Many people are sick and tired of the sick care they receive from the traditional medical establishment. As a former Oregonian, I got to experience the benefits of a naturopathic approach to family medicine, so I know there’s a better model available.

In this episode, I interview Dr. Allison Becker, a “physician-trained, naturopathic doctor,” practicing in Evansville, WI. In this episode, we discuss:

  • The differences between naturopaths and naturopathic physicians
  • The role a naturopathic physician can play in your healthcare team in Wisconsin, compared with other states
  • How she incorporates Acupuncture and Eastern medicine into her practice
  • Why natural remedies are often safer than prescriptions
  • The downside to being 100% evidence-based
  • and more!

To find out more about Dr. Allison, and the wellness team she has collected in her office, visit her web page, or find her on Facebook.

Transcript

Scott Robison Welcome to this week’s episode of the Integration Bodywork podcast. My name is Scott Robison. I’m a licensed massage therapist in Madison, Wisconsin. I had a conversation with my wife not that long ago and I said, “All the conversations I have about healthcare these days are about how terrible Western medicine is and how frustrated we are with our MDs. Is that what it sounds like where you are?” She said, “No. All the people that I talk to at work love their healthcare.” I said, “Huh. A lot of people I talk with, whether it’s providers, patients, health insurance people are really frustrated with the state of care that people are getting. We feel like we can’t get the care that we need at a reasonable price,” and so today, I interview Dr. Allison Becker.
Scott Robison Dr. Allison is a naturopathic physician down in Evansville, which is just a short hop south of Madison. She went to the National College of Naturopathic Medicine where she received the same level of basic medical training as a physician, as a medical doctor, in addition to the naturopathy, the use of food, herbs to create a holistic system of health. They’re not licensed to practice as physicians here in Wisconsin, but we spent a lot of time today talking about what naturopathy is, why it can benefit you, why often natural remedies are safer than medication, if not necessarily more efficacious, think that’s how you say that, and some great reasons to pursue it in addition to your traditional medical care when you are suffering from some kind of disease or if you’re just looking to stay healthy and ward them off. Without further ado, I’ll let you listen in on my interview with Dr. Allison Becker.
Scott Robison Dr. Allison Becker, welcome to the Integration Bodywork podcast.
Dr. Allison Becker Thank you.
Scott Robison I’m really excited to have you on. You’re a naturopath. You use acupuncture as part of your practice and like we were just talking about before we started recording, I got trained and licensed in Oregon. Our primary care physician, who is also our pediatrician, was a naturopath, so we have a lot of experience in my family with this kind of wellness care, but I know that it’s not a really common way to take of yourself yet here in Wisconsin. I want to give you a chance first just to give us a sense of what’s a naturopath. What’s the difference between a naturopath and a naturopathic physician? Give us the background on what it is that you do and why we should take you seriously.
Dr. Allison Becker Sure. A lot of people don’t realize that there are three types of physicians in the United States. There are medical doctors. There are osteopathic physicians and there are naturopathic physicians. We are a small sect within the healthcare system, but we are really growing. We are trained very similarly to medical doctors. We’re trained as primary care providers, like you had experienced in Oregon, but depending on the state laws, we may or may not be able to practice completely as we’re trained. I went to school in Oregon, in Portland, at what we call kind of the mothership, National University of Natural Medicine. That school, we’re trained as primary care physicians. However, in Wisconsin, we don’t have licensure in Wisconsin, so I can’t practice completely as I’m trained here. Here, my practice looks very different than it would be in a licensed state, such as Oregon. At this point, we have 17 licensed states in the United States.
Scott Robison Okay. Maybe our listeners are a little surprised. I know I’m a little curious about this because you take the same board certification exams as physicians, correct?
Dr. Allison Becker They’re specifically naturopathic board exams. Yeah. Yes.
Scott Robison Oh, okay. Okay. Got you. I guess why is it then that only some states are licensing people who have this kind of training that you’d have, but not everybody yet?
Dr. Allison Becker It’s just licensure is a state-by-state issue with all healthcare professions, so whether you’re a veterinarian or a dentist or a naturopathic doctor or a PA, it’s all state. Licensures are state issues. It’s state-by-state issue. In Wisconsin, honestly, we just haven’t had enough naturopathic physicians or what we like to call physician-level naturopathic doctors that distinguishes how we’re trained. We can get into that a little bit later, but in Wisconsin, we only have a handful. We have 22 in the whole state …
Scott Robison Oh, wow, that’s not very many.
Dr. Allison Becker … that are trained at this level.
Scott Robison Sure.
Dr. Allison Becker It’s honestly just been the movement hasn’t been big enough. We have passion, we have interest, but we’re a very small group. We have been trying to work forward and create licensure in Wisconsin, but it’s a slow process.
Scott Robison Got it. What does your practice look like given the constraints you’ve got here?
