WOMEN WE ADMIRE Q + A: ADRIENNE NOLAN-SMITH

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Meet Adrienne Nolan-Smith — exhale guest, founder of a media and lifestyle brand called WellBe and @getwellbe), a board certified patient advocate, speaker and a wellness activist. We asked Adrienne to tell us a bit about her journey and how she stays well.

How did you get started on your wellbeing journey?
I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease at age 11. I was prescribed antibiotics, but since I’d had symptoms for nearly a year before I was diagnosed, the antibiotics were too late — and didn’t help. Thus I began a multi-year journey to heal.

Where did you start?
My mom was determined, and researched many different integrative therapies from Chinese herbs and acupuncture to supplements and following a clean diet. I did them all. By age 13, my tests showed inactive Lyme and I felt my symptoms dissipate.

How did that experience change how you think about wellbeing?
It changed the way my family thought about health forever. We only shopped at health food stores and took tons of supplements. Then six months into my freshman year at college, my period stopped. The answer from endocrinologists and gynecologists was the same every time: “we don’t see anything wrong with your bloodwork, just take the birth control pill.” But I knew that it wouldn’t get to the root of my problem, it would band-aid my symptoms. A naturopath in New York looked at my blood work totally differently, and worked with me on my diet, used acupuncture, Chinese herbs and supplements to treat me.

Besides acupuncture and supplements — did any other self-care practices help?
During that time, I realized how important it was to take care of my body and mind physically. I began my yoga practice then and when I came home from college for breaks and in the summer, I would go to Exhale for yoga classes. The naturopath told me to follow her protocol for six months and my period would come back. Six months and a day later, it did, and it’s been regular for the past twelve years.

How did these experiences change who you are today?
They opened my eyes to what was possible. Sadly the main reason I founded WellBe is because of my mother. Just after my health improved, my mother was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder (a cross between Bipolar and Schizophrenia), and when I was 25, she took her own life. That was a turning point. Integrative health and wellness had been part of my life for a long time, but I never imagined it would be my career. My mother passed away two weeks before my business school applications were due, and it inspired me to use business school as an opportunity to switch careers and work to transform the healthcare system to one that prevents and reverses illness holistically, and searches for the root of health problems, rather than ones that band-aid the symptoms.

 Wow, that’s really powerful. So what did you do next?
I got into The Kellogg School at Northwestern and moved to Chicago to get my MBA. There, I spent every moment I could learning about the healthcare system, healthcare technology, wellness and how I could bring about the change I knew needed to happen. Later I founded WellBe – where I film and record stories of the health recovery of real people like me, as well as interview integrative health experts and doctors.

 What has helped you stay well during the whole process of starting WellBe?
My new life as an entrepreneur is extremely rewarding but also more stressful than I imagined! Taking care of my body and mind is, again, of utmost importance during this time to prevent any sort of chronic health issues from popping up. No matter how stressful the day, when I do get to a yoga class or do a meditation, I’m reminded that true wealth is health, and that as long as I have that, everything else will sort itself out.

Do you have a favorite yoga class?
Because I have a Scoliosis and have struggled in the past with TMJ, neck, jaw and back pain, I love Power Yoga. I try to hold the poses and really breathe into the parts of my body that I have pain or muscle strain. My favorite position is Triangle pose — it feels so good!

What’s your favorite healthy meal?
I love to make a “whatever’s in the fridge” salad and bring it to the office. I try to have in my fridge at all times: lettuce (arugula or romaine), avocados, cherry tomatoes, black olives, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, cucumbers, pine nuts and (not always but on occasion) cut up grilled chicken. I can grab a big metal bowl with a top and throw in whatever combination I’m feeling that day. I leave a few of my favorite salad dressings in the fridge at the office to make the process faster. I buy everything USDA organic or from an organic stand at my farmer’s market.

Adrienne’s taking over the @exhalespa insta-stories tomorrow! Be sure to follow our story to spend the day with this wellbeing guru!

Stay in touch with Adrienne on Instagram, Facebook, and subscribe to the GetWellBe newsletter and podcast.

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