Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC executive director, joins KCAA’s NBC LA affiliate On the Brink to discuss how skin issues may be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Uncovering the root cause of your skin issues is just one of the many things naturopathic doctors excel in.

Full Transcript of Interview Below.

Topics Include:

  • Natural approaches to healthy skin
  • Skin conditions as a symptom of an underlying health problem
  • Uncovering the root cause of skin conditions
  • Relationship between the gut and skin
  • Empowering people to be active participants in their health
  • Naturopathic medicine’s holistic approach to health care
  • And more…

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

Todd Brinker: … and I’m Todd Brinker …

Erin Brinker: … and we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA AM 1050, FM 106.5, and FM 102.3. Did I say that already? I probably did.

Erin Brinker: Dr. JoAnn Yanez is joining us. She is the Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges and Chair of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health. She also serves on the Integrative Health Policy Consortium Education Committee. Weaving a passion for illness prevention into her professional life, her career has spanned advocacy, academia, patient care and public health. As AANMC Executive Director, she oversees research, advocacy efforts, and the joint academic endeavors of the accredited colleges of naturopathic medicine. She joins us once a month to talk about all things health and wellness and overall just feeling good. Dr. JoAnn Yanez, welcome to the show.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Good morning, Erin and Todd. How are you both?

Erin Brinker: Doing great. How are you?

Todd Brinker: Really good.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Really well. Thank you for having me on!

Erin Brinker:  Surviving this heat? Oh, of course. Surviving the heat?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Meh.

Erin Brinker: Everywhere you live has a time of year where it’s just not fun, and this is ours. And it’s not nine months of snow, so I really can’t complain, but it’s pretty darn hot outside.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yeah. Having lived through negative 40-degree South Dakota winters.

Erin Brinker: Oh, wow.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yeah. Every place its thing.

Erin Brinker: Every place has it today.

Todd Brinker: Yeah. You learn to dress for it or stay inside.

Erin Brinker: So, what are we talking about today?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Oh, we’re talking about healthy skin naturally.

Erin Brinker: Oh, well that’s important.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: It is important. And in the summertime, people are thinking about their skin. They’re showing more. They’re out, they’re getting sunburns. And so we’re talking about how to keep your skin healthy naturally.

One of the things that sometimes comes up for people who have skin issues is because it’s hot out. You’re wanting to dress more coolly and show more skin, but we don’t think about people with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, different types of dermatitis that may feel self-conscious of their skin and showing skin when they have skin conditions going on and even acne. And so that’s one of the things this time of year that sometimes people aren’t quite cognizant of is that connection between the mental, emotional component to having “healthy looking skin.”

Erin Brinker: Well, there are autoimmune diseases and things that can affect the skin. Not drinking enough water can affect the skin. Diet can affect the skin.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely.

Erin Brinker: What is a person to do to keep themselves, keep their skin looking healthy?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: So, here’s the thing. There is such a connection between our brain and our skin, and our gut and our skin. And so, when you see a naturopathic doctor for skin issues, whatever they are, like you said, skin issues can manifest from a number of different illnesses. And so, rather than treating a skin issue as a symptom to be suppressed … “Okay, let’s just put something on this and make it go away.” A naturopathic doctor takes a different approach. We’re going to say, “Okay, you’ve got something going on your skin, but what is this a deeper symptom of? Is this a food intolerance or a food allergy? Is this how stress or anxiety is manifesting in your body?” Like you said, “Is this a sign of a thyroid disorder or something endocrine related? What is the root of this issue? Let’s find that deal with that so that the skin issue will be gone forever.”

The last time I was on, I talked a little bit about my own personal skin flares and soy, and a friend of mine, who we ultimately found out his was related to nuts.

Erin Brinker: Oh.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: He was grabbing a handful of mixed nuts every day and eating that as a snack, and lo and behold, that was his main trigger.

I think for people finding that underlying cause to whatever is manifesting is really the ultimate goal of naturopathic medicine. And so, that’s where we focus. And so we may utilize things like diet diaries and elimination rotation diets, but we also may throw into the mix anti-inflammatory diets or anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements. Things like fish oil and turmeric all can be used to help manage skin condition as can topical preparations of botanical medicine, different supplements and so on. So, there’s a lot to be said for many different types of approaches that support the body in healing the skin.

Erin Brinker: Wow. I’m just thinking about the guy thinking he’s being healthy by having nuts, a handful and nuts as a satisfying afternoon snack and found out that, no, no, it’s actually harming him. But your skin then is the canary in the coal mine, right? I mean it tells you when something’s wrong.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Your skin really is. And there is up to 80%, it’s estimated, of our immune system is actually housed in our gut. And so, if you’re having an immune response, autoimmune or an allergy response or a sensitivity response, that gut is going to be one of the first lines for that.

