Med School/Year Graduated: Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine/1998
Years in Practice: 20
Preventive medicine is a new Top Docs category this year. Can you explain in layperson’s terms what it entails?
Preventive medicine is a prophylactic approach focusing on whole health, disease prevention and wellness. We know that genetic predisposition, environmental factors and lifestyle choices often intermingle to ultimately cause disease, disability or even death.
You also have training in functional medicine, which looks at such factors as micronutrient deficiencies, food allergies and gut health. How often are nutritional deficiencies and food sensitivities a culprit in patient issues?
I cannot tell you how incredibly often I find that underlying nutritional deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, amino acids or antioxidants are major contributors to a decline in health and well-being. These nutrients are key players in our intracellular mitochondrial energy production pathways and detoxification pathways. When nutrients are insufficient, I think of this as a “kink” in the ability for these pathways to work efficiently and breakdowns can happen. Our gut is the hub of our immune system, housing 70 percent of our immune defenses, thus it easily makes sense that food allergies or sensitivities can contribute to inflammation in our gastrointestinal tract. This can then lead to imbalances in the healthy versus unhealthy flora, increased permeability/leaky gut and then systemic symptoms and feeling unwell.
What foods would patients be surprised to know are harmful to gut health?
Patients are always surprised after food allergy or sensitivity testing to see that very often the foods they choose to eat on a regular basis day after day, week after week are the foods that often the immune system has developed a reaction to. Rotating foods frequently in our diet helps to avoid this.
What advice would you give to help someone maintain a healthy microbiome?
Rotate your foods on a regular basis, consume a primarily plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet and include prebiotic-rich foods, which include fermented foods, fiber and resistant starches. Reduce sugar and alcohol to a minimum and avoid all processed foods. Adding a high-quality daily probiotic and rotating this out every few months can also be helpful.
Besides diet, what are areas patients can focus on to forestall medical problems and extend health?
Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week, stress reduction and adequate sleep can improve health on many levels.
You are passionate about “whole-family” care. How has raising your own family (four sons!) affected your care approach?
I’ve become very patient and tolerant, but also a tough and strong woman in raising four boys. I’ve learned to be present and truly listen to each family member in my house, and this is the approach I find helpful as a physician. I have always said that a physician’s best diagnostic tool is their own ears… if you take the time with each patient and truly listen to their symptoms or complaints, then very often a correct diagnosis can be made even before the exam or workup is completed.
You’re from Missouri! What do you miss most about the Show-Me State?
Yes, I was born and raised in the Midwest. I miss the beautiful lakes and the fall season and still have a tight group of close friends there that I talk to regularly and see as often as I can. I take my boys back there typically once a year to experience it all.
What kind of hobbies and interests do you have outside medicine?
I’m quite adventurous and love traveling and exploring. I love family time above all else. I enjoy going on trips and amusement parks with roller coasters with my kids. I love to work out and try to exercise most days of the week when I can squeeze that in!
What are you watching on Netflix these days?
I honestly don’t leave much time in my schedule to watch TV. Having said that, I do try to catch one guilty pleasure show weekly: The Bachelor! Please don’t judge! Ha.
“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”
A really good trial lawyer. I’ve honed skills of persuasion and having a favorable outcome with disagreements in raising four boys!