I started this Blog because God has sparked within me a desire to bring the message of health, hope and healing to all those who need it, but especially to those that have been touched by physical infirmities. At least some level of healing is available to all who ask, seek and believe!

Join me as I take a step of faith out of the boat and into the murky waters to begin my own journey of health and healing. We will be taking a closer look at how to find healing in our modern-day world and what God has to say about the process as well. Some of the posts will be on practical ways to achieve healing in our bodies; others will be inspirational and are meant to bring you hope. I think most of you will find that a lot of the information here challenges what you think you know about good health.

May Jehovah Rapha--God, Our Healer--open your hearts, minds and eyes as you explore this website. And may you never forget...to Always Hope.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Hansa Center for Optimal Health

The Hansa Center is where I am recommending people go with Lyme, CRPS, CIRS, mold, autoimmune, CIVD, etc.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Withdrawing All Recoemmdations for Dr. Gordon Crozier & Excellent Living

I can no longer recommend Dr. Gordon Crozier or his staff (which consist of his wife and daughter, among a few others) as far as an alternative treatment center to Dr. Sponaugle's. I have had too many people express their dissatisfaction and one person who recently contacted me to say that she was screamed at by Crozier's nurse because she didn't want certain things in her IVs that she had tried before at other clinics and that had made her worse.

The IVs listed on this patient's treatment plan were completely different than what Crozier's staff were actually trying to put in her veins. The patient refused the IVs twice and as a result, she was considered persona non grata, screamed at by a male nurse, and now no one at the clinic will return her calls or emails about refunding her for treatments that she never received.

Another concern is that Crozier is using exosome therapy in his IVs and he admittedly states that these exosomes are harvested from babies (whether the babies are aborted or living is currently unknown). Essentially, this means that people are having foreign DNA from multiple sources of unknown, harvested origin, being pumped into their bodies in order to try and deliver targeted nutrients to their cells.

Finally, treatment at Excellent Living is upwards of 33K and let me tell you readers--THE INGREDIENTS IN THESE IVS DO NOT EVEN COME CLOSE TO COSTING THESE DOCTORS THAT! Doctors who charge this much money are ripping people off right and left to fund their lavish lifestyles. Their greed has made them completely forget about their Hippocratic Oaths and they are preying on the desperation of people in order to grow their wealth.

Bottom Line: Even though Sponaugle and Crozier had an acrimonious split back in 2013, with Crozier claiming he was taking the moral high ground, it now appears that Crozier is essentially running his clinic like Sponaugle's and charging people an arm and a leg to do it. Not to mention that apart from the moral reasons one may not want exosome therapy, this therapy is still in its infancy and long term studies have not been done (issues from DNA used in vaccines anyone?). And lastly, if a medical clinic is not going to fully disclose to you what it is they are putting in your body, you need to RUN the other way!

Always Hope

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Abide With Me

  1. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
    The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
    When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
  2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
    Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see—
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
  3. I need Thy presence every passing hour;
    What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
    Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
    Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
  4. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
    Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
    Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
    I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
  5. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
    Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
    In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dr. Rick Sponagule and Florida Detox and Wellness (FDWI)

If any of you didn't get a chance to catch my last blog post about my treatment with Dr. Sponaugle at FDWI, you can see that HERE. There are a few others HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

I have heard through the grapevine that Dr. Gordon Crozier was fired by Dr. Sponaugle a few months ago and is no longer working with him. Dr. Crozier has just opened up a practice in the Orlando area. In talking to patients who have seen Dr. Crozier, he is a kind, compassionate and knowledgeable doctor who does focus more on nutrition and healing the gut. He also realizes that these environmental illnesses are not quick fixes and may require long-term treatment and maintenance.  Basically, it sounds to me like he has much of the knowledge that Sponaugle does (especially after working with him for some time) but takes greater care in patient treatment and managing expectations.

UPDATE as of 3/13/14: I can no longer recommend Dr. Crozier. Please see my post HERE as to why.

Always Hope

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I apologize for the delay in updates again. I know many of you are very anxious to hear "the rest of the story." I have just gotten back home from an extended stay at Shand's Hospital in Gainesville, FL where I was newly diagnosed with chronic gastritis and duodenitis. Upon endoscopy with biopsies, I also have findings specific to eosinophilic esophagitis and mast cells in my small bowel. I have lost 35 lbs in two months and have been going into anaphylactic shock just upon waking up without eating or drinking anything. I was on complete bowel rest during the week I was in the hospital, with a dextrose drip being my only food. I have only been able to tolerate organic chicken broth for the last two weeks. I was put on Zyrtec, Zantac and Singulair, proton pump inhibitors and steroids. A mast cell stabilizer will be next. I have been put on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)--an eating plan that has been used with great success over many years in order to heal people's guts. Disappointingly, I was told my gut would be healed in as little as "three days" by Dr. Sponaugle upon getting his specialized treatment at FDWI. Clearly, that did not happen.

While these conditions may be newly diagnosed, I was having symptoms of all these things during my time at FDWI. But the thing is, nothing is really diagnosed at FDWI besides Lyme, mold and occasionally, mycoplasma. Sure, everyone comes in with different issues which have been diagnosed by other doctors, but at FDWI, all of these things are just reduced to toxic brains and as a result, everyone gets the very same treatment--Vitamin C and amino acid IVs. The only variations I saw of this was a little more or little less of something like b vitamins or magnesium. I did see one girl get antibiotic treatment for mycoplasma after many weeks of the Vitamin C and aminos failed. She ended up having bad side effects in her tendons and left the clinic. 

The gut is NOT treated at FDWI. Even though it is considered the "second brain" and sends its own signals to the brain, it isn't even talked about there. While I was there, many patients absconded over to Lifeworks Wellness where doctors Springer and Minkhoff offer most everything Sponaugle does--and then some--with much better care and organization and at a MUCH better price. They at least acknowledge the HUGE role the gut plays in chronic illnesses and treat the patient accordingly. 

Most people with chronic issues and illness have leaky gut, yeast and dysbiosis of the small bowel. This isn't often a result, but a CAUSE of chronic illness. But healing the gut is not quick; it sure doesn't take "three days." The SCD diet, for instance, can take up to two years or more to work. Two years is not the type of treatment that Dr. Sponaugle deals in. His treatment is six weeks. He wants you in and out in that time and wants to take the next patient's money. If you don't respond to the treatment, then you didn't do something he told you to and it's your fault. This is at least how he seems to justify the MANY FDWI failures in his mind (please don't believe the ninety-something percent success rate that may have been quoted to you; there is nothing they can give you to back this up). That, and I truly believe that he just compartmentalizes because he is in denial that his treatments aren't as effective as he would like them to be. If the masses found that out, however, he would be ruined and thus, he's created a massive marketing scheme to perpetuate a mythical cure.

Don't get me wrong: there are multiple sides to Dr. Rick Sponaugle and like any mad scientist, he has Jeykell and Hyde tendencies for sure. For instance, he professes to be a Christian and has lots of artwork and scriptures on his wall that would suggest that. He has helped to build a church overseas (a picture and story of which he prominently displays in his lobby), and he does show moments of generosity to his patients: he gave my mother and me our first round of supplements for free. Yes, we had both just paid almost 10k each (that amount only covered IVs and what was supposed to be one appointment with Sponaugle per week, but even that didnt happen because he had a fit and took off for over ten days, seeing no patients during this time), but these brief moments of charity were overshadowed by his completely erratic behavior: yelling at patients, calling patients whiners, mocking other believers there by calling them "Chreeshtains" and using air quotes while doing it, badgering patients who complained that the treatment wasn't working for them, violating HIPAA laws right and left, firing staff members for their incompetence when he was the one changing the rules on them practically every day, berating and demeaning his nurses in front of patients and anyone else who was around (one time he got on my nurse Dennis so badly that Dennis chewed a bloody hole in his bottom lip), acting recklessly with medical treatments without doing his due diligence (the hospital where he was doing patients' rapid detox took away his privileges while I was at FDWI), and just on and on. 

The bottom line is, I am no better, and in fact worse, since the treatment at FDWI. I am also about 35K poorer. This has been the experience of every other person I still keep in contact with that I met at FDWI, with the exception of one woman who did feel like the treatment detoxed her from all the antibiotics she had taken over the years for Chronic Lyme. I am hoping these people will write their own accounts so I can post them here. 

There are pictures of many people on the FDWI site that Dr. Sponaugle claims to have healed, including my own mother, but this is just because they get you to sign a release for your photographs the very first time you see anyone and they are quite persistent about it too. As an attorney, I wasn't going to sign anything until I saw results and was sure I wanted to recommend the treatment, but my mom went ahead and signed and handed it in before I could tell her not to. Other patients have called me asking how to get their names and pictures off the FDWI website. My experience there has been the experience of many. I would be very wary of all the positive posts you may be seeing out there. I am not at liberty to discuss much about this but I can tell you that Dr. Sponaugle is extremely literate when it comes to Internet advertising and using it to his advantage. There are all sorts of ways to push good reviews on sites that may not have been written by actual customers. There are also ways to push up sites that you want seen by potential customers and push down sites that might contain harmful information about you or your business.  

So please, if you just cant wait for the updates, I would tell you do not buy into the hype. You can make yourself a lot worse by going to this clinic and you're going to spend a lot of money. If you want to try Vitamin C IVs, I am sure there is another holistic doctor closer to you that does them. They may not be as strong, but quite frankly, you don't need them to be. As far as amino acid IVs, you should NOT do these if you have any metal amalgams in your mouth, possible heavy metal toxicity, or any number of specific gene mutations that may affect specific areas of your methylation cycle. For more information on the dangers of amino acid IVs with glutathione in them, join Frequent Dose Chelation on Yahoo and research Dr. Andy Cutler. For more information about gene mutations and the methylation cycle, see the work of Dr. Amy Yasko and join the CFSYasko group on Yahoo. 

I cannot recommend this treatment because it didn't work, is dangerous, and I found the doctor to be very erratic and reckless. In my future posts, I will talk about how he prescribed my mother thyroid hormone because he believed she was Type II Hypothyroid, even though her TSH was at a .1 (.5 being the very lowest it should have been). This was after we explained that our family has a history of autoimmune disease, and specifically Grave's Disease, which would mean that she could have easily been HYPERthyroid, not Type II HYPOthyroid. Instead of doing any due diligence and sending my mom to an endocrinologist, he prescribed the thyroid hormone. After a week on this, my mom was much worse. He could have put her in thyroid storm and killed her. Fortunately, my mom quit taking the meds and we went to see an endocrinologist on our own. Sure enough, she had the antibodies for Grave's and the radioactive iodine scan came back positive as well. At our next appointment, we reluctantly told Sponaugle about us seeing an endocrinologist and had to listen to him for 10 minutes fly off the handle about why he knew better than all these other doctors and how irritated he was that we went behind his back. When he finally calmed down, we told him what the actual results of my mom's tests were and that she did have Grave's and not Type II Hypothyroidism, and he just changed the subject. That is but one story of many.

I want to make it clear that I am not a woman scorned. I am not mad, upset or regretful that I went and got this treatment. I feel like it was part of God's plan for me because He has allowed me to go the long way around on the journey to my miracle. I met other patients at FDWI that I feel humbled and honored to know and their stories are now woven into my own. I also feel like my experience can and will be used to help others as they are so desperately searching for the cure for their loved ones, or themselves. I want my mistakes and set backs to be out there for others to ponder as they are making very important, and potentially life-altering, treatment decisions. That is the whole point of this blog.

Always Hope

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I am going to go ahead and post this for all those who keep emailing me for more about my experience with Dr. Sponaugle and Florida Detox and Wellness Institute and will be updating it as I can...

