The Natural Evolution Podcast

Season 2

Episode 36

S2E36 – Surviving Traditional Medicine in Search of the Right Healing Space with Dr. Jill Carnahan

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD is board-certified by the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM) and Your Functional Medicine Expert®. She uses functional medicine to help patients find the root cause of their illness and identify nutritional and biochemical imbalances that may be contributing to their symptoms.

Dr. Carnahan grew up in a midwestern farming family with a strong desire to change the medical system from within. However, she faced an uphill battle that was much larger than grades, analytical thinking, and accolades. At 25 years old, Dr. Carnahan became one of the youngest women diagnosed with an aggressive stage of breast cancer at Loyola Medical School.  

In this episode, we discuss Dr. Jill Carnahan’s journey from surviving breast cancer and Crohn’s disease to mold toxicity. We get a better understanding of how these experiences have shaped her philosophy and the way she practices medicine. Dr. Carnahan also highlights the importance of creating an optimal space for healing (or healing space), which is what traditional medical clinics lack. 

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About our Guest

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD is Your Functional Medicine Expert®. She uses functional medicine to help patients find the root cause of their illness and identify nutritional and biochemical imbalances that may be contributing to their symptoms. Dr. Jill will search for underlying triggers that contribute to your illness through cutting-edge lab testing and tailor the intervention to your specific individual needs. She uses nutrition, supplements, lifestyle changes, or medication to treat your illness, and always seeks the gentlest and least invasive way to help you find hope, restore health and optimize healing.

She completed her residency at the University of Illinois in Family Medicine at Methodist Medical Center and received her medical degree from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Dr. Jill was dually board certified in Family Medicine from 2006-2016 and in Integrative Holistic Medicine since 2005. She founded the Methodist Center for Integrative Medicine in Peoria, Illinois in 2009 and worked there as medical director. Then in 2010, she moved to Boulder, Colorado and opened Flatiron Functional Medicine where she has a widely sought-after medical practice with a broad range of clinical services including nutritional consultations, chiropractic therapy, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, and massage therapy.

Dr. Jill is a survivor of both breast cancer and Crohn’s disease and is passionate about teaching patients how to live well and thrive in the midst of complex and chronic illnesses. She is also a widely sought-after inspirational speaker and travels around the world to teach physicians the principles of personalized and functional medicine. She is a prolific writer, and speaker, and loves to infuse others with her passion for hope, health and healing!

She has been featured in Shape Magazine, Parade, Forbes, MindBodyGreen, First for Women, Townsend Newsletter, and The Huffington Post as well as seen on NBC News and Health segments with Joan Lunden. She recently co-authored the Personalized and Precision Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine Textbook and her prescriptive memoir will be released by Harper Collins/Zondervan in the Fall of 2021.

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Podcast Transcript

Michael Roesslein:

We are recording with another episode of the Natural Evolution Podcast. I’m your host, Michael and I am here today with Dr. Jill Carnahan. Dr. Jill, thanks for appearing on the show.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

You’re welcome. Honored to be here.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah, it’s going to be fun. A little behind the scenes info, we’ve bounced schedules about six months, and I moved, and then my move went sideways, and then it’s a strange time of day. We’ve been trying to set this up for a long time, and I’m really excited that it’s happening and I appreciate you making the time. Most people that listen to our show probably are familiar with you and your work, but if somebody is not, I’ll do a little intro and then we’re going to get into some really interesting, little bit of your own story mixed with where you focus now with your practice and maybe leave some nuggets for our listeners. Dr. Jill Carnahan is your functional medicine expert, dually board certified in family medicine for 10 years and in integrative holistic medicine since 2015. She’s the medical director of Flat Iron Functional Medicine, a widely sought after practice with a broad range of clinical services, including functional medicine protocols, nutritional consultations, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, massage.

