CanXida Expert Interview: Dr. Todd Adam Born ND, CNS

In this inspiring interview, we’re honored to share the journey of Dr. Todd Born, ND, CNS (certified nutritionist specialist) whose initial fascination with human physiology and anatomy guided him from the fields of astronomy and conventional medicine to the holistic practice of naturopathic medicine. Dr. Born’s academic path took a significant turn influenced by personal experiences and the profound desire to help people beyond the constraints of conventional treatments.

Dr. Born discusses his transition from considering a career in astrobiology or conventional medicine to embracing naturopathy, spurred by the personal impact of his father’s battle with esophageal cancer and the realization that he wanted to prevent suffering and offer effective, holistic care. His education at Bastyr University provided him with a solid foundation in clinical sciences and naturopathic modalities, opening doors to prestigious opportunities and affirming the global recognition of Bastyr’s contribution to healthcare.

Join us as we delve into Dr. Todd Born’s commitment to naturopathic medicine, his approach to patient care, and his insights on the scientific basis and global perspective of naturopathy.

1. Could you share with us your journey towards naturopathic medicine and what inspired you to choose this field? And could you also share insights from your time at Bastyr University and how it shaped your approach to naturopathic medicine?

It was a bit of a circuitous one. In high school biology when the subject of human physiology and anatomy (HPA) came up, I became fascinated. As a senior, I enrolled in an advanced HPA course. When I was an undergrad, my two largest career interests were astronomy and medicine. I planned on becoming an astrobiologist or a doctor.

Long story short, I ended up changing my physics and astronomy major to biology, with an emphasis in human physiology and functional morphology. I’ve always found anything concerning how humans think and work to be fascinating. I never even heard of or knew about integrative, functional or naturopathic medicines. I was going to become a conventional medical doctor, not sure which specialty. I dated a girl who grew up with a naturopathic doctor (ND) as the family general practitioner. She introduced me to the field. I have some MD’s in my family as well, some of whom are into integrative medicine. Fast forward to post graduation, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. When I watched him get sicker and sicker, conventional treatments not working, I kept thinking to myself, “I wish I could do more to help.” After he passed away, I spoke with the naturopathic oncologist that was treating him after he didn’t respond to conventional treatments, and we were discussing my future. I remember discussing with him about being on the fence of becoming an ND, MD or a nutritionist. He said to me, “what do you ultimately want to do?” I said, “help people… I don’t want to see people suffer like my father did…I want to be a doctor.” He said, “well, there you go.” So, I discussed this endeavor with the doctors in family and they all said the same thing: “do you want to be a surgeon or an ER physician?” I said no, and they all said to become an ND since I’d be able to help more people than a conventional MD.

I felt my time at Bastyr, including my residency, gave me a solid foundation in the clinical sciences, as well as all of the modalities that fall under the naturopathic umbrella, including pharmacology and surgery. Bastyr’s name is also well known throughout the world, so it helped easily open doors for me for rotations at prestigious hospitals in the Seattle area, for example. I also studied abroad at the British College of Osteopathic Medicine in London, and everyone knew Bastyr’s name, which actually surprised me, considering how not many people even know about naturopathic medicine, let alone a small medical school like Bastyr.

Another great thing about Bastyr, and really all the certified naturopathic schools (not the online naturopathic diploma mill schools) is that there really is a lot of good science behind naturopathic modalities, contrary to what the media and many conventional MD’s and DO’s may espouse.

2. How does your philosophy of integrative medicine influence your approach to treating chronic diseases?

Most individuals in the industrialized world suffer from chronic disease, not urgent or emergent disease. Conventional medicine is well equipped to handle urgent and emergent diseases, but not well equipped to handle chronic disease, especially in a 10-minute visit. That’s not long enough to do anything besides keep the person alive until the next visit and manage a medication, nothing curative. Integrative medicine shines in the chronic diseased individual since it takes a holistic approach, assessing the totality of the case, and then one can choose from a very long list of interventions (examples include, but not limited to herbs, homeopathy, diet and nutrient therapies, counseling, etc), using drugs and surgery as a last resort, but still ensuring they are used when needed. There’s a time and place for everything.

