An exciting element of my career that I am proud of is that I have played a major role in mentoring, motivating, educating and advising many physicians who have established careers in natural/nutritional and lifestyle medicine. Many of these physicians have gone on to be heroes in the field of natural medicine and done remarkable things. I am going to episodically interview some of these astounding individuals here so you can learn more about them.
They include Scott Stoll, M.D., Steven Lowenda M.D., Peter Raisanen, N.D. Laurie Marbas, M.D. Ron Weiss, M.D. Koushik, M.D.and Angela Reddy,M.D., Michal Mantz, M.D, David Dunaief, M.D., Jay Benson,D.O., Marc Carney, N.D. David Richards, M.D. Jyoti Mathews, M.D.. Anna Quisel, M.D. Kathleen Mullin, M.D. Christina Miller, M.D., and many more
Interestingly two young physicians that I had a strong influence on became psychiatrists. Michael Mantz, interestingly became a natural-based psychiatrist and Joseph Yi who was also a friend of Michael’s also pursued a career in psychiatry and became a specialist in addiction recovery emphasizing nutrition and natural methods. Over time I intend to interview many of these interesting people. Staring now with Dr. Yi.
I remember when Dr Yi first contacted me during his residency after reading my book “Disease-Proof Your Child“. He displayed his genuine desire for incorporating natural methods into his philosophy of treating mental health. Over the years we have shared many ideas about how the field of psychiatry can be approached with a new paradigm. Today we discuss many topics regarding holistic psychiatry, nutrition and the value of a nutritarian diet in influencing mental wellness.
For me, medical school was an extremely painful experience. The school I attended focused greater than 90% of our educational materials on medications and illness over nutrition and wellness. It was very confusing for me because I always believed that being a doctor was about promoting health rather than focusing so much on the disease. There was a defining moment when I took a course called Biochemistry of Nutrition, and i thought to myself, "Finally, I'm going to learn about health foods"! Instead, I was forced into memorizing the structure of a triglyceride molecule for the exams and I kept asking myself why couldn't we learn about all the foods out there containing healthy fats instead? Call me crazy but that would have made more sense to me in terms of creating positive change in others than to memorize a structure of a molecule that serves no benefit to my clients' wellbeing. My frustration, as a result, only fueled me to take matters into my own hands. Luckily, a dear friend of mine bought me DISEASE-PROOF YOUR CHILD as a Christmas gift which completely shifted my consciousness into a new perspective in terms of focusing on the entire body, when treating the brain. I've come to learn that by taking good care of the body through nutritional excellence along with good sleep hygiene, fitness and developing the right nervous system connections, it results in a healthier mind for myself and my clients who have put their trust in me.
Many people don't know this but i actually spent 3 years pursuing a music career prior to entering medical school! Truthfully, experimenting with various substances was a big part of the 'Starving Artist Lifestyle' and I ended up partying a lot and doing lots of crazy things during my early 20's. But until this day, there are no regrets because this experience taught me more about substance abuse and withdrawal than any course I ever took. Knowledge can be taught in school but wisdom comes from experiences in the University of Life. During my residency training at Cooper University Hospital (in Camden, NJ) most of the patients seen were struggling with substance addiction and I quickly discovered that dealing with this population came naturally for me and time just flew by, reflecting my natural interest in this field.
My family and I immigrated to the United States (from South Korea) when I was only 5 years old. I hate to admit it but the stereotype is somewhat true that Asian parents want their children to become a doctor, lawyer or an engineer! So growing up, I had the mindset of becoming a pediatrician one day but it was for all the wrong reasons. I thought that being a children's doctor was the cool thing to do so that's what I went into medical school to become. During my pediatrics rotation, however, I came to the sad realization that the passion just wasn't there. As a result, I began to look into becoming a child psychiatrist because I thought that would be the 'Next Cool Thing' to do... Again for all the wrong reasons! But it is from these life lessons that I am always trying to impress upon the younger generation to patiently pursue their true passion and figure out a way to create an impact with it. With this formula, success inevitably follows you.
My daughter, Sofia, is only 10 years old and has already read your book - Disease-Proof Your Child! Although she didn't fully comprehend everything in the book, she understands the value of GBOMBS and eating a healthy plant-based diet. When we go out to restaurants, the servers are usually blown away by her choices of health foods. Even when it comes to desserts, she usually orders a side of fruit. My son Martyn, on the other hand, has been a very picky eater. As a psychiatrist, I have clearly noticed the difference in their behavior patterns as a result of their eating patterns. Sofia is very cool, calm, and collected while Martyn can be quite restless and moody at times. As parents, we made a firm decision last year to drastically limit his sweets and offer only fruits as a substitute. This move along with supplementing with magnesium, DHA/EPA, and probiotics has made a tremendous positive impact in his mood and cognition. I am happy to share this story with others to help inspire change in the way parents choose to feed their kids. Interestingly, I have come to a sad realization that many parents in my practice lack the motivation to change their children's diet unless they absolutely have to. Another interesting observation is that my older brother has always been a big meat eater and its no secret that he has aged a lot faster than I. Most of my clients mention I appear much younger than my stated age, as do you (Dr. Fuhrman). Embracing a nutritarian diet has made an incredible difference in my family life.
I teach my clients that the 4 pillars of mental wellness involve sleeping right, eating right, using our body right and making the right connections. It is more clear than ever before that we really are made from what we eat. Furthermore, the foods we eat contain ingredients our body requires to produce the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and endorphins which are all necessary to induce a feeling of emotional wellness. The common pattern I have observed amongst clients who struggle with anxiety, mood disorders and substance abuse is that they often have a very poor diet. Their food choices usually do not contain enough nutrients for their body & mind to function optimally which leads to 'feeling bad' in general. When this happens, many end up going to see a psychiatrist who ends up prescribing numerous prescription chemicals to mask distress signals from the body instead of trying to identify the root cause and promote lifestyle changes. When clients come to see me, they are often on multiple psychiatric medications and I begin by teaching them the value of nutritional excellence. As their mental health improves by making smarter lifestyle choices, their need for prescription medications are reduced and often times completely tapered off.
For some reason in our country, we have been led to believe that feeling uncomfortable is a disorder. Personally, I am not a fan of labeling others despite what the DSM-V states. It is my belief that the body is in constant communication with the mind. The problem is, the body does not speak language but instead communicates with us through symptoms and feelings. If someone has a problem focusing, psychiatrists are often too quick to label someone as having ADHD when in fact they may be heavily deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and/or a healthy gut flora (where most of our neurotransmitters are produced in the body). Perhaps a person may be feeling depressed or anxious because their body lacks the nutritional ingredients it requires to produce serotonin? It's amazing when someone is on a medication like prozac (which artificially enhances one's levels of serotonin) the simple addition of green vegetables and Vitamin B-Complex and Tryptophan (which can Naturally enhance serotonin production in the body) can be the difference between emotional wellness and dysphoria. My hope is that one day, mainstream psychiatrists would be more open to holistic approaches to treatment and to see symptoms as a 'distress signal' from the body rather than a checklist to diagnose disorders. I can only hope.
Joseph Yi, MD is a holistic psychiatrist board certified in addiction medicine. He is the co-founder of Modern Behavioral (link to modernbehavioral.com) a holistic behavioral health practice in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and CEO of Beyond Recovery (beyondrecovery.com). You learn more about him through his social media channels @joyimd (instagram) and @streetmd (TikTok).