Florida Detox and Wellness Institute (FDWI) is located in Palm Harbor, FL, about 20 miles west of Tampa and 10 minutes north of Clearwater. I was actually born and raised on Anna Maria Island (about an hour and 20 minutes south of Palm Harbor). I went to law school at Stetson in Saint Petersburg (about 30 minutes south of Palm Harbor). In fact, I had only moved from Saint Petersburg across the state to West Palm Beach in the summer of 2008 so I thought it was ironic that three and a half years later, I was traveling back to my old stomping ground in order to seek treatment. Much like West Palm Beach, Palm Harbor is a haven for all things alternative medicine. However, unlike West Palm Beach, where the motivation behind the alternative therapies is to mainly keep the rich young and healthy, the motivation behind the alternative therapies in Palm Harbor is a bit more obscure. You see, the Palm Harbor/Clearwater area is a mecca for all things Scientology. In fact, Scientology's world-wide home base is Clearwater. As you may remember--no doubt thanks to Tom Cruise's public condemnation of Brooke Shields when she openly admitted using antidepressants for postpartum depression--Scientologists do not condone the use of psychotropic or mood-altering drugs; they prefer to do everything naturally and based on this, the Clearwater/Palm Harbor area is booming with all things alternative medicine and holistic health.

When we first got to Palm Harbor, my mom and I were staying in the grandmother's house of a friend of mine from law school. Her grandmother lived up north and due to ill health, had not been coming down for the winters anymore so the house happened to be available. It was about 5 miles north of FDWI and we were only going to be paying $600 for four weeks (which was what I had been initially told by my patient coordinator, Jack, was the length of the treatment). The house felt like such an answer to prayer! When we got to the home Sunday night--the night before treatment--we thought it was going to be just fine for what we needed. It was an old Florida home with two beds and two baths and was a little musty smelling, but nothing we didn't think could be remedied with a good airing out. We settled in for the night and I remember feeling so hopeful because I finally felt like I was going to be getting the help I so desperately needed.

The next morning, we were at the clinic by 10am. We were told by Jack that we were going to have lunch and a MANDATORY group meeting with Dr. Sponaugle where he would go over all relevant information as far as why all the incoming patients needed his treatment protocol and exactly what it was going to do for us. It was difficult even sitting there in the waiting room due to the state of my physical condition. I was having a big problem with over-stimulation of the senses at that time and as there were all kinds of people milling in and out of the office; it was pretty disconcerting for me. The a/c was broken and the doors to the clinic had been propped open. It was cool outside, so that was fine, but people were smoking at picnic tables outside the clinic and for someone with chemical sensitivities like myself, it was hard to tolerate. Even though there was a sign posted asking people not to wear perfumes, smoke or do other obnoxious things because of "patient sensitivities" no one was enfocring it. There were people in the waiting room who looked "normal" like myself and others that were definitely high and strung out. Many couldn't keep their heads up and were slouched over in their chairs or on their "caretakers"--which was the term the clinic used to refer to the patient's companion who oversaw their needs. Other people came out of a door leading into the back office and they were wheeling around IV stands while they were hooked up to the IV bags, getting their daily "cocktails." A couple of the patients were kind of boisterous and one guy in particular couldn't sit still and was walking around talking to everyone and cussing up a storm. I kept looking around, thinking that someone would come out any minute and take charge of the situation--perhaps telling the smokers to move to another place, separating the people that were there for the wellness program and the ones that were there for the alcohol/drug detox, asking the obnoxious guy to stop using profanity, telling the people on the IV drips to stay in the IV room like the sign posted said to...but none of that happened. Instead, I just had to wait anxiously while the girl behind the front counter kept checking to make sure the little machine that defused the thieves oil (to counteract any mold) was working and was simply oblivious to everything else. I did try asking several times about the lunch menu because I was strictly gluten free and was told they would have gluten free options.

Finally, after waiting several hours, a woman came out and introduced herself as Audrey and asked all the new patients to go to the back of the clinic, help themselves to lunch, and take a seat in the conference room. When I passed through the door leading from the waiting room into the back part of the clinic, I took an immediate left. on my right, I could see a room that housed all the IV patients (at least when they stayed in there like they were supposed to). The room had a TV and lots of black, leather recliners. Some people in there were chatting and others were sleeping. Most all of them were hooked up to an IV bag and getting some sort of cocktail.

My mom and I made our way further down the hallway and to our left was a little toom with several red chairs where "nurses" were hooking up patients to IV drips and/or taking out the IV drips. Across the hall were the men's and women's bathrooms. Next you came to a dead end at a perpendicular hallway. If you went left, it was another exit out to the front of the clinic and if you went right, it led you yo the back of the clinic. All along that hallway were offices. Right there where the two hallways connected was Dr. Sponaugle's office. Then you had the offices of three actual, registered nurses. There was one with red hair (I forget her name), Dennis (who ended up being my nurse), and later, Kathy (whom Sponaugle had just hired about the time I got there).

Lunch consisted of sub sandwhiches, cheese, fruit, veggies with ranch dressing, chips and soda. I was shocked that they were feeding this rubbish to people who obviously had problems with leaky gut but then I thought that maybe there were way more drug/alcohol detox people there for intake than wellness people like me. Even though I knew that the addicts had leaky gut too, I figured the addicts themselves didn't know about leaky gut, nor would they have cared if they did. My gluten free option was to remove the meat and cheese from the bread, to eat a piece of fruit, and to eat veggies with no ranch. Since the meat had bread all over it, I ate veggies and fruit and I opted for water to drink. Later, I expressed to several people who seemed to be in charge of administration issues how nice it would be to have actual, gluten free foods brought in for people like myself and I was assured that they were "working on" getting some trays from Rawk Star--a raw cafe right across the street. Needless to say, not only did this food they promised never materialize at any of the weekly intake sessions for the six weeks I was at the clinic, but when I checked with the owners of Rawk Star, they were adamant that no one at FDWI had ever contacted them about brining food in.

Things like this were a reoccurring theme at FDWI. At first, I was blaming the employees for not having their act together and was feeling quite sorry for Dr. Sponaugle. I was trying (when I could) to run my own business too and I sure knew that good help was hard to find. But FDWI seemed to take it to a whole other level. The massive confusion coming out of that place was very hard to deal with. Even though I had my mother with me, she was only my "caretaker" in the sense that she provided companionship--God bless her. She had no medical depth or breadth of knowledge like I did and had a hard time comprehending much of anything. She had been through chemo for breast cancer twice and unbeknownst to everyone at the time, was battling Grave's Disease. So it was really up to me to deal with everything and admittedly, I envied the patients who could just be total lushes and let their caretakers--usually wives or mothers--do all the leg work for them, gather all the medical information, put all their supplements together, foot the bill for everything, and most importantly, sift through all the total confusion that was everything FDWI.

When we finally started the mandatory group session (at about 2 pm), I noticed that some of the people in there were also hooked up to IVs so I surmised that anyone could join this group, even if they had already been to one of these sessions before. Dr. Sponaugle entered the room as he dictated orders to Audrey about taping the session, the lighting and other instructions he wanted her to follow. He had a large cup with several tea bags hanging off the edge and looked a little frazzled and haggard--not like the well-put-together doctor I saw on his website or on YouTube. He quickly started into his diatribe about how modern medicine had failed all the people sitting in the room and how his methods were somewhere in the high 90th percentile at fixing everything from autoimmune, to autism, to cancer to drug/alcohol addiction. Again, everyone had toxic brains and needed to detox. What followed was a 7-8 hour (that is not a typo) medical lesson/marketing session that basically was the same thing as his webinar but went more into depth. In my opinion, he could have stated everything in 2 hours but the tangents he kept getting off on took him down all sorts of other rabbit holes for which there seemed to be no end. Don't get me wrong, the stuff was interesting, but many of the people in there were addicts and either had their cups full of alcohol or were literally leaving the room to go pop a pill or go snort something. Others had traveled a long way and had literally come straight from the airport and were exhausted. Still others, like myself, were so sick, they found it hard to even leave their house most of the time, much less sit in a room full of strangers with a doctor rattling off things that only a person with a background in biochemistry really could understand. I have that background as I was premed for 3 years but as sick as I was, it was very hard to assimilate all the information being thrown at me. On one hand, I really appreciated what Dr. Sponaugle was trying to do, which was to educate us, but on the other hand, I realized that part (if not most) of his motivation for educating us stemmed from his desire to make us believe that there was absolutely no other way we could be healed of our ailments unless we signed up for his services. He was obviously taping the lessons/sessions, so why wouldn't he just use one of tapes for his incoming, potential patients to watch? In my opinion, it was because the lessons/sessions served to feed his ego, the lessons/sessions let him hear himself talk and by doing this, he could perfect his marketing skills or "pitch", and because it gave him and opportunity to answer any questions people have in order to quell any doubts they might have about needing at least a full four weeks of Vitamin C and amino acid IVs.

At about the two hour mark, one nice looking lady in the front raised her hand and said she was just there for the rapid detox session. She just wanted the detox and wanted to go home. That didn't sit too well with the good doctor. He basically told her she was so messed up, she couldn't even realize that he was telling her she had to go through at least four weeks of his brain detox program with the vitamin c and amino IVs because if she didn't let him fix her brain, the 3 day drug/alcohol detox would do nothing for her and she would start using again. The lady said she wasn't planning to stay for 4 weeks--that she couldn't do such a thing. She clearly was impaired, but she wasn't out of line. She said she started using pain pills again after the death of her husband. To that, the doctor said something along the lines of (and I am paraphrasing), "Sorry you lost your husband but you need to shut up because you don't know what you're talking about. It's not your fault, you have a toxic brain, but shut up." This left the lady in tears and her caretaker-sister too shocked to say anything so they both just sat there while Sponaugle then addressed the rest of us. He said he had no time or patience for anyone's BS. He had been doing this for too long and knew things that we didn't so we just needed to trust him and let him get on with his lesson/session and his treatment. Now, I had heard him pop off at people on the webinar, but that afternoon he made it clear that he was just as willing to do it to people's faces too. I couldn't help feeling like this guy really just wanted everyone to hand him over $10K and then shut up and let him treat them. Still, Dr. Sponaugle and the staff at FDWI were the only hope I had at the moment and I still felt strongly that I was right where God wanted me yo be.

At 7:30pm, my mom and I had to call it a night. We slipped out quietly and headed back to my friends' grandmother's house. That night, even with the windows open, we both had kind of a fitful sleep. The house still smelled musty and all the literature we had gotten at our lesson/session with Sponaugle said he only wanted us to stay at a couple different hotels in the area because there was mold everywhere else. Later, I would come to find out that the "testing" they did on the recommended hotels consisted of the fact the the hotels were the newest in the area and that Jack could go sit in them without having a reaction. Apparently, you see, Jack was very sensitive to mold. This method was all fine and good until one of the families staying in one of the recommended hotels found mold all back behind their airconditioner. This was even after Jack had "cleared" their particular room. So the family ended up moving hotels. In any case, by the next morning, my mom and I felt like if we were going to be spending all this money to get treatment, we better just anty up and make sure that we weren't staying in a mold-infested property. We sent my friend's grandmother $250, packed up and moved into the Holliday Inn in Seminole, which was one of the hotels FDWI recommended.

That afternoon, I was to have my first, actual appointment with Dr. Sponaugle. We were going to be going over the test results from all the labs my mom and I had done and we were supposed to figure out our treatment plans. Sponaugle was several hours late to the appointment and again, we were left waiting in a room full of sick people all just wallowing in our sicky-sickness. I was secretly a little irritated that Sponaugle was meeting with both my mom and me at the same time. I really wanted my own meeting because I was scared he was going to jump around between the two of us and leave us both feeling confused. A meeting with Sponaugle is like a an encounter with a rapid-fire machine gun: you try to do the best you can in the situation while he fires off about everything, but inevitably, you're left with a hole in your head and wondering what the heck just happened. Thankfully, my nurse, Dennis, taped the whole thing (which I didn't even know he was doing and is technically illegal in the state of Florida unless all parties to the conversation consent, but in this case, I was glad). I have the little tape and haven't listened to it yet for a couple reasons: one, because I was a bit traumatized from the whole FDWI experience, and two, I just don't have a mini tape player. But for you, dear friends, I have gone and bought one and will put the recording of my meeting with Sponaugle into a format so I can post it here.

Updating as I can...

