Fighting Eating Disorders: Why Naturopathic Medicine May Be the Answer

Fighting Eating Disorders: Why Naturopathic Medicine May Be the Answer

Learn how naturopathic approaches to screening and treating eating disorders can help patients overcome their disorder to lead healthier lives, both emotionally and physically.

30 million Americans will struggle with disordered eating at some point in their lives. Nearly one million Canadians are living with a diagnosed eating disorder, and millions of others struggle with food and weight preoccupation. These serious illnesses affect all kinds of individuals across the spectrum of gender, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status.

The month of February marks two observances to raise public awareness about the dangers of eating disorders. In the United States, the National Eating Disorders Association is spearheading National Eating Disorders Awareness Week from February 24th through March 1st. In Canada, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre is behind Eating Disorder Awareness Week from February 1st through February 7th.

Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia and binge eating are complex and life threatening – they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. However, due to societal stigma, many eating disorders go undiagnosed or untreated.

The holistic, patient-centered approach of naturopathic medicine is a key tool in screening and treating eating disorders effectively.

“Many patients are reluctant to discuss eating patterns that they suspect might not be healthy. NDs typically use a very comprehensive intake with new patients, and take the time to ask about diet, desired weight, anxiety, depression, and more, which aids in eliciting warning signs for eating disorders.”

Katie Stage, ND, RH (AGH)

Faculty Senate President and Director of the Division of Therapeutics, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

“Addressing eating disorders and nutritional peculiarities requires a sensitive eye, a listening ear and a thorough appointment: the written patient intake, the physical exam, and an extensive interview.”

Jennifer Botwick, ND

Renowned Nutrition Expert and Retired Clinical Supervisor and Adjunct Faculty, University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine

After the initial stage of screening, naturopathic doctors take a multifaceted approach to address the eating disorder as thoroughly as possible.


 “Naturopathic physicians always aim to treat the cause of a condition, be that anxiety, depression, trauma, or other – and in treating the cause, we can offer lasting improvement, or in many cases, cure. NDs also typically spend more time with patients than conventional doctors, and thus are able to establish trust, which leads to healing. Many NDs are also open to other types of activities, such as meditation, yoga, guided imagery, and journaling, all of which are helpful in promoting healing in this patient population.”

Katie Stage, ND, RH (AGH)

Faculty Senate President and Director of the Division of Therapeutics, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

“Management of eating disorders should be a multidisciplinary approach involving psychiatrists, psychologists, endocrinologists, dentists, gastroenterologists, internists, naturopathic doctors and so on. All personnel must work closely together and maintain open communication and mutual respect.”

Afsoun Khalili, BSc, ND

Associate Professor and Clinic Faculty, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

“My team typically consists of a counselor who will address psychosocial variables, the family dynamic, issues of trauma, and the cognitive-behavioral factors that contributed-to and often maintain the eating disorder. I also work with a dietician, and sometimes a psychiatrist. My role as a naturopathic doctor is to seek to understand the root cause, remove obstacles to cure, stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal itself, give the body what it needs to heal, tonify weak and damaged systems, and evaluate structural integrity.”

Nicole Cain, ND, MA

Integrative Mental Health Expert, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic doctors approach treatment for eating disorders from a variety of angles. These NDs weigh in with the methods they find most effective.

It is vital to address underlying causes and identify solutions or strategies to overcome the disorder. “A family history should be obtained regarding eating disorders and other psychiatric disorders. A detailed physical examination should be conducted with particular attention to vital signs; physical status (including height and weight); heart rate and rhythm; evidence of self-injurious behavior; muscular weakness; and more. Regular monitoring of Body Mass Index (BMI) should also be done.” Dr. Khalili points to a few studies where patients have had success in returning to a healthy weight and reducing harmful behaviors such as binging. One study shows that zinc was associated with an accelerated improvement of BMI. Another study indicated that patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy saw decreases in episodes of binging and purging.

Afsoun Khalili, BSc, ND

Associate Professor and Clinic Faculty, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

It is important to “recognize behaviors and patterns with regard to food, eating, thinness, weight, self-acceptance, cutting, excessive exercise, regimented eating and precise daily notations” when screening for eating disorders. In treatment, she recommends regular therapy. “Therapy varies for the individual, as does what and how we eat. As nutritional lifestyles vary, so does the type of treatment. Talk therapy for some, dance, art, or music therapy for others. A professional and safe counseling relationship can aid the patient in their path of wellness with a healthy relationship to and with eating.”

