A disussion about naturopathic medicine, naturopathic doctors, and what you can do every day to improve your health. Welcome the amazing doctor Joy worked with for Graves’ disease, Dr. Kayla Cook.
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This is Joy & Claire Episode 84: Naturopathic Medicine / Dr. Cook
Episode Date: July 22, 2021
Transcription Completed: August 4, 2021
Audio Length: 77:12 minutes
Joy: Hey guys, this is Joy.
Claire: And this is Claire.
Joy: And this is Joy and Claire. I’m very excited. We’ve been talking for a while that I was going to have my naturopathic doctor on the show, and Dr. Cook is on the show. We have so much to cover, and we’re going to try to answer all of your questions, but I just want to give a warm welcome to Dr. Cook. Hi, Dr. Cook.
Dr. Cook: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Joy: Yeah, so we want to start out really general around your background and education and what your schooling was, just kind of the path to becoming a naturopathic doctor.
Dr. Cook: Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. I think most people are pretty confused by what that actually is. I grew up in the southeast, and everyone back home thinks I went to Hogwarts Medical School. I think it’s something that’s not really well understood. So naturopathic doctors actually go to medical school, and that’s sometimes very surprising. People think that it’s more of a nutrition program or a functional medicine certificate or something like that, but we do actually go through medical school where we get all the clinical training and work in rotations and do all the conventional medical school stuff, kind of like as you would going into primary care. Naturopathic doctors in our medical school, we don’t necessarily go on to specialize in like surgery or one specific thing like a gastroenterologist or an endocrinologist, like that. So by the end of that 4-year medical school and then 2-3 years of residency, primary care is the main idea of what you’re accomplishing as a naturopathic doctor. It’s kind of like two med schools in one though, because while you have to learn all the conventional medicine, pharmaceuticals, and everything like that, you also are learning herbs and nutrition and all kinds of different physical medicine, lots of different modalities, as well as the naturopathic philosophy and the lens in which we look at a case a see medicine. It’s really, really fun because you get to learn a lot more in your tool – your toolkit is much larger than you come out of conventional school where it’s largely surgery and pharmaceutical are the main treatment options. But this becomes a big safety issue I’ve seen, in terms of vetting to find an actual credentialed naturopathic doctor. I would say if you’re looking for one in your area, there’s a website I can tell you about that you can kind of search for doctors that are actually licensed medical school providers. But that term naturopathic doctor is actually quite protected. So there are other practitioners out there who maybe have done a certificate of naturopathy or different kind of short, like weekend classes or several month program type of thing. They get a name or a letter that sound a lot like a naturopath or naturopathic doctor. So N.D.’s have kind of stopped using the term “naturopath” because it’s a more ambiguous term that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a doctor and went to medical school. That’s really important because if you’re looking for a doctor who does things a little bit differently and you stumble upon someone who hasn’t actually don’t clinical medicine, it could be very dangerous.
Claire: And we talk about a similar distinction a lot between a nutritionist and a dietician where a lot of people can call themselves – so it sounds similar. A lot of different people can call themselves a naturopath and that doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot, but naturopathic doctor is the one you want for someone who went to medical school.
Dr. Cook: Yeah. And we sometimes can get lazy and say naturopath, but I think doctors have stopped doing that because of the confusion in the public. But it is extremely confusing. An example here even in Colorado a few years back. I got an email from a patient who was freaking out saying, “Oh my gosh, there’s this bill going through that’s going to prevent my ability to see a naturopath.” And at the time, the Colorado board was actually pushing for legislative efforts to have more of a governing body to protect that term, and not go after but prevent people who aren’t medical professionals or licensed from diagnosing and treating. So it was actually a really positive thing that was happening. I was like, “Send me the email. What are you talking about?” She sent it to me, and it was actually from the non-ND board, the certificate ones that aren’t really doctors, that was extremely convincing in trying to get people to vote against this bill so that they would have access to “medical care.” Their name was very similar to the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors. Their logo was very similar, so it was almost like it had come from the Colorado ND board itself, which it actually had not. Opened my eyes to just how convincing and a little bit scary that can be. That ended up passing, so it was a positive thing. Now there is a lot more protection within that title usage, so people who are saying they’re that actually get into trouble, so they’re doing it less and it’s safer for the public. Yeah, it’s kind of terrifying as a naturopathic doctor to see that happening because people just don’t really know any better and are thinking they’re getting somebody that can help them with some serious health issues who really don’t have any experience or ability to even interpret labs or do that well. So it’s kind of a doctor’s worst nightmare for that to be happening and, I think, why most conventional medical doctors think naturopathic doctors are quacks and not real doctors because it’s just a completely confusing mess of nomenclature.
Claire: So a question we got a lot of was – and you really explained a lot of this just now – what would you go to a naturopathic doctor for rather than going to your PCP. And can you have a naturopathic doctor as your PCP.
Dr. Cook: I was actually going to say, I wouldn’t necessarily think of it as one or the other. I tell people all the time that I’m working with, I want you to have a working relationship with a PCP or someone in the conventional field. Because really, it comes down to using the best of both worlds for the best care for a person. It doesn’t have to be this one or the other kind of thing where you either have your natural doctor or your conventional doctor and they can’t exist together. I think that there’s a lot that you can get done more quickly through the conventional insurance system, but it would be a longer drawn out process for me to do that here in Colorado. Another annoying difference is every state is a little different in how that’s monitored and the laws around how ND’s can practice, the scope of practice if you will. So I don’t think that you have to have one or the other. Integrative medicine, right? You hear that term a lot, and I think of that as just using the best of both worlds to really dive into what’s going on with somebody and get them feeling better. At the end of the day, I think all of our goals as doctors is just to have people healthy and thriving and feeling good and not this battle of ego of natural versus non-natural.
Joy: I’m glad you brought that up because from the get-go when I started working with you, when I would talk about this either on social media or on the podcast, we would get some comments – not a lot – just, “Why do you hate Western medicine?” kind of thing. And I don’t. It truly was like people hear what they want to hear, but you don’t have to pick a side. You and I have talked over the months about how my PCP is really great and I think she’s very supportive of my choices to work with you and how I work with you. But there’s just no way I would have been able to find you had I not first worked with a primary care physician and finding that my bloodwork was off. It’s interesting how people think that they have to pick a camp when it can really work well together if one properly.
Dr. Cook: It’s actually kind of heartbreaking for me because people will either call or they’ll come in. And say they’re on an antidepressant or something and they’ve been on it for years and it’s helped them get through some really dark times. And they come in and they express a fear that I’m going to take them off all their medication or scold them for being on medication. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My job is to work with my patients to get them feeling great and not really so determined to get them off medication if it’s helping them. I think sometimes people’s goals is to stay on their medication. Sometimes they want to get off of them, so my job is to help accomplish the goals of whatever these are and not push my personal agenda on every person I ever see. With that example of antidepressants, some people get really uncomfortable getting off of it entirely but we can get it down to the lowest dose possible, so the side effects and things that they may be experiencing, low libido or things like that, come back and they can be kind of in this balanced state of the medication using it as much as they need it and other stuff to not have to be on so much medication. So there’s this whole spectrum of it. It’s not really black or white. I’m also, as you know Joy, not really a… I think natural medicine can be done very conventionally. I think you can fall into the trap of looking at medicine like, “What natural non-toxic substance can I get?” A supplement, in lieu of Lexapro. And that’s the most backwards way to think about it. It’s not about replacing drugs with nutrition. And your nutrition is the most common thing people think of. It’s always food, but there’s so much more to health than just food. Even though it’s very important, it’s just one leg of that stool. I always say on one leg a stool doesn’t bear weight. But there’s a lot to look at, and it’s really not even about pharmaceuticals versus supplements. That’s what really gets confused in people’s minds about natural medicine versus conventional as we think of it in the healthcare system.
