A native of Georgia, Michele Stanford lives in South Carolina where she works as a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner. It’s a job she has done for almost three years after serving as a certified health coach before turning 50.
In her job, Michele helps people regain, restore and renew their health. Many people have become acutely aware of how fragile their bodies really are, especially after receiving a negative diagnosis or experiencing a medical setback.
Using functional lab testing, Michele helps identify areas where a body is out of balance. Then she offers nutritional advice and uses other natural therapies and modalities to restore that natural balance.
“Conventional medicine often simply treats symptoms, which diagnose a problem within the body,” she explained. “A symptom is really a message the body is sending to indicate there is something out of balance.”
Michele and her team use many of the same tools traditional medical clinics do, such as blood tests, but also utilize new methods, like organic acid testing, hair tissue mineral analysis, stool and hormone testing, as well as analyzing the impact mold or other environmental toxins may be having on a client’s body.
“What I am doing now is really a step up from health coaching because we can zero in on key problems, and develop specific strategies to bring a client’s body back into balance,” she said.
Changing directions after 50
Her health career is vastly different from what Michele did before turning 50. Early in her working life, she served as a paralegal for 16 years. Then, she put her bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degree in education to work by teaching high school English classes for a decade.
However, after working in an office or classroom for so long, Michele started experiencing her own health issues. Traditional doctors were unable to help because they truly didn’t have any idea what was wrong with her. They ran a battery of tests, all of which were inconclusive. Eventually, trips to doctors’ offices centered around managing symptoms with no real attempt to zero in on root causes of her problems.
“I did this for nearly 20 years. After an encounter with another doctor who gave me wrong medications which caused so many issues that made my condition worse, that doctor fired me,” said Michele. “I tell that story in my book because it was really the best thing that could have happened to me at that point.
“I had to figure it all out on my own. That’s when I began a deep dive into researching,” she explained. “I loved doing research to figure out what was wrong with me and learning how I could fix myself.”
In the process, Michele discovered a lot of helpful information about America’s food supply, toxins in the environment and how they work to impact a person’s health. The situation went beyond genetically-modified organisms and confined animal feeding operations that attract a lot of media attention.
Michele summarized all her research in a book titled Informed Consent: Critical Truths Essential to Your Health and to the Health of Future Generations. The first half examines problems with foods people eat and the environment in which they live. The second half gives them hope for a better life.
“I describe ways people can better use nutrition and other natural therapies to bring their bodies back into balance to regain good health,” she explained. “The last chapter is a call to action to not only make good personal choices, but to change the way we grow, process, store and sell food.”
The life-changing experience motivated Michele to go back to school and get a certified in functional diagnostic nutrition.
“We are trained to look at lab results and what they represent. Then we can correlate those things with symptoms people experience to determine how they relate to each other,” she explained.
“For example, if someone isn’t sleeping well or their digestion is off, we conduct several lab tests to determine what they need to change,” said Michele. “We don’t call it a treatment because we really don’t treat people at all. It’s more of a detoxification because there are only two causes for any disease: toxins and nutritional deficiency.”
America’s food supply has become nutritionally deficient because soils are depleted through conventional farming where too many pesticides and herbicides are used. Nor do corporate farms rest the land or rotate crops frequently enough to allow soil to recover.
“If soils are depleted, then plants produced in the soil are depleted as well,” she explained. “When we eat those plants, we are not getting what we need. As a result, nutritional deficiencies and toxicity are two primary causes of disease.”
The key is to detoxify the body at a cellular level, which goes beyond a juice cleanse to clean out the gut for a while. Rather, it involves addressing problems of mitochondrial dysfunction so that infections people don’t yet realize they have in their systems are not allowed to get worse.
“I teach people to not just eat healthy, but to source healthy foods. Good nutrition takes time,” Michele explained. “Unfortunately, too many people want a quick fix. To regain optimal health, you cannot just take a pill. You’re going to have to work at making changes, but it is very rewarding.”
Once people change their diets, detoxify their systems and pay closer attention to their overall health, they begin to feel so good they never want to go back to their old lifestyle, she added.
Food is a provision, not a convenience
Through the lens of her strong Christian faith, Michele sees food as something God provided for his creation – from the foundation of the world. Nor is healthy living a secret God hid from people. However, in a rush toward convenience, people started modifying their food by adding chemicals and changing its genetic composition in ways the body was not created to ingest.
It is very important that people eat nutritionally-dense foods and stop eating processed food that has little or no nutritional value in it. If it’s made in a factory, toss it out, Michele encouraged. Use whole foods, fresh vegetables, raw milk and unprocessed cheese.
“Obesity has increased along with diabetes and the numbers are staggering,” said Michele. “Most people are suffering with some form of metabolic issues, whether it is heart problems, high blood pressure, being overweight, resistant to insulin and experiencing hormonal imbalances.
“It really harkens back to the need to get all toxins out of your life, and that’s very hard to do,” she explained. “There are toxins in our food, in our air, in the cookware we use, what we put on our skin, in the things we use to clean our homes, deodorize our air, wash our clothes, etc.
“We either ingest those toxins or absorb them through our skin,” she added. “It’s so prevalent that we can no longer eliminate all toxins in our environment, but there are enough things we can do to control them.
“You can’t detoxify until you begin to eliminate some of the toxins in your life – and that’s a time-consuming process,” Michele said. “Fortunately, God created our bodies with an amazing ability to self-heal. All we need to do is lean toward better health and maintain the balance our bodies want.”
