Dr. Sarah Cimperman is a naturopathic doctor in New York State. She works with all patients but specializes in working with females.
Q: Please give us some background regarding your credentials. What type of education did you pursue to become a naturopath (naturopathic physician)?
Dr. Cimperman: I received my degree as a naturopathic doctor from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2002.
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. Cimperman: Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained as primary care physicians and experts in natural medicine. In medical school NDs learn the same basic and clinical sciences as MDs. NDs complete their clinical instruction inside clinics offering acute and chronic care while MDs complete their clinical instruction inside hospitals specializing in acute and emergency care. NDs perform in-office minor surgery but not major surgery. Residencies are required for MDs but so far relatively few opportunities exist for NDs.
The British Columbia Naturopathic Association compared federally and regionally accredited naturopathic medical schools including the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) and Bastyr University to federally and regionally accredited conventional medical schools including Yale University, Johns Hopkins, and the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW). In basic and clinical sciences like biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, and lab diagnosis, students received 1548 hours of training at NCNM, 1639 hours at Bastyr, 1420 at Yale, 1771 at Johns Hopkins, and 1363 at MCW. In allopathic therapeutics like family medicine, obstetrics, and neurology, students received 2244 hours of training at NCNM, 1925 at Bastyr, 2891 (plus thesis) at Yale, 3391 at Johns Hopkins, and 2311 at MCW. In naturopathic therapeutics like botanical medicine and homeopathy, students received 588 hours of training at NCNM and 633 hours at BU, but 0 hours at Yale, John Hopkins, and MCW. In therapeutic nutrition, students received 144 hours of training at NCNM and 132 at Bastyr, but 0 hours at Yale, John Hopkins, and MCW. Total hours of training were 4668 for NCNM, 4472 for Bastyr, 4311 (plus thesis) at Yale, 5162 at John Hopkins, and 3674 hours at MCW.
“Fall 2010: Enhanced Primary Care in BC. Improvements to Primary Care, Patient Choice & Access to Preventative Care.” Your Health, News from the British Columbia Naturopathic Association 16.2 (Summer 2010): 1, 4-5.
Q: Are you a member of any additional professional organizations? Do you have any other credentials or accolades (public speaking, published author, etc.)?
Dr. Cimperman: I am a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the American Holistic Medical Association.
I was a recent guest on the Fox News show “A Healthy You” with Carol Alt discussing the risks and benefits of childhood immunization with pediatrician Marc K. Siegel, MD.
My new book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings, will be released November 1, 2013. In it I discuss how chemicals in the environment can promote high levels of blood sugar and insulin (as well as food cravings and fat accumulation). I also explain the safe, effective, at-home cleansing program I’ve been using in my practice for more than a decade.
We can’t always see, smell, or taste toxins, but they are very real. The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the CDC, routinely measures chemicals in people as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Their most recent report found environmental toxins in every single sample including chemicals linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Our toxic body burden increases with age, so the older we get, the more toxins we contain. Detoxification helps remove these chemicals and it can be used to address existing health problems like prediabetes or as a strategy for disease prevention.
Q: What inspired you to practice naturopathic medicine as opposed to allopathic medicine?
Dr. Cimperman: I wanted to be able to offer my patients a range of therapeutic options, starting with the least invasive. I liked the idea of using food, exercise, and plant medicines to heal the body and prevent disease whenever possible.
Q: What are your views on the relationship between allopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, ancient healing practices, and modern scientific research?
Dr. Cimperman: Each profession or specialization brings unique knowledge and skills to the table. Patients receive the best health care when they have a range of options and, ideally, a team of practitioners that includes allopathic doctors, osteopathic doctors, naturopathic doctors, doctors of Chinese Medicine, and other practitioners of ancient healing therapies.
Ancient healing practices can be difficult to study in the same way we evaluate new drugs because in many cases placebo-based trials are not possible. Still, modern scientific research can be very valuable. My biggest concern is that research studies, especially those funded by industry, are often fraught with poor methodology, omission of data, researcher bias, distorted interpretations of data, and conflicts of interest. According to Dr. John Ioannidis, “in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims” and his 2005 paper published in PLOS Medicine showed that 80% of non-randomized studies, 25% of randomized trials (the gold standard), and 10% of large randomized trials were wrong.
Good quality research studies are important but critical thinking and clinical experience are too.
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. Cimperman: Allopathic medicine can be life-saving. Diagnostic procedures, drugs, and surgeries save lives every day. But they’ve also been identified as leading causes of death in the US, so they must be used wisely, when less invasive or less harmful choices are not options. I always tell my patients that no matter what treatment or procedure they are considering, from multivitamins to chemotherapy, the most important thing is consider the risks and the benefits. Sometimes the risks outweigh the benefits and sometimes the benefits outweigh the risks.
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. Cimperman: Most of my patients are women but I also see men and children. I focus on women’s health and chronic illnesses like gastrointestinal problems, skin conditions, allergies, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and prediabetes. I talk to my patients about diet and lifestyle choices as well as guidelines for exercise and supplements. I also individualize detoxification programs when appropriate.
For most people, small doses of environmental toxins cause cumulative damage rather than immediate symptoms. Continued exposure and/or decreased liver function can compromise natural detoxification systems, causing the body to store toxins rather than eliminate them. Accumulation of toxins in the body may not have any symptoms at all or it may lead to general malaise or chronic health problems. Clearing toxins from the body can relieve symptoms and renew wellness and vitality.