Joy: So you’re saying that people will often try to replace it with a natural supplement when that’s really not the goal. It shouldn’t be the goal to replace a drug with a supplement?
Dr. Cook: Correct.
Joy: You’re not always going for the “natural version” of everything?
Dr. Cook: No, because a natural substance can still be a Band-Aid. Band-Aids have a time and a place, whether that’s a pharmaceutical or a nutritional supplement. But at the end of the day, the goal should be to restore physiology to function how it should because there is this innate ability of the body to heal and to thrive in the face of all kinds of staggering issues. Yet, we’re just not taught how to do that. So, in our current healthcare system, it really is we’re given a substance for every symptom that we have and so we kind of take that with us as we seek healthcare in any other way. So people are really usually kind of surprised that I don’t like them to be on a billion supplements forever. Even if we are using natural medicines, the goal isn’t that they’re on them for the rest of their life. I have a patient with Crohn’s right now who commented last week, “I’m really surprised at how few things I’m actually taking.” Well, you’re doing a ton of things in terms of lifestyle and health promoting activities, but yeah, I don’t need you on 30 different supplements to coax your body into this different, altered state that won’t last if you remove that.
Claire: So one question that Joy has gotten a lot throughout working with you is how much does it cost. And one of the things that you alluded to even a couple of minutes ago was that conventional medicine tends to be within the insurance paradigm, and naturopathic doctors maybe are less so. Is it possible to find a naturopathic doctor who takes conventional medical insurance?
Dr. Cook: Absolutely. And it really varies by state, and that’s why it’s honestly just so ungodly confusing. Like in Colorado for instance, even though I’m credentialed as a primary care doctor in Oregon, I have a DEA license and I can prescribe medications in that state, here I can’t do any of that. I don’t have prescriptive rights in Colorado. Which is honestly fine by me because I can use a PCP or an integrative approach to be able to get those things down when we need to, and I can just do my magic and do what I’m good at. But yes, there are a lot of states where insurance does cover the care. I think that’s going to become over the next 5-10 years more common across the US, but right now it’s pretty limited. You can find information about that. So the AANP website, which is the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. They have information about the different scope of practice in different states. There’s also a “Find an ND” tool where you can type in your area and see what doctors are near there. I know you had asked about finding a doctor. That’s one of the ways. But yeah, absolutely. In Oregon for instance where I went to medical school, we took all the insurances. We took Medicaid. We were a primary care home essentially. Yes, that is possible. It’s just kind of starting to slowly spread out to other states. Every year grows and changes. Yes.
Joy: Check the area where you’re living and do your own research. And I think I can post a link to the website too, where to find a doctor and how to look that up for wherever people are living. I know we also have international listeners, which I think is probably just a whole can of worms of what other countries will cover in terms of medical care, which is totally different from the United States. But I want to quickly ask – and I don’t want to open this up too much – but when you were talking about supplements, it made me think so much about how Claire and I often see influencers pushing supplements or drinks or powders or whatever, on a scale of 1 to 10 how crazy does that drive you? Are we overthinking, like, “Oh my gosh, I need to take fish oil” when you don’t even know if you need it. What is that about?
Dr. Cook: So to answer the scale of 1 to 10 question, 10 being the most annoyed, I assume.
Dr. Cook: Probably a 7.
Joy: So not too bad.
Dr. Cook: What annoys me more than that, and I would say this annoys me to 10+, is the companies now that are trying to do that with labs. The send home lab kits and things.
Joy: Yes, like Everlywell or whatever.
Dr. Cook: That terrifies me and is scary, and I’ve seen it do harm. I’ve seen people come in who’ve done – not to name names – but done different tests where they’ve determined, “I can’t eat any food. How can you help me.” It’s like, woah. The human body would not have survived this long if we just lost all capacity to tolerate food. So I’ve seen people do that for long term and then kill off all their microbiome. They’re sick as a dog, they can’t eat anything. And then we have to really backtrack and get them built back up. The labs drive me far more crazy than the supplements. You can usually, with the proper education, people can stop those things and there’s less harm done. But with labs, I feel like it’s toing that line of a lot more scary to me. Yeah, definitely a bit more wary of –
Joy: That’s good to know because those are really popping up everywhere of submitting your blood and getting the results back.
Dr. Cook: I think what’s driving it is they’ll do a test kit and they’ll send you a “customized” list of what supplements to take from that company in response to your labs. And that’s just really not how medicine was ever intended to be. So that really, really worries me. Probably more than annoys me. Scares me.
Joy: Concerning because you see people coming in, okay. Specifically can you tell your audience, do you treat everything? Do you have a specialty that you really like to treat in your practice?
Dr. Cook: What I really like to treat comes down to the person, not really the condition, which is not the most popular opinion. Because I know everyone, especially when you’re coming out of medical school, they tell you specialize and pick something so that you can market to that. I have always liked being a generalist. I like seeing everything. I like the variety. I like the constant learning of all the different things. I find that I really, really like working with digestive disorders. That’s something that I really just like doing because most people with those are suffering so intensely all the time and you can never see it from an outside perspective. They’re miserable and uncomfortable, and to see them get better and to be able to thrive is just really rewarding. But really I like seeing everything. I like people who are committed and willing to put in the work to get better an don’t just view it as what 30 things can I take to not have to then worry about taking care of my body in a general sense every day. So it’s not so much a condition as it is a readiness and a willingness to change, to view their body in the respectful lens that we should. Those people are the ones I like to work with and get good results because their mindset is there and that’s a really important piece to getting better.
Joy: Yeah, I think that was one of the first things that obviously I noticed when I started working with you is you first do the 15-minute call to say can I help you or not help you, just generally speaking, just right out of the gate. But then we sat together with my husband Scott for like 2 hours getting a full background and idea of whether or not I had the support system around me to get better too. Which is really important because if you’re living in a household where someone may be sabotaging your progress, I think it’s really difficult, even if they’re not consciously doing it. But I think this takes such a lifestyle change. I want to share something really quickly that you and I talked about at one of my recent appointment. It’s not ever that I can go back to what I was doing before. A lot of people will ask, “So can you go back to eating dairy?” Or, “Can you go back to exercising?” Actually now that I’ve gone through this and come to the other side ish, I feel like I don’t want to do that because that’s what got me into the trouble in the first place. So it’s not even that I would want to go back to that because I saw the damage that it was doing. I’m not at a loss. I’m not sitting here crying. I mean, there’s some days I miss cheese on pizza. But I’m not at a loss because I now see how good I feel and I’m going to keep that up, and that’s my choice. So it’s interesting how people project that you have to go back to what you were doing before. I’m like, no, that’s really what got me into trouble.
Dr. Cook: And you know, a point that – I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Gretchen Rubin, The Four Tendencies.
Joy: Yeah, we talk about that all the time.