It’s a pretty loaded clinic there. That’s in Boulder, Colorado. And as a survivor of breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, and toxic mold illness, which we are going to talk about today, she brings a unique perspective to treating patients in the midst of complex and chronic illness. She’s been featured in several publications, including Shape, Parade, Forbes, Mind Body Green, Townsend Newsletter, The Huffington Post, NBC News. My introduction here is probably somewhat unnecessary. Her YouTube channel and podcast features live interviews with the healthcare world’s most respected names, and she’s co-authored the Personalized and Precision Integrative Cardiovascular Medicine Textbook. You are not busy at all. And on top of all that, she’s a really popular speaker, writer, and sharing a message of hope, health, resiliency, overcoming almost anything. And we’re just excited to be here to chat with you. Thank you, Dr. Jill.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Thank you for having me, Michael. Thank you for the kind intro.

Michael Roesslein:

Let’s get right to it. A lot of practitioners and doctors that I’ve interviewed for the podcast and other places, their focus or specialty at the time of the discussion is often born out of their own experience. And a lot of them even got into functional medicine because they got sick and conventional medicine wasn’t helping them. And then their niche or their focus that they fixate on now generally was due to personal experience. You have enough personal experience for several practitioners probably, and I see breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, and then most recently, I’ve seen you talking quite a bit about your experience with mold and sharing really openly about mold illness. What order did all that happen in? Wanting to become a doctor, surviving breast cancer, surviving Crohn’s disease. Were you always interested in functional medicine? Was there a shift towards a more integrative approach? I guess we’ll just set the stage then with your own beginnings in medicine.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Sure. Well, I grew up in a farm in central Illinois. I’m one of five children, and my mother was a nurse, but she was retired obviously to raise the five children. It was interesting because we had a very holistic upbringing. We had a huge half acre garden with fresh fruits and vegetables, all organic. We always had fresh sweet corn. The edge of the fields would just be fresh for our own use and to share with the neighbors. And if I got a sore throat, my mother clearly took me to the doctor, but she would always try first maybe tea or herbal remedies or things. And always there was a chance to try a more holistic approach. I actually grew up with quite a holistic, wholesome lifestyle on the farm. But unbeknownst to me, I had a very poor detox system genetically.

I always talk about toxic load in a bucket analogy. We all have this bucket capacity to detox, and I had a very small bucket from birth. And on the farm, back in the 70s and 80s and early 90s, there was lots of chemicals still used. Now I’m really proud to say my family farm, which is a conventional corn and soybean farm, now is completely non GMO and there’s a percentage organic. That’s been a huge shift and it’s partially because of my experience. Just saying all that, because the groundwork was, I think I didn’t really know I was a healer, but I was always interested in how do we stay well and live well? And I knew I wanted to connect with people and encourage people in some way. And I started my path, I did bioengineering undergrad, so I was very analytical minded, but then I went and applied to chiropractic and naturopathic school and went to more the natural healing types of, I applied.

But what happened was I thought, “Well, why not apply to traditional allopathic school?” I was the first one to become an MD in my whole family. So it seemed like an unreachable dream, but I had great grades and I worked hard. So it actually, I started getting acceptance letters to the medical schools and I thought, “Oh my goodness, should I change course, should I look at regular medicine, allopathic medicine?” And what I realized was our system still primarily is reimbursed through this system. And so I knew that if I wanted to make a change and really even if I knew in my heart, I believed there was other ways of doing things, we still have the system that we deal with, at least in the US. And I thought, “Why not go into the system, learn the best that I can, get the best education that I can, and then actually start to change the system from within?”

And I literally had that on my heart before I knew what functional medicine was or even that name existed. So all that to say I got into Loyola Medical School, started my education, it was brutal. That still, I think things are changing because that work hour change during my schooling, but it’s a brutal system of training. And it really brutalizes the empathy out of young physicians because there’s so much demands. There’s this creed of not feeling, not connecting, not being emotional. So I went from this empath child healer to a very analytical science based kind of like don’t show emotion through that medical school trauma in a way. But what happened in the midst of it, at 25, right after my second year of medical school, I found a lump in my breast. I did not think it was anything, but you know the end of the story, I found out, I had a very aggressive breast cancer at 25.

