She runs her life on a tightrope, perfectly balancing her passion for holistic health renewal while still ensuring she’s perfectly on pointe in the arena on her stunning steed.
Dr Abbey Wagner is a perfectionist. You can see it in her flawless style, which starts with her edgy, blonde, asymmetrical haircut and confident posture. We meet over coffee at her super sophisticated rooms at the Renewal Institute in Umhlanga where she specialises in helping people renew their skin, health and, most importantly, sleep.
“My job is to do my best to equip a person to keep themselves well, rather than seeing and treating them all the time when they are unwell. I believe all doctors, outside of specialists, should be in the business of wellness, not the business of illness,” says Abbey, who has racked up an impressive CV covering studies in somatology, a masters in homeopathy, an international qualification as a Biopuncture trainer and lectured diagnostics part time at varsity. Oh, and she is also a wife, mom to two young children and three horses and lives a busy, yet peaceful life on a small holding on Dudley Pringle Dam.
“Our non-stop, complicated, modern lifestyles cause our stress levels to be through the roof, coupled with our nutrient-deficient diets. People don’t allow themselves time off because of guilt, especially women. I am one of them, but I try to instil in myself and my patients, the importance of unplugging yourself now and then.”
With real issues like antibiotics losing effectiveness due to years of irresponsible prescriptions, Abbey says certain strains of illness respond really well to a more holistic approach, like using methods such as Biopuncture (an injective therapy usually made from a mix of low dose medicine, vitamins and minerals). “People are looking at alternative medicine because traditional medicine is failing.”
The science of sleeping…
One of Abbey’s main interests is sleep renewal, which focuses on diagnosing and treating sleep apnea, obstructive airway syndrome or insomnia.
“It’s staggering how many people have sleep apnea. Most of our patients come in with secondary complications because of chronically disturbed sleep patterns. They say they have been recently diagnosed with type two diabetes, heart disease or are overweight although they are healthy – these issues are often a result of sleep apnea.”
If you have been diagnosed with chronic illness over age 35 – your sleep patterns could be the potential underlying cause according to Abbey.
“If you never enter into deep RMA sleep, your body stays in a state of inflammation and when that becomes the norm, you generally develop a chronic disease.
“Most times people are just in a chronic state of fatigue. If your partner says you are snoring, gasping for breath or your legs are restless while you sleep, you could have sleep apnea.”
It could also just be the way you were born. “I would say 70 to 80 percent of the time, you can see a person is prone to sleep apnea. They might be more overweight around their middle, have a short neck, smaller bridge of the nose or they have a small, soft palate.”
The fix? Depending on the severity and cause of sleep apnea, patients need to either lose weight, do a sleep study or have a correcting procedure done.
Growing up on horseback…
Since she joined the Pony Club when she was seven years old, Abbey has been passionate about riding, for fun and competitively. “I played polo cross as a teenager, which I loved, but I don’t have the guts to compete in it now.” Instead, she trains five days a week to perfect the art of dressage, and is working towards competing at Grand Prix level. “It looks really simple, but there is so much involved in getting it right. I enjoy the technical aspect and the relationship you must build with your horse in order for them to be willing to do what is needed. “It’s a balancing act of being in control of your own emotions and allowing them to feel that you are strong and that they aren’t threatening you, while being kind and making them feel loved and relaxed.” Abbey’s special bond with her horses – Manning of Millford, Tristan of Millford and her youngster Equinox Devine – has been shaped over years of commitment, patience and work. “I always buy a horse as a baby and do the backing, training and riding myself. I do this so that my horses know I am their person. It allows my horse and I to develop a mutual relationship of respect and trust through these stages.”
Her main objective with every new horse is to upskill them to be confident. “The horses’ job is to be responsible for their own emotions – to stop thriving of ‘flight or fright’ and to stop acting like animals of prey. It is about giving them the confidence in themselves and in their rider.”
Text: Elana Wagner