“Walk Through Japanese Garden Changes Woman’s Life”
Nutritionist Researches Endometriosis
By Jackie Holston
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Reprint of an article which appeared in The Morning News, a local newspaper located in Northwest Arkansas, on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2000
It was in a garden that Adam and Eve's eyes were opened to a new world. It was also in a garden where Karen Spencer-Dees was introduced to the world of nutrition.
Spencer-Dees, a long-time sufferer of endometriosis, was attending Sophia University in Japan as part of a student program offered through the University of Massachusetts when she was stricken by the disease, requiring immediate hospitalization.
“In 1986, I went abroad during my junior year as part of course work for my major in communications and Japanese. I was living in Tokyo when I went into the hospital for endometriosis. They did all that they could for me but they recommended I go back home for further treatment,” Spencer-Dees said.
“As part of my post-hospital care in Japan, I was sent to a medical doctor of nutrition. He made me go into his garden and he said, ‘This is food. You need food to build up your body.’ He told me you can treat a disease all you want but the body eventually starts to break down. You need to feed it. I was just flabbergasted.”
Regrettably, the hospital stay was just one of many the Boston native had endured due to endometriosis.
By the time Spencer-Dees arrived on Japanese soil, she had already undergone 19 surgeries, including a complete hysterectomy at the age of 20. Scar tissue from the endometriosis had also moved onto her intestines, requiring surgical removal of 12 feet of the organ which aids in digestion.
Upon returning to the United States, Spencer-Dees took a one-year sabbatical from college, staying with relatives in Chicago while working with a nutritionist to help strengthen her body. Ravaged by endometriosis since the age of 16, she admits developing a healthy body required a change in eating habits as well as time and dedication.
“I didn¹t feel better all at once, it happened little by little. It was a lot of work,” Spencer-Dees said. “After I got better, I went back to my surgeon in Boston. He saw that I was recovering but he didn’t know why. He told me if it works, then keep doing it, but also make sure I keep my regular appointments with him. From that point on, I didn¹t need anymore surgeries.”
As Spencer-Dees health continued to improve with the proper combination of foods and the addition of herbs imported from Asia, her educational interests shifted into the area of nutrition.
After much prayer and contemplation, she enrolled at Clayton College for Nutrition in Birmingham,Ala. The college is the only one of its kind in the United States to offer a degree program in nutrition. She received a bachelor¹s of nutrition in 1996, a master¹s in 1997 and a doctorate in 1999. Spencer-Dees has the added distinction of being the only certified Ph.D. of nutrition in the state.
“Nutrition is the science of food,” she said. “If you are deficient in vitamins, nutrients and minerals, we add those foods highest in these to your diet. We also look at combining certain foods together that will be most beneficial to building a strong, healthy body.”
Five years ago Spencer-Dees established a medical office in Bentonville where she currently practices two days a week. The outgoing 37-year-old also spends the second week of each month at the Helen Women¹s Health Clinic at Stanford University where she prescribes nutrition programs she has designed to female patients referred to the clinic by area California physicians.
During the week Spencer-Dees conducts research on these patients who are suffering from endometriosis to determine if there¹s a correlation among women suffering from the disease.“I have blood work done as well as vitamin and mineral panels so I can look at the deficiencies,” she said. “It took me three years to create a 10-page symptom survey which they fill out during their first visit. There has been research on the symptoms of endometriosis but this is the first time research has been done on blood work. This research will be used to see if there is a correlation among women suffering from the disease. The information can be used to help find a cure for the disease.”
Doctors have been puzzled for years as to why endometriosis strikes some women, specifically during their reproductive years. Endometriosis develops from endometrium, the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus and builds up and sheds each month in the menstrual cycle. Endometrial growths, which respond to hormone levels, are normal type of tissue found outside the normal location.
Endometrial tissue develops into what doctors call lesions, implants, growths or nodules which can cause pain, infertility and other health problems. The tissue is usually found on the outer surface of the uterus and the lining of the pelvic cavity.
Sometimes the growths can be found in abdominal surgery scars, in the rectum on the bladder and intestines. The problem with endometrial tissue is that it has no way of leaving the body, causing internal bleeding inflammation of the surrounding areas, and formation of scar tissue. It was the unchecked growth of endometrial tissue which required Spencer-Dees to undergo a hysterectomy at an early age.
“The scar tissue became a problem. It started strangling other organs,” she said. “I had to have a complete hysterectomy by the age of 20. It also moved up onto my intestines and my surgeon had to remove 12 feet of my intestines.”
Then came Spencer-Dees’ life-changing walk through the Japanese garden which inspired her to dramatically change her eating habits.
Encouraged by the results, the nutrition specialist offers a line of herbs through Dees International Marketing Corp. The corporation offers more than 100 products and has more than 1,000 distributors worldwide.
“There is a lot of desire today for healthy supplements,” she said. “I like these herbs because they are ground up whole foods. They are more than just supplements; they are real foods ground up which the body can take in. I carry just one line that comes out of a Chinese company operated by two medical doctors.”
Demand for the herbs has created a 150 percent growth in sales last year. Spencer-Dees has created a website, http://opp.sunrider.com/DrKarenSpencerDees/, where the public may order the organic herbs.
In addition to her practice and thriving business, Spencer-Dees recently adopted a son, nine-month-old Benjamin from Korea, an experience she called, “life changing.”
The young mom has advice for those who question the validity of good nutrition.
“I remember how bad I felt and I never want to feel that way again,” she said. “I know now how good I can feel.”