Dr. Kelly Austin: Medicine 2.0
Dr. Kelly Austin
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Very pleased to be sharing today’s guest with you. She is a wonderful naturopathic physician based out of Canada and one of the reasons that I really wanted to share her work with you is that she focuses a lot of time and a lot of energy on hormone metabolism and lifestyle medicine, and you know, Smarter Science of Slim we’re all about looking at hormones. So, I figured why not call up the Dr. Kelly Austin. She is the Clinic Director of California Natural Health and you can check her out at nhealth.ca. Kelly, welcome to the show.
Kelly: Hi Jonathan, thank you for having me.
Jonathan: I have a silly question just right off the beginning.
Jonathan: Your clinic is called California Natural Health.
Jonathan: But you are located in Canada, correct?
Kelly: I actually have two offices, actually three offices.
Jonathan: Okay. That’s the catch, I was like ‘wait a second.’
Kelly: I’m actually working in two different countries at the same time, so I do have a clinic in Canada and I still maintain a lot of my patients in Canada and I also have my two San Diego practices.
Jonathan: So, you just have a helicopter, you just fly back and forth.
Kelly: Oh gosh, I wish. I don’t think you get into this profession for the money.
Jonathan: No, that’s one of the things I noticed Kelly when I was doing a little bit background research on you and noted how you spend anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes per patient and I really wanted to just take a step back and so often we hear people giving the medical profession a bad name and it seems like what you are trying to do in our practice really more focusing on the person, focusing on individualized treatment, focusing on holistic medicine. Can you just tell us little bit about what inspired you to take that type of an approach?
Kelly: I guess, I have always been interested in health, I think it has been something that has always been a part of my life, so I never really thought anything differently about going into like a field that studied more nutrition versus more of a medicalized approach, so for me it was just something that I always knew I was going to do, I didn’t know this actual profession of naturopathic medicine existed until I was about third year through university, so I knew I was going to do something in the medical field. I thought may be it would be just going into something more like speech pathology or genetic counseling or something along those lines, but after I found out about this naturopathic medicine profession, I found out that just basically everything involved in it, I thought it was such a perfect fit for me.
I have always been an active child, into dancing and soccer and all of those fun things and nutrition has always been a big part of my life. Unfortunately, as a vegetarian for seventeen years, we had always thought that that was the best thing for us and for some people it still is, but when I started learning more and more recently about Paleo lifestyle and getting into that realm, it really opened up a whole new avenue for not only myself but a lot of my patients, so I really think that it has been instilled in me and I think most naturopathic doctors would agree with the statement that it is a passion, it is a calling, it is something that is anew, it is something that they just walk the walk and talk the talk. If you look at the people in my class, they are all super fit, super healthy. I think some of the most fit people you will ever see are naturopathic doctors, so they really take care of themselves well, so they are good people to see.
Jonathan: Kelly, it seems like we are kind of cut from the same cloth in the sense because when you look at your bio on your website which is again nhealth.ca, you talk about obviously your focus on hormones, talking about how hormones all work together, how each hormone is interconnected, so doing things like what about my thyroid or what about just insulin, like it is just insulin, like if you could just control insulin is all that matters. How do you communicate the importance and interionic activity of hormones to your patients? Obviously, you are spending quite a bit of time with each of your patients, but that’s still a pretty complicated subject.
Kelly: Simplifying endocrinology is in the works, it is not such an easy thing to do, but like you said I do have a lot of patients that spend so much time with me and I spend with them, so we have time to do it. I think at the end of my visits, what I try to do with my patients is ensure that they know endocrinology 101, so when they walk out, a lot of patients know a lot more about endocrinology than a lot of other healthcare practitioners do, so it is pretty amazing. My patients are really a great group of people and they want that knowledge, they want me to explain to them why they have to take a certain thing or what’s going on and they wanted to know why something has happened to them.
