Dr. Sherry Brewer was living her “dream life” — happy marriage, surrounded by family and friends in her hometown of Lexington, Ky., beautiful home, great job, supportive church.
Then everything changed for the mother of six.
“My beloved mother-in-law passed away and my husband had a classic mid-life crisis,” recalls Brewer, 54. “He moved us to the Quad-Cities, where I knew no one, and then he left me and my children. I lost my marriage, family, friends, church and home all in a few months. It was a lot of losses all at once.”
When she hit “rock bottom,” Brewer’s friends and colleagues encouraged her to take medication for depression. Feeling desperate, she obliged. But instead of getting better, she ended up feeling worse.
“I felt like my brain was in a vice,” she said. She tried another medication, which left her feeling “like a zombie,” so she went off medication and began searching for other ways to feel better.
When a friend invited her to try yoga, she was skeptical. But after her first session, she was “totally in love.”
“It was the only hour of the day that I could shut my mind off from all that was happening in my life,” she says. “Yoga is like a moving meditation. Over time, my body got stronger and my sadness faded.”
Since medical school, Brewer had believed that such alternative therapies were “quackery.”
“I was taught that there was no scientific evidence for things like chiropractic care,” she says. “I’m a scientist, and those things just didn’t appear to be very science-based to me.”
Brewer knew since junior high school that she was going to be a doctor. She completed her pre-medical coursework at The Ohio State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. She earned her Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Kentucky and completed an accelerated residency in internal medicine. She became board certified in 1998.
In 2012, she picked up a book that would change the way she did medicine — and life: “The Blood Sugar Solution,” by Mark Hyman, MD. Hyman was successfully reversing disease in his patients with functional medicine, a field Brewer knew nothing about. She looked at the Institute for Functional Medicine’s website and immediately knew she wanted to become a certified practitioner.
“I’m a scientist at heart, and their philosophy is based on biochemistry and research,” Brewer says.
Through the Institute for Functional Medicine, Brewer became a certified practitioner. She also completed a two-year integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona, where she trained under well-known doctors Andrew Weil and Tieraona Low Dog.
Through her Honest Wellness Center in Bettendorf, Brewer puts her functional medicine training to work, looking at the “the whole person.”
“It’s not enough to spend five minutes with a patient,” she says. “My education taught me to look for the root cause of symptoms and to personalize treatment for each individual. It’s no longer one-size medicine for all patients. I can see 10 migraine patients and all 10 of them may have a different cause for the migraine. I’m going to look for the cause instead of giving a pill for the headache.”
Since Brewer doesn’t take insurance — “I didn’t want my care dictated by a third party” — patients pay out of pocket for their care.
“The patients I’m seeing are sick and desperate,” she says. “They’ve been to multiple doctors and haven’t gotten answers. Many are just happy to have someone spend time with them to listen to their stories.”
She’s also happier as a functional medicine practitioner, she says.
“I see great results and that makes this practice very rewarding,” she says, adding that she’s had “great success” with patients who have autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and alopecia.
Her advice for those with health issues: “Don’t settle for being sick. You can do amazing things for your health with diet changes and even by just changing your thoughts.”
She also offers these recommendations to improve health:
1. Eat a Paleo diet. Remove grain and sugar.
2. Get seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.
3. Engage in some type of stress reduction activity regularly, such as taking a walk in nature, meditating, breath work and being present.