Functional Foods, Hope, Support and Recovery

Functional Foods, Hope, Support and Recovery

Functional Foods, Hope, Support and Recovery

By Ann Lenhardt, Co-Founder

I met Alvaro Matta just a few weeks ago at the urging of Rodger, my husband. Alvaro, owner of Reedy Creek Naturals, a brokerage and consulting firm located in Charlotte, NC, a place that Alvaro has called home for years.  Reedy Creek Naturals represents farmers and manufacturers of quality, science-driven dietary supplements, herbs, and super foods, reached out to Rodger because he is a big fan of elderberry. I was surprised when Rodger told me that the reason he wanted me to meet Alvaro was not because of his interest in elderberry, but because of what he was doing for wounded veterans. I arranged to meet Alvaro at a local restaurant the following week. The first thing I noticed about Alvaro was his beautiful smile and warm and welcoming brown eyes. Slim and fit, with a few tattoos that give away his history with the Marines, Alvaro exudes a joyful peace and calm. While my father served in both World War II and the Korean war, Dad spoke very little of it and, aside from my dad, I have known only a handful of veterans in my life. I learned that only .4% of Americans serve in the military, so I guess I’m in good company when I confess my ignorance about military life and the challenges that veterans face. I knew that somehow elderberry and the military were connected in Alvaro’s life and asked Alvaro to explain. I was blown away by what I learned.

Alvaro’s own experience with the military began when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and went to Parris Island, SC for boot-camp in the summer of 1990, right after high school graduation. Alvaro served with Charlie Company 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit as an Infantryman Rifleman, Machine Gunner & Radio Operator and deployed to the Persian Gulf War and Somalia. He left the Marines when he fell in love because it was impossible to maintain the mental discipline necessary for a warrior on a mission when his heart was pulling him back home. For the next 10 years Alvaro made a living in both the music and food industries. He spent quite a bit of time working for FoodState, where he learned about the importance of eating whole, nutritious fruits and vegetables and studied under some of my own personal heroes, like Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Tieraona Low Dog. Alvaro used the information he learned to overcome lingering health problems sustained during his military service.

Warrior Wellness Solutions Functional Eating Class at Walter Reed

In 2009 Alvaro reconnected with Elijah Sacra, a fellow Marine with whom Alvaro had served and who had also worked very hard to overcome health problems sustained during military service. The two of them founded Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness on November 10, 2009 to bring their knowledge and experience directly to Marines suffering with chronic health issues. While attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York, Elijah met Clarissa Kussin, a holistic healer, personal chef and integrative nutrition health counselor and when Clarissa agreed to join Alvaro and Elijah, Warrior Wellness Solutions was born.

Warrior Wellness Solutions began by working with one Marine at a time.   One of their first clients was Cpl. Michael Politowicz, who was on foot patrol in Afghanistan when an IED exploded just three feet from him, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury and severe physical wounds. Cpl Politowicz had undergone several surgeries, suffered from PTSD, was 50 pounds overweight and was taking 15 different medications a day when his wife, Suzi, found Warrior Wellness Solutions and asked for their help.  As Cpl. Politowicz describes it ““I was a shut-in. I couldn’t deal with large crowds and had a hard time socially,” he said. “I couldn’t walk my dog or even walk from my house to my car.”  Within three months of working with Warrior Wellness Solutions and the specialized team of nutrition and functional exercise experts they assembled, Politowicz had reduced his medications from fifteen to one and had lost 50 pounds. Through Warrior Wellness Solutions, Politowicz had found hope and purpose again.  Amazingly, Politowicz went on to run the Marine Corps Marathon, complete a half Ironman Triathlon and won bronze medals in shot put, discus, and cycling while competing in the Warrior Games.
Cpl. Michael Politowicz

Todd Love
The path to health and wellness for each Marine is customized to meet their individual needs.  That path often involves a multi-pronged approach including rehabilitative exercise, functional medicine health coaching, nutrition education, and work on mindfulness, resiliency and post traumatic growth.  As Alvaro describes it, the Marines that seek their help are usually nutritionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually depleted.  After initial intake by a trained Warrior Wellness Solutions Health Coach, each Marine receives a Warrior Wellness Kit which includes a juicer, a blender, exercise bands, weights, educational material

and recreational therapy equipment. Through one on one coaching with the Marine and his or her family, Warrior Wellness Solutions teaches the Marine about holistic nutrition and detoxification protocols designed to support healing and reduce inflammation and body fat. Each Marine is given an adaptive functional movement exercise program to improve strength, balance and flexibility. Mindfulness based yoga and meditation are taught to reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury along with life coaching to improve emotional wellness. To address nutritional depletion, each Marine learns how to incorporate whole, nutritionally dense and immune system boosting foods into their diet. “We don’t tell the Marines what not to eat”, Alvaro said, “instead we teach them how to add healthy foods, because you can’t outrun a bad diet!” One of the easiest ways to get started is to learn how to make smoothies or juices from fresh leafy greens, whole fruit and veggies. Elderberry is one of the foods that Marines are encouraged to incorporate in their diet because of its high level of antioxidants and immune system boosting properties. The Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches provide the Marine with supportive mentorship to help them feel their best through food and lifestyle changes.

The Warrior Wellness Solutions rehabilitative program typically lasts from 6 weeks to 6 months, depending upon the individual needs of the Marine. Following the intensive initial rehabilitation period, though, Marines receive perpetual support. And all of it is free. Since their founding Warrior Wellness Services has brought their rehabilitative services to thousands of Marines and, because of their remarkable success, Warrior Wellness Solutions has become an integral part of the Wounded Marine Battalion program at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Warrior Wellness Solutions is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization sustained through donations and has earned GuideStar Platinum status. They have also achieved recognition as an America’s Warrior Partnership Four Star Alliance Program of Excellence and as a Great Nonprofit’s “Top-Rated Nonprofit”.  Donations to Warrior Wellness Solutions can be made here and this summary of the great work Warrior Wellness Solutions does is perfect for sharing with everyone you know!

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