Jennifer Botwick, ND

Renowned Nutrition Expert and Retired Clinical Supervisor and Adjunct Faculty, University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine

“Homeopathy can help address the imbalance, or triggers, that lead to the disorder, and I’ve had excellent results with this modality. Botanical medicine is fantastic at providing nourishment to organ systems affected. It can also be empowering to teach patients how to customize a tea blend, for example, to promote their own healing.”

Katie Stage, ND, RH (AGH)

Faculty Senate President and Director of the Division of Therapeutics, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

“Basic treatments should include consideration of the biopsychosocial variables to care. This means the patient should engage in psychotherapy, receive nutritional rehabilitation, and their biological systems must be carefully monitored—particularly during the refeeding period if the patient has been restricting.” She sees the “most profound benefit from homeopathic treatment combined with psychological care, including counseling, support groups, and cognitive behavioral therapy.”

Nicole Cain, ND, MA

Integrative Mental Health Expert, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

When treating patients struggling with eating disorders, these doctors have seen great progress because of their naturopathic approaches. Here are a few of their success stories.

Dr. Stage treated a 20-year-old female patient struggling with anorexia nervosa and bulimia with some purging. “She had been on multiple medications, unsuccessfully, for anxiety and depression, and the medications, at one point, caused Serotonin Syndrome, a rare but life-threatening complication. We gave her a medicinal tea (with herbs like chamomile, lavender, and skullcap) and a homeopathic remedy that addressed her perfectionism and anticipatory anxiety. We did some counseling about adding in foods, but you have to be careful about that in eating disorders. We also put her on a multivitamin for suspected vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Her mood lifted considerably over the following several months and she started to gain weight, stopped purging, and moved towards a healthier eating pattern. Her improvement was significant and lasting.”

Katie Stage, ND, RH (AGH)

Faculty Senate President and Director of the Division of Therapeutics, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

Dr. Cain helped a female patient who suffered from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). “BDD is a condition where the sufferer becomes obsessive about a flaw or perceived flaw or defect in their personal appearance. She expressed that she had put sheets over all of the mirrors because she hated her face so much. In secret, she would binge on carbohydrates until she was so full she felt sick and then she would purge. As time passed, the binging and purging became more frequent and she found herself unable to stop. Treatment focused on following the guidelines of the therapeutic order. This involved nutrition, movement, fresh air, counseling to work on self-talk, marriage counseling, prayer, going to Over Eaters Anonymous Groups, and more. She got rid of her social media accounts, received mind-body therapy, and she threw all of the junk food away. We treated her with a homeopathic remedy which addressed her mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. We prescribed trophorestoratives to help the nervous system, which had been in a state of ‘fight or flight’ for several years. We also gave her adaptogens to help correct the cortisol deficiency that was detected in her laboratory work. She started to receive cranial sacral therapy which helped balance her skeletal system and body as a whole. After several months of treatment, she stopped binging and purging, her depression started to lift, and her anxiety reduced. Twelve months later, she reported that she didn’t even relate to that self anymore.”

Nicole Cain, ND, MA

Integrative Mental Health Expert, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

Orthorexia is another condition that can arise from extreme dietary monitoring and an obsessive desire to “eat clean.” Naturopathic expertise is valuable for this circumstance as well.

“Orthorexia may start out as a healthy desire to change one’s diet and lifestyle, but may progress into a seemingly obsessive pursuit of a healthy diet. Those suffering with orthorexia will obsessively avoid foods perceived to be harmful or unwholesome, experience extreme anxiety about how food is prepared, spend exceedingly long amounts of time preparing for food, spend excess money on food, and feel extreme guilt or shame when not adhering to their dietary standards. It is important for naturopathic clinicians in particular to be aware of this because patients suffering from these symptoms are often attracted to naturopathic doctors and their information on diet and nutrition. The key variable in orthorexia is the underlying motive. Commonly, patients with this condition report being motivated by the desire to enjoy feelings of health, cleanliness, and pureness. Holistic counseling into the root cause to this need and desire is key and cognitive behavioral approaches are key treatments.” 

