Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking improved outcomes and business success with today’s most successful and inspiring healthcare leaders and influencers. And now your host Saul Marquez.
: Welcome back to the podcast. Today I have the amazing Adrienne Nolan-Smith. She’s a Founder at WellBe. She’s a speaker, a board certified patient advocate, and a wellness activist. I’m excited to bring her on the podcast today because the fact is wellness is important and as we turn a chapter from fee for service to value-based care, wellness is starting to become more important. So it’s with pleasure that I invite Adrienne into the podcast. Welcome Adrienne.
: Thank you so much for having me Saul.
: It is a pleasure. So Adrienne let’s chat about WellBe you know tell us a little bit about what it is. Tell us a little bit more about you. Anything that I missed in the intro let’s hear it.
: Absolutely so my hodgepodge of titles came from several decades of different experiences with health and wellness to just start from the beginning. I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease when I was 11 years old and basically my mother was told that there wasn’t much that could be done after the antibiotics didn’t work because I’d had it for too long already for the antibiotics to really be able to cut off. And so it started my family down a new path which was integrative medicine and you know this is in the mid 90’s and it is very different from how it is today and definitely was seen as sort of hippie and wuwu and off to beaten path and all of the practitioners that I saw I definitely felt that way you know I was like a middle schooler and they seemed weird but the difference I realized was that through doing all these different treatments and therapies with them and we did a whole bunch of both things that you know you may have heard of. And things that are you know really out of the box but are actually becoming more popular today like hyperbaric oxygen therapy and things like that. I was healed. My Lyme was inactive by the time I was 13. And this is pretty remarkable because people really don’t heal very much from Lyme once they’ve had it for you know a couple of years undiagnosed. So it kind of changed the course of my family’s living habits and lifestyle as far as what we knew was important to both keep that disease in remission but also to just boost your immune system to prevent other health issues from coming up. And so you know we only added health food stores and saw a lot of different practitioners as part of a general protocol and took a lot of supplements and things like that. And you know nothing. I was in fantastic health until I was about 18 and I went to college at Johns Hopkins which is funny because now that I’m in the health and wellness world people always ask me you know if I’m a doctor and I’m the only girl in my sorority family who’s not a doctor because so many people go there for that. But it just makes sense of course now that I got into this field. But when I went I you know again eating in the dining hall and within six months I had completely lost my menstrual cycle. And this was really bizarre you know and having never happened to me before and having one since I was 12 and went to see a whole host of endocrinologist and gynecologist and trying to figure out what was wrong. And you know they they just kind of run some blood tests and they said you know we can’t really see anything you seem to be in good health. No changes in your weight whatever. Just take the birth control pill like this was you know the solution that I was given and luckily because of the Lyme experience I knew to do a lot of research before you have any kind of encounter with a doctor. And I said you know with all due respect like that that’s actually not a solution. Like that’s a bandaid. That’s kind of masking a symptom. You’re going to give me a fake period but I want my real one and I want you to help me get it. And if you can do that? Thanks, but you know I’m going to be on my way. And so you know I went through several of these maybe eight weeks and finally both at Johns Hopkins and back in New York where I’m from. And finally my father found me a naturopath after I’d exhausted a lot of the conventional options and we looked at the blood so differently together and spent you know more than an hour on it. Going through it all and talking about my different experiences and living in China and whatever and even emotional stuff that I was going through at the time as my parents were getting divorced and whatever and within six months of diet and supplement and Chinese herbs protocol that I was on with her. It came back and it’s been you know totally normal for the last, over a decade. So…
: That’s awesome congrats.
