Amy Mihaly of Loveland tried the GAPS diet and after making a few dieting errors, she decided to become GAPS-certified and leave traditional nursing for an independent practice.
And in a time of crisis, she is even more vigilant about promoting a healthy lifestyle, from the right nutrition to getting enough sunshine.
Mihaly, a certified family nurse practitioner, earned her GAPS, or Gut and Psychology Syndrome, certification and opened her Be Well Clinic in 2013. She operated the clinic out of her home and at a chiropractor’s office before settling at an office at 5803 McWhinney Blvd. at the Outlets at Loveland in July 2019, opting for a location central to her client base in Colorado and Wyoming.
“Even though my training is in traditional modern medicine and I went to nursing school, I found I needed more to heal my own body, and so I started on a journey to do that,” Mihaly said. “What I discovered is the way we feed our body is the most important cornerstone to our health.”
Trying the GAPS diet
Like most Americans, Mihaly went to the doctor, took painkillers when she needed them and loved sweets, but she didn’t feel good. She had sinus problems, seasonal allergies, headaches, migraines, irritable bowels, fatigue and other symptoms.
By the time she was 18, she had undergone several medical tests and trial migraine medications but didn’t see progress.
She incidentally removed dairy from her diet and saw the frequency of her migraines decrease by half, and she read about the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Nutritional Healing Protocol designed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.
“I realized it was describing my physical and emotional and mental health conditions,” Mihaly said. “I followed the guidelines she laid out and made a lot of mistakes along the way … because I wasn’t working with a practitioner. … The healing journey is very difficult, and it’s helpful to have a pair of outside eyes to help you interpret what’s going on with your symptoms or reactions.”
Mihaly found the GAPS diet to be an effective way to heal her leaky gut, often the reason behind malnutrition and toxicity, and as a way to address other conditions like autoimmune diseases, arthritis, chronic fatigue, eczema, depression and anxiety.
She teaches about the diet in her practice, where she offers wellness exams and nursing care for ages infant to senior. She also wrote a book about the diet, “NOTES From a GAPS Practitioner: Using Diet to Unlock the Body’s Healing Secrets,” which she published in 2016 through her Be Well Press.
“It’s about my observations about how to be successful in dietary changes,” Mihaly said. “I spend hours a week really studying this and looking at different recommendations, because not all recommendations, online especially, are very wise recommendations. And every person’s body is individual and every person’s metabolism changes, sometimes by the minute. … My goal is to help people understand what their body is trying to tell them, so they can work toward the goal of health, productivity and strength and happiness too.”
GAPS book and journals
Mihaly created a series of quarterly and annual journals called “My Daily Insights, A GAPS Journal” that she published in 2017 and 2018. She wishes she had the journals when she started the GAPS diet to track the foods she ate and any symptoms she had and to use as a tool to figure out what her body was telling her, she said.
“There’s basic principles about what our body needs to be healthy: eating proper and made-in-nature foods, keeping the body clean by detoxing and not adding synthetic chemicals,” Mihaly said. “We work with patients to see what the priorities are for their body to be healthy, what things they need to cut out or add in, if there are really significant vitamin or mineral deficiencies.”
Mihaly operates her clinic differently from the traditional health clinic, since her practice takes cash only, does not take health insurance and is not bound by insurance regulations. For instance, she doesn’t have to require two separate appointments for a well visit and an evaluation of more complex medical issues.
As an independent practitioner and a nurse, she also can spend more time with her patients — her average appointment lasts at least 45 minutes so that she has time to understand her patients’ needs and make the best recommendations, she said.
Besides medical treatment, Mihaly provides nutrition counseling and guidance on lifestyle changes. She tries to identify any imbalances in the body and get to the root causes of symptoms instead of simply treating the symptoms, she said.
“Another goal I have in my practice is to help my patients understand what is happening in their own bodies, so that they understand what their body is trying to tell them, so they can interpret their own symptoms and know how to best support their body in what it needs,” Mihaly said. “This will allow them to become more and more empowered in their own health care.”
Responding to the current crisis
Mihaly has her office open, as do many other medical providers, following the response to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak that has led to restricted gatherings and an encouragement of social isolation.
To do this, Mihaly has made a few changes, such as being more aggressive with the clinic’s disinfecting procedures and temporarily moving the classes she offers at her clinic to an online version.
In her classes, she teaches an introduction to the GAPS diet and covers things like healthy cooking, raising healthy children and other health-related topics. She typically teaches four to six classes a month.
Mihaly’s next class on March 21 will be a discussion on healing leaky guts by following the GAPS diet, likely offered as a Zoom Video Communications session.
