How To Empower Your Body & Mind Naturally with Dr. Catherine Clinton, ND on The Healers Café with Dr. Manon Bolliger, ND
In this episode of The Healers Café, Dr. Manon Bolliger, ND, chats Dr. Catherine Clinton, ND, a licensed naturopathic physician with a focus on gut health, autoimmunity and psychoneuroimmunology. Also, a respected author, speaker, pediatric health advocate.
Highlights from today’s episode include:
I mean, especially autoimmunity. I think the last study that I read, which is several years old, showed that 70% of autoimmune conditions are correlated with early life trauma. And so that’s really outstanding. And so, from there, as soon as I was able to kind of piece those pieces back together physical health, and then piece the pieces together of how our mind affects our body. That’s when I really started to regain that health or even more health than I had before, and my patients got healthier.
So, your body isn’t attacking you, it’s not deceiving you, it’s not broken, it’s reacting to signals that you are getting from your environment, whether that’s diet, stress, you know, the list goes on and, on our toxin, load our relationship with nature, our connection, and community, and whether that’s healthy and safe, or not safe and dangerous, all of those things have a tremendous impact.
But it’s longing to be in this connection that we no longer have in our world, whether it’s with our food, whether it’s with our communities, whether it’s with ourselves, whether it’s with nature, those relationships are no longer intact in our modern-day life. And so, creating that foundation of physical health, that gives patients a quality of life, then they have the energy and the motivation to really rekindle those relationships with nature, with community, with family, with themselves with their internal dialogue with their own perceptions of stress and response to stress.
About Dr Catherine Clinton, ND
About Dr. Manon Bolliger, ND:
Dr. Manon is a Naturopathic Doctor, the Founder of Bowen College, an International Speaker, she did a TEDx talk “Your Body is Smarter than you think. Why aren’t you Listening?” in Jan 2021, and is the author of Amazon best-selling books “What Patient’s Don’t Say if Doctors Don’t Ask”. & “A Healer in Every Household” For more great information to go to her weekly blog: http://bowencollege.com/blog.
For tips on health & healing go to: https://www.drmanonbolliger.com/tips
About The Healers Café:
Dr. Manon’s show is the #1 show for medical practitioners and holistic healers to have heart to heart conversations about their day to day lives.
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Welcome to the Healers Cafe. Conversations of health and healing with Dr. Manon.
Dr. Manon 00:16
So welcome to the Healers Cafe and today I have with me Catherine Clinton. She is a naturopathic, licensed doctor. And she focuses on gut health, autoimmunity, and psycho neuro immunology. So, I’m really excited to have you share with our audience a little bit about what that is and what exactly you’re doing. But before we go there, what brought you into naturopathy to begin with? And then very specifically into this field?
Dr. Clinton 00:57
Well, thank you so much for having me, I’m thrilled to be here. And with all the listeners out there, and I started my journey into natural health, actually assisting with a midwife. She later became my midwife to my two youngest kids, and it was an incredible experience, I got to see the power of natural medicine, the power of the mind, and I also got to see the hours. So, I knew that being a midwife wasn’t for me. And I started looking into the options out there. And here in the US, we have naturopathic colleges and universities. And so that’s what really sort of motivated me and opened up that whole window. And then, yeah, I actually graduated with a degree in philosophy. So, I had to go back and do all my pre-med and, you know, life kind of throws you curveballs. But I did that. And I went to the school in Portland, Oregon, the National University of naturopathic medicine, and it was a wonderful education.
Dr. Manon 02:11
So actually, have you found that philosophy has come in handy for you?
Dr. Clinton 02:16
I absolutely have not in the beginning. In the beginning, I really had to tone that part of my mind down, I remember someone in organic chemistry saying, “No, we don’t want an answer of how you think these molecules oscillate, we want you to give us the answer we’re looking for”. So, you know, I had to retrain that part. But at the flip side, once I learned all that science stuff, and Doctor language and all that kind of stuff, then plugging that philosophy back in really, really did help me kind of put things into context and expand on treatment plans. So yeah, it’s been really helpful.
Dr. Manon 03:00
Can you go into that a little bit more, because I find that, fascinating how people with different backgrounds that come into the into the healing arts, often, their training really helps them in ways that are…that you don’t expect and you don’t like, you say you don’t always notice at the beginning, because it can be a little bit strange.
