Today, we are thrilled to introduce you to Ann Wendel, the newest addition to the Whole9 family. You may already know Ann from her physical therapy work or blog, Prana Physical Therapy, but today she joins us as the newest addition to our growing roster of Whole9 professional consultants .
Ann will not only be contributing articles to our 9 Blog, but will also offer her specialized consulting services through the Whole9 site. Get to know Ann through her first guest post here, and review her comprehensive health and fitness consulting packages on our new personal consulting page.
In Ann’s Own Words…
I am often asked why, as a physical therapist, I am interested in nutrition. Many people find it hard to make that connection in their minds, despite the fact that they believe that what they eat affects how they feel. I think it is probably because most people associate the healthcare profession with a very narrow view of health and well-being.
Traditionally, most people find their doctors and other healthcare professionals to be part of a system that looks at injury and illness from a very myopic perspective. Our healthcare system is set up in a way that often makes collaboration between professions difficult; factors include competition for patients, lack of good electronic medical records in many practices, and a disdain for more “alternative” approaches. Patients are often forced to put together their own “team” of providers who are often out-of-network with insurance companies, which can be very expensive.
I have always been interested in holistic medicine. Even as a teenager, I read and studied many different healing modalities. Given my love of medicine and my participation in competitive sports, it was no surprise to anyone that I became a physical therapist. Over the past 20 years in my healthcare career, I have worked in many different settings, first in high school, college and pro sports as an ATC, then as a PT/ATC in inpatient and outpatient neurological rehabilitation, acute care, and outpatient orthopedics. The constants in my career have been interacting with people in pain and using all of my knowledge and skills to assist them in restoring maximum function.
My Own Experience
I have a special interest in working with people who experience chronic pain. As happens with many people, it took my own experience to propel me to study and learn more about how to best help this patient population. In 2007, I became very ill with what was later diagnosed as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune illness (AI) in which a confused immune system mounts an attack on the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a major part of the endocrine system that makes and stores hormones that help regulate the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into energy. Thyroid hormones are essential for the function of every cell in the body—they help regulate growth and metabolism.
By the time I was properly diagnosed, I had gone from being a Division I college swimmer (and later triathlete and rock climber) to being unable to hike a mile. I lost handfuls of hair every day and gained 20 pounds due to my thyroid shutting down. It took months of being on the right combination of medications to begin to heal and regain some energy. It took another five years of researching, asking questions, and trial and error to begin to regain my health. Those years of experimentation led me to the Paleo diet, and the knowledge that I needed to eliminate gluten, grains, and most dairy from my diet in order to prevent muscle and joint pain, mind numbing fatigue, mood swings, energy fluctuations, and gastrointestinal issues.
After several months of my dietary shift, the majority of my inflammation was gone, my blood work showed changes in a positive direction, I began going days at a time without taking anti-inflammatory medication, and I was able to slowly begin bodyweight exercises and walking.
There is Hope
After eating this way for a year now, I can say that I am never going back to eating as I did before, and I am passionate about sharing this knowledge with as many people as possible. The media has picked up on the term “Paleo Diet” and “Caveman Diet,” portraying it as a fad diet used to lose weight and re-enact history. My mission is to sift through the emerging research to find studies to show that there is a scientific basis behind eating this way, and to educate people that this lifestyle may be useful as an adjunct to treating autoimmune illness. For me and the other 23.5 million Americans living with AI, there is hope for living a better life, based on the way we nourish and move our bodies.
These are exciting times for those who struggle with AI, as current research attempts to explain what thousands of people have found to be anecdotally true. I am excited to be on the “front lines,” joining Whole9 to spread the Good Food Word and helping my clients using all of the resources and research available to me.
Ann Wendel, PT, ATC, CMTPT
Ann holds a BS in physical education studies with a concentration in athletic training from the University of Delaware, and an MS in physical therapy from the University of Maryland. She is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC), a licensed physical therapist, and a Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist (CMTPT). Ann has completed intensive training in Thai Yoga Therapy and Pilates teacher training. She currently runs Prana Physical Therapy in Alexandria, VA.
You can see Ann’s consulting services on the Whole9 consulting page. You can visit Ann at Prana Physical Therapy or on Twitter @PranaPT.
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I’ve been hoping to see someone here who can address Hashimoto’s problems! Definitely saving my pennies for a consultation with Ms. Wendel. Thank you, Whole9, for providing great networking services.
Susan M. says
Great to see another fellow ATC from UDel. Go Blue Hens! And welcome to the team. Looking forward to reading your future articles and contributions!
