Sometimes I joke that I’m a “resort doctor,” and although I did have an office on the grounds of La Costa resort what I mean is that often I am a doctor of last resort. Many of my clients have gone from doctor to doctor, flying to places like Mayo Clinic and consulting with the best MDs in their field. And yet they still don’t feel that their health has significantly improved. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario where the advances of modern medicine tend to fall short.

Upon starting my medical career more than 20 years ago, I was so excited to put all my hard-earned scientific knowledge to use. But I soon learned that the solution to many chronic health conditions was not my trusty prescription pad. And yet, conventional medical training at that time did not include any other form of healing and in fact dismissed these “alternatives.” As my patients showed me how they improved their health by these “unconventional” methods, my colleagues simultaneously called it unscientific nonsense. Recognizing that my medical education had only scratched the surface of how to help people feel better, I left my original career as a pediatric neurologist and pursued studies in multiple different healing modalities in search of the best means to help my clients heal and achieve optimal health. Now dozens of trainings and certificates later, I’ve found that my clients are best served by a blend of ancient wisdom with modern science.

Instead of merely diagnosing an illness (name it) and prescribing pharmaceuticals to manage symptoms (blame and tame it), I seek to find the underlying factors that led to the development of the health condition so that we can address the problem at its root. This approach is particularly helpful for those with chronic disease and multiple chronic diseases where a pharmaceutical band-aid approach can leave people with more and more prescriptions including ones to manage side effects of those prescriptions!

As a certified Functional Medicine practitioner, I utilize lab testing to target nutrition, supplement, and other lifestyle factors to address root causes such as nutritional insufficiencies, microbial imbalances, digestive dysfunction, toxic buildup, and hormonal dysregulation. Testing eliminates the guesswork and provides clear goals and markers. And yet, my conventional colleagues are not trained in and generally don’t use these tests! Even routinely available tests, such as for thyroid function, aren’t utilized as insurance-based standards of care only allow doctors to follow cookie-cutter protocols that don’t necessarily look at the whole picture.

And the whole person is exactly what we need to be looking at and is wonderfully supported by traditional healing systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. By understanding the person who has the health problem as well as their unique makeup and circumstances, we can address illness holistically and improve the overall health of the person instead of the western medicine approach that splits everything into parts, treating the malfunction instead of the person. This reductionistic approach leaves you with a cardiologist, an oncologist, an endocrinologist, a rheumatologist, etc. – all providing separate treatments with no one coordinating all the parts or looking for a possible common underlying thread.

As science advances, cutting-edge healthcare providers like me can go beyond the standard of care and incorporate best practices to achieve optimal results. For example, I use the wisdom of Ayurveda as a framework to help my clients understand their unique makeup and tendencies and learn to bring balance into their lives. And when I combine this with functional and genomic testing, showing clients hard data of how their body is (or isn’t) functioning, we can powerfully impact their health including prevention and sometimes even reversal of disease.

Dr. Valencia Porter is a leader in Integrative, Preventive, and Environmental Medicine and author of “Resilient Health: How to Thrive in Our Toxic World.” Double Board Certified in General Preventive Medicine and in Integrative Medicine, she also earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health in Environmental Health and is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. As a certified practitioner of Functional Medicine and Ayurveda, she helps people find the root causes of illness and restore and support the body’s natural healing capacities through multiple modalities. Dr. Porter views pure whole foods to be a foundational building block for health and is an advocate for soil health, regenerative organic agriculture, nutritional medicine, and non-toxic cooking. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two daughters where they enjoy the outdoors and the performing arts.

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