3. As an expert on psoriasis, can you discuss what are the most challenging aspects of treating psoriasis, and how do you address them in your practice?

Most challenging aspect for me to treat psoriasis is to convince patients that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but for me to be able to send them into remission, they will need to eventually complete the allergy elimination diet with challenge, along with my gut dysbiosis and rebuild program. These are essential for remission. Psoriatic disease can be a big motivator to patients, but about 30% of my patients stop treatment somewhere along the way when they’ve substantially improved, only to return months to years later saying their symptoms have returned. At this point, we have to start over with treatment.

I tend to be very persuasive and with most patients as long as I tell them at one point in our therapeutic relationship, they will receive a constitutional homeopathic medicine, perform the aforementioned diet and gut dysbiosis with rebuild program, completing all these, they will notice significant and permanent improvement in the psoriatic disease. Many of whom achieve complete remission. Some get 90-95% better, but not 100% and then we have the discussion about seeing rheumatology or dermatology for a discussion about medications to send one into remission. Once in remission, then time to wean off the medication. Naturopathic support tends to keep them in remission.

4. From your experience, how significant is the role of diet and nutrition in managing candida and fungal infections?

Not a huge component, unless their diet is horrendous, and/or they’re a diabetic. I’m almost always tweaking patients’ diets, but unless they eat fast food and consume processed foods and drink all the time, I don’t see diet playing much of a role in candida and fungal infections. The key is to eradicate the infections and rebuild the gastrointestinal track, so the overgrowth doesn’t recur. I.e, one has to change the terrain which allowed the overgrowth in the first place.

5. In your practice, how do you incorporate holistic therapies like botanical medicines, homeopathy, and diet into patient treatment plans?

One of the greatest strengths of being a naturopathic doctor, is my training which allows me to easily incorporate everything into my patients’ treatment plans. First matter is to have an accurate diagnosis or diagnoses, as is the case with most people with chronic disease. They have a lot going on, so if I can accurately diagnose them, my treatment strategies and interventions will be more effective. I don’t like to overwhelm the patient. I tend to be very strategic and systematic, bringing on only a few interventions at a time, fine tuning as they improve.

6. With your diverse roles and responsibilities, how do you maintain efficiency and respond promptly to patient communications?

For me, everything is all about speed and efficiency. I like to work quickly and efficiently. I also warn patients that unless something is extremely urgent, it will take me up to two business days to respond to them.

7. How do you stay updated with the latest developments in naturopathic medicine and integrative healthcare?

I read a lot of medical journals and websites (ex, Medscape, Natural Medicine’s Comprehensive Database) that come into my inbox. I also tend to speak a lot at conferences and webinars, where I’ll attend other presentations. I also tend to get a lot of bizarre and rare cases, so I may have to do some research to help them, since I may not even know what that disease is. Can’t know everything!

8. You have a wide range of clinical interests, from gastrointestinal issues to neurodegenerative disorders. How do you stay adept in such diverse areas?

I know a lot of docs that like to focus on just one thing: thyroid, men’s or women’s health, etc, but for me I can’t just see the same thing all the time, I get bored. I really enjoy the variety and the challenge. I like heady things. Staying adept in a large variety of clinical cases for me, has to do with mostly repetition. Once you’ve seen enough cases and treated enough patients, it all becomes pretty predictable. In other words, what happens is people either come to me with a diagnosis already, or they’ve got this laundry list of symptoms with no diagnosis(es) because other clinicians just don’t know what’s going on, so they typically are referred to me. They tell me their medical history, send me some outside labs to review, I ask a bunch of questions, run my own tests, and by then I’m usually sure what’s transpiring.

Over 14 years of clinical experience has enabled me to hone my skills, and being more accurate with the assessment, allows my interventions to be more effective. So, in essence, repetition helps me be adept in a large variety of health concerns. Speaking frequently at medical conferences, webinars and podcasts is also a good way for me to stay on top of my game. Best way to learn is to teach others.