Dr. Cook: I’m a hard-core Rebel. 100% through and through Rebel. So, in your experience how you’re saying you don’t really want to ever go back to dairy as an example, which is beautiful because I think most people who experience feeling better, their standard changes. They’re like, you know what, if this is what it’s takes, I’m going to do this. Me as a Rebel and a lot of people I see who are Rebels, the point is the choice. Like you said, it’s your choice. That’s what I really want to be able to accomplish with the patients that I work with is teaching them, A, how their body works and, B, how to day-to-day respond to take care of it in the best way. But that becomes over time, the power shift changes. Because as you know how the body works and how to take care of it, you get to decide in every moment what you want to do. And if you decide to eat the pizza with the cheese on it, that’s fine, but that’s your choice. And you know you may have a rough few days and then your body is going to recover, and for the most part your choice may be to avoid it, but sometimes it might be worth it. The point is over time, you’re the one empowered to take charge of your health and whatever you choose to do. For my personal journey, I was way more back and forth than you because I had to constantly test it and rebel against it, think it was stupid, and just see the influences on my body very specifically to finally be like, okay yeah I should probably calm down with this and really solidify it in my own experience what I needed to do to feel better. And now at this point many, many years into my journey, my threshold is different and my body is a lot more resilient, so the choices that I make now may be different than I made 15 years ago, but the idea is over time – like you said, you said the work never goes away, but you get to dictate it. I think there’s just something so powerful for people when they finally understand what’s causing their suffering. It takes away so much of the stress of it. Not that people before who uncover a food intolerance or something that they really don’t want to give up and they’re like, you know what, I love potatoes but I really am going to keep eating them, and at least now I know why I don’t feel good and why I have migraines and that’s fine. And I’m like, that’s your choice. I think that’s such a cool thing to see, in a weird way, just people getting their power back with their health. And that’s why education and all of that is so important for what I love to do with patience is because we’re just really not offered that kind of education ever. And that’s really the crux of so much of the problem in our minds is not understanding stuff.
Joy: There’s a lot of guilt behind that too, wrapped up in “I need to do what my doctor says.” I think when we’re talking about changes and talking to a naturopathic doctor. You’re giving the information and the patient is saying I’m going to do this or not do this. And I think there’s times that some of these shifts may be so big that patients will then get nervous to tell you that, “Oh my gosh, I had cheese.” It’s like, you’re not here to guilt or shame. You’re here to say, “Here’s the information. I’m going to support you however I can.”
Claire: I think it’s also interesting. I feel like everyone I know who’s lactose intolerant goes through this struggle on a daily basis. They’re like, “I know that by eating this cream cheese bagel, I’m going to pay for this in 1.5 hours. But man, I’ve been craving a cream cheese bagel for a week, and this is so worth it.” Or the migraine thing where you’re like, as long as I know this isn’t a brain tumor and it’s because of potatoes, I’ll take the migraine meds and that’s fine. But now that I know it’s not something that’s going to get worse or whatever the case may be. So you were talking about the four tendencies. Joy is a pretty classic obliger with a pretty strong questioner wing. But once you convince Joy this is why you should do something, she’s like, “Great. I accept.” And then just goes with it. But I think that it’s true that a lot of people, kind of to go off of what Joy was saying, they think that what their doctor says is just the law. I think a lot of doctors act that way too. My husband’s a nurse. Up until about a year or so ago was working on the telemetry unit, which is the unit that – and you guys know this, but just for people listening. It’s sort of a cardiac step-down unit. You get a lot of people who have late stage chronic illnesses that are a lot of times really caused by a lifestyle, by something that is happening or is not happening in their lifestyle or in their education or in their access to medical care. And what I mean by that is to say a lot of times you can’t fix them and then send them back out into the world. These are people who will have this problem for the rest of their lives unless they were to make a monumental lifestyle change that is honestly not available to them. And in that scenario, Brandon would often express this frustration of like, “I don’t know why I even try to help these people because they really don’t want to help themselves. They just want the pill and they want to go home.” They want that relationship with their doctor is all their responsibility is is to do exactly what their doctor tells them to do, not ask questions, not worry about anything outside of that conversation. And to me, that brings up the question of who is your – like you were talking about, you prefer to work with people who really want to be there, the people who are really going to put in the work. How do you help people evolve that mindset from, no, this should be a two-way conversation.
Dr. Cook: Planting a lot of seeds and letting them grow. So yeah, what you’re speaking to is something that is really heartbreaking in the primary care field. And honestly being a primary care naturopathic doctor in Oregon was difficult because you oftentimes get people who are coming in who just aren’t ready or really don’t understand. They make changes, and they’re like, “Just give me the pill” or whatever. It, as a doctor, wears on you because I don’t think any doctor survives medical school and all the hell that comes along with that without a heart to help people and get them better. So it’s not this war against natural versus alternative. But for example, to your question, when people come in and I can tell that two-way sit-down that Joy was talking about, if I can tell, and at this point I have a better Spidey sense about it because I’ve seen enough things, that it’s really not the right time for them. There’s no judgement about that. But usually I have a conversation with just being very transparent and honest about what is going to be required in the process to change, but that I’m not going anywhere. When you’re ready, I’m here. Usually I’ll give them a book that I think might help to just start to get their wheels spinning about certain things. And oftentimes I’ll hear from those people 9-12 months later. I think everyone’s journey and their timeline is unique to them, and there’s no judgment in that. I wasn’t ready to take care of my health until I was. I think education and patience are really the two key ingredients for getting people who maybe aren’t there yet who start to open up their mindset. We can’t force those things upon people, as much as we would like to. Where I’ve learned this is through my family and friends. Because I think a lot of what drives, at least me and a lot of people I know, to become a doctor is to have the skills to help the people that you love, to help your family. You saw your parents grow up with heart disease or whatever, and you want to have solutions so help them live a long and happy life. But often times, your family and friends don’ listen to you. Because what do you know? You’re their kid or their sister or whatever, so I’ve learned over time you kind of have to lead by example with compassion and will willingness to have conversations when people start to ask questions. I tell a lot of my patients too because what I think is so beautiful about working with people like Joy and everyone else I see is that after they have kind of reached the point of getting to their goals, there’s this domino effect of people in their lives that I may never see or know or ever hear from that see them doing things like pay attention to their diet, working on stress management, drinking water, and just doing some basic things, and they’re feeling like their energy is high and they’re just vibrant. And so people start asking questions. Part of the education that I can help pass along to anybody that I work with, that ripples out into all of their lives too. So I tell my patients all the time, over the course of this process, I guarantee people are going to be coming to you and asking you questions. Your job isn’t to force them to believe what you think. Your job is to just be there for them as they’re in that space and offer a safe place to land when they’re starting to question some of those things. Especially with diet and lifestyle changes, it really challenges a lot of cultural norms, social structures. It can be extremely triggering. It’s so much more to it than the simplicity of avoiding a food, right? So it’s layered, and it’s complicated. You have to give people space to sort that out in a safe place. I think that’s what people that I work with, we always have that conversation, and I think they’re able to hold that space for other people in the world. And I think that’s how it slowly changes is that you just don’t force people to do things when they’re not ready, but you offer a kind ear to listen when they ask questions.
Joy: I’ve saved Scott some money on buying those boxed cleanses.
Dr. Cook: [laughing] You know how I feel about those.
Joy: He used to always get those like once a year.
Dr. Cook: Oh my gosh.
Joy: Just don’t do it.
Dr. Cook: It’s so amazing to see – as one person, I’m limited in the amount of people in my lifetime that I can help. And if my goal in my life is to help as many people as I possibly can, my patients are those begins of helping other people. I think that’s what is so humbling to me in the process of doing what I do. My patients are the ones that do the work, and they’re the ones that are kind of changing the world. It’s really cool to be a part of that process.
Claire: It’s interesting that you bring up that a lot of things you do can be kind of triggering because honestly when Joy first started talking about, “I’m cutting gout dairy, and there’s this sugar timing thing I have to do.” We got a lot of people who were like, “Oh my gosh, Joy, you’re going to get an eating disorder.” People were like, “Don’t work with this doctor. She wants you to do an elimination diet. Elimination diets are diet culture.” And we had to really address that head on and be like, listen guys, there’s more to this picture than you hear on this podcast.
Dr. Cook: You know, I would love to come on and talk about diet culture because that’s something that I am so adamantly against and passionate about. I think that this is a really, really important thing that you’re bringing up.
Joy: Yeah, we can do Part 3 and 4 and 5 too.
Dr. Cook: I’m so excited.
