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isy B and dr. Bella

Isy B. Inspirations: Getting Our Groove Back - Women, Wellness & Well Being (Interview with Dr. Bella Beraha)

Despite my best intentions, the last few months have been stressful. As Isy B. grows (Yay!) I’m facing new and bigger challenges and traveling more for work - I’m on my way back home to Cayman from Indonesia this week. All of which have resulted in my putting my wellness and self-care on the back-burner, and feeling decidedly not like myself! Have you ever found yourself in the same boat? 

I’m determined to get back on the path to wellness this month and I’ve recruited the practical wisdom and functional medicine genius of my dear friend, muse, and doctor; Dr. Bella Beraha, MD to inspire me in finding my way back.

Dr. Bella's practice is in internal medicine, and as Director and former Chair of the Cayman Islands Heart Foundation, there is no one better for advising on health and living well. I admire her all the more because she lives and practices what she teaches, doing so always with incredible style!

What has this got to do with Isy B. I hear you ask? Well, I know well-being is a topic that concerns all of us. I also know that feeling good inside is the key to looking your best. One of my goals for Isy B. has been about supporting women in looking and feeling their best. I hope you can get as much out of my conversation with Dr. Bella as I have! 

 

isy b and dr bella
Beauty and wisdom - Dr. Bella, an Isy B. muse and client wears her custom made couture Tuxedo Gown in silk satin designed by Isy B.


Isy: Dr Bella, what do you enjoy about what you do?

Dr. Bella: It’s truly awesome to know that people are looking to find the path to wellness. I am very pleased when healthy individuals start to pave the way to a healthier future. 

 

Isy: What does wellness mean to you as a woman and a doctor in her 40s?

Dr. Bella: To me, wellness means looking at all health markers through the lens of prevention, instead of waiting for disease to arrive. In medicine, we are taught to “flag” anything that means disease and then intervene. We frequently don’t advise patients on any changes that can prevent disease before it is already present, or when it is almost unavoidable, resulting in what is often referred to as “pre”, like prediabetes or prehypertension. My ideal is not to have individuals nearly prevent or treat disease but to be far away from it and ultimately achieve metabolic wellness. 

 

Isy: What wellness goals do you think would be beneficial for the average woman to set for herself?

Dr. Bella: With my patients, I often use the comparison of athletes as they achieve their advancing goals and keep up with their aims as they progress through time. I ask people to imagine if, as a kid, they decided to be an athlete. They would start at some school league with coaches to guide them. Once you were considerably “good”, for that level, an adequate coach would push you to the next extent. And so, the cycle would progress, until you are eventually an Olympian. Each step of the way the push doesn’t mean you haven’t achieved a goal; it means you can aim for a higher goal and thus continue to improve.

I see it similarly in health and wellness. Many often start with a wellness goal, for instance, weight. When this is achieved, we may find the need to push further to accomplish more goals, continuing our journey to our ultimate wellness. 

Learning how to listen to our bodies and become self-aware is another key factor. How to silence the false messages and learn what our bodies truly need for optimal performance? This is a tough one. A female-specific example would be, “I’m ovulating or have my period and my body is telling me I need this sugary treat to feel better”. This is a false message. On the contrary, after binging on processed foods during our periods, everything seems to feel awful in our bodies which sends a true message indicating that we must make changes.

Finally, I would say we need to alter our culturally inherited way of translating what food and unhealthy habits mean. We are taught, and we teach, that “everything healthy is unpleasant and not tasty while all the unhealthy habits are those we do to celebrate and bring joy”. Putting an end to this misconception is key to healing our relationship with food and unhealthy habits, and most of all, for the health of our kids.  

 

Isy: Stress plays a huge factor in how I feel. What are the most common ways that you see stress affecting women?

Dr. Bella: Stress is indeed a huge factor. Some stress can be beneficial, both physical and mental. However, excess stress of either kind, without coping strategies, will be detrimental. This “bad” level of stress can alter hormones and the way in which many essential organs actively function. It can also throw you into a spiral of stress that directly induces feeling unwell, especially fatigue, which prevents you from doing the very things you need to recover. It can affect sleep, appetite, exercise capacity, mood and so much more. If I can recommend one thing to people, it is to exercise, and not too strenuously. I usually advocate for walking. Walking can also be meditative, resulting in multiple benefits.

 

Isy: Do you have some suggestions as to what we can do to help combat these stresses?

Dr. Bella: Besides exercise, we must nurture the hormone pathways of stress response. For instance, our brain has adrenal pathways and cortisol and other hormones. Keeping the body active, sleep, and having a proper diet are key. A healthy gut is also a huge component. The gut microbiome (those billions of bacteria that live in our gut) play a huge role in our health. Improving the microbiome has huge benefits beyond good gut function, including many related to our brain health.

 

Isy: What are some of the most vital areas of their health and wellness you think women should be aware of as they get older?

Dr Bella: Women have many gender-specific issues and stages in life that affect health and wellness. We go through puberty, our childbearing years, and finally peri and full menopause. All these changes affect almost every system in our bodies. As I mentioned in previous answers, women need to learn to listen to their bodies, and how to prioritize their overall physical and mental health. Women often tend to undermine messages from their bodies, or we say to ourselves; “It’s a hormone thing, and there's nothing I can do, all women have them”. 

This is just not accurate. There is always something you can do to feel and look better, ultimately achieving a more content lifestyle. Unfortunately, many doctors dismiss many female complaints which do not help.

 

Isy: When it comes to wellness and healthcare, I find that the internet is filled with contradictory information and in some cases misinformation. What do you suggest is a good way for dealing with the information I find online when I’m researching wellness and health information for myself?

Dr. Bella: This is a tough one, even I struggle sometimes. Like with the news nowadays, you have to become savvy at finding trustworthy sources. Sometimes it may not even be false information, but could be a case of trying to implement every healthy trend all at once and that becomes overwhelming. Many things are not applicable to everyone. Wellness needs to be individualized. I always advocate for information, because everyone should learn and keep an open mind. But people should use experts to help them apply much of that information. 

 

Isy: Are there any online sources you turn to when you’re looking for information for yourself?

Dr. Bella: I really enjoy anything affiliated with the IFM (institute of functional medicine). I follow them but also all the practitioners that collaborate with IFM. I am fond of Dr. Hyman, Dr. Amen, and some of the material in Mind Body Green to name a few sources. What I tend to do is listen to podcasts and then if there are guest speakers I find interesting, I turn to learn more about their views.

 

Isy: Can you share your top five “lifestyle changes” that you believe will help support the average woman’s journey towards better well-being?

  1. Exercise: move every day. Start slow and grow. 
  2. Sleep: quantity and quality matter.
  3. Be mindful: learn how to read your body. 
  4. Cut processed foods, particularly refined sugars, and starches.
  5. Have a support network. Friends and family but also health practitioners. Go to your doctor routinely, not just when you are sick. 

Remember it’s about optimal health and prevention, not treating disease once it’s already there.


Thanks to Dr. Bella I’m feeling inspired to take charge of my well-being and to make changes to get back to a place where I feel in balance again. You can find Dr. Bella Beraha at her practice at Helix Healthcare in the Cayman Islands and online on Instagram and Facebook


Want some more inspiration? Consider joining our 21-day self-care challenge this month with daily updates on our social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook. Or sign up for the Wellness Festival at the Seafire Resort.

 

self-care challenge poster

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BONUS: Get a free Isy B. Beach Vacation Style Guide & printable packing checklist to look fabulous on the beach.