July 21, 2011
Introduction: Hey folks, this is Ben Greenfield and I had a medical emergency this week. Don’t worry, I’m okay and you can read about what happened over at the most recent post at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, entitled “The Art of Using Antibiotics”, but today’s podcast is still going to be highly educational. I’m going to bring you from deep in the Ben Greenfield Fitness archives an interview that I consider to be with one of the best guests that we’ve had on this podcast. There are a few mind-blowingly smart physicians who come on and do interviews at Ben Greenfield Fitness; Dr. Robby Mitchell is one, Dr. David Minkoff is another, Dr. Richard Cohen is another, there’s a local guy whose opinions I trust immensely – he’s a naturopathic physician, he’s name is Dr. Todd Schlapfer and he is the guy who’s going to tell you about naturopathic medicine and what it is in today’s podcast, and this guy literally is, one of the top guys in the country – knows what he’s talking about. So, listen in to that and we’ll be back to regular podcast episode next week, so until then, this is Ben Greenfield, signing out.
Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and I’m here today with an exciting interview on naturopathic medicine. I have with me on the other line, the 2005 Naturopathic Physician of the Year for the entire nation. He is a naturopathic physician out of Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho. He’s a physician for Coeur D’ Alene Healing Arts in Coeur D’ Alene, and his name is Dr. Todd Schlapfer, goes by Dr. Todd to his patients and his friends and he’s been practicing in Coeur D’ Alene for about 25 years in naturopathic medicine. He has a lot of experience so he’s going to be able to provide us with quite a bit of insight on this form of medicine. Dr. Todd studied over in Portland at one of the most established naturopathic educational institutions in the country and he studied at the National College of Natural Medicine, and Dr. Todd, I want to welcome you to the show and thank you for coming with us today.
Dr. Todd: Thank you, Ben.
Ben: So, I want to hear a little bit, and I think this will be interesting for the audience to hear about how you became involved in naturopathic medicine. What road did you take?
Dr. Todd: I took a lot of different roads I suppose. It wasn’t a straight line at all, but I guess, to try and keep it into sort of a summarized response, I would say I was a real curious kid and wanted to understand the mystery of life and ended up studying a lot of science and then specifically, move towards biology and learned, I was first a biologist and learned about how living organisms have an intrinsic capacity to self-correct and or adapt to conditions, and what I learned in dealing with plants and animals became so intriguing to me that I began to develop what I would call a passion for trying to understand how that’s true for human beings. One of the most prevailing lessons that I learned in studying and practicing as a biologist was how critical the interconnections are between conditions and or biology or physiological biology and it was almost, I can say, a startling experience for me to really appreciate how interconnected everything is, and I simultaneously learned that there was a body of health care or medicine dedicated to the principle of how interconnected things are. I had done treatment as a biologist, but became discouraged in terms of going into a traditional study of medicine simply because it was so narrowed to a particular therapy, either surgery or medication, and it was pretty much a discouraging experience for me to continue there and that’s why I went off and didn’t finish in biology. So, that’s where I think I stood at the root of how I became interested in naturopathic medicine – it was to try and find a way to integrate my interest in natural life forms and forces with life as a human being, and it was exciting for me to find out about naturopathic medicine and so, I started off by attending the Naturopathic College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon in 1979 and never regretted it. It’s been such a blessing for me to find that and to find the opportunity to actually practice this, so there you have it.
Ben: Yeah! Now, when we throw around a term like naturopathic medicine, I know that some people are aware that there are MDs and NDs, but I would like to hear from you, what you would say the primary differences are between those 2 types of physicians.
Dr. Todd: Well, the precept or the principle behind naturopathic medicine is what we refer to as Vis medicatrix naturae, the Latin for…
Ben: I was going to guess Latin or Spanish.