: That was like. Thank you. It was like episode number two of like whoa you know this is a messed up system. Right. And what am I missing, what are most people missing? Like thank God I had the stubborn attitude to actually go in and the finances honestly to go see all of these different intake appointments and a lot of them you know don’t take insurance. And my family so believes in health that it was something that you know my parents would still pay for but I can’t even imagine getting to the root cause of things without that. So that’s a whole note of topic. But the biggest thing that happened to me and the reason that I’m founded WellBe and I’m doing what I’m doing today came when I was about 20 years old my mother had a manic episode and basically paranoia, delusions, middle of the night to put her to the back of a cop car. She thought we were trying to kill her. Was like a really crazy thing. She ran away from us all the way to Queens and we had to sort of like restrain her and basically it started you know a real nightmare. It was five years of the revolving door in and out of mental hospitals. And she was diagnosed with schizo affective disorder which is a combination of bipolar and schizophrenia and I’ve never had anybody that I knew have any mental illness per se maybe depressive or anxious symptoms but not like this and this was a really rude awakening to the mental health care system which if we think the regular health care system is bad like that system is just…
: Another story.
: A whole nother level of you know just kind of not getting to the root cause of things. And so when I was 25 she was so heavily medicated and such as zombie from all these drugs and she’s drooling and shaking and all of that. That she you know I totally understand she found it not to be a suitable solution. Like it wasn’t actually a better way of life at all. And she took her life and…
: I’m so sorry.
: It was thank you, it was a couple of days before Christmas. And at the time I was applying to business school. I’d been working at IBM and I knew that wasn’t my calling. And I knew I wanted to do something that was meaningful to me and where I could really tap to change something worth changing and be a part of something that was important. And as I’m not even sure how I’m going to finish my applications because it was about two weeks before my applications were due and I kind of my friends were incredibles, came together, helped me edit drafts, scott you know one or two out the door and I was very fortunate to get into the Kellogg School at Northwestern where I went in Chicago and I told myself if I got in I would dedicate the rest of my life and use business school as the transition tool to work on transforming the health care system into one that actually gets to the root cause of health issues and doesn’t just bandaid the symptoms. More my mom had a ton of other sort of gut issues and early traumas and things like that that I had no idea could be connected to mental health issues. Of course a lot of us didn’t with the Microbiome Project hadn’t even the results really hadn’t come out. We didn’t know about the gut brain connection and so had anybody kind of dove deeper and started to peel back the layers instead of just the drug drug drug you know we could be in a really different place today. And so my whole thing with that I’m trying to do it with WellBe which is a media and lifestyle company dedicated entirely to helping people prevent and reverse chronic health issues and really see the hundred choices are making everyday as health care. And then when they do have a health care experience of any kind in the conventional system understanding how to advocate for yourselves so that the people you work with get to the root cause and heal you rather than mandating symptoms for indefinitely I guess. So that’s all of why I’m doing what I’m doing now. We make all original content I film people’s stories of health recovery through integrative medicine but also a lot of experts that are MDs and naturopaths osteopaths who sit at this intersection between health care and wellness to try to show that there are people doing great work here to try to destigmatize it a bit. It’s not all hippies but also bring a lot of research to the conversation that I’m able to see and Medscape and pub med and all of that to show that you know the whole argument is oh wellness isn’t science like no it really is and a lot of great work is being done right now to show that.
: I think it’s such a such an inspiring story Adrienne and it’s wonderful that you’re doing this. Folks if you want to check out some of the work that Adrienne and her crew are up to, go to getwellbe.com that is their website is. An incredible story and now very mission-driven business that she’s running here. I think it’s a beautiful thing because at the end of the day not everybody gets the results that they want from the health system. And so it’s great to have another option and this option is there for as Adrienne mentioned chronic illnesses that you know you just can’t seem to get the source of and I don’t know and you know it just seems to me like there’s a lot of things in the gut that sort of don’t have all the clear answers right.
: Oh yeah I mean the more we learn the more I’m realizing I would say like 80% of chronic health issues somehow relate to just an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria and how that then spreads into the brain and affects the immune system and creates chronic inflammation which leaves all these other things and it’s like honestly peel the onion and somehow there’s always that gut at the bottom. Seems to be controlling most things with just extraordinary. And I forgot to mention in my story that after I graduated from business school I worked in conventional health care for three years with hospitals on the patient engagement software side of things so I was working in health tech so…
: That’s pretty cool.