“We’re making it easier for people to take classes online, so we can continue to provide education,” Mihaly said.
Mihaly will teach two additional online classes in March on autoimmunity and homeoprophylaxis, but hasn’t scheduled her April classes as of yet.
Mihaly also encourages phone consultations instead of office visits for things like follow-up visits, questions about nutrition and health, and what she calls “sick appointments” for established patients.
“We are still available for in-person appointments, and our hours are the same at this point,” Mihaly said, adding that she is doing phone consults for patients with respiratory symptoms and taking patients who are ill to a patient room instead of having them wait in the common area.
Mihaly has a few recommendations for keeping individuals and families healthy during a time of crisis.
“The biggest thing for keeping a family healthy is making sure the body is ready to deal with an infection by eating nutritious foods and not eating sugar or processed foods,” Mihaly said, recommending including immune-boosting foods in the diet, such as fermented foods and cod liver oil.
Mihaly also recommends getting enough rest, hand washing and being out in the sunshine (of course at a distance of 6 feet from others) to increase cell function and Vitamin D intake.
“Sunshine is going to have a positive effect on immunity and a negative effect on the virus, though there is debate on that,” Mihaly said.
Self-care, caring for others and having a positive outlook also are important, Mihaly said.
“Fear puts us in a stress response, which lowers our immune function,” Mihaly said. “Because fear ultimately lowers immune function, one way to support our body is to manage our stress.”
Empowering patients in care
Mihaly empowers patients and the public in other ways through her newsletters, blog posts, speeches, videos, social media tips and individual consultations. Her approach to health care is what she calls a movement with the aim to help patients take charge of and improve their health through education and resources.
“She’s very informative when she educates us on how the body heals itself if we give it what it needs,” said Nicole Clements of Berthoud, who, along with her family, has seen multiple health improvements. “It’s very simple. It’s basically removing all processed foods and replacing it and going back to the basics. … I lost 70 pounds in a year. … It’s literally melting off. … My arthritis in my knees is gone.”
Clements, who has been going to the clinic for about four years, also had experienced fatigue and low energy, plus insomnia, and now has an “abundance of energy,” she said.
“Amy spends a lot of quality time with you,” Clements said. “She’s very informative. She really takes a lot of time to educate us to answer our questions.”
Naomi Myers, who lives in the Fort Collins/Windsor area, chose Mihaly as her primary care provider and in fall 2018 started doing office and administrative work for her.
“Amy is unique as a practitioner because of her commitment to healing and supporting the body naturally and gently,” Myers said. “I really like her holistic approach and the fact that she has so much experience in the world of natural health, but also that she is continuously and intentionally studying and educating herself about the human body and its needs. She does a very good job of combining all of her knowledge about physical, mental and emotional health to give comprehensive care to her patients.”
Sandra Houston of Evans and her family of seven children began seeing Mihaly over a year ago, wanting to work with “a holistic-minded practitioner,” she said.
“She connects the dots between areas that people wouldn’t normally connect because she looks at the body as a whole and understands that each part is connected,” Houston said. “She stands out because she spends the time needed to help our bodies heal; she doesn’t just want to mask symptoms. She knows what foods the body needs to heal itself also. She is excited about what she learns and teaches it not only to me but to my children when I bring them in. She makes sure they understand what they need to do to help their bodies heal.”
Entering the medical field
Mihaly originally learned about health and the human body from a Western medicine perspective, earning a bachelor of science degree in nursing in 2007 from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and a master of science degree in nursing in 2012 from the University of Colorado in Denver.
She worked as a floor nurse at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital from 2007 to 2102 in the areas of labor and delivery, postpartum, neonatal intensive care, or NICU, and pediatric care.
“One of the things I think is amazing about nursing is the commitment to education and the commitment to doing the right thing,” Mihaly said.
Mihaly knew at age 10 she wanted to be a nurse after reading about Clara Barton, a nurse and the founder of the American Red Cross, and Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
The role of the modern nurse practitioner was created in the mid-1960s to allow nurses to have additional training to be able to diagnose and treat diseases, “combining the strength of nurse training and patient interaction,” she said.
“I believe this is a reason nurse practitioners are consistently surveyed as being the more preferred provider,” Mihaly said, adding that insurance allows nurses to spend more time with patients than medical doctors. “It’s really their patients feel more connected and more understood by them.”
Mihaly also has more freedom working in an independent practice, something allowed in Colorado.
“It allows me the freedom to practice to the full extent of my license and provide care to patients in a way I think is best for them,” Mihaly said.
For more information about Mihaly and her practice, visit bewellclinic.net or contact her at email@example.com or 218-8273.
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