Our March Wellness Expert is Dr. Cheryl Kam who is a MD, Functional Medicine Coach and Founder of Vibrant Life Academy. We sat down with Cheryl at our cafe and talked about her health journey, traditional clinical experience and how she got into functional medicine. We also learned her new functional medicine courses to empower patients, practitioners and doctors.
We also had a chance to talk to her about her healthy living tips, her food philosophy and her thoughts on modern life challenges.
1. Could you share with us how you started your day this morning? (we love hearing about morning routines!)
My 4 and 1.5 year old started rolling out of bed into the kitchen for breakfast at 7:30 with my helper and husband. I try to squeeze in some journaling time here, for dream recall, but that didn’t happen today! I rolled out at 7:45 to join them. I have warm lemon water, my eggs, some fruit, my green smoothie and my cod liver oil. We do our daily 15 minutes of music practice and he went off to school with Daddy on the bicycle. After that, I get to make some tea, play with my 1.5 year old daughter, before she goes for her walk/play in the park with my helper. I then do my bathroom bits, journalling, and review of the day before I start actual work.
2. What is your story, what do you do and how you got into the work you are doing?
At one point in my life, my mental and hormonal health had bottomed out. High pressures of work, the stress of moving countries, family dysfunction, hormonal imbalance, and personal unforgiveness were piling up and we're beginning to affect my ability to function. I was tired, confused, overwhelmed, disconnected and depressed.
I applied my training to myself and went beyond the lens of medical science. I took positive choices to heal biochemically, and holistically.
The solution to my problems lay in the principles of the functional medicine system of thinking and living a conscious and purposeful life. My nutrients were topped up, adrenals recovered, gut inflammation addressed, my hormones balanced out.
In looking at myself in a more holistic manner, and tending to my needs in the arenas of soul work and spirituality, makes me better at holding a healing space for my patients. I learned the foundations to Traditional Chinese Medicine, did a certification in clinical hypnotherapy to deeper understand the mind, and read up on and even personally experienced worthy modes of therapy that have been helpful in the most resistant and complex of cases.
3.What is functional medicine?
Functional medicine is one of the modern words, it’s a different way of looking at the person than traditional medicine and helps you to understand what are the root cause of their problems.
4. How has COVID-19 impacted you personally and professionally?
I feel like I’m one of those people born for adversity. I took it upon myself to go completely online to serve my patients, and put out a 14 day course on boosting immunity with nutrients, which was highly subscribed to. After that, I had enough of a stream of online clients. I didn’t see the need to return to clinic work anymore and could jump into my bigger mission of serving and teaching practItIoners, doctors and coaches.
I love giving practitioners the condensed and concise resources to apply functional medicine practically and profitably into their work through an online mentorship and certification program.
I believe it is through empowering doctors and coaches to offer it, that functional medicine can be made available to all, and not just the ones able to pay a high price for it.
5. From your experience, what do you feel are the biggest health challenges people are facing today? Modern civilisation exposes us to unprecedented levels of toxins. Paired with a sedentary lifestyle, low exposure to the outdoors, sunshine and nature, highly processed foods and stress, this lowers the body’s ability to function optimally. Poorer immunities, Nutrient debt, mental health problems, allergies and autoimmunity abound.
6.What are some of the common vitamin deficiencies you see?
I always start with these vitamin deficiencies with my clients. Iron, Zinc and Vitamin D deficiency can cause many problems in the body such as bad skin, hormone imbalance, and other symptoms. I find these are easy to fix and you can feel a lot more energetic afterwards. Your body kicks in the gear when you give these nutrients.
7. Can you describe your food philosophy? Knowledge paired with intuition and an inner knowing, is powerful. I teach my clients to tune in, to make both our jobs easier! I’m into small sustainable changes for myself and my patients, and am all about the average. If we’ve had a Hawker meal one day, that’s just one out of 7 days in a week. I’m also into building body resilience. Some people start out not being able to handle small changes in their diet, or with food sensitivities that they are extremely reactIve to. When sustainable health has been achieved, most can handle a day or two of poor sleep, or sub-par food, without falling apart. That, to me, is resilience, and is what I call optimal health.