At that time, I was the very youngest woman diagnosed ever at Loyola. So now it’s more and more common sadly in younger women. But at the time it was not only extremely rare, but it was very aggressive. And I was in for the battle of my life. I always say I was with a group of young women under 40 in Chicago, so a young breast cancer group, I’m the only one still living in that group. So that shows you how aggressive this disease is. So all of a sudden, things shifted and I had to really figure out how to survive. And it was the first of many things because now I know that my life, my soul’s journey, is experiential. I am literally meant to experience things, figure it out how to overcome. Like Marie Forleo says, everything is figure outable. That’s my life. Because every time I’ve met a challenge that seems insurmountable or really difficult, I have had to figure out how to get out of this.

And what happens in that process for me is I learn a depth that is never, it doesn’t correlate to the stuff you learn in medical school. Like the amount of knowledge and wisdom you get from having that experience, which you mentioned other practitioners, is on a whole different level. And then to have to figure it out, you get these ah-has, these clicks in your brain that are like, “Oh, this is how it works.” So I feel like I discovered lots of different ways of thinking about it because of my own experience. So I went through three drug chemotherapy, lost all my hair, got sick and malnourished and incredibly ill during that time, came out of that nine months later considered cured from breast cancer. Went back to medical school again, back right into the grind, 36 hour work days. And six months later, as I was having more weight loss, bleeding, fevers, and I was then diagnosed with Crohn’s.

Now in my mind, this makes perfect sense because the chemotherapy was something that actually chemically caused holes, permeability in the gut. And then I was prone to Crohn’s. And so I developed this abnormal reaction to the microbiome, which created a inflammatory response in the lining of the gut and caused damage, and that’s Crohn’s. But once again, I remember sitting with a gastroenterologist when he diagnosed me and said, “Jill, you’re going to need lifelong drugs, immune modulating drugs, steroids. You’re probably going to have part of your colon removed over your life. This is incurable.” I mean, it was depressing, Michael. And then what I did though, was I said, “I want to be involved.” I didn’t know much then. And I said, “Does diet have anything to do with it? Could I change my diet?” And I was sincere in my question. And he just looked at me and shook his head and said, “Jill, diet has nothing to do with this.”

And that was one of those ahas, that turning points in my life because intuitively, I’d been all in my head, my analytical mind was like, “Okay, he says diet has nothing to do with it,” but all of a sudden I went to my heart, my healer heart, which had always been there, just been suppressed during the medical training. And I thought this can’t be true. There’s no way diet has nothing to do with this. And within two weeks I found specific carbohydrate diet, which is one of many options you can use to change trajectory in Crohn’s. And within two weeks of being on that diet, the fever stopped, the bleeding stopped, the pain stopped. And I knew diet had a lot to do with it because I wasn’t even on medications at that time.

So all that to say these experiences really allowed me to see. And even with my breast cancer, I did all the conventional radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, but I also had meditation and prayer, I had family connection, I had a naturopathic prescribed supplements. I had all of these other things that I feel like helped me recover from the toxic effects. So that was in my twenties and it really, really altered my course, not in the way that I wanted to be a holistic heal, but in the way that I realized those experiences, as tough as they were to go through, gave me a bit of training that I could have never gotten any other way.

Michael Roesslein:

Yeah. And thank you for sharing all that. I have a few. One, I grew up in Illinois, not in central Illinois, but I went to school at Western Illinois, so probably not that far away from wherever your farm would’ve been. My family are Iowa farmers, my mom’s side of the family, so we spend a lot of time in Western Iowa on similar farms. My wife is a nurse, ER nurse, so like your mom. Was Loyola in Chicago?

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Yeah.

Michael Roesslein:

Okay. And then I have a lot of friends in relatives who have gone to school there. So a lot of connections there, kind of a little nostalgic, we’re both in very different places now. But I know exactly what a farm in central Illinois looks like and feels like. And so I see a theme here. Outside of just the obvious of you got these diseases and then you had to figure out like the figure outable situations. But I see you mentioned that medical school destroys empathy in young doctors. You mentioned 36 hour work days, which that’s not a one day, but I know you’re probably talking about like residents, all of the almost hazing process that doctors go through. And then I’d like to just go into that a little bit.

