Eating Disorders, Naturopathic Care Can Help

Nearly 30 million Americans will struggle with disordered eating at some point in their lives, and millions of others with food and weight preoccupation. These serious illnesses affect individuals across the spectrum of gender, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status. Join the AANMC and Dr. Lily Stokely for an intimate view into the sensitive topic of disordered eating.

Dr. Stokely will cover:
– the role of a naturopathic physician in an integrative outpatient approach to eating disorder treatment
– diagnosis and naturopathic treatment of eating disorders
– eating disorder prevention
– a patient story of overcoming disordered eating

*Webinar does not qualify for CE

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About the Presenter

Dr. Lily Stokely is the founder of One Connection Healthcare, in addition to the serving as lead physician for eating disorder treatment at Rooted Heart Healthcare. She is a licensed primary care naturopathic physician who studied naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, receiving extra curricular training in intuitive eating, kinesio taping, craniosacral therapy, visceral manipulation, biofeedback, trigger point injection therapy, homeopathy, as well as completion of a two-year counseling internship as a student counselor at the University. She completed a two year residency under the supervision of Dr. Molly Niedermeyer at Emerald City Naturopathic Clinic.

Dr. Stokely holds a bachelors of science degree in dietetics from The University of California, Berkeley where she gained additional training in teaching Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating models. Additionally, she is a yoga teacher with experience instructing private and public classes as well as yoga teacher trainings. Dr. Stokely is a group facilitator for support groups of varying topics including eating disorders, intuitive eating, relationships and movement/exercise.

She lives and practices from the perspective that every individual has their own unique definition of what it means to be healthy. Dr. Stokely is passionate about aiding people in their exploration of health and works from an integrative, whole body, mind, spirit perspective. She believes that it is important to practice what she teaches and does her best to live from a place of self-care, kindness, and compassion as she hopes to help others do the same.

Prior to her work in health, Dr. Stokely grew up in a very small, rural community in the far northern mountains of California. She was raised learning to care for the land through gardening and tending to the farm animals. This childhood allowed her to develop a deep appreciation for nature and a passion for discovering the human connection within it. In her spare time she currently enjoys spending time with family, hiking, camping, skiing, gardening, and playing frisbee with her German Shepherd.

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Naturopathic Approaches to Anxiety and Depression

Millions of people experience depression and anxiety, and often feel their only option is to take medications that may not completely resolve the issues. Studies show that anxiety and depression are related both to our genetic tendencies and our exposure to various stresses in life. We can address our genetic tendencies and help our bodies recover from stress using natural approaches such as mindfulness, dietary changes, nutrients, amino acid therapy, as well as optimizing hormones, blood sugar, and gut bacteria. Naturopathic doctors can serve this population and help people resolve mood-related issues once and for all.

*Webinar does not qualify for CE

Register Now!

*The information you submit in this registration will be used to inform you of updates to this event and will enroll you in the AANMC newsletter. The AANMC values your privacy. Please see how we protect your data in our privacy policy .

To view the archive of past webinar recordings, please click here.


About the Presenter

Donielle (Doni) Wilson, is a doctor of naturopathic medicine (Bastyr University alumna), natural health expert, nutritionist, midwife and author who believes it is possible to be healthy, even when we are stressed. After experiencing and recovering from stress herself, Dr. Doni wrote a book called The Stress Remedy. In that book she redefines stress to include toxins, food sensitivities, and lack of sleep. She explains how stress causes adrenal distress, leaky gut, and blood sugar imbalances. And she offers expert guidance on how to reclaim optimal health with the approach she has used to help thousands of patients. She specializes in gluten sensitivity, intestinal permeability, adrenal stress, insulin resistance, neurotransmitter imbalances, hypothyroidism, women’s health issues, autoimmunity and genetic variations called “SNPs”, such as MTHFR, which can have a profound impact upon your health. For nearly 20 years, she has helped women, men and children overcome their most perplexing health challenges and achieve their wellness goals by crafting individualized strategies that address the whole body and the underlying causes of health issues. Dr. Doni is frequently called upon to discuss her approach in the media, as well as at both public and professional events. She writes a blog that you can find at DrDoni.com.

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Dr. Doni Wilson – Bastyr

“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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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?”

