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Total Health: Dr Tenesha Wards of Infinity Wellness Center On How We Can Optimize Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing

Gut-brain connection. Your mental health is tied to your gut. Your brain chemicals and neurotransmitters are made in your gut lining. If you’re dealing with depression, anxiety or moodiness, it’s usually traced back to the gut. I have patients that come in and have not had a bowel movement for five or six days, and they don’t know why they feel awful and are moody. There’s a term out there called “leaky gut, leaky brain.” If your gut’s not working and you don’t have all the right probiotics, or the microbiome is not correctly in place, you can’t make brain chemicals that regulate and improve your mood.

Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tenesha Wards.

Dr. Tenesha Wards (D.C, A.C.N) is the Founder and Medical Director of Infinity Wellness Center in Austin, Texas. Dr. Wards supports the top 5% most difficult cases that are often written off by other doctors. She founded The Infinity Way™ program to uncover and correct the root cause of chronic fatigue and other patient symptoms. The Infinity Way™ custom care plans, followed by her whole team, meet the unique needs of individual patients and help them achieve their wellness goals. Dr. Wards established her practice with science-backed, holistic principals that support whole-body health. Additionally, Dr. Wards is a published author, public speaker, wife and mother.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

One day at age 15, I woke up unable to move all my joints, and I felt super tired. My mom took me to the pediatrician, where they saw me immediately and had me come in through the back door. I had a rash all over my legs, and my joints were frozen stiff. They knew it was serious, so they quarantined me and sent me to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, they gave me steroids and medications that I now know are not needed for Lyme disease. Unfortunately, nothing was helping, and I ended up leaving the hospital because my conditions were getting worse. I remember telling my mom, “I feel like I am dying. I just want to go home.”

At that point, we had seen about ten doctors, rheumatologists and infectious disease specialists. Everyone concluded that I had MS or lupus. Finally, someone said to take me to a holistic doctor, so we went, and he concluded it was Lyme disease. He then referred us to a doctor that treated Lyme disease, and I finally was appropriately treated. Unfortunately, that was a year and tens of thousands of dollars later.

It took about another six months to a year to fully recover because the disease was eating away at my nervous system for an entire year. My thyroid also stopped working during that year, and the joint pain got worse. I missed most of the year at school, but when I finally got the proper treatment, I recovered by being treated holistically and herbally. That journey started me down my career path, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career?

My experiences with holistic practices growing up inspired me to pursue my career. Aside from my experience above, my father had MS when I was growing up. He eventually went to a holistic doctor, and the doctor suspected he had mercury poisoning from his teeth fillings. The doctor was right, and once my dad’s fillings were removed, his body began to heal.

Seeing these healing experiences from holistic practices motivated me to start a career in health and wellness. I started my undergrad degree in radiology, and I worked in the ER in Flint, Michigan for a year, where I hated my job, and my back was hurting from pulling people off the gurney with gunshot wounds. I started going to the chiropractor for my back pain, and she encouraged me to go to chiropractic school instead. At chiropractic school, I found my passion for holistic and herbal practices.

I didn’t know at 15 that I wanted to be a holistic doctor. Honestly, growing up in Flint, Michigan, I didn’t even think that was an option. Everybody was working-class, and I figured I’d get a two or four-year degree, start working in the hospital and do that for the rest of my life. I am so thankful my past experiences led me to where I am today.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My battle with Lyme disease definitely inspired me to pursue my career, and I will never forget the doctor that diagnosed me with Lyme disease. In 1994, Lyme disease was controversial. The American Medical Association said that Lyme disease could be cured by ten days of antibiotics. However, that is not the case if you have had Lyme disease for a long time; you need to be on antibiotics longer than ten days.

At the time, many doctors were charged with overtreating patients with Lyme disease by prescribing antibiotics longer than ten days. Many also believed that you could only contract Lyme disease if you were in the northeastern U.S, where the disease originated.

Fortunately, my doctor looked past this and acknowledged Lyme disease as a legitimate possibility. My doctor was risking his license for me by diagnosing and treating me. His courage and determination inspired me and impacted the way I practice today.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I was 26 when I started my practice, and I had purchased a practice from a retiring doctor. I went in with rose-colored glasses that the staff was going to love working with me, but they were all attached to the previous doctor and had worked with her for 18 years.

Buying the practice didn’t work out for me. I had to rebuild it, and patients were constantly asking how old I was. It was also bad timing to buy the practice right before the 2008 crash when banks were giving loans out like candy. At such a young age, I jumped in feet first, not knowing anything about business, and I made just a ton of business mistakes. Taking a step back, I really should have spent a year working for somebody and learning about business. But I wouldn’t change a thing because now I know what not to do!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“Power vs. Force” by David M. Hawkins, MD. It is a story about a medical doctor that taps into the power of Energy Medicine for healing. I read it in grad school, and it changed the way I look at everything and everyone in this life. I think it is responsible for the way I practice today.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Build the plane as you fly. I don’t know who first said that, but I definitely do that. For example, if one of my patients comes in with new symptoms that I have not experienced before, I will not turn them away. I know how that feels, and I don’t want anyone that comes into my office to feel that way. Instead, I will work and research until I help my patients figure out what is ailing them.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

At Infinity Wellness Center, we are developing Your Infinity Way, which is a self-guided healing course complete with all necessary herbal supplements. It’s based on The Infinity Way™, the guided healing program we put our patients through. This will allow us to help more people faster!

Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I say this probably ten times a week to patients: If you’re not pooping, hydrating and sleeping, your body can’t heal.

