Women In Wellness: “Why you should find a place to volunteer after you retire”, with Dr. Deanna Hope Berman and Beau Henderson

I suggest people find a place to volunteer when they retire. There are so many organizations that need volunteers. People can volunteer for things they are interested in, such as gardening, like being a master composter. Through becoming a master composter, you can help others learn about organic gardening and decreasing food waste. There is […]

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I suggest people find a place to volunteer when they retire. There are so many organizations that need volunteers. People can volunteer for things they are interested in, such as gardening, like being a master composter. Through becoming a master composter, you can help others learn about organic gardening and decreasing food waste. There is always a need for volunteering at local churches and community centers. Or you can volunteer to walk dogs at the SPCA.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Deanna Hope Berman. Dr Deanna Berman, ND, LM is a women’s health expert, helping women around the world recover from chronic health issues, including Interstitial Cystitis, Recurrent UTIs, Infertility, PCOS, autoimmune disease, and Hashimoto’s for over 25 years. She received her medical training and Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine and Midwifery at Bastyr University. Her passion is to help women get healthy so they can live a full passionate life, PRESCRIPTION FREE.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

When I was 16 years old I lost a lot of weight, stopped getting my period, had stomach pain, and severe fatigue. My mother took me from doctor to doctor, without anyone being able to help me. Finally I went to a psychologist who focused on my diet. She said that my limited diet was causing the problem. I told her that when I ate, I did not feel good and that was why I chose not to eat. After a visit to the gynecologist, who suggested I would not be able to have children if I did not gain weight, I worked with the psychologist and gastroenterologist to get my digestive health back on track and start eating again.

Around this time, I had a biology teacher who was also a chiropractor. She taught our class about acupressure and how the body and mind worked together. Now, you need to understand this was 1986 on Long Island. She was probably the only person in the area who knew about natural medicine. And it so happens that my grandfather had been a lawyer working on licensure for chiropractors in NY State. So I was destined to work in the field of natural medicine.

As my health improved over the next few years, I chose to study psychology at Florida Atlantic University in South Florida, with a minor in Pre-Med, with the intention of going to medical school. I was working in a health food store in my fourth year of college, waiting to hear if I was accepted into medical School. People would come into the store on a daily basis asking about what herb or vitamin to take for their health condition. These men and women did not want to take the pharmaceutical medication they had been prescribed. They were looking for an alternative and since this is in 1992, before the internet, people had no idea where to look for help.

The store had a large selection of herbal and nutritional books that I could reference. When people came to me asking questions, I would go to the books and start looking for suggestions to help them. I thought to myself, “why are they asking me? I have no experience with herbal medicine. They really need someone who is trained in natural healing.” These people had serious medical conditions like cancer and Colitis, but there was no one else for them to ask. And some were experiencing horrible side effects from the medication. So I did my best to help them with the natural medical books I had.

One day the owner of the store asked if I had ever heard of Naturopathic Medicine. He said Naturopathic Doctors were a type of doctor who went to a four year medical school specializing in herbal medicine, spinal manipulation, accupuncture and nutrition. He suggested I attend a school called Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. I learned that Bastyr University was one of three Naturopathic Medical schools, but was the only one that was a research institute, specializing in researching natural therapies. This appealed to me because I liked to have research to back up the recommendations I made.

Within 5 months of learning about Naturopathic Medicine, I was interviewing to attend Bastyr University. I flew out to Seattle and stayed with a woman who was a student at Bastyr. She told me she had a specialty in women’s health at Bastyr and was studying to be a midwife as well as a Naturopathic Doctor. I had no idea what a midwife was, but knew I was supposed to follow the same path, and become a midwife.

Later I learned that by studying midwifery I would become an expert in pre-conception care, keeping women healthy in pregnancy and natural childbirth. We learned to use prevention in women’s health and in many instances could keep people off prescription medication and minimize side effects from medications with natural therapies. Because of my focus on women’s health, I also became an expert in the natural treatment of all women’s hormonal and gynecological issues, including bladder issues. Many of the other students would come to me when they had questions related to women’s health issues.

I graduated from Bastyr University and opened a practice in Ithaca, NY. Most of my clients were women between the ages of 40 and 70. I worked with a lot of women with PCOS, abnormal PAPs, thyroid issues, menopausal issues, UTIs and all the other issues that effect women. Around 10 years ago, I saw an increase in chronic health issues, such as autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, chronic lyme disease and Interstitial cystitis. I started learning more about natural treatment of these issues.