9. In your career, what has been the most complex case you’ve encountered, and how did you approach it?

There are many. I see a lot of everything, but I also see a lot of the strange, rare and peculiar. I see a lot of patients with common diseases, but for one reason or another, they failed conventional therapies.

But in general, severe autism tends to be the most complex cases I encounter. There’s usually so much going on in the individual and no two cases are the same, albeit there are many commonalities. I approach autism spectrum disorder no different than any other health concern: find out what’s going on with the patient, how they present, what’s working, what’s not working, what have they tried, etc. I then use all of the medical tools to address what’s transpiring and hopefully improve the individual’s quality of life. Many times, in this population, they have a lot of taste and texture aversions, so trying to get medicines into them can be a challenge, but there are ways (topicals, homeopathic pellets, hiding them in food and liquids, etc), just need to be creative.

10. What advice would you give to individuals seeking naturopathic treatments for the first time?

This is a poignant question and I address this a lot when I was an attending physician, and still do as a frequent lecturer at medical conferences. Naturopathic treatments really do work, but they need to be dosed appropriately. All too often, folks will say “natural medicines” don’t work and there’s no good science behind them. This is bologna. They do work, but they need to be of high quality (since most supplement companies out there don’t use high quality ingredients), dosed high and dosed frequently. For example, if someone has active moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis and is taking 500 mg a day of a low bioavailable turmeric, it’s not going to do anything. In medicine, there are preventative doses, treatment doses, loading doses and maintenance doses.

Even when I read human clinicals on naturopathic modalities and the study’s conclusion is that the substance being studied was inefficacious in whatever disease they were studying to see if it would help. I’ll see these studies all the time with a botanical that isn’t in enough amounts, or given enough times a day, or the study wasn’t long enough to see an effect. I’ll see the wrong plant species being used, or the plant part. It stands to reason then, with these egregious errors, that it was a negative study.

Bottom line: see someone who knows what they’re doing and has adequate training from a US department of education certified school, and has passed all their board exams. Also, be weary of clinicians that like to put people on tons of supplements.

11. What inspired you to establish Born Integrative Medicine Specialists, and how has the journey been since 2013?

My wife and I are both ND’s. After our residencies, we moved to Connecticut to join a practice. The owners were husband (chiropractor) and wife (an ND). They were constantly telling us to stop running so many tests, shorten our visits with patients, and literally to stop curing them since it was bad for business. After 18 months of this experience, my wife and I both agreed we could never work for other clinicians, but rather we’ll open our own, and try to make a true integrative medicine practice, with one goal: heal the patients.

From 2013-2018 it was Born Naturopathic Associates, Inc., located in Alameda, CA. At the height of it, we had 4 ND’s, an Ayurvedic practitioner, an acupuncturist and a bodywork specialist (a massage therapist that was more like a very talented physical therapist). We didn’t like living in the Bay area of California and returned back to the Pacific Northwest, to be closer to my wife’s family. She has ankylosing spondylitis, and at the time we had 2 children, now we have 4. Needed family closer to help from time to time with the kids when she gets sick. Plus, it’s important for us to have our children know their families.

In mid-2018, we sold the practice to one of our associates, and since I was doing a fair amount of telehealth anyway, I decided to open up a 100% telehealth practice in August of 2018, which I still have today. 50% of my practice is all over the US and 50% is global.

Many cases I see today are referrals from family, friends, and other clinicians, some may hear me being interviewed on a podcast or the like. So, I may be brought in to just fix a bunch of health concerns, and then they return to their doctor that referred them to me. Sometimes, they stay with me for all of their health concerns and keep their PCP, since I can’t be their PCP anymore. I don’t have a physical office where I can do point of care testing, physical exams, etc. The drawback of telehealth is it doesn’t lend itself well to acute problems or physical medicine.

12. What can a new patient expect during their first 60-75 minute evaluation at your clinic?

First visits with me are 60-90 min depending on the complexity of the patient and how efficiently they can relay their case history to me and answer my questions. When I see babies and children, visits are usually 45-60. I also review any outside labs or stool tests sent to me from the past 6 months (longer than that aren’t terribly relevant to me) and any diagnostic imaging reports in the past 12 months. If they went to the emergency room in the past 6 months, I want the entire records from the hospital.

