Dr. Wickstrom-Hill on an integrative approach to medicine and the First Responders Challenge
As a waterskier for Cypress Gardens in the 1970s, Dale Wickstrom knew the importance of a healthy diet and keeping fit. After her mother’s near-death experience, she became a respiratory therapist. She later returned to school to become a Registered Nurse, and then, a physician. Today, Dr. Dale Wickstrom-Hill, a Polk County Medical Association member, runs Perfect Form Center for Wellness and Anti-Aging in Winter Haven, where she helps patients through an integrative approach to medicine.
“Integrative medicine is a partnership between patient and practitioner in the healing process,” Dr. Wickstrom-Hill explains. “Several factors are considered, including genetics, allergies, nutrition, chronic disease, medications, vitamins, exercise, stress, and— last but not least— mind, body, and spirit.”
Dr. Wickstrom-Hill believes educating her patients helps them make wiser choices, improving their lifestyle and their health. “Many chronic diseases can be prevented or treated through proper nutrition, lifestyle changes, and avoidance of toxins,” she asserts. “We strongly believe that, if a person is aware of the potential toxins they are exposed to on a daily basis, they will make a conscience decision to avoid these items.”
What she teaches can be surprising. For example, popular foods with higher pesticide levels include apples, strawberries, and peaches, according to the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen. You can learn more at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/. Dr. Wickstrom-Hill encourages patients to buy organic when foods have high pesticide levels. The other foods are okay to buy non-organic. However, to avoid genetically modified foods, corn and soy should be purchased organic.
“Food allergy testing is used for clients with autoimmune disease and those with chronic allergies or sinus infections, as well as those who struggle to lose weight,” she says. “This test will determine exactly which foods people are reacting to and provide a rotational food plan incorporating the non-reactive foods.”
The program includes an individualized health plan based on special needs, symptoms, medical conditions, medications, genetics, allergies, and other factors.
“Through educating our clients, we have helped and continue to help them come off their long-term prescription medications and improve and prolong their lives,” Dr. Wickstrom-Hill observes.
Because about 70 percent of the immune system is in the gut, symptoms may be reduced or eliminated with good nutrition— and by avoiding foods that are problematic. “Several genetic tests are also available to help determine which medications would be most beneficial for each client,” she adds.
Dr. Wickstrom-Hill helps patients achieve a healthy weight as well. “As far as weight loss . . . it’s not as simple as calories in and calories out. Many factors come into play regarding weight gain, including but not limited to medications, food additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame, genetically modified foods, hormonal issues, thyroid problems, and nutritional deficiencies,” she points out. “Did you know that the combination of MSG and aspartame can cause exercise and diet-resistant obesity?”
For basic prevention of disease, she recommends an adequate amount of protein for men, women, and children. “There is a formula endorsed by the American Society of Bariatric Physicians that helps us determine this minimum requirement and [it] is part of our foundation at Perfect Form,” she explains. “Avoiding pro-inflammatory foods, food additives, toxins, and white carbohydrates is also a priority.”
She stresses the importance of essential nutrients, which the body requires to function properly— and which it does not produce or does not produce in sufficient quantity. “Some of these essential nutrients include vitamins (A, B, C, D . . . ), mineral (calcium, magnesium, potassium), fatty acids (fish oil), and amino acids, these are the building blocks of the body,” she says. “Please note that carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient.”
Dr. Wickstrom-Hill further recommends seven to nine servings of bright, colored vegetables a day, along with no more than two servings of fruit. These vegetables have more phytonutrients that help the body detoxify; the fruits turn into sugar.
She also suggests exercising 30 to 45 minutes five days a week. “Exercise is absolutely vital to preventing unwanted medical conditions. However, to reap said benefits you must keep your heart rate at or near your specific target heart rate,” says Dr. Wickstrom-Hill, who points out exercising the first thing in the morning increases energy for the next 16 hours. “Adequate amounts of rest allow the body to regenerate and heal itself, so at least eight hours of sleep nightly is also important.”
Before beginning any diet or exercise regimen, she advises all individuals to see his or her primary care physician.
Dr. Wickstrom-Hill graduated at the top of her class from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. She interned at Humana Hospital in Pembroke Pines, then completed her anesthesiology residency at University of Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital. A Winter Haven native, she returned home and began practicing as a staff anesthesiologist at Winter Haven Hospital in 1995. She has served as president of the Polk County Medical Association (PCMA); We Care of Polk County, a physician volunteer program to assist the needy; and the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists.
She also has studied bariatric medicine, which involves the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity. The President and Medical Director of Perfect Form, she is a diplomat with American Society of Bariatric Physicians and with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.
Perfect Form is holding a First Responders Challenge this January as the community battles obesity. Florida Department of Health data shows 71.5 percent of Polk County residents were overweight or obese in 2010, which was more than six percent higher than the state average.
Perfect Form and several of its vendors will be donating time and services to five of Winter Haven’s firefighters and five of Winter Haven’s police officers, who each will receive a free integrative medicine physical, food allergy testing, vitamin supplements, extensive blood work, an electrocardiagram (EKG), weekly vitamin injections, weekly follow-up visits, education, and more. After 12 weeks, money will be donated to the winning team’s charity in Winter Haven. More information about the challenge is available at their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/perfectformcenterforwellness, or their website at www.perfectformwellness.com.
story by CHERYL ROGERS