An Estacada nutritionist is encouraging people to consider how their environment affects their health, and the ways in which nutrition can pave the road to wellness.
Gwendolyn Shearer, whose clinic Abundant Life Wellness is located at 386 Broadway St., recently became certified in advanced nutrition response testing. Shearer is one of just 580 advanced certified practitioners in the U.S. To receive the certification, Shearer attended a series of classes in Florida during the past several years.
"It's finding out through applied kinesthesiology what your body needs in terms of nutrition," Shearer said, explaining the process, a form of alternative medicine.
When a client comes in for nutrition response testing, Shearer typically begins by doing a scan of the body's major organs, which involves pressing on them. If a muscle is healthy, it locks and stays in place under the pressure; if there is an underlying dysfunction, it depresses under the weight of the pressure.
Shearer explained that these responses are a result of the client's autonomic nervous system, which includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest and digest system, conserves energy as it slows the heart rate and other elements of the body. The sympathetic nervous system activates what is often referred to as the body's fight or flight responses. When the two systems are working together properly, the muscles are able to lock under the pressure from nutrition response testing. But when they aren't communicating well, the lock is unable to be produced.
If a dysfunction is discovered during the scan, the next step of the process is to determine what environmental factor is causing this lack of communication between the two systems. Shearer noted that substances such as aluminum, mercury and chlorine, among others, can often cause the dysfunction.
"The blocks can be caused by heavy metals or chemicals," Shearer said. "We are exposed to so many toxins in the world, just in our environment."
She added that these toxins can result in a breakdown in resistance and immunity in the client's body, resulting in various ailments.
To determine what specific toxins might be affecting the client, Shearer uses vials containing residue from the substances in question that are placed on the client's body. Though it might seem counterintuitive, Shearer said, the toxins causing the issue for the client will resonate with the muscle and allow it to produce the lock during testing.
"Even though they're causing the problem, they resonate with the joints and they become strong again," she noted, adding that the substances produce waves, which the body then responds to.
During the next step of the process, Shearer designs a clinical nutrition program to counterbalance the toxins that are affecting the client. The nutrition program consists of whole food supplements, and changes to the client's dietary
habits may be recommended as well.
"The supplements help the body detox (from the toxins)," Shearer said. "(Then) the person thinks, how did I get this (toxin) in my life, and how do I avoid it."
The length of treatment will depend on the client's individual needs, though Shearer noted that the process is quicker younger clients. For the
first four to six weeks of treatment, clients are asked to come in weekly, and appointments are spread out longer with time.
Shearer noted that because of the interconnectedness of the client's mind, body and spirit, the process can be used improve a variety of symptoms.
"With the mind-body-spirit connection, anything can cause anything," Shearer said. "Someone might come in because of their hip, but the priority turns out to be the thyroid, so they get a supplement for that and their depression goes away."
Shearer also said that the most common symptoms improved through the process are ones related to depression, anxiety, thyroid and weight loss. She added that the emphasis is allowing the body to heal itself rather than targeting specific issues.
"It's about finding what's blocking the body from doing what it needs to do to repair itself," she added.
Accordingly, the treatment takes a holistic look at the individual's life, rather than simply prescribing a pill for a specific ailment.
"You learn how to live to better yourself for the rest of your life," Shearer said. "It gets at the root cause of whatever's going on. Dealing with things like depression and anxiety, what we're doing is changing the body and the nutrition for the body, and that affects the mind. It's the whole body-mind-spirit connection."
She added that "people are like onions."
"You start on the first layer, you address that and then other things start to show up," she said.
Shearer holds additional training in Ayurvedic therapy and craniosacral therapy. She sees several parallels between Ayurveda, an ancient medical system with origins in India, and nutrition response therapy, because they both emphasize the connectedness of the mind, body and spirit.
Shearer encouraged potential clients to keep an open mind about nutrition response testing.
"I like seeing the change in people," she said. "People come in and they're grumpy, then over a matter of weeks and they're smiling. It always surprises me that it works so well."