…Making healthy food more affordable. Healthy food should be a right not a privilege. One of the biggest arguments I hear is eating healthy is too expensive. Why should people have to compromise their health because of their income. Our country’s health is in trouble, especially in low socioeconomic groups. Something I respect about Michelle Obama was her initiative to start community gardens within low income areas. Research indicates type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent within our country’s youth. We need to instill good eating habits at a young age, which will carry these children through adulthood.
As part of my series about health and wellness leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Elizabeth Trattner. Dr. Trattner is a graduate of the Acupuncture Institute in Miami, FL, the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine’s Integrative Health & Lifestyle program, and is the only acupuncture physician in the country to have been invited and completed a prestigious medical rotation at the University of Arizona’s Center of Integrative Medicine. Drawing on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a range of natural modalities, and over 25 years of training under Andrew Weil, MD, Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine, University of Arizona, Elizabeth helps patients improve and take control of their health and wellness. She specializes in women’s health, weight management, allergies, autoimmune diseases, environmental illnesses, green beauty and cosmetic acupuncture. Dr. Trattner was one of the first to open an Integrative Medical practice in Miami and is a strong believer in personalized medicine. Today she practices integrative and Chinese medicine while providing acupuncture, herbs, supplements, and counseling on Chinese dietetics and western nutrition. As an ardent believer in combining Chinese medicine with western medicine she actively triages patients to other physicians for comprehensive care. Her practice is further supplemented by her training and initiation from the Shamans of the Andes. Elizabeth is a member of the Global Wellness Initiative: Beauty Meets Wellness helping redefine beauty and wellness standards with other health and beauty leaders across the country where the standards of beauty are redefined and helped create aesthetic responsibility. Dr. Trattner’s nutritional counseling background stems from her chef’s training certificate earned at the Natural Gourmet Institute in 1991. Early in her career while working with the President of the Florida Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, Elizabeth pioneered integrative protocols for pre- and post-plastic surgery to speed up healing times, reduce side effects and enhance outcomes. Dr. Trattner was recognized by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in a feature article in their industry-wide publication. She has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show alongside her mentor Dr. Andrew Weil as well as local and national television.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Trattner! What is your “backstory”?
From an early age I yearned to be a doctor, spending my childhood devouring and memorizing health and medical encyclopedia pages. While in college, my concern for women’s health led me to volunteer in women’s health centers and to advocate for women’s issues. My pursuit of a medical degree was sidelined as I faced my own health complications. A few months after graduating and experiencing tremendous personal loss, I became chronically ill and battled a rare life-threatening auto-immune disorder and severe asthma. Having faced several near-death episodes, my journey to overcome my debilitating health conditions began. Throughout my personal journey, I’ve accumulated personal experiences that have shaped my medical perspective, culminating in a career that spans twenty-two years practicing Integrative, Chinese and Energy Medicine, nutrition, and other modalities of healing.
Through years of managing a chronic illness, food allergies, and multiple chemical and environmental sensitivities, I continue to persevere, refusing to allow these challenges to define me; even having a healthy child after being told I’d never be able to. These health crises and the isolation they create have become all too common in our frenetic society. This certainty, along with my personal growth and healing, compels me to devote my life to helping others overcome their personal health challenges. Merging my integrative medical training, my skills as a former concierge, and my own medical odyssey, I have a unique capacity to help treat and coordinate care for my patients and ensure that they are properly guided through a team of caring practitioners. I am especially sensitive to the expertise of my patients’ physicians as I work closely with them to effectively integrate their treatment for optimal health outcomes.
Can you share the interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Every day I hear new and interesting stories from women and how “their story” shaped their health and life. Some of these are profound while others are funny or sad. Throughout my years as a physician, I have noticed certain trends and commonalities with the women I treat.