In the past few years, more women were coming to me having been diagnosed with Interstitial cystitis and chronic or recurrent UTIs. Some of these women had been suffering for 10–20 years and had been to over 20 doctors. They were being put on psychiatric medication, sleep medication, pain medication, having spinal nerve blocks and other procedures due to their constant bladder pain and urgency. Many had retired from work and were unable to enjoy their free time. Their bladder issues were debilitating and effecting all aspects of their lives. They were having trouble being intimate with their husbands or partners because many times they would develop a UTI after or the pain was so bad, they could not be intimate at all.

The women I was seeing were so grateful for the help, claiming so many of the doctors did not understand their condition. Because of my experience working with women and with chronic health issues, I did understand. I decided I would put my energy into helping women with Interstitial cystitis and chronic/recurrent UTIs, getting at the underlying issues and help them get off their medications and live a full, vibrant life.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting thing was that after studying natural medicine for many years, I never learned to take care of myself until I was forced to. In 2002 I moved my family to an intentional community, Ecovillage at Ithaca. The idea was, my husband and I were going to open an office. He was going to manage the office and I would see patients. My daughters at the time were 1 and 5 years old. I was still nursing the one year old. I was also the main caregiver for both girls and we were not sending them to school. We intended to keep them home with us, using the principles of home-schooling to educate them. We were also building a new home in the community, while living in a rental house.

Within a few months of moving from Seattle to New York, and opening the office, I realized there were a lot of challenges at work and that my home life was not going to be easy. My youngest daughter was very sick the first year in our new home, we were having some disputes with my new neighbors, and I was not getting along with my husband. My stress levels were rising fast. I felt a lot of pressure to succeed and to help people, but I was anxious and not sleeping well. I was a naturopathic doctor licensed in Washington State, but did not have a license in New York. I didn’t like practicing with out a license, so decided to get my Certified Midwifery license in New York.

Studying for my midwifery license was harder than I thought. Even though I had gone to a four your medical school and did a 3 year program in natural childbirth, I had not used a lot of pharmaceutical medication at that point, nor used Intravenous therapy. I needed to learn drip rates and pharmaceutical treatments for various conditions in and out of pregnancy. I studied for months, while working and caring for my daughters. This paid off with my New York State Midwifery Certificate.

Life was not less stressful after I got my certification, and my practice was busier. I was still feeling a lot of pressure about our financial situation. Then in 2006 I was in a car accident. It was a sign! Actually looking back over the previous 5 years, there were many signs, but this one was louder. I needed to change something. I needed to listen to my body and stop pushing myself to my limits. I needed to follow the advice I was giving my patients. I was having a lot of anxiety and sleep issues before the car accident, but after, things excalated. At this point, my practice was very busy and I was barely keeping it together. By January, 2007 I was sleeping three hours a night. I was desperate! I told my husband I was not taking any new patients. By June, 2007 I closed my office.

By the time I closed my office I had multiple medical diagnosis. During the period of time from my accident in February, 2006 to June, 2007, I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, IBS, candida, interstitial cystitis, insomnia, Epstein Barr Virus and chronic fatigue syndrome. I knew the underlying cause was that I was not listening to my body and I was pushing myself beyond my own limits.

“Healer heal thyself” was something you hear frequently in naturopathic medical school. But once you are out in the world and caring for a family, patients, researching, and managing an office, taking time for yourself is not easy. My body gave me repeated messages to slow down but I kept pushing and pushing, I grew up with the message I could have it all — the home-schooled children, life in community, beautiful house, organic garden, successful career, great marriage. For me, I could do it all, but at a cost. And it would not all be done well. Something would suffer. And I was the one who suffered the most.