Dr. Todd: Yeah Latin for, means the healing power of nature. It goes back to what I just said about how, as a biologist, I became, via curiosity, interested in how everything was connected and how it has this self-correcting capacity. The healing power of nature is, we’ll just summarize that, and allopathic medicine is based upon the precept of the law of opposites. In other words, it practices how to suppress a symptom. In other words, that the principal focus of care is the symptom itself rather than the cause, and what happened, albeit a very beneficial practice because it’s very appropriate when it comes to life-saving procedures and emergencies, but it is very poor at being able to resurrect, rehabilitate or reverse, simply because it’s based upon the principle of suppression. When in actuality, what the body is doing, the human body is doing, is trying to self-correct. So what needs to happen is to provide something that’s complimentary to that intrinsic force or human nature that helps rehabilitate that capacity to adapt or to heal and re-establish balance. That’s the principal difference. It’s not to say that one is bad, one is good. It’s just simply to say there is a difference.
Dr. Todd: And they need to be, wherever possible, married – in other words, integrated.
Ben: Well, I think a perfect example of how you might find yourself integrating the philosophies of allowing a disease to play its course or even allowing your body to operate as naturally as possible, well at the same time, perhaps using allopathic medicine to correct certain problems would be… I had a recent post on BenGreenfieldFitness.com on the podcast, where I’ve been struggling quite a bit with an IT band injury and I would say that, as a tri-athlete and the reason I’m using this example is because a lot of the people who listen to this show are involved in endurance athletics, I use more of an allopathic, suppress the disease, corticosteroid injection at 1 point so that I was able to complete the race, but at the same time, I’ve been doing a lot of different modalities such as increased Vitamin C intake, fluorophone extract, anti-inflammatories and things of that nature, to help play a little bit more of a preventive role in the problem, and so, I think that in a healthy lifestyle, I don’t know if this is what you’re trying to say but the two can coincide, right? Naturopathic and allopathic medicine?
Dr. Todd: They can cooperate and collaborate and they can, very often, bring the best of both to each individual’s health care, but they can also clash and that is why in the study in the matriculation process of becoming a naturopathic physician, the first 2 years are dedicated to learning allopathic medicine, and that studies the same anatomy, same physiology, same disease processes, same dissections. We learned everything possible about what can happen to this human biology in mind, but then there’s the lie in the road about the third and the fourth year where you begin to study what to do about that once you understand what’s going on or have made a diagnosis then it becomes an issue of what to do about it. And so, in order to practice good naturopathic medicine, it’s very important that the physician understand allopathic medicine because most patients are going to come from that background. Most patients are going to come from having been treated allopathically. Most important that we understand drugs, drug interactions, if a person is on a medication like the one I just mentioned, Ben, going to be important for us to, if we’re going to integrate care and learn what’s truly complementary and not antagonistic to that medicine, because it is not an issue of just stopping an allopathic medication which you are learning how to phase in, phase out 2 different approaches, or to give something that enhances the effect of the other. In order to do that, you have to understand how they both work.
Ben: Right! Well, along those same lines and trying to cater this a bit to primarily, an active audience or an audience perhaps interested in exercise and nutrition, I’d like to ask you a question about dieting and there’s a lot of different diets right now that are currently popular. Whether it’d be the Mediterranean or the Atkins or the zone but while most people know that there’s going to be a different diet that works for each person, do you as a naturopath, adhere to a specific nutritional philosophy in terms of whether it’d be diet or whether it’d be just a general approach to nutrition, fueling the body or simply feeding the body?
Dr. Todd: Great question. Well, the principal word there that you’re going to quickly react to is adhere. I’m not adhering to anything really, but I do I guess I could say, practice two main features to this question. One is, back again to the biological individuality. The great lesson about the mystery of life is that while we all recognize each other as human beings, we are all a little different and that difference if one can begin to understand the dynamics that works there, that makes that individual, that makes you unique, then it becomes a very powerful piece of information with relationship to diet, with food choices. In general, let me say one more thing added on to that. There are ways to test for that individual biology and that’s a lot of what we do before we begin giving advice about what to do nutritionally. So, ruling out allergies, learning about what enzymes are intrinsic to this individual, and then of course, including the knowledge about what this person is trying to do with his body.
