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Integrative Medical Retreat Case Study – Treating Chronic Illness




By Reine DuBois, Clinical Director and Hannah Hempenstall, Wellness Writer

Recovery from long term illness is a delicate process that requires time, solid data and an integrated team of experts .

When Rachel*, 41, entered The Health Lodge it was uncertain what her most prominent ailment was. She presented with what we now know to be Post Natal Depletion (PND), Chronic Inflammatory Respiratory Syndrome (CIRS) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As Clinical Director, and Rachel’s first port of call, Reine DuBois’ first thought was ‘where to start?’

Visual Contrast Sensitivity Test

The mould in Rachel’s home had affected her physical and mental wellbeing to such a degree she hadn’t lived with her family for over 6 months. Rachel had fled her home despite it having had extensive mould remediation. She’d been homeless for five months prior to arriving at The Health Lodge so the overriding goal was to enable her to return home and spend Christmas with her children.  

Having continually failed the Visual Contrast Sensitivity test (VCS) it was clear that Rachel was in a high state of neurotoxicity but unravelling what that meant exactly was a process that required in-depth research, time, and the utmost delicacy.  

Part of her health story had left Rachel mistrusting even her closest allies – her husband and mother. She needed to hand over the reins to someone she felt comfortable enough with, which would give her the space to heal.

Data is Key

Rachel’s life was in turmoil but the journey to get her VCS from ‘fail’ to ‘pass’ was achieved in just over five weeks. This makes it sound like it was a simple case of prescribe and medicate, but getting Rachel to a ‘pass’ involved daily meetings with her healthcare team to fine tune and adjust her daily medicines and supplements, bodywork, psychology and acupuncture treatments.

In order for The Health Lodge to work effectively with Rachel they needed data, the VCS wasn’t enough. Testing her vitamin and mineral levels was just the beginning and the usual bloods were taken but they also applied the Multiple Systems Questionnaire (MSQ) – which is a valid questionnaire that assesses multiple body systems and can assess the efficacy of multiple inventions (treatments).

Rachel’s MSQ score was 108 when she entered The Health Lodge in November 2018. Upon discharge in December 2018 it was down to 18. Again, a great result.

If you just look at the numbers it appears to be an all-round win, and both Rachel, Reine and the team are undoubtedly happy about the test results. But a health story such as this is so intricate, it betrays the bigger picture to only take a short-term view.


Despite being back with her family after a five week in-house medical retreat, Rachel’s journey is an ongoing merry-go-round of mould awareness and spontaneous episodes of PTSD that spike her neurological symptoms.

Keeping Rachel’s levels in check is akin to a game of snakes and ladders: treating CIRS is only one part of the picture. Many CIRS symptoms are synonymous with PTSD. So, far from being purely physical or emotional, both CIRS and PTSD benefit from a multi-layered approach.

The continuing ups and downs require exceptional diligence and a team of practitioners who are willing to work together and taking all the variables into account. There is no-one-size-fits-all for chronic illness.

The Health Lodge approach is to select a team of practitioners, approved by the patient, who communicate regularly and are willing to adapt on a moment-to-moment basis. Being open to getting it wrong is a must and that’s where regular testing helps.

An Integrated approach to CIRS

Rachel’s treatment plan didn’t include the usual Cholestyramine. In fact, to help rebalance her nervous system, the Health Lodge Team used Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprograming (EMDR), craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, somatic experience massage and Lower Level Laser Therapy (LLLT).

When Rachel’s VCS indicated a ‘pass’ after just four weeks the team were elated but cautious. There’s no room for complacency in chronic illness and solid data is a vital piece of the puzzle. With such a dramatic improvement it almost seemed too good to be true so the test was repeated the following day where the same result – a pass – was confirmed.

It’s now almost six months since Rachel’s first integrated medical retreat and after a follow up visit her symptoms are abating, but really, her journey is far from over. Getting her to a point where she could return home with little to no neurotoxicity symptoms and enjoy a slightly more varied diet was just the beginning.

Now some of the brain fog and flashbacks have cleared, it’s time to treat her serum mercury levels which was assessed by using the Quicksilver Trimetal Testing. Part of the skill in treating a patient with overlapping chronic illness is patiently untethering the layers in the right order.

Taking Chronic Illness seriously

When it comes to chronic illness, practitioners need an acute attention to detail and patience in droves.

In Rachel’s case that involves attending to the mould in her environment, managing her stress, anxiety and general mental health. Her diet must be continually monitored to include nutrient dense foods as well as the right supplements, and she needs a team that can attend to her high mercury burden.

The good news is, Rachel’s Vitamin D and mineral levels are now back within a normal range and she’s experiencing other improvements such as seeing her hair slowly growing back. No small feat for a woman who has struggled with this aspect of self-image for over two decades.

Allowing a patient to heal takes time and vigilance and is of an ever-changing nature. Staying curious to the ongoing findings, open to the data and committed to the patient’s recovery takes patience and tenacity in droves.

Her continued progress relies on regularly assessing her wellbeing using best practice tools such as the VCS and MSQ, and for any slides back down the ladder to be taken seriously.

Fortunately, as Rachel’s case study shows, with the right team and an integrated approach there is hope for the chronic illness community.

If you’d like to talk to someone about your chronic illness case, please call The Health Lodge on 02 6685 6445 and book in for a free 15 min chat today with one of our Integrative Medical Retreat case co-ordinators or schedule your appointment online today.

*Name has been changed. This blog features the views of the writer and is for educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor or other qualified health practitioners before acting on information on this article, particularly if you have a medical condition, taking medication or if you are pregnant.

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