Always Hope

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


When I wrote Part I of this blog series, I was in a very positive mood. I felt like I was finally getting the outside care and help I needed and that I was done having to self-treat. It was such a relief to be handing over my care to what seemed like a doctor who finally understood all aspects of what was really going on underneath the surface of my illness and who knew that without a doubt, all the seemingly unrelated symptoms I was having were indeed connected. If any of you reading this have ever struggled with a chronic illness and tried, or are trying, to treat yourself in order to get well, then you know how exhausting, frustrating, stressful and defeating it can be. Likewise, when/if you find a practitioner or someone who steps in and manages your care so that you don't have to do it yourself, well, that can be one of the biggest joys and feelings of relief that you've had since your illness started. In any case, because of my cheerful mood, I realize now that I failed to lay bare my full experience with Florida Detox and Wellness (FDWI) up until that point. Yes, I semi-consciously overlooked things that I should have written about because I wanted everything to be right and to go right--especially the end result of my treatment--but I know it's important that no detail is left out this time.

In late December 2011, not long after I found Brenda Watson's card in the probiotic bottle, Googled her, and then learned of Dr. Sponaugle and FDWI, I used the contact form on the FDWI website to give a brief synopsis of myself to an unknown "patient coordinator." A man by the name of Jack Palumbo contacted me via email fairly quickly and simply said, "there [sic] is too much to say in an email.. [sic] Please call when you can as I can tell you with some degree of certainty that you are severely Toxic [sic]. Jack Palumbo XXX-XXX-XXXX" The rest of the email contained copied and pasted information, which I found to be a bit confusing since I had no references about the "Toxicity Program" or what was being offered to begin with. The information, verbatim, was:

Toxicity causes many symptoms of various diseases. Dr Sponaugle has developed a treatment plan to cleanse the toxicity from his Toxic patients that show symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Alzheimer's, Lyme & Parkinson's Disease.
** We understand that it is a big commitment on your part to come to Florida for an extended period of time for treatment.
** We need to do extensive testing before your arrival. Dr Sponaugle will review all the results and design treatment options.

At Florida Detox and Wellness Institute we find the underlying cause of the Toxicity . Furthermore, Dr. Sponaugle’s pioneered IV Drip Therapy restores and replenishes the damage toxicity has caused.

Dr. Sponaugle will answer questions about addiction, anti-aging, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, depression, anxiety, etc. Get powerful and helpful answers - without even leaving your home!
Don’t miss this amazing opportunity!

Call-in toll-free number (US/Canada): 1-877-668-4493
Call-in toll number (US/Canada): +1-408-600-3600
Call-in toll number (US/Canada)*: +1-571-918-6008
* Call-in toll number (US/Canada) should only be used if the primary number does not work.

Attendee access code: 738 372 211

Meeting password (if required) 3333

To join the online meeting (options 2 and 3 above)
Click HERE to join the WebEx online meeting.

or copy the web address below to your browser:

Please follow the instructions that appear on your screen.

The description of the Toxicity Program is below.

Kind Regards,

Xxx-xxx-xxxx cell

Toxicity Program $9800.00

**Analyze and optimize more than 200 vital biochemicals including brain neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
** Intravenous program restores numerous biochemical deficiencies and intestinal malabsorption issues.
**Diagnose and successfully treat “stealth” infectious intracellular microorganisms in Mold Toxic patients that are causing excessive inflammation and tissue damage.
**Restore vital nutrients and the “building blocks” of every cell in the body while simultaneously removing brain toxins.
**Remove harmful biotoxins, industrial and environmental toxins that accumulate in the brain.

• Intake EKG
• Nineteen IV drips
• Thirty days of follow up consultations with Dr. Sponaugle and medical staff after treatment period


Additional Costs include:
• Lab testing (Both admit lab testing and 1st urine neuroscience are extra.)
• Rx medications (we will give vouchers and samples when available)
• Supplements.
• IV drip therapy (in addition to the 19 drips included in the price)

. Anticipated Schedule however may vary depending on your unique circumstances:


Monday= Intake, meet with the medical staff, EKG, Patient and caregiver attend workshop @ 2pm.
Tuesday= IV drip meet with Dr. Sponaugle today or tomorrow depending on schedule
Wednesday= IV drip
Thursday= IV drip
Friday= IV drip


Monday = IV drip
Tuesday= IV drip meet with Dr. Sponaugle today or tomorrow depending on schedule
Wednesday= IV drip
Thursday= IV drip
Friday= IV drip


Monday = IV drip
Tuesday= IV drip meet with Dr. Sponaugle today or tomorrow depending on schedule
Wednesday= IV drip
Thursday= IV drip
Friday= IV drip


Monday = IV drip
Tuesday= IV drip
Wednesday= IV drip
Thursday= IV drip, meet with Dr. Sponaugle to discuss final treatment plan.
Friday= IV drip

About a minute after I received Jack's first email, a second email appeared with an attached .pdf article from Life Extension Magazine, featuring Dr. Sponaugle. You can see the article HERE. Most everyone in the natural/alternative health world knows about Life Extension Magazine so I have to say, I was pretty impressed to see this recent accomplishment of his. The FDWI website itself is littered with articles, pictures and propaganda all touting Dr. Sponaugle's prowess and making the impossible seem possible. I mean, he certainly has all the celebrities, articles, research and pictures/testimonies of real, live patients to back up his claims. As an attorney, I like to see the evidence and Dr. Sponaugle was spoon-feeding it to me! Not only that, but there were scripture references predominantly displayed throughout his website and it appeared that his faith played a big part in his personal and professional life; a nerve-calming addition, to say the least.

Blaming myself for being just too toxic to comprehend much anymore, I disregarded the confusing nature of Jack's original email and signed up for one of Dr. Sponaugle's weekly webcasts. I couldn't believe that I was actually going to get to hear this guy speak AND have an opportunity to ask questions before I made any commitment to seek treatment with him. I had seen so many other doctors up until that point and never had I been able to give them a test run, so to speak, before I went. Had I been able to, I would not have seen 99.9% of them.

I listened to the fist webcast without asking any questions or making any comments. It began 20-30 minutes after it was supposed to start because Dr. Sponaugle was running late. A nice administrator named Audrey greeted the people joining the webcast and told everyone that the doctor was running late because he was still seeing patients. I remember thinking it was pretty refreshing to hear that a doctor was running late because he was actually taking the time to sit, listen and help the people he was treating. Audrey seemed to be broadcasting the webcast from Dr. Sponaugle's home and was simply waiting for him to get there. I later found out she was an employee of his who was in charge of the web-based content as well as various tasks around the office, but that she also watched his kids sometimes.

When Dr. Sponaugle finally arrived home and started the webcast, he made no apologies for making us wait. He spoke with authority and talked very fast. He didn't sound at all like he did on the video I saw with he and Brenda Watson. In that video he was clam, cool and collected. On the webinar he seemed discombobulated at times and would ask Audrey in a demeaning manner about why a slide wasn't where it was supposed to be, or he would tell her to change something for the next time. An hour and a half later, after he gave a very informative, albeit sporadic, tutorial, he started to answer questions from the listeners. In order to ask a question, you had to type it in a little box at the beginning of the webcast and the doctor answered them in the order they were received. Most of the people on the webcast (at least the ones asking the questions) were the caregivers of the prospective patients who needed treatment. They had their faculties about them and were able to listen, comprehend and articulate their questions well but many of them were distraught about the state of their loved ones and you could hear the desperation in their voices. At one point, a mother of a disabled Vet spoke and described how her son was suffering from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and PTSD. He apparently was on all kinds of medication, including stuff for seizures. I cannot recall whether he was also self-medicating (using drugs/alcohol) but this poor mother was so distraught and you could tell she was absolutely at her wits' end. As she was explaining things, Dr. Sponaugle kept interrupting and telling her how he had seen this over and over again. He seemed to pride himself in being able to tell you about you or your loved one's physical and mental issues before he heard much of anything, and he did this, in my opinion, to prove his superiority, assert his authority, and to make you want to sign up for treatment right there on the spot. At one point, as the mother of the Vet kept asking questions and trying to understand everything, Dr. Sponaugle jumped in and said, "Well you better up his seizure medications because he could have a massive one at any moment." It was just such a jarring, fear-producing thing to say and the mother's stunned silence was broken only by the sound of her soft sobs and Dr. Sponaugle's voice telling her that her kid needed treatment right away. He was unapologetic and I think, if you would have asked him why he was so harsh, he would dismiss your mercy by saying that the mother just didn't get it, that her son was on the verge of a major medical episode--maybe even death--and that if he spurred that family into action due to the shocking nature of his statements, then it was all worth it. In essence, he was saving this kid's life, and that was the only thing that mattered.

The rest of the question/answer session was much of the same thing, at least on the part of Dr. Sponaugle. Everyone's stories were different, sure, but no matter what your symptoms, Dr. Sponaugle would always relate it back to your toxic brain/body: excessive alcohol or drug use = toxic; Autoimmune Disease = toxic; Lyme Disease = toxic; cancer = you get the picture. Now certainly, I am oversimplifying the issue of toxicity here. All you have to do is read some of my other posts to see that the workings of biochemistry and microbiota in the body are not something that anyone really fully understands, BUT if there is someone out there who thinks they are pretty close to seeing the big picture, I would say it would be Dr. Sponaugle. And I have to give him credit; he is super-intelligent and knows a lot. He definitely knew more about what I felt like I my physical issues were than any other doctor I had ever come in contact with. Even his egotistical, overbearing attitude was dismissible because after all, he must be exhausted from seeing all these patients whose cases were so critical and from listening to all these stories people had over and over and over. I mean, I could understand his frustration because at the end of the day, if everyone was really suffering from the same thing--that is, toxicity--and you could treat them all the same way, then how annoying would it have to be to have to explain this in detail to everyone?! It's not always easy convincing people that the reason one patient has self-medicated with alcohol is the same reason another person has Alzheimer's. We have been taught the Alcoholism and Alzheimer's are two totally different diseases and that one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. When you go about trying to explain that they can be, and often are, related, people have a hard time wrapping their heads around that.

For me, what Dr. Sponaugle was saying made a lot of sense in my mind, but not only that, it resonated within my spirit. This is something I often check for when I am trying to discern the truth. I did not like his alarmist ways, or the fact that he belittled or demeaned anyone who challenged him or had a hard time comprehending what he was saying. I did not like that any time someone would try to correct him on a symptom or detail that they were giving about themselves or a loved one--simply because they were trying to get him all the relevant facts--he would either gloss over what they said, dismiss it altogether, or imply that they may not know what they were talking about. Further, while I was so grateful he took the time not only to explain his theories and to answer everyone's questions, and while I certainly felt like there was a lot of truth to what was being proffered, I couldn't shake the feeling that 1) it was a well-orchestrated, marketing campaign 2) he felt that everything that he said was straight from God's lips and there was no room for challenging it, and 3) perhaps the actual, underlying reason for such an extensive webinar session was because it satisfied the need to feed his own ego.

I listened to a few more webcasts over the next few weeks, all the while corresponding with Jack, who was one of two patient coordinators at FDWI. My emails and phone calls with Jack always left me feeling frustrated and like I had even more questions than before. He was certainly nice, but every time I asked him for any details of the program, or about what to expect, or how long I would need to be there, or how much it was going to cost, etc., I would always get generalizations--if my questions were answered at all. And then, trying to figure out what labs I needed, getting my prescriptions for the labs and trying to figure out when I needed to run them was a nightmare. I had health insurance, but could never get any clear information about what might have been covered and what wasn't so I was left without knowing the cost of anything. I was so, so sick at that time and I had never been so frustrated with a health care provider. Later, I would come to find out that Jack was not trained in the health care field at all and in fact was the father of a boy that Dr. Sponaugle had previously treated. Jack said the doctor had completely turned his son around and as a result, it appeared Jack became a convert, a devotee, a follower of all things Dr. Marvin "Rick" Sponaugle. Jack lived in Naples--several hours south of where FDWI was located--and didn't work out of FDWI on a regular basis but instead used his cell phone to field calls from prospective patients or their caregivers. The extent of Jack's role appeared to encompass giving people a little information about the treatment program, telling them the miraculous story of how the doctor healed his son, booking their intake date, and occasionally popping into FDWI with lunch for the employees and to see what was going on with everyone.