So you went into it like bright eyed, want to get into the system, to change the system. You knew a little bit about chiropractic, naturopathic, healthy healing, like natural healing stuff. You want to get in to change the system, you went in really excited. And then can you share just a little bit about what about that experience of medical school crushes the empathy in young doctors and why is that so important? I know about this because my wife’s an ER nurse, so I hear stories about ER doctors. And “Oh, this doctor was on for 31 hours and da, da, da, da.” And when I first started hearing those stories, I was like, what? And then I found out that this is like the normal thing. So can you just share a little bit about what that experience is like for doctors who go through medical school?

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

I love that we’re going here, Michael, because we don’t often talk about it, because nowadays our medical system’s so broken and many people are going into their doctors are frustrated. And part of it is not that we have to understand that the training created this, but there is pieces of our medical brokenness that are related to the training. So I think this is critical to talk about because we can’t change until we change the training. So I want to just frame it with, I was born an empath. I didn’t know it, but I was a highly sensitive person, incredibly empathetic. So I feel other people’s energy. It’s part of how I do medicine because I can read a lot more than just as on the paper. I can read people really well. And I didn’t really know this. And I was born in a family of engineer, analytical, not empaths, and they’re lovely.

I love my siblings and my parents, but they are not the same as me. I felt like an alien and I didn’t know why. Now I understand clearly. So what I did is I put on a mask to try to be like everybody else, like we all do when we don’t feel like we fit in and I became a bioengineer. It fit perfectly with my family. I went all to the analytical. Unfortunately, I do have a good analytical system. I was able to use that and really use that to process. But I lived up until about 40, I lived from my neck up all in the head, all processing analytically. So medical school was a perfect fit. And once again, I tried to fit in. And with women, especially, I know Dr. Sarah Gottfried, and I love to talk about this because we were both, she was at Harvard, I was at Leola, but we were both thrown into this very masculine driven system.

And it’s all about achievement, accolades, analytical. And we need masculine, feminine. Granted, we need both, but it was so heavily weighted towards the masculine analytical, drive, crush it, do what you need to do, don’t complain. And that fit in with my upbringing because on the farm you do what you need to do. You’re hard working. And again, this was just an ethic that had been passed down from generations in my family, too, that you don’t complain, you’re not sensitive, God forbid you’re weak. Weak was a dirty word. So I came from this culture, fit perfectly into medical school, because it just reinforced all of my beliefs. But inside, Michael, I am dying. I am this like sensitive creative that was incredibly empathetic and I did not fit in. And I knew it intuitively.

And I also suppressed that intuitive nature is actually one of our wisest abilities to find answers. Because when we listen to a patient, I always say the old analog analytical mind can do about thousands or even tens of thousands pieces of data and calculate. But the intuitive subconscious can calculate millions in a fraction of a second because it takes in data in a different way. So in medical school we’re taught to just use the analytical, don’t trust the heart, don’t trust the intuition. And that’s the framework for this like push, do a lot of hours. And it was before work hour regulation, so it was very typical to have four days off per month and they were only 24 hours. And then the rest of the days you would go in for 12 to 14 hours, go home, sleep, and then every three or four days you’d go in for overnight, which often went 7:00 AM or 6:00 AM to the next day at noon or 1:00, so that’s 30 some hours.

And you could sleep if there was nothing going on, but many, many times if there was OR cases or ER things, you would lay down and within 15 minutes, your beeper would go off and then you go to the ER to admit a patient or do a surgery or assistant. So there was many nights when you had no sleep or very little sleep or it was fragmented. So the other thing this trains is a fight or flight system, be ready. And same with firefighters or any of these kinds of people in these situations. But you get this kind of sympathetic overdrive, which also feeds into the masculine. So most people come out of medical school very traumatized. And then there’s this unwritten rule, and it’s actually taught that you don’t ever show emotion in front of patients.

