We spoke with Du La and Jonah Lusis, naturopathic doctors and co-founders of the Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine. They are doctors, business owners, husband and wife, parents of two, and experts in women’s and children’s health, and digestive health, cleansing and detoxification. We found out why you want to visit a naturopath before you’re sick, why it’s more expensive to choose your own vitamins and supplements, and their secret to living balanced lives.
People usually visit their MD when they’re really sick. When should you visit an ND?
Anytime is good. The role/goal of naturopathic medicine and treatment is to optimize function of the body, as opposed to using pharmaceuticals (or even supplements or botanical medicines) to compensate for poor physiological function. If you’re unwell, this results in healing and return to “normal” function (plus many desirable “side effects” like the limited benefit of using insulin compared to the wide range of benefits associated with improved blood sugar control via weight reduction using healthy diet and exercise). If you’re well, the goal is “optimal function” (i.e., not only not being sick, but not having aches and pains, feeling energetic throughout the day, having good concentration, not having bloating after meals, etc) and preventing future illness.
Can’t people just pick up their own supplements from the health food store and follow the instructions on the bottle?
There’s no reason a person can’t do that, but:
The practice of naturopathic medicine is not in fact “supplement taking”, it’s creating a healthy lifestyle and using nutritional supplements where the body needs them to successfully correct it’s function. To simply consult Google and purchase a laundry list (often dozens of supplements can be found that are potentially helpful for a given condition) is time consuming, expensive and ultimately limited in it’s success (like throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks, and often nothing does).
For our patients who have been advised to use specific nutritional supplements in support of a treatment plan, our dispensary serves primarily as a convenient source of high-quality supplements. This reduces “error” in the sense that if a selected intervention is unsuccessful, at the very least we can assume that it is the prescription that needs to be adjusted, and not that lack of success is owing to a poor quality product.
Each nutraceutical company has its strengths, and we’ve tried to identify the best products from companies that excel in specific areas (e.g., some companies create great products for detoxification, others produce great probiotics, others specialize in botanical medicines). If one were to source them on their own, it could be time consuming, as “professional-grade” products are not necessarily widely available and may require shopping at several stores to fulfill your list, and not necessarily more economical as we generally price products according to the manufacturers suggested retail prices.
There are a lot of Naturopathic Doctors in the city of Toronto. Why come to your clinic?
We offer a great balance between use of scientifically proven “evidence-based” treatments, while not overlooking proven therapies and treatments that have a rich history of success even if they have not been well-researched (because many treatments simply are not researched owing to poor interest or understanding by researchers).
We also focus heavily on providing an overall experience that supports patients success in executing their treatment plan, for example, an in-house and on-line dispensary, comprehensive library of reference materials patients may use in support of their treatment plan, and a flexibility and willingness to refer to and work with all healthcare practitioners a patient may already be working with (or need to work with). Lastly, with over 10 years experience, we offer more experience, and in most cases more training than many practicing NDs.
Every member of your team sounds amazing. How do new patients decide who to book with?
Our office manager, Candice, is a patient’s first contact with the office. If a prospective patient is willing to disclose their health concerns to her, she is able to suggest the best fit based on each doctors areas of expertise.
Du works mostly with women’s health issues, specifically with fertility challenges, supporting healthy pregnancy and keeping our pediatric population as healthy as they can be. She works with all of the naturopathic modalities, nutrition and orthomolecular medicine (use of nutritional supplements), botanical medicine, lifestyle medicine and traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. She is also one of the few dual-registrant licensed naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists in Toronto.
John MacIntosh is one of the two most experienced practitioners of a manual therapy called Suikodo™ that he has used to successfully treat a range of very difficult to treat conditions, including some that are considered untreatable (e.g., scoliosis).
I have learned over my years treating, for example, digestive health concerns that creating the “what” of a treatment plan is only a small part of success, and it is the “how” that will determine success, so I spend devote as much attention on how to implement a plan as I do on what specific changes I want them to make. Extensive experience in this area also allows me to more effectively integrate new tools, for example functional genetic testing, into creation of the problem-solving process, than if I simply assessed and treated according to learned protocols. I treat a lot of digestive issues, such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, food intolerances and ulcerative colitis. I also work with lifestyle medicine combined with botanical medicines and nutraceuticals (nutritional supplements), and am beginning to use functional genetic testing when applicable in this area.
Is every Doula considered a Naturopathic Birth Doula?
No. Traditional doula training focuses on comfort measures a “helper” can offer while a woman labours. The training is relatively short, a few days in duration.
A naturopathic birth doula has the full training of a naturopathic doctor: pre-medical university training, and four-year, full-time, post-graduate level training in naturopathic medicine.
A naturopathic birth doula, therefore has the knowledge and training to advise with respect to pre-natal health and pediatric health (post-partum), may be able to assist in correction of breech baby’s using acupuncture, is able to provide natural labour induction treatments to avoid use of pharmaceuticals for inductions which increases rate of interventions at birth, and also has a wider array of tools to employ as comfort measures at time of birth (e.g., acupuncture, homeopathic medicines, relaxation training, etc).
A final, practical, consideration, is that doula services offered by naturopathic doctors, are often covered by extended health care plans.
You’re both doctors, business owners, husband and wife, and parents of small children. How do you manage it all?
Do we manage it? False modesty aside, we are both hard-working and good managers of time, but we also have a lot of help.
If we can take credit for that, it is only because we recognize and have the patience to wait for the right people. Candice (McNish) is an exceptionally hard-working and effective office manager, and all our associates are professional, highly skilled and experienced and require a minimum of “management”.
We have also recognized the need to “invest” in childcare, to help with our other “job”: we have a very helpful nanny who pitches in with tasks around the house, and our younger daughter is having her early years education at a Waldorf school, which emphasizes social and emotional development, which we feel is the right environment for her early development and in line with our parenting style.
Lastly, we are blessed to have parents who love spending time with their grandchildren, and are generous enough to help us whenever we need help.
Who or what do you turn to when you’re not feeling well?
Generally, each other, but it depends on what ails us.
I often see John MacIntosh, ND, RMT if I have a stubborn physical ailment (I recently had frozen shoulder), or Melissa Dunseith, RMT for reflexology, to which I respond well if I begin to feel “run down”, and in the past have had success treating a difficult chronic health condition using the service of a homeopathic doctor.
Du is a workhorse and rarely becomes ill but when she is in need of care, she has also used the services of the same homeopathic doctor. To maintain health and well-being, I treat her regularly using a form of bodywork called Bowen Technique, and she sees Melissa for reflexology and massage.
What’s one thing you do daily to support your health and prevent disease?
I’m not sure there’s any one thing. In general, we try to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. The human body has evolved to function well if treated respectfully – healthy food, activity, adequate rest and stress at a lower level than a modern lifestyle submits it to.
The single thing I suppose we do to try to realize this ideal is not over-schedule. We generally end work early on Fridays when our older daughter finishes school and do something together as a family. As much as possible, we plan no activities on Sundays so the day is relaxed and allowed to unfold as it will, usually with a decadent family breakfast, maybe some outside time in the park across the street or a walk, and maybe a treat at a café.
By “saying no” to some of the things available to us, we are able to live a relatively balanced lifestyle.