When Teri Cochrane’s son was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with asthma and placed on a variety of medications, including steroids. Less than two years later, doctors warned the Reston mother that he would have frequent seizures, would never have a normal childhood and would never grow taller than 5 feet 4 inches. When Cochrane’s daughter was born three years later, she also suffered from health problems, including chronic, severe abdominal pain.
“I went to great doctors in the area, but there wasn’t an effort to find out why they were sick,” said Cochrane. “It was always, ‘Give them this medicine.’”
Cochrane was unwilling to accept constant medication without knowing the root cause of her children’s illnesses, however. Making it her life’s mission to find healing alternatives, she began doing her own research to find nutritional solutions.
“We found a pediatrician who was familiar with alternative medicine and we started our son on his healing path,” said Cochrane. “The doctor said ‘Don’t eat this,’ but he didn’t tell me what we could eat. It took a lot of effort and a lot of tears to determine how to feed my family in a different way. Fifteen years ago, the term gluten-free wasn’t on anyone’s radar.”
Cochrane left her corporate career after 20 years and returned to school to study nutrition, herbology and holistic methods of healing. She started her own nutrition and wellness practice called Healing Paths, Nutrition and Wellness Counseling, and has written a book called “Restorative Recipes: A Mindful Path to the Essential You.”
Her clients range from infants to adults. Cochrane’s approach is tailored for each individual, focusing on specific health concerns and how they can be addressed through improved nutrition and natural supplements. She addresses ailments including allergies, hormonal imbalances, headaches, gastrointestinal upsets, menopausal symptoms, cancer and depression.
“Our counseling includes plans for insulin insensitivity, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and other chronic and autoimmune conditions,” said Cochrane.
“Food is our medicine,” she continued. “But we’ve lost sight of our food. If you’re eating fast food or food out of a package, you’re not eating real food.”
Nurse Practitioner Laura Evan, who holds a doctorate in nursing practice and is an assistant professor in the Nurse Practitioner Program at the George Mason University School of Nursing in Fairfax, agrees that eliminating processed foods can improve health.
“Avoid trans fats,” she said. “These are modified fats found in processed foods. Avoid salt. It’s a flavor enhancer [and] encourages the body to hold on to water and can increase [blood pressure] in certain patients.”
Cochrane approaches each client as an individual. “Each person has their own signature biochemistry, and that tells me what they need for their body,” said Cochrane. “You have to eliminate certain foods and then reintroduce them after waiting a period of time between each introduction.”
She also offers meal plans and provides cooking and shopping guidelines for balanced nutrition that will meet individual health needs. She even takes clients on grocery store tours to demystify the new shopping process.
Alexandria resident Tamara Kieffer is one Cochrane’s patients. “I have had migraines for many years … and wanted to get off some of the medication and explore a homeopathic approach,” she said. “It is a process and it gets frustrating because you want results right away. I got off gluten and cut out nitrates and nitrites, which meant giving up processed deli meat and hotdogs.”
Once she began to see improvements in her health, Kieffer became motivated. “It is hard to cut things out of your diet, especially sugar, which was the last thing to go, but as soon as I did, my brain fog cleared and I felt so much better.” She says honey and dates work well as sweeteners.
Kieffer stresses that changing her diet was a long and difficult process, but says the pay-off was well worth the sacrifice. “My migraines are much improved. I am not off my meds entirely, but I was able to reduce them and now they work 90 percent of the time. Before it was much less.”
Chronic abdominal issues have plagued Judy Clayton, of Arlington, for most of her life. “From constipation to endometriosis and internal scarring from multiple surgeries, I’ve had chronic pain [since childhood],” she said, adding that she also suffered from high blood pressure.
“When Teri tested me, it showed that I was dairy lactose intolerant, and was allergic to mold, like those found in mushrooms and peanut butter,” Clayton said.
Clayton, who is 66, thought making the recommended dietary changes would be difficult, but she was wrong.
Her new diet includes a myriad of foods like beef, chicken, goat milk products and grain-like foods such as quinoa. “I thought I was going to miss bread and potato chips, but I don’t,” she said. “I think that my body is getting more nutrients so I don’t crave the foods I used to eat. I’ve also lost 18 pounds and feel like a whole new person.”
Bethesda, Md.-based acupuncturist Ausra Kaminskas, who was a medical doctor in her native Lithuania, said, “I heard her giving a talk, and then I started referring my patients to Teri when Western medicine wasn’t helping. Her work made a huge difference in their health. Her experience is amazing and her knowledge is profound, but apart from the knowledge, she has a professional intuition.”
While Cochrane is proud to have turned her personal research into a source to help others, she is especially proud of the health and well-being of her two children. Today, her 15-year-old daughter Madeleine is a ballet dancer in an elite professional program. Her son William is 19 years old and is 5-feet-11-inches tall. He is attending the University of Virginia on a full scholarship.
“He is fit and no longer on medication,” said Cochrane. “He was prom king, on the varsity swim team and a junior Olympic champion in karate.”
She’s also grateful for their health. “I could pay it forward and provide a service. I went back to school to gain knowledge to help other families.”