: I was able to see kind of in these hospitals because I worked on chronic disease management programs and when you were talking about value-based care it actually might be because that’s what I was working on a lot trying to help hospitals reduce 30 day readmission. And you know really get people bundled payments and all this sort of thing with population health management and it was originally I thought maybe I can solve this from the inside maybe I can work in a way that that does that. And I just saw that there were just so many incentives to keep the system to be you know not only fee for service but really based around a disease code. Right. And we all know that a lot about preventing chronic illnesses. It must happen before you have a disease. And a lot of the treatments related to healing from chronic illness aren’t seen as a disease code right. So acupuncture or supplements those are not exactly seen as I did seem like complimentary treatments or something right. So if the system is constantly related to this DRG thing this disease code thing there’s just no way that people can really pay for any steps they might want to take to heal or prevent chronic health issues and those can even be the things that we know of that start in a small way. Right. Like you just have migraines or you just have a little bit of pain that you’re kind of like take a lot some Advil for and then more and then more then more and the sade’s end up really harming your gut bacteria which leads to a whole bunch of other things. So something that small can really, you know we talk about chronic disease but it’s really just chronic health issues because if you don’t get them and heal them and you just manage them whatever you’re doing to manage them can end up causing a host of other health problems so that’s something I think that is really important. And what I learned when I was working within the conventional system.
: Yeah and it’s cool that you had that experience obviously you’re coming at this from from a very informed perspective both as a patient but also as a as a professional within traditional health care system and I think you sort of highlighted a very important thing that the way that our system is built and the way that we do billing and procedure codes it’s not set up to pay for a lot of things that could potentially be helpful. And so you mentioned earlier in your story “hey you were fortunate to have an ability to to pay for an alternative let alone know what the alternatives are” right. I think it’s cool that you’re doing this because part of the battle is understanding what the alternatives are. And so folks if either you or somebody that you love is going through some chronic illnesses and I’m sure you could think of firsthand somebody that you know I know to three people right now and so I’ll be referring them to your podcast and to your thing Adrienne because folks by the way Adrienne also has a podcast. She’s podcasting with folks that are you know doing well after not having solutions to their chronic illnesses. She’s covering things like integrative medicine and the microbiomes so definitely check out that podcast. Again you can check her out at getwellbe.com you’ll see a link there for it. But yes so kudos to you for bringing forth this forum of discovery that I think a lot of people are needing.
: Thank you. Yeah I know when I was going through my own health issues as well as taking care of my mom. Where do we all go to search for information about health. We go to the Internet and so but when you Google something it’s really both an SEO game and just you know whatever happens to be there in the way that you put it in. But a lot of the best information you know is either kind of behind research walls that you wouldn’t necessarily see in Google or in some of these smaller more mission-driven sites. And so what I found was being able to see what other people, what had worked for other people who may have had my exact health issue or even like as you said I know now so many friends and family are going through things now. So being able to help them and you just how are you what’s going on there like a you know my skin. I feel like I can’t go outside. You know one of my best friends it’s just this ongoing saga and dealing with it is not only exhausting. She’s sort of given up because she’s been doing it for so long. But emotionally so trying because it’s now this kind of like it’s part of your identity. Right to have whatever that’s chronic health issue is and it feels like climbing Mount Everest to think that what you’d have to do to get rid of it it may not be that complicated. Just maybe one more person that you try to work with. One different kind of practitioner you hadn’t thought of or one treatment that is interesting to you. But you know somehow you never read about it maybe just you need and so this is what I’ve seen with these videos when people share their stories and they truly did heal people. Look at that. So differently and say well I have rheumatoid arthritis. I didn’t even know it was possible to reverse it or I have Hashimoto’s. Like how did they get over that or systemic lupus like are you serious you went from chemo to existing without drugs and she’s fine. Like how is that possible and so by sharing