Locals find answers in alternative treatments

Naturopathic medicine and music therapy among options
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Tara McConnell was looking for answers to the extreme fatigue and brain fog that began impairing her life in 2009. McConnell, 38, of Auburn, decided to look for them, and relief, through the less traditional route of naturopathic medicine. After a series of tests and treatment at Bukovina, a Naturopathic Medical Center in Auburn, McConnell said she gained her vitality back, along with a more complete understanding of her own body. Cari Thackuk, a North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners board-certified, licensed naturopathic doctor, physical therapist and co-owner of Bukovina, put McConnell on a series of herbal supplements and a weight loss plan. It was designed to correct the underlying issues causing her health problems. “I was definitely fatigued. I had a lot of headaches. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I’d forget words of things,” McConnell said. “She put me on really great supplements and from there I did the HCG Diet. I have never felt better in my life. It’s hard to describe how much better I felt. It was a ton of increased energy, increased sleep, better sleep, definitely more clear thinking. The brain fog lifted.” McConnell, who lost 30 pounds on the treatment, still goes to her physician, but said naturopathic medicine has given her a more complete picture of how her body works. One test that Thackuk ran showed McConnell the water-content of her cells. Another revealed that she was allergic to gluten. “It’s a good complement. There are naturopathic remedies for normal things that all of us have. The supplements Bukovina uses are research-based,” McConnell said. “I don’t think FDA approval is all it’s cracked up to be anymore. I still go to my physician, but he doesn’t tell me any information about what my body is doing.” Thackuk said that while the two approaches to medicine work in tandem, naturopathy is more holistic in nature. “It covers the whole person. It’s not about looking at a piece of people as separate entities, but looking at them as pieces of a whole puzzle, that when you put it together, you can really help them. Our goal is always to get to the cause of the problem.” Thackuk’s own experience with naturopathy solidified her desire learn to help treat people with it. She was diagnosed with breast cancer her first year of naturopathic medical school. “I was surrounded with some of the best naturopaths in the field. With a combination of allopathic (conventional) and naturopathic medicine I never had to do chemotherapy and I never had to have radiation,” Thackuk said. “That too obviously inspired me to continue.” Thackuk said she is cancer-free now. According to Thackuk, patients with many different kinds of conditions can benefit from the alternative treatments, such as intravenous therapy, supplementation, homeopathic medicines and bio-identical hormones. She has treated patients with autoimmune diseases, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis and even cancer. Thackuk said other patients struggling with menopause and children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have also benefitted from naturopathy. While some may be skeptical of the less mainstream treatment, Thackuk said that many medical doctors are even starting to become more supportive of naturopathic practices. In 2005, California passed a law that required all practicing naturopathic doctors to be licensed by a board. Prior to that anyone could call themselves a naturopath, regardless of if they went to naturopathic medical school. “We really get to know our patients. Our first appointment is an hour and a half long,” Thackuk said. “The only way naturopathic medicine works is if we work together. I am happy if a medical doctor just lets me do my job. Many of them don’t realize the level of education I have.” Other supplements to Western medicine include chiropractic therapy, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, myofascial relief and even music therapy. Heather Perry, a licensed chiropractor and owner of Healing Hands Wellness Center in Auburn, uses a variety of healing modalities to treat her patients. She said craniosacral therapy and myofascial relief are just two techniques that are good supplements to chiropractic. She also tests her patients for allergies, which are often a hidden culprit of inflammation. “All of these modalities are to allow the body to heal itself,” Perry said. “Western medicine says, ‘we have a symptom, we have a drug to get rid of that symptom.’ Eastern medicine says, ‘let’s treat the cause, therefore you don’t need the medicine.’” Through craniosacral therapy, Perry said she gently manipulates the spine, skull and fascia to allow spinal and other fluids to flow through the body properly. She started learning the therapy after receiving it herself for chronic headaches and having tremendous results. In addition to finding healing in an alternative method, McConnell, who is a Certification Board for Music Therapists board-certified music therapist, helps patients find healing in an alternative method. She said live music can relieve pain because it releases endorphins and causes hormones to increase by 20 percent. Currently, McConnell has a contract with Sutter in Sacramento, but also works in schools with special needs children and in psychiatric hospitals. She has seen music therapy help restore patients’ communication, cognition and sensory and motor skills. “Music is found in all parts of the brain simultaneously. If one part of the brain is damaged in a stroke and the person can think, but can’t talk, the brain can reroute itself and if they can’t speak a lot of times they can sing.” Using singing as a starting point, patients can be taught how to speak and eventually have the music phased out, according to McConnell. Overall, McConnell said medical treatment and life should be approached without too many extremes. “I like balance. For me it’s all about balancing traditional medicine with naturopathic medicine, balancing my love of Italian pasta with knowing how my body reacts to gluten. I enjoy life and now know I know what I am doing to my body.” Reach Sara Seyydin at