Dr. Allison Becker Yeah. I also, as you said, I’m also an acupuncturist, and that was a separate type of training, so I have a master’s in Chinese medicine, in addition to the naturopathic doctor degree. With that, a lot of people come to me for acupuncture. Acupuncture is something that is known. In the state of Wisconsin, that’s a little bit more of a household word. People understand and have a idea about how acupuncture may be able to help them. Naturopathic medicine in Wisconsin, at least, is still very unknown. Most people, when I meet them and I tell them what I do, they say, “Huh?” That’s more about okay, what is this and how do I help people, but acupuncture oftentimes is the reason why people will initially come to see me.
Dr. Allison Becker Now, that said, so in my practice and I’ll get into what naturopathic medicine is in a little bit, but I certainly see people that come to see me just for naturopathic medicine also. People that come to see me for naturopathic medicine are looking for … Oftentimes, they already have a diagnosis, so whether it be eczema, whether it be lupus, whatever it is, they already have their diagnosis and they’re coming in and saying, “Okay. My doctor gave me these options, these drugs or what have you and I either can’t do them because I have reactions to them or I don’t really want to do them or I want to minimize my need for them. What else can I do?” Then we talk about what can you do dietarily, what can you do in terms of stress management, what can you do with herbal medicine or supplements or specific homeopathy.
Dr. Allison Becker There are a lot of natural therapeutics in a naturopathic doctor’s belt, so we understand disease, just like a medical doctor. We understand diagnosis. We understand lab tests. We understand all of that. Then we go outside that realm of what’s more normal and common and look at what else is there to consider here. When we’re working with a patient, we’re always looking at not just that disease or that diagnosis that that person has, but what are all the contributing factors. Why is that happening in that particular person because it’s different for everybody.
Scott Robison People have been using food and herbs as medicine for thousands of years. Why do you feel like that has fallen out of favor or, at least, fell out of favor temporarily with the medical community and where does that fit in because you meet integrative medicine physicians, you meet … I know a gastroenterologist who just moved here who’s looking at diet and lifestyle and ketogenic diets and lifting heavy weights as part of her treatment plans for folks, which is, I know, that was my reaction, like you’re a unicorn. We should keep ahold of you. Why do you feel like those time-tested remedies have fallen out of favor? Where do you feel like they fit in now?
Dr. Allison Becker Right. I think that, well, when we look at the history of medicine, it’s pretty easy to see how things changed, so you’re right. There’s a whole host of knowledge. For millennia people have been using food. People have been using herbal medicine. People have been using things like hydrotherapy, different kinds of steam baths and packs and poultices, all these different things for millennia to take care of themselves. That has changed for a lot of different reasons. One thing is when we look at the history and the evolution of medicine in the 1900s, there was a time where naturopathic medicine and homeopaths and even chiropractors were literally there was an attempt to just squelch anything else that was going on and particularly with the rise of very strong and potent medicines like antibiotics, which were lifesaving medicines and still are and can be very, very important. They transformed. The advent of penicillin transformed medicine. It took people who had infections that would kill them to them being able to live through things like pneumonia and things like appendicitis, right?
Scott Robison Yup.
Dr. Allison Becker So huge advent and that the power of those drugs and the power of the drug companies really, really took off and there was a big squelching of any other type of medicine. We are seeing a revolution in that, so that was 1920s, 1930s when that was happening. We’re really seeing a revolution in so many ways in the last 30 years. We’ve seen a revolution in chiropractic medicine, where it has gone from public view of quackery to something that is very much something people just do as part of their healthcare. Same with osteopathic medicine. Osteopaths were also on the outside and manipulation, osteopathic manipulation, that’s also come into something as being more common.
Dr. Allison Becker Now we’re seeing that people realize drugs have their place, but they’re not the cure for everything and they also can be kind of disempowering. What I mean by that is when people go to a physician and their only option is okay, take this drug, that doesn’t give the person anything that they can do. That doesn’t say okay, what kind of mindfulness and breathing techniques can I do for my anxiety? Do I just take this drug or is there something else that I can do for myself? Is there something I can learn? People are starting to want to have and need to have things that they can do themselves to put that kind of power back into their own hands and important to have a physician on hand and important to have a doctor as guide.
Dr. Allison Becker We often forget that the root word of doctor is docere, which means to teach, so doctors are. We are teachers. That’s actually one of the principles of naturopathic medicine is to be a teacher to our patients, a teacher of healthy living, and a teacher of understanding their disease process and all of the different things that are contributing to it. That conversation oftentimes doesn’t happen in a doctor’s office not because MDs don’t want that to happen. It’s really more of a system. It’s very hard to do that in a 10-minute visit.
Scott Robison Yes, it is, yup.
Dr. Allison Becker Which is how long visits typically are. I spend a lot more time with my patients.
Scott Robison Yeah, I feel the same way. That’s why I typically do 90-minute appointments with my clients for very much the same reason, just gives us the time to actually talk and investigate and treat.