So, if you just say, “Okay, well let’s balance your blood sugar,” that’s not good enough. They want to know ‘why do I have the blood sugar problem in the first place?’ If they say, ‘I am overweight and I can’t lose weight, why is that?’ They want to know what’s going on with my hypothalamus. They don’t want to just hear just my estrogen is low. They want to know ‘why is my estrogen low?’ So, I have this diagram and I explain all their hormones with them and I show them some of the basic hormones and what they do and I show them how when one hormone goes off how it effects another and how it is a whole domino effect and I use a lot of diagrams and just try to make people really engaged in it and I think people really respond well to the treatments when they know exactly what’s going on and how to treat or how I am going to treat them long term because they may say okay, it is not a quick-fix, so I need to do this in order for B to happen and I am like exactly, and they know.
Jonathan: Wait a minute here Kelly, hopefully you can hear the sarcasm in my voice, wait a minute here Kelly. You are talking about endocrinology and I heard you say the word hypothalamus, so that’s even some neurobiology. Isn’t this just a question of math, isn’t it this just a question of people eating too much and exercising too little, they just eat less and move more basically stopping so lazy and gluttonous, it would solve their problem, right? Why are you making it more complicated than it needs to be, Kelly?
Kelly: I know and you don’t believe how many people come in and that’s exactly what they think they are going to get from me. They think that they are going to sit down and are like, “I am sorry I could not hit the gym as much this week” or they always tell me “I am sorry that I slipped up and this slipped into my diet” and I actually did a lecture on Sunday at a local health food store and a nutritionist was in the audience and when I made a comment to eat an avocado and then someone said how much, I said just eat the whole avocado and she was not impressed with me. She shook her head and made a whole big thing and afterwards she said to me, “I am a nutritionist and I don’t think you gave the best advice there telling someone to eat a whole avocado.” I am like, “Okay, I am sorry,” I said. I just kind of let it go, but yes people don’t realize that sometimes it is too much exercise or not enough sleep or not enough calories that cause a lot of their hormones to go off.
Jonathan: Kelly, if I do eat some of this garbage food, can I just exercise it off right? I just burn those calories off because it is all just about calories, right?
Kelly: In medical school that’s what we are taught and may be that was a long time ago for me, may be that was just times have changed since then and we know better. May be we were being taught better things in medical school now which I am hoping, but right, it was quite shocking and I had to learn a lot of this stuff myself and through conferences because even when I go to, I go to a lot of medical association conferences and even in naturopathic medical conferences. This stuff is not really taught. It is a lot of stuffs that hopefully you have a doctor who keeps up with research and who likes to learn this stuff or else just there is a disconnect between the knowledge that exists and the knowledge that doctor or practitioner has been taught usually and you just have to find somebody who has a passion for this and can keep up with the research in order to give basically give you the best treatment protocol for you.
Jonathan: Kelly, I think you really nailed it there when you said physicians basically doing the best they can with what they have been taught, truly I can empathize with that one. When I was a trainer, that’s what I was taught, so I just told people you need to eat 1200 calories a day and do a lot of exercise, but how can that still be what’s taught, like truly it seems it would be as if individuals who are going to become engineers were taught that like gravity didn’t exist. Like saying that hormones have no bearing or the brain or your hypothalamus, is just passive and that if you eat less, the body just doesn’t do anything, you just burn fat as if like the body doesn’t just slow down, like when you eat less, the body slows down and when you eat more, the body speeds up, that’s been demonstrated in every single study that has ever measured it ever. It is not controversial. So how does that not get said?
Kelly: I know it is really silly but if I think about it even from my point of view how I didn’t learn this, it was not until I read Good Calories, Bad Calories that I realized that there is something off here, but that’s myself and this is my specialty, so can you think about medical doctors or other practitioners that they don’t really know anything about nutrition, they are not taught much about nutrition and their main focus is may be on I have something else, may be it is immunology, or it is just having in general family practice where they see lot of people, like Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor. For them to actually learn this stuff and know this stuff and to take initiative and even know something like good calories and bad calories exist out there, it is just not in their world, it is not in their radar and through the media and through so many outlets out there, this is just not known, it is not taught.
