Courtney Snyder, MD
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
― Lao Tzu
I don't recall that step...maybe it was when I first asked for help for my daughter.... or maybe, when I decided to stop asking - when I realized that conventional medicine did not have the answers for us. Either way, my experience into illness and healing forced me to let go of many assumptions and expectations I had about the world, about life and about myself.
My hope in starting this blog is to share what I've learned so someone else won't have to search as I have these past ten years. Though at times frustrating - the seeming snail's pace of such a pursuit - there are many who will never look beyond what is in front of them, many who will never cross paths with those who might point them in unexpected directions and many who when given leads, will never pursue them. If you are reading this, perhaps you too are a seeker.
By way of background...
When my daughter was born, I closed my psychiatric practice to be home with her. Much of our next few years, however, would be clouded by her recurrent ear infections, allergies, gastrointestinal symptoms, and frequent changes in her speech, cognition, memory and personality along with my own (best described as symptoms of fibromyalgia) - neck pain, stiffness, fatigue, episodic nausea, dizziness, palpitations, headaches and sinus infections. My daughter's cognitive changes (however subtle to others) and my intermittent neurologic symptoms which began to affect my ability to climb stairs, made me anxious...at times, very anxious. While I can't speak for the doctors we saw, I suspect many concluded that we both suffered from my being an overly informed neurotic physician. I always knew, however, that whatever was going on with each of us was systemic (affecting the brain and body) and inflammatory in nature. I also knew, had I been one of those doctors (before learning more), I likely would have concluded the same. Inevitably, I chose a different path.
As the Quakers say, "Way closes, way opens." I'm grateful to many of those we saw early on. But for their lack of answers, I would not have relentlessly delved into the latest research on the gut-brain axis, the micro-biome, epigenetics, autoimmunity, inflammation, oxidative stress, metal metabolism, nutrient deficiencies and overloads and neuroplasticity. Much of this information will take years to make it into mainstream medicine.
My experience of being sick and having a sick child and the empathy that inevitably follows, drive me to share this information online. Without the internet, I wouldn't have crossed paths with the many teachers who led me to my current understanding about brain related disorders. Many of these individuals became experts out of a practical need to help their child and/or themselves. There was the child psychiatrist and author who helped his autistic son with a candida diet and whose work started me down the path of the gut-brain axis. Then there was the functional medicine doctor near Asheville, my husband met through business. His wife, also a physician, recommended we look at the work of a doctor in England who cured her son's autism with diet (now the fairly well known GAPS diet) and which led me to the research on the micro-biome. Because of the internet, I found a local functional medicine physician who was a great help and who directed me to a cardiologist whose online protocol for elevated ammonia levels turned out to be an important piece to our puzzle. Online, I also connected with a chiropractor who specializes in clinical functional neurology and who continues to teach me about neuroplasticity.
Similarly, I found my now good friend and colleague, Dr. Judy Tsafrir, a holistic psychiatrist in the Boston area, who already had been incorporating nutrition into her work for some time. I reached out to her, not for medical advice, but for advice on starting a holistic psychiatric practice. She mentioned the physician training at the Walsh Research Institute in advanced nutrient therapies which we both attended. At the time, I didn't appreciate how effective and important the work of Dr. William Walsh in methylation, metal metabolism and nutrient deficiencies and overloads would be in my own work. Nor did I realize how relevant this would be to understanding the roots of my and my daughter's symptoms.
By no means was I traveling alone nor would our healing processes be possible without the unending love and support of my husband, Marty.
Though the challenges of the last ten years could have been much worse, I wouldn't wish them on anyone....except maybe someone who wants to overhaul their entire way of living or who wants to find their deepest purpose, or who wants to learn about the rapidly evolving scientific research that will eventually change the way we approach human health. As Kierkegaard says and my husband likes to repeat, "Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards."
My wish for anyone reading this, is that your pursuit of health, happiness or whatever you seek, lead you to peace and a desire to help others traveling their thousand miles.
Until next time,
I'm a conventionally trained child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist. My current approach to health is both holistic (pertaining to the whole person) and functional (addressing the root causes of illness). I write this blog to share what I've learned.