Gut-brain connection. Your mental health is tied to your gut. Your brain chemicals and neurotransmitters are made in your gut lining. If you’re dealing with depression, anxiety or moodiness, it’s usually traced back to the gut. I have patients that come in and have not had a bowel movement for five or six days, and they don’t know why they feel awful and are moody. There’s a term out there called “leaky gut, leaky brain.” If your gut’s not working and you don’t have all the right probiotics, or the microbiome is not correctly in place, you can’t make brain chemicals that regulate and improve your mood.

Hydration. Every cell in the body needs water to function. If you are not hydrated, your body can’t detox, and if your body can’t detox, it will be full of toxins. We live in a toxic world, and I absolutely believe that poor mental health is related to toxicity. We are surrounded by toxic chemicals that find a way to get into our bodies. Obviously, we can’t avoid life and altogether avoid toxins, so we have to flush and detox our bodies with plenty of water.

Sleep. You need six hours of uninterrupted sleep for your body to rejuvenate and heal every night. I can’t tell you how many corporate professionals or busy moms that come in and say they only get 3–4 hours of sleep at a time. Your body needs sleep so your cells can get into a deep-healing state and detox and balance your body and brain chemicals. If you are not sleeping, healing is not happening.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I am a busy-minded person, and I think left-brained people and Type-A people need some help with meditation. It can be challenging for some people to sit in a room and just be quiet and sit without feeling like they need to do something more productive. However, I have found that having a beat to listen to helps me. I’ve downloaded drumming sounds on Spotify, which helps focus my breath and get into a deep relaxation state. As well, I like the Calm app, which is a voice with a background of a beat that brings down my adrenaline and stress.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

My tips for optimum physical health are the same tips I gave for optimum mental health. Because so much of our physical and mental health depends on the healthiness of our gut, it is important to keep our gut as healthy as possible. By staying hydrated, getting the right probiotics and sleeping for at least six hours a night, we can support a healthy gut, body and mind. Our society loves to separate mind and body, but treating the total body — our physical bodies and ourminds — is the best way to support physical health.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

An easy and helpful tip is to shop on the outside of the aisles in the grocery store. If you walk along the outside of most grocery stores, you will find fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins. It’s all unpackaged and unprocessed. However, when you start to go down the aisles, you will find packaged cookies, crackers and bread. There are chemicals and preservatives in these foods, which add toxins to the body. I always tell people the closer you can eat to the earth the better. Eating the most natural state of foods allows your body to process them better because that’s what our bodies were designed to do. Whether you believe in creation or evolution, it’s clear we are designed to eat fresh fruit and vegetables and animal protein.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

I would say processing trauma, balancing your brain chemistry and taking time to rest. Processing trauma is an excellent way to improve emotional wellness. Whether it is a breakfup, a divorce, money problems, specific experiences with COVID or a death in the family, people can experience symptoms of PTSD. If you don’t process those, we have found that they are stored in your body. Your body remembers trauma, and it keeps you in a state of fight or flight. By processing trauma, whether by therapy, journaling or talking about it with a trusted friend, we are able to release the things that make us emotionally sick. When we process trauma, we release resentment, anger and grief. But when we hold it in, it affects our adrenal glands, brain chemistry and muscle tension.

One time, I was treating a patient who had a shoulder injury when she started hysterically crying. I realized this outpouring of emotion could be traced to her past of domestic abuse. When the pain went away, she was able to emotionally release the trauma her body was storing from this experience. She realized she hadn’t processed that trauma, and the pain was still locked in her cells, muscles and memory. Her body, at a subconscious level, remembered the trauma and abuse. This physical and emotional release of pain helped balance her brain chemistry and process her past experiences.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness?

It sure makes me happy to see a give a smile. And happy people heal faster, so YES, smiling more improves your overall wellness.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Whatever your belief system is, if it’s God or a higher-self, I think just connecting with something in a more significant way. I know a lot of people connect by taking time outside. Because of COVID, many of us have worked at-home and in front of a computer screen for 15 hours a day, so it’s essential to get outside and away from screens. I also think meditation and being with loved ones connect people to God, or whatever spiritual, higher power they may believe in.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

It’s been proven that walking barefoot, a practice called “grounding” or “earthing,” releases a lot of emotional stress. Being outside, being quiet and taking your shoes off (But, of course, be careful of ticks!) has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure and helps your lungs get oxygenated with cleaner air. On a whole different level, getting away from electromagnetic frequencies, such as cell phone towers and electronic devices, helps the body de-stress.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would like to inspire people to find healthcare that finds and corrects the core root cause of symptoms. I think functional medicine should be above covering up the symptoms with pharmaceuticals. This would change so much in our healthcare system and change how we feel and react within society. I genuinely think incorporating more holistic practices would completely change many of the world’s problems. I know people would be happier and calmer and make better decisions in life. I think many of the poor decisions made in the world are because people’s brain chemistry is not balanced.

Holistic healthcare or functional medicine is a better way to fix problems versus covering them up. And while that seems like a big mission, I think it matters, and I want to spread awareness about holistic options.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Although she is no longer living, I would love to sit down and have a meal with Mother Theresa. I want to ask her how she was able to give and give and give — She was so selfless and did so much good for the world.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow my work on the Infinity Wellness Center website, https://www.austinholisticdr.com/, as well as the Infinity Wellness Center Facebook and Instagram, @infinitywellnessatx. Readers can also follow my personal Instagram, @drtenesha.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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