Ben: And what type of testing would be involved?
Dr. Todd: Well, everything. From blood typing, of which there are many different types, to allergy testing for both kinds of anti-bodies. IGE anti-bodies and IGG anti-bodies. IGE anti-bodies are very quick-reacting anti-bodies that produce a histamine response, in very close proximity to exposure; that’s a very common test. Lot of people get allergy testing like, through skin or through blood testing. But we go a step further than that; we’re doing also IGG testing, which is a delayed anti-body response. In other words, it is a slow reaction, not obvious typically, to exposure. It may take days or longer for that reaction to begin to appear and subsequently, it’s difficult to make the link because so much time has passed between exposure and reaction. Subsequently, it becomes a chronic issue. So let’s say, an athlete is having a chronic capacity to sprain or to not recover completely from whatever they’re doing. It maybe because under the radar, inflammatory response is going on and pre-destined them to not completely be able to rehabilitate and it may be due to the inflammatory response that is ongoing because of what they’re eating, even though what they’re eating is intrinsically a good food. It may have an anti-body response going on so that testing has become really valuable for many people and in particular, athletes.
Ben: And would you say that to bring it one step further, if an athlete is already injured, that consumption of a food that would cause an allergic response like that might actually inhibit the ability of the body to heal properly or to rid itself of an inflammatory condition?
Dr. Todd: Yes! You could think of inflammation as the natural response that the body makes to try and correct itself. But if that inflammatory response is not, you could say, understood in terms of cause, then that inflammatory response can become chronic and continue, which would inhibit that person’s health, whether it’s recovering from an injury or pre-disposing them to an injury and issue, but yes, exactly right. And then, this is one of the greatest virtues to naturopathic medicine, is that it’s looking at a lot of experience.
Ben: I’m sorry. I lost just the very last part of that sentence.
Dr. Todd: This is one of the treasures of naturopathic medicine, is that it’s looking at, it’s pursuing the cause of the experience we have as human beings. Whatever it is that we’re experiencing; it’s hard to figure out where the root of that is, where it is coming from. It’s one thing to have a head ache and treat it with an analgesic, but if you keep having a head ache, you have to understand that the analgesic is not treating the cause of it, right? You have to figure out where it’s coming from, then it becomes a little bit more of an adventure and really trying to peel the onions, trying to get down to the lair in which it actually originates and that’s why some of this testing is done. That’s why naturopathic medicine is the medical field that is on the cutting edge of diagnostics. Meaning, it is much more open to exploring and looking at ways to illumine more about the subtle nature of why we operate the way we do.
Ben: And once the testing is done, you would prescribe a diet based off of an individual’s propensity to be allergic to certain foods?
Dr. Todd: Yeah, right. Yes, so that they can then make choices that enhance their performance, other than becoming an obstacle. Professional athletes in particular are very interested in it because if you’re being paid to perform, or you’re trying to make a living as a professional athlete, you have to be on and you can’t afford to be down very much. And so, when you put into place these very specific individual awareness about what is friendly and what’s not, then it makes it very easy to prevent as well as enhance, function.
Ben: So from a dietary perspective, there’s definitely a sports performance aspect of naturopathic medicine. Would you say that there are other issues that you see athletes for that naturopathic medicine has a certain quality in terms of its ability to reverse course or assist with, let’s say, an endurance athlete or a tri-athlete or a professional athlete in outdoor recreational sports, for example?