Dr. Clinton 03:33
Before getting that inspiration from the midwife, I was in college doing my philosophy degree, and I was in martial arts, I was competitive nationally and internationally with Taekwondo. And so that early beginning really put the emphasis on that mind body connection, and really thinking things out and thinking outside the box, and the power of the mind. So, when I went through medical school and learned all the things, I needed to learn to be a doctor, when I started seeing patients, it really came in handy, especially in the last five years, being able to really expand on what it means to be healthy. Because either even in natural medicine, you know, we have our boxes and our here’s our diet, and here’s that health but being able to just kind of think and philosophize about health really allowed me to see some of the connections between our really sciency pieces like mitochondrial health, and our perception of the world, and our perception of stress, and our perception of love. And you know, these really philosophical ideas really ….
directly influenced our health. So, it was a wonderful, full circle thing when I could meet all the different parts of myself and say, Hey, we’re back. Together Again, we can talk about health and philosophize and think it out and think outside the box and really honor that mind body connection that sometimes isn’t honored in traditional and even naturopathic medicine.
Dr. Manon 05:14
Yeah. I think it’s missing in a lot of medicines, actually, including naturopathy. it’s getting even harder these days, with training. Looking at the training in Canada, we have two schools, and they’re becoming more and more, there’s nothing wrong with medicalized or science. But it’s really much more than that. And that’s why I was fascinated with the philosophy angle because what we think impacts us strongly, and it impacts our health. So, let’s go now into your subject of interest, and then how did that happen?
Dr. Clinton 06:26
So, I’ll just continue on a little bit with my story. There I am in naturopathic medical school. My first year my second year, I was diagnosed with several different things. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which is an autoimmune condition that attacks the colon and the intestinal tract. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto thyroiditis, and also with Lyme disease. So, I really got a little bouquet of diagnoses there. And it was a journey, you know, I was in the right place at the right time. And being a naturopathic medical school, the school I went to is a dual school. So, it has Chinese medicine in there as well. So, it was a wonderful place to get healing, and really piece back those pieces of physical health. And it wasn’t until later that I started to piece together the mental part, the psycho neuro immunology and how our stress and our trauma, whether it’s current, whether it’s early life, whether it’s generational, really has a foundational impact on our health. I mean, especially autoimmunity. I think the last study that I read, which is several years old, showed that 70% of autoimmune conditions are correlated with early life trauma. And so that’s really outstanding. And so, from there, as soon as I was able to kind of piece those pieces back together physical health, and then piece the pieces together of how our mind affects our body. That’s when I really started to regain that health or even more health than I had before, and my patients got healthier. But there was still sort of this piece missing. And it wasn’t until the last five years that I realized that what was missing was that context, you know, we talked about, like with autoimmunity, for example, we talk about gut health and certain supplements and diet. But we aren’t talking about the actual bigger context of it, you know, when we’re talking about gut health and our gut microbiome, the air we breathe, has more impact on the health of our microbiome than our diet than our genetics than our ethnicity. So, the web is much bigger than you know, we are currently looking at it. And true health is only going to come from that big expanded contextualized view of health. We’ve gotten really good at this myopic research and pinning stuff down. But then we just leave it there. And we don’t put it back into context of what’s happening in this greater ecosystem. And there’s a lot happening every second so it’s really exciting to be at a point in my practice and in my health and just in science in general, where we see all these little pieces of the puzzle being pieced back together. We’re seeing how the mind can affect overall health and the air we breathe affects our gut microbiome and our toxin load has an incredible impact on our health. I mean, there’s so many pieces to it, it’s really exciting to start putting them back together.
Dr. Manon 10:06
So can you give… no names,,, and all that, but can you give like an example of like a case study that you can think of, that really exemplifies what you’re saying………… what a person would do, and then how it fits in, and then how you discovered that it doesn’t get impacted by much more than just, diet and vitamins and this, like, walk us through a little bit of a visual of that?