Despite all the confusion I experienced trying to get started with treatment at FDWI, I did get my lab work done and on Sunday, February 19th, 2012, my mom and I were headed over to Palm Harbor for what I hoped would be my last stop on my journey to healing.

To be continued...

Always Hope

Monday, April 8, 2013


It was one year ago this weekend that I returned from six weeks of treatment at Dr. Sponaugle's Florida Detox and Wellness Center. I don't really know why it's taken me a year to write this blog (or series of blogs, as I have planned it). With my illness, I have had a hard time finishing what I started so I am trying to be more cognizant of that. I guess for a while, I was waiting to see what the final outcome of my treatment was. I really, really wanted to give people an honest and in-depth assessment of my treatment, let them know what they could expect if they went, and most importantly, let them know whether it worked for me! But after a while, the task just seemed daunting and monumental. Quite a few people have contacted me in the meantime though and have asked me for an update; now I plan to give it.

I have yet to put all my symptoms on my blog because I really wanted the tone here to remain positive. I did write my symptoms down in my Journal and reading over them can be downright depressing, but I am now going to list them for you here because I remember scouring the Internet looking for anyone that had similar symptoms to me and wanting to know what they did to get well. I am going to write them verbatim from my Journal entry on October 8, 2011. I think doing so will give you an idea of the helplessness and hopelessness I was feeling that day. It is important to note that I never stayed in that mindset. I had to constantly renew my mind to pull myself out of feeling that way, but it is important to be honest and say that there were certainly days and even weeks that I felt very helpless, hopeless and desperate. When I look back, it was in those times that I can see God's hand on me the most.

October 8, 2011
I am having a rough day today. It's so frustrating not knowing what is really going on in my body, and even worse, not being able to do anything about it. I am so weak that I can hardly sit up or write. Even as I write this, I do it from my bed in a reclining position and I have to take frequent, short breaks. My mind keeps failing me as I cannot remember how to spell simple words and even if I could, recalling the words I want to use is a most difficult task in and of itself. I have also been transposing my letters a lot and leaving out words in sentences altogether. I cannot speak correctly either and am constantly changing tenses in mid-sentence. This is not what one should expect from a straight-A English major.

My eyesight is blurry and I have strange, depth-perception problems. I would go get glasses, but I have done so in the past and as soon as I did, my eyesight would improve. My anxiety is through the roof. The strange, neurological feelings and sensations that go through my body day and night are enough to make anyone uneasy. Agoraphobia comes and goes but even on the days I don't have that, I still don't feel well enough to leave the house.

I am constantly dizzy and disoriented. I cannot stand or sit upright comfortably and I can only stand and sit upright uncomfortably for a few minutes at a time. My oxygen saturation seems to be low, or perhaps it is my body's inability to convert anything to the energy it needs to function. All the things that a body is supposed to do without a person noticing (like breathing, swallowing, your heart beating, blinking, etc.) are noticeable to me.

My spine feels like it is in a vice grip and I am constantly contorting my body into different positions and poses to try to find some relief, but even if I find that relief, it is only momentary. Plus, my muscles are so weak, I cannot hold myself in any one position for very long.

My heart is constantly beating rapidly within my chest. I am always aware of it and often feel it in my throat and ears as well. I cannot escape it and it is exhausting. Many times, I have palpitations--anywhere from a small flutter to heavy-hitting thuds where I am sure my heart will just explode and that will be the end of me. These heavy-pounding sessions often steal my breath and I have to cough several times just to try to get everything going again.

Often times, I feel like there is a fire raging just beneath my skin, yet my skin is not hot to the touch. Many times, my skin feels sore and I feel like I have just been in a physical fight. I bruise easily and any sort of pressure on any part of my body for too long (including wearing a bra and socks/shoes) is uncomfortable and noticeable. I cannot even have a cat on my lap without it creating an uncomfortable amount of pressure for me.

Speaking of pressure, it is terribly difficult to fly in a pressurized cabin in an airplane. It seems to heighten my dizziness and the pressure changes play tricks on my mind. I have no fear of crashing--only flying. I had to give up scuba diving years ago because I couldn't stand the pressure changes any more. I also do not like to be in any enclosed spaces, but this may have something to do with being put under blankets as a child.

My mandible joint on the right side of my face has seemed to separate from its rightful place. It has shifted and I can feel a lump in the joint area itself. My gums will bleed for a few days and then won't bleed at all. My eyes and my mouth will be dry for a few days or even a day and then will seem normal. My limbs are constantly falling asleep and there are sometimes crawling sensations in my forearms and down my shins. One month, I will have terrible menstrual cramps; the other, hardly any at all.

My endocrine system is messed up. I am currently taking Amour Thyroid and bioidentical Progesterone. Before the Progesterone, I had six months of terrible, disfiguring, cystic acne on my face. I never had a problem with my face before that; now I have lasting scars that will be with me the rest of my life. Sometimes, I experience internal tremors--like I am leaning up against a generator. This improved greatly with Progesterone but it still happens on occasion--especially upon waking or going to sleep. I cannot handle stress--bad or good--as my adrenals are burnt out and I do not have the proper cortisol responses.

I feel dizzy, off-balance, even drunk at times. I have lost over 2/3 of my hair, including the hair on my head and the hair found on other regions of my body. I cannot move quickly for fear of a pounding head or a blood rush to the head. I am pretty sure it is P.O.T.S. My ears are constantly draining with a wax-like fluid and are wet to the touch.

I have bad episodes of Seborrhea Dermatitis where my whole scalp will become infected. My face is always peeling, as is the area around my eyebrows and lips. My face and chest have developed telangiectasias (small, dilated blood vessels). My body cannot regulate its temperature anymore. Doing simple lawn tasks will cause me to overheat but there are no warning signs.

My symptoms migrate all over my body. Someday one thing is affected; the next it is five things; the next ten. I feel differently minute by minute sometimes. I have food allergies. What may seem not to bother me one day will make me break out in hives the next.

I obsess over things I shouldn't. I am constantly worried about whether I said or did the right thing. Social interactions can leave me feeling elated or defeated. I long to interact with people but the obsessive need to be able to control peoples' perceptions of me is exhausting. I did not used to be this way.

I creak and crack and pop. There is pressure in my joints. I don't have a lot of joint pain, per se, but I am constantly laying down or reclining. When I find myself having to sit straight up in a chair, I do have pain. Also, one of my first symptoms was terrible joint pain in my knees.

Sleeping is difficult. I vacillate between insomnia and sleeping for 9-10 hours at a time. I crave fatty foods--meats and cheeses, but I am already overweight. I haven't had any success in losing this weight, including six months at the gym, working out 5 days a week for 1-2 hours per day. I would not be able to physically do that anymore.

I can be short-tempered, moody and irritable. My life seems to be lived in stops and starts. I have sensory overloads. Light, smells and sounds bother me and I don't seem to be able to process them well. I have what I call "Autistic-like episodes." The only difference between myself and an Autistic child sometimes, I believe, is that I have an already-developed brain and can verbalize to others what it happening to me. I can feel loud sounds or bass from a passing car deep within my chest and it is uncomfortable. When my husband lightly snores at night, my eardrums vibrate incessantly.

My chest and muscles are so tight. It is only by going to cranial sacral therapy each week and having my body manually manipulated that I feel like I can breathe a little again. But by the next week, I am locked back up and my breathing is again labored. I have terrible chronic fatigue. It literally feels like I am not making the energy at a cellular level needed to sustain my life force. I am not trying to be an alarmist, but I do feel like death could only be a moment away.


So there you have it: my symptoms as I was experiencing them in the days and weeks leading up to October 11, 2011. There have been others that were not included here, but this is a pretty comprehensive list. When I wrote this, I was feeling pretty desperate and was really seeking help from God with a specific request that I needed some sort of outside help. I just did not have the physical, mental or emotional capacity to treat myself anymore. A couple months later, my prayers were seemingly answered in the form of a bottle of probiotics that had an insert in it which led me to Dr. Sponaugle.

To be continued...

Always Hope

Thursday, March 1, 2012


In case you have been wondering why I haven't been posting any blogs lately, I was not doing so because of a direct request from the leader of my inner healing workshop. He was concerned that I was "sitting under sickness" by writing about it and focusing on it. I agreed that it could be an issue and I submissively and reverently complied.

The inner healing workshop I speak of was for Adult Children of Childhood Dysfunction. It was unlike anything I had ever participated in and it focused on how your needs as a child either were or were not met and how that affected/affects your adult relationships. I will write more on the workshop and my experiences with it another time because it is very deserving of its own, lengthy post, but right now, I would rather focus on what is currently happening with me.

For the last week, I have been staying in Palm Harbor and seeing Dr. Sponaugle at Florida Detox and Wellness. I have been diagnosed with late stage Lyme Disease (and other co-infections), toxic mold and biotoxins. My DNA was also tested and I found out that I don't happen to make the antibodies that are necessary to fight off any of these things. This means I am much more susceptible to the Lyme, mold and biotoxins than someone else who does make the antibodies to them. This is true in about 25% of the population.

These new diagnoses explain a lot. Yes, I already have the diagnosis of Primary Sjogren's Disease, but I have always felt that there was something else going on with me. When I first got sick, my research and symptoms pointed more to Lyme than anything else, but when the autoimmune disease showed up, my doctors just stopped looking for other things. Typical of the allopathic medical system. I did insist on a Lyme test at the time of my autoimmune diagnosis but was only given an ELISA and Western Blot by the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, FL. The ELISA was negative and only one band on the Western Blot was positive (band 23). Unless two or more bands test positive, the current guidelines from the CDC consider the Western Blot to be negative for Lyme. I had heard whispers that those two Lyme labs weren't really reliable and often showed false negative results, but I had just been given the new diagnosis of Sjogren's and so the whole Lyme thing got kind of pushed to the back burner. Still, I would occasionally come across an article or a website about chronic Lyme and I would wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, this could be something I was dealing with as well. I even posted about Lyme on my blog this past summer. At least now I don't have to wonder anymore. The diagnosis is real and here I am in Palm Harbor beginning treatment with Dr. Sponaugle.

The way I found Dr. Sponaugle is really worth a mention here. It was a total God thing. The integrative M.D. I had been seeing for the past 4 years in Palm Beach passed away suddenly in October 2011 from an anyrisum. God Bless his soul--Dr. Chapman was a caring, compassionate doctor and helped me is so many ways. I had seen Dr. Lacayo (the new doctor who took over for Dr. Chapman) a couple times and I liked her very much, but still, there was nothing she was telling me about my health that I did not already know. I have to say that it is pretty frustrating when you go to your doctor and know as much or even more than they do. I was used to that with the conventional doctors but I now was experiencing that with the integrative doctors as well.

Right before Christmas, Dr. Lacayo encouraged me to get off the gluten and go completely gluten-free. As you can see from the very beginning of this blog, God had been dealing with me about my diet for quite some time and especially about the gluten. I have had more than one person tell me they knew I had a problem with gluten and to get off of it. Still, having to limit my options by eliminating a whole food group was daunting and depressing. I had to really pray for 6 months for the strength to make this change in my life. When I sat in front of Dr. Lacayo in December 2011 and was yet again hearing that I needed to get off the gluten, I knew that the time was drawing near. I told her that I was cooking for my family for Christmas but that after the holidays, I was definitely going to give it a try. But only a couple days later, I woke up and the strength and determination to quit the gluten-containing foods was there. Christmas brunch was all gluten-free and I was totally cool with the fact that my family may not have liked anything on the table. Of course they did, but being my hyper-vigilant, obsessive self, the fact that I didn't really care whether they were pleased or not was a blessing in and of itself. For once, I was doing me without the guilt of not catering to them. It was one of the best Christmases ever.

