Erica Grady is a bright, bubbly teacher. And she brings that positive energy into every class she has at Brunswick High School.
But over last summer, something was clearly off for this beloved educator.
“During the summer, I traveled to Europe and got a really bad sunburn. Then, I noticed these splotches on my face,” she said.
But Grady also noticed some other symptoms cropping up that needed to be addressed as well.
“I felt really bloated … like puffed up. I was also tired and would have episodes of depression, something I had not experienced since college. But I’m also not the type of person who wants to take medicine. I quit medicine for that cold turkey, which is not a good thing to do,” she said.
Grady was also dealing with fatigue, anxiety, weight gain, poor sleep quality, and just felt like regular life was harder than it should be. She started doing research online and stumbled across ‘functional medicine’ and was intrigued. This eventually led her to Golden Isles Functional Medicine and Heller Healthcare, where she met Dr. Jennifer Heller and her team.
The two medical practices combine forces to create an integrative approach to medicine, with two medical doctors, two nurse practitioners and Dr. Jen at the helm. They offer a wide variety of care which includes comprehensive testing, hormone optimization, anti-arthritis programs, degenerative joint care treatments, chiropractic care, medical massage, holistic pain management, nutritional planning and regenerative medicine.
Grady had reached her breaking point decided to give it a try.
“I already had all of the traditional testing done, like my thyroid and that kind of thing. But I started reading about functional medicine, which I had no idea what that was,” she said with a laugh. “When I walked in, I was like ‘am I in the right place?”
Turns out, she was. She met with Heller, and her team, regarding the issues and possible testing to seek out the less obvious culprits.
“We also took x-rays. I played golf at the University of Kentucky so that definitely took a toll on my body,” Grady said. “But we looked at all of it and it was like ‘let’s find out what’s wrong with Erica.’”
And they did. It turned out there were a number of contributing factors that were creating a perfect storm for the 34-year-old.
“It’s wild to see when people are sensitive to foods — in her case to apples, avocados, even black pepper. She also had a gluten and dairy intolerance. All that will make a difference in inflammatory markers” Heller said. “We also did a hair analysis and discovered she was deficient in many minerals. So, she does not have to just take a generic multi- supplement, she needed specifics. Her copper and aluminum were significantly elevated as well. This is also why the fatigue and weight loss was a struggle.”
Most of those issues had been present for years. But over time, Grady just chalked it up to getting older … but Heller’s team doesn’t believe in getting older.
“It’s not normal to feel bad as we age, it’s common … but not normal. Early detection is key,” Heller replied. “We have three stages in health — wellness, dis-ease and full disease. Dis-ease is the state where we don’t feel great and we know something is off. If we can help get a patient that is in the state of dis-ease back to wellness – that is our ultimate goal.”
Luckily, Grady was in the state of dis-ease, and not disease yet.
Once Heller’s team did the necessary testing, they could focus on the root of the cause.
“We don’t know what to treat until we test,” Heller said.
The healthcare plan for Grady included diet changes and addressing the deficiencies she has.
While they take some effort, the changes have paid off for Grady. Not only does she feel physically better, her mood and quality of life have also vastly improved, as well as the added bonus of dropping those additional pounds.
“It’s changed my mood. It’s changed my energy and my relationships, as my family will tell you,” she said with a laugh.
Her husband, Garrett Grady, the head football coach at Brunswick High School can attest to that. He’s seen a major shift in his wife’s wellbeing.
“Since she’s been working with Dr. Jen and her team, it’s impacted her in such a positive way. And she works very hard. She’s been consistent. Just seeing my wife get the care she needs … it means a lot to me,” he said.
Her mother, Terri Still, has also noticed a huge change.
“From the chiropractic side, I think the first time I saw her (following her adjustment) there was a significant change in her posture. She wasn’t hunched over. It was a noticeable change. I was like, ‘whoa,’” Still said with a laugh.
For Grady, the combination has been a chance to live her best life. Her goal is to stay active and healthy, so after she retires she will be able to continue her love of travel and explore the world.
“I think a lot of it is about being proactive rather than reactive. You don’t want to wait until something hurts,” she said.
Grady hopes that others her age won’t put off their health, and pay attention to those little red flags — like aches, pains, discomfort – and take action sooner than later. Don’t chalk it up to getting older, be proactive and address the issues early. The reward will be to enjoy a better quality of life now and further down the road.