both these stories but also coupling it with a lot of the research that we cover and a lot of the experts whose work life work is just these particular topics whether it’s the gut microbiome or acid reflux ENT Dr. I covered who now only treats patients with diet based on you know having been a head and neck surgeon and saying that’s not the answer. I don’t want to take out tumors anymore. I know it’s all diet. I’m just going to work with patients that way. So lots of different kinds of things but all related to this idea that our bodies are incredible. And for chronic health issues or diseases it just takes certain therapies and practitioners and lifestyle changes in order for your body’s immune system to kick in and really heal. Now of course there’s emergencies and there are life long genetic conditions that you’re born with that maybe can’t be solved that way or they. But I believe the statistic is that 80% of all of American health care costs are related to the ones that you can do something about. And you know really only five percent of June mutations are actually determinant or you know unchangeable. So I think that’s just an amazing opportunity for the majority of people who right now are like “I don’t want to take all these drugs. I don’t want that surgery. I don’t want to have to get so much radiation. I don’t want to I don’t want to say try these other things first like get to that choice 10.” You know when you really have exhausted everything else. But before that can you imagine you can live your healthiest life just the way that your body is without having to be dependent on anything.
: Yeah not a… some great thoughts being shared here Adrienne. And you know I would even extend this to people that don’t have chronic illnesses because at the end of the day if you want to be well you really have to start looking at what you are consuming and the treatments that you’re getting because a lot of things that end up affecting us are the things that we think are good for us or that we don’t know and that ultimately gets us. So some great shares give us an example maybe a story of somebody that was inspired to wellness through your work.
: Yeah I’d be happy to so we get you know some terrific comments and people writing and just on the forum on our site when they’ve seen something and then they you know go to see that doctor and they didn’t really know something was possible before. But one of them is a friend that I have and you know her child has asthma and she had no idea that it could possibly be related to diet. And she saw some research on our site where we covered this connection between asthma and the child’s microbiome. And the mother and things that related to nutritional deficiencies which comes back to diet and she sort of just had this whoa like and then she’s now kept reading and she saw another research piece that we had covered relating a lot of plastics and other toxins within the home to asthma and she was surprised to see that as well she always thought it was just a respiratory condition. But what people don’t think about that much is that asthma is just your blood and your lungs are are quite linked hence why these other cancers develop elsewhere in the body when you smoke right. That’s not it. The lungs are not isolated. That’s what I mean. So these other toxins were getting into her child’s lungs and causing this disease via not really thinking too much about what she ate and using a lot of toxic household products and you know even her diapers were generic and had lots of chemicals on them and she really hadn’t thought about it and it kind of started to unravel for her the idea that something she thought she was just going to have to treat with steroids and inhalers and things like that for the rest of her child’s life that not only were those steroids wiping out the small microbiome that he has and the good gut flora there but also there were things she was repeatedly exposing him to every day with these products as well as with his diet that were continuing to cause inflammation and therefore cause also asthma which is just inflammation of this particular lung condition.
So it was just a really neat way for you know not having to even push it. Exactly. But just it was one of the topics in our research research piece. And she wasn’t reading it even thinking about her son per se but yes she’s my friend and all of a sudden these things started to click and she started to kind of realize that she had to really clean out things in her home and in her kitchen and especially the product she was actually using on her child which again from a marketing perspective we thought, these are healthy, these are American household brands. Yeah. And then oh my gosh. And using environmental working group database and some of the other things that I told her. You know look out for in the agreement she discovered actually not at all. I am exposing my child to a really big array of chemicals and I need to get all of that straightened out and let’s see if the asthma you know just clears up that way. So that was just a few weeks ago and I thought that was kind of a really neat turnaround in that hearing about it. Yeah. So that’s one that I know of so far. And then most of well anyway I’ll let you ask me another question.
