There is a lot of controversy surrounding the death of Jess Ainscough, affectionately known as The Wellness Warrior. People are questioning whether natural alternatives are still worth exploring. Over the last 48 hours, I have been in the crosshairs of several people on social media, who are sharing their opinions and beliefs about an article I wrote 3.5 years ago for Jess’ blog. I felt it would be important to set the record straight about alternative medicine and share my insights and experience relating to health and disease, which I have gained over 14 years of learning about, working with, and researching the human mind and body.

I have been surrounded by traditional medical doctors my entire life. My grandfather and three uncles are all medical practitioners. I have been exposed to that model since I was a child. My choice to go towards the natural approach to health and disease was purely as a result of learning and discovering that the human body is far more capable of working for us, instead of against us, than we realise. That intrigued and fascinated me, which is why the holistic approach was very appealing. As a result, I’ve spent the last 14 years learning everything I can about the body and the mind. There tends to be a lot of speculation about what other health practitioners and myself know or don’t know so I’d like to give you a better idea of the education we have. Bear in mind, that I can only speak on behalf of myself as a chiropractor. As a chiropractor, I have trained for 6 years in a bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both of which are heavily grounded in science. I have studied anatomy, physiology, neurology, biochemistry, neurophysiology, embryology, pharmacology and a range of chiropractic-specific subjects. Since leaving university, I joined a multi-modal practice and broadened my knowledge with nutrition, basic homeopathy, basic Acupuncture, kinesiology and human behavioural studies. My studies have continued since then and I am constantly learning about the safest and most natural ways in which I can help people heal and fulfill their potential.

Over the years, I’ve seen natural therapies be effective in helping people heal and live a fuller life as well as be ineffective in helping people achieve the results they want. I have also seen the exact same pattern occurring in the traditional medical model. I have worked together with medical professionals to help people get well and I have also seen people full of despair with the medical model because it hasn’t worked for them. I have helped, been exposed to and worked with people who have had various health challenges which include musculoskeletal issues, Type-O (organ-related) challenges, cancer, allergies and mental health problems, to name a few. I have also been rejected by people in favour of medicine, both in my professional and personal life.

What I’ve learned from all of my experiences is something very simple. People are going to make their own choices about their body and their life, whether we like it or not. All we are as health professionals are guides. We are not gods. Some of what we do is brilliant and can help huge amounts of people and some of what we do doesn’t work at all. There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach and it would be arrogant for any one of us to believe or think that our way is the only way or the best way. We can all throw research at each other about what works and what the best approach is but who is that really serving? All that does is create less collaboration and more division when it comes to helping someone who is dealing with something they don’t understand. Bridging that gap is an essential part of the healing process for anyone who is in crisis. At the end of the day, we all made a choice to serve human beings through the healing arts, whichever type that may be. Those people are our top priority, as practitioners and their ability to choose what resonates with them is theirs. Just because the research says what it says, does not make it the best option and that goes for both traditional and natural medicine. There is ample research in both fields.

It is easy to fear what we don’t understand and I see this fear permeating our culture whenever it comes to health and wellness. Fear is not the wisest approach when it comes to serving someone and helping them heal their body or mind. How about we teach people what’s actually going on with their body or their mind and empower them to change their approach to themselves and their external reality? I believe that may solve more problems than it creates.

As for Jess, she chose a path for her that she believed and felt was in her best interest. She went against the advice, criticism, and judgement of others because she chose to listen to herself. Too often, we pay attention to the various authorities in our lives and forget to see that we have the power to change our situation. We can be our own authority too. No doctor or health practitioner knows us better than we know ourselves. They have knowledge and experience and that could be of great use but they don’t know us because they aren’t us and it’s egotistic to assume that we know better than she did.

What some people are also failing to see, with regards to Jess’ situation, was the amount of challenge she’s faced, within the last year, with the loss of her mom. We know that the stress of losing someone we love can have a huge impact on how the body functions and heals. The more challenge we perceive we have to deal with, the more our fight/flight/freeze response will activate in the body to manage that. Depending on how we perceive the challenge will very much depend on how the body reacts. If we can’t manage the challenge smoothly, the adrenal glands start to dump huge amounts of adrenalin and cortisol into the blood to try to help the body cope. All the excess has to be broken down and the by-product of that is usually acidic in nature. Anaerobic cells, which are cells that survive off waste material instead of oxygen, thrive in an acidic environment. Cancerous cells, due to their lack of oxygen supply, thrive in similar environments in the body where there tends to be a lack or decrease in oxygen supply. I won’t bore you with all the complicated science behind how cancerous cells work but it is safe to say that stress has a huge impact on how cancerous cells can develop and grow. This is what Jess may have been dealing with in this last year and her body, despite all the excellent work she was doing, couldn’t cope.