You remain objective. You don’t share your own story by all means. You never get personally, you basically put on a mask, you’re this professional. And you know what? You have no connection with patients that way. So again, as I unlearned that stuff, I realize that sometimes that hard connection, or sometimes it’s not about me, so I never like dominate with my story, but if there’s a small fraction, empathy is based on shared experiences. So sometimes I’ll share, you know what? I know what it’s like to go to surgery and to be afraid you’re not going to come out alive or something like that. And those little tidbits are the connectors to our patients that allow them to feel safe and heard. And I now believe, Michael, that the start of healing is not a supplement or a diet or a lifestyle, it’s creating a space where you’re heard and that is safe and that you’re feeling that someone genuinely cares about you. That is the true start of healing. And that is something that was not taught in medical school.

Michael Roesslein:

Wow. Thank you for sharing all of that. And I could see how between the nonstop pressure, the nonstop grades, accolades, all the left brain structuredness plus the intense, actual physical stress and not sleeping and the lights 24 7 and the intensity. And hospitals are just filled with, if you make a checklist of things that you probably don’t want to be around all the time for health purposes, you can put them all in the hospital. That’s part of the reason we moved over here was to get my wife out of the ER, because she has multiple autoimmune conditions and an ER nurse is like, if you want to trigger flares, you put someone in the ER. So thank you for sharing. And you didn’t even know this, but I have completed Dr. Gabor Maté’s training for therapist. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work, but he has a program called compassionate inquiry that’s mostly for therapists. I’m not a therapist, but I went through the training.

And he talks extensively throughout the entire training about the consequences of choosing attachment over authenticity. And in your case, attachment would be the approval. Because you said the medical school system and your family system matched each other quite a bit. And that you had convinced yourself that this is how I need to be, this works and this, this fits, and they aligned, but it was never aligned with you. And in Gabor’s work and in his books, which I’m guessing you read, because you reacted when I said his name.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Read all of that.

Michael Roesslein:

He ties this suppression of authenticity, which in your case would be the empathy, intuitive knowing, which you mentioned everything in the medical system’s left brained and analytical. And they actually teach you not to use the right side and not to trust it and not to connect with people.

He connects this suppression with a whole bunch of different chronic diseases, including cancer, including breast cancer, actually. And then also with addiction and other struggles that a lot of people have that suppress this. And another thing that really triggered something for me hearing this is, don’t share your story. The wall between the patient and the doctor, no openness, no empathy, no connection, no shared experience. And that was a huge, huge aspect of his training as well, and said that this is an epidemic problem, not only with medical doctors and in the medical system, but also in the mental health sector as well because conventional therapists and counselors taught the same thing. There’s a wall here, there’s no connection, there’s no empathy. And I went into that training insecure because I’m not a therapist. I thought, do I belong here? I’m going to be in over my head.

And I watched therapists with 30 years experience be completely unable to actually connect with the people they were trying to work with. And they had to learn it all over again because they had suppressed it for so long just like a lot of the doctors do. So I hear knocks on conventional doctors a lot working in the alternative space because people go to the doctor and they don’t receive that. And you mentioned the start of healing is that. It’s when somebody hears you and somebody puts a container there that’s safe for you, believes you, cares about your wellbeing, expresses that they care. So many people complain, rightfully so, that they don’t receive that and that they don’t care. And that they’re told it’s all in their head or this or that. Or the analytics can’t make sense of their case. So it’s this mystery thing.

I love that you shared enough that people hopefully can see that this is a product of the system and the training and the experience that the doctors go through. I always try to point that out anytime I can, because I don’t like to throw individuals under the bus. So I don’t know, I just felt compelled to bring some of that up. But I see a lot of parallels there between what Dr. Maté talks about and regarding chronic disease. So that’s a lot. That’s a lot of heavy suppression of what seems to be a very vibrant intuition and drive towards connection and you keep mentioning your heart. And so …

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

It’s been transformational, Michael, when I’ve learned to actually like [inaudible 00:21:21] that. And it’s probably 10 or 15 years ago, much after medical school. And I get the best results, the best connections, much deeper than I do from just … And now I use both. In fact, the book I’m writing is about how do we take science and faith, which is another way to say the spirit or the intuition or the right brain and the left brain, and actually not say that these are dichotomous, but actually the best is if we can use both together to solve complex problems.