Join Dr. Doni for a free webinar – Naturopathic Approaches to Anxiety and Depression

“Naturopathic medicine can offer those struggling with anxiety and depression a solution that is not reliant on prescription medication with side effects and dependency. By understanding our bodies, our physiology and our stress response system, and then investigating how stress (of various forms) has affected your body, we can then give your body what it needs to improve many symptoms and conditions, including anxiety and depression.”

Here’s what you can expect to learn:

  • Your body and brain CAN heal
  • What causes anxiety and depression
  • What role does stress play in anxiety and depression
  • What is the gut-brain axis and the relationship of our nervous system to the rest of our body
  • What are neurotransmitters and where do they come from
  • Which tests can help us understand the underlying causes of anxiety and depression
  • What protocol to follow to re-balance your body in order to reduce anxiety and depression
  • What other therapies to consider on your path

Click here to register for the webinar.

 
Learn more about Dr. Doni:

Website

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

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Naturopathic Approaches to Gut Health

“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates

One of the most common complaints that naturopathic doctors encounter revolves around digestion and digestive health. It is estimated that roughly 70 million Americans are affected by some type of digestive disorder, which includes everything from gas and bloating, constipation or diarrhea, to an actual named disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. 1

Why is digestive health so important and why do NDs focus on it?

As the Hippocrates quote heading this article indicates, “All disease begins in the gut.”  This idea is echoed in naturopathic medical practice, as gastrointestinal (GI) function contributes to many other aspects of overall health.

A newer concept in mental and emotion health is the “gut/brain axis.”  It is acknowledged that there is an intricate communication mechanism between the digestive system and the brain. In fact, the gut is so highly innervated that it has its own dedicated nervous system, the enteric nervous system (ENS). The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and ENS provide a feedback system to each other via the vagus nerve (a cranial nerve that innervates the heart, lungs, and almost the entire GI tract). 2 They are also connected through the limbic system (hypothalamus and amygdala), the area of the brain involved in memory and emotional response. 3

The vagus nerve begins in the brain stem and travels through the neck, down through the thoracic and abdominal regions, and particularly affects the organs of the digestive system.  During times of stress, anxiety, or depression for example, signals from the vagus nerve travel to the GI tract and can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. The feedback mechanism is such that these messages travel back up to the brain via the vagus nerve, possibly creating even more mental and emotional registration of symptoms. A similar effect occurs between the gut and limbic system in that signals from the brain impact digestive health and vice versa. 4 Additionally, many neurotransmitters directly act via the gut-brain axis, such as dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Large amounts of serotonin are actually produced in the gut. 5

The microbiome, which is a collection of micro-organisms found primarily in the large intestine, is critically important in optimal gut function, and overall health as well. The microbiome is an enormous population of bacteria that had previously been thought to outnumber our own body’s cells by as many as 10:1, though a recent study reports that the ratio is closer to 1:1 in most people. 6 That’s still a lot of bugs! The microbiome has been connected to several health conditions including depression and anxiety (7), lung conditions such as asthma and cystic fibrosis (8), impaired immune function (including autoimmunity and allergy) (9) , obesity (10), type 2 diabetes (11), Alzheimer’s Disease (12), Autistic Spectrum Disorders (13), and epilepsy.14

Finally, digestive health is tied to immune function, as nearly 70% of our entire immune system resides in the gut! 15 This intricate immune system consists of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and is part of the larger mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) which includes immune cells in the respiratory tract, oral passage, and genitourinary tract. These GALT areas of tissue, referred to as Peyer’s Patches, are found prominently throughout the intestinal tract and are critical in protecting us from pathogenic or opportunistic microbes (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses) and toxic material that may be in our food and water supply.

I often talk with my patients about how they can be good stewards of their digestive tract. It’s pretty straight forward (though not always easy) – eat plenty of plants (the brighter and more polyphenol rich, the better!), drink enough water (filtered, please), get daily de-stressing time and restful sleep, and avoid excessive snacking between meals and give your gut that nice long nighttime fast (it works hard, and needs breaks just like you!). If doing these things are difficult for you to implement or you have symptoms regardless, find a physician that can help you navigate appropriate testing and treatment. This is what we naturopathic physicians do best!

