Ask the Wellness Experts: Sarah England, Refinery Wellness + Aesthetics

“You are designed to heal. Let’s identify the interference with that and get on with it so you can truly live your best life,” Sarah England.

Sarah England is an integrative nurse practitioner and founder of Refinery Wellness + Aesthetics in Franklin.

She began her career as a hospital nurse, and over the years, she grew frustrated with the modern American healthcare model. More and more, she found the industry’s approach to treating symptoms rather than root causes something she couldn’t be a part of anymore. She went back to graduate school and delved into functional and integrative medicine with the intent to help patients find and treat root causes of their diseases. She describes herself as a patient advocate first and foremost, and the most rewarding part of her job she says, is to help patients “get back in the driver’s seat of their own health.”

Sarah shares with us about the rise of hormonal imbalance and autoimmune disease, environmental factors, the importance of detoxification, as well her daily practices to bring wellness and balance into her life.

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Q: What are some common misconceptions about holistic wellness?

A: That it is not evidence-based. Everyone wants to use the word evidence-based, but what we are doing is evidence-based. I use critical thinking, I look at the evidence in the individual right in front of me, and people still believe that natural wellness isn’t evidence-based. That’s just a gross misconception. Truly, naturopathic medicine has been the pioneer for the entire functional/integrative medicine movement. Those practitioners have been around for a long time, but they’ve never been given the credit they deserve. To be honest, functional/integrative medicine, which I practice, is just a branch off what they’ve been doing all along.

Q: What trends are you seeing in your practice in terms of illness and/or frequency?

A: Hormone imbalance, estrogen dominance specifically. It has so much to do with our environment. I see low testosterone in older and younger men, even guys in their 20’s and 30’s with low T, and that should never be happening. What is going on in our environment and our world to cause this? You think about what’s in our drinking water; people still drink tap water. If you want to have balanced hormones, you can’t drink tap water. Go to the Environmental Working Group’s website, type in your zip code, and look at what’s in your tap water, and hormone imbalance makes sense. There’s a lot in the air we breathe, but we are also exposed to a lot in the personal care products we use that contain endocrine disruptors. I see a lot of men aromatizing, which means they are converting their testosterone into estrogen. It affects hormone imbalance and sexual dysfunction, which is a quality of life issue.

But I also see a lot of autoimmune conditions, especially things related to pain like MS-type diseases. Many who are experiencing those symptoms are finding that it relates to mold, and they had no idea. A lot of what I can attribute these things to are environmental toxins and stealth infections, which is a huge culprit, like Epstein-Barr, bacterial or fungal overgrowth like Candida. Stealth infections are a big problems that are getting missed in a conventional setting, and I’m happy that I can help patients identify it so we have can have a direction to get them feeling better. I’m a big fan of “test, don’t guess.”

Q: There does seem to be a gravitation toward identifying root causes as opposed to treating symptomatically, right?

A: You have to treat the root cause, otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels. I tell every single one of my patients, “This is a quality of life thing. We get one shot at this life. When that clicks, that’s everything. We could be gone tomorrow. I don’t want you to spend one more day, one more week, or one more year feeling miserable. It is possible to feel wonderful on a regular basis. That’s one message missing in a conventional setting: you are hard-wired for healing. You are designed to heal. Let’s identify the interference with that and get on with it so you can truly live your best life. Everyone has a purpose, and people are sidelined, missing their lives because they just feel crappy and they think, “That’s just the way life is going be.” The hope component gets left out. Have hope!

Q: What’s the one practice that is absolutely essential in your life that you can’t live without that has made the biggest difference for you?

A: Daily exposure to sunlight. Sunshine has changed my whole life; it has regulated my circadian rhythm, which was wrecked working the night shift as a nurse for so many years. It’s given my life back. And the more I’ve learned about sunlight’s interaction with our skin, our brains, and our eyes, and what that does for us, I realize how it is essential  that everyone gets it. If you think about how many of us spend our days in an airtight space under artificial light, it makes sense. And it’s free! I love an app called D Minder that allows you to sunbathe sensibly and feel good about it. I know that if you have optimal Vitamin D, your risk of death is slashed. The data is there, so going out in the sun sensibly is a great way to prolong longevity and prevent disease.

Q: How can infrared and float therapies be incorporated into people’s wellness practices and health goals?

A: I don’t know anyone who would not benefit from those; they are fabulous. Working the night shift, I felt hungover all of the time. I felt lethargic and heavy, even though my diet was pristine and I exercised. My brother encouraged me to float, and it was the only thing that helped me feel better, and it changed my life. I’m a huge advocate of float therapy. If you have anxiety, if you have poor sleep, if you feel fatigued, if you have any kind of autoimmune condition, floating is so beneficial. There’s nothing like it. If you want to see what works, look at what pro athletes are doing. They float regularly, and they use the best practices to keep their bodies in top condition.

I do infrared sauna therapy weekly. It’s so important considering what we are up against in terms of our environment in 2019. I try to sauna three times a week, and I love it. There’s nothing like that sweat. I recommend it to a lot of my clients who are toxic from mold illness as a way to clear toxins and heavy metals effectively and quickly. If you think about it, there’s only a few ways that we can eliminate waste from our bodies: through vomiting, urine, stools, and sweat. There are a lot of people who are not sweating regularly, and if you aren’t, you can be sure that your detoxification pathways are compromised. You have to sweat. You must sweat to be healthy.

Q: What do you do to bring balance into your life?

A: Sunlight is obviously critical, but I also use prayer. I do a five-minute journal daily; it’s just a way for me to get my mind right before I start my day. I have to do that, or I’ll be all over the place. I try to start and finish my day with my journal and prayer to get me back to center. I try to eat the rainbow because I know that I feel as well as I eat. And I try to move everyday.

I also try to schedule time for community every week, and if I don’t, I know I’ll dry up quickly. Even if it’s just a walk with a friend or dinner with my family, community is a really important part of trying to navigate health. While I love spending time with people, I also know that I need structured alone time to help me decompress and recharge. It helps me practice what I preach with healthy boundaries and time management.