In our community, it is so easy for us to say, this is obvious that’s because we have been part of it for so long and we are the group of people that were kind of becoming this nice community. We all can support each other and say yes we know the truth, but when more and more people join this community we finally realize wow they saw the light, so it’s kind of neat when we see the community growing even at like PaleoFX, more and more people were there this year compared to last year. So, the community is growing and people are learning about it and that’s actually what drew me to this community so much was I figured this community, they are very similar to me. They like their research, they like to self-experiment, they are frontrunners, they are people who know what they should have been doing, they may be were vegetarian in the past, may be a marathon runner, they had all these experiences and now they know that this is not the way to go and they don’t have that rigidity.
They are able to say, okay, something I was doing was not right, I didn’t feel well doing it. Can I take the chance and try something new? Can I eat a piece of chicken? Can I eat a grass-fed steak? What can I do to kind of get myself there until I go off that rigidity or even that identity as a like a vegetarian or as a tri-athlete or marathon runner to give yourself permission to just basically say, I don’t need to do that to myself, I don’t need to pound myself into the ground to be healthy to allow your body to basically just function the way it needs to function without constantly doing something, being something constantly or it is just kind of drilling and being so hard on yourself. I think that’s a big lesson for a lot of people to learn and I think being a part of the Paleo community has helped a lot of people realize that message.
Jonathan: I love that you used the term “hard on yourself” Kelly, because I want to give you props here because a couple of things you just mentioned. First you came right out and said this was my profession and until I read Gary’s book I really didn’t know any of the stuff was going on. There were a lot of people that said two things happened, one Gary is not a doctor, so I don’t care what he says, he’s not a doctor as I am going to disregard his work. I have certainly had that happen to myself. I am not a doctor, people are like oh! Clearly, he doesn’t know how to read either because he cannot read research studies. So not a doctor and then just the whole cognitive dissonance. Certainly other doctors have heard of this and they dismissed it as quackery or they dismissed it as unnecessary. What was it about you that enabled you to say, “You know what, may be this is right and may be I need to adjust my practice because of it because not everyone does that.”
Kelly: Right, and I think it is being flexible and being able to look at other people’s point of views and just having the personality type to do that and I think a lot of people in the Paleo community have that sort of flexibility where they can do that, may be not at first, but for me even myself I sat on a research after I read that book, I didn’t do anything with that, I didn’t say “Wow! Based on that, I am going to change my practice.” It took me sometime to say okay based on this research let’s look what else is going on out there and then that’s when I came into find many other podcasts. I found Paleo. I looked at so many Youtube clips. I read so many other books after that just to kind of understand what was going on and to be honest I was shocked that this whole community existed and I didn’t even know anything about it, so I felt kind of embarrassed and I am really embarrassed for a lot of my colleagues or other people who don’t even know about this, especially now living in California it is very well known here. It is a big difference I think if you went here versus somewhere else, but definitely in California, I don’t want to offend anybody, but definitely in California I think people here tend to be a little bit more proactive about their health, so most people know a little bit now about Paleo.
Jonathan: Kelly, I think you hit the nail on the head there a little bit too when you mentioned or implied there are potentially two ways an individual who is in any kind of, not necessarily a doctor, but a trainer, anyone who is in a position of authority in there supposed to be the expert, you could imagine that person being results oriented, which I believe you are, which I believe I am, which I believe individuals such as the Paleo community are. They are just saying I just want to help people and get results and if that means shelving my ideology, that’s fine, I will shelve it. I am here to get results and to help people, but there is also another school of thought which is much more prestige oriented or ego oriented, may be ego oriented is better.
This is what we have always done, this is what it is, this is the rule, this is the doctrine and the focus is not on results, because if the focus was on results, I hear stories all the time, Kelly, and I am sure you might get this from patients who come to you after being dissatisfied with their physician where they do something. A great example was Jimmy Moore’s recent podcast with a less-than-friendly doctor who came on his show and Jimmy just saying “Hey look I am eating away and I am getting these results” and that doctor sat there and said, “I don’t care, what you are doing is wrong.” Kelly, if spoke to someone and they told me and they showed me a food log and they said all I am eating is Doritos and Coca Cola and every metabolic indicator I have has improved, I would say “Oh my God, you must have some genetic mutation and keep doing that” all I want is for you to be healthy, so what is that, why are there people like you, why are there people that are results oriented and how can we help people that are more ego oriented change or can we?
