We are pleased to present an interview with Dr. Blake Myers, a naturopathic doctor whose journey to natural medicine is as compelling as it is inspiring. Dr. Myers’ path began in the U.S. Army as a combat medic, where he first developed an interest in medicine. His experiences at Iowa State University, combined with witnessing his grandparents’ struggles with chronic illness under conventional medical care, led him to seek a more holistic approach to health.
In this interview, Dr. Myers shares how his disenchantment with the limitations of conventional medicine led him to discover and embrace naturopathic medicine. His journey culminated in a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Bastyr University in 2014, driven by a deep-seated passion for a healing system that focuses on health restoration and optimization.
Join us as we explore Dr. Blake Myers’ transition from a combat medic to a dedicated practitioner of naturopathic medicine, and his commitment to a holistic and patient-centered approach to health and wellness.
1. Could you share a bit about your journey into naturopathy/nutrition? What inspired you to pursue this field?
After graduating high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. My training was as a combat medic. I was fortunate in that I was stationed at Ft. Benning, GA to work in clinics and eventually in the emergency room. It was here that I witnessed incredible acute and life-saving medicine being practiced. The inspiration I received from those doctors is what initially led me to decide on a life of practicing medicine.
When I entered my undergraduate studies at Iowa State University (ISU) in 2006, my then aging and increasingly ailing grandparents lived only a 20-minute drive away. Therefore, while in my pre-med studies, I witnessed firsthand the effects of the conventional medical system on my grandparents and their chronic illnesses. While life-saving in emergencies and severe acute situations, this modern medical model seemed to only make my chronically ill grandparents sicker.
They suffered horrible side effects as one symptom after the other was chased in an effort for suppression, while no one seemed to be looking at health restoration – or at the least optimizing on the health the did have to prevent rapid decline. It was during this time that I realized there was something lacking in the short sighted and narrow view of the conventional approach that I knew I couldn’t dedicate my life to.
I became disenchanted with medicine and needed to find something different. In searching for something better – something that resonated with my desire to help people not only get relief from their suffering, but to heal – I found Naturopathic Medicine. Quickly, I fell in love with the principles, the values, the philosophy of this healing system. In my last year at ISU, I applied and was accepted to Bastyr University where I graduated with degree as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine in 2014.
2. How do you approach treatment plans for your patients? What role do you believe natural supplements play in these plans?
First and foremost, I meet my patients where they’re at. Just as everyone is individual in their symptom and illness presentation, the same is true for lifestyle, stressors, family units, financial situation, and so on. These all play in to how much we can take on at once and which therapies we choose.
Notice the word “we”. I partner with my patients. We reach goals together. We are collaborators of equal value in our thoughts, experience, and opinions. If I were to take on the role of the utmost authority, I’d often miss the mark for what was best for the person sitting in front of me. Remembering that we are all our best teachers and guides is paramount to healing ourselves and also in the goal of helping others to heal. I never discount my patient’s inner knowing.
My treatment plans take on a few different but essential roles:
- Remove obstacles to healing
- Put the “determinates of health” in place (functional movement, nutrition, community, hydration, etc.)
- Stimulate the body’s innate healing mechanisms
- Address/Remove root causes
Now, there are a thousand different ways to go about these different points and none is necessarily better than the others. In my experience, herbs, nutrients, and extracts in supplement form are a beautiful way to support the body’s natural healing mechanisms and address root causes. In my early years of practice, I didn’t use supplements all that much. However, over time I’ve learned when and how to use them judiciously and effectively. They are a regular part of my practice now due to my ability to target therapy with them.
Supplements allow precision and a holistic approach, both at once.
For example, I can target specific organs or biochemistry with a nutrient supplement, yet there can also be broadly supportive ingredients included in the formula like an herbal adaptogen or an immune balancing blend. For gut infections, I can use a broad-spectrum formula meant to kill the pathogens, while simultaneously helping the body eliminate the toxins and support the restoration of healthy gut flora.
