By Maya Park
Asian Media Access
MINNEAPOLIS (July 1, 2015) — In the United States, nearly one-third (34.9 percent or 78.6 million) adults are obese, according to the Journal of American Medicine.
It cost $147 billion dollars in 2008 to treat obesity. In 2012, the American Diabetes Association reported 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population had diabetes. The total cost to treat diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion dollars.
As we can see from the statistics surrounding obesity and diabetes, Americans are struggling to live a healthy lifestyle. This means there are over 106 million stories to be told from different perspectives. Tales from the Garden is a monthly column featuring the experiences of those here in Minnesota seeking to live a healthy lifestyle, the barriers that exist, and how they are managing their HEALTH STATUS.
If you or someone you know is currently coping with either obesity or diabetes through alternative medicine, active living of exercise and diet, or simply seeking to live a holistic healthy lifestyle, and would like to share your story, please contact Maya Park at Asian Media Access at [email protected], or 612-376-7715.
THIS PROJECT IS SUPPORTED BY ASIAN MEDIA ACCESS’ BICULTURAL ACTIVE LIVING LIFESTYLE (B.A.L.L.) EQUITY CAMPAIGN, FUNDING SUPPORTED BY CDC’S REACH (RACIAL AND ETHNIC APPROACHES TO COMMUNITY HEALTH) INITIATIVE.
As we continue to explore holistic and alternative treatments to support a bi-cultural active living lifestyle, AMA had an opportunity to interview Penny Vang, independent consultant and Pathway Learning Center partner. Miss Vang discovered she had cancer shortly after giving birth to her son Skyler.
“I had just had my son. He was about a month old, and one day I woke up and felt a node the size of a golf ball on my neck. I had been at the chiropractor to get an adjustment after being pregnant, and the next day, there it was. I went into the doctor and they told me I had cancer, thyroid cancer.”
Miss Vang wasn’t aware of alternative treatments at the time, and she eagerly followed the advice of her doctors. When she was diagnosed, she was at stage 2, and it required the removal of her thyroid. “It was about a six-month process from diagnosis to removal. I was treated at the Mayo Clinic, and believe I received the best care.”
Thyroid hormones help all your organs work well. They control how your body uses food for energy, so the removal of the thyroid had many health consequences. It was then that Ms. Vang turned to alternative medicine. “I started suffering from multiple health issues after having my thyroid removed, as a result of the synthetic thyroid medicine.” She had symptoms of diabetes, depression, arthritis, fatigue, loss of memory, and an overall loss of desire for anything.
A friend of hers suggested natural thyroid. “I was like, what do I have to lose? I had Skyler when I was 32, and I felt so old. I called around local clinics, and found one in South Minneapolis: Whittier Clinic.” Whittier is an integrative treatment center, and the wait list was over a year. In the meantime, Ms. Vang continued to take the synthetic thyroid medicine, but began to slowly wean herself off of it.
While she waited for her appointment at Whittier, she continued her research and learned of a natural thyroid, which comes directly from a pig. It’s called Armour, or natural desiccated (dried) pig thyroid. I asked Ms. Vang what the reaction was of others around her when she decided to forego traditional medicine in favor of natural thyroid, or Armour. Her sister is an RN, but still encouraged her to do what Miss Vang felt was right for her.
“Being Asian, I think family members were more supportive of the idea of alternative medicine. Now I’m so open to the idea of all the greens that my family ate growing up, because now I understand the nutritional value behind them. I didn’t as a child. We need better education surrounding healthy foods. Gardening is exercise in itself!”
Ms. Vang reveals that she is finding the honor and value of her cultural ways again. This affects her approach and confidence to continuing with alternative medicine. I started feeling better within about a month after switching to the Armour. After a few months on Armour, she saw the doctor at Whittier clinic, who started working with her to find the right vitamins and natural medicines to work in conjunction with the Armour. They did a thorough evaluation based upon blood tests that look at all the different “vitamins/chemicals” in the body, and suggested natural ways to get the things in which she was deficient.
“I started feeling better within about a month of taking the Armour, and following the suggestions of my doctor at Whittier. She would say, okay you are low in iron, for example, and you can get that through these vegetables or fruit. I started getting treated for the missing vitamins in my body, eating a healthier diet, and juicing. I’d use things like kale, spinach, carrots, wheat grass etc. I’m on this new journey, I get treated for treated for vitamins, no more processed foods, and I seek every opportunity to alleviate stress.”
I wondered if she felt alternative treatment was for everyone, and while she did, she shared that most people don’t have the means. “It’s a lifestyle. It’s expensive to live a healthy lifestyle but everyone should have the option.” She tried to design her own plan towards holistic and healthy living. It included a weekly massage to de-stress, chiropractic visits, juicing twice a day, eating organic foods, and doing what she loved which also helped to alleviate stress levels. Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford to keep it up. The cost of massages and chiropractic visits alone stressed her budget, much less the more expensive organic ingredients made her plan impossible to keep up. Part of the problem is that none of this alternative treatment is covered under insurance. “The doctors will tell you ‘this is the only way to treat you,’ but you have to search to find someone to work with you and prescribe natural treatments. It’s the only way the insurance companies will cover it.”
How do we move towards a more holistic, natural treatment program? “People need to take charge of their own health because it’s their body, and people need to ask questions!
For the industry, they need to be open to the ways certain cultures have lived, and look at the changes due to integration of a new culture, and prescribe individuals to go back to their old ways.”
This is what bi-culturalism and bi-cultural active living is all about. We need an integration of philosophy and practice, and people need to be educated about what’s going on with them.
“People need to be given options. People need to be trained to live a healthy lifestyle.”