“I like to help the underdog because I’ve been the underdog. The one who is not feeling well, hasn’t found an answer, who wants to feel better and will do what it takes, even if that means facing fears of how their life may change and that they may actually get what they want – whether that is a baby, a relationship, a new job, or the ability to travel.”
Doni (Donielle) Wilson, ND, CPM, CNS is a naturopathic doctor, professional midwife, and bestselling author who developed a protocol for helping patients based on her own health journey, research, and experience in helping thousands of patients.
Laying the groundwork to become an ND
“I grew up in a pharmacy. While I was surrounded by medications, my father taught me to make diet and lifestyle choices in order to avoid the need for medications. In my family home, we weren’t allowed to have sugar cereal or soda. Instead we took vitamins and fought our way through a cold with tea and rest.
When in college, studying for a pre-med degree, I decided I wanted to also get a degree in nutrition. I ended up solving the heartburn I had been experiencing by studying nutrition and changing my diet. None of the medications had worked, and it turns out that my body is super sensitive to medications, so the side effects tended not to outweigh the benefits.
When I graduated from college, I left pharmacy school and walked into naturopathic medical school, where I learned that what I had suspected was true:
Our bodies are responsive. Just as health conditions develop when we are exposed to stress, eat unhealthily, skimp on sleep, and put pressure on ourselves to be something different…our health can improve when we make the decision to create a different experience. When we decide to take steps to improve our health, and we choose to eat differently, sleep more, decrease exposure to stress and toxins, and believe in ourselves and our ability to create a life we love…our health can improve.
That is when I knew I was on the right path.”
“Living the dream” after graduation
Dr. Doni graduated from Bastyr University with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine and a certificate in midwifery. The education that she gained at Bastyr allowed her to start practicing and to continue learning, it also gave her the credibility to start writing and speaking about natural medicine publicly and professionally.
Following graduation, Dr. Doni completed a one-year residency at Bastyr, and then moved to New York. She built her business while working at an ND practice. This “soft” approach allowed her to hone her skills and continue learning. When her daughter started school, she opened her practice full-time.
“My success was also closely tied to my passion. Every day and every choice I made was about sharing my passion for natural medicine. I saw that the internet was going to be a great way to reach people, so I created a website and started sharing it. I learned to create and give presentations, and found places I could give lectures. I was willing to try, and to learn. I reached out to practicing NDs, and created a community so we could support each other. I joined the professional organization and became part of the board and legislative team, all with the intent of creating greater awareness, as well as a scope and accountability for the profession. I said “yes” to media opportunities and leadership training. And it continued from there.
I started practicing in Manhattan in November 2001, and Connecticut soon after. I wanted to practice in a state where I’m licensed – that was a priority for me – and so I drove/drive/fly thousands of miles per year to make that happen. I was president and executive director of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians for over ten years, during which time I worked with the board of directors to establish and grow the professional organization, as well as to establish an effective lobbying effort and annual conference.
Finding fulfillment as an ND
Due to the flexibility of her naturopathic degree, Dr. Doni says, “I create a practice the way I want it to fit into my life, and I can change it as needed over time. It means that I can focus on areas that inspire me, from working one on one, to working in groups, to writing, speaking, researching, volunteering, and overall continuing to learn and grow as a person.
I get to do what I love and have time to be with the people and pets that I love. I mainly work from my home office, and travel to my other offices. I continue to share my passion for health and resiliency to stress though my blog, website and newsletter, as well as podcasts and events.
Each day I meet with patients who come in to see me and say ‘I realized that the only one I can count on to take care of my body and my health is me. And so, I am here to find out what I can do, in the most efficient, more cost-effective way, to change my health outcome, with the least use of medications and procedures that may work temporarily, but also come with a list of potential side effects and dependencies. I want to know what I can eat and do to give my body the support it needs to heal and be healthy so I can do what I love to do without being stopped by health issues, for as long as possible.’