I also believe Paleo is a nice way to try as well as grains bring a lot of auto-immune diseases.
8.What does gluten free mean to you?
Gluten containing grains can be irritatIng and inflammatory to the body so choosing a lower gluten lifestyle and making nutritIonally sensible swaps, can help many feel better. Some patients are diagnosed Celiac, or Non-celiac gluten sensitIve and therefore have to be stricter with their gluten intake. Kids with behavioural issues in tantrums, attention span, emotional regulation also tend to improve with a dairy and gluten free lifestyle, that is also low in food colouring, additives and electromagnetIc frequencies.
Food intolerance tests do not give the ultimate solution for all kinds of issues, and if someone’s allergy test results shows a negative result for gluten it may still have an inflammatory effect on their body and that needs to be addressed.
"I am not pro-gluten free diet but I am trying to build body resilience so our toxic environment doesn't shake us to fall off the cliff. Of course, you may not need to cut out gluten completely if you are not seriously affected by it. But as studies show, even though people are not allergic to gluten, they definitely do feel better when they cut out gluten, it is affecting most of the people’s auto immune system. Dairy, gluten and sugar are the three nasties! Go gluten free but choose a good company which is not a sugar rider as well."."
9. What is your typical day on a plate? Do you have any go-to, family-favourite recipes (snacks or meals), if so please share the recipe!
I streamlined our kitchen decision making and have a weekly rotational menu.
Fish twice a week, red meat with liver once a week for the iron, Plant-based once a week, TraditIonal Chinese Herbal Chicken soup with a surprise dish once a week. We have vegetables and try to include some fermented food with every meal. This makes it easier for my helper to know what to prep for, and my weekly shopping is pretty standardised. Weekends are for left overs or going out. Breakfast was always tricky.
So besides our Green Kefir Juice, a rotation of oats, avocado, eggs, and other fruit, I let my kids eat savoury foods such as sweet potato fries, dinner leftovers for breakfast. My mom lives with us and thanks to COVID became an avid baker so we have a steady supply of sourdough! She also makes Kefir! We are so blessed.
10.What are your top three tips for healthy living?
First, fix your nutrient debt or it will be driving with the brakes on.
Second, some people like to DIY their health. That usually brings some superficial improvements. Most will achieve true change and transformation when working alongside an experienced coach or practitioner.
Third, take time to cultivate your spirituality. When the spirit is aligned, the soul and body will naturally follow, and tend not to need to break down to give you a hint that somethings out of balance.
11. For someone wantIng to learn more about wellness/nutrition, what resources would you recommend? (This could be books, podcasts, websites, anything!)
With 15 years of clinical experience, I integrate world-class functional medicine with high touch coaching to build my clients up from the inside out, and awaken them to your highest potential. My mission is to improve how doctors and practitioners serve the world, and my courses also attract a good number of empowered patients who simply want to use the practitioner-level information for themselves and their immediate families.
They’re available on http://www.drcherylkam.com I get most of my info from journals, books, study groups, courses, and condense them into my certification programs. There are tonnes of podcasts and websites out there, ever changing and I encourage you to explore and find what you like!
12. How can our readers connect with you further? (any programs/social platforms?)
My newsletter is where the real fun and freebies are though! http://www.drcherylkam.com/newsletter
13. And finally, just a bit of fun, some sentence starters (just say the first thing that pops into your head!)a. Three things I always have stocked in my fridge are…Sauerkraut, Pickles, dairy-free Chocolate
b. To relax I…Speed read one of 6 books I usually have on the go, Listen to music, Head to the seaside
c.I’m most grateful for… My beautIful family, my support network of mentors (and doctors) for the peaceful, safe and child-friendly lifestyle we enjoy by being in Singapore!
e.If I could eat only one thing for the rest of my life it would be…Plain fine Japanese short grain rice! Haha! If I applied my (sensibilitIes), it would probably be wiser to choose Whole Kitchen’s bakes and nuts!