I have now been gluten-free for 3 months; although getting off the gluten was not an easy transition physically whatsoever. Even though I knew the gluten was damaging my health, the more often I ate it, the less I reacted to other foods and chemicals. It was as if the gluten blocked the histamine receptors and kept me from at least feeling any allergic reactions. At the same time, it would make me feel terrible in other ways and was causing all kinds of neurological issues and even "brain pain." Oddly enough, I had no noticeable gastrointestinal issues that I could speak of. In any case, once I got off the gluten, my body went into total attack mode. I seemed to be allergic to everything I put into my mouth and I was having terrible histamine and glutamate reactions to all foods, supplements and beverages. Nothing seemed safe and something that didn't bother me one day would flat lay me out the next. It was so frustrating. I was basically relegated to a diet of baked chicken, brown rice and a few veggies. Still, I stayed the course because I just knew in my spirit that this was related to "gluten withdrawal," if you will. I tried taking good quality probiotics (The Ultra Flora brand) and totally broke out in hives and rashes with that. The probiotics also seemed to make my food allergies worse so I had to stop them. I was taking Benadryl around the clock just to be able to eat. What's more, I had actual detox symptoms like the kind you read about when people get off drugs--cold sweats, pain, racing heart, nausea, crawling pain, etc. It was not fun. But now, three months into a gluten-free lifestyle, I have noticed a lot of positive changes. For one, my dizziness has resolved at least 75%. I also do not have the pain in my head anymore, which actually felt like my brain was injured in different places. My skin quit shedding, cracking and peeling and is more soft and supple. My inflammation levels seem to be diminishing based on the pain in my joints. I have been able to add back more foods to my diet, although I still do best with organic, whole foods. I am sure there are other, positive changes as well, but as usual, I have gotten off on a tangent when I was trying to tell you about how I found the current doctor I am seeing....

When I bought the Ultra Flora probiotics right after I went gluten-free, there was a little card in the box by the maker of the probitics, Brenda Watson. On the card, it advertised her book about changing your gut to correct your overall health. She also had a PBS special based on her book. I know a lot about gut health and the importance of it. Being that I have a systemic candida infection, I am always looking for ways to help my gut. And of course, now that I was gluten-free, I was definitely looking to keep learning more about gut health issues. I tried to find out if Brenda's special was going to be playing on PBS any time soon, but it wasn't. So I did the next best thing and went on Youtube. There, I found several abbreviated segments of her show. In one of the segments, she was talking to a doctor out of Palm Harbor who seemed especially knowledgeable about the issues of gut health but also the connection between the gut and the brain. I had been very concerned of late about all the pain I was experiencing in my brain and in my head. The doctor Brenda was speaking to was Dr. Sponaugle. A further Google search of him showed that he had a Wellness Center in Palm Harbor, FL where he was doing all kinds of cutting edge stuff. I took a look at his website and was most impressed. It was as if he had put everything together that I had been learning on my own for the past 4 years. Now, I have seen my share of snake oil salesmen during the course of my illness and can generally spot them from a mile away. Sponaugle didn't strike me as such and he had the science to back things up. He gives a free webinar every Tuesday night and I listened to it 2 weeks in a row. He even lets his listeners ask questions and took lots of time to answer people. I just felt in my spirit like I needed to go see this doctor. It was time. My time.

Dr. Sponaugle's treatment protocol is not cheap. For a month worth of treatment, it is upwards of 10K. Not included in that figure are the costs of the labs, supplements, staying in one of a few of their "approved," mold-free hotels, meals, etc. I didn't care. I felt like this was where God was leading me and I knew that if He wanted me to go, He would make a way. At the very least, I was going to go ahead and get all the Lyme, mold and biotoxin tests, meet with Dr. Sponaugle to get the results and then just confirm or deny some of the things I thought could be going on with me. The consult with him was going to cost $1,000 (not including the costs for the tests) and I figured I could at least swing that, even in my current financial state.

I arranged the date of February 6, 2012 to go up to the clinic, got the tests shipped to me from Sponaugle's office (some I did at home and some I went to Quest for) and just kept praying for God to show me whether this was really His will. I had an extreme peace about going to this doctor and the doors seemed to be opening up for me, but I still didn't have any specific scripture that gave me a definite "yes." Plus, the financial side of things really had me concerned. For the last 6 months, I felt like I was getting considerably worse and my memory was really being affected. Brain fog and focusing on my tasks had become very difficult. As an attorney, malpractice is a very real threat and in order to protect me and my family, I have had to quit taking on clients that have complicated cases. Of course, clients with less complicated cases also means I am receiving less complicated paychecks. But again, I was just trusting in my Lord.

On February 1, just 5 days before I was set to leave for treatment, my husband got word that the congolmerate who had bought out the company he worked for was closing his location and that his job was to be terminated that very week. When he called me with the news, I should have freaked out, but oddly enough, I was extremely calm. His termination meant losing a good portion of our income, retirement, and maybe most importantly, our health insurance. Yeah, I really should have been in schizoid mode, but instead, I had a total peace and just knew that God was going to work everything out for our good. I claimed that all day long and told everyone else that too. About five hours later, my husband called me back to say the company had changed its mind and was not only keeping his location open, they were going to spend hundreds of thousands to renovate the property! Wow, God is good!

Around that same time, I got a call from my mother who said that she got a call from someone who wanted to gift her some money. I would love to tell you all who that person is but I have not yet asked their permission to disclose their name publically and until then, I will just call them "God Knows." "God Knows" did not know about my impending medical treatment but they did know that God had laid it on their heart to give this money to my mother. Overjoyed, my mother called me with the news that not only was there going to be enough money from "God Knows" to pay for my medical treatment, but that there was also going to be enough for her to get treatment as well! My mother has a lot of the same symptoms that I do, although they are not as debilitating, and I have been after her to get some extensive testing done for quite some time now. After the love gift from "God Knows," it seemed like God had just blown the doors wide open for both of us to go and get this testing and treatment, but again, I kept asking for the scripture to make it the perfect "trifecta" of confirmation that I like to have when it comes to any major life or health decision.

Now that my mom was going to seek treatment, it didn't make sense to pack up and go get treatment without her. The lab work takes about two weeks to get back and she needed to have all the tests run so I called to postpone my treatment until February 20th. My patient care coordinator, "Jack," said that there was a young man waiting in the wings for treatment that was really sick and that by me moving back my appointment, this young man could take my spot and get in to see the doctor earlier. I felt like that was good confirmation for waiting another couple weeks.

The next two weeks were a whirlwind. My brother had his baby, I found out my 15 year-old cat needed eye surgery, I was trying to tie up loose ends with my clients and prepare to be gone for over a month and my mom also decided to give up her job and her apartment and move down to West Palm to live with us. Because she is basically only getting Social Security as income, my husband and I asked her if she would like to stay with us for a year. This was a mutually beneficial arrangement because I needed more help around the house due to decreased mobility, and she would not have to spend the extra money on her own place, utilities, etc. She accepted andhad moved in with us within 2 weeks. The next thing you know, we were both leaving for four weeks of treatment with Dr. Sponaugle.

The night before I left, I finally got the scripture I had been asking God for. But instead of getting the definite "move ahead" scripture I wanted, God gave me a more subtle passage of scripture that I realize has caused me to trust Him even more than a plain old "move ahead" scripture would. God's cool like that. The passage I got was from Acts 16:6-10:

Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

What you don't hear a lot about is the obstructionist quality of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit that forbids you from doing something that seems so noble, stops particular endeavors, and that sets us off on a path entirely not of our choosing. Paul found his direction in the Spirit through trial and error. Convinced of the certainty of one path, he trudged forward only to be blocked. Instead of trying to force the issue, he reassessed his mission, went forward again, and then adjusted with the next block.

Like Paul, I know that God's Word tells us that "A man's heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." (Pro 16:9) So when I read the passage of scripture about Paul's plans being frustrated, I was confident that the Holy Spirit would block my way if I was not supposed to carry out my plan to go to this clinic. But instead, here I am...writing to you from room 208 in the Holiday Inn Express in Clearwater, FL. And boy, what a time I've had already!

To be continued...

Always Hope

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obesity Is A Symptom Of An Even Bigger Problem

The following is an expert from THE LEPTIN FACTOR, written by Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D. Dr. Shoemaker has found from his research that obesity is actually a chronic illness, either genetically based in abnormal leptin and insulin physiology, or acquired in ways related to the immune responses that are part of other chronic, “biotoxin-associated” environmental illnesses of our day. Thus, Dr. Shoemaker believes that the growing epidemic of obesity in this country is a symptom, not a diagnosis. I happen to agree with him. However, please note that if you're overweight and very "ill", like me, I do not recommend getting on the drugs that Dr. Shoemaker talks about below. This is because chronically ill people already have very toxic livers and the drugs in this article are potentially damaging to an already toxic liver. Instead, if you're "ill", I recommend trying the No-Amylose Diet or the HOMEOPATHIC HCG Diet for weight loss. Remember, that if you are dealing with biotoxins, the weight you lose on either of these plans will most likely return unless you have dealt with the underlying biotoxins.

I have personally used the Homeopathic HCG Diet with good results and I feel so much better on it too. The majority of the reason is that I am not eating all the foods that I am allergic to, and at the same time, the foods that happen to be allowed on the HCG Diet are all non-amylose foods. This gives my body some relief from all the work it has to do to filter out all the food and beverage-based toxins I keep overloading it with. The absence of these toxins and free radicals creates a more oxygen-rich atmosphere in my body so that my starving, depleted cells can start to function a bit more properly.

I believe this article is important to bring to you because it helps explain the obesity epidemic. It is not the only reason for obesity though. There are other causes of obesity. For example, obesity as a side-effect of medications (like the steroids I was on at one point) and obesity due to emotional overeating. If you think you may be overeating due to emotional toxins, these things need to be addressed through counseling and possibly even recovery programs.

I know that I have had to explore emotional overeating issues because of the rejection and isolation I have experienced in my past. It was interesting for me to see a pattern of turning to food for comfort instead of getting my needs met from God. The excess weight an emotional eater often gains tends to literally "pad" them from the sharpness of the world. The weight acts as a buffer between them and whatever is hurting them. But in the end, it just serves to isolate them further. It was also interesting to me to see that I used food when I was happy because it took me back to a place of warm family memories around the dinner table. These were the times where everybody behaved themselves (for the most part) and I tended to feel safe and loved.

I heard about emotional overeating in the past and did not think it applied to me until a couple years ago when the Holy Spirit showed me the patterns I had followed in my life with regard to food. I have sought, and continue to seek, healing for these issues. But again, in my case, I do not believe that the emotional overeating is the ONLY issue here when it comes to the excess weight. If it were, I would still be able to emotionally eat, then diet and exercise like I used to in order to lose the little bit of excess weight I had put on, and then start the process all over again. At some point (back when I first started to get sick), that little ploy stopped working and no matter what I did, the weight just kept creeping up and up. At one point, I worked out for 5 days a week and ate a pretty healthy diet. I lost some inches because I toned my muscles, but my weight only went down by 2 pounds. No, this isn't just an issue of working out the emotional toxins in my soul and spirit; this weight gain is a symptom of something bigger that is rooted in my flesh.

It is important to note that while obesity is on one side of the spectrum for poor health, on the other side we find chronically ill people that have lost a lot of weight without trying and cannot seem to gain it back no matter what they do. I will talk about those people in another blog. For now, the main thing to realize is that both of these problems can be a symptom of an even bigger issue: biotoxins.

Always Hope

THE LEPTIN FACTOR (Excerpt from Ch. 15)

Crack open your morning newspaper, these days, and the odds are high that you’ll soon find yourself reading an alarming health story about “the growing obesity epidemic in America.”

Unfortunately, most of those breathless, page-one stories are all too accurate. Take a look around; the proof is there. The “American Waddler” is all too commonly sighted in public places and doctor’s offices. If you missed seeing the Waddler on the streets, you will see him on the Evening News, rippling past the camera, arms swinging wide over the layers of belly-rolls and thunder thighs. You don’t need a Ph.D. in human physiology to understand that Americans (and especially American children) are getting fatter with each passing year.

How bad is the U.S. “obesity problem” today, and why is it becoming increasingly worse?

This bad: According to the latest data from the number-crunchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, fully one-third of America’s 280 million citizens are currently classified as medically overweight.

Even more ominous, say public health officials, is the fact that “clinical obesity” – a chronic disease with a variety of potentially life-threatening consequences – is now affecting more than 56 million Americans (about 20 percent of us), day in and day out. Just 10 years ago, the numbers were significantly lower.