Megan Taylor, ND

Graduate, National University of Natural Medicine

Naturopathic Approach to Gut Health

Because NDs practice medicine by identifying the root cause of any condition, testing is usually required to determine underlying pathology responsible for issues in a patient’s health. If someone is suffering from digestive complaints, blood testing for food sensitivities and allergies, bacterial or yeast overgrowth via a stool test or even a breath test can be utilized to determine if there are organisms living in the small intestine (where there should not be) or other imbalances implicated in symptom expression.  Treatment is then individualized based on the results of the testing.  The following are digestive issues that are commonly treated by naturopathic doctors.

Dysbiosis

As described above, the microbiome is a collection of bacteria that resides in the large intestine of the digestive tract.  Unbalanced gut flora is one of the primary drivers of many digestive disorders. The problem can be either an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria, or an undergrowth of beneficial bugs.  Frequently, an overgrowth of yeast is to blame, and the most common symptoms produced are gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Dysbiosis can be diagnosed via a stool test (large intestine imbalance) or a breath test for the small intestine. The naturopathic approach for treatment is a “weed and feed” process.  Either herbal or prescription antimicrobials (sometimes alternating with both) are given to kill the bad bacteria (the weeding), and then a probiotic is prescribed to re-populate the gut with good bacteria (the feeding). In this way, the good bacteria are able to crowd out the harmful microbes and proper digestive functioning can be re-established. Prebiotics may also be prescribed. These are substrates that the beneficial bacteria use to grow.

An example of dysbiosis (microbiome imbalance) which has become better understood in recent years is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO occurs when bacteria inappropriately colonize the small intestine.  Because of defective motility of the gut, the bacteria migrate upward rather than staying in the colon where they belong. As with other forms of dysbiosis, the symptoms are abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. The treatment is also comprised of a weed and feed approach (remove offending bacteria and then replace with beneficial ones), with the addition of motility agents that prevent the bacteria from moving upward.

Dietary Considerations for Dysbiosis

Dietary considerations must be taken into account when balancing the microbiome to prevent and treat dysbiosis. Highly processed foods are associated with a less healthy microbiome, particularly a diet high in refined carbohydrates and low-quality fats. These foods have been shown to reduce the biodiversity of the microbiome, resulting in a host of health issues that may be related to the above conditions. A diet high in legumes, fruits, and vegetables are associated with a more diverse microbiome which keeps inflammation at bay and ensures a more properly functioning immune system. 16

Leaky Gut

Intestinal permeability, or leaky gut as it is commonly known, is a condition that affects the lining of the small intestine. When the intestinal wall comes into contact with inflammatory foods, toxins from food and water, or even metabolites from the above-mentioned bacteria and fungi, this can result in damage to the cells that line the gut. Connections between the cells are referred to as “tight junctions,” because its job is to create a sufficient barrier between the gut and the bloodstream. 17  This is necessary to prevent larger proteins from food and toxins from escaping out of the GI tract and entering the system. If these tight junctions are affected, and become “leaky” and proteins do escape, the immune system identifies them as outside invaders and will launch an immune response, resulting in food sensitivities, allergies, and autoimmunity. 18

Leaky gut is typically addressed by identifying and eliminating food sensitivities, healing the gut lining with supplements such as L-glutamine, and adding anti-inflammatory herbs and a whole foods diet low in processed fats and carbohydrates.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as its name suggests, is chronic inflammation of the gut. Generally speaking, the two most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis UC) and are characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and weight loss. 19

While the cause of IBD is not entirely known, research suggests that a genetic component may be present, combined with environmental factors, such as stress and lack of exercise, and of course, the state of the microbiome. 20 Research shows that a diet high in low quality fats, frequent meals of fast foods, high refined carbohydrate intake, and low fiber diets result in a dysbiosis that may exacerbate symptoms of IBS. Dietary recommendations include a low fat, high fiber, diet that excludes potential triggers such as dairy and refined grains. Foods high in vitamins A, D, E, folate, and beta carotene, as well as minerals zinc, selenium, manganese, and iron appear to be particularly helpful. 21

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Heartburn, and acid reflux are other names for GERD, which is an extremely common condition affecting approximately 20% of people in the United States. 22 GERD occurs when stomach acid moves upward from the stomach into the esophagus and results in symptoms of chest pain/burning, sour taste in the mouth, sore throat, chronic cough, and difficulty swallowing, and is usually worse at night when lying down. 23  GERD is caused by a laxity of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which allows the gastric juices to “reflux” up into the esophagus rather than remaining in the stomach where they belong. GERD is typically diagnosed by symptoms; however, an endoscopy may be ordered to assess for damage to the esophagus or to rule out more serious conditions. 24

Naturopathic treatments include finding and eliminating food sensitives, body work to tonify the LES, and supplements/ herbs that are soothing and healing to the upper digestive tract (see below).