But the thing is, and this is one of the really cool things that I learned in naturopathic medical school was the embryological. So when we’re embryos and we’re developing, the gut and the skin actually develop from the same embryological membrane. And so, there is a very connected relationship between our gut and our skin, and how things are manifesting in the gut can ultimately surface on the skin. And so, it’s really fascinating, and one of those little tidbits that got pointed out and in the slew of “ology” classes that made my first year of med school.

But I do want to say though that I think it is fascinating, the relationship, and that’s one of the key pieces that NDs take home is there is a connection between the gut and the skin, the brain and the skin. Our emotions. And it’s not just one system, it’s all connected. And that’s why the holistic approach that we take to healthcare really means a lot to patients, and often uncovers things that they may not have realized otherwise.

Erin Brinker: So, where do you start out? And I’m thinking of people who deal with things like cystic acne or who maybe just have a cyst that keeps coming back, or whatever psoriasis, or any other skin disorder. Where do you start in trying to uncover the cause?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yeah. So, you start with a really good history. So often people are really smart. They know what’s wrong with them. They may just not have the medical language to assess that and share. But NDs, we’ll take our first office visit anywhere between one to two hours, and so we start with a really thorough history that covers everything from diet and stress and sleep and bowel habits and energy and sexual drive and all of that. And we roll that all into a very comprehensive history. There may be written intakes and written forms that you may be taking for your doctor as well. And then there’s a physical exam, and possibly lab tests, and maybe even referrals to specialists if needed. And all of that gets rolled into finding a diagnosis, finding the root cause, and starting to work with the patient on where that root is and what they’re able to do.

And so, one of the things NDs do is we meet patients where they are, and you have to know your patient. You have to spend time with them to really understand where that person is and what therapies they’re going to the most likely to stick. If you tell a lifelong vegan, “Hey, you’ve got to eat meat,” and just send them out the door, that’s probably not going to work so well. But if you talk to lifelong Vegan and say, “Hey, what do you think about this? Because what I’m seeing here is something that could possibly be helped by doing X,” and you engage them in the process and they may say, “Well, I’d be willing to try that,” or “I’m really not willing to try that. Give me something different.”

And so, you have to meet people where they’re at. We can’t make people heal. They have to heal themselves. And so, it’s really important that the patient be a partner in that healing, and be involved in the process. And it isn’t just this paternalistic system of “I’m going to tell you what to do. I know what’s right. You go do it.”

Erin Brinker: Right. Because we all know that doesn’t work, just telling people “Do it this way,” because if that were true, if it did work, we would have no Type II diabetics in the country.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: We’d have no smokers.

Erin Brinker: Right, right.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: We’d have no alcoholics.

Todd Brinker: “Just stop.” Sure.

Erin Brinker: Sure. That’ll happen.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Stop, yes. Just stop.

You bring up a really important point, and I talked earlier about the mental emotional component, and there is so much there that is mental, emotional. If you’re not dealing with that … Yesterday, we had a webinar on food as medicine, and we had almost 900 people sign up for it. And it was really fascinating to see how many people are really, truly interested in understanding that connection between what we eat and how we feel. Next month, we’re going to have a webinar on regenerative medicine and pain, natural approaches to pain.

But ultimately, I think people are really interested in knowing how they can take part in their healthcare, and take responsibility, and understand that that relationship. But when you get to the root cause, sometimes you’re going to uncover trauma. Sometimes you’re going to uncover deep-seated depression and anxiety and things that require work. And NDs are capable of doing that work or referring to folks who can do that work if it’s out of their scope.

But I think that that is so important in recognizing that we’re whole people. The head isn’t disconnected from the body. I know our system is very segmented. We’ve got, you know, dermatologists and gastroenterologists and neurologists, and it’s all important to have people who have very hyper-focused on an area, but we can’t forget the whole person in doing so. I think that’s where naturopathic medicine excels.

Erin Brinker: Indeed. So how do people get more information about the Association for Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, and more about you?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Oh, sure. Well, we are on the internet, all over Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and on the web at AANMC.org. And next week, we’ll be at the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Annual Conference talking to folks about residencies. And how to become a residency sponsor or be a resident yourself. And so we’re all over the place, and we’re excited to be promoting this wonderful field of naturopathic medicine.

Thank you both for having me on.

Erin Brinker: Thank you.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: And, Todd, welcome to the show.

Erin Brinker: Well, it is always, always a treat to have you with us, and we look forward to next month.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You Bet. Thanks so much folks.

Erin Brinker: Thank you.

Todd Brinker: Nice talking. Bye-bye.

Erin Brinker: So, with that, it’s time for a break. I’m Erin Brinker …

Todd Brinker: … and I’m Todd Brinker …

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

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