Dr. Allison Becker And get to know them, right?
Scott Robison Totally. Yeah.
Dr. Allison Becker You can’t really build rapport, relationship, and get to know them as an individual without taking that time.
Scott Robison Yeah. There’s a great article. I can never say his name right, Atul Gawande, right?
Dr. Allison Becker Okay. Sure. Yeah.
Scott Robison He’s a written a bunch of books. The Checklist Manifesto is the one I’ve read, most people have read on death and dying, but he wrote a phenomenal 30,000 word article in New Yorker a couple months ago about why primary care is so effective and he spent a lot of time with some really topflight primary care clinics in the Boston area where he’s based and he basically, they feel like it comes down to that one-on-one relationship with the patient, being able to know them, know who they are, and help them manage their lives is a big piece of why it’s so effective.
Dr. Allison Becker The relationship itself is medicine.
Scott Robison Yeah.
Dr. Allison Becker We often forget that, but it’s so true. It, in itself, is healing for a person.
Scott Robison I want to shift gears here a little bit because I know we talked a little bit briefly about how you mentioned chiropractic had been seen as quackery for quite some time. I think a big piece of that is you had people claiming they could cure cancer by adjusting your cervical spine, which is ludicrous, and you occasionally come across people who will make the same claims now. For the most part, that’s pushed out, but where does the role of evidence fit in in terms of both pushing out traditional remedies, but also now starting to bring them back in?
Dr. Allison Becker That’s a good question. Evidence-based really refers to what is found in the scientific literature regarding treatment modalities and their effectiveness and when it comes to drugs, there’s a lot of money to be able to test effectiveness of drugs. When it comes to herbs, there is very, very little money, so when it comes to supplements, there’s very little money. That’s a huge player in terms of trying to get our modalities in that evidence-based form and that evidence-based discussion, even food. We know anybody with a nutritional background, anybody that understands the power of food, how absolutely influential it can be. Even food itself, it’s very difficult to study food, let alone get money to study food. That’s a huge reason why our medicines are not always evidence-based.
Dr. Allison Becker We try to use evidence base. There certainly is research that exists in terms of herbal medicine, that most of it comes from Europe, but research that will tell us about the safety of herbs and, particularly, potential drug interactions. As a naturopathic doctor, I’m always looking at that with patients. Most of my patients come in on some drugs. I don’t manage their drugs. Their primary care doctor does, their MD does, but there’s often a discussion of well, can I take this 5-HTP or St. John’s Wort with my antidepressant or can I take this other herb with my drug? Is it safe? That’s a big discussion that we have and that’s all evidence-based.
Dr. Allison Becker Now, it’s also a lot of the time it’s theoretical, so because we have limited research, we also have theoretical, meaning we understand some of the mechanisms of some of the herbs and some of the nutrients and those mechanisms then we can look at the biochemistry of them and look at how may they interfere with the metabolism of this drug or what have you. That gets into a little bit more of the details, but in terms of evidence-based medicine, I think it can be a good guide, but I think it can also be extremely narrow and that we miss therapies that are clinically effective that may not have the evidence, again, for all these hosts of reasons.
Scott Robison Yeah, well, and the other thing, too, is just you hear this conversation quite a bit in the strength and conditioning community. Coaches are always on the leading edge of what’s being developed in terms of training and recovery methodologies and there’s a lag time between something being developed, tested in the field, getting enough traction to gain the attention of researchers, and then have a research paper actually done and published. That’s probably a three year process, so if you are just going strictly by published evidence, you’re three years behind the state of the art.
Dr. Allison Becker There’s the lag and then there’s also always the consideration of risk-benefit, so if we’re looking at okay, let’s consider since there is this lag of maybe up to three years to be able to get the evidence, let’s do a clinical trial of this and if we do this clinical trial, what’s the risk? Is it going to be safe for you or is it something that we can try for six to eight weeks and see does it make a difference? Most of the time, with the natural therapeutics, they’re pretty low risk. Everything has a potential for side effects.
Dr. Allison Becker A lot of my patients, new patients will come in and they’ll say, “Oh, I’m here because everything you do is safe.” I say, “Well, hang on a minute. No. You can drink too much water and make yourself sick.” You can’t say that, but you can say these things can be safer and one of the principles of naturopathic medicine is first do no harm, so we always want to look at what is the least invasive, safest method to do first. A lot of times, people will come to me and say, “Listen, my doctor prescribed this medication. It’s got a lot of side effects. I’m concerned about it.” I say, “Well, hang on. Let’s see if we just can try some of these other things. You’re not in immediate danger. You’re not in an emergency situation. Let’s see if we try some of these things and they’re less invasive. They’re safer. Let’s see if they make a difference for you.”
Scott Robison Yeah. I have worked under the assumption that natural remedies tend to have fewer side effects and be a little bit lower risk because they are either less potent or are acting through multiple pathways, whereas pharmaceuticals tend to be highly potent on a single pathway or one or two. What do you think about that hypothesis?
