In this day and age, we need to bring out the best of both the conventional and naturopathic worlds when it comes to medicine. Dr. Teri Bagnasco discusses the importance of integrative medicine. Dr. Teri is both a registered doctor of medicine and a naturopathic doctor. He is integrating both of these practices in his current treatments to best serve his patients. In this episode, he also explains the difference between conventional medicine and naturopathic medicine. He believes that integrative medicine or the combination of conventional and naturopathic medicine, is the proper way of healing since this comprises a complete set of life healing journeys. Have a deep understanding by listening to this episode!
I have Dr. Teri Bagnasco. Teri, thank you so much for coming and being with us.
I was happy to be with you. Thank you for inviting me.
It sounds like you were born and raised in a medical family on Long Island. You have a long career in emergency medicine, and then you went back and got a second Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine. It's fantastic that you're bringing both of these worlds together. Tell us a little bit about your experience being not only an MD but then also an ND.
I realized that my education was incomplete, and there had to be more out there, more information, and more skillsets to be learned in order to help our patients. I naturally gravitated toward Naturopathic Medicine. It came to me very easily. I was able to incorporate the two together. I consider myself like the new breed of physician out there, even though I'm a very seasoned physician. The future of medicine is integrative medicine and bringing these two worlds together is my absolute purpose.
When someone is reading this and they're like, “I go to my doctor,” what does an integrative doctor mean?
There is a lot of misinformation out there about functional medicine or integrative medicine. People are confused as to what that means. My impression of integrative medicine is literally the practice of both conventional allopathic medicine along with naturopathic medicine. It’s working synergistically together in order to help the patient the best way we possibly can.
It's the best of both worlds. There are indications very often for conventional medicine and there is also a need necessity for natural patterns. Integrative medicine is knowing when and how to apply both of those skills, coming at it differently, but working together, not oppositionally, but synergistically together.
What are some of the things that you've learned in integrative health that are different from medical health? If I have something and maybe it would be something that's like a long-term illness or fatigue. I would imagine I start to ask these questions if I've got something that's been going on for a long time. What would I look for? What would I find would be different, questions I should ask, or anything that kind of comes to mind that you want to share?
Have a discussion with your physician and find a physician that you're in sync with, resonate with, trust, and feel comfortable with to even talk about options of treatment outside of conventional treatments. What do they know? Do they have any education in integrative practices? There are a lot of physicians out there, which is wonderful going toward functional medicine. Another definition that’s necessary is functional medicine is the next step toward integrative medicine, I believe.
The future of medicine is integrative medicine.
A lot of functional medicine doctors out there are phenomenal, so they're taking the next step. We have room to go even further with functional medicine, but it's a great start in incorporating other practices outside of the conventional box. One of the things that I might take home and the greatest point for me was individuality. Naturopathic medicine taught me that not everyone presents the same. We don't treat everyone the same, whereas in conventional medicine, as you know, that's what we do. Bringing the two together whether it be one physician or a team of physicians practicing integrative and collaboratively. I like that idea even better.
What's the name of medicine where you're looking to get to the root of the problem? Is that functional, integrative, or both?
It's a great buzzword, the root cause. I truly believe that. That's what we should always be doing. Functional medicine, integrative medicine, and naturopathic medicine are all about the root cause. Unfortunately, I truly believe conventional medicine is great at treating after we have a problem rather than prevention, which is hard for MDs to do when they have fifteen minutes to be with a patient.
How much can healing be done in fifteen minutes? Not a lot. Whereas naturopathic physicians, because they're not dealing with insurance, tend to have more time to get to the root cause. That's what we should all be striving for as physicians, not just treating symptomatology. Let's find out why this is happening and let's help the body to heal itself.
I wonder, maybe all of us should be a little bit more open to exploring doctors that don't necessarily take insurance because they're capped at how much time they can spend with a patient before they have to move on.
Every doctor wants to practice great medicine. A lot of frustration with allopathic MDs is that they don't have the time that they want to spend talking about someone's diet or exercise, “How's the stress in your life? How's your family.” These are things that encompass the patient's total wellness. We're not even addressing it. We have our little check-boxes, “Did you have your vaccine? Did you have your latest chest X-ray?” I think we're missing the boat. Going outside of the conventional box very often is how you get to your healing. You have to be your own advocate, unfortunately, but it's true.
Tell me a little bit about some of the stuff that you've learned in natural versus what you learned in regular medical school. That's interesting to think about.