Joy: On that topic though, because I wanted to bring this up, about food intolerances and how you test for them. There’s a lot of bogus stuff out there that’s like, “Food intolerance tests don’t work.” And truly when we talked about that and why my treatment plan included what it did, I kept saying this is for my plan. There’s more to it. It’s not just I have to eliminate it for the sake of “it’s bad for you,” because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about healing my whole body. My system’s a little bit of a wreck. But talk a little bit about how you do the food intolerance testing in your practice.
Dr. Cook: I think that’s a really good question too because nomenclature here is also a big confusing point. There’s lots of different ways to test for food reactivity. To really quickly before I get into that backstop to the eating disorder, saying something about that. I think that’s a really important consideration and one that as a doctor, my biggest nightmare would be to give a patient a recommendation that triggers any kind of disordered eating pattern. And I actually work with a lot of women with that history. We talk about this ad nauseum, and that’s why I’m seeing people constantly. I’m not changing their diet if that’s something really close to the surface and that I know would be an easy trigger, even if it could potentially lower inflammation. Not worth it if it’s going to trigger something that serious. Individual context is really important. And that’s, again, going back to working with an actual trained provider is so critical because you can see how you could so easily do harm without meaning to if you don’t have the right clinical experience.
Joy: And you see people weekly especially at the beginning for so many reasons, but to keep eyes on them. You see people weekly.
Dr. Cook: I joke to my patients, “You’re never going to get far enough away from me for anything really to go wrong.” I have several people right now that I see probably three or four times a week because they’re in really critical situations and I’m not willing to let them – they need to have pretty constant help. And there’s no shame. I think people can kind of feel like, “I’m so broken.” It’s not even that that’s the case at all. Your body is the strongest thing in the world. I never think of it as broken, but we need so much education and support, and that’s hard to lend that, especially early on in the face of changes. So diet and making changes there is so individual. And I want to really stress that because I think especially in our social media world it’s so easy to jump on the next trendy diet or try this thing, and often times its birthed out of a place of sincere desire to help themselves. I think that’s a really beautiful quality, but we’re kind of misled. We don’t necessarily get the correct information. And if we’re lucky enough to find correct information, it lacks all the context of our individual, clinical case. That’s where having a trusted provider is really helpful because we can navigate that with you. But if it is somebody that I choose to do a food testing with in any capacity – I choose to do food intolerance evaluations, and that’s different in what we’re looking at compared to some of the other things. There’s food allergy testing. There’s food sensitivity testing. Food intolerance evaluation. It’s all ways of looking at food reacting in the body. I think it’s important to consider the mechanisms there. I came from a long line of probably pretty disordered eating women in my family. Always dieting for various reasons. Even in my own journey of food intolerances, I really rebelled against it because I had this hatred of eliminations and restriction, and it just really triggered all these places in me. So my journey was different than yours, Joy, and I think everyone has their own journey. But we’re looking at a different mechanism. If you go to your MD allergist for example, they might do food allergy testing, and that’s looking at an immune response. Like you eat peanuts or shellfish and your throat closes up. You need an epi pen, you need to go to the hospital, anaphylactic shock, an immediate immune reaction to the food. That’s the only true allergy and why MD’s often roll their eyes at any practitioners who are doing food sensitivity testing that aren’t allergy testing because it’s a different mechanism. Again, it’s nomenclature. People throw around these words like they’re synonymous, and they really mean very different things. For instance, food sensitivity testing that you probably can get through some of those online kits or even through natural providers that are looking more at IgG or delayed sensitivity kind of response, that’s still an immune kind of test but it’s not a true allergy. MD’s get really frustrated when their patients come in and say, “I’m allergic to gluten,” and it’s really an IgG sensitivity because technically speaking that isn’t really a true allergy. Yet for simplicity’s sake, a lot of us will just say the word allergy because it’s easier to understand. Breaking down what they mean is really important to shed light on educating around what even is all of that.
Joy: Taking me for example, I’m not allergic to dairy. I’m not going to have an allergic reaction where I can’t breathe if I eat dairy. But mine’s more of a sensitivity, would you say?
Dr. Cook: Intolerance. And that’s for like if you went to your PCP – I mean, yours is lovely. She probably wouldn’t do this. Everyone should see her. But an MD and said, “I’m allergic to dairy,” they would think you’re the craziest person in the world and anybody who told you that is absurd. And they’re kind of right because it isn’t an allergy. It’s a different thing. So allergy, that’s going to be IgE, which refers to an immediate reaction to something. Like I said, throat closing up, anaphylaxis, emergent care kind of situation. Versus food sensitivity is still in the immune category, the immune reactivity where it’s more delayed. This is where you’ll get a food panel back and it will have usually a bunch of random stuff. This is where people will come to me and say, “Dr. Cook, I can’t have anything except for like three foods,” right? To me, all those test are not very clinically helpful because all that we are typically doing with that is confirming leaky gut. So what happens in our gut, we have what are called tight junction cells within the lining of our gut that are like these formidable, like you shouldn’t be able to breach that barrier. Food should not be getting into the blood from the gut. So when there’s inflammation or there’s all kinds of things can wreak havoc on the gut, but those things are present. That barrier can get damaged and it can kind of start to fray, so food can pass from the lumen of the gut into the blood. And the immune system doesn’t like that, for good reason, so it will start to create antibodies to those foods, which are more of that delayed IgG kind of activity. So that’s what we’re really testing with the food sensitivity panel. The ones that you can usually get, the home kits, that’s almost always what they are. So when someone emails me or wants to come in and tells me, “Oh, I’ve had a food panel done and I’m allergic” – again, “allergic” – “to all these things.” I’m really wary of that. Well is this really a problem or not? Because you’re kind of, like I said, just confirming leaky gut. And that’s historically been the gold standard testing for natural medicine is looking at delayed sensitivity IgG responses. And to be totally fair, a lot of doctors have been able to see good results with that. I’m not poo pooing anyone who does those or has good clinical outcomes with that. There’s lots of different ways to get to an end goal. But in my experience what I was seeing more and more, which was becoming very puzzling, was we do this test and people feel better temporarily avoiding all these foods. Which to me was always toing that scary line of triggering an eating disorder. When all of the sudden all they can have is three or four foods, that’s not really lifelong sustainable. That’s the opposite of what our bodies need and want. I noticed that patients really wear that a badge of honor, like, “I’m restricting this, this, this, and this.” My question was, why? We want to be able to improve the gut health so that you can eat a variety of foods to feed your microbiome. That’s so critical. Sorry, I’m getting off topic a little bit because there’s obviously so much here.
Joy: No, it’s so great, yeah.
Dr. Cook: That’s looking at sensitivity, that delayed response. You eat tomatoes, and maybe two days later you have joint pain or maybe a headache or something. But you would do this test, remove these foods. It’s really hard to do. It’s really stressful. It becomes depleting to the adrenal system. The microbiome suffers. And the patient may have some temporary relief of their most acute symptoms. Like maybe their diarrhea or their headaches or whatever. And then you know in 3-6 months you see all that coming back. It’s like, well jeez, what’s happening? So you retest it, and it’s all new foods. You’re constantly chasing your tail with that kind of thing. In my practice, that’s what I found more and more. So I started thinking about, okay, we’re not really changing the underlying problem of what’s driving the immune system attacking the food. Clearly the lining of the gut still isn’t better. Clearly we’re missing something because the gut isn’t healing and the body is now just reacting to new foods. Whatever you’re eating is going to show up on that panel. At one point in my own life crisis/journey, I was told I could only have brown rice basically on one of those test. Literally, that’s all I could have. Brown rice. And the doctor was like, “Well, good luck.”
Joy: Have fun. I hope you like brown rice.
