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.