Here’s the bad news for Americans in the first decade of the new millennium: Although the CDC opinion released for public consumption is often wrong about medical issues and frequently distorts scientific research-findings for the sake of its own narrow political agenda, the agency is dead-on correct about the threat from the spreading obesity problem. What the CDC hasn’t figured out yet, however, forms the heart and soul of this chapter – the startling fact that obesity is actually a chronic illness, either genetically based in abnormal leptin and insulin physiology or acquired in ways related to the immune responses that are part of other chronic, “biotoxin-associated” environmental illnesses of our day (such as Sick Building Syndrome). Indeed, the biggest news in weight-loss treatment right now is the recent discovery – based on research from the seemingly unrelated field of chronic biotoxin illnesses such as “Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome” – that there is a close link between our increasingly chemically polluted environment and a new family of biotoxin-linked ailments that often trigger both obesity and diabetes.

So far, only a few isolated researchers (and they’re not in Atlanta!) have grasped the relationship between the fact that as our environment continues to change rapidly under the influence of the 70,000 industrial and agricultural chemicals pumped into air, soils, rivers, estuaries and oceans each year, Americans are getting fatter and fatter. Nor have the “Medical Mandarins” at the CDC (or their counterparts in the largest and most prestigious university medical research departments) yet understood that obesity is an illness of over-storage of fat that has almost nothing to do with “overeating” alone . . . and everything to do with physiological resistance to metabolic hormones such as insulin and leptin. While we can’t alter the genetic predisposition to leptin and insulin problems, we can control that resistance with new medications and the No-Amylose Diet. The role of other “new” obesity related hormones, including gherlin and neuropeptide Y, shows promise for additional interventions to defeat obesity in the future. But treatment of the obesity epidemic linked to hormone resistances is here now. (More on the exciting recent breakthroughs in leptin and insulin resistance and its links to inflammation from the hidden “environmental diseases” in a minute.)

Make no mistake: America’s “fat epidemic” is rapidly spiraling out of control, and the negative impact on grownups and kids alike can be observed from the rocky coastline of Maine to the towering redwoods of California. Example: According to the latest health statistics, more than 300,000 Americans are now dying each year from diseases (such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, colon cancer and breast cancer) that have been linked directly to obesity. If heart disease is added to the toll (and many physicians believe it should be), there can be no doubt that obesity now ranks as our nation’s biggest health threat. Even if the extra fat doesn’t kill right away, the multiple impairments caused by obesity make life miserable, from the unnecessary pain from arthritic weight bearing joints, reduced ability to walk up a flight of stairs or even put on a pair of shoes. The derogatory attitudes about obesity in our society add to the misery, as many overweight people are regarded as self-indulgent gluttons. Being overweight is a sign of personal slothfulness in the eyes of many who view obesity as a “preventable illness.” And who would list “obesity” on a job application as an important self-accomplishment that would help convince a personnel manager to offer employment?

These obesity-associated health problems cause untold anguish for the victims and their families, of course. But the carnage produced by obesity also hits America hard in her pocketbook, while adding more than $900 million per year to the cost of health care in this country. Alarmed by the surge in fat-related costs, no less a figure than the U.S. Surgeon General recently warned the nation that if the current trend continues, “Obesity may soon cause as much preventable disease as cigarette smoking.” For those on the front lines of obesity treatment and research, his words need to be changed to reflect the real issue: obesity has a series of understandable mechanisms and it can be treated before it causes disease by understanding those mechanisms.

Disturbing facts about the epidemic, its cost and its consequences? You bet. Even more disturbing, though, is the clear failure of all “medically accepted” attempts to defeat the epidemic with lifestyle changes. Our National Fat Attack has been taking place during an era dedicated to “physical fitness” . . . during an era in which most of us are bombarded daily with powerful propaganda about the vital importance of “eating right and getting plenty of exercise,” if we wish to enjoy healthy, vigorous lives and stay slim. For reasons you have already read and more to come, the “eat less and exercise more” idea is worse than worthless for the vast majority of overweight people. When the “American Waddler” finally gets up the gumption to go out in the cold and rain four times a week to walk before the sun comes up, and he cuts back on everything enjoyable at the dinner table, he still doesn’t lose much weight and he certainly never keeps it off. Now add worsened self-esteem from his failed weight loss attempt to his ongoing weight problem. Why did the Waddler fail? Could it be that the reason for his obesity has nothing to do with trivial amounts of exercise or elimination of foods unrelated to weight gain from his diet… and a great deal to do with his daily consumption of fat-generating food?

The experts have a ready answer for the Waddler’s failed weight loss attempt: he is the reason for the failure, not the “eat less, exercise more” model. Just try to find an obesity expert who doesn’t explain the failure of the “eat less and exercise more” strategy by blaming the patient. “Well, Mr. Jones joined the fitness club, but only went there three times last year. And he never stopped having the French fries and the triple cheeseburgers.” But Mr. Jones did his exercise and he ate the low fat, low cholesterol meals, with salads, pasta and whole wheat as he was instructed. He did what he was told, but he still failed.

The wrong entity is being blamed! In medicine, the failure of an accepted idea to explain what we observe usually means the idea is tossed out, like garbage bound for the landfill. In other words, we learn more in medicine by observing what intervention didn’t work, and adjusting our model to accommodate the treatment failures, than we do by only observing what did work. If the model doesn’t explain what actually happens, then the model, like “eat less and exercise more,” is wrong.

In spite of our continuing obsession with “avoiding dietary fat” and jogging or walking at least 30 minutes each day,” the remarkable fact remains: Americans are fatter now than ever before in their history. Somehow, our model of treatment of obesity that is based on devotion to the ideas from the Greek goddess of health, Hygeia – the patron saint of the “hygienic” approach to health, which insists that the key to curing illnesses is to “clean up” our bad lifestyle-habits, such as overeating and lack of exercise – hasn’t succeeded in overcoming our national predilection for getting fat and staying fat.

The obvious question becomes, “Does that mean that the treatment for obesity has little to do with lifestyle?” Other questions follow immediately, once we realize that Hygeia doesn’t have our answers:

Why do most people who become overweight tend to remain overweight . . . even if they do manage to shrug off a few pounds now and then, before promptly gaining them back again? And why are some people able to eat all they want, meal after meal, while remaining wonderfully, infuriatingly slender? Even more challenging is the question: “Why do many people gain weight that they never lose, while eating less than their slender counterparts?” Finally, “What can we do that will work to control the chronic disease of obesity?

As a veteran family physician who’s helped thousands of obese patients lose weight (and keep it off) during the past 25 years, I’ve spent many hours studying the latest research from around the world . . . while also conducting countless patient-interviews and medical examinations aimed at solving the mystery of why so many people tend to remain fat in spite of their frequent and courageous efforts at dieting and exercising. Obesity, like any chronic disease, needs a proper diagnosis. We don’t blame the patient for having hypertension, we find out what is wrong, look for acquired blood pressure problems (we can cure those), and if we find the problem is one of unknown cause (“essential hypertension” is the medical term), possibly genetic (Did your parents have hypertension, Mr. Jones?), we treat it, without complaining that the patient isn’t doing something to prevent his illness. Sure, we will try modifying diet, exercise, salt consumption, stress, and other lifestyle factors, but when the Hygeia approach predictably doesn’t work, we use medications. Treatment of obesity should be no different.

Imagine my surprise years ago, when my treatment of obese patients – along with my continuing inquiries on the causes of the disease- demonstrated a remarkable fact: the mechanisms that underlay obesity shared many of the same physiologic principles involved in chronic, biotoxin-associated illnesses. It was crystal clear that a proper diagnosis of obesity involved looking at interactions of genetics and hormones like leptin and insulin, as well as the chemical messengers called cytokines (more on inflammation and cytokines coming up) that help white blood cells monitor and manage our internal immune defenses. The same disturbances in cytokines and leptin, many with a genetic basis, which were operating in Sick Building Syndrome, were the active players in obesity, too! Here was the new information, based on rock-solid science, needed to challenge the “conventional wisdom” on obesity that has ruled American medical opinion for the past several decades. Imagine the mixture of exhilaration and wonderment I felt, when I analyzed the latest data on human biochemistry from obesity literature and seemingly unrelated fields of neurotoxicology and cytokine physiology, and began to realize: We’ve been wrong about fat from the very beginning!

It became increasingly clear that the weight-loss advice from popular diet books such as Sugar Busters, The Zone and The New Diet Revolution was either incomplete or was simply wrong. As heretical as this may sound, today’s ongoing Obesity Epidemic provides incontrovertible evidence for the fact that even Dr. Robert Atkins – the legendary “guru” of weight-loss in America since the 1970s – had failed to incorporate into his work the complex biochemical, hormonal and genetic factors that actually cause most people to become overweight and stay overweight!

As I studied the research and examined my patients during the 1980s and 1990s, I was gradually discovering that the assumptions of medical science about how we store fat and gain weight were deeply flawed. And yet those same flawed ideas – which failed to pinpoint the biochemistry and genetics of hormone resistance as the real source of weight-gain, while blaming it on mere “lifestyle” factors such as overeating and “couch-napping” – had been repeated so often over the years that they’d become accepted as Gospel, all across the increasingly fat USA! The “thermodynamics” idea about weight, namely, calories in equals calories out, wasn’t the right answer (Chapter 5); exercise wasn’t the answer unless the overweight patient had 12 hours a week for intense activity (Chapter 11); eliminating all carbohydrates ignored the different effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar (Chapter 2); and permitting some starches was a prescription for failure for insulin resistant patients (Chapter 6). What really do we have to do to understand treatment of the chronic disease we call obesity?

But let’s back up for a second. In order to understand why the conventional wisdom about fat is flat-out incorrect, we need to look at how the process of getting fat actually works...even as we ask ourselves the key question that will solve the fat-mystery once and for all:

Question: What would happen if we looked at obesity as a symptom, rather than as a diagnosis? In other words: “What’s different about the biochemical process of fat manufacture and fat storage in obese patients – when compared to fat manufacture and storage in those who aren’t overweight? If we know that answer, then we know why obesity is a symptom telling us to look at genetic, environmental, biochemical, and hormonal factors.

To answer that question, we need to spend a few moments reviewing our notes from The History of 20th-Century Fat, 101:Or, Why Low-Carbohydrate Diets Alone Failed To Keep America Trim.

Obesity and Leptin: A Primer

When Dr. Robert C. Atkins appeared on the national scene in 1972 with the publication of his first “Diet Revolution” guide to weight-loss, the public quickly hailed him as a bold pioneer with a radically different approach to dieting. The Medical Establishment was horrified, however, by the idea that eating fat and rich food actually was a good idea. Remember, back then, and continuing today, the cholesterol argument influenced the weight argument: “Low fat and low cholesterol foods are good – that’s all there is to it!” Until the arrival of the famous diet doc, whose books on “no-carbohydrate” eating would eventually be purchased by millions, most scientific thinking about weight-loss focused on the importance of measuring (and limiting) the intake of dietary fat and reducing total calories, along with the need for lots of vigorous exercise.

But the controversial Atkins had a different idea, one that opened the door for later challenges to the dietary dogma of obesity.

According to the dieting revolutionary, the real culprit in weight-gain wasn’t fat or lack of exercise but carbohydrates – complexes of carbon and water molecules, found mostly in sugar and starches, which the human body rapidly stores in fat cells for future use.

Imagine the shock waves that must have rippled through the U.S. medical community, when Dr. Atkins began insisting that the best way to lose weight was to avoid all carbohydrates . . . and that eating moderate amounts of fat would not make most people gain weight!

Controversial or not, the Atkins approach turned out to be reasonably effective for millions of people, in the short run. By cutting back on “carbs,” the adherents of the Diet Revolution collectively lost millions of pounds . . . even if the lost weight was almost invariably re-gained by the dieters within a matter of a few months. Regardless of these problems with “weight-maintenance,” however, the Atkins strategy was generally declared to be a success and the weight-loss author became a household American name as a result.

But now let’s flash-forward 30 years and take a look around.