Ten years later, I changed my life. My children got older and went out on their own and I was able to focus on my needs. I now realize I can’t do it all and that I need to find balance. I am focusing my practice to help women with recurrent UTIs and Interstitial Cystitis because it gives me the opportunity to learn as much as I can about the underlying issues these women have and help them more effectively. I have moved out of the community, I exercise and meditate, I have changed my relationship, and I live in the woods. I am calmer, have healed from all my health issues and am much happier.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

When I first moved to Ithaca, I bought a business from another naturopathic doctor. I thought I was going to buy a thriving business, but it turned out that only one of the doctor’s patients called for an appointment. The doctor ended up moving close enough that his patients would travel to see him. So I ended up spending $10,000 for nothing. The lesson was that I did not need to buy a practice, I just needed to trust that I was going to be successful. And in the end that is what happened.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been mentored by so many wonderful people along my journey, most of who have authored many books relating to natural health and spirituality. Among them are Tori Hudson, ND; Joseph Pizzorno, ND; Brian Weiss, MD; Lise Alschuler, ND; Alberto Villoldo, PhD; Sat Dharam Kaur, ND; Ina May Gaskin; Richard Horowitz, MD; and many more. I did an amazing training in Breast Cancer prevention with Sat Dharam Kaur, ND, author of The Healthy Breast Program for Breast Cancer Prevention. I have learned a lot from Tori Hudson, ND, developer of the best company for women’s supplements, Vitanica. Recently I learned a lot from a wonderful herbalist and author, Stephen Buhner.

On a personal level, the most influential person was my mother. My mother was a single mom with only a high school education. She did not have a career to provide for us. We drove around in a car with the bottom rotted out. You could put your foot through the floor of the car and touch the ground. But my mother always took care of my sister and I, and her mother. And we knew she loved us above everything.

There was a time when I was a child that our oil burner went out and we had no heat. My mother sent us to stay with my grandmother and my mother stayed in our house, sleeping in the kitchen with the stove on, huddled with our dog, Thea. My mother taught me the importance of family and loving other people. She taught me about spirituality and that no matter what, I would be OK. That there is something bigger in the universe. That I have the inner strength to handle anything.

My mother was always low on money and had to create businesses to bring in income. Because she didn’t have an education, there were not many jobs available. My mother became an entrepreneur, sold things, taught herself bookkeeping, submitted articles for publication and more, so she could put food on the table. My mother taught me that I could do anything and that I needed to find a career so I could support my family. My mother taught me to be a surviver!

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

It is important to live a balanced life in order to prevent burnout. Learn to listen to your body and your mind. Most of my colleagues are overwhelmed and overworked. When we are overworked, we have trouble sleeping, get anxious, depressed and tired. Our bodies will tell us we have a problem. It is important to listen and look inside ourselves to see where we are unbalanced.

Love, time with family, a spiritual practice, time in nature, exercise, eating well, having fun, and having a career or activity where you feel you have a purpose. These are all important, but need to be balanced. If we put too much of our life into only one thing, we will burn out.

I have many interests, including dancing, tending an organic garden, walking in the woods, rollerblading, fermenting foods, cooking, baking, writing and researching, meditating, and practicing Shamanic journeying. Most of these activities I do sporadically based on how I am feeling and how much energy I have. I do however exercise every day without fail because this keeps me sane. I cook most of my meals, as I love fresh, whole food meals. My husband says, “when she is stressed, she cuts vegetables”. I go out in the woods and collect firewood when needed. It is important for me to do these things to take care of myself and Iive my life in my integrity, in balance and in connection with nature.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Creating a fantastic work culture is about getting to know the people you are working with and understanding their needs. There are many dynamic ways to create an environment where people want to work. Depending on the size of the office or building, I think it is important to integrate four things into a work environment: a place to exercise, a place to store and/or cook healthy food, a place to relax and connect with others.

When people exercise, it decreases the number of sick days, increases mental functioning, decreases weight, depression and anxiety. There are so many benefits to exercise, I cannot list them all. When employees have a place to exercise that is supported by their employer, they feel like their employer supports their taking care of themselves.

A small office with one or two pieces of exercise equipment can be put aside. If there are some weights or a medicine ball, this can increase the number of people in the space at one time. By having a space where multiple people can exercise at one time, this can double as an area where people connect. Loneliness is a big problem in our society and many people go to work, but don’t get to know the other people they work with. Exercising together can be a way for them to connect and research shows that when people have an exercise partner, they are more likely to engage in regular exercise.

Another way to create a fantastic work culture is by having a small kitchen or even a kitchenette where people can store food, possibly cook and again connect with others. This can encourage sharing lunch times and sharing types of food people may otherwise not have thought of eating. If this area is large enough, there is the possibility of a coach to relax in or a radio to listen to. This can be an area where people can relax. Pictures of nature scenes on the walls have been shown to encourage relaxation.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In some cases, retirement can reduce health, and in others it can improve health. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?

