Tackling Illness and Stress Holistically

  • 3 min read

by Alyssa Brieloff

I’ve always been drawn to wellness practices, but it wasn’t until I spent the last few years desperately seeking a way to manage my health issues, that I truly understood the importance of living a holistically healthy life.

After countless doctor visits and quick-fixes that never seemed to work, I discovered that holistic living was, and continues to be, my answer. It’s a long-term lifestyle change and even though it doesn’t mean I always feel perfect, it has transformed my life. Changing my daily habits to include yoga and body awareness, Chinese Medicine, meditation, natural beauty, and whole foods has been the most effective way to ease my mind and body.

My health journey was triggered by a series of digestive issues I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with IBS and tried a low FODMAP and gluten-free diet to relieve my discomfort. I couldn’t stick to either food plan, though, because I lacked proper guidance and support.

I tried alternative forms of healing because my stomach problems were only getting worse. As a first step, I joined a primary care center offering both functional medicine and health coaching. My doctor and coach worked with me to create a gut-healing protocol catered to me and my specific condition. They also helped me cut out gluten and dairy and gave me the support I needed to help me adhere to the diet this time around.

Part of the coaching I received included a variety of tests which revealed that I had Candida, an overgrowth of yeast in my gut; SIBO, and an overgrowth of bacteria in my small intestine. For the first time in my life, I knew what was going on with my gut and had a team devoted to helping me heal. Learning this actually made me feel great!

After one year, I have methods for helping myself stay centered, even when the day doesn't go my way. I started using a food diary, for example, to help me track which foods cause a reaction in me and which are neutral. I also now make sure to center my diet around whole foods— including healthy fats, cooked vegetables, and protein.

Additionally, Chinese Medicine has also been an important part of my exploration into holistic wellness. Acupuncture allows me to relax my mind, while also helping with other issues related to stress such as: digestion, headaches, acne, and TMJ. I try to get treatments at least twice a month.

I am more focused on the food I put in my body and also aware of ingredients in my beauty and household products. Since moving to New York, I have made it my mission to live as non-toxic a lifestyle as possible. I only use clean beauty products on my skin and non-toxic cleaning products in my home. I make sure I know all the ingredients I put in and on my body.

Exercise, and movement in general, has also been a part of my holistic journey. I’ve always enjoyed working out but have never been particularly athletic. During my gut-healing process, I started working with a personal trainer who helped me understand my body’s capabilities. My favorite workouts are low impact, such as: pilates, yoga, and sculpting classes, with some cardio mixed-in. I also enjoy walking when time is short.

Embracing yoga helped me realize that working out is more than just getting in shape—it’s about moving your body and connecting with your breath. My yoga practice is a way for me to let my body relax, as I shut everything else out and focus on the way my body feels. I’m able to harness my energy into the movements themselves. Yoga becomes a spiritual experience because I’m able to tune out all the noise and focus on something deeper than my daily stress.

Through this wellness journey, I have learned the importance of meditation and setting my intention for the day. My morning impacts my entire day, so starting off with a mindset of gratitude and calm helps me stay grounded throughout the day. Meditation helps me slow down and connect with my breath before a busy day. I know if I start the day relaxed and focused, I’ll have a more productive and pleasant day. One of my favorite apps for meditating is Inscape, which has guided meditations and is great for on-the-go (I love a good meditation in an Uber ride!).

It’s important to find methods to take care of yourself in a way that fits your own schedule. It’s easy to get caught up in the trends, however, your journey towards holistic wellness won’t look like anyone else’s. Remember to look at ingredients, listen to your body, advocate for your health, and make holistic living work for you!