076. Life’s Challenges Can Illuminate Our Potential with Sharon Falchuk

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Sharon Leggio Falchuk, FMCHC, found herself bedridden, with her life threatened by a serious illness in 2011, and when the mainstream medical system had no answers or help for her she took matters into her own hands.  She spent every moment she could doing research, changing her diet and lifestyle, and assembling a Functional Medicine and alternative care team to help her forge a path to healing.  Her inextinguishable will to be well meant she was willing to try almost anything, and one of the life-changing discoveries she made was the true power of Mind-Body Medicine.

Once she reclaimed her health she became a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and founded InTended Holistic Wellness, where she specializes in helping people with “mystery illnesses” and chronic conditions, as well as those who are highly sensitive.  Sharon’s “less is more” approach stemmed from navigating her own wellness journey with many sensitivities, and she feels the most important factor in health and healing is reconnecting with yourself and your unique needs and strengths.

“Sometimes adversity is exactly what helps us realize our potential”
-Sharon Leggio Falchuk, FMCHC

Key Points from the Episode with Sharon Falchuk:

  • Sharon Falchuk has a history of not feeling well throughout her life.
  • As is often the case, you just assume everyone must feel this way, so it gets swept under the carpet.
  • Or it’s explained away as catching up a bug, getting a virus, being sensitive, etc.
  • And then in college, with the typical way college kids eat and live, things just got worse. Poor diet, high stress, drinking – all of it added to the problem.
  • After being prescribed various things for symptoms, Sharon pulled back from all of the medications and side effects, and got back to a general stasis that included flair ups when stress increased.
  • After the birth of our son, her stress increased as what had been low-level anxiety increased into higher levels of anxiety and OCD.
  • In 2011, her body finally gave out after two years of this heightened state, with Sharon heading down a spiral that had her survival in question.
  • She went from specialist doctor to specialist doctor, and despite the hope that the next one would help, no one helped.
  • Instead, they either blew her off, told her there was nothing wrong, or told her she was just anxious and doing this to herself.
  • The spiral down continued, and Sharon eventually found one of the key components as Chronic Lyme disease. In learning that, she also learned that it is something that isn’t accepted in the medical community.
  • To this day, many people get aggressive, attacking those with Chronic Lyme, telling them they’re lying, they’re making it up, they’re crazy or worse.
  • We talked about how Chronic Illness is a huge stress all around – on the sick person, their family, their friends, etc. And this burden is added to the existing physical burden.
  • The process showed Sharon the power of the Mind-Body connection. The idea that “it’s in your head” is offensive.
  • However, in actuality, it’s incredibly powerful, and this process showed her how our thoughts tie to things happening in our body.
  • And we all carry personal trauma that contributes to this, and going through Chronic Illness is a form of trauma, as well.
  • This was the first time in Sharon’s life that she had to be in the driver’s seat of her life – no one would do this for her and she can do this for herself. That was a new idea for her.
  • Sharon started to watch TV late at night since she wasn’t sleeping, and she got very into Oprah’s OWN network and many of the inspiring guests on those shows, including Shania Twain.
  • Sharon wrote a letter to Oprah early on in this process that, if she got through this, she would commit herself to helping others in the same situation.
  • We got into how her experience has created empathy for her, but also for our son. And she’s seen this in the children of other people with Chronic Illness.
  • We got into the balancing act of Sharon’s work where she could be the only help these people have, and the stakes are high, so how do you say no if you need to?
  • You have to balance your own needs, the needs of those who are asking you for your help, and the needs of your family and friends.
  • Sharon is a highly sensitive person, which can be difficult, but can also be beneficial as her body gives her early warning signs about risks to her wellness. They key is to know how to listen to the signs and know what to do about them.
  • Sharon shared her favorite quote of all time, “We’re all just walking each other home.” To her, it means our journey on this Earth is just to make things better for someone else.
  • With each person she helps, Sharon feels like she’s making a difference and moving along in her overall goal. It helps make her journey worth something.
  • We got into the negative influences from outside, like the news cycle, the people around us, the things we research around what’s going on with us that only shares worst-case-scenarios. This means we need to be careful or mindful about what information we consume.
  • Focus on the small things you can effect change in rather than the overwhelming bigger picture of terrible things in the world you can’t directly impact. The sum of these little changes can add up to greater change, of course.
  • For example, after September 11th, Sharon and her roommate were fixed to the TV for weeks watching the news cycle around the attack, feeling more and more despair. At some point, they broke that cycle, and instead did things they could do to help, like donating your time, money or otherwise, to help.
  • Relationships matter so much for our wellness. Sharon shared the example from Rosetta, Pennsylvania of Italian immigrants who had this amazing, supportive community. They were all there for each other, spent time together, etc. And they also ate unhealthily, smoked, drank, and worked in dangerous jobs (like mining). And yet their experience of major illness was far below the national average, and their average life expectancy was significantly higher.
  • And after the US-born generation grew up and started to fall into American norms of socializing, like staying within the household at night, watching TV, not having multi-generational homes, etc, their health regressed to the national average.
  • As such, relationships are one of the five pillars of Functional Medicine, and something Sharon was missing as she became a mother – from moving to the suburbs without friends around, her family being distant, and then having a Chronic Illness, which is even further isolating.
  • Sharon shared how stress has proven to be more detrimental to your health than what you eat.
  • So she gives sage advice for those times when we do indulge – don’t sit there beating yourself up for it.
  • Allow yourself to enjoy it without punishing yourself, which just takes away from the enjoyment and benefit from the positive moment you had in that indulgence.


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