chance.

After getting kicked out of my gastroenterologist’s office without a cure, I took matters into my own hands by doing my own research.  Through this research, I uncovered a type of doctor called a naturopathic doctor.  A naturopathic doctor (N.D.) goes to medical school just like an M.D.  However, instead of learning about pharmaceutical drugs and surgery, N.D.s learn about counseling, homeopathic medicine, and acupuncture.  I found a naturopathic doctor in NYC.  Through diet change, supplements, and acupuncture, within a short timeframe my stomach pain had lessened.  And within a few months the stomach pain was gone.

And in 2011, I contracted Lyme Disease from a tick bite.  Upon seeing the tick bite ‘bullseye’ on my leg, I went to the emergency room to begin treatment… a blood draw to test for Lyme, and antibiotics.  Another difference I recognized between M.D.s and N.D.s is the use of antibiotics.  M.D.s generally over-prescribe antibiotics.  I recall being prescribed antibiotics various times throughout my life.  Overuse of antibiotics can inhibit the body’s natural ability to fight off foreign bodies.  During a seminar that I attended, a naturopathic physician made the following statement. “Antibiotics should not be taken, except for Lyme Disease (LD)”.  LD is the exception, according to this speaker, because LD is an extremely powerful foreign body that can cause serious damage to the Nervous System if left untreated.  This topic of antibiotic use is a controversial one.  So please do your own antibiotic research to draw your own conclusions.  Anyway, the main point I’d like to share is that the naturopathic doctor I saw to treat my LD focused on building up my immune system.  Having a strong immune system provides our bodies with the necessary energy to fight off illnesses.  Not just for LD, but for everything.  So what did she prescribe for me?  Change my diet, take homeopathic remedies, and acupuncture.  Sure enough, it worked again.  My LD symptoms of extreme fatigue and sore muscles went away.

The Mind-Body Connection:

Also in 2006, after my insomnia episode, I recognized that many of my thoughts were focused on negative past events, obsessions over current decisions that needed to be made, and worries about their impact on my future.  I was caught up in repetitive negative thoughts, unable to stop this thinking on my own.

Reading Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now was the first thing that helped me begin to pull out of these ruminating thought patterns.  Not only did I read the book one time through, but I also purchased the book on compact disk and listened to it over-and-over again while driving my car everywhere.  This repetition had a profound effect on me.  Repetition helps reprogram the unconscious mind, which ultimately makes new habits stick.  I realized that my ruminating thoughts had the same impact on my unconscious mind, only those thoughts were feeding my unconscious mind negative thoughts and emotions instead.  An ‘aha moment’ occurred for me as I listened to one of Eckhart’s teachings.  Take a moment to ask your self the following question and then pay attention to what happens.  Ask yourself, “I wonder what my next thought is going to be?”  And then wait.  What happened for you?  For me, there was no more thought.  For a few moments there was complete silence in my mind.  The reason this occurs is because thought cannot exist when we are fully present in the current moment. (Tolle, 1999)

The positive results of this experiment led me to research the topic of mindfulness.  The practice of mindfulness requires that we focus our attention on one thing at a time and become fully engaged in that one thing.  Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., who created the mindfulness-based stress reduction program, stated that…

“One way to think of this process of transformation is to think of mindfulness as a lens, taking the scattered and reactive energies of your mind and focusing them into a coherent source of energy for living, for problem solving, and for healing”. (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p. 11)

Through The Power of Now and mindfulness, I began to feel better on a mental level even though my life situation was still the same.  This got me thinking about the mind-body connection.  And with this thought in mind, I uncovered the practice of juicing vegetables.  I purchased a juicer and then began juicing vegetables two to three times a day.  Within just a few days of starting this regiment, I enjoyed a renewed physical energy and a fantastic memory.  It was as though a fog in my brain had lifted, allowing me to see what was hiding underneath all this time.

Then I discovered a book by scientist Candace Pert called Molecules of Emotion.  She discovered that neuropeptides, chemicals produced by the body, flow to receptor sites throughout the body and are able to alter the function of these receptor sites.  Additionally, emotional responses to life events can produce either a negative or positive change in the body’s biochemical structure, making our bodies either unhealthy or healthy. (Pert, 1997)

Here are a few quotes by Dr. Pert that caught my attention.

“Emotions are stored in the body.  Peptides, receptors, cells.  The receptors are dynamic.  They’re wiggling, vibrating energy molecules that are not only changing their shape from millisecond to millisecond, but actually changing what they’re coupled to.  One moment they’re coupled up to one protein in the membrane, and the next moment they can couple up to another.  It’s a very dynamic, fluid system.  Every time they couple, every time they connect, every time they respond to one another, chemical messages are being exchanged.  And my body responds differently according to what cell is getting what chemical.” (Moyers, 1995, p. 186)

“We have within us a large capacity for self-healing through our emotions.  The chemicals that are running our body and our brain are the same chemicals that are involved in emotion.  We’d better seriously entertain theories about the role of emotions and emotional suppression in disease, and we’d better pay more attention to emotions with respect to health.” (Moyers, 1995, p. 193)

“If you accept the premise that the mind is not just in the brain but that the mind is part of a communication network throughout the brain and body, then you can start to see how physiology can affect mental functioning on a moment-to-moment, hour-by-hour, day-to-day basis.  These neuropeptides are regulating the emotions that I feel.” (Moyers, 1995, p. 181)

All of this mind-body research snowballed for me, ultimately leading me back to school for a masters degree to learn more.

Takeaways:

1. Take an active role in your health.
2. Do not be led blindly by doctors.
3. Use food as medicine.
4. Focus on both physical & emotional health.

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