Nicole Cain, ND, MA

Integrative Mental Health Expert, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

“Education about nutrients and appropriate amounts and types of exercise is often helpful. Often these patients are very interested in their own health and thus respond well to education. However, in cases where there is a strong sense of perfectionism, or mood disorder underlying the condition, an appropriately chosen homeopathic remedy, botanical formula, acupuncture protocol, or mind-body therapy can be very helpful.”

Katie Stage, ND, RH (AGH)

Faculty Senate President and Director of the Division of Therapeutics, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

This month and every month, naturopathic doctors work closely with patients to screen and treat eating disorders.

“Naturopathic medicine offers hope to the hopeless. While the modern medical model has helped millions of men and women recover from eating disorders, there are those who do not get well with conventional approaches. Naturopathic medicine provides a completely unique and fresh perspective.”

Katie Stage, ND, RH (AGH)

Faculty Senate President and Director of the Division of Therapeutics, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

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Celebrating the Life of Dr. James Sensenig

Dr. James (Jim) Sensenig devoted his life to the advancement of the naturopathic profession. He was the founder of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the US national professional organization, and co-founder of the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM), an organization aimed at engaging  philanthropy and raising public awareness of the naturopathic profession. He was one of the four doctors who established the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Institute (FNMI) to codify, preserve, strengthen and advance naturopathic medicine’s unique philosophy, principles and theory of practice. Additionally, Dr. Sensenig founded the Naturopathic Medicine Institute (NMI) to preserve, protect, present and promote the vitalistic core of naturopathy, and to call the profession back to its roots. He was a vital force behind the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME), Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX) and so much more. Dr. Sensenig played a pivotal role in the lives of so many. His vision, courage, keen intelligence, and coherent voice remain an example for us all. Too soon he has left us, but he has left a powerful legacy.

Click here to visit the Dr. Jim Sensenig Memorial, where you are invited to share your memories, stories, photos, and videos.

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Dr. JoAnn Yanez on KCAA 01/08/20

Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC executive director, joins KCAA’s NBC LA affiliate “On the Brink” to discuss the power of mentorship, and what it can offer you personally and professionally.

Full Transcript of Interview Below.

Topics Include:

  • How mentoring is linked with career success and satisfaction
  • Asking for help when you need it
  • Mentor and mentee relationship needs
  • Seeking mentorship at different stages of your life and career
  • Recognizing strengths and weaknesses
  • And more…

Erin Brinker: Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.

Todd Brinker: And I’m Todd Brinker.

Erin Brinker: We are On the Brink, the morning show, on KCAA AM 1050, FM 106.5, and FM 102.3. I am super excited to welcome back to the show, Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the executive director for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. She joins us once a month to talk about all things health related, naturopathic and otherwise. Dr. Yanez, welcome to the show.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me folks.

Erin Brinker: Did you enjoy your holidays?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I did. I hope you all did as well. You know what I’m enjoying today?

Erin Brinker: What’s that?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Today is, “I am a Mentor Day.”

Erin Brinker: That’s awesome. That’s awesome.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Who knew? They have so many different days now, that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Erin Brinker: That one is a beautiful one. In our last segment, we were talking about issues of despair and how human connection is important. Mentors are a huge part of that.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: They are a huge part of it. There’s actually research that’s been done on working professionals and folks that have mentors in their work environment and people that don’t. It’s amazing. Folks that have mentors are more likely to get a raise. They’re more likely to get a promotion. They’re happier in their jobs. The folks that do the mentorship, who are the actual mentor, report higher job satisfaction and professional connection. That professional connection part and the personal connection part that you just talked about, is so important. And It’s interesting, now I hear even from my own colleagues, where maybe they haven’t been able to find a mentor in the traditional sense, and they’re getting personal coaches.

Erin Brinker: They’re feeling that need for themselves.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes. They’re feeling that need for themselves professionally and maybe there isn’t somebody who’s doing exactly what they want or they haven’t been able to find that. So, they’re going and hiring coaches for work.