Dr. Allison Becker There’s something to that.
Scott Robison Okay.
Dr. Allison Becker Yes, yeah. No, I would agree, especially when we’re talking about herbal medicines. Herbal medicines have … You take a plant and they have many, many, many active constituents in them, which all have different actions and different actions in different areas of the body versus a drug which may be derived from a plant, but it’s one active constituent.
Scott Robison Right. Why is that? Is that just like a byproduct of a reductionist scientific process or is there more? Is there something else there?
Dr. Allison Becker I think obviously it is reductionist model, but it’s also when they find a particular active constituent that does what they want it to do, they can just make it that much stronger.
Scott Robison Sure.
Dr. Allison Becker Again, push that specific pathway.
Scott Robison Right. Yeah, it’s an interesting take or it’s an interesting model for developing treatment strategies, right? We know the body is complex. Quickly, difference between complicated and complex, complicated is lots of moving parts, but it’s all rational and you can understand it with a blueprint. Complex is you understand maybe the individual parts, but they way they interact is difficult to predict. I have a physics background, so I would call that a nonlinear, non-deterministic system, but that’s a whole other piece of that. How are you integrating all these pieces for yourself? I know you can’t do a ton of the … I guess maybe you talked about this a little bit, but how do you integrate the acupuncture with the naturopathic piece?
Dr. Allison Becker Acupuncture is one aspect of Chinese medicine and Chinese medicine has its own distinct philosophy and its own school of thought. It’s a whole nother medical system. Oftentimes, I feel like I’m wearing two hats. Naturopathic medicine, a lot of times people want to call naturopathic medicine something other than Western medicine, but naturopathic medicine comes from the West. It’s a European tradition. Naturopathic medicine in and of itself is still very much a Western medicine. It’s also more than treating just the symptoms. We’re actually treating the cause.
Dr. Allison Becker When I’m sitting with someone and just I’ve been practicing for 12 years and I’ve learned to be able to distinguish what things are more appropriate for naturopathic medicine and that perspective, that philosophy, and that toolbox and what things are more appropriate for Chinese medicine and acupuncture. I’ll give you an example. Most people come to see me first maybe for a naturopathic visit and then I may recommend acupuncture. Not all the time, but sometimes. Let’s say somebody with migraines, okay, so they come in and they say, “Okay. Well, I’ve got migraines.” I spend two hours in the first visit figuring out what all of the different factors are. Maybe they’re worse with the period. Maybe they’re worse with stress. Maybe they’re worse with certain kinds of food. We try to tease out all of the different factors that are contributing to that migraine. Then we talk about would acupuncture be something that can help speed the healing process, help balance the hormones a bit, and help relieve pain because really what we want to do is we want to get that person out of pain ultimately, but there are all these different factors.
Dr. Allison Becker If we didn’t consider the naturopathic factors, we would be missing the boat, in my perspective. Now granted, there are plenty of people who only practice Chinese medicine and they do well, but in my perspective, if we don’t talk about their hormonal cycles from a naturopathic point of view, if we don’t talk about the foods that they’re eating and their stress management, we’re missing out. We’re missing out on some really big contributing factors. Does that make sense?
Scott Robison It totally makes sense. I’m surprised that those things aren’t part of the traditional Chinese medicine repertoire. I know that just because it’s traditional doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. They’re still developing and researching and adding to the toolbox, just like we are.
Dr. Allison Becker It depends on, again, Western philosophy versus Chinese philosophy is different, so Chinese dietetics are different than Western dietetics and naturopathic dietetics, so two different schools of thought. It also depends on certainly dietetics are very important in Chinese medicine, but how a person practices may differ quite a bit and how they’re trained. That’s a different subject, but there are different levels of training with acupuncture in Chinese medicine and you can learn just acupuncture or you can go all the way up to a doctorate level in Chinese medicine, so a little bit of a different conversation, but yeah.
Scott Robison How do you think about the names of things in Chinese medicine? Here’s what I mean. When I was in school and I was learning the meridians, I had it explained to me that basically, these are metaphorical names and words, that it’s not really about like the lung line is not actually about your lungs, but it’s related to these similar ideas about how organs never empty and some of these ideas. I was talking to Chris Martingilio, who owns Martingilio Martial Arts on the West Side, and he said, “No, no, there’s a lung point that we attack regularly and we spend an evening practicing it. About half my class comes back in the next day hacking and coughing.” I’m like okay, well, maybe it’s literal. I don’t know. What’s your take on that?
Dr. Allison Becker It’s just that it’s not just the physical. The organ systems, there are multiple aspects to them. There’s the physical aspects to them and oftentimes, the meridians, those channels on the body, they will go through those specific organs and they’ll influence those specific organs on a physical level, but there’s also a emotion connected to those organs, so we don’t think about that. In Western medicine, we don’t think about gallbladder and fear and will. We talk about gallbladder and biliary function, blah, blah, blah. There’s an emotion and there’s a larger kind of metaphorical context of the organs also, not just the emotion, but also almost like a way of being around it, like an energy, an energetic being around it.