Naturopathic doctors focus on making the delicately balanced system work the way it should – removing reactionary and irritating foods from the diet, balancing the flora, and encouraging digestion and motility. Just as importantly, we teach the patient to take charge of the process of healing and to alter lifestyle factors. We do not suppress the symptom to manage a disease. We will use drugs and surgery if it is necessary for the case, but as a last option.

Wm. Thor Conner, ND

Graduate, National University of Health Sciences

Supplements for Gut Health

Because digestive complaints are so incredibly prevalent in our society, naturopathic doctors have lots of treatment options to help re-establish gut health! Here are a few of our favorites:

  • L-Glutamine – this amino acid acts as a primary fuel source for the cells of the GI tract and can heal leaky gut.
  • Digestive Enzymes – taken orally, digestive enzymes help breakdown our meals to ensure proper digestive function and takes stress off of the pancreas and gall bladder.
  • De-glycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) – is made from licorice root (not the candy!) and is used to sooth inflamed tissues from GERD and to treat gastric and intestinal ulcers.
  • Slippery Elm – another soothing herb, as its name implies, the bark of this tree develops a “slippery” consistency when brewed into a tea. Useful in treating GERD and ulcers.
  • Peppermint – made as a tea, tincture or soft gel to swallow, this common herb is great for dispelling gas and reducing abdominal bloating – too much can lead to GERD – so it is best monitored by an ND.
  • Chamomile – not only is chamomile very relaxing to the nervous system, but it acts as a gentle bitter herb to stimulate digestive enzyme production. Very helpful for indigestion and constipation.
  • Curcumin – the active component of turmeric, this compound is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can effectively treat IBD and leaky gut.
  • Berberine – this chemical constituent of Goldenseal and Oregon Grape root is a broad spectrum, antimicrobial used to kill harmful bacteria and yeast.

Naturopathic doctors are specifically and thoroughly trained to assess and treat a wide range of digestive disorders in cases where conventional medicine often fails.

 

Hear from a few naturopathic doctors about how they help patients with GI complaints

Naturopathic physicians view the health of the gastrointestinal tract as foundational for overall health and wellness. We often have many more tools that our conventional colleagues for approaching functional gastrointestinal disorders (IBS, dyspepsia, abdominal pain, constipation, etc.), and are a perfect complement providing adjunctive care for many of the pathologic diagnoses, including inflammatory bowel disease, hepatic and biliary conditions, and malignancies of the GI tract. As with naturopathic medicine as a whole, we think about the “whole person” and provide strategies guided by this perspective, as opposed to a singular focus of GI-based interventions for GI conditions, as can happen more so in conventional medicine. I think this is our greatest strength and is why patients keep seeking us out for care.

Megan Taylor, ND

Graduate, National University of Natural Medicine

Growing up, my aunt battled ulcerative colitis. I didn’t need to understand pathophysiology to see chronic GI illness play a mental, emotional and physical toll on patients and families that cannot be addressed by surgeries and medications alone. I enjoy treating every patient as unique and utilizing all of my tools as a naturopathic doctor to find an individual treatment to address all of parts of health.

Crane Holmes, ND

Graduate, National University of Natural Medicine

I truly believe that the greatest wealth is gut health. Our gut is where life begins, it is where we take in the outside world and use it for our inside world. It is how we digest, absorb, and eliminate – the three most vital functions to living well. We must be able to take in nutrients and use them to survive. It is ALWAYS the first thing I focus on when patients come to me because without a healthy gut, nothing in the body will get the nutrients it needs to function optimally.

Marisol Teijeiro, ND

Graduate, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

Gut health is so important because what is happening in the digestive system can have a large effect on all other systems; from skin to mood. I feel that gut health is the basis for overall health. An example of this is the fact that significant amounts of neurotransmitters such as serotonin are also made in the gut (in addition to the brain) which may help explain the gut-brain connection.

Lela Altman, ND, LAc

Graduate, Bastyr University

I often use specific probiotics that have been studied to treat particular GI conditions, control symptoms, and reset the gut balance. Additionally, I frequently emphasize fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled foods, etc., to promote gut health with my patients, in order to create an environment that facilitates and sustains the optimal health of the microbiome.