I help patients who have had recurrent miscarriages to finally be able to get pregnant and have a healthy baby. I help women with abnormal pap smears to get back to a health pap smear without drugs or procedures that could damage their cervix. I help men and women who no longer know how they can get through another day due to fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and/or pain, to be living their passion and feeling good doing it. I help adults and children who’ve been told that their immune system is attacking their own body and there is nothing they can do about it, to reverse autoimmunity without the risk of immune suppressive medications.
I am passionate about inspiring people to make choices to recover from and be resilient to stress. I help change the way people relate to themselves and others. To become accepting of ourselves as humans who are adaptive and responsive to stress, and therefore, longevity depends on making sometimes difficult decisions related to the foods we eat, the toxins we are exposed to, and how we choose to communicate and be with the people in our lives. Health is not about taking medications to solve symptoms; health is about solving the equation: genetics + stress exposure.”
How Can You be so Confident that the Body Can Heal?
“I’ve seen it happen in thousands of patients over 20 years. People who chose to listen and chose to take a chance that their body could heal when they make different decisions. I saw it in my own body. I lived with severe, debilitating migraines for 25 years. I am sensitive to medications, and because of my genetics, I’m not able to take medications due to severe side effects, and when I do, they don’t help. I was forced to figure out how to bring the pain to a stop. In the process of trying diet changes and various systems of medicine, from acupuncture to massage therapy, to detoxification and hormone balancing, I found that solving my migraines came down to three steps:
- Accept my body for what it is. My genes and my stress exposure set me up for migraines. I can’t go get another body, but I can do something different with this body and this situation. Instead of rejecting my body and being mad at myself for something I cannot change, I decided to accept my body and from there, I can do something about it.
- Get information. I looked at my genes and figured out how to support my body based on my genetics. And looked at my stress exposure, including from foods, toxins and stress that I put on myself, and I noticed what is having a negative effect. I measured my cortisol and adrenaline levels, and did a test to know which bacteria are living in my gut, and this way I know for sure what exists in my body, what is out of balance, and what needs to be addressed.
- Choose differently. Once I discovered that I have a gene called MTHFR, and I require a certain quantity of the right B vitamins each day, I could choose that. And then when I realized that I have a gene that causes my joints to be hyper-mobile, meaning that sitting in the same position for long periods of time is the worst possible thing for my body, I ordered a standing desk and make sure to never sit for more than an hour at a time. When I tested my toxin levels and found that my body was filled with flame retardant from the mattress I was sleeping on, I threw out that mattress and took nutrients to help my body get rid of the toxins.
I don’t get migraines anymore. And even though my parents and grandparents had autoimmunity, I don’t. I wish I had help to solve my health issues when I needed it. Instead of giving up and giving in to a life of pain medications, I decided there had to be something I could do to figure this out, and I did.
I’ve never had recurrent miscarriages, abnormal pap smears, or autoimmunity, but I know how to solve them because I use the same method I used to solve my migraines. I used to have allergies, sensitivities to many foods, fatigue, menstrual cramps, anxiety and depression. Now they are all gone too.
I like to help the underdog because I’ve been the underdog. The one who is not feeling well, hasn’t found an answer, who wants to feel better and will do what it takes, even if that means facing fears of how their life may change and that they may actually get what they want – whether that is a baby, a relationship, a new job, or the ability to travel.
I was the perpetual ‘new girl’ throughout my childhood. I attended 10 different schools in six different cities by the time I graduated from high school. I was always the last one picked for a team, and the first to have my name mispronounced by the teacher. I had to learn to do many things on my own, to be okay in vulnerable situations, and to stand up for myself. I also learned that it is possible to be healthy even when stressed, and possible to find solutions even if they might not be what everyone else is choosing.”
Advice for aspiring NDs
“Check in with yourself and your passion. Why are you considering naturopathic medicine as a career path? How do you feel about your health and how have you addressed your health so far in your life? What inspires you? How do you want to spend your time in your life? Do you love to inspire others and share your knowledge in a way that empowers others?”
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