Dr. Allison Becker Again, depending on how the person practices, they may practice just on that physical level. A medical doctor can get trained in acupuncture. I’m not going to say that it’s not good training, but it’s very physical-based, so maybe it’s a pulmonologist that says, “I think acupuncture can be really great. I’m going to get training in that,” and they use it in their practice, but they use it to treat specific lung conditions. They’re not going to that wider view, necessarily. Does that make sense?
Scott Robison Yup, totally.
Dr. Allison Becker Yeah.
Scott Robison Got it. All right. Well, that sounds like a good place to take a quick break and when we come back, we’re going to spend a little bit of time discussing chronic conditions generally, a couple of them more specifically, and then give you a chance to talk about the great things you’re doing down there in your clinic.
Dr. Allison Becker Okay.
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Scott Robison Okay. We’re back. Dr. Allison, we were just here on the break. You mentioned you wanted to talk a little bit more about some of the philosophical differences. I know we’ve touched on it a little bit in passing, but give you a chance to talk more explicitly about the philosophical differences between traditional Western medicine and naturopathic medicine. Let’s give you a chance to do that now.
Dr. Allison Becker Okay. Oftentimes, when I meet people and I tell that I’m a naturopathic doctor, not only do they not know what that word is, but they also don’t really have an idea about how that might differ from a medical doctor. A lot of times people jump to the tools and they say, “Oh, that means you do herbs and that you do these different things. Yes, the tools are important, but the philosophy is what really, really distinguishes naturopathic medicine from conventional or sometimes we call it allopathic medicine, allopathy referring more to treating the symptoms of the disease.
Dr. Allison Becker Naturopathy itself is holistic in nature, which means when we sit down and I’ve already mentioned this a few times, but when we sit down with a patient, we look at not only their condition, but also all the different contributing factors, so it may be when somebody comes to see me, I ask them about what they’re eating, how they’re sleeping, how their digestion is, how they’re handling stress, what’s going on in their life, what’s their social health, all of these different things that contribute to the health of that person and often contribute to their disease process, whatever their disease process might be. That larger conversation is distinctly more of a holistic conversation and more the conversation that’ll happen with a naturopathic doctor. There are other providers that do that also, but I think that’s an important thing to distinguish. When people come to me, that is often what they’re looking for is what is that larger conversation.
Dr. Allison Becker The other thing is is that fundamental in naturopathic medicine to our philosophy is that our tools are meant to actually help stimulate the person’s own abilities to heal. What that means is we are always trying to restore balance and create healing in the body, rather than suppressing, which oftentimes when we’re treating symptoms we’re suppressing, so in naturopathic medicine it’s a difference. Our tools are actually meant to help restore balance and help trigger healing in the body, so whether it be that we are treating a nutritional deficiency and we are getting a lot better nutrition in that person or some specific nutrients, then their body actually has the ability to heal and be stronger, function better.
Dr. Allison Becker Oftentimes, we see with a person who is suffering with a disease process, when we stimulate that person’s ability to heal, they get better. It may be that maybe they are … Quite a bit I work with people that have a lot of fatigue or just feeling really unwell. Maybe they may not have a specific diagnosis, but if they do, it might be fibromyalgia. It might be chronic fatigue. It might be anxiety. There are a lot of people in our society that are really suffering with those things and conventional medicine doesn’t have a lot to offer by way of drugs necessarily, so people will come and they’ll say, “What else can I do?” What we are looking to do is to actually restore health in those people, not just give them an upper so they have more energy, right?
Scott Robison Right.
Dr. Allison Becker I’m actually looking at okay, well, maybe it’s that they’re not sleeping well and if we get them to sleep well, then actually they can … Sleep is the time when our bodies heal and our bodies restore, so we get them to sleep well and we’re stimulating the body to heal itself.
Scott Robison It seems like one of the biggest issues with those sort of amorphous chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain is that they present with an awful lot of symptoms, but there’s very few signs that are associated with them. Are there common issues you see with people with conditions like that? Are there a handful of interventions that you find yourself recommending and suggesting strongly most of the time?
Dr. Allison Becker You know what? Really,o, and the reason is is because the medicine is so individualized. If I had 10 people in the room that all said, “I have really significant fatigue,” each one of them is going to have different contributing factors as to why they have fatigue. One of them may be because they have some significant nutrients deficiencies and their diet is full of refined foods and sugar and they’re really not feeding their body well. Another one might be because they’ve had multiple deaths over the course of the last few years and they’re just emotionally exhausted. Another one might be they’ve got a chronic immune stress of some sort, a chronic virus, or maybe a dysbiosis, meaning a imbalance of good bugs or bad bugs in their gut that are contributing to the fatigue and digestive problems. Make sense?
