Naturopathy is a lifestyle where one lives naturally with a focus on natural remedies and the body’s ability to restore and maintain itself. Modern Naturopathy follows the same principles, focusing on preventative measures and various remedies to help health situations that exist with our time. Before the surge of an all-natural lifestyle, most critics debunked the theories and ideas behind naturopathy – claiming that traditional medicine is the only appropriate and effective method to cure all diseases and infections. But now, with the health revolution and the return to more simple ways, our society is seeing families that adopt a naturopathic approach to life – a choice that is not easy to maintain – but one that is equally rewarding with extended lifetime and happiness.
We wanted to dig deeper into the Naturopathic approach and get an expert opinion on what exactly a natural remedy life means. We were fortunate enough to get in contact with Dr. Setareh Tais, a naturopathic doctor who practices general family medicine and specializes in reproductive care and infertility. She offers an insightful look on the naturopathic approach and what you can expect in your choice to change for a better lifestyle.
Interview with Dr. Setareh Tais, ND
Naturopathic Family Medicine and Reproductive Health
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. Setareh Tais: I am a naturopathic doctor practicing general family medicine with a sub-specialty in reproductive care and infertility. After receiving my Bachelor’s in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego, I attended Bastyr University, a 4-year naturopathic medical school in Kenmore, WA. I graduated from their naturopathic medicine program program in 2009 and then completed an integrative family medicine residency in 2012. During my residency, I gained experience in women’s health, infertility, pediatrics, cardiology, gastroenterology (and much more) while gaining invaluable training in various integrative therapy options.
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. Setareh Tais: Naturopathic doctors graduate from 4 year accredited post-bachelor medical schools recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Students attending naturopathic medical school, osteopathic medical school and conventional medical school are all required to complete 2 years of didactic medical education (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, etc) and 2 years of clinical education (cardiology, immunology, pulmonology, gynecology, gastroenterology, pediatrics, etc) that includes patient care. Naturopathic medical students have the unique opportunity to take classes in nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, exercise science, nutrient therapy, counseling and many other alternative and holistic healing modalities. In fact, NDs are the only doctors who are required to take a board exam in nutrition.
Q: Are you a member of any additional professional organizations? Do you have any other credentials or accolades (public speaking, published author, etc.)?
Dr. Setareh Tais: I am a board member of the California Naturopathic Doctor’s Association, a founding board member of the Endocrinology Association of Naturopathic Physicians and a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. I have authored numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals such as the Natural Medicine Journal and Naturopathic Doctors News and Review. I am currently presenting a monthly lecture series for the Fresno County Library entitled Health Matters.
Q: What inspired you to practice naturopathic medicine as opposed to allopathic medicine?
Dr. Setareh Tais: I have a strong family history of heart disease and high cholesterol. Back in the 90s my father was faced with a conundrum: how to treat high cholesterol and prevent heart disease when he could not tolerate statin medications (like Lipitor). My quest to find the answer to my father’s dilemma led me to the world of naturopathic medicine, which gave me hope that my father could achieve health with natural and effective alternatives for heart disease.
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. Setareh Tais: Patients are often surprised that I am not against drugs and conventional medicine. In fact, I am grateful for the discovery of antibiotics and immunizations that have saved countless lives. There are times where there are no substitutes for conventional care. However, naturopathic doctors are trained in holistic medicine that treats the cause and is individualized for each person and family. We spend the time with patients to discuss risks and benefits of immunizations, we offer alternatives to antibiotics to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, and we have solutions for patients who do not tolerate pharmaceutical medications or philosophically oppose them. I believe patients should be free to choose their doctor (ND, MD or DO) and also be informed on various options for care, including naturopathic treatments.
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)? Please explain.
Dr. Setareh Tais: I practice both general family medicine and provide natural medicine for the whole person and the whole family. I see patients for thyroid disease, high blood pressure, IBS, fibromyalgia and other primary care health concerns. I also have a subspecialty in reproductive health and infertility, where I provide full diagnostic work-ups for infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I offer natural and conventional treatments to help support couples in achieving a healthy pregnancy.
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. Setareh Tais: Naturopathic doctors utilize all the conventional diagnostics that are used by conventional doctors. In order to “treat the cause”, we order blood tests, imaging (like x-rays or MRIs), biopsies, or refer to specialist for advanced diagnostic techniques (such as mammograms or cardiac perfusion studies). We are unique in that we also order advanced and unconventional tests too, for example food sensitivity tests to diagnose disorders that have not been explained by conventional diagnostics. For example, I may order MTHFR testing for a patient with recurrent pregnancy loss or food sensitivity testing for a patient with “leaky gut” symptoms.
