We selectively choose Naturopaths to interview, and today we had the opportunity to interview Dr. Justin Gallant a naturopath based in Hamilton, Ontario. Read this interview to find out what makes naturopathic special, what it’s capable of, and what really just makes them humans.
Dr. Justin Gallant ND
Bachelor of Kinesiology
Advantage Chiropractic and Massage (Hamilton, Ontario)
59 Dunsmure Road
Q: Please give us some background regarding your credentials. What type of education did you pursue to become a naturopath (naturopathic physician)? Please be specific regarding the schools you attended, your major, and any additional certification programs you attended that led you to this point.
Dr. Gallant: I obtained a Kinesiology Degree from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. I then went on to the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto to receive my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. There are only 2 schools in Canada where you can become a Naturopathic Doctor (The other is Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in BC). I received 4 years of training at CCNM which consisted of over 3000 hours of classroom training and more than 1200 hours of clinical experience. I completed Board examinations (NPLEX) after second and fourth year which are mandatory to pass in order to become a Naturopathic Doctor in Ontario. A full course-list is provided here: http://www.ccnm.edu/prospective_students/course_listings?field_year_value_many_to_one=1st+Year
Q: A lot of people are confused about the legitimacy of naturopathic medicine. Can you expand upon your educational pursuits to explain the similarities and differences in training that you received as opposed to an allopathic practitioner?
Dr. Gallant: The legitimacy of Naturopathic Medicine really depends on which Province or State you are in. My province (Ontario) is regulated so you can only call yourself a Naturopathic Doctor if you’ve done an undergraduate degree, pre-requisites required by the school, 4 years at an accredited Naturopathic College and pass 2 sets of Board exams (NPLEX). More information about regulation according to province can be found here: http://www.cand.ca/index.php 40 under “Regulation in provinces and territories”. Information about which states are regulated can be found here: http://www.naturopathic.org/content.asp?pl=16&sl=57&contentid=57 Here is a full list of Registered ND’s in Ontario: http://www.bddtn.on.ca/naturopathic-doctor-search/registered-naturopathic-doctors-in-ontario/ In states or provinces that do are not regulated or do not have title protection, anyone can call themselves a Naturopathic Doctor or Naturopath. This is not the case in the places listed in the links above. We have 3 years of extensive training in Clinical Nutrition while Allopathic Doctors get only a couple hours of nutrition training. A good comparison can be found here (They never compared CCNM here but it gives you a good idea): http://www.bcna.ca/documents/comparativecurriculacombined.pdf The Council of Naturopathic Medical Education is the accrediting body that governs schools for Naturopathic Medicine. http://www.cnme.org/index.html. Here you can find what other schools are accredited besides CCNM. In summary regulated ND’s have training in allopathic medicine as well has holistic medicine, along with a full year of clinical internship where we see patients 1-on-1 under the supervision of a licensed ND. The curriculum is 4 years long but the course-load is approximately twice as dense as undergraduate degrees, so each semester has around 10-12 credits rather than the 5-6 that you would take in undergraduate studies.
Q: Are you a member of any additional professional organizations? Do you have any other credentials or accolades (public speaking, published author, etc.)?
Dr. Gallant: I am a member of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors and I am regulated under the Board of Directors Drugless Therapy – Naturopathy (BDDT-N). I also have a Bachelor of Kinesiology degree. I have been published in Integrative Health Practitioners Magazine. My blog has been quite successful (www.DrJustinGallantND.com/blog) as well.
Q: What inspired you to practice naturopathic medicine as opposed to allopathic medicine?
Dr. Gallant: Having a couple family members misdiagnosed and feeling like we had no one to go to for a second opinion is what inspired me the most. My Grandmother fell ill with cirrhosis of the liver and her MD insisted that she was an alcoholic. She lived with us and we knew she was not an alcoholic. It wasn’t until 2 weeks before she passed that she got a liver specialist who found out that she had Hemochromatosis, a common genetic condition which causes iron to accumulate in certain organs, causing major damage to them. That was the kicker that made me feel like we all need someone who we can go to that will listen and give an educated second opinion. Allopathic medicine seemed very rigid to me. It almost reminds me of my computer programming days where we used “If-then” statements. If someone comes in with _______, then prescribe ________. Naturopathic Medicine takes the patient’s whole life into account and its takes a proactive approach to health, rather than reactive.