I was wondering how strick you have been on the Paleo Diet (Whole9 diet) over the past year such that your symptoms have disappeared? I have an AI also (psoriatic arthritis & ankylosing spondylitis) and have terrible joint pain along with the fatigue, etc you mention. I have been on the diet since Dec (with Whole30 back in Dec) and have definitely seen vast improvement (much less pain, pitted fingernails have grown back, etc.), but there is still enough pain that I am considering the AI medications (like Enbrel, Humira) that my rheumatologist recommends but that I have been avoiding like the plague. I am just wondering 1) if you cheated all (I have) and 2) how long until all your symptoms disappeared. Thanks, Erik
Ann Wendel says
Lydia – I look forward to hearing from you, and working together in the future!
Susan – Go Hens!
Erik – I have been very strict with my version of Paleo (remember, each person’s needs are different, and even those with the same AI respond differently to different foods, at different times in the healing process.) My version includes very limited dairy (grass fed heavy cream and butter), very minimal alcohol (vodka or tequila with soda water and lime) maybe 1x/week, as alcohol intensifies my symptoms, and 100% gluten and grain free. I do eat eggs (have never had an issue with them) and tomatoes, so I am not on a strict AI protocol. I eat nuts sparingly (macadamias). And, I take both Synthroid and Armour Thyroid for my Hashimoto’s. I have not been able to cut down on my medication, although, since going Paleo I have stopped requiring an increased dosage every few months. I have been on the same dosage since last year at this time. Even with all of these precautions, I still have days where I am very fatigued and/or have a lot of muscle pain. I have learned that my triggers include increased stress, lack of sleep, and working out too hard with lack of proper recovery techniques post workout. I go into recovery mode as soon as I realize that I am headed downhill! The most difficult/frustrating thing about AI is that it changes all the time, and what worked 6 months ago may not work now. It requires flexibility and a very good doctor that will work with you to keep symptoms under control. Please discuss the medication thoroughly with your physician, and if he/she is not open to discussion, find another doctor who is. Sometimes we need medications, and there is no shame in taking what you need in order to feel better! Keep making the great changes you have made, and I hope you will be feeling much better soon!
Badier "The Lazy Caveman" Velji - Whole9 EE says
Welcome to the party!
Welcome! I also have HT, diagnosed in or around 1996 after I had thyroid checked by my endo for feeling tired. Went on thyroid meds for the first time 6 months after birth of 1st child in 2000. Since then, I’ve felt pretty well. I never changed my diet until 2008 when I tried the Whole30 and realized that I felt better and secondly I realized that some of my issues that I had my entire life (constipation and gas/bloating) were not normal as I thought they were. I feel very fortunate that I have never had the horrible experiences others have had with HT, but I worry that perhaps my turn will come.
Ann Wendel says
Angie – Let’s hope that you have avoided most of the ill effects of Hashi’s by finding out about eating this way, and sticking to the plan, in order to avoid further immune attack on your thyroid. I have found that there is great variation among people with the same diagnosis (whether it is Hashi’s, T1D, Lupus, RA). The variation is part of what makes AI so tough to treat. There is no one presentation, just as there is no one treatment. Each person’s treatment will be different, and may change over the years. It keeps us practicing awareness of how we feel each and every day, as well as flexibility in how we stay well :)
Ann Wendel says
Badier – It’s an awesome group!
I forwarded your info to my sister who was also diagnosed with HT a few years ago. She has tried the W30 once, and saw some great improvements, but like you mention, it seems to be a constantly changing array of foods and/or outside stimulus (stress, etc) that can kick her symptoms back into gear. I know she can get so discouraged sometimes, she just feels like giving up and eating whatever she wants. She said she wishes it were as simple as “never eat X again, and you’ll fee great!” I hope she considers giving your consulting a shot!
Ann Wendel says
Heather – Thank you for sharing the information with your sister. I wish it were as simple as do “X” and you will heal everything. (sigh). Unfortunately, it’s not. I, too, get very frustrated with this. What has helped me is that I have an email buddy (shout out to Melicious) who I vent to, and we support each other. It helps to share with someone who understands the frustration. We have a Twitter hashtag that also allows us to vent….it’s not the most professional hashtag; but, it works. Everyone is welcome to join in – it’s #FUthyroid
Ann, as a fellow PT who thinks “outside of the box” when it comes to treating the PHYSICAL (i.e. with awareness that diet, stress level, emotion, spirit, social outlets, etc. pay into a person’s pain or other bodily symptoms), let me just say CHEERS to you! The medical world needs more practitioners like you, and it looks (from comments above) like there are a ton of people who will benefit from your knowledge and guidance. Go PTs!!! ;)
(I’m no longer in clinical practice, but reading articles like yours make me miss it!)