Dr. Todd: Sure! Yeah, the whole spectrum is they’re getting ready for getting fit or recovering from an event or rehabilitating an injury; we’re working with all of that. One more thing though Ben, about your question about diet, the other thing I would say after so many years of looking at this is, I would in general, emphasize a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet has the principal primary core of what you do nutritionally. Meaning that the protein is secondary to that, not primary. So, I think there’s been an overemphasis on protein and not enough emphasis on the plant-based nutrition. There’s a lot more we could go into about; maybe that’s another issue that we’ll talk about in the future, but this is a big deal and I think it needs to be plied out a little bit more in terms of how it might apply to athletes.
Ben: And why would too much protein consumption be a problem for an athlete or for anyone?
Dr. Todd: Because it can form an acid biology, and once you start to tilt the source of acid terrain, then the body is forced to try and alkalinize that or mitigate that by pooling too much calcium for example, from the bones and subsequently, maybe pre-disposing one from osteoporosis or osteopenia, kidney stress, heart stress, etc. So, it is a big issue and even though most athleticism takes place at a younger age, the price doesn’t really show up until later. And that’s an all very interesting piece that I think has to be added into this topic. So, plant-based medicines are so much more nutritionally rich than a protein. I mean, I’m not saying that protein isn’t important, it’s very important. It’s a matter of deciding or determining what protein in particular for this individual is appropriate and how much. If you look at all the studies, sort of a meta-analysis of all the studies across the globe, in different cultures, in different countries, and then you start to look at what are the disease processes that these cultures and countries and folks have experienced. There are very interesting links to back to what happens when you don’t do a plant-based diet, and those are negative, so they’re supposed to be negative.
Ben: And to clarify, when you used the term “plant-based diet”, are you talking about a vegetarian or a vegan diet per se?
Dr. Todd: No, I’m not. I’m talking about plants. There’s vegetables, there’s fruits, there’s nuts and beans, there’s grains; I’m talking about versus animal protein. I’m not talking about the proteins that are obtained by combining the amino acids in grains or legumes in grains. No, I’m not talking about avoiding protein at all. I’m just saying we have to be careful, in terms of balancing, where protein comes into the diet, how much and what kind, relative to the essential, I’m not saying essential nutrients you can’t get anywhere else except from plants.
Ben: Well, a plant-based diet is one of your recommendations in terms of a general philosophy one can use for nutrition. What about, for example, enhancing sports performance?
Dr. Todd: Yeah?
Ben: From an ergogenic aid or a supplementation approach, are there certain things that you prescribe for performance, for example?
Dr. Todd: Again, it depends on what kind of performance but if it’s an, let’s say aerobic.
Ben: Yeah, let’s say aerobic performance, aerobic power, cardiovascular.
Dr. Todd: Right! So, it’s going to be really important that that person not be able to burn off the sugars too quickly, right? So it’s going to be really appropriate for that person to have an efficient amount of fat that is in the diet, so that it can be burned like a log rather than kindling, when they’re performing. So, there’s going to be a need for lots of carbohydrates and good fat and then a sustaining protein, and then it has to be, probably, of course this has to be done long ahead of time so that the biology is used to it, the IE, the adaptations to this. That reminds me of an example of that level of adaptation. I was a physician on the Iditarod bike race up in Alaska a few years ago, and the winner ate nothing but power bars for 4 months before the race.
Dr. Todd: That’s all he did – breakfast, lunch and dinner. And he was able to adapt to that as his fuel, and he won hands down. A credible example of adaptation, is that a good idea for the system? NO! In the long run, no, it’s not a good idea. There’s going to be some prices to pay, but he won the race. So, it brings us to this interesting dynamic about what it takes to be successful at high performance, isn’t always coincide with what it takes to enhance health.
Ben: So we walk a fine line between putting into our bodies what allows it to stay healthy and putting into our bodies what might allow it to perform an ultra endurance event. There’s something of that nature and so, for example with recovery and trying to avoid creating an acidic PH within the body but still trying to give the body adequate amino acids for repair, what would be some of your recommendations to our audience, in terms of the things that they can do while still, primarily focusing on a plant-based diet?