There aren't too many of us who went back to medical school a second time. I feel like we're on the frontier of bringing these two worlds together. My training in an accredited naturopathic medical school here in Tempe, Arizona, Southwest College, was a wonderful experience for me. Conventional medicine was great, but I knew there was so much more.
If we are honest, what does conventional medicine have to offer a patient? We have prescriptions and surgery. There's not a heck of a lot else that we offer patients, if you think about that. Whereas in the natural pathic world, we utilize medicine and surgery when we have to, usually towards the end of our treatment plan, because we don't have to go that route.
We have more tools in our toolbox, starting with Homeopathy, Physical Medicine, Botanical Medicine, Mind and Body Medicine, and these are all more skillsets that can help the patient. It broadened my scope and put a lot more tools in my toolbox. In case the patient is opposed to or once something tried something else, we have those. They're scientifically based and evidence-based.
Medicine is what's being taught nationally. People need to realize that this is not witchcraft. This is not snake oil sales. This is an accredited medical school, and it's phenomenal. I had a great time and I think it is the future. You have to know these things when your patient comes in. If they're taking botanical herbs that you don't know about, you need to know about that. It is much more comprehensive.
When you're thinking about a protocol, is there a certain path that you like to follow when you're taking a look at a patient now, or do you have a different perspective?
People are individual and unique. You have to find what works best for that patient. It may not be what you're trained in, but if you have someone or you know someone, that's where you refer them to. The more tools I have in my toolbelt, the better I can help someone. You have to look for that. If your physician doesn't offer that or have a naturopathic physician in their office, practicing along with them, then you may need to go outside of the conventional box.
My whole purpose is to bring these two worlds together and have MDs working together with NDs, DOs, and chiropractors, all collaboratively. That's the way medicine is supposed to be. I want to use the term very male-like Mayo Clinic Round table, where we all put our brains together and come at the patient with a different approach to better serve them.
Are there any examples of anything like this in the United States?
I'm not aware of too many collaborative one-stop shopping clinics, and that's what we're planning. It's the future. There are a lot of NDs who want to bring natural paths into their practice because their patients are asking for it. The Baby Boomers, half of them are hippies and half of them are raised by hippies. They love natural medicine and they're demanding it. That's what's steering the bus toward integrative medicine. If you don't get on that train, you're going to miss it.
It's definitely changing in terms of how to see and be treated. I know that my own doctor, part of Mayo Clinic, I got a letter in the mail saying that they were moving away from what's typical and they're going to a subscription model. A lot of folks that I know that are doctors are struggling in a number of different areas from a cost standpoint. I'm being told that they're being forced to go into a subscription model or join a larger group because they just can't continue to survive on their own. I don't know if you have any experience or any thoughts on any of this.
I do. I have a lot of colleagues who are in that exact position and I don't envy them. Every physician wants to do their best. It's a core frustration that there are unable to, whether it be a time restraint, a financial restraint, a knowledge-based restraint, or whatever it may be, finding the right physician is the Harbor. That's something that we doctors need to do better in our community. If I can help you, I know exactly who can help you, who's practicing the kind of medicine that you need.
Every doctor wants to practice great medicine.
We have to get rid of bashing each other and be more collaborative and helpful. Everyone has something wonderful to bring to the patient. There should not be the animosity that history has, and that's what we need to get rid of and educate both sides to, “This is all about the patient. This isn't about us, you, the doctor, and it serves the patients so much better.”
If I'm a patient or even a doctor that wants to learn a little bit more about the other side and what this all means, do you have any particularly favorite sources of information?
There isn't a lot out there for specifically MDs to search for specific NDs, Naturopathic Doctors. This is something we're working on an actual website where a physician who wants to incorporate a naturopathic doctor can go, read the bio and the profile of the physician to see if they would fit in with their culture there and what they type of medicine they practice so that we can introduce the other side.
This doctor can bring so much to your practice to help your patients increase your revenue stream and overall bring you into the new frontier of medicine. We're working on that. There's nothing I know of yet that exists. Thank God for the internet. You can look, but you really don't know. Having a foot in both worlds is going to allow me to bring them better together. I know most of the NDs and all the NDs in town, and we're going to bring them together so they can work together.
For years, I've wanted a confidential Facebook group for people to talk about certain issues and questions that they have. It meets LinkedIn for functional and integrative health, where you could search. Practitioners can put themselves out there with a headshot, bio, and contact information. It's hard to find what it is you're looking for, find reviews, and understand if they're above board and somebody that you think you could click with.