Towards the end of the visit, I ask a bunch of constitutional homeopathic questions, tell them what I think may be going on, order blood tests, and stool and diagnostic imaging as well, if pertinent. I ask them if they have any questions, comments, or concerns, so they feel like everything has been communicated. They usually present with a grocery bag full of supplements they’ve been taking. I tell them to finish everything and don’t refill them, since I will consolidate them down to just a few they really need. I normally give them proper dosing to make them work better. If it’s a garbage brand, I tell them to just throw everything away and recycle the bottle.

13. How do you determine the complexity of a case and decide the length and nature of follow-up visits?

The follow-up is typically three weeks later, so I can assess what the homeopathic that I sent them did or did not do. I review the test results with them and discuss the next steps. If they didn’t have a diagnosis already, then I tell them what I think is going on. This happens a lot when people see me for chronic fatigue syndrome, or lots of gut or endocrine issues. This appointment is typically 45-60 min.

The third visit is usually one month after the second visit, so I have time to let the treatments from the second visit take effect. This appointment is typically 30-45 minutes, as are all other appointments.

As the patient improves, the appointments become farther and farther apart.

14. In treating complex cases, how do you integrate various therapies like botanical medicine, homeopathy, and physiotherapy?

All depends on the case. What I can say is that everyone ends up with a constitutional homeopathic remedy and then based upon what’s going on, is what dictates what I use, even medications that I may prescribe. With uber complicated cases, I tend to use everything.

15. What inspired you to get involved in providing continuing education for health professionals?

My goal is to help people. I can help people one at a time, but if I can teach hundreds of clinicians at a medial conference what I’ve learned and how I’m doing things, a lot more people will be helped.

16. How do you determine the topics and content for your CE programs?

I’m usually invited to speak at a conference and they’ll ask me to present on something specific. Other times, there are themes to a conference, so when I submit an abstract, I pick a topic germane to that conference.

17. What innovations in CE are you most excited about?

I’m finally seeing more CE’s on the ethical business side of medicine and telehealth jurisprudence.

18. Are there any resources or thought leaders in the field that you would recommend following?

There are a few. I like Paul Anderson, ND, James Greenblatt, MD, David L Katz, MD, MPH, Eric Yarnell, ND, Amy Rothenberg, ND, Alan Gaby, MD, Mark Houston, MD, David Perlmutter, ND, Lise Alschuler, ND, Jeff Bland, PhD, Daniel Rubin, ND, F. Perry Wilson, MD, John Neustadt ND, Adam Rinde ND and yours truly.

19. For aspiring naturopathic doctors, what key skills or qualities do you believe are essential for success in this field?

I’m not gonna lie, the naturopathic medical field is a difficult one from a financial standpoint. We just don’t get paid nearly what our conventional counterparts do. This makes it difficult to survive. I’ve seen statistics that within 10 years of graduating naturopathic medical school and passing board exams, only about 50% of ND’s still practice.

So, one needs to have a keen mind, be perspicacious, and a strong business sense.

20. Looking ahead, what are your professional goals or areas of research you’re particularly excited about exploring further?

Ultimately, I’d love to keep my private practice and become the chief medical officer of either a dietary supplement company, or a progressive national clinic, who’s interests are in using integrative, functional and naturopathic medicines to address chronic disease.

Another dream of mine has always been to be associated with a prestigious medical school, teach courses and be involved in their clinics. Not because I need to glorify my own ego, but again, it’s about helping people. I can teach medical students and MD, PhD, PsyD and DO colleagues that there are options outside of just drugs and surgery. Also, being associated with a prestigious institution adds credence and credibility to the naturopathic, integrative and functional medicine fields.

Believe me, I’ve tried to get associated with these places and have been told many times, “we don’t hire ND’s,” but there are plenty of institutions that do, so I’m not giving up…I never do!

Connect with Dr. Todd Born

To learn more about Dr. Todd Born’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:

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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.