Michael Roesslein:

Brilliant. And it makes sense that your chemo turned into Crohn’s. If people understand chemotherapy and what goes on with it, and I’m not trying to, again, I always know this out there too, I’m not just blanket knocking conventional treatments. You’re here and you’re the only one that’s here from your group, which you mentioned. And I’m sure that is really humbling as well and emotional to even consider because that’s … Wow. And so I’m not knocking all conventional treatments, so it’s not that chemotherapy’s evil. I have friends and close family that are alive due to large part conventional cancer treatment. But it is destructive to tissues in the body, especially in the gut, so that goes into Crohn’s. Doctor says diet has nothing to do with this. This is probably the 20th interview I’ve done with a health practitioner of some kind whose turning point was when their doctor looked them in the face and said diet has nothing to do with this, largely with digestive related conditions.

And that was enough to like break the … Because we get in this societal [inaudible 00:22:57]. People get in this like trance where everything that the doctor says is true. Everything that the lab coat says is … I think they even call it white coat syndrome, like you only believe that. And I think that that statement has been powerful enough for a lot of people to kind of be like, “Wait, that can’t actually be true. I’m going to look this up.” And SCD diet, you mentioned, Steven Jordan from SCD Lifestyle are friends of mine. I interview Steve pretty often. Now he’s got a new company, and I found SCD through them. I used to use it with clients when I was doing health work. And boom, two weeks later, I’m sure you had lingering stuff over time, but two weeks later the really severe symptoms were just gone.

So this taught you that there’s another way. So since then, you’ve kind of gone down that road of functional integrative, and then gradually learning to open back up to the intuitive side. But this wasn’t the end of your personal health challenges. It’s not, “Oh, we got over Crohns, so all is free and good.” You’ve had a pretty big run in with mold and mold illness and toxicity, which so has so many people the last 10 years, it seems. It came out of like left field. It was this right fringe thing when I started learning all this stuff about 10, 15 years ago. And then boom, it was the thing everywhere. So do you want to share a little bit about your mold experience and how that kind of maybe is added another layer or turn onto your practice and your professional life?

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Sure. And like you said, so I came out two weeks, and all that gave me was like, “Oh, there’s something massive going on here.” And then I spent the next several years healing the gut, learning about the microbiome, kind of becoming a gut expert because I really had to learn it inside and out. And then went on to practice, I started thriving and moved to Colorado in 2010, started a new consultative practice here, and was running marathons and doing life and hiking and skiing. And like I felt like I really had my health back and cancer and Crohn’s were behind me and I was smooth sailing. Well, unbeknownst to me, my office that I had worked in had some mold issues. And then there was a massive flood in 2013 in Boulder that caused literally billions of dollars of damage and destruction and affected my office and many, many other buildings in Boulder.

And about a year after that, which is pretty typical, six to 12 months after severe water damage, I started having rashes and shortness of breath and fatigue and brain fog and symptoms. And at that point, it’s funny, because I kind of knew mold might be an issue. But like you said, back then, it wasn’t so prevalent. Even in the functional world, it wasn’t talked about. And I’ll tell you what, I have such a compassion for patients who are in denial because I was in denial for a bit because I knew if I did find it, I had to move out of my house or maybe spend thousands of dollars to remediate whatever it was. I knew it was going to be a big change. But finally, I got sick enough that I went down with an inspector to the basement of the office and found bulk [inaudible 00:25:48] everywhere.