Erin Brinker: It’s interesting, in this area, the number of people going to college who are the first in their families to go to college, is quite large in the San Bernardino and Riverside counties, especially in San Bernardino. Students who have a mentor when they start college fare much better, are much more likely to persist to graduation and just have a better overall experience than those who don’t. For youth, mentoring is incredibly important as well.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes, it is. Some of the data… I know that maybe this is embedded in that San Bernardino data, but some of the data around diversity definitely demonstrates that first-generation or folks who are coming from a disadvantaged background, really can be helped with a hand up in support and resources to help ensure that they’re successful. They may not have had the same type of family support that other folks might have had coming into school. They’re just as capable, if not more so, of working hard and doing well, but there might be some additional resources that they may need. There was one recent article on diversity that I was reading about that spoke to Native American students, and assisting them and getting work study so that they could stay in school, in those early years of school because many do have to provide support back home, even though they’re in school.  It’s very interesting to see that there isn’t a one size fits all approach in success. That common thread is help, is asking for help, and getting help, whether it’s a mentor or a coach or an advisor or whatever. Asking for that help and seeking it out and making sure that you’re also receptive to getting help. Sometimes folks are proud and they don’t want to admit that they’re lost or they need help until it’s too late. I wrote an article last month about mentorship and it’s just as important with the mentor, to be sensitive to what the mentee needs, but also the mentee to be able to receive that feedback and to ask for help, and to say what they need. It’s a bilateral relationship.

Erin Brinker: I think about doctors, especially now naturopathic and other independent doctors, who generally, they’ll put a shingle out and have their own practice or have a small practice as opposed to being part of a majorly large group like Kaiser Permanente. In that point, connection with others in the field, people who have been doing it longer, becomes incredibly important, I would imagine.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: It is. It’s one of the pieces of advice that I always share with prospective or new students, is the power of mentorship, the need for networking. If you are starting a business… Erin, would you think of starting a restaurant, or any other type of small business without talking to other people who’ve started restaurants and what worked, what didn’t work, what did you learn? What do you wish you knew? Most people, if they’re doing it right, wouldn’t enter into some sort of a new business without doing a lot of homework, without finding out what best practices were, what works, what are the pitfalls, what should I look to avoid? Those types of things. In naturopathic medicine, like in any other practice where many people are opening up their own business, it’s really important. It’s an important step in doing your homework, to find that mentorship, to seek that out, and find out what’s worked before.

Erin Brinker: I know that AANMC does a lot of that leadership work. I’ll call that leadership work and mentorship work both to the college leadership but also to people who are interested in becoming naturopathic doctors.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: We do and our work focuses right now a lot more on the academic leadership and helping to build up another network of up and coming academic leaders. That is another area where we see, not a lot of people who even recognize that it’s a career path. Then once they do, it’s like, “Oh wait, I have to learn how to teach. I have to learn how to lead. I have to learn all of these other things that I didn’t get in medical school necessarily. Curriculum plans. I know that you have loved ones in academia. Teaching is an art.

Erin Brinker: It is.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Leadership is an art. That’s not always an art everyone succeeds in very well.

Erin Brinker: Not everybody has that gift.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: No, not everyone has that gift. There are some that do, and how do you foster that? Yes, we’re definitely focused on promoting that and looking at that. I don’t know if you’ve had mentors, but I’ve had mentors along the way and part of my passion is giving back. I still seek out mentors. I think it gets a little harder the further along you are in your career sometimes, to find folks who have the level, the skill sets, and the things you need for mentorship. I’m always leaning on colleagues. Other executive directors and I will have powwows and so on, from time to time. What’s working for you? What’s not working for you? I seek that out even with my role in my job in seeking out mentorship and belonging to professional associations that have other folks that are doing what I do. It’s really important to continually, as part of a process of continual improvement, self-improvement, and self-awareness to… And I know we’ve talked about self-awareness before… But to have that mentor or a network of social support within your profession to bounce off ideas. Hey, I’m feeling this. Or Hey, am I overreacting? Hey, is this normal? Should this be happening? All of those things that are important to have for your own mental and your own career trajectory.

Erin Brinker: It also builds trust within an organization. Any healthy organization has succession planning for all positions, but especially for those at the top. The people who are coming up should be mentored. Number one, you get to know them and trust them. Teams work better when you know each other better. Number two, you figure out what their strengths are. You have somebody coming up in an organization, you find out that they’re more people oriented, they’re numbers oriented, even if they’re working in the accounting department. Okay. So maybe they’ll be in leadership in one segment versus another. That’s part of mentoring, is getting to know the people that you are working with.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely. It’s really important, I think, and what you’re mentioning, with any sort of work environment, whether it’s an association like mine or a school or a regular business or a medical center, to know people’s strengths and weaknesses. Help them know those strengths and the weaknesses. It allows you, as a leader, to get the right people in the right positions to know what you need and when you need it. I think there’s a component of that as well. That mentorship really is important.