Scott Robison Sure. Yeah, totally.
Dr. Allison Becker Each thing is totally individualized and, in fact, a lot of times, people will come in. Scott, a lot of times, people will come in, especially at their first visit, and they’ll come in with a big box or bags of supplements and they’ll say, “Okay. These are all the things I’m doing,” or, “These are all the things I’ve tried. I found this online,” or, “I went to such and such person or the health food store and they told me to try this, that, and the other thing for my fatigue.” 90% of those things are not appropriate for that person because nobody has yet taken the individualized approach that it takes to really, really figure out why is that happening for that person.
Scott Robison Okay. We are seeing quite a bit of things like chronic fatigue. Well, I was going to ask you if there’s some fairly straightforward things that you could try for folks, but where would you suggest people start looking if they’re suffering from something like that? Obviously, coming to see you is a good first step, but if people are wanting to try to solve an issue like this on their own, how do you recommend they get started?
Dr. Allison Becker Oh, there’s so many resources. Again, as a doctor as teacher, I think it’s really important that people try to educate themselves about all of the different factors that could be contributing and if they have a primary care doctor, which hopefully they do, they may even be able to start having some of these conversations with that doctor if the doctor’s willing to think outside the box and has the time to have these conversations.
Dr. Allison Becker There’s a book I particularly like from a Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, who is a medical doctor who’s worked in the world of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue for 25, 30 years. He wrote a book called From Fatigued to Fantastic!, so oftentimes, I will point people towards that because it helps not because I’m saying do this and do these treatments in here, because I’m saying educate yourself, because I’m saying okay and Dr. Teitelbaum does a really good job of going through all of the different factors, diet, sleep, stress management, chronic pain, chronic infection, all of these different factors that can contribute to chronic fatigue and looking at all of those things and then saying okay, what is that’s going on for me? Is it because I’m in chronic pain? Okay. I think I need to address that. Is it because my diet is terrible? Okay. Maybe I need to address that.
Dr. Allison Becker That’s where I suggest I think people need to just educate themselves on it and be careful to not get sucked into marketing schemes because there’s so much out there that especially people that are vulnerable, that are sick, and that are really struggling to get sucked in and buy stuff. I think education is much more important than just starting yourself on a treatment plan.
Scott Robison Right. Yeah, look before you leap, so to speak.
Dr. Allison Becker Yes. Yes.
Scott Robison How do people identify or tell the difference between good information and bad information?
Dr. Allison Becker That’s very hard to do, isn’t it? It’s very, very hard to do. I think it’s really important that we are all skeptics. I think it’s healthy to be a skeptic. I think we need to ask questions and we need to investigate for ourselves, I think especially with the way things are hyper-marketed to us now. We all have to be careful about that. It can be very difficult to get good information. That’s why it’s nice if you have a naturopathic doctor because we look at things objectively and can give you some honest input as to is this actually something good of you or not. I think it’s really important that people develop a healthcare team, especially if they’re suffering from a condition of some sort that they develop a healthcare team that they can trust and that they can trust have their best interest in mind. Sounds like it’s something you were talking a bit about your practice and it sounds like you are a part of that also, healthcare team in that way with the best interest in mind of the person and not the pocketbooks or trying to sell something to them.
Scott Robison Yeah. I think that’s a great point is making sure you have lots of smart people who are talking to each other. That’s the hardest part, especially HIPAA exists to help people, keep people safe, but it also makes it difficult for us to communicate with each other and have that collaborative interaction. Yeah, again, it falls on the shoulders of the patient to be their own best advocate, which is tough because it means you have to affirmatively take action. I think probably the worst place to get health information or news or anything like that is Facebook because Facebook is going to put you into your own information tunnel. It’s only going to show you the things that you already like, but what you actually need is contrary voices either to what you already like and think or what you’ve already read, so that you’re able to evaluate those things against each other and actually come to what you think makes the most sense based on what you’ve read.
Dr. Allison Becker Yes. Yes.
Scott Robison If somebody wanted to find a naturopathic physician, how do you distinguish … You said there’s only 22 people who are trained at your level here in Wisconsin.
Dr. Allison Becker Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott Robison How do you find those people? Who else is using the naturopathic label who’s out there and how do you distinguish who you should be working with?
Dr. Allison Becker In the state of Wisconsin, for people to be able to find a physician-level naturopathic doctor, they need to go to our state association website. At this point, without licensure, it’s the only way that the general public can distinguish between a physician-level naturopathic doctor and anybody else that uses that term. What licensure does is it distinguishes. It-
Scott Robison What’s the website real quick?
Dr. Allison Becker Oh, sorry. Yeah, thank you. It’s www.wisconsin-nd.org. There you’ll see a list of members and a map to be able to find the providers that-
Scott Robison Got it. We’ll put that in the show notes, but that’s good to have.