: And that’s good. So for the folks out there that you know have basically tried everything and you really don’t know what to do. I feel like this opportunity that Adrian has created and get well be is is really something that will offer inspiration to those looking for a solution where they haven’t been able to find one in the traditional health care system. So definitely something to consider if this is you I’ll be putting on the show notes as well as a full transcript of our discussion at outcomesrocket.health/getwellbe just as it sounds and just like the website so you’ll find that there. Give us an observation that you’ve made Adrienne of a setback something that that happened that you learned so much from that now you don’t do things differently.
: Sure. Would you prefer. Like you mean one in like a work experience or one that I went through and my kind of health journey?
: You know what I think I leave that up to you because we definitely have been discussing a lot of both. So whichever one resonates with you the most.
: Yeah well I guess I sort of mentioned a setback certainly was my mom’s experience. That one is the kind of clearest setback that I can think of as far as different things that I experience and how I, so I didn’t know anything about the mental health care system before. And I would say that my biggest takeaway from that is that as I’m sure people on your show have talked about before but the disconnection between all the different specialists in the healthcare system and not feeling like anybody’s actually looking at the body holistically I thought was really interesting. We were just given scripts right away scripture scripts and each drug had a host of side effects that then required other drugs so then you’re sort of on a cocktail and you know anybody who’s taken antipsychotics knows that it’s really it’s like being drunk all day on your liver, as far as the damage. And so I was just completely shocked that there was nobody in this system and these were very good doctors at Clane Hospital in Boston and they claimed you know good good good hospital looking at actually her body and saying Whoa these are powerful like we need to be doing a lot to detoxify her organs at the same time because this is not just a normal toxic burden like this is heavy duty. And so also is she getting enough of these green vegetables which will help her to actually detoxify her pancreas and her liver and all these other things as well as are we doing things with supplements to really expedite that detoxification process. And then you know the therapist that she’s supposed to be talking to really is hard checking in with the psychiatrist who is prescribing things right. So that was kind of funny and interesting. But then on the what I think is the most interesting piece is the gut, the blood tests and all the different testing that could have been done on these underlying viruses and conditions which we now know impact the brain. We’re not even part of the conversation. So you know whether it was like a gut health protocol that they could have put her on or things like that. There was just no sense of understanding why is this happening. And what are the different things that we can do to improve the different systems in the body such that we maybe can get her off these drugs and use this and actually restore her to a life in which it’s you know she feels she’s living because the vegetable state was not really living. So I learned a lot about this kind of lack of communication between specialists and then I also learned about you know how little the whole body is taken into account when prescribing things and also hardly any mention of the side effects which one of them was suicidal ideation and that is what happened. And you know we really didn’t know about that. So you know it’s hardly spoken about before you actually give somebody a script and then I also learned about I say those are my three biggest takeaways and the set backs that I saw. Yeah those, is that?
: No it’s definitely clear and a lot of people go through this. You know you really don’t know what you’re getting into. And so it’s important that you do the research and you get as informed as you can. But ultimately we have work to do in health care. We’ve got to connect these silos better and treat the body as a whole because it’s definitely not being done as properly as it should be and especially with the cases that come up that are particularly difficult with chronic diseases. It does become even more more challenging. What would you say one of your proudest experiences in the healthcare space has been to date?
: Well certainly my life’s work and my mission is definitely WellBe it’s you know everything that I care about. And I unfortunately think that we have enough work to do that I’ll be doing this in some capacity till I’m 90 years old up unless you know I do a really good job and the entire health care system transformed before then I doubt it.
: Me too.
