I recently had an opportunity to sit down with with Dr. Amalia Treadwell, ND, LAc, to discuss her holistic medical practice. She talked about the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, seeing the patient as an individual, and helping patients make lifestyle changes that deeply affect their health. Here is what she had to say.
Sarah: What lead you to become a healer?
Amalia: I’ve always felt a deep connection to nature. Some of the philosophy that influences the treatments we use and how we see the body comes from recognizing the innate healing power of nature and that of the body to heal. I see nature reflected in all of us and it’s very connected to the medicine. So that intersection of the healing power of nature and a love of working with people lead me to this. People are so interesting – no case of IBS or adrenal fatigue is the same. There might similar systems involved but everyone’s cause is generally different along with a variation in patterns, and working to find that unique cause is amazing and interesting and challenging. And I love that–getting to witness people in their journey, to see where they are now and where they want to be. It’s a gift to be able to do that.
But it was a conversation with my father that led me to really begin to look into this work. I was maybe 23, and had graduated with a degree in English and writing and a minor in environmental studies and I had been working for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geologic Survey. We were talking about what I wanted to do with my life. So my Dad asked me, Have you ever thought of becoming a naturopathic physician? You’ve been interested in nutrition since you were a child, you like working with people, you’re interested in health and medicine. I had thought about it, but this conversation really inspired me to look into it further.
Since I’ve been in the field, it’s become more than just the intersection of my interests and the philosophy behind the medicine. It’s become so much deeper than I ever thought it could be. It’s a way of life. I don’t leave my work at the office. I mean, I try to leave the paperwork at the office. But eating well, getting good sleep, getting outside and getting exercise are core tenets of what I understand as living in harmony with nature and being healthy long term. Looking for patterns, seeing where someone is stuck and helping to shift that. I live that everyday. Observing patterns happens in my interactions with people and in looking at myself also. I strive to foster a connection to nature in all my patients. Treating the root cause of disease, teaching people to care for themselves, and just helping people connect is quite important and feels very rich to me.
Sarah: What kinds of conditions do you treat?
Amalia: I’m really interested in all things related to digestion and the gut–so gastroenterology– and also adrenal fatigue and health. I see a lot of IBS, gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, reflux, food intolerances. Endocrine imbalances involving the thyroid and adrenals, male fertility. Weight loss, stress management.
Sarah: What modalities to you practice?
Acupuncture and moxibustion are a big part of my practice. I personally love the effects of acupuncture, so I really love to give it. I use a lot of nutrition counseling and lifestyle counseling with my patients–because those are core practices people can do every day to help stay balanced and healthy.
Biotherapeutic drainage and homeopathy are a huge part of my practice. The remedies we use gently assist the body to come back into balance over time–letting the body get rid of what it doesn’t need and helping to mitigate stressors–anything from a musculoskeletal injury, blood sugar imbalances to emotional issues, whatever might be causing downstream effects.
Botanical Medicine–either western herbs or Chinese formulas—is really effective for a myriad of conditions and I find very good results using these with patients.
Sarah: What might a patient experience when they come to see you?
Amalia: During our first appointment I listen to the patient’s history, where they are in their journey. I really like to gain a holistic understanding of the patient because it helps me to shape long term treatment. We talk about the philosophy of what informs this sort of treatment and medicine, so there is an understanding that this sort of work is a partnership and it takes time. Balancing the body and changing diet and lifestyle habits for lifelong health is not achieved by coming in for only a few visits. In the beginning, I usually see someone once a week for four to six weeks, depending on their individual condition, and then move it out from there. Once a more balanced, healthy state is reached, we often continue to meet at longer intervals to work with anything that presents itself along the way. My patients usually leave with homework, something like a dietary change, modification of sleep schedule, exercise, stress management tools. Then I’ll add remedies such as herbal formulas or drainage remedies, or appropriate supplementation. We’ll do acupuncture in the first visit if time allows. At follow up visits we check in on how the treatment plan is going, how you’re doing, how your symptoms are changing, make any changes to the treatment plan necessary–and we do acupuncture.
Sarah: What’s most important to you in the treatment room?
Amalia: My relationship with the patient. It’s really important to me that people know that they’re coming here to really have a one-on-one relationship with their doctor who looks at them as an individual. There is no cookie cutter method to optimal health. I work with people on an individualised plan that’s going to help them in the long term. I’m always asking How can we do this better? How can we have you leave an appointment feeling really excited about your health and really excited about where you want to be and how you’re getting there?
Sarah: How do you view symptoms?
Amalia: Any imbalance in the body, whether that’s chronic headaches, adrenal fatigue, or IBS, it’s just your body saying something’s out of balance here. It’s the system that’s expressing itself. So symptoms are just the body trying to get your attention. We are really adaptable organisms. We adapt until we can’t anymore. At that point you get diarrhea or something, and that tells us there has been extended stress of some sort on the body, and the digestive system is one thing that will need attention. Symptoms are definitely part of the pattern and help us determine what treatments will be best. We are sort of brought up to think, I should always feel 100%, but that’s so difficult with all that we have to juggle in today’s world. I have patients who are naturopaths and acupuncturists and they’ve had health issues come up. My mentors have all had health issues at one time or another. So have I. I’ve dealt with fatigue and sleep issues in the past, among other things. When things come up, we want to explore the reasons why and treat over time to bring the body back into balance. We want to create the optimal environment for healing and it’s not about not ever having symptoms. When there’s a family history of diabetes, a family history of heart disease, of cancer–I can’t tell anyone the future. I just know that the more in balance we become, the less likely these things are to occur. And, if they do occur, they’re more likely to be less severe.
Many people come in and they’re doing really well. They don’t have a lot of symptoms. They’re at 70 or 80% of what they would consider optimal health, and they want to continue to feel well. That’s where the basics of diet and lifestyle come in.
Sarah: What do you do for fun?
Amalia: I love being outside. I used to live in the Columbia River Gorge and I love that landscape. I get there as much as I can to go hiking. In the winter I also like to be outside–cross country skiing, or snowboarding, or hiking, or snowshoeing. I like to experiment in the kitchen because I love to cook. I’m a huge advocate of fermenting foods. Also, I just got married a few months ago, so I’m busy setting up a home with my husband and making plans and having adventures.