It’s only natural for human beings to judge each other but it’s important to know the full story before we leap to conclusions. Not only that, there is so much more than we know about how the body works and why we land up in extremely challenging situations. Be mindful of other people’s choices. We are not here to dictate what is wrong or right because what may be right for some could be wrong for others and vice versa. All we can do is what’s in the best interest of the people we serve and that is their choice and their decision.

To the naysayers out there, thank you for inspiring me to write this blog post and to do my part to educate the general public instead of instilling fear in them. Natural therapies serve as much as they don’t and the same goes for medical ones too. Your challenge, criticism and judgement of who I am, what I do and what Jess did for herself will only provide the space for people to see the bigger picture when it comes to understanding who they are and how their bodies and minds work.

8 Comments

  1. Jane March 3, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Adults are free to choose their own path. Why, however, does no one point out that she deliberately hid the progression of her disease ?

    Reply
    1. Dr Greg Schreeuwer March 4, 2015 at 6:29 am

      Hi Jane,

      Jess was very open about her whole process right from the beginning. I don’t think or believe she hid the progression of her illness from anyone. That’s quite speculative. She let everyone know about 2 months ago that her cancer became aggressive again and had started to flare up after her mom passed away but she chose to take time away from her blogging and professional life to do whatever she could to help herself heal.

      Jess published the following on her blog in December: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17671/wellness-leader-jess-ainscough-passes-away-at-30.html

      I think it’s wise to be informed before making assumptions.

      Reply
  2. Deena March 5, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Certainly an adult has every right to choose their own treatment but it’s short-sighted to not seek all the information possible about your specific disease when making that decision. Jess’s mom, according to Jess’s own blog, refused a mammogram and biopsy, immediately started on Gerson’s and died 2.5 years later. Her mom had no info on staging or status of her breast cancer, no info on possible effectiveness of endocrine therapy, just a pervasive distrust of conventional medicine. Both mom and daughter had signs of disease progression while on Gerson’s but Jess was led to believe they were just “healing responses.”

    Reply
    1. Dr Greg Schreeuwer March 5, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Hi Deena,

      Who are we to say it’s short-sighted though? We may not know all the details of how much research Jess and her mom did before making their decisions about their course of treatment. Bare in mind, Jess did go through chemo initially when she was first diagnosed. She chose to go down the conventional road but decided to go through Gerson Therapy instead of having her arm amputated when the cancer resurfaced.

      It’s easy to judge their actions and assume they were against conventional medicine but there’s always more than we see on the surface. They just chose a healing path that they connected with more. Unfortunately not all healing paths that we choose will work – conventional ones included. Choosing an alternative pathway to the traditional approach is no more wrong or right than going down the traditional route. People have had success and failures down both.

      Being a an alternative health practitioner myself, I can’t say that I completely disagree with Gerson. I don’t think doing anything to such an extreme is wise but I do know and have seen the body go through various healing responses when you give it the tools it needs. Sometimes those healing responses make it seem as if things are getting worse before getting better. That’s what sometimes happens when the body is dumping out toxins quicker than usual.

      Reply
  3. Boiling March 10, 2015 at 6:10 am

    I have no issues with natural medicine per se and still follow them. However, what I don’t like about the entire Jess issue is inauthentic and deliberately misleading message.

    – She made an entire career marketing her wellness cure on how she cured her cancer. And she was not open about it until she was criticized about being fake when she conveniently used semantics about curing and healing and blah blah. Every single friend of her who interviewed her introduced her as the person who cured herself of cancer. The truth is it never went away seeing how she always hid her cancer arm in photos. Always. There have been 1 or 2 photos showing the lesions on her arms, so she was never free of the disease. Even, I came across her blog by the very same piece of misleading information – cured of cancer by natural therapy and I felt so happy for 1 living proof!

    – She did deliberately hide the fact that her cancer was becoming worse. She only admitted in December 2014 and blamed it on her mother’s death. Anybody asked her about her swollen arm or lesions, she would blame the toxic radiation at airports and the like. The fact is all her photos show that her 1 arm was meant to be hidden or had decreased functions. So clearly her cancer had been progressing all along.

    – Also, if her family and friend have no issues and are confident of what Jess did, why did all her social media become private the moment she died? Like they were all trying to hide something.

    I am beginning to think all health coaches are full of shit peddling common sense to gullible people and earning money in the process. She can do what she wants with her body but she lied and mislead 1000’s of people who may have chosen other treatments if not for her.