Adopting a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean healthy people can’t enjoy a cheeseburger upon occasion. However, if they are out-of-balance and trying to heal themselves, then they need to avoid all those things until they get better. Once people do that, then they don’t want to go back to the old way of eating. Yet, Michele said they will likely want most meals to be nutrient dense and healthy.
“I have done the research and I know all that goes in that burger and bun. I know where it comes from and how it was created,” she explained. “The cows are not raised in a natural environment, so they are stressed and all those stress hormones remain in the meat. The animals are injected with so many antibiotics and hormones that they are no longer healthy themselves.
“I know a lot of farmers are returning to the concept of animal husbandry where animals are raised in natural, healthy environments so they eat grass and enjoy normal diets,” she added. “Pigs, for example, were not designed to live in a pen. Their normal habitat is to root in the ground, not lay in their own excrement.”
Buy food locally
Michele always buys her fruits, meats and vegetables from local farmers, a trend she sees taking hold throughout America. She knows how the animals are raised and what the farmer is feeding them. She doesn’t need perfect-looking produce. In fact, small holes in fruits and vegetables are signs the produce is healthier.
“When a farmer doesn’t use any chemicals to treat produce, and plants have holes in the leaf or skin, it means the fruit or vegetable had to produce antioxidants and other minerals to fight off pests,” she explained. “So it’s actually a sign the product is healthier than items you often see in grocery stores.”
Michele cited testing performed by the Environmental Working Group which creates annual lists of the cleanest and dirtiest fruits and vegetables in the market. Results are based on pesticide and herbicide residue found on produce.
“Apples, strawberries, spinach, blueberries and peaches are always on the EWG’s dirty dozen list,” she explained. “I advise my clients that if they can’t afford to buy organic produce or to buy from a local farmer, then they should buy any items on the dirty dozen list that are only marked as ‘organic’ in the store. There are too many pesticides and chemicals in those that can’t be washed off because they either don’t have a skin or the skin is so thin that toxins are absorbed into the fruit’s flesh.”
Health advice for people over 50
There is a photograph circulating on social media comparing people at a beach in the 1960s to beach-goers today. The difference is striking in how it shows rampant obesity in people of all ages.
“Our food supply is adulterated. The whole reason I wrote my book was to ensure people can make an informed decision about what they put into their bodies,” said Michele. “When they know what goes into their food, they can make better choices. I am often amazed by the number of my clients who don’t know how to do basic cooking. So, they eat out all the time or buy processed foods.”
Because their metabolism starts slowing down after turning 50, there are some things people can do now to help reset their bodies for a healthier lifestyle, she explained. They are:
- Making sure you get plenty of healthy fats.
- Getting adequate clean and good protein.
- Eating nutrient-dense foods.
- Avoiding gluten and processed foods.
- Engage your body in some type of movement.
- Enjoy restful sleep.
“I absolutely believe people over 50 could stay out of the hospital and not require so many medications, if they would just change the food they eat,” Michele explained. “Definitely cut out sugars, processed breads, white flower, canola oil and vegetable oil. If you have them at home, throw them out and do not use them,” she said.
For many people, healthy eating needs to become a priority because it will require some time. Michele drives two hours round trip to get raw milk from a dairy farmer, and 25 minutes to get farm-fresh produce. When she does buy items at a grocery store, they are whole foods, not processed or pre-packaged items.
“I love to cook and to create things from scratch. For me, it’s easy because I love it. Not everyone does. But, it doesn’t have to be hard,” said Michele. “There are brands of sprouted bread you can buy, if you don’t want to make your own. You can sauté some vegetables in a healthy fat or grill meat in the oven or on a stove.
“You may save money now by eating faster foods, but you will pay much more later due to increased medicine costs, doctor co-pays and hospitalizations, not to mention time required to recover from an illness,” she added.
For Michele, just watching other people become passionate advocates for their own health has been tremendously rewarding.
“Some people thought they were destined to be sick all the time and they’d never get well. But, after going through some protocols I created for them, they see improvement and remain committed to making changes,” she explained.
“To watch one student who has a light bulb moment and finally understands, that makes it all worthwhile,” said Michele. “When they see their cholesterol level go down or they can stop taking medications and use supplements instead; or when they detoxify and feel better, sleep better and their clothes fit, it’s all worth it.”
Another huge benefit people enjoy by adopting a healthy lifestyle is a reduction in crippling diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
“Enjoying restful sleep is like putting money in the bank,” said Michele. “When you’re older, good sleep contributes to a longer life. People who get good sleep in their younger years often live longer.
“A healthy lifestyle isn’t all about food. It’s really about movement,” she added. “My dad never went to a gym because he did physical labor. He worked outside all the time cutting down trees and doing other crazy things. He was as strong as an ox and never did gain weight, even when he started to age, because he was active all the time.”
For Michele, getting older opened doors to pursuing things she wanted to do rather than doing what others told her to do.
“I knew I wanted to work for myself and help people,” she explained. “Many people want to do that, too, but they have to be willing to take a risk and not worry about what other people think.”
To connect with Michele, visit www.michelestanford.com where she offers a complementary PDF titled “Quick Guide to Balancing Your Hormones.”
Michele’s book, Informed Consent: Critical Truths Essential to Your Health and to the Health of Future Generations, is available at Amazon. If you click on the link to buy it, Forward From 50 may earn a small commission.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.