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Looking Outside the Box Leads OD to Find Relief from Health Issue—And a New Mentor

neda gioia
Dr. Gioia

Several years before Neda Gioia, OD, FOWNS, opened her practice Integrative Vision in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, she was living in Seattle, Washington, and battling symptoms of her not-yet-diagnosed condition of trigeminal neuralgia. Dr. Gioia saw many doctors but none could find a solution or provide relief, so she started exploring the concept of functional medicine.

She found inspiration in the work of the doctors who tried to determine what was causing her severe pain and symptoms that suddenly disappeared when she was pregnant, only to return again afterwards. “Practitioners out there were looking outside of the box,” she says, noting the writings of David Perlmutter, MD, which examine diets and food for a healthy brain, as well as Terry Wahls, MD, who reports that she helped herself into remission of multiple sclerosis (MS) with a diet and lifestyle protocol.

MAKING CONNECTIONS

Dr. Gioia says that she saw parallels between her own health complication and Dr. Wahls’ experience with MS. “I read her book with the utmost respect and awe,” Dr. Gioia says. “She tackled her problem systematically yet emotionally; just the diagnosis alone of MS can push anyone into a black hole.”

Dr. Gioia gravitated toward a treatment plan from the book and worked with her personal functional medicine doctor to put it into place. As a result, Dr. Gioia says she is now healthier and has put many symptoms to rest. Dr. Wahls’ work also inspired her to expand her education through the Ocular Wellness and Nutrition Society (OWNS), taking classes online in the evenings to her earn her fellowship certification (FOWNS) and attending integrative conferences. “This is a non-stop learning path; you have to keep learning,” she says. “I have a foundation with new education that I can now implement in optometry.”

neda gioia terry wahls
Dr. Gioia and Dr. Wahls at the 2017 Integrative Healthcare Symposium in New York City.

Dr. Gioia had the chance to meet Dr. Wahls at the 2017 Integrative Healthcare Symposium in New York City, and the opportunity to personally thank her is an encounter she will never forget. “Dr. Wahls is a mentor who was curious, who took action and she went into the unknown.”

CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN

Dr. Wahls’ confidence helped Dr. Gioia push through the fight with her health problems but continues to be meaningful, especially now as she’s been forced to close her practice due to COVID-19. “Now we all find ourselves in a state of unknown from factors that we cannot control with the recent pandemic. My office and offices across the whole country are put in the category of unknown.”

Dr. Gioia recommends taking control with what we do and how we react. “Perhaps it’s helping a neighbor, calling a friend or showing stoicism for our children,” she says. “While we cannot control the time that will pass or the damage that is done, we should never lose hope.” Dr. Gioia even chose to use Speranza, which means hope in Italian, as her first daughter’s middle name. “I find peace in her name.”

She shares a quote from Dr. Wahls’ book, The Wahls Protocol, as food for thought during this trying time or any difficult situation you may face. “If I can rise up from a tilt/recline wheelchair by changing the way I live my life, consider what the people you love, your community, your country and the world would look like if everybody began eating and living to optimally fuel their cells.” Continue to be curious, ask questions and never be faltered by the unknown, she advises. “Dr. Wahls gave me a reason to ask, ‘Why can’t something that worked for an MS patient perhaps work for a trigeminal neuralgia patient?’  It gave me resilience.”

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