Ask Export

Ask the Expert

Author by Dr. Shilpa P. Saxena

What exactly is integrative medicine? How do I know if it is the right approach for me?
The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine defines it as “the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.”

Much of what is practiced in doctors’ offices today is based on disease diagnosis and treatment and symptom control. If you suffer from a  long term symptom or chronic disease and desire an approach that looks into the cause(s), especially those rooted in nutrition, exercise, stress management and sleep, integrative medicine would be an appropriate avenue to take.


Vegetables and FriutsI hear a lot about maintaining “gut health” and the importance of probiotics. How can my digestive system be the key to good health?

In many Eastern modalities of healing, it has been well known that the gastrointestinal (GI) system is central to the health of the entire body. Beyond the basic biology functions we all know, like digestion, absorption and elimination, the GI system houses the majority of your immune system and is ‘the second brain’ with its close marriage to your brain and neurological systems. More and more, the latest in modern medical research reaffirms these timeless scientific truths by rediscovering the relationship between our beneficial bacteria (AKA the human microbiome) and our genes. One simple way to begin a total body health regimen is to take pure, potent and targeted probiotics (i.e. good bacteria) which can re-establish or maintain a balanced, healthy GI system.  

What kinds of steps do I need to take to maintain a healthy gut?

SaladThe best way to promote a healthy gut is to feed it a variety of whole, unprocessed foods- mostly fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds and hormone/antibiotic-free protein sources.  Couple that with adequate water intake and daily physical activity and you have the makings of a healthy gut foundation. Unfortunately, most Americans eat processed foods, drink sugary drinks, and don’t exercise regularly, and this severely threatens the health of your gut.

Beyond the basics, trained functional and integrative physicians can further re-establish a healthy GI system with a variety of therapies that range from elimination diets to glutamine supplementation. An individualized evaluation and treatment plan is essential to address patients with more significant disease.


Vegetables and FriutsI suffer from nasal allergies and dread taking medications. Is there anything I can do this spring to avoid medications, but get some relief?

Allergies can be a seasonal or year-round issue for many patients.In keeping with our timeless traditions, the neti pot is a very effective way to avoid taking antihistamines and other allergy medications. By rinsing the nasal cavity daily or twice daily with the right solution, you are able to rinse away mucous discharge, as well as remove the allergic trigger from the nasal lining. By removing both, you can stop the inflammatory (ie allergic) response from continuing to persist. Neti pot has been shown to be as effective as pharmaceutical medication in the treatment of allergies.

Quercetin and stinging nettles have also been shown to exert an anti-inflammatory function that can help reduce the symptoms of allergies any time of the year.

Two of my New Year’s resolutions included eating better and exercising regularly. I was doing great until last week. Now, I find myself making excuses … it’s too cold outside or I don’t want to make different meals for each family member. Any advice on how to stay on track?

They say that change is the only thing that doesn’t change in this world. Prochaska’s famous transtheoretical model of change teaches us there are discrete stages of change, and each one has a different motivational approach. If we want to improve, we must be aware of what stage we are in, and work to make it to the next level. Here are the stages with a hint to bump up to the next:

  1. Pre-contemplation:  Not even thinking about change here. Usually some external force (e.g. the death of a loved one or a big hospital bill) will cause a shift to the next stage.
  2. Contemplation: Thinking about it, but you are stuck in the thought phase. Commit a 30 minute appointment with yourself to outline the first 1-3 steps it will take to start making the change.
  3. Preparation: You are getting ready for the big day. Do the 1-3 things that got you out of the contemplation phase.
  4. Action: You are doing it! Way to go! Create a support system and an environment for success to let it sustain as long as possible. This stage may be 1-3 months long.
  5. Maintenance: The new habit doesn’t seem so new, and it seems more like who you are. It’s not so much effort to keep it going, but you do have moments of weakness or fleeting thoughts of ‘cheating.’ Remind yourself daily what you have gained from maintaining this new change so you don’t take it for granted and revert back.
  6. Termination: The voices no longer try to convince you to go back. You are done with the stages of change! The best example- brushing your teeth. You hopefully brush your teeth every day, don’t need to be reminded, and can’t fathom going a day without doing it!
  1. Pre-contemplation:  Not even thinking about change here. Usually some external force (e.g. the death of a loved one or a big hospital bill) will cause a shift to the next stage.
  2. Contemplation: Thinking about it, but you are stuck in the thought phase. Commit a 30 minute appointment with yourself to outline the first 1-3 steps it will take to start making the change.
  3. Preparation: You are getting ready for the big day. Do the 1-3 things that got you out of the contemplation phase.
  4. Action: You are doing it! Way to go! Create a support system and an environment for success to let it sustain as long as possible. This stage may be 1-3 months long.
  5. Maintenance: The new habit doesn’t seem so new, and it seems more like who you are. It’s not so much effort to keep it going, but you do have moments of weakness or fleeting thoughts of ‘cheating.’ Remind yourself daily what you have gained from maintaining this new change so you don’t take it for granted and revert back.
  6. Termination: The voices no longer try to convince you to go back. You are done with the stages of change! The best example- brushing your teeth. You hopefully brush your teeth every day, don’t need to be reminded, and can’t fathom going a day without doing it!

Positive change is rarely a straight line from what you are not today to exactly what you want to be tomorrow! It involves time, a process, plenty of forgiveness, and a constant self-awareness that keeps you aligned daily (even minute by minute, really) with what you want out of your best life!

About the Expert

Dr. Shilpa P. Saxena is a nationally recognized physician and patient educator with over 10 years experience in progressive health care. At her successful n1 Health practice, SevaMed Institute, she has created a trailblazing space complete with a teaching kitchen, fitness center, and learning environment for her patients and community. She enjoys bringing unique solutions to audiences and organizations in her classic ‘keep it simple’ style, reinforcing concepts of collaboration and service.

Dr. Saxena is Faculty with the Institute for Functional Medicine, Fellow & Guest Faculty of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, Volunteer Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, and Faculty with the Metabolic Medical Institute at George Washington University.

Dr. Saxena also serves as Chief of Medicine for n1Health and helps physicians create innovative and rewarding medical practices. She is an expert in the Group Visit medical model, creator of Group Visit Toolkits, co-creator of LivingWellnessUniversity.com, and co-author of The Ingredients Matter: India.

Ask the Expert

/* ]]> */