Poonam Patel, BSc, ND

Graduate, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

Pre-digesting the food is important. That sounds gross, but it’s just cooking, cutting and fermenting to make it ready to be absorbed quicker and more efficiently when it gets to the gut. For example, lightly steamed broccoli is easier to digest than raw, yogurt is easier to digest than milk, and think about the difference cooking makes to a potato or chicken. Fermented foods like sauerkraut are great to add to a healthy diet. The fermentation process unlocks a lot of extra nutrients and confer a decent dose of probiotic bacteria and prebiotic food for the bacteria. A good amount of mixed fiber from food sources and supplements will keep things moving, and don’t forget to drink enough water.

Wm. Thor Conner, ND

Graduate, National University of Health Sciences

If you want to explore a deep healing relationship with a naturopathic physician or are curious about what they do before applying to ND school, click here for a directory of NDs in the US and Canada.

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

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Dr. Kelly Baltazar – NUNM

“I was captivated by a profession that strives to find and treat the underlying cause of disease and that treats the whole person, aspects of my own personal health care that had been missing.”

Kelly Baltazar, ND, DC, MS is an attending clinician and assistant professor at National University of Natural Medicine. Dr. Baltazar earned her chiropractic and Master’s degrees from National University of Health Sciences, and her naturopathic medical degree from Bastyr University.

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

“I was a highly competitive gymnast in my youth.  When I was 13 years old, I sustained an injury that ended my gymnastics career.  At that time, I saw multiple medical specialists without any resolution of my pain. After being told there was nothing more that could be done, I started my own journey of healing which led me to naturopathic medicine.  I was captivated by a profession that strives to find and treat the underlying cause of disease and that treats the whole person, aspects of my own personal health care that had been missing.

Being trained as a naturopathic doctor has provided me with so many tools for patient care.  When a patient doesn’t respond to one treatment, I know there are many other options I can offer.  I also resonate with the principles of naturopathic medicine – most specifically docere (which translates to ‘doctor as teacher’) which also may be why I love teaching students. Throughout the years, I have seen the therapeutic effect of just sitting and being present with a patient.  I have also repeatedly seen how very low intervention therapies can have the greatest benefit on patients.”

Aside from teaching, Dr. Baltazar worked as a naturopathic oncology provider at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Chicago and served on the Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physician’s board. She has provided training on sarcoma to CTCA residents, presented on MTHFR polymorphisms, and childhood obesity. Dr. Baltazar has been a medical volunteer at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer three day walk, and at multiple races in the greater Chicago-land area.

What can students learn from you?

“I have been teaching for eight years.  The first six years I was the Chief Clinician of the Naturopathic Medicine program at National University of Health Sciences.  I have just started my third year teaching at National University of Natural Medicine where I teach in each year of the program and in a variety of courses: Physical Medicine: Musculoskeletal, Orthopedics, Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation, Rheumatology, EENT, Oncology, Structure and Function, Pediatrics/Geriatrics, and Psychology, and Mental Health.  I also have two clinic shifts which have a focus on Physical Medicine, Integrative Oncology and Primary care.

I strive to bring my clinical experience into each class discussion as a way to make topics more practical and engaging.  On my clinic shifts, my goal is to provide students an environment in which they feel comfortable asking questions and asking for help.  I hope that by the end of our time together that they have had at least one clinical encounter that pushed them beyond their comfort, whether it be performing a physical medicine technique on a patient or sitting with a patient with stage 4 cancer. It is in those moments that help sculpt students into the physicians they will become.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND and educator

“Students bring such great joy and excitement to their learning process.  In so many ways, their excitement continually reminds me of why I chose this profession.  I greatly enjoy when I can be part of, and witness a student’s experience of understanding a concept for the first time, or when they perform a successful spinal manipulation for the first time. ND students tend to be a very eclectic group and come from such diverse backgrounds.  Having this diversity in one room allows for such engaging discussions where I, too, am always learning.”

What advice do you have for prospective ND students?

“If I were to choose three top qualities that make a strong ND student they would be: passion, self-motivation and balance. It is a rigorous journey but the result is so rewarding. Naturopathic medicine is the only profession that is trained to approach patient care with the principles of naturopathic medicine and the therapeutic order guiding us – a very powerful and effective approach to patient care.”

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