Dr. Cook: And it felt like I was just pushed off a cliff. I kind of wanted to give it a shot, and it was horrible. Obviously I did it for like four days, and then I’m like, I’m going to die if I keep doing this. I have maybe a biased experience in that for several different reasons, but I just found that IgG testing, food sensitivity testing never yielded long-term clinical outcomes that I wanted. It just changed forms. And then people over time think it doesn’t work and natural medicine is not legit, and that’s fair because they’re not getting better and it’s frustrating. I do food intolerance testing. So I think of allergy, sensitivity, and tolerance as separate mechanisms. Food intolerance testing gets at more of the underlying nature of what foods can your bode efficiently digest or not, which is not really related to the immune system. It’s more like a genetic thing. It can be very much hereditary. Kind of a lack of enzymes or things where no matter how hard you try, you can’t really effectively break your food down. So I kind of liken it to if you were trying to eat a sandwich that’s wrapped in tinfoil. Right? Claire, that’s not really –
Claire: Just hearing that gives me this horrible sensory –
Joy: Makes my teeth hurt, yeah. [laughing]
Dr. Cook: As it should, right? But the problem really lies in, because your body as beautiful and sweet and glorious as it is tries to eat the tinfoil. It’s like, “Okay, I’ll do it.” It can’t. It can’t extract the sandwich underneath because it’s dealing with the toxicity of eating tinfoil. It’s really the digestive process that kind of goes awry as we’re eating foods or a combination of foods that we just can’t effectively deal with. And that’s where my thinking of food has really shifted over the years. I don’t really view any food as good or bad. We love to put moral judgements on food choices, first and foremost, which is so outrageous. For example, eggs I find to be a very healthy food if you can digest them. If you can’t, they are not. Same goes for just about anything that I’ve seen now over the years is just that there really isn’t a one size fits all approach to diet or to food for people. It’s so individualized, and I can’t stress that enough. For example, I have a young patient I started seeing a few months ago and she’s a digestive wreck. She had done a bunch of Whole30’s in her life. And I actually find the Whole30 to be very helpful for people if they’re transitioning from going from standard American diet to trying to learn how to cook and eat food, start to put a lens on things. It can be useful in certain situations. I don’t necessarily dislike the Whole30. I’m not saying that at all. But in that person’s case, she’s potato intolerant. So she did several Whole30’s and was sick as a dog the whole time because she was replacing all the things she eliminated with potato and was very, very sick. Again, I don’t think anything’s really wrong with Whole30, but it’s not going to be good for everyone, just like any other diet, like Paleo or Keto. Whatever are out there as really trendy options aren’t going to be good for everyone because everyone’s genetic makeup is quite different. I think that’s really important to consider when we’re trying to make efforts to get ourselves into a better place. Don’t be frustrated if you’re doing something that’s helped a lot of other people and you’re not yielding results because probably there’s something else there that hasn’t been found that you just don’t know about. So don’t be disheartened if you’ve made efforts and they haven’t yielded the response that you want. Have hope, but potentially get some more information.
Claire: So going off of a lot of what you just said around every body really reacting so differently and a lot of nomenclature being really confusing, alluding to things that are not really what they seem. As you’re talking through all of this and as you’re talking through the differences even what Joy was doing and having to look at all these nuances for every single separate patient, I thought of a question that somebody asked, which was can the body heal most things?
Dr. Cook: Yes. 100% yes. Oh my gosh, yes.
Joy: Dr. Cook loves the body, you guys. The body is an amazing machine. She loves it.
Dr. Cook: Maybe I’m a dork, I don’t know. But yes, 100%.
Claire: And I feel almost a little bit protective asking this question because I feel like there might be people who are listening who are like, I’ve been trying. I have this thing going on and it feels shaming to hear that my body should be able to heal this, and I haven’t been able to get there. Maybe this person is like, and my insurance doesn’t cover a naturopathic doctor. I can’t just go out and spend however many thousands of dollars getting this to work. And here I am with this autoimmune disease I’ve been told I’ll have my whole life. Or a question that we got a couple times with Joy talking about “I just wanted to pursue this before I fried my thyroid” where people were like, “I didn’t know I had another option and my thyroid is already fried.” I guess talk about that. I don’t even want to frame it. Just talk about that.
Dr. Cook: If I sound choked up, it’s because you saying that actually brings tears to my eyes. This really hits at just a passion point I think because I see people all day every day who think their bodies are broken, and they are so far from being allied with themselves. It’s so distressing, and it’s so heartbreaking. And I know I’m biases because all day every day I get to see people get better and get to see a lot of really amazing things occur. But my new patients, they don’t have that perspective, so they kind of have to trust my hope in the body. But it’s so common for people to feel that, that they’re doing all the right things, they’ve tried everything, and they’ve done every diet, they’ve tried every supplement – and yet, they’re still miserable. And then I think what is probably the most difficult part of that process is that it starts to erode their relationship with their trust in their body. That is what we have to restore to heal. I always say, “We can’t heal a body that we hate.” I say that probably multiple times per day. And people when I talk about seeing them really often, especially in the beginning, is because it’s a lot of underlying psychological patterns that get in our way. So restore that relationship with our body is perhaps the biggest work of all. Not really mattering about the diet or the supplements. If you had no money, no access, and you lived in a cave in the middle of nowhere, if all you did was work on the relationship with your body and respecting it for the tremendous amount of work that it does, that would be better than anything you could ever do is to spend your effort working on that relationship. Because what we don’t really get stuffed into our heads, which I kind of joke I wish we learned this stuff in kindergarten, but we don’t learn it, is that our body is always, always, always fighting to bring us in the best balance and the most it can do with whatever we’re giving it. So it’s always working in our benefit, despite our actions. Because often times, we just don’t know any better, so we can’t really be judged or shamed for that because you can only do different when you know different. We don’t have access to that education or that knowledge really very readily. The internet’s helping that to change I think. I sound really old when I just said that. The internet.
Joy: The inter webs, yeah.
Dr. Cook: The inter webs.
Joy: I say stuff like that all the time.
Dr. Cook: No one gets my references anymore. That’s why I realize I’m getting old. But that’s so critical. Changing that perspective from our body being this thing that’s our biggest obstacle and that’s broken and it can’t be fixed. You hate it. Changing that to starting to see all the little ways that the body is trying to communicate with you and is trying to ally with you is truly your best friend. I say this a lot too. Our symptoms, the things we experience, the reason I don’t want to Band-Aid those is they are our biggest guiding light. They are our body’s only communication mechanism. So when our body has a symptom, it’s trying to tell us something. If it’s a pain response, it’s saying, “Hey, don’t run on that broken leg. You’re injured. You need to sit down.” So it’s trying to tell us what to do, but we don’t know how to speak that language. So fi all I do for anyone is help them understand how to speak that language, then I’ve done my job. Really, I feel like I’m a glorified symptom interpreter in medicine. I think that’s kind of mostly what doctors are doing hopefully. But to be able to understand what your body is saying and communicating on a daily basis, that’s the key to freedom and to health. If anyone took nothing out of this conversation except for the fact that your body is your best friend and treat it as such, that would be everything. There’s no supplement. There’s no magic diet. There’s no magic bullet of any sort. Even lifestyle stuff, none of that matters if we don’t repair that relationship with our body and treat it with love and kindness and respect. Because it is the coolest, most amazing thing. Yeah?
Claire: Sorry, I was just trying to get in before Joy because we’re both going off of you. I’m like, no, I’m going to talk. Because the follow up I want to ask to that is – there’s two. Sorry, Joy. I’m not sorry. Okay, my first follow up to that is people who are listening who, ether for themselves or maybe for a loved one, were not able to heal them. You get this diagnosis you have terminal cancer. You have M.S. You have something that has gotten to the point where everything that conventional medicine has to tell you is saying that this can’t be healed. I feel like hearing, “Yeah, your body can heal most things” might feel almost offensive.