In my experience there are a few reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health. The primary reason is people no longer have a purpose. Work was their main purpose in life. Many people get their worth from what they do. When they retire, they need to find a new way to feel worthwhile. A recent patient of mine who just retired told me, “I am 86 years old and have been working since I was 16. I don’t know who I am without my work. I feel lost.” Her work environment gave her more than purpose. She had worked with the same people for over 30 years and enjoyed them. They were her friends as well as her colleagues. This led to feelings of lack of motivation and loneliness. She no longer had a purpose.

Another reason is lack of routine. Routine helps us to know what to do everyday. When the routine is gone, some people feel like they don’t know how to spend their time. This can lead to feeling lethargic. After years of working, where the routine was set out for them, they now need to be creative about finding places to put their energy.

Traveling and eating out are other reasons people’s health suffers after retirement. When people travel, they tend to eat out more and when we eat out, we tend to eat more food. Also, when traveling, people get outside their normal exercise routine. It is important to keep up both good nutrition and exercise when traveling to maintain good health.

Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

5 things that can contribute to optimize mental wellness after retirement are dancing, gardening, exercise, connecting with friends and family and volunteering.

I am an avid dancer. My favorite is zydeco/cajun dancing. Dancing helps with cognitive function, memory, mood, loneliness and coordination. Many of the people I dance with are over 70 years old. I travel around the country to go to various dances, and many of the people I know travel to the same dance events.

Last year I was in Lafayette, LA. I met a group of about 20 people who came from various places, such as Austin, Tx; Seattle, WA; Hartford, Connecticut, etc. We met at a hotel and spent the next week traveling together to various dance events. This was during Mardi Gras, a big week long celebration in Louisiana. One of the men I was dancing with said that these events and connecting with the same people in various places keeps him excited about life.

Gardening has so many benefits for mental health and for overall health. By growing your own food, you know what you are putting in your body. Depending on the space you have you can grow anything from herbs and spices, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, apples, pears, grapes and more. My favorite things to grow are pumpkins and tomatoes. I love to plant seeds and watch the pumpkins get bigger and bigger. I love to grow tomatoes because the taste of home grown, heirloom tomatoes is nothing like what I buy at the grocery store. One year my family and I grew over 750 pounds of produce. This included a variety of apples, pears, and pumpkins.

There are so many forms of exercise from dancing, mentioned above, to pilates, yoga, rollerblading, hiking, biking, swimming and more. Over the years of my life I have tried many forms of dance as a way to get exercise. Ballet is a good way to build the core strength, while zydeco dancing is more aerobic. When I was really exhausted, I started doing restorative yoga and walking in the woods. Then as I gained my stamina back, I started swimming. Whenever the weather is good, I will go rollerblading. There are so many types of exercise, that I never allow my patients to say there is nothing they like. If they are really resistant, I will tell them to buy an exercise bicycle or elliptical and put on a movie and JUST DO IT for 20 minutes a day. There are also many meet up groups for hiking and biking, which is a great way to meet people.

Many of the activities mentioned above are great ways to connect with friends and family. As I mentioned, when I go dancing, I connect with the same people, even though we live all over the country. Connecting with friends and family is good for our mental health. Many of my patients help with their grandchildren after retirement. This gives them both purpose and keeps their minds and bodies active. Especially if the children are young. But be careful, you may sleep heavily after a day with your grandchildren.

I suggest people find a place to volunteer when they retire. There are so many organizations that need volunteers. People can volunteer for things they are interested in, such as gardening, like being a master composter. Through becoming a master composter, you can help others learn about organic gardening and decreasing food waste. There is always a need for volunteering at local churches and community centers. Or you can volunteer to walk dogs at the SPCA.

Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize their physical wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

Many of the things I suggested above for mental wellness can also help optimize physical wellness. These include dancing, exercise, chasing after grandchildren, and gardening. Two other important things to optimize physical wellness are to eat a healthy, whole foods diet and get out in nature. Many of the forms of exercise I mentioned are done in nature, such as hiking, biking, swimming in warm weather, and rollerblading. When I go dancing, it is often outside. Another form of exercise that can be done outside is skiing, both cross country and down hill. Getting out in nature helps to decrease stress hormones and improves mood and overall wellbeing.