Dr. Clinton 10:39
Sure, with a patient that comes in with these more complex autoimmune conditions, so traditionally, it’s thought of in mainstream medical texts, that it’s your body attacking itself, right. So, someone comes in with this diagnosis, and they’re like, my body’s attacking my thyroid, my body is attacking my gut. And that’s where I start, first of all, I start with education about how our body is reacting to signals that it’s receiving. So, your body isn’t attacking you, it’s not deceiving you, it’s not broken, it’s reacting to signals that you are getting from your environment, whether that’s diet, stress, you know, the list goes on and, on our toxin, load our relationship with nature, our connection, and community, and whether that’s healthy and safe, or not safe and dangerous, all of those things have a tremendous impact. So, when a patient comes in, I like to start first by empowering them with the knowledge of what their body’s doing, right? That it’s not attacking, it’s not broken, it’s responding. And so, then we have to do our best to give it signals of safety to respond to. So, we talk about diet, and we talk about, you know, movement, and, and mindfulness. And all of these things can be broken down, you know, in that myopic way, where the doctor hands you a sheet of paper and says, eat plants and omega three fatty acids are good, and get outside and move your body. But when we take a patient and take a person through what’s actually happening, we can really empower them. So, what I used to do was, take them through that whole empowerment of what our body’s doing, and what adjustments we can make, to create those signals of safety, diet, all kinds of stuff. And then, you know, it’s that last piece of the puzzle in the last five years of talking about how our mind reacts to these relationships that really, really kind of creates that net of safety. So, when a patient comes in and has this diagnosis, and can get a relief of symptoms and a better quality of life through something as easy as some diet changes and supplements. That’s first level, that’s that first physical level where they say, Okay, I can have quality of life again. And, and that’s amazing. And that’s oftentimes where most people stop. But there’s another level that comes, once we get that quality of life back, then there’s this.
Dr. Clinton 13:38
Oh, you know, it’s sort of philosophical, right? But it’s longing to be in this connection that we no longer have in our world, whether it’s with our food, whether it’s with our communities, whether it’s with ourselves, whether it’s with nature, those relationships are no longer intact in our modern-day life. And so, creating that foundation of physical health, that gives patients a quality of life, then they have the energy and the motivation to really rekindle those relationships with nature, with community, with family, with themselves with their internal dialogue with their own perceptions of stress and response to stress. That takes it to a whole other level of comfort and belonging that, you know, I hadn’t known previously and most of my patients don’t know most of us live in an unsafe world. You know, our nervous system is getting these signals of danger all the time, whether it’s processed food or someone cutting you off in traffic or work environment that we don’t like, you know, there’s so many different stressors out there, that creating that connected web of Safety really can take us to a whole new level of mental, physical and emotional health. So that’s the journey that I like to take my patients on.
Dr. Manon 15:12
Yeah, I really resonate with that, because the first step you’re saying is you teach, right, because most people will come in with a disease that they think will be the end of them. And the misconception that their body is actually fighting that, which I wouldn’t start with that there’s no, there’s no room for growth, because when you do…you do kill the body or like, what do you kill? So, it’s very hard. Yeah, that first step. So, I think that’s crucial. Especially, it’s still very well shared, that auto immunity means fighting against yourself. That’s what most people believe, right? So that’s the biggest misconception for sure. You know, I love how at the end, after going through the using food, using all these things that give signals to your body, that it’s safe, but I also love when you’re saying that then we can create because as humans, we are creative beings, we then take back our responsibility and our ability to change our environment, to literally make it safe, you know, in the best of our ability. So yeah, I think I do a version of that in my practice through Bowen therapy, where I work with the body, that they receive safe signals. And you can only heal if you feel sick, because you can’t heal and obviously, in sympathetic overdrive, it’s really not in fight or flight you have to be in parasympathetic, you know, so I think it’s very interesting, the way you’re breaking this down this journey, and I really hope that our listeners are listening to this. So, what, what do you do?
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Dr. Manon 18:24
How many people come in really discouraged? Like thinking there is no hope for them.
Dr. Clinton 18:34
Almost all of my autoimmune patients come in that way. I do have some patients that are returning patients or that are coming in for you know, yeah, tune-ups, but the majority of the patients come in feeling like a betrayal, of betrayal. And they are often trying to place that somewhere Well, what was it because of this and this happened and where did I go wrong in this broken body saga, and it’s really not like that, you know, when we talk about stress and stress management, we are often talking about, you know, meditate or mindfulness and sometimes that’s really hard for us to get in that space if we are stressed, or we have trauma and so, you know, patients coming in with that diagnosis, just feel really betrayed by the body. And so that’s the first step is kind of rekindling that trust and letting them know that it’s not the body that is turned on them. It’s one of these stressors and the stressors aren’t always this, you know, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and meditate and calm your mind down to stress or, like we said, can be a toxin. can be so many things. And, and when we talk about stress responses, we also don’t talk about what kind of epigenetic load we come into. So, when we talk about when we carry epigenetic stress or trauma, it’s not like we’re actually carrying that memory, we’re carrying the stress response. Right. So, I see that, you know, with in my family, I’m one of them. One of my kids is one of them, our nervous system is, is wired a little quicker, you know, to react to that, a little quick to fight or flight.