One of the more interesting recurring stories I see is that almost every patient of mine who is a first generation American has issues with their gut and skin. My practice is located in Miami, which is a huge melting pot of ethnically diverse women. I have had the privilege of treating women from all over the world. So many women come to me for their health, weight and skin health. The common theme among all of them is they felt better in their country of origin. They often say, “I don’t understand, my cousin who lives in….. is so thin and her skin is perfect”. Many women haven’t even made the correlation — that American food and lifestyle are making them sick, heavy and broken out. In these cases, I ask, “How do you feel when you return to…?” The answer is always “better.”
It doesn’t matter where these women are from, it happens with all of them. The first step in regaining their health is returning to their diet of origin. When I started practicing I had a young patient from Turkey. She gained about 30 pounds living in the US and was constantly getting cysts in her body. When she moved back to Turkey I instructed her to eat her mother’s home cooked food for two months. I kept in touch with this patient and lo and behold she lost all of the weight and her health issues resolved. Fast forward 20 years later and one of the first questions I will ask my patients is: where are you from? I learned so much from that patient almost 20 years ago and that experience with her has let me help other women from all over the world feel better.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started in private practice I loved wearing beautiful high heels to work. I had a tiny consultation office and one day as I was walking back into my office with a patient waiting for me, I tripped and literally went sailing over a pile of boxes into a bookcase where everything went falling down on top of me. I was mortified. I hopped up like it was nothing, like in a comedy show despite turning a thousand shades of red and being beyond embarrassed. After collecting myself, I stood up and asked my patient “Okay, where were we?” Needless to say, I do not wear high heels any more to work.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
I am! I have several things going on. I am excited to begin teaching practitioners my Signature Gemstone Acupuncture Facial next year, as teaching is something I’ve always aspired to do. This past year, my Gemstone Acupuncture Facial became wildly popular with my patients as well as with the media and I am looking forward to sharing it with other practitioners next year.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I was very sick thirty years ago. None of the traditional doctors could figure out what was going on with my health. I had moved to Tucson, AZ and a friend suggested I see Dr. Andrew Weil. He took me on as a patient and through the power of integrative medicine, I got better. As I began to take control of my health I also started studying with him and he became my mentor. When he was invited on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he brought me with him as a success story. Throughout the years, he has guided my career and I ultimately completed a medical rotation at The University of Arizona Center of Integrative Medicine, and am certified in Integrative Medicine as well under his directorship.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help people feel great?
- Always eat a good warm breakfast. As the saying goes, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” In Chinese Medicine, morning is digestive energy time and we need to fuel our body and mind for the rest of the day. Starting your day off with breakfast helps improve your brain activity and even your metabolism.
- Make sure to expose yourself to sunlight during dusk and dawn. You will produce more serotonin and melatonin — sleep and feel-good hormones. This allows your body to be in synch with the rising and setting sun and your circadian rhythm, ultimately lowering inflammation and helping you sleep better and longer hours at night. This trick is also great to help alleviate jetlag.
- Eat clean, fresh foods. I may be overstating the obvious, but don’t eat anything your great grandparents wouldn’t eat. If comes out of a box, or you can’t pronounce what is on the label just don’t eat it. My suggestion — shop the perimeter of the grocery store where you’ll find the fresh produce and organic, free range protein; the food we put into our body plays a huge role in how we feel both mentally and physically.
Is there a particular book that made an impact on you? Can you share a story?
Over 30 years ago, when no one could figure out how to help me, I took matters into my own hands and went to the library. I read a few environmental health books based on work from environmental hospitals in the 1940’s. The information led me to make sweeping changes in my own environment and has made a huge impact on my health and how I practice medicine. The Healthy House by John Bower helped me understand the connection between our environment and our health. Other notable books include, Alternative Approach to Allergies by Ralph W Moss and Theron G Randolph and If This Is Tuesday, It Must Be Chicken, or How to Rotate Your Food for Better Health by sisters Golos and Gobitz. These books played a significant role in identifying food allergies prior to effective testing.