Let’s ask ourselves: What ultimately became of the “eat-no-carbohydrates” approach to dieting that had made Dr. Atkins so famous?

Answer: Over the long haul, it simply didn’t work.

Why did it fail? Although the biochemical explanation is complex (we’ll worry about the chemistry a bit later), the fundamental reason for the failure is easy to grasp. That reason is based on the fact that although Dr. Atkins did a great job of focusing national attention on issues of weight-loss, he and most of his fellow-researchers were using the wrong “model” with which to understand how human beings get fat.

In a sentence: The Atkins model, like most others of his day, was based on analyzing and controlling the foods that people eat...rather than on understanding and then controlling (with medications, where appropriate) the human body’s response to those foods during the processes of digestion, fat manufacture and fat storage. Those processes involve hormones, including insulin and leptin, genetics, inflammation and also discrete centers that regulate hunger and satiety in a part of the brain, the hypothalamus. The pivotal role of rapid rises of blood sugar after eating one common type of complex carbohydrate starch, amylose, and its effect on insulin-driven fat storage was also ignored. But all too soon, the lack of precision in defining “fat-causing carbohydrates” caused motivated patients to abandon the Atkins plan and others like it, because the dieters weren’t allowed to eat the fruits and vegetables that are not only safe for a weight-loss plan, but also essential in order to maintain a reasonable “quality of life” while losing weight.

Dr. Atkins and his colleagues can’t really be blamed for failing to understand that being overweight or obese is primarily a result of the patient’s own unique biochemistry (that is, of the multiple interactions of his or her fat-regulating hormones) . . . and not a result of overeating or refusal to exercise. They simply didn’t have the data on hormone interactions that in those days “belonged to the future” of obesity-treatment. But that future is now here, creating a model for understanding new treatments based on molecular biochemistry, and not on total calories or fat grams. The powerful new model of obesity, one that includes multiple factors, tells us that managing our weight successfully is primarily a matter of understanding and then manipulating hormones – based on their efficiency (or lack thereof) at transporting and transforming nutrients during the process of digestion and fat storage.

Sounds a bit complicated, you say?

Not really. All you really need to know in order to take advantage of the molecular research that has radically changed our understanding of obesity in recent years is one simple fact: Weight-loss is actually about hormones (such as insulin and leptin) . . . and specifically about defeating the “resistance” to the effect those hormones normally produce. It is hormone mechanisms gone awry that cause us to become fat, prevent us from losing much fat when we try, and make us gain weight – even when strictly observing the same “lower total-calorie diets” being eaten by those without hormone abnormalities! Obviously, those same hormone defects are also the root-cause of today’s failure to achieve maintenance of fat loss, among millions of struggling “yo-yo” dieters.

The bottom line: If you’re one of the millions of Americans whose “genetic inheritance” prevents your fat controlling hormones (and especially leptin) from working efficiently because of hormonal resistance, the good news is that medicine can now fix that problem with a new arsenal of medications (such as “leptin-modifying” drugs) designed to overcome the resistance and help you eliminate fat safely and eat good food without fear of re-gain.

For dieters everywhere, the future of weight-loss and weight-maintenance has finally arrived! In the wake of the latest obesity research, it’s now possible to reliably correct the problems of excess leptin due to leptin resistance, and the problems of excess insulin due to insulin resistance. This simple fact is going to completely revolutionize the way we treat obesity in the future.

Earlier in this book, you learned that leptin is a key factor in controlling your weight because of the way it turns on the brain’s “stop-eating center” – also known as the “satiety center.” You may also recall from Chapter 14 that this process occurs in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that regulates functions such as hunger, temperature and moods.

Now, here’s where the recent research on hunger and hormones gets really interesting. Remember those exciting photos of genetically fat mice that didn’t make leptin? When they were given leptin supplements, they all lost weight. At first glance, you might expect that a heavyset patient (let’s call him “Mr. Overweight”) who’s suffering from leptin resistance (and thus from a shortage of leptin effect in the hypothalamus, even though there’s plenty of leptin moving through his system that normally would do its job) could be coaxed into losing his excess poundage, simply by giving him periodic doses of leptin, right?

Wrong. Extra leptin just makes Mr. Overweight fatter. Although research shows that this approach works effectively on mice, our “leptin replacement strategy” doesn’t translate to Mr. Overweight. Why not? Once again, the answer lies in biochemistry . . . in the fact that hormones can only do their work in human cells by first binding to “receptors” (think of them as cellular “docking stations”) that must function normally to carry the hormone message across cell membranes.

Key point: If the patient has leptin resistance, leptin doesn’t work properly to connect with its “docking station” – and the hormone never initiates all the later effects (we call them a “cascade”) that result in both turning off hypothalamic hunger centers and burning fat directly in fat cells.

Surprisingly, the major breakthrough in our understanding of how leptin resistance helps to make people fat came from a study recently completed by our research group in Maryland. For several years now, our group has been investigating and publishing scientific articles on a threatening new family of chronic “biotoxin-associated” illnesses linked to recent alterations in the rapidly changing human environment.

Interestingly enough, our research group – which includes Environmental Protection Agency neurotoxicologist Ken Hudnell, Ph.D., along with Dennis House, the statistician at the Center for Research on Biotoxin-Associated Illnesses – recently discovered a key fact that affects leptin resistance. What we learned was that the immune responses to toxins released by microbial organisms such as those involved in chronic ailments like fibromyalgia, Sick Building Syndrome, and Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome also have a powerful negative impact on the body’s leptin receptors!

As noted in Chapter 14, these biotoxin-linked diseases cause their multiple persistent symptoms (fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, blurred vision, short-term memory loss, and many more) because of the way they instantly set off alarm bells within the body’s disease-fighting immune system. When the “alarm” sounds, the system quickly begins to churn out some powerhouse chemicals (known as “pro-inflammatory cytokines”) designed to help neutralize and eliminate the toxins. Illness symptoms continue when genetically susceptible patients can’t stop the cytokine response.

So far, so good. But even as the inappropriate release of cytokines is causing many adverse health effects (Remember your last bout with the flu? Those muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, fever and maybe some cognitive changes, too, were due to an appropriate release of cytokines in response to the virus. When the virus was successfully repelled, the cytokine response was stopped and the symptoms cleared up.), our “biochemistry plot” suddenly takes another astonishing twist. The twist occurs when the continuous bombardment of inflammatory agents begins damaging the receptor for leptin (it is a cytokine receptor too) in the hypothalamus – thus preventing the leptin receptors there from doing their proper job of allowing the hormone to turn on the satiety center!

You can imagine the reaction among the members of our research group, when we realized that we were confronting a completely new concept in weight-loss and weight-maintenance – the notion that much of the resistance to leptin (and other hormones such as insulin) was actually due to cytokine-damage resulting from exposure to environmental toxins!

At first we were in shock. But when we stepped back and reflected on our find, we came to the startling realization that a high percentage of the patients who were overweight because of insulin/leptin resistance had actually acquired their resistance as a result of exposure to biotoxins from the environment. As matter of fact, there is now convincing evidence to show that about one-third of all leptin resistance is “environmentally acquired” in this fashion; the remaining two-thirds is the result of “endogenous” internal genetic factors, inherited from birth. A simple, non-invasive bedside test of visual contrast sensitivity (VCS) can separate patients with environmental sources of leptin resistance from those who were born with genes guaranteeing excessive fat storage.

Exciting? You better believe it. Based on our studies of thousands of affected patients, three obesity-related discoveries were now crystal-clear.

First: Being overweight or obese is not about food or “overeating”; it’s about resistance to fat-related hormones, which shuts down the effect of leptin on the brain’s satiety center, among other effects, so that it fails to tell the patient: “Stop eating!” For 98 percent of weight-loss patients, this scenario is a major reason why they can’t lose weight and keep it off.

Second: For about two-thirds of these resistance-linked weight-loss patients (and that’s about 60 million people!) internal genetic flaws related to insulin resistance and leptin resistance account for the body’s excessive fat storage and inability burn fat properly.

Third: For the remaining one-third, the resistance – and the failure to activate the satiety center – is “exogenous” . . . meaning that it’s actually caused by biotoxins left behind by chronic, environmentally acquired illnesses such as Sick Building Syndrome and the Post-Lyme Syndrome.

The implications of our research seem far-reaching, to say the least. For one thing, we’re now exploring an entirely new approach to the pro-inflammatory cytokine syndrome that underlies not only obesity but also diabetes . . . to say nothing of cholesterol-linked atherosclerosis caused by similar cytokine-triggered cell membrane failures. Inflammation is the new buzzword in heart disease- and those same effects are felt to be critically important in many of our “modern diseases.”

For weight-loss patients, of course, these implications are far-reaching, as well. What we read about fat and weight loss in the best-selling books didn’t include the causative role of inflammatory effects, controlled by genes, on fat manufacture and fat storage. No wonder the “eat less and exercise more” idea didn’t work. As if willpower had anything to do with inflammation or genetics! We are left with one crucially important fact: If we can defeat the inflammatory basis of leptin and insulin resistance and control the genetic basis of those hormone resistances, we can defeat obesity!

In order to understand exactly why, let’s review a little bit more of our “Biochemistry 201” review. (Hang on; we’re almost there.)

In recent chapters of this book, you’ve heard me talking repeatedly about the benefits of my “No-Amylose diet” for the large number of patients who are overweight primarily because of insulin resistance. But now I’m going to expand on that concept . . . by telling you how the same No-Amylose regime will benefit those heavyset patients who suffer from leptin resistance, as well. We are going to put the hypothalamus and inflammatory cytokines backstage for a minute.

Let’s start our discussion by remembering that leptin is made from fat cells, and it is released into the bloodstream after we eat fat. Normally, the rising leptin will tell the satiety center that we have had enough to eat. In the case of the leptin resistant patient, however, the effect of fat consumption isn’t to turn off hunger; in this case, the “turn-off” signal is simply ignored. But the key thing to emphasize here is that more leptin is still being made by fat cells in response to ongoing eating. All that extra leptin affects weight-gain in two important ways. First, the hormone works to prevent uptake (storage) of fatty acids in fat cells, keeping them suspended (free) in the blood. Second, the leptin prevents normal fat cell burning of the fatty acids it has already collected.

One incredibly important result of keeping these free fatty acids in the bloodstream is the effect on insulin. Free fatty acids in the blood dramatically worsen the problem of insulin resistance if it is pre-existing, and make the resistance appear if it isn’t–by shutting down the efficiency of insulin receptors on muscle cells, thereby reducing intake of sugar (glucose) by muscle. Faced with too much glucose, the liver responds by breaking down the extra sugar, to piece together and rearrange the sugar fragments into … more fatty acids! The liver did its job to prevent diabetes in the leptin resistant patient, only to make him fatter. The extra fatty acids, meanwhile, simultaneously drive up leptin release. When that happens, an overweight patient receives additional signals that it’s “time to stop eating.” Unfortunately, however, the leptin resistance – now combined with functional insulin resistance – prevents the body from turning off the spigot that’s causing the flood of fatty acids. The key point: Fat storage, without fat-burn, is activated both by rising blood sugar and by rising fatty acid levels.

Without this normal “feedback control” on appetite, our leptin resistant Mr. Overweight just keeps on eating. At the same time, the resistance fouls up the storage system for fatty acids in the bloodstream. And the result? Poor Mr. O gets hit twice, as a result of his leptin resistance. He eats more, and his body does a great job of storing as fat the calories he takes in. And don’t forget: The fatty acids already in fat cells that normally would be used for fuel are just sitting there, not being burned to release energy as they should be when we have stopped eating. Without the energy from direct fat cell burn of fatty acids, the leptin resistant patient who ate a sandwich (amylose in the bread) or a biscuit (more amylose) for breakfast will feel sluggish and tired about two hours later, when the sugar is gone and the fatty acids aren’t mobilized to keep him going. So what does Mr. O do? He eats and “Stores!” some more.

Okay: We now understand the “double whammy” faced by those who struggle with leptin resistance. And now the plot thickens even further..when we remember that the development of leptin resistance is essentially no different than the development of insulin resistance: Both disorders are deeply affected by both genetic inheritance and the cytokines that result from the body’s response to environmentally acquired toxins – with both impacting the brain’s satiety center and the body’s physiological fat-storage mechanism.