Q: What are your views on the relationship between allopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, ancient healing practices, and modern scientific research?
Dr. Gallant: I believe Naturopathic Medicine and Allopathic Medicine should work in conjunction with each other. I like to call it adjunctive medicine rather than alternative medicine. Allopathic Medicine is definitely a necessity but it has its gaps and limitations. Naturopathic Medicine has gaps and limitations as well. These gaps and limitations can be covered for the most part if a patient is seeing an MD and an ND who are communicating properly with each other. The more MD’s know about what it is that ND’s do and what type of education we have the more MD’s will be interested in referring to us and trusting us with their patients. A typical visit with an ND is about an hour long, while an MD visit can be less than 10 minutes on average. I realize there is a huge demand and long waiting times for MD’s so it is important to be as efficient as possible but I believe a lot of those visits are unnecessary. If patients go to their ND, the ND will be able to tell if a visit to the MD is warranted and possibly bring down waiting times and the general demand of the MD. There is also a big call for knowledge of interactions with medications and supplements/herbs, especially since the Dr. Oz craze. ND’s are trained in these interactions and we have the time to make sure their medications are not interacting with anything else they are taking.
Ancient healing practices can have some merit as long as they are used in a safe manner. Some things are hard to prove through modern scientific research but if it’s been working clinically, why not give it a try? I guarantee a study will never be done on removing dairy for constipation in children but I see, on a weekly basis, my pediatric patient’s constipation resolve after removing dairy for a couple of weeks. Naturopathic Doctors do use an extensive amount of modern scientific research and we stay as up to date as any other practitioner. This being said, you can’t rely on modern scientific as a binary indicator of what works and what doesn’t. Statistics and research can be manipulated to say whatever the researchers want it to say. I think it all boils down to money. If a natural product can’t be patented or it is available everywhere who is going to pay for the research to back it up? It’s only worth paying for research if the results will lead to a financial gain. One thing I find both interesting and disturbing is when you look at the monograph of a large portion of pharmaceuticals the mechanism of action is “unknown” and they haven’t been studied for safety for more than a couple weeks, nor in combination with other drugs.
Q: What are your views on allopathic medical practices and medications? How do you view the relationship between allopathic diagnostic procedures and natural healing methods?
Dr. Gallant: Allopathic medicine is definitely necessary, especially with today’s society. It’s a very effective and efficient form of medicine. This being said, I believe most medications should be used a crutch while the patient finds a cure to their issues. Exceptions to this are medications like antibiotics and chemotherapy, which do actually lead to a cure. Most other medications just suppress the condition. This is sometimes necessary so the patient can tolerate their condition but it is most important to find the cause and cure to the condition. Naturopathic Doctors use allopathic diagnostic procedures. We usually send the patient to their MD to get blood work done. One major issue is with reference ranges. These ranges have to cover 95% of the population so they are way too broad. The labs should not be ignored if they come back, “normal”. The patient’s symptom picture should be combined with their lab values and interpreted accordingly. There are quite a few things that can be tested through blood work but MD’s do not have a solution to. For example, if someone’s liver enzymes are elevated, MD’s will use this as a marker to figure out how badly the liver is being affected. Besides removing alcohol, MD’s do not have a solution to bring these liver enzymes back down. In Naturopathic Medicine we would look at these enzymes, try to find the cause and give dietary and lifestyle advice as well as treated with herbs such as Milk Thistle which is great for liver health. Other examples of this phenomenon are hormonal imbalances and kidney disease.
Q: Do you practice naturopathic medicine in general or do you focus your practice on the treatment of certain, specific conditions. Do you feel you are an expert in the treatment of a particular disorder or disease; or, do you prefer to work with specific groups of people (children, women, diabetics, etc)?
Dr. Gallant: I keep a general practice for the love of the possibility of anything coming through my door. It keeps me on my feet and I feel like I will be forever learning with this approach. I am very interested in endocrinology but I choose to not specify my preferences so I do not funnel myself into a specific practice. I want anyone to be able to feel like they can come see me, no matter their age or issue.
Q: If a new patient with varied medical conditions walked into your office, how would you explain your diagnosis methods? Would you order bloodwork and tests that most patients consider part of allopathic medicine? What procedure would you follow in terms of testing in order to create a diagnosis and treatment plan, and how would you explain it to someone who is unfamiliar with naturopathic medicine?
