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Meet the Experts: Wellness Board Member SJ Struckmeyer

Written By Adrian Crawford Mar 20th 2024
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Here at CBDistillery®, we know that taking charge of your health and wellness is a daunting task and it's sometimes overwhelming to know whose recommendations to rely upon.

Transparency is key to our approach in every aspect of our business, which is why we wanted to introduce a series of conversations with CBDistillery staff as well as other experts in their fields. We hope that these conversations will offer more information about our company and products and help foster trust in our products.

In this edition, content strategist Adrian Crawford sat down with the newest member of our newly created Wellness Board, integrative nurse practitioner SJ Struckmeyer, to discuss her inspiration to pursue a career in this wellness, how she incorporates CBD into her treatment plans for patients, and more.

Adrian Crawford: First things first: Can you give me an idea of what your line of work entails and what your focuses are as an integrative nurse practitioner? 

SJ Struckmeyer: As an integrative nurse practitioner, I currently have the honor of treating patients in psychology and wellness. Most of my patients, ranging in age from adolescents to well into their 70s, present with mental health complaints. I work alongside of them to distinguish the root cause of their symptoms. I ensure each patient has an authentic plan of care as no two people are identical. When treating mental health disease, I encompass a holistic plan of care which involves preventative education and activating the body’s own defense mechanisms. I find many of my patients are unaware of the fact that all humans are born with cancerous cells, and we must prevent their growth via various methods. I educate my patients with current evidence-based research to obtain their informed consent. One area I educate patients daily is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Discovered in the 1990s, the ECS is found in the human brain yet plays a vital role throughout the body.  

AC: Next up, the origin story. What made you want to pursue healthcare as a career and, in particular, the area you ended up in? 

SS: I remember gently wiping the saliva from the left side of my grandfather’s chin when I was just shy of 5 years old. He was living with us after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. In that sacred moment that he and I shared, I knew that I wanted to help people. As I grew older, I was called to the medical field. I debated between becoming a medical doctor and psychology, but I was eventually led into nursing as I wanted to be at the bedside with patients. Once I became a nurse with a minor in psych, I was challenged as I again had to choose between nursing and psychology. I began working in labor and delivery and women’s oncology as I knew my passion for psychology would be well utilized when faced with many layers of family dynamics. After nursing for 16 years, I attended Georgetown University where I focused on midwifery and primary care. Once a provider, I quickly realized the impact of treating specific ailments holistically. Georgetown reinforced those beliefs and encouraged me to evaluate patients’ symptoms while looking for the root cause. With mental health diagnoses on the rise, I’ve now completed seven-eighths of my post-Masters in Psychiatry. Throughout my 25 years in health care, I have always been passionate about treating mental health and integrating Western and Eastern medicine. 

AC: What challenges, in your experience, have the past few years presented for people in terms of managing their mental health as well as their physical wellbeing? 

SS: Since the onset of COVID-19, I have observed an increase in not only one’s physical wellbeing but also their mental health. When meeting a new patient, I ask about their COVID status, meaning whether they had the virus or vaccine, neither or both, and if so when. This is not a political issue but a humanitarian one. As a provider, I’m seeing similar variations in bloodwork and mental health regardless of virus or vaccine. We as humans all experienced the pandemic and we all suffered to some degree. 

AC: What kinds of self-care practices are best for us in terms of a healthy balance of mind and body and how do you feel that cannabinoid remedies fit into those practices? 

SS: Self-care is crucial for one’s optimal physical and mental well-being. I encourage patients to develop rituals or routines which they can easily incorporate into their activities of daily living. One of the most beneficial self-care practices is the establishment of a nighttime routine. I promote a healthy wind-down routine which enhances sleep, thus strengthening the body’s immune system, while decreasing inflammation and increasing prevention of further or future disease states. 

Cannabinoid remedies are encouraged during activities of daily living and nighttime rituals, as CBD amplifies relaxation. Included in nighttime routines could incorporate taking a bath with epsom salts, CBD and essential oils to help one unwind. If a patient suffers from physical pain or discomfort, I recommend they use a CBD cream or salve/balm to aid in muscle relaxation. CBD tinctures, often blended with various herbs, are heartened for enhanced/elevated leisure. Supplementing our bodies to improve relaxation prior to bedtime has been shown to increase deep and REM sleep. Without adequate sleep, our bodies struggle to find balance or homeostasis. 

AC: From your perspective in the field, what are you seeing from patients in terms of the uptake or popularity of “alternative” therapies and supplements such as CBD? 

SS: In my perspective, patients are becoming more aware and seeking “alternative” therapies. Alternative or complementary treatment and therapies include the use of herbs, supplements, neutraceuticals, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, breathwork etc. I promote the use of complementary therapies in my practice as most have been safely used for decades, even centuries.  

AC: What do you think the future holds in terms of people prioritizing mental health as much as they have physical health? 

SS: I am optimistic that the stigma once placed on mental health ailments will be fully alleviated. As more people become aware of the gut-brain axis system, I encourage the education that all body systems are intertwined. We can no longer treat a mental health condition by solely focusing on the brain and must always take an authentic or individualized holistic approach with every person. And, once asked about their mental health symptoms, patients are often able to name coexisting physical manifestations, which allow me to hone in on contributing body systems that may be affecting their optimal mental well-being.