A healthy, whole foods diet can help maintain physical wellness. Many of my retired patients had not spent much time cooking in the past, but I suggest that now that they are retired, they may want to spend some time in the kitchen. I suggest a whole foods, Mediterranean type diet for most people, but often I will alter my recommendations based on my patient’s needs. When people cook their food, they pay more attention to what and how much they eat. They tend to make healthier choices.

In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?

You will still be busy. Many of my retired patients thought they would have a lot of time when they retired, but found that they had put off so much over their lifetime, they had a lot to catch up on.

It is important to take care of yourself while you are working so that you are healthy when you retire. Many people put off self care because they are busy. But after years of not taking care of their body, their body is not as strong or healthy as their desires would like.

They may not have enough money to do what they want. Time outside of work leaves spare time. Spare time leads to boredom. Boredom leads to spending more money.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

The Education of Little Tree is my favorite book of all time. The story is told from the perspective of a small boy who is orphaned and goes to live with his grandparents. His grandmother is a Native American women and she and her husband live in a cabin in the woods. The boy tells about his life in the woods and all the lessons his grandparents teach him. It is a beautiful story about the family’s love for each other and for the natural world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I would like to start and have thought about a lot is called “Consciously Conceiving the Next Generation”. My idea is to educate couples about the importance of getting healthy before they get pregnant. Through the process of identifying chronic infections, autoimmune issues, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and getting off prescription medication, we have a reduction in problems conceiving, less intervention during pregnancy and delivery and healthier children.

The rates of infertility have been rising. The rates of chronic illness in children is greater than 50%. One third of children today have trouble sleeping and 1 in 6 have a developmental disability. Our children’s IQs are lower. Autism and infertility rates have been rising at an astounding rates over the last 10 years. We need to get at the underlying issues for each couple that prevent them from getting pregnant.

When our children are this sick, there is a message. The fact that over 50% of the children born today have a chronic health condition that requires them to be on medication indicates that this problem is bigger than just the individual. A chronic health problem means it does not go away. Many of these children have conditions such as asthma that are life threatening. When young people are healthy when they conceive, it increases their chances of conceiving, of having a healthy pregnancy and having a healthy child. There is a lot of research to support this.

I would like to educate couples about how they can get healthy prior to trying to conceive. One of my patients came to me after 7 years and $120,000 spent on infertility treatment. Most of the money spent was covered by her insurance. She told me that she did not believe in using medication, but that the insurance covered the infertility treatment so she went that route. By the end of the 7 years of fertility treatment, she was not able to carry a pregnancy to term. She said that I was her last resort and she wanted to try a natural approach.

Her story was like so many others. At 15 years old, she was having some irregular menstrual cycles. She went to the doctor and he put her on birth control. She stayed on the birth control until she was 27 and wanted to get pregnant. At this point she stopped the birth control, but her period did not come back. She went to her doctor and they suggested she see a fertility specialist. 7 years later, she is in my office.

I did hormone testing, identified that she had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and helped her regulate her hormonal imbalance. She started menstruating normally. Then we worked on her digestion. She had been on medication for GERD and had some nutritional deficiencies. Research shows that women with PCOS have an increased risk of having a child with autism. Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin D deficiency can increase the chances of schizophrenia and autism in the child. By working on both these issues we were able to improve her chances of conceiving and increase the likelihood of having a healthy child. After 15 months of working with me, she had a pregnancy without complications and a healthy baby boy.

There is so much research that nutritional deficiencies, toxicity in the mother or infection in either the mother or father can result in infertility and health issues in the child. With looking for the underlying causes of infertility and working on overall heath before conception, we can create a healthier generation of children.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” — Anais Nin

I had been scared to be myself and express who I really was. I was scared of other people’s criticism. I held back who I really was until I could not hold back any longer.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Marianne Williamson because she has a great message about love and she is a great spiritual teacher.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Instagram: drdeannaberman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drdeannaberman/

Website: www.drdeannaberman.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the author:

Beau Henderson, editor of Rich Retirement Letter and CEO of RichLife Advisors LLC, is a best-selling author, national tv/radio resource, and retirement coach/advisor, with over 17 years’ experience. Beau is a pioneer in the strategy based new model of holistic retirement planning. He can be followed on Facebook here  or on Instagram here

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