Overcoming Illness with Ancestral Wisdom: My Story

Written by on June 18, 2019

I felt broken.  I had been ill for almost a decade and I couldn’t see a way out.

I woke up every day with pain and intense brain fog which wouldn’t go away.

I was frustrated, sad, depressed, and alone.  My girlfriend of 7 years and my best friend in the whole world had finally left me, realizing that I was lost and there was nothing she could do.

When I looked in the mirror, I hardly recognized myself.  I had no sense of purpose and as far as I was concerned, was going nowhere in life.  Despite earning a law degree from a respectable university, my cognitive abilities had declined so sharply that I could barely read.  My once stellar memory was fading daily and I regularly forgot simple things.

How did this happen? I had always been lean and athletic and had spent my entire life playing sports until I became ill.  

In childhood I was healthy.  But by college, my health started to change.  First, I came down with a parasitic infection doing volunteer work abroad in El Salvador.  That was the first domino to fall. From that moment on my health continued to decline with doctors providing no explanation or answers.  The antibiotics prescribed to kill the parasitic infection seemed to work for a short while, but then I got worse.

I had no idea what to do, and to make matters worse, so were all the so-called experts around me.  Up to that point, I had tried a myriad of conventional medicine solutions. I spent nearly a month at the Mayo Clinic.  I saw specialists from all over the country.

I even tried some unconventional medical solutions.  I was a vegan for a year and experimented with strict gluten-free and soy-free diets.

Removing gluten and soy helped, but my experiment with veganism quickly led to steep cognitive decline and nearly losing my ability to read.  I had reached the lowest point of my life and I knew I needed to rethink everything I thought I knew about health.

And this is where my journey into Ancestral Health and Wellness truly began.

 

So this is where the hero of the story turns it all around.

My brain fog was debilitating, so I began listening to audiobooks and podcasts constantly.  Since I had been interested in evolutionary biology, anthropology, and history for many years, I started there.

I quickly discovered that modern human beings suffered from problems that modern hunter-gatherers didn’t.  What’s more, there was an entire movement called the “Ancestral Health Movement” devoted to discovering all the ways that we can fix our problems by looking to evolutionary biology and anthropology.  

Over the next 5 years, I studied as much as I could and changed virtually everything about my lifestyle.  I regained more and more of my cognitive ability which resulted from revamping everything about my lifestyle.  I changed my approach to nutrition, movement, sleep, and stress management.

The more I learned, the more I began to admit to myself that my own choices and behaviors were the source of my own suffering.

Perhaps most importantly, I found my purpose coaching and guiding others to transformation.  I went to Poland to train with Wim Hof and became one of the first Wim Hof Method Master Instructors in the U.S.  I quit working dead-end jobs and became a health coach and personal trainer full-time. For the first time in my life, I felt a true calling.

 

Then I found Functional Medicine.

Even though I had improved substantially, It wasn’t until I began working with the outstanding functional medicine clinician Chris Kresser and the team at the California Center for Functional Medicine that I finally received a diagnosis.  I was diagnosed with “CIRS”, an environmental illness categorized in my case by a cyclical inflammatory response due to indoor mold.

But despite diagnosis and treatment, I did not improve.  I lived in a very humid environment and both the gym I coached at and my apartment tested positive for mold.  Both my blood markers and symptoms showed no improvements.

 

I was crushed.  I knew I had come a long way, but it wasn’t far enough.  I had found my purpose, finally did meaningful work, and had vastly improved my health.  But I was still in some degree of constant pain and my brain fog, while improved, was still a significant problem.

 

I left everything behind. I had almost given up.  

So I pushed my chips to the center of the table and went all in as the saying goes.  I had been researching psychedelic medicines and their use by indigenous people for healing for several years.  The itch to completely immerse myself in this world became my salvation.

After doing extensive research, I bought a ticket to Peru and began my own journey into the unknown.    

And that is how I found myself in a small wooden house tucked away in the Peruvian Andes 4000 miles from home. As I leaned back against the wall and felt the power of the psychedelic medicine known as “Willka”, a voice I never heard before reverberated powerfully into my conscious mind, “You’re not sick and you never were.”  

 

The message from the psychedelic Willka was clear.  

I was sick of myself and needed to let the past go.  For years, I had held onto the identity of a person who “had” an illness and the medicine showed my conscious mind an alternative path.  To awaken to a new identity. My life would never be the same.

 

No wonder I was a mess!

Looking back, I had naively tried to separate my mind and body.  “It’s true my body is falling apart”, I reasoned, “But my mind is still ok, I can power through this.”  

I learned the hard way that there is little, if any, separation between mind and body.  As my stress levels skyrocketed, my sleeping and eating habits got worse. So naturally, I pushed harder. In response, my health rapidly declined. I felt no sense of purpose and life had little meaning.

Like almost all of us in the modern world, I was never shown how to properly take care of myself.  I followed conventional medical advice, and ate what I thought was a healthy diet full of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy.  I never paid attention to where my food came from and never ate an evolutionarily appropriate diet.

 

My calling became clear.  

Working as a health coach and personal trainer filled me with tremendous purpose.  But after doing extensive work with plant medicines in Peru, I realized that I needed to think bigger.  To help guide others to the change they were capable of, I needed to provide an integrated approach to transforming the individual, pulling from all the knowledge I had accumulated over the last decade.  

 

I’ve had the privilege to learn from the best in the world.

I became one of the first Wim Hof Method Master Instructors in North America., training with Wim in Poland and the U.S.  I then became a Certified Health Coach and Personal Trainer obsessed with learning movement from the best teachers and organizations I could find. I worked professionally in a number of great gyms and honed my teaching skills in a variety of environments.  I’ve been lucky to have great mentors and coaches who have helped guide me to be the best coach I can be.

 

What has followed has been something I could never have predicted.   

I now have dozens of former clients around the world who have worked with me as a coach, attended my classes, or taken part in my intensive workshops and retreats.

The fulfillment I receive coaching others is unparalleled in any other work I have done in my life. And I continue to learn. And you have my promise that I always will.

I currently coach a small group of 1-on-1 clients online and in-person.  I reside in Cusco, Peru where I help clients with the “integration” of their psychedelic experiences and study traditional Shamanic medicine.   



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