Used too liberally and without expertise, supplements can be costly, ineffective, and sometimes worsen symptoms. Used in a specific and knowledgeable way, supplements can ignite the body’s wisdom and move us in a direction of health.
Homeopathy is another medicine I use with almost every patient to stimulate the innate healing mechanisms of the body, in addition to targeted supplementation. It is a gentle medicine that I’ve seen help restore balance in chronic illnesses ranging from suicidal depression to severe migraines and IBS.
3. In your view, how important is a holistic approach to health and wellness, and how do you integrate this into your practice?
Funny you should ask! I’m writing my second book about this right now. Without giving you a books long answer though, I can tell you it’s nearly always necessary.
If someone has been born blessed with all the right cards so-to-speak, they may require a lot less to maintain wellness. It’s a fact that some people just have an easier go at it for a variety of reasons. They generally experience good health with little effort. For these folks, when things go wrong, it will take little to get them back on track and often they’ll get there without doing anything at all. For us all though, we age – the ultimate equalizer.
For many of us, we don’t have consistent optimal health. Instead we encounter any variety of health issues throughout life – some which remain chronic. In these cases, a holistic approach isn’t a nice consideration, it’s a requirement. The conventional medical model views the body in minute and separate parts. It acts as though the body is like a car or some other machine. When something goes wrong, you fix one part and everything runs as it should again. This is a shallow viewpoint of a system with such depth and complexity as the human body. These bodies we reside in are greater than the sum of their parts – the variables far too many and nuanced to grasp in their entirety with any instrument, even the brilliant human mind.
The most assured approach to resolving chronic health troubles and maintaining wellness is to integrate the useful approaches of modern medicine with the holistic therapies of new and old, that work to restore health. Naturopathic and functional approaches work because they help the body do what it already knows how to do better than our intellectualism will allow – move in a direction of health and healing.
I integrate this into my practice as a nicety or sexy marketing, but a necessity. Importantly, in contradiction to what many expect, I don’t throw out conventional medicine. Pharmaceuticals are medicine just as massage, nutrition, and herbs are. One’s not right and the other wrong. What’s imperative is to understand what I am a practitioner am trying to accomplish and what the best tool for the job is at any given time. This is integrative and truly holistic thinking.
4. What are some common health issues you encounter in your practice? How do you address these with natural therapies?
Digestive issues, mental health concerns, and chronic pain are common. Obviously, I address them all differently but still within the boundaries of what I described previously. I’ll give just a brief synopsis of each of these issues.
Digestive Issues: There are many considerations, but as a starting point, I focus on functional nutrition approaches that build a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, balance the gut immune system, heal leaky gut, and promote healthy peristalsis and toxin elimination. I like to use herbs to support normal gut function as well. Some foods and nutrients that help with these functions are – fiber in general and resistant starch, anything bitter, vitamins A and D, polyphenols like from berries, Omega-3 fatty acids like from fatty fish, and glutamine like bone broth. Any of these nutrients can be supportive in supplement form as well.
Mental Health: Make sure gut health is optimized. Through the gut-brain-axis, mental health issue can be made much worse. The above is a beneficial and simple starting point. I support GABA neurotransmitter balance in many folks here also. In addition, I help patients strengthen their vagal tone for parasympathetic nervous system balance. Homeopathy and counseling are also regularly employed in mental health needs in my practice. Sometimes taking a more esoteric approach like medical astrology or Akashic records readings can be helpful to gain insight as well.
Chronic Pain: It depends on the type. If it’s a specific location like the neck or ankle, I’ll do my own style of manual therapy which typically resolves the issue, regardless of how long it’s been present. That is, unless there is tissue damage like weak or injured ligaments, cartilage or tendons. Then I’ll do regenerative injection therapy like prolotherapy. If the chronic pain is something like fibromyalgia, there’s a great deal of consideration. Starting points would be gut, brain, and mitochondrial support.
5. How do you perceive the connection between gut health and overall wellness? Could you share your insights on this?
The gut can influence any body system. It contains more cells in the form of bacteria than we have cells in our body. The majority of our immune system is in our gut and receives all day everyday input through what ends up in our mouths and downward. These immune system messages then get relayed to the rest of our immune system.
