Karie Zipper and I go pretty far back. Her oldest daughter and my middle child were in Kindergarten together seven years ago. In truth, we met 2 years prior to that when the kids did a pre-pre-school class, but I had literally just had my third child and I don’t have many social memories from at least the first six months of 2008. So for argument’s sake, and the sake of my mommy memory, Karie and I met in 2010. We knew each other from the kids’ school and running into each other at the park. We’ve been friends all this time, but it was three or four years ago when I enlisted her help with my own health and she delivered in a big way.
Karie is a board certified Clinical Nutritionist through The International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists. She launched her business, Wellness 1st, in 2004. (Yeah, I was late to this party. But, better to be late than not to show up at all. Am I right?) Her goal, through Wellness 1st, is to assist people in achieving optimal wellness. And how are they going to do that? Says Karie, “I’m going to look at the whole body, as a unit, and put together [a view of the current function of] your adrenal glands, your thyroid, your hormones, and digestion. I love learning about hormones in women, and the thyroid, but it always goes back to digestion. So much of [not feeling well] is because of diet. Most of everyone’s illnesses start in the gut. We need to repair the gut and go from there. We can make changes [to the diet] and help the Thyroid, Adrenals, etc., so all systems work together.” Although the majority of her practice consists of people coming to her for weight loss, it is through working through the weight loss program that she teaches her clients about the whole body and how to make it all work better. Says Karie, “People say to me, ‘I have no allergies, I’m fine. I just want to lose weight.’ [My response is] true, you don’t have an anaphylactic allergy, but you may have something that’s causing inflammation in the body that may be inhibiting you from having the weight loss, which [leads to you] now feeling tired and now maybe you’re spiraling into headaches, joint pain, bloating, and even a diagnosis of an autoimmune condition you didn’t have before. Then they’re like, ‘Oh!’”
But let’s back up a bit and explain how Karie came up with the name Wellness 1st. As Karie was becoming a nutritionist, she had been working with doctors in the field for 3 ½ years selling supplements and doing allergy testing. She realized how much these doctors were moving away from insurance. She explains, “People think healthcare, you use insurance. As [the concept of] wellness was coming about, I felt like people [began to] think Wellness, it’s cash. You’re going to make yourself well and you’re going to have to pay for it.” In our traditional medical care industry, the insurance company allows you to see the doctors that are accepting the insurance. Those doctors are going to look at you for ten minutes and will prescribe you a drug and move you on. Karie had in her mind that when she became ready to launch her business, she was going to name it something with “Wellness”. She goes on, “I want people to know that it’s their opportunity to take care of themselves, work with a professional that will take time to meet with them and figure out the root cause, and it will be a cash based practice.”
Before starting Wellness 1st, Karie was working for an immunologist who owned two companies selling professional line supplements to other doctors, nutritionists, pharmacists, and chiropractors, in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and DC. In addition, she was also selling and educating patients on delayed allergy testing which is when your body reacts to an antigen, or a food, or a chemical, within three hours to three weeks. Karie explains, “A lot of people don’t realize that they have an autoimmune condition that’s due to inflammation in the body causing pain, or gut issues. [Utilizing a] blood test, we look at the lymphocytes (white blood cells) under a microscope and it shows you what exactly is reacting. [We] can test 40 antigens and up to 360 antigens. Depending on how sick you are, you may [choose to] just start with foods. When I do it, I do everything.” She goes on, “That’s really what saved me from my illness and how sick I was. I was actually reacting to everything I was eating every day and I had no idea. I’m a huge proponent in my practice of figuring out what causes your body to have the inflammation. I don’t run a lot of testing on my clients unless they really feel that they need it. We usually can figure most of it out prior to needing any of the lab work.” That professional and personal foundation of learning has given Karie the opportunity to utilize how foods really affect the body.
I asked her, on average, what was the length of time it takes to pinpoint the cause of a client’s inflammation. She answered, “With some people it’s right away; gluten and dairy. You can tell right in the first week. And they know. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh I don’t have bloating. Oh my gosh, I don’t have my joint pain anymore. How could it be?’” She says with a knowing smile, “And then I’m like…welllll….” Often times Karie finds that when a client is to reintroduce the gluten and/or dairy back into their diet, they prefer not too. They’re scared. Her advice, “You can always just try a bite. You don’t have to eat the whole thing. Just try a bite and see and then you’ll know if it’s bothering you. But you’ve got to give it that three hours to a week in your system.” Mostly people realize a relapse pretty quickly. Of course it’s not an anaphylactic response, but the change is noticeable. Clients complain of feeling “off”, or can’t understand why they are so tired or achy.
The catalyst that pushed Karie into her own business was her desire to have a family. Says Karie, “I wanted to work with doctors and pharmacists in the area and when I was calling on them, they would say, ‘We need people like you Karie. Can you work in our practice? We don’t have time. We’re spending an hour and a half [per patient], and then we have all of the test results that come back. We need people who can sit down and go over the nutrition part. We’re missing that link.’” For doctors who aren’t fully educated in nutrition, it’s a large time investment when you have a busy practice. Added Karie, “So I thought I was going to contract out with a bunch of offices, and I ended up getting pregnant right before I started, so I decided that I was just going to do it for myself.”
