Ariel Welch experienced a multitude of health troubles, ranging from digestion problems to chronic fatigue to hormonal issues. After being unable to find answers from Western doctors, she finally found a solution through self-studying herbal medicine and seeing a naturopathic doctor, and hasn’t looked back since!
Ariel’s story is part of Rupa Health’s Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate series, where we share the stories of patients who take their health issues and wellbeing into their own hands.
What do you do for work?
I am a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner & Co-Founder of Treat Yourself Inc.
What health issues were you experiencing?
Chronic fatigue, dizziness/blacking out upon standing, constipation, bloating, intense stomach pains after eating certain foods, mood swings/strong PMS, tender breasts, & acne.
How did you go about finding a solution? How many doctors/experts did you see during this time period? Tell us about your journey.
I went to my primary care physician who referred me to a gastroenterologist for my digestive symptoms. The gastro doc said that "Many women are constipated, it is very common and totally normal. We can't do much to help you, but I recommend you try taking MiraLAX and eating more fiber.". The active ingredient in MiraLAX is polyethylene glycol 3350... No thanks, Doc. I also told my GP about how whenever I stood up, I would become very dizzy/faint and my eyes would temporarily black out. She said I most likely had "orthostatic hypotension", and that there wasn't a rhyme or reason for that either, but that I should try to take my time standing up to decrease this symptom. These appointments were very frustrating because I knew there had to be a reason this was happening, and I wanted to learn that reason so I could fix it. I knew that if I let this continue on, these small symptoms could only get worse and turn into much larger problems down the line.
What does it mean to you to "be your own health advocate"?
I wasn't getting any answers or relief from my symptoms from conventional doctors, so I decided to start studying nutrition and herbal medicine. I learned that certain foods can cause inflammation in the gut which leads to bloating and constipation (this was NEVER mentioned at any gastroenterology appointment). I also took a course at the California School of Herbal Studies on Adrenal Fatigue & Adaptogens which truly opened my eyes to the root cause of why my energy levels were so low. For example, I learned that taking the oral steroid medication called prednisone (synthetic cortisol) during early stages of life can halt the growth of the adrenal glands. This is due to a negative feedback mechanism: when you flood your body with a cortisol-like substance, it thinks it has enough so it stops making it internally as well as shuts down the organs that release it (the adrenals). THIS BLEW MY MIND! I had terrible asthma as a child and was given prednisone often, NO DOCTOR EVER MENTIONED THE DAMAGING EFFECTS THIS MEDICATION CAN HAVE ON THE ADRENAL GLANDS. Now that I know the WHY to my symptoms, I was empowered to heal myself using adaptogenic herbs (Chinese licorice root & ashwagandha) and supplements that nourish the adrenals (like electrolytes & B Vitamins). My company Treat Yourself Inc. has the motto "Be Your Own Healer", and I truly believe everyone has the intrinsic ability and power to heal themselves.
How long did you struggle before either getting a diagnosis or starting to feel better?
I was having symptoms for over five years before realizing that it was not normal to feel that way and that I wasn't in optimal health. Most of my teenage and young adult life was spent binge drinking and eating the standard American diet, so I really didn't know what healthy looked or felt like until I started searching for answers.
How did holistic or integrative care shape your journey?
I ended up hiring a naturopathic doctor who, from my symptoms, immediately knew it was an adrenal issue, so he ran a salivary adrenal hormone panel. Turns out my adrenals were producing little to no cortisol, ding ding ding! This is why I felt chronically fatigued and dizzy when standing (aldosterone is another adrenal hormone that regulates blood pressure). It felt great to have some sort of recognition that this wasn't all just random, that there was a physical REASON for these symptoms. I highly recommend hiring someone who is well versed in holistic medicine if you are experiencing symptoms that conventional medicine cannot wrap its (well intentioned & minimally informed) head around.
How difficult was it for you to find a holistic or integrative practitioner? What were the main barriers here?
It was hard because of the out of pocket costs. I put it off for a while because I wanted to make sure to find someone who truly knew what they were doing so that I wasn't wasting my time or money. Definitely do your research, but it is so worth it to take the leap and find a partner in health!
What do you do to stay healthy today?
I love hot yoga (sweat your those toxins!), hiking in the forest (forest bathing=zen), preparing myself nourishing/anti-inflammatory meals, and trying my best to keep a positive mindset/attitude through life.
How do you define "being healthy"?
Feeling excited to wake up every morning and having the energy to do so. Radiating love and vibrating on a higher plane of consciousness.
What advice do you have for someone that's trying to figure out their own health concerns?
You are not alone! If conventional medicine is failing you, please take charge of your own health and hire someone to help you succeed. We all have struggles, don't hide or try to bury them because they will only get worse. Be open about your situation and you will be surprised by the support and love that will follow.
Ariel’s wellness company, Treat Yourself Inc., provides holistic body care products with the overall goal of helping others detoxify their lives. As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, she works to support clients with personalized diet & lifestyle interventions.