Kelly: It comes right back to like Myers Briggs Personality Test. Learning group [inaudible 17:02] before you see a practitioner or a doctor, you want to find out is this somebody who is going to be rigid, is this somebody who is going to be able to keep up with the research, is this going to be somebody who can take my health to the next level, who is going to be a leader and who can work with you, who can give a little bit and also take a little bit, and that’s hard, and I think that’s where you see the most successful practitioners, are people who have that flexibility, may be somebody comes in.
Lot of times I will bring up Paleo very gently to someone who I think would be good for and I have had some many people cry in my office and say, this is everything completely against everything I have known that I have done for my whole life, I can’t, you expect me to change my whole life and you just have to put it in very gentle terms and tell people you don’t have to do anything overnight. This is just a philosophy and way of living and if you don’t want to do it or you just want to take it step by step, we can do that with you.
So, a lot of people have that all or nothing thinking and that’s the problem. They just think I have to do this overnight, I have to be this way and I have to constantly work towards this goal and if I slip up once or have a problem here and I don’t know what I am doing, it is failure and just working with the patient and you being their coach to be able to say to the person, it takes time. For me, I was about a year on Paleo before I really felt like okay, I got hundred percent of this stuff or most of it under control and I am still learning as I go through this, so it is not something that people have to do overnight, it is just having that flexibility and have a doctor being able to meet the patient where they are.
Jonathan: Kelly, what are you thoughts on, one of the things again that I really respect about you and other practitioners such as yourself is you are essentially and openly in the business of putting yourself out of business because you are not just giving people medication to treat symptoms, in some ways it is almost like a self-defeating business because you are actually seeking to teach and educate individuals to not need you anymore, so what kind of business model is that?
Kelly: I know, that’s why they probably don’t teach us business in school because they figured out you just kind of put yourself out of business anyways. But yes, it is a funny profession in terms of that but I never feel like I am putting myself out of business because I always feel like people need that guidance and people need a coach. People need somebody to be beside you. Even the most dedicated person who is hundred percent and who has their head screwed on correctly, who could say I can do this, which is very few people that I know. Most people say we want to come back in every year, every six months and check on their biomarkers.
They want to see what are their hormones doing, they want to see in the last couple of months what are their insulin levels, how is their cholesterol markers, so people love this stuff. My patients, bio-hacking is one of our favorite things to do, so we love it. So, I don’t really feel like I am ever putting myself out of business and the other thing I feel is that things change so fast. People know when they come to me, I am going to have a whole bunch of new things for them to do.
It might be three months down the road, may be six months down the road, but whenever I see my patients, one thing that they always say to me “Every time I come here, I learn something new.” So that’s what you always just try to do, just keep up on the research and give people something new, something that they can work on and like I said, may be it is a one-month mark, a three-month mark, may six months, but my patients usually always return.
Jonathan: It reminds me of the difference between, let’s put it is this way, up until may be twenty years ago. The entire discipline of psychology and psychiatry was about taking people with severe mental disorders and just bringing them up to normal. So, it was going from a negative five to zero. That was the whole profession and I think the traditional medical profession or may be the way it is perceived is if you can get everyone to zero physically, medical profession goes out of business because it is all about treating sick people.
It is all about taking you from a negative five to zero, but I think what you are doing and I think what the new generation is seeing and pushing towards is you should never be at negative five ever and in fact you should still go see a physician because the physician is your trusted counselor to take you from a one to a two to a three to a four to a five. So to take you from not bad to good and from good to great rather than from horribly sick to horribly sick with the symptoms under control which is what it does today. Does that make sense?
Kelly: Exactly, completely because as naturopathic doctor we have preventative wellness that’s what we are trying to do, optimal health, maximize your health potential. That’s really what we are really focusing on, so there is a time and place I think like we are medically trained, I can do prescriptions if I needed to, but I try not to. I always try to do lifestyle changes as much as I can first and we are not silly about it. If somebody needs a medication or somebody is stuck with something, I will definitely prescribe to buy us sometime, but for the most part I end up weaning people off if they needed something to start and they get themselves healthier when they see us.