Our gut is a primary control point for nutrient utilization, inflammation, oxidative stress, neurotransmitter and hormone balance, and much more. It’s hard to overstate that if the gut is not working appropriately in some way, it will negatively impact other parts of our physiology.
The gut flora, which includes bacteria, yeast and viruses, is a fundamental driver of gut health and therefore the rest of our health. If this ecosystem of microbes is imbalanced or there are “bad bugs” taking hold, the implications will likely ripple far beyond digestive troubles.
Food sensitivities are another trouble area for the gut. These cause inflammation and leaky gut which leads to problems in any other body system, including neuroinflammation through a subsequent leaky blood brain barrier.
6. What general dietary and nutrition advice do you often find yourself giving to your patients?
Unless we’re implementing some specific diet for a specific reason, like a low FODMAP or Autoimmune Protocol Diet, I suggest ignoring all the noise out there. There’s way too much information available to filter it all and make sense unless you’re in this field.
Focus on whole foods first and foremost. Beyond this, there are only a handful of main rules to improve ones diet, at least as I see it. I’m an instructor in a master and PhD in integrative and functional nutrition, so I have some authority in these opinions.
- Eliminate soy, corn, and what are termed “vegetable” oils. This alone will lower inflammation but if you’re eating anything other than a whole food, it can get tricky. Cheap seed oils that are extracted with industrial solvents are everywhere in our food system. Salad dressings, condiments, and anything packaged needs to be checked. It’s not an issue to use sesame oil or another in cooking here and there. The main point is to eliminate these other inflammatory oils from their regular presence in our diet.
- Increase olive oil and omega-3 oils in your diet wherever you can. (walnuts, chia and flax seeds, small fatty fish, etc.)
- Increase fiber, which means fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables. Sometimes supplementing with a small amount of psyllium husk daily can improve any number of digestive troubles and help regulate healthy bowel movements if you’re working on increasing plants in your diet but you’re not quite where you’d like to be yet.
- Increase brassica family vegetables to daily if possible. (broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc.) Sauerkrauat is a great option with the added benefit of being fermented.
- Eat a cup of frozen or fresh blueberries or other berries a day for the sweet tooth or dessert option. The polypheols in these have benefit throught the body, especially the gut and cardiovascular systems.
- Get enough protein in a day. 1-1.2g/kg body weight. Some people do better with even more.
- Cut out refined sugar and refined flour as much as possible.
7. When introducing supplements into a patient’s regimen, what key factors do you consider?
- Interactions with meds
- Will it really move the needle in terms of their health? Said another way, what’s the expected return on investment?
- How long will they need to take it?
8. Without disclosing personal details, could you share a memorable success story from your practice involving natural treatments?
A 16-year-old girl with episodes of IBS, migraines, and fatigue that would debilitate her. She was also having very painful menstrual periods. The triad mentioned in the first sentence happened about every 5 days. She’d be out of school for at least 3 days with symptoms each time. Attendance at school and her suffering were both issues we hoped to address.
This patient had seen multiple specialists, including at a large and respected hospital system. Not surprisingly, when there was no lab work or imaging to show a disease process, they said they didn’t know what was wrong, offered no direction and no treatment. This is a pitfall of conventional medicine. If it can’t be seen or named, there is typically no solution.
After 2-3 months working together, this patient was no longer having these episodes and wasn’t missing school either. She and her mother were astonished and immensely grateful as you can imagine.
This was accomplished with a probiotic, homeopathy, and some basic nutrition intervention. We later discovered she had a sensitivity to corn which helped things too. When she did have an episode, we covered her diet the few days prior and were able to test and figure out corn as a problem.
9. What are some challenges you face in the field of naturopathy/nutrition, and how do you overcome them?
Mainly the willingness of people to put in the required effort for behavioral and lifestyle change. Some people want a quick pill and a fix without needing to change much. Disease doesn’t develop over night and doesn’t resolve that way either. It can be hard to change and sometimes buy in isn’t all I wish it could be. However, there are always ways to meet people where they’re at. Sometimes that’s simply part of someone’s healing process – learning the power they have over their health and where they can remove obstacles when they’re ready. Otherwise, I find naturopathy and nutrition to be widely accessible and practical.