Dr. Todd: Again, high, very potent source of mineralization. A bone matrix mineral, like a MCHC microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate; one of the greatest demands on high levels of aerobic performance is going to be minerals and so, there needs to be a really good source of that, and that’s one of the reasons why plant-based diet is so important because that’s the primary source of those minerals. Those minerals have to be ionized in a certain way that they can be absorbed appropriately by the body.
Ben: And what did you refer to the bone mineral matrix says?
Dr. Todd: Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite is abbreviated MCHC, versus calcium carbonate or some product made from egg shells or something that’s really never been known before, crushed rocks or something. Bone matrix actually comes from bones. Another good source, however, is the ionized minerals that come out of the deep clay soils and there are concentrates and minerals that are very easy to assimilate without mentioning any particular vendors that that is a good source as well.
Ben: Yeah, that’s very interesting. You don’t hear the minerals discussed very much in most popular sports nutrition literature. So, I think that this will be new information for some of the people listening to the podcast. Now on the flipside, oh go ahead…
Dr. Todd: Or you’re just going to say just put that plan to perspective. One of the issues that I see a lot of for athletes who are high-performance athletes, who have aged now and they’re in their 50’s or 60’s, is osteoporosis.
Dr. Todd: And of course, compression injuries. So, it brings us back to that point of how to keep that appropriate mineralization happening because if you’re not getting it right, then what happens is the body’s going to give it up, the body’ going to steal those nutrients from itself in order to try and equalize or try to balance that biology.
Ben: Yeah, it makes perfect sense. Now, the power bar man that you spoke of earlier, he took in a pretty high amount of high glycemic index carbohydrate and I don’t know if power bar uses genetically modified weed or anything of that nature. But do you have also some type of recommendation for the audience in terms of fueling their body with some of that higher octane carbohydrate fuel that they’re going to need during exercise without actually doing a lot of damage to the body that you might get, for example, on a 4-month power bar diet?
Dr. Todd: Yeah! Well, we live in a time when there are a lot more choices now about how to get fuel, in a pretty healthy way. We have bars that are really well-designed, there are liquids drinks, but depends on we know what the dynamics are in this person’s biology in terms of what it’s friendly food and what’s not friendly food, then what we’re going to do is give them a carbohydrate loading diet which is going to come mostly from grains and vegetables and fruits, with a lot of olive oil, the best fat is if there is olive oil or coconuts.
Ben: But we actually did, we did an episode, ought to look back and mention the show notes to this podcast. We did an episode sometime back on medium chain triglycerides.
Dr. Todd: Yeah. But that’s a very important chain to it and then of course the right protein and most of the time the best protein is going to be fish, and of course, I’ve overlooked probably the very fundamental supposition here and that’s that these foods are not refined and they’re not biologically engineered to be almost in their natural state, etc.
Ben : And why would that be fish, Dr. Todd?
Dr. Todd: Well more specifically, that’d be cold water, young small fish because fish have essential fatty acids that are very rich and are very protective of cells, and reduce the degree of oxidative damage that can happen, plus they are protein. Many proteins do not have the degree of essential fats in them like fish do, especially fat if I got, let’s say, fatty fish. So we’re talking about a young fish like sardines, salmon and wild salmon etc. They’re much safer, they’re less toxic, nutritionally dense. I would tend to steer away from an older, bigger fish because of the toxic colludes in those fish.
Ben: And so in summary, it looks like, probably one of the best things that someone can do in trying to decrease inflammation and improve recovery from exercise would be to focus not just on proteins following exercise. But also ionized minerals, MCHC, as well as choosing their proteins from holistic sources that might also be high in essential fatty acids like cold water fish, and then also including grains, vegetables and medium-chain triglyceride sources like olive oil or coconut oil in their diet to actually fuel exercise.
Dr. Todd: Yeah, and what you’re trying to do is understand what foods have most of that intrinsically, right?
