March 6, 2012

Story by Cindy Uken

Registered dietitian: ‘It’s amazing what I can do just with diet changes.’

Christy Vogel was 50 pounds overweight, struggling to lose pounds on any number of popular weight-loss programs. Nothing worked. Foods she thought were good for her were actually destroying her.

She was oblivious.

In addition to being overweight, Vogel, 59, of Billings suffered from osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure and irritable bowel syndrome. And, despite being overweight, she suffered from malnutrition.

“I was so sick,” Vogel said. “My gut was inflamed. My doctors gave me stuff to slow it down but they never got to the source of what was causing it.”

Miserable, she took advantage of a no-cost, complimentary consultation that Tracy Konoske, 46, owner of the Laurel-based Healthy Lifestyles, offered. Konoske, a registered dietician, who has been operating the virtual business out of her home since April 2011, said her goal is to help heal people who seemingly cannot be helped with conventional medicine — and save them thousands of dollars in medical bills.

To fulfill her objective, Konoske relies on the phone, Skype, Facebook and her fan page. To “meet” her clients, she asks them to send a photo.

“It makes it super easy,” Konoske said.

She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Montana State University-Billings and a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetic internship from Bastyr University in Seattle. She has also received training in how to apply functional medicine in clinic practice.

Sessions are via phone. Lab work can be done anywhere there is a local clinic. While the first consultation is complimentary, the next two sessions during which Konoske will glean an exhaustive medical history will cost $300 total. Insurance does not cover any of her consults or treatments.

Konoske relies on natural and functional medicine to find the cause of what ails any given patient and to help improve his or her quality of life. Functional medicine is looking at health and disease a single network, not separate units. As a functional medicine practitioner, Konoske said she would not give a patient a drug for asthma, another for itchy skin, and another for an auto immune disease.

Instead, she would look at the trio of issues and recognize that all are connected to inflammation to some degree and look for the root cause. She would treat them as a “system,” not “parts.”

Konoske specializes in helping those with migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, joint pain, fibromyalgia, fatigue, and skin eruptions such as eczema and psoriasis.

“I come at their health from every possible angle so I can see what’s going on and connect the dots,” she said. “I want to find the root cause of their ill health and help them move on. It’s amazing what I can do just with diet changes.”

Konoske stressed that her services are not designed to compete with or replace anyone’s primary care doctor but instead to complement him or her.

As for Vogel, she said the results she has experienced with Konoske are near miraculous. Konoske helped her identify at least 30 foods that were wreaking havoc on her body. Among them were oats, black pepper, olive oil and meat.

“In two days my gut was normal and it hadn’t been for six months,” Vogel said. “What she has helped me do was to identify those foods that were rotting my gut. I had a leaky gut like a picket fence.”

Vogel says she is now off her blood pressure medicine. She also dropped about 30 pounds in three months.

“For me, it is night and day,” Vogel said.

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