Ann Wendel says
Thanks, Brianne! It’s always good to know that other PT’s are thinking outside the box!
Thanks for this article! Do you have any suggestions for finding a good physical therapist in my area? (I see that you offer consulting, but I feel like I need someone in-person to work with…)
Ann Wendel says
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) maintains a website that has a provider directory http://www.apta.org/apta/findapt/index.aspx?navID=10737422525
You have to keep in mind that only APTA Members are listed in this directory, so there may be some great PT’s in your area who are not members, and not listed.
You can also check Robb Wolf’s Paleo Physicians Network
http://paleophysiciansnetwork.com/doctors which lists mostly MD’s, but also some PT’s.
The best way to find someone is to ask your friends and neighbors – if someone had a great experience with a PT they will be happy to tell you all about it.
You can also Google “manual therapy and physical therapy in XYZ City” or “wholistic physical therapy” or something of that nature.
Hope that helps – if not, feel free to email me to tell me where you live, and I may know a PT in your area.
All the best,
Yup, YAY for PTs! I’m a PT and I feel like many of my patients (majority chronic pain) have significant issues with their diets….but so do 90% of the population. I can make small recommendations and try to steer them into trying to be more healthy, but for the most post they could care less. And the MD’s could care less, they recommend rediculous low calorie high carb diets. I want to eventually open my own practice where I people can come for PT and nutritional rehab combined if they choose.
I also have hashimotos and have struggled with my weight, lack of attention span/memory, and fatigue for over a decade where the medication made little difference….it only helped me to stay awake driving to work in the mornings…. But I would love to try the whole30 to decrease me AI symptoms…and plan of doing one with my crossfit (Go Virtus!) on August 1st. I’m excited about the possibilities of actually feeling like a real athlete…not just trying to feel like one.
Ann Wendel says
Always nice to hear from other PT’s working with a chronic pain population. I think you will find great benefit from doing Whole 30, and adopting that way of eating for the rest of your life. There is hope! Once you do it for yourself, you can share your results with your patients. Some of them will be motivated enough to make the changes! If you have questions or concerns feel free to reach out to me!
Have you had any feedback from someone who has sarcoidosis? I have managed my joint pain with sporadic prednisone treatments and now I am on an anti-malarial drug called plaquenil. I have given up grain, potatoes and sugar for the last 3 weeks, hoping to dive headfirst into a whole30 very soon.
Can someone please help me understand my situation. Seems like I have Grave’s disease and Hashimoto. Can this be possible? I have a goiter (enlarged thyroid) and I also have what they call a dark zone in my thyroid (destroyed by my immune system). Approximately 6 months after giving birth I told the doctor something was wrong with me. I was sleeping on the floor of my baby’s room after breastfeeding because I was so tired. Mood swings, heart palpitations, weight gain, tremors, sweating and cold. Finally I was rushed to the hospital because they thought I was having a heart attack and finally discovered that I was Hyperthyroid. But before turning hyperthyroid I believe I may have been hypothyroid first. I have seen more than 3 endocrinologists. One doctor had me come in 3 times a day 3 days in a row for blood tests and confirmed that my thyroid was hypo and hyper depending on the time of day. I was given strong doses of Tapazole at first and then slowly cutting back which lasted for a year and a half. I was ok for ten years after that. Then it started again and I was again diagnosed Hyperthyroid and given Tapazole for approximately one year. Then it happened again 3 years later. Now it is on and off so no medication. I have been on the Paleo diet for the past 10 months and it has helped me tremendously but I have cheated during the Christmas holidays and for the past month my eyes are puffy and dry and seem somewhat bulging out. I have joint pain and pain on the top of my head heart palpitations and feel weak. I don’t have cheat days anymore because I know it’s not a good thing for me. I don’t know what tests or other tests I should ask for. Can someone help me with this? Can it be possible to have Grave’s and Hashimoto at the same time?
Melissa @Whole9 says
It is possible to have both sets of antibodies, yes. It’s not a very common situation, but it’s possible–which might mean you cycle through both hypo and hyperthyroidism at various times. Unfortunately, we can’t offer you medical advice over the internet–we’re simply not qualified, and it sounds like your medical condition is quite complicated. If you’re not happy with the care your medical professional is offering you, I’d reacommend seeking out the help of a functional medicine doctor (https://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117) in your area, and seeing if there are additional tests, supplementation, and diet/lifestyle efforts that will help you find relief from your symptoms.
Oh I forgot to mention that for the past 3 weeks I have been taking my underarm body temperature and it has been between 35 and 36 celsius (95 and 96.8 fahrenheit).
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