She explains, “As I first started off, I was doing a lot of weight loss with my ketogenic diet program. At the time, no one knew what ketogenic diet was, but I’ve been doing it for 13 years. I do it in a little bit of a different capacity than what’s out there today and what you’re reading about. And now I have my own line of professional supplements that, [based on my education], I believe are the right structure of the nutrients for your body. I also have other professional grade supplements in the practice that I use. All supplements I use come from GMP standards (Good Manufacturing), top of the line nutrients, and are third party assayed so that you know what is on the label is actually in the pill you are taking. You want to get your money’s worth as well as have them do what they are supposed to do. You don’t want to pay for supplements that are not doing anything for you.” Karie believes that people are deficient and that we don’t have the nutrients from the plants and animals that we used to have years ago. Our farming has definitely changed and declined due, in part, to the use of pesticides. Adds Karie, “And the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) is on the rise unfortunately. We need to go back to ancient grains and seeds for our nutrition. Not only that, we keep taking away farms. I mean, where are we going to get our food? Especially here in Virginia? With all our growth here, the farms are disappearing! We need our local produce (hopefully not sprayed) as it has more nutritional value then non-ripened produce that gets shipped to us across the country or from another country.”
Karie feels like the field of nutrition is ever evolving. You’re learning constantly. However, the core of what she was trained in, by the immunologist that she originally worked for, still remains. Says Karie, “He really taught me so much of what I know and gave me that base. It’s still what’s going on today. I can link it all back to what he taught me.” Karie is constantly continuing her education participating in weekend-long training courses. She’s trained in many different curriculums, like homeopathy to name just one. She might not use homeopathy regularly, but there may be times where she will draw on that training for a particular ailment. She goes on, “But I’ve always learned that detoxification is huge. So many people hear [detoxification] and they think they just do it for a week or two. But once you do detox, [the real benefits come from] learning how to stay clean. [Of course there will always be circumstances where] you’re not going to be at home and things are uncontrolled, but then how are you going to go back and clean up again? Says Karie, “We want to always be protecting our liver and having our body detox us daily. We want to load up with the proper nutrients to protect ourselves and protect our mitochondria. That’s huge. That’s everything. That’s what protects our cells.”
Next steps for Karie include getting into a little bit more lab testing and pursuing training in some genetic testing. Karie shares, “This will really help people realize genetically why they’re missing things. Why they’re not breaking things down, or why they’re not converting things in the body correctly that is causing issues. So when you can figure that out I can support you with the right [treatment].” Long-term, Karie would like to have an office outside the home for her nutrition practice that would include retail space to house a market featuring hard to find products. Ideally, the location would be in an area more accessible to allow her to grow her client base. Incidentally, if you’re reading this thinking, this is great, but I don’t live in Northern Virginia, fear not. Karie does offer consulting for clients outside of this area via phone or Skype.
Says Karie, “My big thing is, I don’t want people to think it’s expensive to come see me. I feel like my pricing is very different than a lot of nutritionist out there. I really want to work with YOU, help you, and educate you. I’m not about the money. So I offer a free 20 minute phone call to talk to people on the phone to see what they’re looking for, how I can help them, and give them pricing options so they feel comfortable. They don’t have to come in the office and sit there and be like, ‘Ooh, do I tell her no, that I don’t want to pay for that?’ That’s nerve wracking.” The phone consultations allow Karie and the potential client to clear the air and determine if they are a match for each other. Adds Karie, “99% come. They feel comfortable talking with me and can tell my passion. My goal is to help them.”
Karie absolutely practices what she preaches. She discovered her own dietary issues by removing them from her diet. First to go was gluten which ridded her of her joint pain, knots in her back, fatigue, and some of her gut issues. Next to go for her was dairy, which she says helped her to feel 95% better! Karie is the most fit she’s ever been in her life. She has managed her own gluten and dairy intolerance for 14 years and shares, “I’m 42 years old and I was at this body fat when I was in my 20’s. Although I was really muscular then, there was fat on top. Does that make sense? Now I’m leaned out, my muscle shows, I’m happy with the way I eat, and I’m not getting sick all of the time. My gut is not getting irritated all of the time. And I feel like, personally, I finally made myself who I should be.” She has a routine now that she feels good about. Karie adds, “People think I don’t eat. I eat a lot. I might not eat what you’re eating, the junk and stuff, but I eat a lot. I’m eating a lot of protein and I’m eating a lot of fresh vegetables and healthy fat.” She adds, “My gut’s never going to be 100%, I know that. I’m sure it’s totally messed up from all the medicines and steroids for my asthma I was on years ago. I think my gut is always going to be sensitive, but I’m keeping it where I can manage it.” She went on to explain that through her clean eating, she is no longer allergic to everything she was eating before as the immune system resets itself every six months. (Who knew?!)
Says Karie, “I really feel, and not to be like a big head or anything, but I really have changed a lot of people’s lives. They appreciate it and they thank me.” She’s often told, “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found you.” She goes on, “Usually the people that find me, they’re on their last wit. They’ve been to all the doctors. They’ve been through all these tests. People think they’re crazy. They don’t know what’s going on. And they’re like, ‘But I’m not crazy.’” Says Karie, “I was there. I was in your shoes. I did the same thing for eight years. I’m here to help people. I’m here to be an educator. That’s my goal. Because if I can get you off all of those drugs and make you feel better, you’re going to be living your life better and longer. You will achieve optimal wellness! You know, my slogan; Be Well Live Well Feel Well.”
Contact Karie Zipper, CCN at: 703-755-0769 or email at Karie@wellness-1st.com. For more information, please visit her website www.wellness-1st.com and follow Karie and Wellness 1st on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wellness1stnutrition/