And it’s funny, my office was built over a crawl space that was never sealed. So there was standing water right under my office. And then my office, my contractor, I don’t know what he was thinking with this old, like 1970s carpet, he just threw on a beautiful new bamboo floor over that old carpet, which is probably loaded with mold. So every step on that soft bamboo that I took, it looks like a beautiful hardwood floor, but it was not the truth, and I think was puffing up the mold spores and toxins. And so I was getting sicker and sicker in that office. And literally, when I got the results that the mold was in the basement and then also results from my urine that matched the same mold was in my body, I never set foot again in my office. I literally left everything and started over.

That was a hard thing. But it’s one thing that I think is a great message to your listeners is, there’s no amount of money or success or house or any of these things that we have materially that offsets the value of our health. Because if we have everything in the world and don’t have our health, what do we have? So I realize that very quickly and I let everything go and started over. And I always say before that, I was like, “I don’t want to do mold and Lyme and these complex things,” but I became the mold expert through that experience.

Michael Roesslein:

Yes. That, that I’ve thank you for sharing. I’ve had to become more of a mold expert than I wanted to also, because my wife’s flares were triggered by mold that we found in two of the instances. And working with mold specialists to help her, I kind of by defacto learned way more than I ever wanted to know, because when mold toxicity first fell on the scene, I didn’t want to go there. I would refer out those people because I knew it was super complex and difficult. And I didn’t know everything about it so I had a couple doctors that I would send people to. Same with Lyme and same with autoimmunity at first. And then my wife got sick with autoimmune. And then we got down that rabbit hole. And it’s interesting how life kind of decides for us at times the things that we’re going to get into and be interested in. If you’re willing, if you’re listening and willing.

Yeah, and if you don’t, it just turns up the volume on the nudges I’ve noticed. So you left your office, started over completely, and now you work with a lot of patients that have mold toxicity, Lyme disease, complex chronic illness. And I’m wondering if you can speak to what your experience as a patient going through breast cancer, going through Crohn’s disease, going through mold toxicity, how that’s helped you as a doctor be able to provide compassionate care in a way that a lot of people probably once they get to your office, they haven’t received it.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Yeah. Well, it’s funny because I realize the little things matter. I had a doctor during my cancer therapy that did a special type of radiation. And he was part of this study, it was very unique because I had left sided breast cancer so any external beam radiation from any radiation treatment could hit the heart and probably would. So it could cause some collateral damage in the heart. I didn’t want that. Plus it goes externally through your skin so it causes burns on the skin. So I wanted to do what I needed to do, but I didn’t want those side effects. And so I found this experimental therapy, it’s now more mainstream, but 20 years ago it was not, called brachytherapy where they inserted the radiation inside in the site and went from inside out just on that spot. It’s brilliant.

Found this doctor, he’s doing a study, they’re all like 56 year old low risk women. And here I am like the highest risk in the world saying, “Will you take me on, Dr. Kuski?” And what happened in that visit. First of all, I spent two hours, I had never had a doctor spend two hours with me. Second of all, he was completely present with me, just like we talked about this healing space. That was my first experience of like, “Oh my goodness, this is what I want to emulate.” This man took two hours of his … And he wasn’t a functional integrative doc with those big blocks of time. This was a conventional radiologist oncology. Two hours. And then at the end we’re like, “Will you please take us into your study?” It made no sense to him because I could totally screw up the results if I died or something happened. But he’s like, in a heartbeat, he said yes. He came in on the weekend to personally help while we went up there to get the treatment.

So I saw these things emulated from this man that I was like, that’s the kind of doctor I want to be, that takes the toughest cases, that takes the riskiest things and doesn’t blink an eye because he’s wanting the good of that person in front of him and also the presence. So those were incredible teachers. And the other thing is environment. So I was in all kinds of hospitals and white … Like you said, hospitals, the food, the lights, the chemicals, everything about it, the stress, the noise, the alarms, even the beepers, they were all set to trigger this fight or flight. And I thought when I have my clinic, which I do now, I’m going to create a space because space actually is part of the healing. So we have original artwork from a local artist. We have beautiful lighting. It’s all more subtle.