The key to my recovery was eliminating certain foods from my diet and slowly re-introducing them back into my system. I also began living a green lifestyle long before eco-friendly products were available at just about any grocery store. When I started seeing patients, I brought that knowledge with me. The first thing I have my patients do is create a food journal and symptom log to track what they eat and the symptoms they feel after eating something. An allergy may not come up on a test, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a sensitivity to the food or their environment. This also helps give me and my patients clues to what is bothering them or making them sick. It helps my patients regain a sense of control as they are taking their power back into their own hands by being responsible for their health.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Making healthy food more affordable. Healthy food should be a right not a privilege. One of the biggest arguments I hear is eating healthy is too expensive. Why should people have to compromise their health because of their income. Our country’s health is in trouble, especially in low socioeconomic groups. Something I respect about Michelle Obama was her initiative to start community gardens within low income areas. Research indicates type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent within our country’s youth. We need to instill good eating habits at a young age, which will carry these children through adulthood.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In a world where total reliance on Western Medicine is failing us, it has been my mission to sit and be present with every single person I treat. It is in that space of hearing a person’s story where the keys to unlocking the help they need to get well exist. All too often my patients will say to me that I am the first doctor to ever ask them about their personal history to find out more. Our bodies are always sending us messages. It has been my job to listen and help patients tune into these messages and be their partner in creating better health and wellness. I bring the goodness of heart centered, authentic loving medicine to the more than two decades of women and men that I have treated. Good health is not a quick fix, but a slow journey.
Also, unfortunately, our society seems to consider age a negative thing. Whether we like it or not, ageism does exist. In fact it seems to be the only acceptable “ism” which we aren’t addressing. However, with age comes wisdom. In a society that values youth, it is very powerful to have success at an older age. I have more than 20 years of experience, and have been become a resource for the media, allowing me to help the press separate truth from fiction as a medical source. The industry is saturated with anecdotal information and people don’t know where to turn for the truth regarding health, beauty and wellness.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Believe in yourself. My family and friends thought I was losing it when I went into this industry 30 years ago. Instead of listening to them and doubting myself, I listened to my intuition and kept moving forward. I am so happy I made that decision because I have been able to help thousands of women with their own health journey.
- Take a business class. You have to be competent in running a business or at least have a basic business understanding in order to keep your work finances healthy and in order.
- Find a mentor. It is so important to learn from people with experience. I was incredibly lucky to find one, a mentor who not only saved my life, but guided me on this path during some of the most difficult times in my life. My career is what it is because I had such a good mentor.
- Take time to connect with yourself. Personal time is so important. This is where the magic is born. If you over-extend yourself, not only will you burn yourself out, but you won’t be able to help your patients either.
- You cannot do everything. Hire people or trade with people to do what you are not good at. Accepting that you need help is one of the greatest things you can do to grow your business and medical practice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters — 204 if you’re in Japan” -Claire Cook When I was younger, I knew I wanted to become a physician, but I wasn’t sure what path I should take. When I got sick, I realized I needed a new plan. I couldn’t get discouraged because the first thing I tried didn’t work out.
“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” -Rita Mae Brown. I have 22 years of experience within the medical field, and throughout that time I have made mistakes, but I have grown and learned from them. One of the great things about finding a mentor is learning from them and having them guide you through the early part of your career.
“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful.” -Alan Alda. When I started this career years ago, many people questioned what I was doing. This was at a time when healthy eating was considered “crunchy” and “granola”. My family and friends doubted me. But I knew in my heart what I was doing was right and I could make a difference. I am glad I listened to my own intuition. I have helped people through illnesses, their pregnancy, and other life transitions.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Someone I would like to sit down with is Lesley Jane Seymour. Leslie started the Covey Club after being at More magazine. I heard her speak at a women’s event and her words of encouragement pushed me to believe it was possible to reinvent yourself even at a later age. Additionally, she has taken a stand for women centered issues like domestic violence, education barriers, and worked side-by-side with Michelle Obama to cover the launch of Let Girls Learn. As a physician who works mainly with women, I would love the opportunity to sit down with a leading woman and discuss how to further shape the beauty, health, and wellness community.
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