Dr. Allison Becker Okay. Okay. The other thing is is our national association, so if you’re not in Wisconsin, our national association has a huge listing or maybe you’ve got family in Montana or something and you want to find a naturopathic doctor. That is www.naturopathic.org and that is our national association that’s called the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Those are two resources that can help people.
Dr. Allison Becker Without licensure, there’s no definition of naturopathic doctor from a legal standpoint, so what that means is that that term is out in the general public and can be used by anybody. Again, when we point back to how important it is to educate yourself about your condition and about specific treatments, it’s also equally important to educate yourself about the providers that you’re finding and if they have the training that you need in order to address your issues. For naturopathic doctors, the level of training that we have is so dramatically different from people who may call themselves a traditional naturopath or what have you. It’s five years of medical school versus maybe a couple of years of an associate’s program, so dramatically different. We will go out of our way to educate the public via our websites and what have you on our training so that people understand what it is they’re getting. Maybe you’ve got somebody who’s a naturopath in your area. You can call them up and ask them about their training and you can also go to their website and see.
Scott Robison Yeah. I was really surprised. I was connected with somebody who identifies themselves as a naturopath here in the Madison area. I was looking at her credentials and I was like oh, I’ve never heard of this college, so I went to the school’s website and it says on the website this information is for personal growth only. This is not to be used as medical training. I’m like wait a minute. You’re explicitly doing the opposite of what your school says it’s for. I’m uncomfortable with that. I don’t know. I’m surprised that people are able to do that, but I guess you have to have your own standards.
Dr. Allison Becker Just to clarify also is that there are many different healthcare providers. In the natural and alternative medicine world, there’s so many different providers. Everybody has their gifts and everybody can offer something to the conversation of health. I think it’s just really important for the public to understand just that person’s level of training so that the public has expectations that will meet that. If you’re going to see a physician-level naturopathic doctor, you understand this person is trained as a physician, so they’ll really understand your disease process and understand all the different contributing factors. If someone is trained as more of a traditional naturopath, they’re going to understand it in a different way and so I think it’s just really important as far as expectations from the public’s point of view.
Dr. Allison Becker The other thing to understand, too, is that licensure, as naturopathic doctors, we don’t tell anybody else about how they can practice. We’re just trying to be able to practice as we’re trained, so licensure is specifically to give us the ability to practice as we’re trained. Okay.
Scott Robison Got you.
Dr. Allison Becker Everybody else can continue to do whatever they’re doing, but we just want people to do what we’re trained to do and be able to participate. With licensure, licensure doesn’t guarantee insurance coverage. However, we can’t participate in the insurance conversation without having licensure.
Scott Robison Sure. Yeah, totally.
Dr. Allison Becker Again, it’s just our ability. We’re just vying for ourselves. It’s just our ability to be able to practice as we’re trained.
Scott Robison Yeah. It’s a great distinction. Well, I know there’s a bigger national conversation happening right now with licensure across many disciplines. I don’t know if this is still the case, but florists are regulated in Florida, I think. To me, licensure should be about public safety. We are able to do these things which are potentially harmful. Therefore, the state has an interest in verifying that you actually can practice safely. I was like what public harm could a florist do? I don’t understand. It seems to be a barrier to entry. There’s a case a few years ago about some state dentists’ association tried to have teeth whitening banned by anybody who’s not licensed as a dentist, but that’s absurd because there’s plenty of teeth whitening procedures that estheticians and spas can do that are totally safe that are not dentist-related. I think it’s a good point that you’re just trying to not so much just keep other people out. It’s to be able to do what you’re trained to do, which is an important distinction.
Scott Robison If somebody wants to come work with you, how do they find you what specific things are you offering in your clinic because you’re down there in Evansville, right?
Dr. Allison Becker Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Most people find our practice online through our website and also through word of mouth. At this point, that’s how most people find us. We’re about a 20-minute drive south of Madison, so people will come from the Madison area. People will come from really all over southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Because this medicine is pretty rare in this area, people kind of come from all over the place. What was your other question? How do they find us or a little bit about-
Scott Robison Yeah, how do they find us and people want to work with you. How does that work because you mentioned this briefly, but you’re not able to participate in insurance panels at all, so how do you talk to people about that because the first question people often will ask me when they call up is like, “How much does it cost?” “Hang on. Let’s talk about what we’re doing and then we can talk about whether or not that’s valuable to you.” How do you have that conversation with people?
Dr. Allison Becker Right. I am a full disclosure kind of person.
Scott Robison Oh, sure. Yeah.
Dr. Allison Becker I’m just out there, so our website answers all of that in terms of our fees and in terms of lack of insurance. Some people will pay with flex spending accounts, health savings accounts. Some people do get acupuncture covered by insurance, so there are some ways to be able to use some of the money that people have set aside for healthcare. Most often, when people come to me, it’s really not about money. It’s about care, so they need this care. I honestly don’t really feel like I have any conversations about money. People are more than willing to pay. They’re very happy to pay because it’s something that is very unique and very important and very much needed and there’s just really not much of a conversation around that.