I know there are quacks in every field in every specialty. You have to be careful. As a consumer and as a patient, you have to do your due diligence, research, talk to people, interview your doctor and see where their education is and if you resonate with them. Are they open to trying new things with you? Are they much more rigid and conventional? There are thousands of doctors who would love to help these patients, but you got to do some work referrals, word of mouth is so wonderful, but I think having a one-stop-shop and a universal clinic like that would be what everybody needs.
Over to nutrition, I believe food is medicine. Talk to me about what you have found in your experience that you think is most impactful in health and wellness.
Obviously mind, body, and spirit are all together. If you try to separate them out, each one of them will fail. It has to be done together. Nutrition and exercise are vital to your health and wellbeing. I will go back to individuality. You have to find what works for you and your body. The cookie-cutter diet, paleo, and keto is confusing for the general pot.
They don't know what to believe, but that’s when you find a doctor who can introduce you and educate you, find out what works for your body, streamline it and individualize it for you. Your body may not do well with certain macronutrients. It may do better with something else, but this is where you and your doctor experiment together. Those are cornerstones. You can't have health and wellness without talking about that and not even doing that.
Are there certain tests that you like or prefer over others in terms of finding what might be a good fit for someone nutritionally? Some people are on keto, swear by protein or are vegan. It's wild. Some people say blood type. There's a lot of stuff out there.
That's why a lot of people are paralyzed by all this information. They don't know what to try or how to do it. This is where guidance from a mentor, a physician, or someone you know who's been successful, but that doesn't even mean it's going to work for you. Exposure with your physician, being exposed and trying, and willingness to try and experiment. With the right help, you will find what works for you and your body. There is no want one fit for everyone. That's absolutely ridiculous. We got to get rid of that concept.
Anything in particular that comes to mind that you want to share with people? You've got such an amazing background, emergency room, medical doctor, and natural doctor?
I've been blessed. I've had a wonderful career. Emergency medicine was wonderful and very exciting. I hope I helped a lot of people along the way. My future is this integration of the two worlds. I want to help doctors find other doctors. I want to help patients find the right doctor. We need to educate the populace. We need to get out there and say, “It's got to be the best of both. You can have it all. You have to find the right physician.” We need to start back in medical school and introduce integrative courses. This is another goal of mine.
There are very few medical schools that even have classes on integration. We're going to try to get that incorporated. The big thing for me is gratitude and being grateful. Being an emergency physician, I saw death all the time. It makes you appreciate every time you wake up and your eyes open to a new day, “What a glorious day. It's a new day to try something. It's a new clean slate.” I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to continue my education so that I can continue helping other people. This is where medicine is going, gratitude individuality. You can't go wrong with either one of those.
Anything else you want to share with anyone that is reading?
Be assertive, be your own advocate, and ask questions. Don't be afraid. If you don't like the vibe you're getting from the doctor, he or she is dismissive, or they're not listening to you, there are thousands of doctors out there. You got to find the right one. It's kind of like Goldilocks in the right bed. You got to find the right fit, Cinderella and the shoe. Find the right fit for you. There is a doctor out there who will help you on the journey. If you are going to do the work, you're going to have a guide along the way. That's what you have to do. You have to be your own advocate and help be an advocate for others, and help other people too with that same thing.
Is there anywhere that you would suggest people do an initial search to find somebody that they could find an integrative or functional, whether it's in their community or remotely?
Functional medicine doctors have their own sites and they are unified. That's a great place to start. If you want to go straight to naturopathic medicine, you can find those doctors listed as well. There aren't too many combinations or too many of me out there yet. We're hoping to get a lot more, but this is what we have to do. We have to train, expand our knowledge, be open and the willingness. It's easily done. It's the way it was supposed to be.
The two worlds would never be supposed to be separated, but you'd be in medical school for twelve years, what crazy people would do that? Maybe, like me. It's wonderful. It's out there. You have to seek it out. It's going to get easier. It's a little difficult. I acknowledge that it's more word of mouth, “Who is your physician?” Find someone who demonstrates what you want and who has done what you want to do. Ask them how they do it. Who did they have to help them? Those are great ways of doing it. Someone who's walking or talk the talk and walk the walk. They're a great resource for you. We're early on the frontier, but we're coming.
It can't come fast enough. Thank you, Dr. Teri Bagnasco. We appreciate your time.
Thanks for having me on your show. We are to be continued, growing, and improve the playing ground.
It’s my pleasure. Have a great day.
Dr. Teri Bagnasco, MD is a Emergency Medicine Specialist in Scottsdale, AZ and has over 30 years of experience in the medical field. She graduated from STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK / HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT BROOKLYN / COLLEGE OF MEDICINE medical school in 1992. She is affiliated with HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center. Her office is not accepting new patients.