To understand why this happens, let’s move in closer. When a leptin molecule goes into position on a receptor, lots of interesting things start to occur. First of all, the receptor activates a “second messenger,” which promptly sends a bulletin to certain genes: Get busy and make some new fat-controlling molecules! But what happens if the receptor balks, due to resistance? In that ugly situation, the second messenger is never dispatched, and the new anti-fat molecules don’t get manufactured. In the end, the entire biochemical cascade of effects – the process that should limit excessive fat-manufacture for the struggling Mr. O – gets shut down, and he winds up putting on more flab.

Question: Are you beginning to see, now, why “eating fewer carbohydrates and getting more exercise” simply won’t get the job done – for 98 percent of those who are significantly overweight? If you do, welcome to the brand-new Leptin Resistance Era in American dieting!

But if our poor Mr. O has no chance to control his weight-gain through sheer “will power or exercise” what hope is there for him?

Enter now the fabulous Greek god Panacea (even as we say “Bye-bye” to Hygeia!), the inventor of medicines, who’s carrying a very hopeful message for all of us: the recognition that, once we properly identify the real culprits in obesity, hormone resistance, genetics and inflammation, we can use appropriate drugs to rapidly offset their impact and restore a healthy biochemistry.

The really good news for all of us here is that these drugs will work – unlike the Atkins approach, which relied on people eating fat each day to activate their leptin production and thereby turning on the satiety center. (This was the real reason why Atkins sold all those books, by the way; his diet kept people from feeling hungry and miserable most of the time!) But Dr. Atkins’s technique failed, in the end, because it didn’t factor leptin resistance or insulin resistance or inflammation into the dietary equation for fat. Nor did he properly understand the crucial role played by amylose – the key carbohydrate that triggers a rapid rise in blood sugar and thus triggers both insulin and leptin resistance. (Sure, Atkins recommended that people stop eating carbs – but he failed to see the great importance of amylose as the carbohydrate that primarily sets off insulin resistance. Dieters of the world: Avoid amylose.)

Based on the latest discoveries at the molecular level, science now understands that the truly effective way to keep weight off is to reduce leptin and insulin resistance. For many people – those who own genes that cause the resistance – the solution to being overweight will likely mean taking a medication that blocks the overactive leptin response and the overactive insulin response every day, in order to overcome their flawed internal chemistry.

For those of us whose leptin resistance is an environmentally acquired, inflammatory illness, however (an office worker who’s struggling with biotoxins from the “Sick Building” where he or she works each day, for example), the solution to the weight problem begins with removal of the offending toxins from the bloodstream.

And what about the two percent of overweight patients who don’t have either endogenous or acquired leptin resistance? For this tiny minority, the old rules still apply; to lose weight, they will have to eat less and exercise more!

Okay, time for the next Big Question: Does Dr. Shoemaker really have solid, convincing research data on which to base his recent claim that about one-third of all leptin-resistance comes from the chronic biotoxin illnesses that are now spreading rapidly across America? (I thought you’d never ask.)

The answer, of course, is a resounding “yes.” Quite recently, Dr. Ken Hudnell, Dennis House and I presented an academic paper on Sick Building Syndrome in which we analyzed 21 SBS patients who were working in five different buildings crawling with toxic mold. After we documented the numerous symptoms of chronic, biotoxin-associated illness (see Chapter 14, if you want a review) – including chronic fatigue, high leptin levels and deficits in the special neurotoxicology test, VCS – we prescribed a toxin-binding and toxin-eliminating medication (cholestyramine, CSM) that would help them shrug off the poisons and restore their health, while also correcting their VCS deficit.

As we expected, the patients improved dramatically within a couple of weeks – and all experienced an immediate reduction of their leptin resistance, with resultant weight loss! In other words, as our published and scientifically verified findings presented at recent meetings of both the 83rd Endocrine Society (6/01) and the American Diabetes Association (6/02) made clear, these unhappy folks were actually being made sick and tired and fat by their toxic environments!

In order to test our hypothesis prospectively (this part of the study provides definitive proof of causation), we stopped the medication briefly in order to observe the effect of avoidance of the implicated building. The symptoms, VCS scores and leptin levels didn’t change. We then watched as the patients returned to their toxic indoor environments, without CSM to protect them. Within three days, when we looked at them again, their biotoxin-illness symptoms had returned, their VCS scores had plummeted and their leptin resistance was soaring again. We then re-treated the patients, while they were still being exposed to the now-confirmed Sick Building, and saw a return to the baseline treated state, without symptoms, VCS deficits and overproduction of leptin.

The fact that we confirmed the leptin-changes within three days didn’t surprise us, since we knew that the adverse effects on leptin receptors from cytokine responses to biotoxins occurs almost instantaneously. The rapid shifts in leptin were associated with changes in weight as well. Falling leptin, meaning reduced cytokine effects on leptin receptors, gave weight loss, with no changes in diet. Rising leptin, again without dietary changes, gave weight gain. Later, when these patients left their sick buildings behind and then flushed the biotoxins out of their bodies once and for all with CSM, they all lost impressive amounts of weight, without changes in diet. If our data on several thousand patients with biotoxin illnesses seems like a small number, remember our studies are only several years old and were performed in a rural area of Maryland. How many cases of Sick Building Syndrome are there if 10% of the workplaces and 15% of the schools in America have toxin-forming fungi as NIOSH stated several years ago? How many of those patients are part of the Obesity Epidemic that is currently being blamed on sedentary lifestyle, self-indulgent eating and dietary excess? We won’t know the answer if we don’t know to ask the question.

All right, then: We’re almost to the finish line now, in our effort to understand how controlling the body’s hormone resistance (insulin, leptin) will help us to control our weight. But one obvious question remains: What medications can help us most here, and what’s the basis for their effectiveness in shutting down resistance?

Panacea, may I have the envelope, please?

And the winner is . . . the thiazolidinedione family of medications, which we can simply call “TZDs,” in order to avoid the horrors of pronunciation. These medications – they’re commonly used to control diabetes, by the way – consist primarily of two key substances, pioglitazone and rosiglitazone, and they work by turning on a string of valiant, fat cell-based genes (known as “PPAR gamma”) that produce many powerful organic compounds. TZDs block excessive inflammatory cytokine production, lower leptin, increase fatty acid uptake into fat cells and activate direct burning of fatty acids inside fat cells (Chapter 13). What more could an insulin/leptin resistant patient want? These compounds work effectively to help offset both leptin and insulin resistance, in other ways, too, but this time I’ll spare you the complex chemistry. Of great interest for weight loss is the discovery that all these wonderful benefits from use of TZDs disappear when the patient begins to add amylose into his diet. Even worse, weight gain, some due to fluid retention, also occurs when TZDs are used in conjunction with a diet that includes amylose. Remember: If you are considering TZDs, you must use the No-Amylose diet, without fail.

In an earlier chapter, you read how we can use TZDs to help lower insulin resistance, and also control diabetes. Understandably enough, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (which regulates the use of medicines in this country) long ago designated – or “labeled” – TZDs as a diabetes medication. This means that our use of the substance for weight-loss will have to be “off-label,” as the doctors say . . . but so what? In fact, physicians prescribe such off-label usage of medications day in and day out: Such usage is strictly routine, and perfectly legal and ethical – provided only that the patient is properly informed of the “off-label” status. We always monitor liver function tests in our patients who take TZDs, just like we do with the statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, but especially because an earlier TZDs, troglitazone, was blamed for causing liver disease and was pulled from the market. No one, in my opinion, should consider using TZDs for targeted gene therapy of leptin resistance, insulin resistance and weight loss, until he has been evaluated carefully by a physician, found to have obesity refractory to standard measures and been shown to be able to stay on the No-Amylose diet. Then, following informed consent, the patient can take the drug under strict medical management.

Welcome, then, to the Brave New Weight-Loss World of using TZDs to dramatically reduce leptin resistance and thus help overweight patients attack the real culprit behind their flabbiness. By using TZDs in combination with a No-Amylose diet, we can now achieve results that Dr. Atkins and his fellow fat-book authors only dreamed of: We can control body-weight almost at will, and without starving our patients half to death in the process!

This breaking news about the wonders of TZDs will be especially welcome among the estimated 30 million Americans whose overweight status is due to chronic, biotoxin-associated illnesses, such as Sick Building Syndrome and some cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For these individuals, a few weeks of CSM therapy will kick off the complex process that underlies effective treatment. Once the toxins that are causing their leptin resistance are removed and the hypothalamic pathways that leptin activates are working normally again (sometimes, this is process quite complex), what we will see is a removal of the leptin resistance, which will then allow patients to shed their excess poundage quickly and painlessly.

The enormously hopeful news for overweight patients everywhere is that your hour of liberation is at hand. Instead of blaming yourselves (or being blamed by Dan Rather & Co. on national television) for your fat, and instead of blaming Burger Doodle for serving up too many triple-cheeseburgers, we’re going to put the blame where it belongs: on human biochemistry, and on the insulin/leptin resistance which is the legacy of our biological evolution – as creatures whose forbears lived for countless millennia (as hunter-gatherers) under conditions of “feast or famine."

Make no mistake: The Obesity Epidemic isn’t anyone’s “fault”; it is simply a product of our history. Until the arrival of mechanized agriculture, only about a century ago, the human body had never been exposed to a continuous flood of sugars and fats – a flood that now never stops. For at least 200 centuries, and probably much longer, the human response to such sugars and fats had been: “Convert this stuff to fat, so that it will carry us through the next famine!” Remember: The famines prevented repetitive blood sugar-rises and blood fatty acid rises; during the long spells without much food, the fat storage process would slowly unwind, releasing stored energy, allowing primordial populations to survive winter and drought.

Is it any wonder, given this evolutionary reality, that many contemporary humans with hormonal resistance, both genetic and acquired, when exposed to an endless flood of excess nutrients, are turning into chunky, double-chinned folks who closely resemble our struggling Mr. O? And is it any wonder, given the explosion of buildings with indoor resident toxin-forming fungi, now bathing the HVAC with mycotoxins-of-the-day, that thousands and thousands of patients who work, live or go to school in these buildings are getting fat? Add in the many other biotoxin-forming organisms that seemingly are emerging from the mud each month, and we see the Obesity Epidemic in a whole new perspective: It isn’t the calories we eat that counts, it is the calories that we store as fat. Cytokines are necessary for life; excess downstream cytokine effects cause excess weight that won’t go away by using willpower and pushing away from the table.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Brave New World of Weight-Control has already begun. Armed with TZD and a new, rapidly growing understanding of molecular physiology in human beings, we’re going to go far beyond the early contributions of Dr. Atkins and his fellow-authors. We’re going to enter – have already begun to enter – a world in which losing excess weight and keeping it off will be about as difficult as having your teeth cleaned by the dental hygienist (we can’t escape Hygeia altogether).

We’re also about to enter a world in which fat people – folks like Mr. Overweight and the “American Waddler” – will no longer be denigrated as failures who couldn’t control their own eating habits. Instead of being made cruel sport of, they’ll be able to quickly and painlessly solve their weight-problems by asking a physician to measure their levels of insulin, leptin and cytokines, while also testing them with Visual Contrast Sensitivity and seeking symptoms that could be related to environmentally acquired, biotoxin-induced leptin and/or insulin resistance. (For more information about these easily performed tests and the TZD- and cholestyramine-based therapies that will help overweight patients to lose their excess pounds rapidly and easily, visit www.chronicneurotoxins.com on the Internet.)

In summary, then: The bottom-line message of this chapter – and the message of LOSE THE WEIGHT YOU HATE – is that the Battle Against Fat has nearly been won. All that remains now is the process of educating ourselves about the actual physiology involved . . . and then taking the necessary steps to keep obesity at bay through the judicious use of effective medications such as TZD, while also remaining vigilant about over-consumption of those relatively few, amylose-based foods that also trigger hormonal resistance.

Dieters, rejoice: As this new world of molecular-based weight therapy takes off in earnest, you are going to live much better, healthier lives. You have nothing to lose but your flab!