Dr. Gallant: My initial visit is an hour long, thorough verbal intake including specifics about their current conditions, past medical history, allergies and sensitivities, medications and supplements, family history and quite a few other details. The second visit is another hour where I go through a review of systems, dietary log and perform a thorough physical exam. After the first visit I usually release the patient’s most recent records from their MD. I take all of this information to formulate a list of labs I want done. If any other tests are warranted I will recommend they go to their MD to get that test done. If the MD requires an explanation, I type out and fax their MD an explanation why these tests are necessary. Most of the time it’s easy enough to figure out what is going on with the patient just based on the symptom picture and I confirm with blood work. The treatment plan varies on an individual basis according to each patient’s condition, preferences and my clinical opinion. Some treatments I utilize are dietary and lifestyle guidance, supplements, herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping and sometimes homeopathy. If the patient presents with something that is out of my scope (e.g. meniscal tear), I will get them to go to their MD for a referral to a specialist.
Q: In what instances, if any, would you tell a patient that allopathic treatments would be safer or more effective than a natural or alternative treatment? What criteria do you use to decide when a person should be seeking allopathic remedies as opposed to natural?
Dr. Gallant: In the case of intolerable pain, I recommend my patients seek allopathic treatment. Pain relief through allopathic medications comes much quicker and more effectively. There are several instances where I recommend my patients work with their MD, it really depends on the case. A few examples are if the patient has intractable stage 2 or 3 high blood pressure, chest pain, uncontrollable blood sugar, breathing difficulty, depression or suicidal ideation. We are trained to deal with emergency situations and recognize red flags so we can act accordingly.
Q: What are some of the most common ailments you see that are effectively treated with natural methods? Please give an example.
Dr. Gallant: Insomnia is something that is very common and easy to treat. Sometimes it goes away with deep breathing and journaling, sometimes it takes a bit more but it’s generally very easy to treat. Weight gain is fairly easy to treat if we explore the emotional component and teach them about the food that they are eating as well as rule out a thyroid disorder. Constipation, GERD, PCOS and skin conditions are common and easy to treat as well. I have had cases of constipation and skin conditions resolve just from removing dairy and I’ve also had cases of GERD and hypertension resolve just from removing caffeine.
Q: What are some of the greatest obstacles you face when practicing naturopathic medicine?
Dr. Gallant: Being a Naturopathic Doctor is a business. It can be difficult balancing being a business-person, an ND and a human being all at once. We are responsible for getting our own patients so it is pretty difficulty establishing a solid patient-base. Miscommunication between ND’s and MD’s used to be an obstacle but it seems to be improving more and more to the point where I wouldn’t call it an obstacle anymore. I think the biggest obstacle is the fast-paced society we live in. Our treatments can sometimes take weeks to start having an effect and most people don’t have the patience. We are used to things being “treated” within minutes of taking medications but when you are actually treating or curing a condition, it takes time and patience.
Q: What instance, in your mind, stands out as one of your greatest success stories in treating someone via naturopathic methods?
Dr. Gallant: I think my greater success stories come from diagnosing patients rather than treating them. It happens over and over again where a new patient will come in who’s been tossed around from specialist to specialist without a diagnosis and they’re at wit’s end. The one story that stands out the most was when a 40 year old woman came in and just by looking at her I knew she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. She had been to endocrinologists, gynecologists and a couple doctors but no one put it together. She was overweight, had irregular periods, had acne, hair on her chin and had a weird sensation when I palpated her lower abdomen. I requested her abdominal ultrasound report and sure enough she had a couple ovaries on each cyst and her ovaries were enlarged. I guess no one read the report or they didn’t quite understand PCOS. I have cases like this all of the time and every time I figure out what’s wrong with them it’s like hitting a home run for me. I think ND’s have the upper-hand with diagnoses because we have time to look at the whole symptom picture, whereas some MD’s and specialists will only look at one symptom or consider a few specialized conditions at a time. Usually it’s the patterns of symptoms that lead to an easy diagnosis. Looking at one symptom will only blind us towards the possible cause.