    Reply
    1. Dr Greg Schreeuwer April 28, 2015 at 12:14 am

      I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Jess chose the path she chose because it resonated with her. Yes she promoted Gerson on her website but not everyone is gullible and will pursue the path she went down.

      If anything, people were inspired by her courage and bravery when she chose to go down a path less travelled, in order to achieve a different result with her body. I think the public is missing the point and purpose of what Jess was trying to do. I don’t believe she was telling people to become Gerson advocates. I believe she was teaching people to take care of their bodies and to look deeper into themselves and ask the hard questions.

      Her contribution to the health and wellness community is invaluable and from the many people I’ve spoken to, who have been inspired by her and who have made their choice to go down the natural route was because of her. That doesn’t mean that they won’t take evidence-based approaches into account but they made a decision to understand themselves better so they could have more control over their lives.

      We can sit here and criticise what she did and didn’t do till the cows come home but what is that really going to achieve? She did what she did and we can speculate why for years to come. Again, where is that going to get us? She is 1 person out of 7.1 billion people on the planet who made a choice that some people felt inspired by. It’s a choice that has helped many people pursue a life full of meaning purpose and I applaud that.

      As for your comment about all health coaches – I think that might be a very polarised perspective. Yes, not all practitioners are great both in the natural medicine and traditional medicine world but to say all would be a very close-minded and rigid point of view. Have you met all health practitioners and coaches to even make a comment like that with such definite certainty? Probably not. I think it would be wise to keep an open mind and be more critical and selective about what you read or hear from the various people you learn from. That’s just my perspective.

      Reply
  4. Chris March 10, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    So you’re saying that it is ok imply to others that you are healing, when you are not? This is the message that Jess promoted and she profited off the back of that. She did hide the extent of her condition there is no doubt about that. She was a clever marketer and would have known that what you don’t say is as powerful as what you do.

    So, it is ok to promote using an unproven methodology like Gersons to potentially other very sick people and mislead them by example?

    Jess gambled with her life and lost because she took a gamble on a method for which there is absolutely no evidence. There was a 70% chance that she could have survived longer than 10 years with more treatment or longer. Yes, she might not have lived longer than that, but at least the treatment is transparent and you know what to expect.

    I am not taking issue with her choice to not use more chemo or have amputation. I totally respect that….I might make that same choice. But what I wouldn’t have done is profited off the back of half truths so that ai could. It wasn’t until the very end that dhe revealed the extent of her condition. If Gersons t works then truly works, then where is the empirical evidence. And if Gersons works, why don’t they fund their own independent study?

    The reality is that Jess was a victim here, and Gersons is simply a money making machine profiting off the back of anecdotes and half truths. If you are knowlegable about scientific method (as I am sure you are), then you would appreciate the value of evidence and the ethics of that process?

    Reply
    1. Dr Greg Schreeuwer April 28, 2015 at 12:02 am

      Hi Chris,

      I didn’t delete your comment. I haven’t had a moment to respond back to you yet.

      There are many unproven therapies that help people achieve great results in healing and there are also many evidence based therapies or treatment that don’t help people achieve in results whatsoever. I believe there are both negatives and positives when it comes to any type of healing methodology available.

      As for Gerson, I don’t know enough about it to give an opinion. What I do know is why Jess chose to go down that road. Do I agree with her choice to do so, based on what I know? Not necessarily but I don’t have the right to judge her decision. That’s entirely up to her. As for what she promoted, well she promoted what she believed worked her which is what most people do when they get great results with anything they do to achieve great results. Did she mislead people? Again, I can’t comment on that. I think at the end of the day, people have the choice to make up their own mind and if they’re too naive to investigate or do their own research, then that’s on them. We can’t hold Jess accountable for the decisions other people make for themselves. She just shared her opinion, her insights, her experience and what she felt worked best for her.

      I believe Jess profited off inspiring others to take better care of themselves and to look into many other ways in which they could achieve great healing results. Not all her followers follow the Gerson Way. Most of her fans followed her because she offered a different healing perspective. There are thousands of people, worldwide, who have given themselves permission to take healing into their own hands and investigate themselves more deeply as a result of that. Out of those thousands are others who have chosen to go into the healing arts to assist others with similar issues.

      I’m not interested in whether Gerson works or not. I personally wouldn’t recommend it because I don’t believe in doing anything in extremes when it comes to healing the body. I see the value in some of the principles, however, but I believe healing requires a balanced and more grounded approach – whether that’s using evidence-based therapies, non evidence-based therapies or a combination of both.

      Reply

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