I think as some of the younger academic leaders that are starting to participate in some of my groups, and seeing them mature and seeing them grow and it’s really awesome to see, and inspiring to see people learning. Oh, here’s a way that I can get better engagement in my meetings. Here’s a way that I can get people to respond to my emails. Basic stuff that we take for granted. It’s fun to see it grow. I always have a rule for myself, okay, if anything… but I’ve had to learn it the hard way. If I’m having to email you more than a couple of times on a topic, it’s time to take it to the phone. Those are just things that I live by it. If there’s an email thread of a bunch of stuff, or if something is maybe going to elicit an emotion, let’s take it to a phone call, or better yet if face to face, if you can do that. Those are the things that I had to learn the hard way. I had to learn after email threads of 15 back and forth emails.

Erin Brinker: Everybody misunderstanding what’s happening and getting more and more frustrated or annoyed or hurt or whatever.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely. Absolutely. If I could pass on a little bit of the things I’ve learned the hard way to someone else, and keep them from making that mistake, I would love the opportunity. I think the mentorship month that we’re in now, culminates with thank your mentor on the 30th. I have a long list of folks that I’m going to be emailing that day and thanking.

Erin Brinker: Wonderful. Well Dr. Yanez, this has been enlightening and fun. Tell people how they can find you and follow you and learn more about the AANMC.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You bet. We are on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn. is our web handle. We host monthly webinars. We’ll have one this Friday about changing careers. If you’re interested or thinking about a career in naturopathic medicine, I hope you can join us.

Erin Brinker: Wonderful. Well it has been a treat as always. Dr. Yanez, thank you so much for joining us and have a wonderful rest of the week.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You bet. Thanks to you and same to you all.

Erin Brinker: With that, it’s time for a break. I’m Erin Brinker.

Todd Brinker: I’m Todd Brinker.

Erin Brinker: We are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA. We’ll be right back.

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Dr. Lily Stokely – Bastyr

“Before discovering naturopathic medicine, I felt a hunger for more information about the human body in both physical and emotional states. I felt torn between more mental/emotional healthcare fields and the physical. It seemed confusing that they were separated in conventional medicine. Naturopathic medicine is the only healthcare profession that I know of that has the ability to fully support all aspects of health. I wanted a profession that I knew I wouldn’t be bored with. I wanted to feel inspired and to have a foundation of tools that I could continue to learn from.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

“I always had an interest in health and medicine. Much of my life I knew I wanted to become a doctor. In college at the University of California, Berkeley, I studied dietetics hoping it would provide a more comprehensive view of health than simply diagnosing and prescribing medications. I knew I wanted to support people from a more holistic perspective and I didn’t feel that medical doctors had all the information. After studying dietetics, I graduated and was reminded again that this field also was only one piece to the holistic health puzzle. I wanted to support people with all determinants of health, not just one through nutrition. At this time, I didn’t know naturopathic medicine existed. I took two gap years and lived in Australia and South East Asia studying and teaching yoga while waitressing and deciding my next career moves. I found naturopathic medicine through the yoga community. After learning more about the naturopathic medical field it felt like everything that had been lacking in other health professions was miraculously combined in one provider. I applied to Bastyr from a beach in Thailand and quickly returned home to interview.”

Bastyr as a springboard

“After traveling through many countries, living in the Bay Area, and growing up in Northern California, I felt slightly ungrounded from a sense of where ‘home’ was. Seattle and the surrounding areas of Bastyr felt like home before I even moved there. In touring the school, the idea of taking breaks to walk on trails and being surrounded by gardens and fresh air felt supportive and needed amongst the intense course load I was about to embark on. The emphasis on research-based medicine and Bastyr’s reputation within the natural healthcare field was also important in my decision. Bastyr was the foundation to the therapeutic tools and philosophy that inspire me in practice. I gained a solid science background and exposure to many healing therapies.