: There’s just way too many people really invested in. Unfortunately the way it’s set up right now it’s lucrative in some areas and I don’t think anybody really wants to change that. You can’t patent broccoli right. Which is why I always say. And so I would say my proudest moment would comes routinely when I get this outreach honestly from people who say something that we’ve done has sparked has lit a light bulb in their head that they didn’t even know they sort of either accidentally watched it or they weren’t even looking for something and they just it was something in their life or their family’s life where they thought that was just the status quo that was just never going to change. “Oh I have anxiety or oh I had acid reflux or oh I just have high blood pressure”. It’s hereditary or you know these things that they were just like accepting as fact and saw as either research piece or an expert interview or you know story that we filmed or even one of our like article guides to something and just kind of didn’t realize that there was a different way of thinking about something and that this was not a life sentence and decided it was really impassioned enough about that realization that they had to write to us. We’re very active on Instagram as well. So I get probably a direct message like this you know once a week on Instagram but also writing into our site and each time I get one all the anxiety and stress and complications that come with being a sole founder as I’m sure you know Saul they just kind of melt away for a couple of minutes while you realize like wow I’m impacting people and it is not just about growing a brand or growing a business it’s about like as I’m doing all of that. This person is able to maybe save their life if they’re having this issue in their mid 20’s or 30’s and they are going to never really think there is a different way of looking at it indefinitely. Maybe I just changed the whole trajectory of their life. And so for me that’s definitely each time that happens I just like beam from the inside and then I go back to work because I have so much to do.
: That’s too funny. And for sure it’s like that that affirmation that what you’re doing is making a difference. And so folks the call to action they have something that you heard today is resonating with you. Check it out and share with a friend. That’s the way that silos are connected right. That’s the way that we are able to make a difference in this health care system is sharing it what you find impactful. And so I know I’ll be sharing this interview with some personal friends and so I encourage you to take that as a call to action for today. I know are running out of time here Adrienne so what I’d like to do is just ask you for your closing thoughts and then the best place where the listeners could get in touch with you.
: Of course. Yeah thank you again for having me. It was great to speak to you. And you know as I said before I started this not because I thought there needed to be more wellness content on the Internet. Lord knows there’s plenty of it but it was more that for me having done just worked in conventional health care for several years and seeing the issues you know every week that I was in a hospital, I know that everybody has to interact with the conventional health care system at some point you know whether it’s they actually have something or just checkups and screenings and things like that. And then knowing that the wellness movement is booming. But you know a lot of people think it’s just leggings and juicing and you know all of that and like grain, lose weight and all that stuff and I’m like whoa you know these two things like have to come together or because we are in a chronic disease crisis. I mean it’s an completely unsustainable amount of disease that we’ve created in such a short amount of time that we’re going to literally bankrupt ourselves and all die way too early as this continues at this rate. And so I thought it was something very important that I could do to bring to the conversation look I’ve seen both sides. I’m a wellness and integrative health person by you know passion, by experience but I’ve also been working in the system and I know that once they come together, once you bring that data that research and science to these things that can prevent and actually heal the root causes of disease rather than bandaiding symptoms. All of this will start to change and will start to change pretty rapidly because you won’t have these crazy costs and you won’t have so much disease that we know that the health care system as it exists can’t even handle it which is exactly was happening. So that’s what I’m trying to do and I hope that you’ll visit WellBe and find us at getwellbe.com. So as Saul said it’s getwellbe.com and we’re also very active on Instagram. It’s also at getwellbe’s you can follow us there and if you don’t have instagram, also Facebook and YouTube all of our interview and interviews and other content is there. Our weekly newsletter on the website which is definitely the best place to serve get new content because it comes out every Wednesday and has only podcast episodes and things like that as well. So yeah. Any way that you want to interact whether you know what to listen to a story to be inspired or read some of the research that we break down and cover in kind of a quippy way I think you’ll get something out of it. I say if you have a body you probably will get something out of it because…
: Love that, love that Adrienne. Hey well this has been a pleasure. So folks make sure you check out Adrienne’s podcast, her website. Again Adrienne this has been a pleasure. And really thank you for spending time with us.
: Absolutely. Thanks again for having me Saul.
Thanks for listening to the Outcomes Rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.com for the show notes, resources, inspiration, and so much more.