LEF Magazine August 1998
Nursing One's Own Health
Mary Briggs, R.N., offers an example for patients and colleagues
A few months after her third child, Keith, was born, Mary Briggs weighed 225 pounds. Nevertheless, she admits, "I had never been thin. My lowest adult weight, from age 14, was 170, and I had never worn less than a size 12."
Mary enrolled in an aerobics class to deal with her weight and post-partum toning, yet still felt miserable. Even with a stingy, low-carbohydrate diet, her scale stubbornly refused to budge more than a few pounds. One evening after class, someone thrust some pills toward her saying, "If you take these, you will lose weight." But, having been taught that body weight is strictly a matter of intake versus output, the offer was not warmly received.
"I gave him a dirty look, as if to say, 'Get away from me,'" she recalls, but he persisted. Returning home, she stared at supplements in her hand, and thought of Jack and the Beanstalk's "magic beans."
The "beans" turned out to be a combination of hydroxycitric acid (HCA) and chromium picolinate, and after the first week Briggs had shed 5 pounds. More significantly, she also had shed much of her fatigue. Later she added a thermogenic supplement, which is a synergistic balance of ephedra, aspirin and natural caffeine designed to speed the metabolism and suppress appetite; the latter she characterizes as a "nice little adjuvant therapy."
At the end of three months, Briggs had lost nearly 30 pounds. As an active RN, her friends and co-workers were watching her get thin...and they not only demanded to know what was up, they wanted to know how they could participate. Yet, she had to wonder if these supplements were too good to be true. Briggs smiles at the memory: "I started to worry about the day I might wake up to find that I had liver damage or worse."
Briggs began to study the modes of action of HCA and other ingredients in the formulations she was taking; in so doing, a good friend, an M.D., introduced her to the Life Extension Foundation by way of Life Extension magazine. The more she read, and the more he spoke about the organization, the more excited she became about the Foundation, its message and the possibilities it offered. At that point, she "got into it with both feet," using more supplements, including many from Life Extension.
"My body changed," enthuses Briggs. "I went from a size 18 to a size 8, and I can say subjectively that I am healthier and possess a more upbeat attitude now than five years ago. I look very different, and even my skin tone has markedly improved from what it was then. I did not realize how substandard many of my health issues were until I got well."
Mary Briggs, inset, has always been large. Now, on a healthy regimin, she's positively fit.
During nine months in 1994, Briggs' weight fell by 85 pounds. Between December and April of the next year she experienced no additional weight losses, but dropped two additional dress sizes to a size 8, probably because her muscle mass and body composition were continuing to change. Along the way she started taking vitamins. According to Briggs they are necessary precursors to energy production and a better tuned metabolism. Yet she expresses mild incredulity that it took her so long to recognize the fundamental place of vitamins in any health regimen.
"Because I'm a geriatric nurse, I am constantly around the elderly, and you cannot have your nose rubbed in old age as I do without knowing the reality of getting older...and the platitudes about the golden years are frankly rubbish," complains Briggs. "If you live long enough to become so debilitated that you are no longer able to care for yourself, then it's 'game over.' That's my opinion. Bump! I'm outta there, because it's no fun anymore.
"I have to inhibit the damage of chronological aging. If I use today's technology, there is no way I could become immortal. Yet, if we can use what we have to hang on in good enough condition until more profound solutions arrive, then we are going to win." Like many RN's, Briggs is a doer, an empathizer, and in her case, a confirmed crusader, having personally run trials of aloe vera's efficacy in treating the stubborn bedsores of her geriatric charges. Substituting a cold-processed aloe gel for the usual, and expensive, synthetic wound care agents, the results were startling. Healing time decreased markedly, with the previously intractable ulcerations on several of her patients mending nicely.
"I suppose a fear has been that we would be thought lunatics," she says, "but the safety and efficacy of many nutrients are now well enough documented for us to recommend them. Still, one must realize it hasn't been that long since M.D.s scoffed at the use of vitamins."
To the uninitiated, a breakdown of Mary's daily nutraceutical ration can seem daunting: In the morning, she takes 50 mg of pregnenolone, four capsules of Life Extension Mix, 500 mg of HCA with 200 micrograms of chromium picolinate, 400 IU of vitamin E, mixed tocopherols, 500 mg of vitamin C, 50 mg of grape seed extract and 50 mg of DHEA, all taken with two ounces of aloe vera juice. Mid afternoon she once more takes chromium, vitamin C, grape seed extract and aloe, and adds 50 mg of pregnenolone.
Before dinner, Briggs again takes HCA, chromium, vitamin C, four capsules of Life Extension Mix, 400 mg of vitamin E, and aloe. Bedtime means more pregnenolone, chromium, Life Extension Mix, and aloe drink, plus 3 mg of extended-release melatonin. Four nights a week, Mary uses an "amino acid stack," comprising about 9 grams of L-ornithine HCL, plus choline, pantothenic acid and L-glutamine.
She also uses aloe gel on her face and as an after-bath toner. "This really does help the skin retain its moisture," she says, "and some strong data suggests it increases collagen production as well."
Because Mary is active, a strength-training regimen seems superfluous, but she does possess a fully outfitted Solaflex machine. "I dusted it today," she deadpans. Briggs, 41, notes that she works with women who are 20 or more years younger than she is, including some teenagers, and outdoes them when it comes to energy.
She also feels strongly about the way health care is managed in the U.S., and a general practice of putting people in wheelchairs instead of giving them the proper supplements to improve their well-being.
"Some may turn up their noses and say it's a bad idea to fool around with your body and its metabolism, that one doesn't know what might happen. Well, I know what will happen if one does not."
Briggs observes that the very people who should know the most often seem ignorant of such things as chromium's role as an insulin potentiator, and so forth.
"Once, when a doctor started with gratuitous suggestions of what I should and should not be doing regarding my health practices, I told him, 'You know, you're overweight. If you behave yourself, I'll teach you how to reduce.' Now, I actually have a few M.D.s who call me for advice, and when a doctor does that to a nurse, it's a natural high."
Mary has played pied piper to other nurses along the way, creating a support group of R.N.s who share their experiences with supplementation and practice public outreach. They often provide their information gratis, helping to create an awareness in their patients and fellow health care professionals.
Mary's take-home message is that medical professionals who practice anti-aging medicine personally should come out of the closet and encourage their colleagues to further investigate the efficacy of alternative therapies. "Those of us with our feet in both worlds will lead the way," Briggs proclaims.
"Prescribing drugs to control symptoms is not good enough; if we can teach our clients to better their health through the intelligent use of standardized botanical agents, we may be doing a good deal less crisis intervention."
By Paul Kiesow