After graduating I finished a two-year naturopathic residency with Emerald City Clinic in Seattle with an emphasis in primary care. In the last six months of residency, I started the process of starting my own clinic, opening a week after finishing my residency. I was fortunate to be able to have the majority of my patients have continuity of care from residency to private practice and opened my doors with a full schedule.

My private practice got busier than expected in the first year. I hired a full-time resident to join me one year into practice with two administrative staff. My husband also joined the practice as a naturopathic doctor. I leave work most days feeling fulfilled. Work days are long, however I’m working with a personal coach to find ways to improve work-life balance and walk the talk of foundations of health.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“Life is full, busy, wonderful, and challenging. The aspects I love most about being a naturopathic doctor are the vast amount of tools we have to support individuals. We never have to practice by a ‘one size fits all model.’ Bodies are diverse and naturopathic medicine provides tools to support and respect this diversity. One of my favorite experiences as an ND is when a patient may not tolerate or like the original suggestion of treatment that I provide and I then get to use creativity to provide an option that feels supportive to them individually. I am passionate about supporting people who are underserved in healthcare and providing a compassionate approach to aid in both physical healing, but also trust in the healthcare field.”

Advice for aspiring NDs

“It is important to go in clear on why you are choosing naturopathic medicine. The training and practice is hard, but it is rewarding work. If you are not connected with the why of what you are doing, it will lead to burn out.

I attribute much of my career success to developing skills to remain adaptable, while finding the aspects of the profession that allowed my innate skills to shine. I found a few skills that I knew I wanted to hone in on including eating disorder treatment and physical medicine early in my learning at Bastyr. At the time I may not have known that these would be my ‘specialties’ however in hindsight getting specific with skill development helped me develop a niche that has allowed my practice to thrive. I practice from a concept of Health at Every Size with all of my patients which embraces the idea that people’s bodies can be healthy at any size if given the support needed to respect hunger/fullness cues and step away from a diet centered approach to health. This concept partners with intuitive eating and includes dismantling of weight bias amongst individuals and our culture. These concepts are also the foundation of eating disorder prevention and treatment that I provide in my practice.”

Join Dr. Stokely for a free webinar – Eating Disorders, Naturopathic Care Can Help

“Naturopathic medicine matches every aspect of care that someone with an eating disorder may need such as counseling, nutritional support, treating digestive sequelae, lab analysis, and elongated visits. Although naturopathic doctors are well suited to provide eating disorder care, direct training in eating disorder treatment is limited in the medical field as a whole.”

Join Dr. Stokely for an informative webinar to learn about the need for eating disorder professionals, where to start if interested in becoming an eating disorder provider, and how the support of naturopathic physicians can be essential in eating disorder care. Click here to register.

Learn more about Dr. Stokely:


Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Bodypersonal excerpts about body image

Continued education courses on eating disorder treatment

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Taylor Goodwin – SCNM ND Student

Hailing from Provo, UT, Taylor Goodwin is a second-year naturopathic medical student at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM). He shares his experience leading up to starting his journey in naturopathic medicine, and as an ND student.

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

Taylor recognized the need for wellness and preventative care and felt a true calling in healthcare. His curiosity in how things work, including all things science, technology, engineering, and mathematics made naturopathic medicine a natural fit.

How did you prepare for ND school?

“I picked up classes outside my major when they interested me, and generally let curiosity be a guide. I participated in extracurricular activities such as being a teacher’s assistant, volunteering at my church, and interning as a doula with midwife Heather Shelley for two months in Utah.

There were four major factors in my consideration of a naturopathic medical school: the level and quality of research on the campus, that the material being taught is not based solely on someone’s opinion or tradition, the feeling/atmosphere of the campus, and the approval of the school by my mentor. After hearing Dr. Jeffrey Langland – SCNM’s Research Department Chair speak, I felt SCNM had everything I was looking for. Dr. Langland played a large role in raising SCNM’s credibility with me, while also remaining open minded and true to the naturopathic principles. I also liked the open atmosphere on campus.”

What is your favorite thing about school? What surprised you?

“One of my favorite things in school has been tutoring. I love to see people make connections, to see their eyes light up with curiosity’s spark, and feeling the desire to learn for the sake of discovery. Seeing that kindles my own spark, and drives me further.

