By Nasha Winters, ND, FABNO
I was recently interviewed by Rob Abbott, MD, on the Medicinal Mind Podcast. Our conversation took us from spirituality to storytelling to science and more. It reminded me that the human experience—whether in health or disease—cannot be separated into body, mind, and spirit.
Science in Medicine
I have been infatuated by science for as long as I can remember. You could say that my drive to understand the biochemistry and the science of the human body ignited at the age of 19, when I was faced with a terminal diagnosis and only a few months to live. But from that point until now, I have never ceased to yearn for the details and intricacies of how biology and physiology shape our experience of health and disease.
Today, I spend the bulk of my time evaluating client lab values, reading clinical studies, delving into biochemical pathways of the body, and making sense of current cancer pharmaceuticals, treatments, and supportive therapies. I wrote The Metabolic Approach to Cancer in an attempt to synthesize nearly 3 decades of my experience, research, and clinical understanding of the biochemical underpinnings of cancer.
But the body is more than a conglomeration of cells, tissues, organs, and chemical messengers.
Stories in Medicine
In Native American and other traditional cultures, storytelling is part and parcel of medicine. I have had the honor of participating in, being mentored by, and even receiving care from some incredible traditional healers—from Ayurvedic practitioners, Traditional Chinese Medicine healers, Mexican curanderos, and others. A similarity among all of these traditions is the importance of the story.
When I meet with my own clients, I see myself as a collector of sacred stories. I approach each visit with the intention to be present and to listen. When we are truly present, people unravel their truth. Each new story I hear allows me to better understand and relate to the next, like a never-ending web. Many times, our illness is sending us a message. Only when we open ourselves up to vulnerability and to sharing our story, do we discover what that message is and how it is meant to transform our lives.
Spirit in Medicine
At the beginning of this post, I referred to a Medicinal Mind Podcast that was recently recorded. The host of that podcast mentioned what he calls the “trinity of healing”: metabolic flexibility, immune flexibility, and resilience of spirit. I love this concept because it really resonates with my own view.
Spirituality means something different for every person. My own life experiences have allowed me to glimpse into Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Native American spirituality, and other religions (you can hear the story of how in the Medicinal Mind Podcast). What I have come to realize is that these religions are more alike than they are different. There are commonalities between them that make them one—spirituality is spirituality, no matter what you call it.
I find that my clients come to me with diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds. They also come in varied states of mind. Because many have received recent diagnoses of cancer, they sometimes feel abandoned, alone, and disconnected from spirit. Others might feel more connected than ever. I have been in both of those situations myself, and I can relate.
Personally, I have found that I feel most connected to my spirituality when I am in nature. Nature is where science and spirituality collide inseparably. As I continue to forge this path in supporting clients through the cancering process, I hold that science, stories, and spirit cannot be separated. We need them all in order to heal.