Scott Robison That’s really interesting. We had dr. Adam Lindsay, who’s a physical therapist here in town on a couple weeks ago and we were talking about the cash pay model of physical therapy, the benefit that that gives him for his patients because that really is a place where people have that cost conversation. A couple of things, one was that as we talked about at the top of the show, you get time with people like you when you’re outside of the insurance model. You’re able to practice the way that you feel is best serving your patients as opposed to what the insurance panel wants from a production standpoint.
Scott Robison The other piece that we were talking about is that especially with rising deductibles and out of pocket costs, it’s kind of a wash for a lot of people to come see somebody like you versus to go see their physician because they’re going to have to pay that $5000 family deductible or that $3000 family deductible anyway. Most years you don’t get there unless like we had a baby this year, so we met our out of pocket, like surprise. It ends up being the same cost for a lot of folks anyway, so I don’t know. That was the take we had, at least from the PT standpoint. I would imagine it’s similar for you.
Dr. Allison Becker Yeah. Yeah. That’s true. A lot of times, people do at this point have really high deductibles and they would rather just spend their money on care that they really want rather than care that they don’t feel is particularly useful or is it just limiting. I always encourage people to have their own primary care provider because I’ll often work in collaboration with their primary care provider. If I recommend more diagnostic tests or what have you, they get them through them. The other thing is, too, is that this is an investment in their health. When people are really suffering and they’re sick, they are ore than willing to make this kind of investment in their health and to look at okay, maybe I don’t need my fourth SUV. Maybe I should actually come see doctor [inaudible 00:50:35].
Scott Robison Right.
Dr. Allison Becker In the long run, too, again, because naturopathic medicine, we’re really trying to teach people about how they can be healthy themselves and what they can do and trying to empower them to do that. People come to me ready to just take it on. Those are the people that are most successful. If people are coming to me because they just want me to give them something and they’re not willing to do what I suggest they do, then they’re not going to get the benefit of naturopathic medicine and their money is not going to be well spent.
Dr. Allison Becker Now, oftentimes, people will come and they’ll wonder how many visits do I have to have? Okay, so I have the first visit and then how many more do I have to have? All depends on their condition. If it’s an acute, uncomplicated thing, it may just be one or two visits. If they’ve been sick for 30 years and they have multiple diagnoses, this is a longterm relationship. This is something that we’re going to need to work with for a longer term. I think it’s important for people to understand that also.
Scott Robison Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, that clear plan of care is so helpful for folks in terms of setting expectations and what they should be expecting out of that first visit, second visit, how long it’s going to take, all those things. If people want to find you and work with you, what’s the best way to find out what you’re up to?
Dr. Allison Becker My website will give all of the information. You’ll have that, you’ll provide that, right?
Scott Robison Yup, will be in the show notes.
Dr. Allison Becker Www.doctorallisonbecker.com. Also, I do offer a free 10-minute consult for people who are curious about okay, I’ve got this condition. What’s my approach? How could I help them? What’s my experience? We’ll have an honest conversation about that. At that point, if I feel like the medicine would be appropriate for them, then I’ll recommend a visit or if I feel like they need to go to a different provider, then I’d give a referral. That can help start that conversation going also and help answer people’s questions.
Scott Robison Great. Are you on social media anywhere?
Dr. Allison Becker Yes, on Facebook primarily.
Scott Robison Okay. What is that, @doctorallisonbecker?
Dr. Allison Becker If you just Google search Dr. Allison Becker, you’ll find it.
Scott Robison Well, I’ll put a link to the Facebook page in the show notes so it’ll be easy to find.
Dr. Allison Becker Thank you.
Scott Robison All right. Any last thoughts before we sign off today?
Dr. Allison Becker Well, I also just want to point out that in Evansville, in our clinic, obviously I’m here and I’m the primary provider here. I’m the main provider here, but we do have a group of providers and we work to collaborate and care with those providers, so we do have kind of a more treat the whole person approach down here within our suite. We have massage therapists. We have three different massage therapists all with very specific techniques that they use. We have a chiropractor and then we have a family therapist also.
Scott Robison That’s terrific. That kind of integrated approach is where medicine is headed.
Dr. Allison Becker I believe so. I believe so.
Scott Robison That’s great. Awesome. Well, Dr. Allison, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show today and we’ll look forward to talking to you soon.
Dr. Allison Becker Yeah, great. Thanks, Scott.
Scott Robison Yup.
Dr. Allison Becker Bye.
Scott Robison Well, that’s it for this episode of the Integration Bodywork podcast. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe on Apple podcasts, formerly known as iTunes. That’s how other people find the show. If you’d like to find out more about us and what we’re up to, go to www.integrationbodywork.net where you can find the show notes for this and every episode, subscribe to the famous weekly newsletter, or schedule an appointment.

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