Dr. Cook: Yeah.
Claire: Where is that line where sometimes with patients, and do you experience this where with patients sometimes you do end up in a position of, “Yeah, this is beyond what your body can heal.”
Dr. Cook: Yes. And I appreciate you speaking up that point because that is really, really a big component. Even a personal component to that is my fiancé, his father just passed away from cancer. So even with all of the tools we have and all of the knowledge, because he sought tons of treatments and lots of different things.
Joy: And your fiancé is also a naturopathic doctor.
Dr. Cook: Yes. And I actually, I see in him so much pain because he feels like he couldn’t save his dad. So I think there’s a point where – medicine isn’t God. We don’t know everything. In fact, we know very little about the body, I would argue. We know some, and with that we do the best we can. In any regard of health or healing or wellness, to remove the shame from any of it I think is really important. Because yes, there are things that for whatever reason that we will never be able to understand are out of our control. And so much of our life experience is out of our control, and I think as humans that’s really challenging because we want to control things. But yeah, absolutely. In our clinical practice, we run into all the time people that we can’t help for whatever reason. We are not perfect. We are not God. We can’t help everyone and there are definitely things beyond our understanding in terms of healing or not healing. So while I say yes you can heal most things and I do believe unending in the body’s capacity to heal, that doesn’t mean that everything gets repaired the way we want it. That’s perhaps the most difficult part of medicine and being a healthcare provider is that you feel this responsibility to be able to have answers for all the situations and to save every single person when in fact you can’t. And a lot of it, I think there’s the aspect of time there’s the aspect of education, there’s the aspect of knowing even how to take care of our bodies from a basic level from an early age. We’re just not really taught well. By the time, speaking to my father-in-law who passed. By the time he got the tools that could have potentially helped him, he didn’t have a whole lot of time left. His body was pretty far gone, and there’s not a whole lot you can do. I think that’s really difficult and something that I don’t have an answer for.
Joy: It’s like with any medical profession where someone passes away on the operating table, that’s the whole “you’re not God” aspect of it. There are some things that we’ll never understand. I’m glad you addressed that. Back to really quick the piece about trusting your body and having confidence in your body and repairing that relationship with your body, I know a lot of people it’s kind of foreign to them. I think that’s something for another day too. But for my personal example, I caught what was happening with me really quickly because I knew something was off. But I joke with one of my best friends that I’m like a robot and where I was like, “Oh, the microchip is off.” If you know something is off. Or microchip, we always say microchip because we just know that something is off with our bodies, so I was very attune to that. But when I first started seeing you, I was like what if I’m the one person you can’t help? What if I’m the exception? I’m the special snowflake that just has the weird thing going on with them. And I think that a lot of people probably feel that way too. What it comes down to is I didn’t trust my body in healing. I said this to you recently as well. Your trust in the body – I eventually got there too because you were always like, “Yay, body!” Whenever a blood test would come back that had improved or I was feeling better in this aspect or I was gaining the weight back that I had lost. We would always be like, “Yay, body!” It was like our body is just an amazing thing, and the body is doing this. You would always give the body credit and me credit. Of course, I’m singing your praises and you’re like, “Well, you’re doing the work. I’m giving you the guide. You’re doing the work, and the body is doing the work.” And it’s just a really cool thing to witness.
Claire: And I have to tell you – maybe Joy will be embarrassed when I tell you this. Every time that she would come see you, we have this group chat with myself, Joy, and our friend Jess. We would just get ten minutes of texting, “I love my naturopathic doctor so much. I feel so much better every time I leave. I’m going to be okay. Things are going to work out.” But I think what Joy said leads directly into the second question that I had which was I think particularly as women we are very often discredited from listening to our own instincts about our bodies. It’s so easy to talk ourselves out of going to the doctor when something just seems a little bit off.
Dr. Cook: Yeah.
Claire: That we really minimize our own symptoms until it gets to the point where you can’t live your day to day life because it’s so painful or disruptive or whatever the case may be. One thing that we always say with Joy always talking about accessing therapy is there’s no minimum requirement to go to therapy. Would you say the same thing about seeking out a naturopathic doctor, or do you feel like, no, you kind of have to have some symptoms or specific concern or already have a diagnosis before going to that next level is going to be helpful for you.
Dr. Cook: That’s a great question. If I got to see people before they had a long-standing history of something serious going on, my job and life would be so much easier. So yes, it would be completely appropriate to seek a naturopathic doctor in conjunction, integratively with the other people on your team, just as a place to land for general information and for questions and for routine screening things. And this is maybe one of the biggest myths out there – last stitch effort is to go through the naturopathic doctor. “What can you do for me now?” Most of the cases that I see are like that. Maybe it’s a 30-year history of an autoimmune condition. They’re like, “Well, what have you got for me? Now conventional medicine is a thing [UNCLEAR 00:54:44.04] or I’m not responding to treatment, so what have you got?” So, yes, My ideal world is one in which people would, A, know about alternative means of healthcare and have access to them, both insurance and general speaking access. And then to have that support before things are a problem. Because in the situation where someone is attuned to their body like a microchip, they get better so much faster and so much more robustly when the problem hasn’t been going on for a long time. One of my late mentors always said if you walk 30 miles through the forest, you can’t walk out in one. I think that is very true. I try to be very honest about that with people. The timeline and the process, and it’s not just going to be overnight. But yes, kind of wherever you are in the journey is the appropriate time to get help if you feel like that speaks to you. Really quickly, I want to say some things. I think what Claire brought up about the cases where the body didn’t heal and how traumatizing and triggering and shaming that is, I think that’s a critically important conversation and also a very hard one. That’s something that stuck out to me from one of my mentors that’s kind of a legend, but kind of a grumpy old man, so he’s not the most lovely, fun guy, but he’s amazing. He writes this column for one of the naturopathic doctor review journals. Clinical cases from the field is I think what he calls it. And he’s been in practice for 40+ years. The guy’s seen everything. Any kind of miracle cure, you want to send to this guy, and I’ve been able to study with him thank goodness. Anyways, in this article, he’s talking about one of his cases of a young girl with a really rare brain tumor. The patient’s mom was working with this doctor in addition to conventional treatments and kind of was doing whatever she possibly could. They worked together for several years. It was very back and forth in her progress. I think they gained more time and more quality of life, but it was a hard case and it spanned years. She eventually passed due to the illness. It was obviously a very heartbreaking experience for everyone involved. And at the end of this article, and he’s talking about it, he says – and it made me cry when I read this because I think it speaks to what many doctors feel when faced with those cases that we can’t cure, we can’t help, and we’re stuck with not having the right tools. I mean, this guy, just keep in mind, he’s been practicing for a billion years and he’s an incredible physician. The end of this case summary, he says, “I need to learn more. I need to do better.” I think as a doctor is just struck me because you do the best you can with working with what you know the body can do, and it doesn’t always go the way you want. Even someone who’s been doing it his whole life and is an incredible physical to say without ego, “I failed this case.” And the weight that carries for everyone involved. It’s really hard, and there’s no answers. We need to learn more. We need to do better. Ever since seeing that, that’s sort of my mindset when I’m faced with a case that I am struggling with or the patient’s struggling. I’m like, I need to learn more. I need to do better. I think that’s what drives a lot of doctors to continue in the face of heartbreaking situations that we can’t help. So I don’t know if that’s at all helpful, but it just came to my mind when you were talking about that, and I wanted to share.
