For local iridologist Randell Carter, Alan Burch’s eyes are the windows to his health.
The two men were huddled around a computer that featured a large image of Burch’s eyes. Carter pointed at the image on the screen.
“I see a little inflammation in the knees. I see some inflammation on the spine,” he said.
Burch said he hadn’t yet felt pain in either of those places, but when Carter spoke of sinus inflammation, he nodded. “It’s the first time I’ve had a problem with that in I don’t know when,” the Bowling Green man said.
Carter practices iridology, which is based on the assumption that the organs have a corresponding location in the iris. The structure and markings of the locations are compared to a chart, which can help determine the health of the organ.
“An eye doctor can tell you if your cholesterol is high or if you’re diabetic by looking at your eyes,” he said.
Myasthenenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that weakens the skeletal muscles, brought Burch into Carter’s office.
“It was supposed to be incurable,” he said. “Doctors told me to get used to living like that.”
Carter, who has a reputation for helping people with autoimmune disorders, disagreed. “When you get the intestinal wall built back up, it fixes the autoimmune diseases,” he said. “That’s where he was several years ago when he came to see me.”
Burch said he felt better after seeing Carter, so much that he began traveling again. “He told me everything that was wrong with me by just looking, and he had never met me,” Burch said.
While visiting family in Arizona, Burch got Valley Fever, a fungal infection that enters the lungs and is common in Arizona and other desert areas. Burch didn’t have symptoms for several months. Doctors noticed two nodules on his left lung and thought it was cancer, but it wasn’t.
“Randell had my immune system built up so good that the symptoms didn’t show up for months,” he said. “I wouldn’t take nothing for it. If you get sick, it can be a blessing. Natural health is the way to go.”
From healing touch and chiropractic care to bioenergetic assessment and herbalism, alternative medicine has found its way to Bowling Green.
The eyes have it
Carter received his diploma in June 2004 after two years of studying herbalism and one year of iridology. A member of the International College of Iridology, he opened his office at 728 Chestnut St. in 2008.
“I consider myself an herbalist because that fixes people. It differs so much from conventional medicine,” he said. “You’re getting to the cause of the problem. You can’t expect to heal if you’re treating the symptoms.”
He analyzes the health of a client by recommending herbs and supplements to help correct the problem and help clients heal themselves. He practices in Bowling Green, White House, Tenn., and Ethridge, Tenn.
“They do the work. I just tell them what to do,” he said. “And it is work. They have to change their lifestyle that got them there in the first place. It’s not just popping a pill.”
The body sends nerve impulses to the brain. The optic nerve is a bundle of nerves. When there is inflammation in the body, some of the iris fibers will raise up, Carter said.
“Some correspond to different parts of the body. When you shine a light on them, they look brown or yellow,” he said. “When you have inactivity, (the fibers) go low. You can see genetic tendencies and genetic weakness.”
Carter said he can also see toxicity.
“If it’s built up over time, it can have a negative influence on your health,” he said.
The arcus senilis, a whitish ring around the cornea, can show poor blood flow to the brain, Carter said.
“It could lead to dementia. You usually see it in people with Parkinson’s (disease),” he said.
Pregnancy, cancer, viruses and bacteria are conditions Carter said he can’t see in the eyes.
“I can see the inflammation that (viruses and bacteria) leave,” he said.
Continuing education courses help Carter keep abreast on new iridology findings.
“A lot is going on to keep thinking the old way and it’s proved wrong,” he said.
Burch said he understands why people can be skeptical about the treatment, but it has worked for him. He has also done acupuncture and chiropractic care.
“I was raised like everybody else. I was trained on the medical system. I was skeptical,” he said. “Now I believe in all of it.”
Needling for better functionality
Dr. Gary Howerton already had a career as an emergency room doctor when he decided to study acupuncture.
“I was already interested in it out of curiosity,” he said.
As soon as he was able to pursue his interest, he went to Harvard Medical School in Boston for a 10-month program and did clinicals in Cambridge. Now he practices as a part-time acupuncturist at his office at 416 E. 12th Ave.
“I’m doing it by appointment and seeing over 40 patients a week just part time,” he said. “I still do a little bit of ER work.”
To understand how acupuncture works, consider the body an electric circuit board, Howerton said.
“Acupuncture works through these circuits and enables the body to function better,” he said. “It can help with allergies, gastrointestinal issues, stress response, which can contribute to hypertension, heart disease, stroke.”
The needles help stimulate the cells in the connective tissues of the fascia, Howerton said.
“There are several layers of fascia. When they are stimulated, it can have an effect on the muscles, organs or nerves,” he said. “An electron flow is created, and that is how the signal is propagated.”