10. Where do you see the future of naturopathy and functional medicine heading?
Conventional medicine has run into a wall in treating many health conditions, especially chronic and functional illnesses. This and the pervasive societal disenchantment with the 10-minute doctor visit and a pill for every symptom has led to the steadily increased interest in natural and functional medicine over the years. Both out of necessity and public demand, these approaches will be integrated into the conventional health field consistently over time. They already are.
I think this is wonderful and it will provide better health outcomes without a doubt. My one concern is that in that integration process the natural approaches will be thought of and utilized within the same mental framework as our current drug therapies. This is a mistake and risks losing the greatest benefits integrative medicine could potentially provide.
Conventional medical thought is a piece of the pie. Filling out the whole pie will guide us into the next medical revolution. Cramming natural therapies into the narrow conventional medical slice of the pie gives us only more therapies doing relatively the same thing. We should strive for better as evidenced by the utter failure of modern medicine to adequately address our most pressing health crises. This is a large premise of my upcoming book.
11. What personal wellness practices or routines do you follow to maintain your own health?
If anyone reading this has a hard time with routine and consistency in health and wellness practices, you’re not alone! I struggle with it just as much as anyone. I do my best.
Here are the areas I am most consistent in that contribute to my health and wellbeing.
- Eating healthy (whole foods and the recommendations I made prior). Even in times when money has been tight (and trust me I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel), I’ve always prioritized buying whole, quality foods as much as possible. Food banks often have whole foods options even. Dietary habits are about the long game. This is one area I am the most consistent in.
- Mediation – It doesn’t happen every day, but I try to sit for at least 10-15 minutes to breathe and calm my mind at least a few times a week.
- Mindfulness – I practice body, emotional, and mental awareness throughout the day every day. This is usually simply stopping to check in and become self-aware for a moment about what sensations I’m having, how I’m breathing, what are my thoughts, etc. This keeps me present and prevents actions or behaviors the arise out of an unconscious effort to soothe some aspect of my being I’m not paying attention to. It also brings me into the present and keeps me grounded.
- Getting outside – Even on long days of working, I make myself get outside for a short walk or at the least to breathe fresh air. Nature is a master healer. At least a few times a week I go for a decent walk or to the park or something similar with my son.
- I stay hydrated. I realized a long time ago that inadequate water intake impacted my mood, energy, and cognition negatively. It’s an easy way to closer to my A game.
- Play with my son – It brings me joy and laughter.
12. Finally, what advice would you give to individuals aspiring to enter the field of naturopathy or nutrition?
If you’re considering a field like this, you undoubtedly want to help people heal and live their best lives. So, getting that obvious part out of the way, my advice is a bit more logistical and not necessarily that exciting – but it is essential.
You need to consider how much time and money it is going to take you to get the degree and credentials you want, and that needs to be considered alongside your likely income after. Are there plenty of job opportunities? Are you going to need to be an entrepreneur to make the money you need or desire? If so, do you even want to own your own business? These are the things that I feel not enough people consider when they’re entering school. If you go to school and essentially take out a mortgage to do that, and give up the better part of a decade of your life to study, what do you expect your career to look like afterward? This is the primary consideration I recommend.
The other is, what kind of scope of practice do you want to have and will this degree get you there? Is it the same in every state?
These likely aren’t the kinds of advice people expect to this kind of question but in my experience, folks wanting to go into health professions like these are passionate, smart, want to be of service, and so on. It’s these logistical points that I’ve seen many people overlook and go down a path that had aspects to it they hadn’t considered and it wasn’t what they thought it would be in the end.
Connect with Blake Myers ND
To learn more about Blake Myers’s work and to stay updated with his latest insights and offerings, we invite you to visit his website and follow him on social media:
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CanXida. The content provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Readers are encouraged to consult their healthcare provider for any health-related questions or concerns.