Claire: That’s so great. That’s so powerful. I think that it is something that resonates with anyone who’s ever been in a helping profession. It resonates with me, just from the perspective of being someone who any time someone comes to me and says, “Hey, this is my problem,” I want to be like, okay, I fixed it. Here you go. And let alone to have that problem be a terminal illness, to have that responsibility placed in your hands, how intense that would be. And I hope that it’s also validating for some people to hear that, yes, your body is so powerful and amazing and capable and is your best friend, and it’s worth the trust, and it’s worth the effort, and it’s worth the attempt because your body is capable of so much more than you think it is or than you’ve been told that it is. And I hope it’s validating for people to hear that still sometimes it’s not going to work out.
Dr. Cook: Yeah. I just would hope that anyone listening that’s experienced the non-healing side of things throws away the shame and the guild and the feeling like it’s their fault and any of that because there’s just not always answers. Really, I just wanted to speak to that because that’s such an important component for people who may be listening that are frustrated with hearing, “The body is so great.”
Joy: Right, right. There’s a guilt question that someone wrote in, and I want to get to. We’re running out of time. Around taking Synthroid for Hashimoto’s because they’re like, “I have a lot of guilt for taking that. Is it okay to not treat holistically.” I feel like everything we’ve said in this conversation is like, of course.
Dr. Cook: Yeah, of course.
Joy: So can you speak to that as far as people’s guilt around taking a Western approach? Just because I had success with a naturopathic doctor in treating Graves’ Disease, I’m not better than anybody.
Dr. Cook: And this is why – remember I said earlier there are so many psychological layers to all of this? It’s not just as simple as a physical symptom and the physical diagnosis and the physical treatment. It’s layered and complicated within psychology even. And I hear these words like “guilt” and “shame” coming up a lot, even just in this conversation, which is something I hear all day every day too. Again, it breaks my heart because I’m like, there’s no space for that. I wish that I could eradicate those feelings from our health struggles and our experiences with those that we love with health struggles. Because it doesn’t serve anyone. And yes, absolutely, you are not a failure if you are taking medication for your disease. Again, it’s utilizing the best of what we have out there to get a person healthy and feeling good. If you’re on Synthroid and you’re the best you’ve ever felt because you’re taking care of your thyroid, that’s empowering. Good for you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Natural isn’t inherently superior to conventional care because it’s natural. Some people are only a candidate for natural therapies because their bodies are too sensitive for conventional or pharmaceutical grade stuff. The whole spectrum of how we are as individual people with different genetics and different experiences, and you can’t compare yourself to other people, especially in the context of you did this thing and got better and I have the same condition and I’m doing this different. Is my experience lesser? Hell no. There’s no space for that. You do you. Live your life, and take care of yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with that. And again, that’s where I say any doctor should not be pushing their agenda. If I maybe would personally choose to treat something naturally and have a patient with the same thing who wants to do medication, that’s your choice. Doctors, their role should be to educate their patients around all treatment options, not one or the other. Even as a natural provider, I’m educating my patients on their conventional options too and saying, here’s what we’re looking at with all of our choices from this side of the corner to that. We can use one, both, one or the other, or any mixture in between. Here’s what that might look like in this context and that. What do you want to do? It’s up to the person. I think we lose a lot of that medical autonomy because we assume doctors are these all-knowing kind of tyrant gods who have all the answers. And really at the end of the day, no doctor will know your body better than you do, and no doctor will ever know the best treatment for you when you’re able to be faced with all the options. I think what you kind of spoke to, Joy, earlier is just that most people aren’t really exposed to other options. They’re really only told one way or the highway. “Diet won’t matter. It doesn’t make any difference in your condition.” At the end of the day, what we need to be thinking, not so much supplements versus drugs. It should be looked at, are we educating patients on all of their options and giving them the information based on their makeup and their constitution and their experiences to see what would be the best fit for that person.
Claire: I feel like what I’m hearing over and over again in this interview is it’s not either/or, it’s not conventional versus natural. It’s what is the best option for you that’s going to be the most sustainable long term and that’s truly going to – the analogy I always use, it’s going to put out the fire instead of just turning off the smoke alarm. What is truly going to get to the root of what’s happening and/or provide the most effective and sustainable in a true sense of the word, like sustainable to your lifestyle and your situation and your budget and etcetera solution. And you know, for Joy, her immediate reaction was I need to know – and we’ve talked about this. I’ve said this line on this podcast probably ten times now. Joy never said, “I will never go down the radiation path because it’s stupid and I hate it.” Joy said, “Radiation sounds extreme to me. I want to try some other things first.”
Dr. Cook: Yeah.
Claire: And that is really what I’m hearing so much and what you’re saying. It’s not about saying these other options are wrong. It’s about saying there might be other choices available to you, and if you want to pursue that, here’s some information.
Dr. Cook: And with all the facts, what sounds good to you. Another thing to point out with that context of natural versus not. Sometimes what we’re doing for people is using natural therapies to get their body strong enough for the surgery they need. Some people that I’ve seen need a surgery to save their life, and they are not a candidate for that surgery for various reasons. And so we get them to that point so that they can have a lifesaving surgery. Again, it’s using the best of all that we have available to get a person healthy. There’s no hierarchy of importance or, again, moral judgment of right or wrong, natural versus not. I think we just have so much charged in these words and the nomenclature. I think that’s a really sad problem.
Claire: Okay, so let’s wrap up with – I feel like this is a loaded question, but let’s try not to make it a loaded question. What are some things that you would very broad strokes recommend any person without a known underlying diagnosis, without known contraindications could do today and moving forward to help support their body?
Joy: Aside from the thing earlier that we talked about which is get into a great relationship with your body. That’s number one.
Claire: What are tips and tricks?
Dr. Cook: It’s so funny because everyone wants to ask this question, and I’m like, I’ve got a bunch for you. But I would say succinctly, hydrotherapy is probably my maybe number two thing because if you have access to running water and some towels, or even just running water, you can pretty much do hydrotherapy. Which may be a whole other podcast topic, I’m not sure. As Joy knows, I’m a huge hydro-fanatic.
Joy: I’ve talked about it a lot, yep.
Dr. Cook: It’s just an incredible therapy. And hydrotherapy is also a large umbrella term for many different types of water treatment kind of therapies. But hydrotherapy, that can be done in your shower if you want to. At the end of your shower, alternate between hot and cold temperatures of water and always end on cold. That’s a very simple way every single day or every other that you’re showering that you can do that. If you have access to a sauna or a hot tub or something of that nature, you could do sauna or a hot tub alternating with a cold shower back and forth. That’s kind of a fun thing for people to do if they’re in a spa kind of environment. We live near a creek that has snow melt running through it all year, so it’s always freezing. We’ll do hydrotherapy outside of just dunking in the river, doing jumping jacks and heating up, and jumping back in the creek. There’s lots of ways that you can do it that you don’t have to have access to the fancy machine that we use, that we pair with it, or all the tools to do the full medical treatments of hydrotherapy. It can be as simple as doing it in the shower. And that’s what I’ll have a lot of people do who don’t have access to more fancy tools. There’s hydrotherapy, which there’s so much more I want to say on that, but I actually shouldn’t even start because I’ll get on a long tangent about it because I’m a huge nerd. But the other one I would say that’s really underrated and that we hear a lot about and don’t really know why it matters is to drink water. For God’s sake, please drink water.
Joy: Do we have to drink eight glasses a day?
Dr. Cook: The rule is half your body weight in ounces. So for a 140 lb. person, that would be 70 oz. a day of purified, remineralized water. Not sparkling –
Claire: I’ve never heard “remineralized” before. What does that mean?
Dr. Cook: So if you’re doing filtered water or reverse osmosis, which I kind of recommend because most of our water quality is pretty terrifying.
Claire: So if I’m drinking Colorado tap water, what do I need to do?
Dr. Cook: So Colorado tap water, I would filter it.
Joy: [laughing] Claire.