Dr. Clinton 20:36
And so that’s something that I can clearly see passed down generationally from my side of the family that had more trauma. And so, you know, it isn’t this idea of, you do the work, you quiet the mind. It’s really this process of rekindling that relationship with the body and figuring out how to create those signals of safety. And sometimes meditation. Mindfulness is the perfect thing. for other people. A Walk-in nature is the same kind of mindfulness without the stillness that can be hard for some people with nervous system.
Dr. Manon 21:26
I think that’s very well put, because, like you said, it’s not. There’s so much therapy where you find the cause. And then you think that’s the fault, right? And it’s a trigger, for sure. But your body has now a response. Right? And that’s the, that’s what we’re trying to change, ultimately, is because now we’re not even triggered by the same thing. It’s new triggers. Right? And it’s understanding the process, I think, really helps as well, you know, that’s a big part of it doesn’t change the physiology directly. But if you understand what’s happening, you become aware. And if you become aware, then you’re not as easily as easily triggered by some of the triggers. Right? Like, I mean, like you’re saying, with, with food, and that, but even when you’re saying that what is the number is that 80%? Or is quite a large percentage? How did they show the correlation? And tell us a little bit more?
Dr. Clinton 22:50
Sure. Well, they looked at the ACE study, so the adverse childhood events, and they correlated that, so they looked at patients with autoimmunity, and then have them take the ACE questionnaire to see if they had experienced early life, trauma, chronic stress. And I like I said this, that was a while ago, maybe seven years ago, and I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that didn’t have some sort of constant stressor now, especially in the last year, right. I think some people are more sensitive to the constant stressors because of their history. If it’s undealt, with, you know, absolutely, yeah. So, I would be one that’s what happened my second year of med school, my body just, yeah, crumbled, because I didn’t have that foundation where other people did. And, and we all come into the world with a blueprint of how we respond to stress. And then we all have different stressors piled on top of that, so
Dr. Manon 24:02
Have you seen them with the patients that I mean, that have had, whether it’s all sorts of colitis or other autoimmune disease, where they are not only symptom free, they don’t need to take any kind of drugs, they may need to continue to eat well, and honor their bodies? That’s not a drug. But they don’t need to take something else and have changed their reactivity, their, trigger being triggered. Have you seen? Have you seen that?
Dr. Clinton 24:43
Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s the goal, because, you know, talking about what the research was with autoimmunity, showing that our stress response, you know, can really change our biology. What they were looking in subsequent studies that people did branch off of this, where they showed very clearly that when we experience chronic stress or trauma, there’s a shift in the gut microbiome, from more beneficial species to more harmful species. And as soon as that happens, there’s an increase in inflammation. And that can lead to intestinal permeability or leaky gut, which we know is associated with a host of chronic conditions, but it also increases systemic inflammation, none of those things you want with autoimmunity, right.
Dr. Clinton 25:37
And again, at the same time, as we see that shift to a more harmful species and an increase in inflammation, we see a decrease in our immune system’s ability to put that inflammation out, our T regulatory cells just dive. And the interesting thing that the research shows is that this shift happens and can last a lifetime. So, we can experience that chronic stress or trauma, and it can shift our biology for a lifetime. Now, I have to say that the flip side is also true, right, that we can rewire that as well. And I think that that’s what’s so powerful about that education piece with our patients is to talk about how, you know, just even talking about the research about how this is what happens, but we can shift it back. I mean, there’s a really amazing study about infants in the NICU. And they had to be removed from their mothers because of medical reasons. And that removal was the instigator of trauma. And the researchers found that predictable shift from beneficial species to more harmful species in the gut microbiome. And they supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids. And that completely reversed that shift in the gut microbiome, and completely got it back to where it was. And, again, it’s that that looking at it in context, is it because we have isolated this compound in fatty acids? No, it’s really, because we evolved, our bodies have evolved throughout the millennia, living by water, and eating things that had omega three. So, we’ve incorporated that into our biology as a safety signal. And, and so empowering patients to really understand that, yes, this is a physiological biological thing that is happening, your body is reacting appropriately, we just need to shift that. And, and the ways of doing that are long, you know, I just mentioned one, omega three, but you know, from your work, there’s so many ways to approach that. And they are all so powerful. And it just depends on the individual and what they might be needing. But knowing that that shift is so dramatic and powerful and can last a lifetime, but at the same time, the world we live in, and our mind and body have so many options to reverse and prevent that and build resilience to future chronic stresses and traumas is just thrilling for me.