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. Cimperman: Naturopathic doctors are not yet licensed in the state of New York and our practice is limited to consultation. My patients work with primary care doctors and/or specialists for exams, testing, and prescriptions when necessary, and they work with me on diet, exercise, lifestyle considerations, supplements, and when appropriate, individualized detoxification programs.
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. Cimperman: No matter what intervention is being considered, it’s important to weigh the benefits against the risks, including side effects and complications. For some patients, the benefits of conventional treatments outweigh the risks. For others, they don’t. These decisions should always be made on a case-by-case basis because each individual is unique. When naturopathic modalities fail to promote sufficient healing, I recommend allopathic alternatives and refer them to a doctor who can tell them more about those options.
Q: What are some of the most common ailments you see that are effectively treated with natural methods?
Dr. Cimperman: Many of the chronic conditions that are poorly managed with allopathic medicine greatly benefit from naturopathic treatment, like diabetes, high blood pressure, eczema, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
As a naturopathic doctor, it’s my goal to address underlying factors and remove obstacles to cure. Most of the time, these include poor diet, poor digestion, a sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, lack of sleep or poor quality sleep, exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment, and/or insufficient outdoor exposure. Sometimes addressing these problems cause chronic illnesses to resolve spontaneously.
When addressing basic lifestyle factors isn’t enough and further intervention is necessary, naturopathic therapies like nutritional supplements, botanical medicines, and homeopathic remedies can be safe and effective for many conditions and they usually carry fewer (or no) side effects compared to prescription medications.
Q: What are some of the greatest obstacles you face when practicing naturopathic medicine?
Dr. Cimperman: Because of lack of licensure in New York, I don’t have access to all the tools I’ve been trained to use including performing physical exams, ordering lab work, and writing prescriptions when necessary.
Q: What instance, in your mind, stands out as one of your greatest success stories in treating someone via naturopathic methods?
Dr. Cimperman: One of the conditions I see a lot in my practice is cervical dysplasia. It’s very common and the conventional treatment often involves surgical removal of pre-cancerous tissue. Lots of women are hesitant to lose part of their cervix, especially if they want to become pregnant or preserve that option. In my experience a comprehensive naturopathic protocol often resolves cervical dysplasia without surgery. I love being able to offer women a non-surgical option.
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. Cimperman: For most of my patients I recommend eating plenty of fiber (non-starchy vegetables should make up 50% of each meal) and including natural unprocessed fats (like avocado, olives, raw nuts, cold-pressed oils, and non-toxic fish and seafood) and good quality protein with every meal. Protein can come from plants – like beans and legumes, fermented soy, raw nuts and seeds – or animals – like eggs, dairy products, meats, and nontoxic fish and seafood.
If my patients are omnivores, I encourage them to only eat meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that were wild, grass-fed or raised on pasture and never exposed to pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or genetically-modified organisms.
Vegetarian and vegan diets aren’t automatically healthy, and animal foods aren’t automatically unhealthy. Plenty of plant foods can be toxic (like pesticide-laden produce) while animal foods can be an excellent source of healthy fat and protein (like non-toxic fish and grass-fed meat).
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. Cimperman: Microbes outnumber our own cells ten to one and maintaining a healthy balance is critical. Studies show that healthy bacteria make vitamins, break down environmental toxins, reduce inflammation, improve digestion, maintain intestinal health, educate our immune systems, influence the production of neurotransmitters, and even determine how we metabolize and store fat.
Many people benefit from taking probiotics and they are an important part of my detox program. My main concern is quality, as one study that analyzed 14 commercial products found only 1 that contained what was written on the label.
People who have regular bowel movements and healthy digestion can get their healthy bacteria from food instead of supplements. I recommend eating cultured or lacto-fermented foods everyday along with plenty of fiber and prebiotics (onions, garlic, beans, asparagus, artichokes, ground flax seeds) to help the good bacteria thrive.
Digestive enzymes can be useful for short-term digestive support while underlying issues are being resolved, for or specific conditions like pancreatic insufficiency, but they are usually unnecessary in healthy people. For long-term digestive support I recommend enhancing the body’s natural production of its own digestive enzymes and stomach acid whenever possible instead of replacing them.
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. Cimperman: The goal of naturopathic medicine is to address the underlying conditions of any illness. For diabetes and high blood pressure it’s important to evaluate diet, digestion, sleep, stress, exercise, vitamin D levels, and environmental exposure. In addition to diet, exercise and lifestyle considerations, detox is an important part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
In my book The Prediabetes Detox, I explain how chemicals in the environment can increase our risk for chronic diseases like diabetes (as well as cardiovascular diseases and cancer) and how detoxification can reduce that risk. The environmental component is often overlooked but I believe it’s a critical component of a comprehensive program to reverse or manage diabetes and/or high blood pressure.
Q: If there was one piece of advice regarding naturopathic health care you could give anyone who would listen, what would it be?
Dr. Cimperman: Find someone who is licensed and be open to their suggestions. Get a second opinion if you want. Naturopathic doctors can practice very differently so find one that resonates with you.
Q: What is best way to contact you to book an appointment, visit your clinic, or ask for a phone consultation?
Dr. Cimperman: I can be contacted by phone (646-234-2918) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I offer prospective patients a free 10-minute introductory visit over the phone.
19 West 34th Street, Penthouse
New York, New York 10001