Claire: I’m not going to do that, but I appreciate the suggestion. [laughing]
Dr. Cook: I would say, for those that are thinking really highly purified water, this becomes a problem because as your purifying the water and extracting the more toxic stuff, you’re taking out the good stuff too.
Joy: So, Sole water?
Dr. Cook: So Sole water is a really easy one, and you can find instructions about it online. S-O-L-E, sole water.
Joy: I posted a link. I’ll post it on the show notes for this too.
Dr. Cook: Yeah. I don’t know if you have the handout. I can send you my pdf. But yeah, online you can find info about it. It’s just a simple way to basically provide your body with the essential minerals that you need that should be in your water that are going to be in Claire’s tap water, along with other things. But we really, really need those minerals to absorb the water. So if we’re doing highly purified water, you need to add minerals back in some way, whether that’s going to be Sole water or there’s lots of different mineral mixes and things you can do. Most of them taste really bad. I like the sole because you can kind of dilute it and make it more palpable. But I have seen a lot of people who are drinking a ton of water and are actually demonstrating all the signs of dehydration because they’re drinking reverse osmosis water without any minerals ever back in their diet, so their kidneys can’t take up the water appropriately. We actually need those electrolytes to be able to hydrate the water we consume. There’s kind of two steps to water. Drink enough of actual water, and then also have the minerals necessary to be able to do something with it. But sparkling water, El Dorado springs is probably my favorite water. It’s kind of fancy and a little bit expensive.
Joy: I love that water too. It’s my favorite.
Dr. Cook: It’s so good. It just tastes like how you feel water should taste. But I’d rather people drink tap water than purified water if they’re not going to mineralize it. That’s actually a pretty important component to hydration. I was one that growing up that didn’t – everyone always tells you to drink water, but no one really tells you why. Since I was a Rebel, I was like, “Don’t tell me what to do. I’m not going to do that.” So it wasn’t until I understood why we need it and all the things it does. Even just the effect it has on mental health. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen who really just by getting them hydrated, 80% of their symptoms got better. Without having to do much or spend any money. So hydration is a really, really important thing, but hydration plus minerals. Another simple day to day trick that I like to work on, really anything for lymphatic circulation and flow. Because our lymph doesn’t really pump itself. It relies on us to move it. So some easy things that you can do are dry skin brushing. You’re welcome to post my handout on that. You can probably find information on it online as well.
Joy: And I didn’t know what the lymph was. I thought it was one thing.
Dr. Cook: Yeah, no one really does, and it’s actually a really critical system in our body that is designed to do a lot of really important detox work. Some people use those rebounders, those little mini trampolines. They bounce on those. That’s a good one. Those drive me crazy. I can’t physically do them for some reason. I get bored and too ADHD. I can’t bounce on those things. I like skin brushing. Honestly gentle low key walking. Not power walking, not trying to get a burn or intensity exercise, but just moving your body in gentle ways. Stretching. Hydrotherapy moves the lymph. So water, minerals, lymphatic support via whatever method makes sense, hydrotherapy, those are probably my top three favorite things to incorporate day to day. Because they don’t take much time. It’s like the equivalent of, even less time than, kind of the equivalent of brushing your teeth every day. If you don’t brush your teeth, your teeth are going to rot out. You probably should brush your teeth. I think you should probably move your body, support your lymph, drink water, do those kind of things.
Joy: Hot-cold showers.
Dr. Cook: Yeah, and with the hydrotherapy with the alternative, you definitely also want to end on cold, which everyone shies away from.
Joy: It’s not as comfortable.
Dr. Cook: Yeah.
Joy: It doesn’t have to be freezing cold, right? You can work up to it?
Dr. Cook: Correct. I’m a huge baby about cold water, so when I was first doing it, I would do hot water and then tepid kind of like warm water to just have the change in temperature gradient.
Claire: Because I like to end my showers under a couple second of boiling, scalding hot water.
Dr. Cook: Yeah. You and I are like, yeah. And again, this is where someone with a Rebel tendency, I think understanding – and probably for anyone honestly – but understanding the “why” behind things really helps to make changes because if I didn’t understand what the lymph does and why hydro supports it, I probably wouldn’t bother with cold water. But it’s important to end with cold. And even just a short, mildly cold, because that’s basically what’s going to send the blood back into central circulation, which is what we want for our organs. Versus the hot because it dilates the blood vessels, sort of pushes the blood out to the periphery. Whereas we want to send that back in to the gut and all the organs in our abdomen. The cold is very important. That’s why we end on it, but you can work yourself up to colder water. If you’re like me, you just do it slowly over time and that’s that.
Joy: And how about seed cycling for women? Is that something every woman could do, or is that specific to certain candidates?
Dr. Cook: I would say there are certain digestive diagnoses that would not really be a good candidate for that, based on if they have diverticulitis or certain IBD situations I might not recommended. Seed cycling, there’s other ways we can get the effect of that through less harsh ways potentially on the GI tract. And eventually usually those people are able to do it, but sometimes early on it can be a little big aggravating. Most situations, if you’ve ever been sold not to eat small seeds for a reason due to pickets in your large intestine, don’t do seed cycling probably. But because they’re ground, honestly it is pretty safe. But I would say if you’re not being monitored or educated about it from someone who knows what they’re doing and the context of your case, it might be potentially in some GI situations not the best because it is important that you grind them and some people won’t realize that and so they’ll eat them whole. If you have different digestive complaints, that can make things a little bit worse. So grinding into a fine powder is a really, really important part of the process. But generally speaking, seed cycling is fantastic. And honestly, even men can do it. But for women especially with any kind of menstrual concerns. It’s kind of funny because I’ve been telling women to do seed cycling for a long, long time. And it’s funny how people will like, “Okay, yeah, yeah, whatever. What do you know?” And then they’ll come back next time and be like, “Oh, I read about seed cycling in this cook book I got. I want to do it.” I’m like, great. I’ve only been trying to get you to do this for like six months, and now you’re going to do it.
Claire: If only someone had recommended this to you six months ago.
Dr. Cook: So weird. So yeah, I love it. Kind of going back to what you said, Claire, about women not being very validated in healthcare, that’s another huge topic of interest to me. How medically negligent we are to women, still in this day and age. Seed cycling for teens and before girls are even going into their menstrual cycle, that’s a really good way to help balance things leading up to that because a lot of girls will have pretty awful periods to start with, and then their only options are birth control when they’re 14 years old, which causes a whole slew of other nutrition deficiencies, microbiome issues, and all that kind of stuff. So we can help with really gentle, simple, food-based things to give young girls a better fighting chance to have a healthy period and not have to be put through the ringer because they’re in so much pain they can’t function. I would say it’s a great tool for young teen girls and for adults. I even have people seed cycling five years after menopause even to help continue that circadian rhythm of the hormones because, as we women know, it’s a lot of fluctuation of hormones through a whole long cycle ether there’s a complicated mix of things. Seed cycling is so simple and so cheap and so effective, but it has to be done regularly. It’s one that I’m like, it’s not a lightning bolt therapy. Consistency is key. You’re going to see the benefits if you do it over time, not if you do it one day a week for a few weeks.
Joy: Oh my gosh. This was such a great discussion, and I’m really excited to do this again, especially around diet culture. So listeners can submit their questions to that too. Yeah, this has just been really great. You know how grateful I am for you and the work you did for me, but also just how passionate you are for this field. This is your passion and your heart. This is not something that you take lightly. People’s health in your hands every single day, and you just take such great care of your patients. We’ll post all of links that we talked about today in the show notes so that listeners can check out everything that we discussed and how to look up naturopathic doctors in your area. So listeners, thank you guys so much again for this great discussion. We’d love to hear your feedback. You know where to email us, email@example.com, and we’ll talk to you next week.
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Loved this episode! Were there any books that Dr. Cook would recommend to begin learning more about food and naturopathic medicine?