The most surprising thing that I have learned hasn’t been academic, but about myself. I am much more capable in certain areas than I expected. I have also found that I am much more vulnerable to positive peer opinions than I am to negative ones. I’ve learned a new skill set in dealing with that. I also found it surprising how quickly a close ‘family’ vibe formed in our class.”

How do you maintain a school/life balance?

“At first I was doing well and wasn’t stressed about school. Then I allowed myself get sidetracked by personal issues which led to poor academic focus. I had to take a break for a while. However, I have since found that pushing up to my real breaking point, and beyond, has helped my perspective and self-understanding. I am stronger for it.

Several habits have helped: only using high density study methods, making sleep a priority, and finding things that get my mind away from school such as learning to play the guitar and playing games with friends. I have also had to learn when to say ‘no’ to activities and opportunities.”

Taylor is pictured in teal with a group he led at the Arizona Desert Botanical Garden.

Taylor’s extracurricular activities include: teaching and participating in religion classes, tutoring (view a tutoring video that he made on reflex physiology), serving as a teacher’s assistant, working on research projects (current topics include kennel cough as well as others), making home botanical medicines, leading local plant identification walks, botanical medicine gathering trips to Colorado, and mission trips with Naturopaths Without Borders to Mexico. He also teaches religion at his church, and participates in a weekly religion class at Arizona State University.

Taylor is pictured with his Naturopaths Without Borders team in Rocky Point, Mexico. He says, “By the time we return, we look exhausted and a bit rough around the edges, but are more satisfied than ever, knowing we truly made a difference.  Medically, we know more, and are more confident in our skills, as they are forged in fire through hands-on practice.”

What advice do you have for prospective ND students?

“Learn how to learn before starting naturopathic medical school. I would recommend a free online course – Learning How to Learn  by Barbra Oakley. I strongly encourage you to have a solid idea of why you are coming and why you are learning at the school you choose. Figure out how to hold on to it because when it gets hard, you need to be able to remember why you are there and why you are doing what you are doing. Feed that daily, and you’ll have the emotional fortitude and motivation to solve all the more direct problems as they arise.”

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Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter and Humor

Few things are as emotionally satisfying as a good belly laugh. Many people became familiar with laughter as medicine thanks to the work of Robin Williams in the movie Patch Adams. Based on a true story, Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams established the Gesundheit Institute dedicated to spreading humor, laughter, and joy to patients.

“There is so much literature specific to the beneficial effects of humor on health, but one truly advantageous benefit that is often missed is the impact on the doctor patient relationship. We are social individuals by nature, and humor is such an efficacious tool to allow a patient to feel comfortable and establish a sense of connection.  Humor has the ability to transform a dry and stagnant interaction to one that embodies the opportunity for trust, conversation and most importantly, compliance.  Patients want a chance to be heard and be themselves: a good joke, laugh, and smile is many times the simple answer!”

Joseph Vazquez, ND

Assistant Professor and Attending Clinician, National University of Health Sciences

Experiencing optimal health is a multifactorial process, usually thought of involving a healthy diet, exercise program, and other lifestyle choices. Laughter is a universal characteristic of all humans, and having a sense of humor and finding opportunities to laugh have been linked to better overall health, both mentally and physically. Everyone enjoys a good laugh. Here are some ways laughter can help you live a healthier and happier life!

Psychological Health


Not surprisingly, humor and laughter are great for the mood. Many studies have shown that laughter and humor are excellent stress relievers and effective at lowering anxiety by increasing levels of the “happy” brain chemicals, dopamine and serotonin. Cortisol and epinephrine (the stress hormones) decrease with laughter. A study involving “laughing yoga” classes, found that participants reported increased vigor and reduced tension. 1,2 Laughter has also been shown to alleviate depression and improve sleep quality. 3

Quality of Life

The stress of caring for sick loved ones is well-documented. Laughter therapy has been used to improve the psychological health of HIV patient caregivers. 4 Nursing home patients also saw improvement in quality of life markers with just a little levity. 5 Laughter therapy has also been shown to significantly improve the quality of life in cancer patients. 6

Cognitive Health

Laughter even has a beneficial effect on cognitive health.  In one study, watching humorous videos improved short term memory, learning and visual recognition in elderly diabetic patients. 7 And of course, laughter is a fundamental way of connecting socially and improves relationships across the board. 8

“Humor is a free, easy, noninvasive, and scientifically supported therapy that provides many health benefits. Laughter encourages the release of the body’s natural “feel good” hormones that promote a sense of well-being as well as increase immune cells to provide resistance to illness.”