Dr. Manon 28:34
Well, I think that’s where all the work is. But when you when you compare this and I think you’ve done a beautiful presentation of what it’s really like for a patient, but if they had gone to see conventional wisdom, or you know, allopathic thinking, the idea there is not so much looking at the gut or any of that, because that’s not really in their domain of understanding because there’s no, or very little training in nutrition. But they would go with anti inflammatories, as the answer because there’s inflammation. Are you able to kind of go down a little bit what happens with that, and why I mean, some people say they feel better, that route, but there are people who just feeling better isn’t enough, like they actually want to, you know, deal with the real problem and the cause? So, if you could sort of address what that does?
Dr. Clinton 29:42
Yeah. And I think you kind of hit the nail on the head there that it is a Band-Aid, so it’s not addressing the problem. And that means that the problem is still perpetuating and when you walk into those doctor offices like I did You’re told that this is a lifelong thing that if there is no cure, there is no remission. And I was told that food had nothing to do with it. Which is mind blowing at this day and age that all that we know about the gut microbiome and, and its effect on health, especially auto immunity, that that’s not integrated into our healthcare system is mind boggling. But that’s what you get, you get sort of this one-way street.
Dr. Clinton 30:38
And those anti inflammatories are blocking a bodily process. That, again, is………your body’s not creating too much inflammation, because it’s broken. Because there’s a gear out of whack or you know, a belt that needs to be tightened or something like that. We aren’t machines as much as we are messaging systems, right. So, if we don’t figure out what those signals are, that are creating that dangerous signal that your body is then creating inflammation around, then we still are perpetuating that problem. And that is really where the true healing comes in is when we can narrow it down, figure out, you know, and it’s often, especially when we’re talking about autoimmune conditions, it’s often not one can trick. It’s many things. And as we peel the layers away and remove the different triggers and stressors, then the story looks a lot different than what you get in an allopathic doctor’s office. And those anti inflammatories are of systemic Band-Aid. So they are doing things throughout the body, when that inflammatory response that is supposed to be treated might be just in the gut, or just in the brain or just in the knee or, you know, wherever it is, but those medicines are not just there they go systemic, and they are really putting a clamp down on that whole entire inflammatory cascade, which, again, is good, in a way because we want to decrease inflammation and get better. And that’s why people do feel better. But at the same time, there are many side effects. Because those aren’t isolated treatments, they go systemic, and they go throughout the body. And that’s something that we are not needing, you know, we are not anti-inflammatory med deficient, we just have little tweaks in our life that that create inflammation or can help resolve that inflammation. So that was a great question.
Dr. Manon 33:01
Yeah, and you can, and it also makes it so much easier, when you can look at the body as not just one size fits all, when you’re saying well, little things you can do make a massive difference in your health. And if patients feel empowered, and they see that it’s true. I mean, that’s the most exciting thing. Having been both a patient and a doctor myself, you know, it’s that I love to, to see that happen for people so. So, thank you so much. This was very informative, and any last comment to make?
Dr. Clinton 33:41
I would just like to encourage everyone out there to start exploring those relationships and those connections and, and there’s so much out there that’s free, you know, just going outside getting in contact with the sun, regulating with the rhythm of nature, going to bed when the sun goes down or within a reasonable amount and waking up when the sun comes up and getting some of that sun in your eyes and going outside that can completely rewire our nervous systems, our immune systems. So, some of these things are completely free and available to us at all times. Even when we’re in, you know, living in the middle of a concrete jungle, that concrete still transmits those antioxidants from the earth. And it’s all out there. So, I would encourage everyone to really start exploring those connections and building that web of safety.
Dr. Manon 34:45
Thank you very much.
Dr. Clinton 34:47
Thank you so much for having me, I had a wonderful time talking with you today
Thank you for joining us. For more information, go to DrManonBolliger.com.