Yes it is just a different medical model like you said, it is a sickness model versus a wellness model and this is nothing new, so it is very similar to how are saying how do people not know this. The same thing when I was in high school and I thought wellness model, this is not for me, it is nothing new. We are still telling people if you go to see a medical doctor, what are they going to do, they are going to give you a prescription, it’s a sick model, this is what we are hearing all the time and it is coming especially now with all the healthcare stuff everyone is taking about, but that’s all politics too. But yes it is just different models, but it is something I’ve always known in ways basically adhere to is this wellness prevention model.
Jonathan: Kelly, certainly every individual is different and all patients need customized treatment, but if you could give our listeners a gift of three tips that they could the most bang for their bucks, so the least cost, most benefit that you have seen not only in your research but also in your practice, what would those three tips be?
Kelly: I should have prepared for this one. Okay, let’s see. Especially what I have learned may be over the last couple of years, I like to tell my patients, I really focus on, everyone knows like there is the sleep, the exercise and nutrition. Those are the three big things. My order of preference is sleep is number one, then nutrition, then exercise. So, would you wake up at five o’clock on a dark morning to get in your exercise when you are only going to have six hours of sleep? No. So, the biggest thing is getting your sleep. Sleep is first. So, I always tell people, get your eight-hour sleep and sleep seasonally. So, if it is summer, you might be able to stay a little later. If it is winter, make sure you are in bed earlier, so get in your eight hour sleep prior to exercise.
The second thing I would say is try to figure out what foods really you are having intolerances to and eliminate those. That is so great about Paleo. Give Paleo a try for a month, three months whatever you can do, doesn’t have to be hundred percent and no one can do it initially right away I don’t think. I think a lot of people need to kind of use lateral shifts, but definitely find out what your food intolerances are. You can do a test, you can do elimination diet, but as long as you find out what food intolerances you have, eliminate those foods. It will make your quality of life so much better. You will have more energy, usually brain fog is eliminated and you sleep better.
Then I would also suggest people get their hormones balanced, that’s one of the biggest things, just a lot of doctors won’t run your hormones for you, so you can do a lot of these things online yourself. I know in California you can or just find a practitioner who is able to run full hormone panels for you, your extensive hormone panels and make sure your hormones are working well. Especially for young people who have really killed their body with a lot of exercise and dieting and low calories just to be pretty fit. Now when they get into their thirties and they want to have children, they realize they have no hormones because we basically burned ourselves out and then we have no fertility.
I see so many patients in this boat. So, I always tell people especially now if your in twenties you are given a gift, take care of yourself, take care of your hormones because in another couple of years time when you want to have children, you are going to have good hormones, you are not going to be in the same state as a lot of 30 years old that I see now. We have been taught like you said, exercise more, eat less and now our hormones are gone. So it is unfortunate that we have been raised that way, but we just listened to what people told us to do, we didn’t know better.
Jonathan: The side effects of starvation certainly are pernicious, aren’t they? That’s just for years and even generations it is very sad.
Kelly: Yes, exactly it is.
Jonathan: But there is good news that we can’t end the podcast on a sad note.
Kelly: Yes, I know.
Jonathan: The good news is we can just throw sleep at the problem, you don’t need to, what Dr. Austin just told you is instead of being like oh my God I am so stressed out, you should just sleep more, just sleep more, that’s the easiest thing you can ever do, get better high quality sleep. I love it.
Kelly: Yes, that’s it, just go to sleep. I know it is funny, I just looking at a meme other day I just said ‘oh I have so many things to do, how do I handle it’ and shows somebody just sleeping on the couch because most people just they want to hide away, but at the same time yes it is a coping mechanism for lot of people for stress relief too. So, you can’t beat it.
Jonathan: I love it. Her name, folks, is Dr. Kelly Austin. She is the Clinic Director at the California Natural Health series of clinics. She has three of them, which is cool, and you can learn more about her at nhealth.ca and Kelly, thank you so much for joining us. It is absolutely a pleasure.
Kelly: Thanks Jonathan, it was really fun.
Jonathan: Thank you again and folks, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did and remember, this week and every week after; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.