Acupuncture involves treating the whole person, Howerton said. For example, if a person has tennis elbow, it’s not just about the elbow.
“It’s on the inflammatory response,” he said. “The problem already exists, but you’re treating it in a broader manner.”
Some people are skeptical about the effectiveness of acupuncture, but studies using MRIs have shown the treatment changes the brain, Howerton said.
“There is science behind it. I was a skeptic for a long time. Every day I’m shocked by how effective it can be,” he said. “It is a difficult concept to grasp, but it’s real.”
Massage the pain away
Walking into Energy Balance, at 432 E. Main Ave., No. 3 in the Princess Building, is like stepping into relaxation mode. The scents of various essential oils gently permeate the subtly lit office.
“You want the mind calm so the emotional side is not dictating anything. The body is one thing. Mental stress is another,” said licensed massage therapist and owner Juanita Rodriguez. “If you call the boss a pain in the neck, it will eventually be. It changes the whole body chemistry. If you relieve physical pain, sometimes you can release emotional pain.”
Practitioners approach massage in different ways, Rodriguez said. She prefers variety.
“A lot of people lean on one routine and don’t deviate,” she said. “You always want a massage to feel smooth. It has to be continuous. A person feels when you’re not confident.”
Rodriguez has been practicing pain relief, Swedish massage therapy and medical massage for more than eight years. She studied at Edgar Cayce’s Area for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Va., which offers conferences and classes as books, and documented psychic readings made the founder known as the “sleeping prophet.” Rodriguez returned to Bowling Green and worked part time as a massage therapist.
“We didn’t have to have a license then,” she said.
For five years, she studied at the Bristol Cancer Health Centre and Alternative Health Clinic in England. By the time she returned to Bowling Green, massage therapists were required to have a license.
“I was grandfathered in because I had hours of study under my belt,” she said.
Rodriguez worked with clients at a health food store using a chair instead of a massage table before she got her own space.
“I want them to feel different when they walk out of this chair,” she said.
Although she had years of study under her belt, she craved more, finding books on acupressure points and myofascial relief points.
“I tried it on my clients and they said, ‘Wow! That really helped,’ ” she said. “I learn so much from my clients. I still can. I hope I never stop learning.”
Adults aren’t her only clients. She has helped children with sprained ankles and sports injuries get back up on their feet.
“It’s amazing what a little blood flow can do,” she said. “It can heal a lot of things.”
She also doesn’t want clients to depend on her expertise, Rodriguez said. Instead, she teaches them to take care of themselves.
“I have handouts for a simple medication routine that’s purely about trying to relax the body and the mind,” she said.
Taking notes on her clients helps Rodriguez remember what worked or didn’t work for them if they should need to come back.
“I’m trying to get rid of my clients’ pain. I need to know what their pain level was. It helps me see their progress,” she said.
Because many of Bowling Green’s alternative therapy practitioners tend to know one another, they often refer their clients to one another.
“I want everybody to be happy and healthy,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not really a competition in this.”
Rodriguez plans to be in her career “for the long haul.” She takes continuing education classes so she continues to use her hands as instruments to help her clients.
“I consider what I do a ‘jazz massage.’ In most good jazz, a musician has a good foundation of classical music. Then they can turn it into something we can enjoy,” she said. “I’ve been trained. My deviation has flowed smoothly for the most part. I feel so blessed to be able to make a business out of what I love to do and be able to help people.”
Katy Jennings can check a client’s balance in a back room at the Nutrition Center at 715 U.S. 31-W By-Pass, but it has nothing to do with a checkbook.
The center owner does bioenergetic assessment, which uses a computer-based instrument to measure meridians – pathways of energy – in the body. The results help the practitioner suggest what vitamins or herbs the client might need to get the body back in balance.
“It’s like a multimeter for humans. Each meridian goes to a different area of the body,” she said. “In normal balance, every flow is going to different areas of the body.”
Jennings was trained in Utah 12 years ago. She became a certified national health professional after studying at Trinity School of Natural Health in Indiana. She was certified in applied kinesiology in 2002.
“It’s muscle testing. It was invented by a chiropractor to test where they might have a weakness,” she said.
While she isn’t allowed to recommend specific treatments, she can show clients reference books or tell them what has worked for other people.
“We try to make sure people know how to eat a good diet. A lot of people don’t associate what they eat to how they feel,” she said. Alternative therapy is “not supposed to take the place of a good diet. We try to live what we’re teaching people.”
Jennings first did alternative treatments at a Nashville doctor’s office. Now, she is helping people at the Nutrition Center.
“It has been a blessing that I can recognize where balance is coming from,” she said. “I like to help others. It takes the focus off of me. I feel I was led to this by God. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”