‘I am the master of my health,’ Integrative Medicine patient discovers

Jennifer Barnett Fox By Jeffrey Field
October 10, 2017

Jennifer Barnett Fox was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The University of Kansas Health System Integrative Medicine helped open her eyes so she could take control of her health.

Fox, a writer, editor and yoga teacher, said she’d suffered with daily headaches, skin problems and poor sleep since she was very young. She’d sought solutions through conventional medicine, chiropractic, self-directed elimination diets and many exercise regimens, including step counting and intensive P90X workouts.

While a few approaches offered a little bit of help, nothing ever really solved the problem.

“I was working with a personal trainer and was failing to get results,” Fox said. “In fact, the opposite was happening.”

The trainer had no explanation for the poor results and suggested Fox see a nutritionist, another avenue Fox had tried without success. The trainer convinced her to give it one more chance.

Fox met with Dr. Leigh Wagner, formerly of Integrative Medicine at The University of Kansas Health System, at Integrative Medicine. She said she was surprised that the questioning in her initial appointment was so thorough.

“Leigh asked questions all the way back to my birth, things that I really hadn’t given much thought to,” Fox said.

She said it was a nice surprise to have someone listen to her, especially after she’d spent so much time and money trying to figure out why she wasn’t feeling good.

Wagner recommended nutrient, food sensitivity and thyroid testing. Fox said the results left her in disbelief.

“My results showed a lot of allergies and significant nutrient deficiencies. All the good things I was trying to do on my own didn’t have much impact because my body wasn’t functioning,” she said. “I was prediabetic, (my) gums were receding and my thyroid was a mess.”

She said those results were difficult to hear because she’d made so much effort to stay healthy. She said she couldn’t think how she’d be able to turn it around.

Wagner recommended Fox start her turnaround by changing how and what she eats.

“I had to eliminate grains, dairy, gluten and excess carbs for six months,” Fox said. “My diet was essentially meat, fat, nuts and vegetables. There wasn’t much variety and it was impossible to eat out or have meals with friends.”

She said she was cranky over those first few weeks. She wondered if this approach would be the latest one that wouldn’t work out.

“I got so tired of eating the same kinds of things,” she said. “I was pretty miserable.”

Not only was the repetitive diet discouraging, so were her initial results. Fox said she stuck with it out of curiosity, a motivation to get well and because of Wagner’s support.

“She believed my health could improve,” Fox said. “On the days I doubted, I could remind myself that she believed. Some days, that was all that kept me on track.”

Significant improvements did come, though Fox said it was nearly a year before the bigger ones arrived. She said she even saw improvements in areas she’d never considered to be a problem.

“When people asked what I did, I said I changed my diet. Not many people believe you when you say that,” she said.

Fox said she’s now sleeping better, rarely has headaches and the recession in her gums has reversed. She said her thyroid has normalized, her body temperature is lower and she has better tolerance for working out in the heat.

She said her experience with Integrative Medicine taught her that she’s responsible for her health on a daily – even hourly – basis. Every personal decision plays a part, whether it’s choosing to eat certain foods or opting to drink more water.

“I am the master of my health in many ways and I don’t think people really want to believe that or to take responsibility to that extreme,” she said. “Yes, you can take a pill, but there are side effects and it may or may not work. What you put in your body fuels it in so many ways.”

Fox said she thinks the decision to work with Integrative Medicine was one of the most important things she’s ever done for herself and she’s thankful for it. She said anyone considering integrative medicine needs to realize that every person is unique.

“What works for you may or may not work for someone else,” she said. “There is no one-sized approach. This is something you do for you.”

This story is part of a series of interviews with The University of Kansas Health System Integrative Medicine patients who agreed to share their experiences in our clinic. If you’d like to learn more about integrative medicine, call the clinic at 913-588-6208 to make an appointment with a member of our team.

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