Dr. Todd: So learning how to combine, let’s say, a fish is huge, vegetables are huge. Those 2 fit together perfectly, and if you are not going to use animal protein, then you would certainly want to use a legume-grain combination to get a complete protein.
Dr. Todd: Right!
Ben: And that was another actual episode that we did some time back, was combining amino acids to create for yourself, a whole protein source. Well, I know that we’re a little bit pressed for time right now but is there anything in particular that you would like to share in terms of where you would see naturopathic medicine going in the future or any final recommendations that you have for the audience, in terms of health and wellness in this day and age?
Dr. Todd: Wow!
Ben: Any pearls of wisdom.
Dr. Todd: Well, the main thing that can never go wrong, you can always go very right, by having athleticism be combined with an avid understanding of nutrition. It is critical because it isn’t just for the time that you’re being a high performance athlete or just a recreational athlete. It is the key that will carry you to into the future with a much less capacity for injury or degeneration.
Ben: And that would be whether you’re exercising for performance or weight loss, general health, whatever the case may be?
Dr. Todd: Yeah! Nutrition, food, is a requirement of being a human being and it can either be a bad drug or it can be a dismal agent and learning dynamics of how your body corresponds with what you do with food is key. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an athlete or whether you are a monk. The same principle applies and it’s going to be what it is that determines sort of the best compliment to your sort of genetic code. You can either pre-dispose yourself to the things that you’re inherited to or you can alleviate or avoid those predispositions or prevent those predispositions from occurring by what you do with food.
Dr. Todd: And that’s a lot more things in that that I could say much more about other sources that are appropriate. That food is like you got to do it, so the question is “how are you going to do it?”
Ben: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense and I think that some people may be aren’t aware of the power that they can give themselves with the synergistic relationship between their exercise and what they’re putting into their body, and there are many successful individuals out there who are able, I believe, to maintain weight or to maintain high levels of performance in the absence of proper nutrition, but I guess my question for them would be “what’s your body going to be doing in 20 years or 30 years with chronic levels of inflammation or demineralization or whatever the case may be?”, and so, I think that that’s something important to take into consideration.
Dr. Todd: Not just consideration. If you’re going to be a serious athlete, that’s, I think, a key because you’re going to have a consequence to what you do and it’s either going to be a benefit or it’s going to be a force that is degenerative.
Dr. Todd: It can go either way, so yeah.
Ben: It’s a very important concept. Now, do you have any recommendations on resources for anyone in the audience who wants to learn more about naturopathic medicine?
Dr. Todd: Oh, if I were to choose one, I would go to http://www.naturopathic.org.
Ben: And is that the official site of licensed naturopathic medicine practitioners in the US?
Dr. Todd: Yeah, that will get you there.
Ben: Okay! And as far as the local audience is concerned, in the Coeur d’ Alene, Spokane area, I actually have the e-mail address for Dr. Todd’s office – it’s [email protected], is that correct?
Dr. Todd: c-d-a-h-a-r-t, yes.
Ben: @icehouse.net. In addition to yourself, are there any other practitioners over there at Coeur d’ Alene Healing Arts?
Dr. Todd: Yes! Dr. Pamela Langenderfer, she’s here in this office. She is not only a recent graduate of National College of Natural Medicine but is also practicing Chinese medicine, acupuncture and her husband Dr. Jerry Bailey, the chiropractor, he’s here as well. We also have 2 massage therapists here who are specializing in body work.
Ben: That’s another interesting topic that maybe in a future episode, we’ll try and get her on the show to talk a bit about Chinese medicine and acupuncture because I think that also would be a fascinating topic to delve into.
Dr. Todd: Yeah, that’d be great.
Ben: Dr. Todd, I want to thank you for coming on the show today, I’m excited about getting this information out and I look forward to, perhaps, having you on the show again in the future.
Dr. Todd: Great! Well, thanks Ben.
Ben: Hey, no problem. I’ll talk to you later.
Dr. Todd: Alright, bye-bye.
Ben: Okay, bye.
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