Q&A with Kamphuis: Bringing Awareness to Holistic Health Practices

“Holistic practices are better than traditional medicine”, says Lisa Kamphuis. She is a nurse practitioner at Whole Women Health located in Des Moines, Iowa. She says that holistic medicine treats the root problem of pain or illness rather than masking aliments like traditional medicine. Her interest in nutritional health and her decision to study holistic health was sparked by a friend—a farmer—who wondered why humans don’t reproduce “as easily as animals.”  Kamphius shared her personal journey of discovery.

Question: Why did you choose holistic medicine over traditional?

Kamphuis: I decided to start working with midwives. While I was working with midwives, I learned about using nutrition, vitamins, and herbs, and so I got more and more interested in doing those things. I wanted to be a midwife, but along the way, because of how my life was going, I decided to become a nurse practitioner to start with. I was learning about people who were working with hormone balancing, so I thought I was just going to do that, give people hormones. The more I learned, [though,] I found out what a difference nutrition makes on digestive health. All along the way, I’ve been just interested [in] how plants seem to be our medicine, and even eating. It’s funny that you say traditional medicine because originally, really, the real tradition was eating off the land. Taking care of yourself from the plants, even getting your sustenance, your nutrition from animals…I think that’s the difference between holistic and, I kind of call it conventional medicine—that they’re usually just looking for a prescription to fix things. Every once in a while, they might say “eat well,” but they don’t look deeply into all the connections of the whole system. I kind of became really fascinated with hormones, and usually I think hormones [are] such an instrumental part in how everything works well. The digestion affects the hormones, affects the thyroid, affects the adrenals, and affects neurotransmitters. They all affect each other like a big web. So, when you help one of them, you seem to help everything else. 

ILLUSTRATION BY: KATE SEGLER
Question: Can you give me an example of a comparison between the two [holistic and “conventional”]?

Kamphuis: Well, I just got done with somebody who was getting prescribed Synthroid. They [traditional doctors] look at the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) only, and TSH, for some reason, has been taught to doctors as being the only way to look at [the] thyroid. So they would just keep increasing the thyroid dose if the TSH wasn’t acting right. [However,] if they have an autoimmune condition, sometimes the TSH doesn’t really reflect what’s happening with the hormones. We also want to track free T3 (physiological process thyroid hormone), free T4 (metabolism regulating thyroid hormone), the thyroid antibodies, and sometimes even reverse T3. This last person, she had all kinds of problems that were mood and energy related mostly and some digestive issues. I saw that her T4 was way too high and her reverse T3 was high, so I cut back on the Synthroid hormone that she was given. I cut it way down, and I gave her some T3, and she came in and almost all of her symptoms were gone. She just felt so much better, and it was pretty easy and kind of fun. It’s not always that easy, but the other piece of that was she has an autoimmune condition. When that’s happening, we know that’s because [of] genetics, but also because of factors like the gut not working very well. [This condition can also be] related to a lot of factors, so you would test those factors like stress, inflammatory foods [that] are commonly sugared, wheat, [and] sometimes grains. In general, if somebody really has to get their gut better, they have to get rid of all the grain, dairy, processed foods, and all that stuff so that [they] can completely turn around [their] autoimmune condition. She was working hard on that stuff, that helped her digestion, and getting her gut better helps her thyroid. Along with all that, we have to make sure she’s getting the right nutrients too—vitamin D, zinc, selenium. 

Illustration By: Kate segler
Question: What would you say is your most prevalent reason for recommending holistic medicine over anything else? Why do you think it’s more effective?

Kamphuis: There’s no side effects to it, for one thing, but also it just takes care of the problem instead of having to chase after whatever the medicine is. 

Question: What are some of the misconceptions of holistic medicine?

Kamphuis: Some people [think] it’s like hippy, or people who are just “la la,” not really doing the research, but, really, there is a lot of research. It’s just not as commonly taught in medical schools.[And,] I hate to say it, but there’s a lot of power in drug companies. They have a lot of input on saying what happens in our world.

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