Krystal Crawford, ND, MS, AHG (RH)

Graduate, University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine

Physical Benefits

Pain Reduction

Laughter and humor also have significant physical health benefits.  For example, in a study involving pain tolerance and muscle soreness, watching a comedic movie for just 30 minutes significantly and immediately reduced symptoms compared to a placebo group that viewed a documentary. 9

Cardiovascular Health

It is well-established that conditions such as depression and anger are detrimental to cardiovascular health, but whether or not the opposite is true, that is, if positive feelings are beneficial to cardiovascular health is still being studied.  One study did find that watching comedic films increased vascular function in healthy adults compared to those who watched a documentary. 10 In patients awaiting organ transplants, laughing yoga classes significantly improved cardiac function, and their moods improved immediately. 11  Another study involving over 20,000 people investigated the correlation between how often the participants laughed and their risk of developing heart disease and stroke.  Those who claimed to rarely or never laugh had significantly higher occurrences of both conditions than those who said that they laughed daily. 12  Daily laughter was also linked to lower mortality and heart disease in a Japanese study. 13


Immune System

Laughter and humor can also boost the immune system. In a study involving postpartum women, it was found that laughter therapy increased immune function significantly over placebo (14), and in another study investigating obese women, laughing therapy reduced the inflammatory markers, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).  The participants’ blood glucose levels were also decreased. 15


NDs share stories of patients treated with humor

“A male teenager and his mother came to me for weight management issues. He was overweight and had a family history of diabetes and obesity. He performed well academically and was an avid fan of video games and water polo; however, he recognized that his health and weight were becoming an issue. Actually, his mother recognized this. In fact, it was his mother who answered the majority of my questions, interjected with stories and clinical caveats, while he sat there, and didn’t say much besides an occasional ‘yes’ or ‘no’ teenage head nod. 

I was able to speak with him more when his mother left the room, and he confirmed that he wanted to lose weight, eat healthy and become active again.  He had already taken initiative and was proactive about the process, eating meals that his mother prepared for him and getting more movement throughout the day.

From my assessment, he was on the right track!  I asked if his mother was helping with the process and he agreed.  I asked if she was helping “too much” and he finally cracked a smile.  When I was ready to deliver the treatment plan with both of them in the room, I asked a few more questions directed to the mother.  “Are you preparing healthy meals for him?” to which she animatedly said “Yes!”  I said “Great,” and immediately moved on to the next question, “Does he suffer from any hearing loss or impediment?”  Again, she vehemently denied, but now seemed curious as to my line of questions.  I again said “good” and asked my next question, “Do you remind him that he needs to eat healthy and exercise?”  Her eyes grew big and enthusiastically said “Oh yes, absolutely!”  I quickly asked “How many times a day?”  She paused and then answered, “A few.”  I smiled and asked again, “Does he suffer from any hearing loss or impediment?”  At that point, the mother began to laugh out loud and quickly covered her mouth.  Her son looked at me with open eyes and a big smile, surprised that I “caught” his mother in the act, so to speak. 

We continued to have a long discussion on how to best support her son, and for him to acknowledge and show appreciation.  There were both tears and laughter on her part, but by the time the visit was over, she gave me a big hug and delivered a heartfelt “Thank you.”  Her son shook my hand, with the same smile that never went away 10-15 minutes prior.  The visit was so much more than a plan addressing weight loss and lifestyle modifications, rather, addressing the relationships that either get in our way or support the process.”

Joseph Vazquez, ND

Assistant Professor and Attending Clinician, National University of Health Sciences

“Humor serves as a great communication tool to relieve stress and facilitate a healthy doctor-patient relationship.  I use laughter in my consultations to lighten the mood which is helpful for my patients during dark times. Humor distracts patients from their fears and reduces their stress allowing them to open up about the challenges they’ve faced with their illness and diffuse their feelings of sadness, fear, and anger.”

Krystal Crawford, ND, MS, AHG (RH)

Graduate, University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine

So, it would seem that laughter really is the best medicine! In the words of Patch Adams, “The most radical act anyone can commit is to be happy,” so let yourself be, and remember to take time to fill your days with laughter.

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