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. Setareh Tais: Patients with seizure disorders, cancer, heart attacks, anaphylactic allergic reactions, HIV, blocked fallopian tubes or insulin-dependent diabetes will need prescription medications or conventional therapies although natural medicines can be used adjunctively for optimal health, enhancing the effects of drugs and to mitigate side effects. For example, berberine has been shown to enhance the effects of some forms of chemotherapy and also reduce the side effects of radiation. Myo-inositol has been shown to improve pregnancy rates during in vitro fertilization (IVF). And natural medicine can reduce the risk of future heart disease in patients who have already experienced a cardiac event (like bypass for coronary artery disease).
Q: What are some of the most common ailments you see that are effectively treated with natural methods? Please give an example.
Dr. Setareh Tais: Infertility. Diabetes. High cholesterol. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hypertension. Headaches. Depression. Anxiety. Insomnia. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome. Post-menopausal hormonal imbalance. Fibromyalgia. I could keep going here.
Q: What are some of the greatest obstacles you face when practicing naturopathic medicine?
Dr. Setareh Tais: Insurance coverage! While there are certainly many benefits to not allowing insurance companies dictate how patient care is conducted, I really do hope that naturopathic medicine can be accessible and affordable to all. That is why I am very active in the legislative efforts in California to include naturopathic doctors in Obamacare. You can read more about the cost-effectiveness of naturopathic care in one of my recent publications: http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/article_content.asp?edition=1§ion=2&article=402
Q: What instance, in your mind, stands out as one of your greatest success stories in treating someone via naturopathic methods?
Dr. Setareh Tais: Oh my! I don’t even know how to begin. There are so many different stories from weaning patients off drugs to helping infertile patients become pregnant to diagnosing a teen’s chronic vomiting as celiac disease. Being a naturopathic doctor has been a very rewarding job!
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. Setareh Tais: The plans I recommend patients are very individualized/customized and unique for each patient. I may tell a patient to be gluten-free, avoid their food sensitivities, go on the GAPS diet, try a Paleolithic diet – these diets are so different and really depend on the patient. The only common dietary recommendation I make for most adults is “Don’t drink cow milk….Unless you are a baby cow.”
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. Setareh Tais: I believe the digestive tract (commonly called our gut) determines a large part of our overall general health. I almost always counsel patients on improving their diet whether they have diabetes, heart disease, food intolerance, IBS, fibromyalgia, endometriosis or headaches. Nearly every health condition can benefit from a dietary plan. I find that probiotics and digestive enzymes are very helpful for improving digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, mal-absoprtion and bloating. I also believe that probiotics are under-utilized. I have lost count of the number of my patients who were given antibiotics at the emergency room or an urgent care center, only to later present in my office with diarrhea or a yeast infection that probiotics could have prevented.
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. Setareh Tais: I believe pain management should focus on reducing inflammation and treating the underlying cause (structural abnormalities, poor posture, obesity, high saturated fat diets, food sensitivities, vitamin deficiency, etc). A holistic approach to pain management should address the underlying cause and also include an anti-inflammatory diet as well as natural and herbal medicines that reduce inflammation and pain. Turmeric and fish oil are some of my favorite (and most effective) natural medicines for pain. Patients should also be advised on the dangers of chronic acetaminophen or ibuprofen use. Opioid medications such as hydrocodone (or Vicodin) should be used cautiously and sparingly in appropriate patient populations.
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. Setareh Tais: Both diabetes and high blood pressure are on the rise and becoming epidemics in the US even though they are largely preventable through lifestyle practices. Naturopathic doctors are experts in prevention and are trained in promoting healthy behaviors that reduce the risk for chronic health disease, by supporting patients in adopting a healthy diet, regular exercise and stress reduction techniques. There has been very promising research this year on the efficacy of naturopathic medicine for improving both blood pressure and blood sugar control. My two favorite ways to address these conditions are through education through self-monitoring (meaning I teach you how to measure your blood sugar or blood pressure so you are aware of the status of your condition) and I teach you about dietary approaches to improving your health. Of course, I may also recommend other natural medicines, herbs and sometimes even prescription medications if necessary to ensure that we are preventing progression of your condition and reducing your risks of complications (like kidney disease, eye disease, heart attack, etc).
Q: If there was one piece of advice regarding naturopathic health care you could give anyone who would listen, what would it be?
Dr. Setareh Tais: If you are living in California, visit www.calnd.org (otherwise visit www.naturopathic.org) and use the “Find a Doctor” link to search for a naturopathic doctor near you. View website links for your local ND and ask yourself if you are ready to experience a holistic and more natural approach to health-care.
Q: What is best way to contact you to book an appointment, visit your clinic, or ask for a phone consultation?
Dr. Setareh Tais: Please visit my website for more information on my practice and to schedule an appointment: www.fresnoholisticmedicine.net