Q: What type of diet plan do you generally recommend to your patients? A lot of people automatically assume that following a naturopathic plan means eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. What are your views on the importance of having (or avoiding) animal proteins and fats?
Dr. Gallant: This really depends on each individual patient as we all require different nutrients based on our physiology or condition that we have. For the general healthy patient, I recommend an emphasis on vegetables, with chicken, fish (except tuna), legumes such as beans, seeds and nuts, while avoiding dairy, gluten and sugar as much as possible. Incorporating animal proteins and fats are important in my opinion. If you are someone who lacks animal protein or fat, you can usually tell the difference between days you have it and days you don’t. Personally if I don’t have animal protein in the morning I am bogged down until I get that protein. Fats have a really bad reputation but they are one of the key nutrients we require for several different processes. I prefer my patients to get their fat from coconut oil, fish oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Q: What are your views regarding the use of probiotics and digestive enzymes? Do you find that the majority of your patients benefit from these types of therapies?
Dr. Gallant: If my patient is having digestive concerns I definitely like to try a good quality multi-strain probiotic, especially if they’ve been treated with antibiotics several times in the past. I’ve had cases of constipation, diarrhea and abdominal bloating all resolve strictly from supplementing with a probiotic. I like to give them while I am trying to figure out what disease process is happening with the patient but sometimes their issue just resolves from being on a probiotic alone. Patients usually do benefit from digestive enzymes but I like to look at them as a crutch as well. We have to figure out why the patient isn’t secreting enough digestive enzymes. Usually the reason is because they are not producing enough stomach acid(digestive enzymes are activated by stomach acid). Usually when I address hypochlorhydria, the enzymes do not need to be supplemented for. Sometimes mentally preparing for meals, chewing your food more and avoiding water with meals are enough to get those natural enzymes functioning optimally without the need for supplementation.
Q: Today’s society sees a lot of people suffering from conditions that lead to chronic pain. From a naturopathic perspective, what are your views on pain management?
Dr. Gallant: The most important aspect of pain management is figuring out what the cause of the pain is. You can take all of the pain medications you want but if you don’t deal with the source of that pain, it’s never going to go away and you’re going to cause further damage to your stomach, liver and kidneys. Allopathic medicine offers some great pain medications but they should not be depended on for the rest of your life. There are so many things which promote inflammation in our society so dealing with those should be at the top of the priority list. Examples of these things are gluten if you have gluten intolerance, dairy for most people, overexertion, stress, etc… Hydrotherapy in the form of contrasting hot and cold baths (locally) can also be good for pain management and healing.
Q: Diabetes and high blood pressure are two very common conditions impacting society today. What is the thought process behind treating these conditions via naturopathic methods?
Dr. Gallant: There a couple different thought processes behind these two conditions. It’s important to figure out what’s causing these conditions as they both have several different causes. Diabetes can be caused by poor diet but it can also be caused by other conditions such a Hemochromatosis (iron overload), gluten intolerance and PCOS to name a few. High blood pressure also has several possible causes including stimulant intake, stress, kidney issues and different heart conditions. I disagree with the conventional treatment of these conditions as they eventually just worsen the condition (Insulin makes you gain more weight!). I actually just had a case where a patient had uncontrollable blood sugar even though he is on 3 different diabetic medications and his Blood pressure was stage 2 while on 3 medications for that as well. He removed gluten from his diet and his blood sugar and blood pressure both dropped significantly. I got him to work with his MD on weaning the medications down a little bit and I’m hoping this pattern keeps up and he can eventually be off of those 6 medications forever. I’m not saying all cases of diabetes and hypertension are gluten intolerance but it goes to show that there are several different causes and treatments that need to be addressed on an individual basis.
Q: If there was one piece of advice regarding naturopathic health care you could give anyone who would listen, what would it be?
Dr. Gallant: Be open to it and make sure your area is regulated. In some areas of the world, anyone can call themselves a Naturopath. If you do live in a regulated area and your MD tells you not to waste your time or money on an ND, it’s probably because they have no clue what Naturopathic Medicine is. If you have any questions feel free to email me!
Q: What is best way to contact you to book an appointment, visit your clinic, or ask for a phone consultation?
The best way to contact me to book an appointment is to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 905-547-5393 or click on the contact form on my website www.DrJustingallantND.com
Thanks for taking the time to read my interview, I appreciate it!