You can probably tell here, it’s not direct fluorescent. We literally, this is the most simple thing, I bought wine glasses, same cost as regular glasses, and I give them water in a wine glass because there’s something about that that makes people feel like they’re special. It’s just this little tiny gesture. Didn’t cost me any extra, but it gives them the idea that they are valued and they’re loved. And so it starts from the moment they walk in the door because a lot of them, like you said, have been traumatized. And I learned that from walking through the halls, being rolled into surgery, and seeing the things that terrified me and did not help my nervous system and saying, “I want to do this differently.” And I really believe it does make a difference

Michael Roesslein:

For sure. And thanks for sharing. And hopefully other practitioners hear some of the ideas there to create that space because it really is … With her first major flare, my wife, we went to Austin and worked with Dr. Alex Carrasco. I think you probably know her. And her space and her demeanor and her everything was very similar to that. And what Mira had encountered with her rheumatologists was …

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Not.

Michael Roesslein:

The extreme opposite of that in every single possible way. And her symptoms started to subside before we started implementing any of the things that we did with Dr. Alex. And then her latest flare was we’re working with Dr. Eric Gordon in the bay area. And after the first phone call with him, which was two hours long, her symptoms started to relieve before we started doing any of the things that Dr. Gordon had us do. And I see this a lot. And I’ve heard a lot of people talk about this. And it’s purely just knowing like, “Oh, this person understands. They care. They see me, they can help. I’m in a position that is not so alone.” And I think it really is the beginning of the healing. Sure, the protocols are fine and the diets and the nutrition stuff. It’s all part of it, but-

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

All part of it.

Michael Roesslein:

But that first step, I’m sure people walk out of there feeling better than they did when they walked in. And you don’t do anything.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Yeah.

Michael Roesslein:

Physically.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

You’re right. There’s been so many patients that sit front of me weeping. Kleenex is right over here. Now, I don’t want to make them cry but what happens is they get touched to a place where like this is the first time … It’s almost like that release. And you know what? You talked about Gabor Maté, I think at the core it’s safety, it’s creating safety. Because our nervous system, when we’ve had trauma or we’ve had illness, and I always say there’s even medical gas lighting, which is basically where the medical system makes you think that you’re crazy, which is not true. So when you’re first time you’re heard and seen, and you’re sitting in someone who’s actually present, it usually causes tears. It would for me because they’re like, “Oh my goodness, this actually exists that someone really does care.” And your body, even if there’s no words for it, your body starts to feel safe. And I have found that no healing can take place until the patient starts to feel safe in their own body.

Michael Roesslein:

For sure. Yeah, it’s like an exhale. It feels like the whole body is tight and tense and worried. And there’s physiological things that happen when we’re in that state. And there’s obvious reasons why this contributes to disease. And that would be a completely different discussion on the podcast, but that can unhook a little bit and relax. And then there’s a physiological reaction there. And the biochemistry there is a much different biochemistry than the fear, all of that. So I get so happy when I hear doctors, especially ones with a prominent position in the functional medicine world, which you now have, speaking to these things really clearly. And functional medicine world’s way ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding this. But there are still quite a few doctors and practitioners who haven’t quite gotten to this part yet of the healing.

And I think it’s so essential. I personally changed my entire focus towards mental, emotional, spiritual, energetic, trauma the last like three or four years. I went through another two year training, similar to Gabor’s and that’s my focus now. So I’ve been trained kind of on both, I don’t even want to say sides because the more you learn on the two sides, you learn there is no side. It’s not like, well, one starts here and one start … No, it’s more like this. Absolutely.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Absolutely, yeah.

Michael Roesslein:

And so it’s really exciting to see. I didn’t know that about you. I knew about your history. And I knew about the mold and I knew about the complex illness. And I knew about that. Because we haven’t talked before this, I didn’t know about that side. And I’m excited about the new book. What’s it called?

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Unexpected: Finding Resilience Through Functional Medicine, Science and Faith.

Michael Roesslein:

Okay. And when’s that due to hit the world?

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

February 14th, 2023 it will be out.

Michael Roesslein:

Amazing. And you’ve got a few websites and a number of social media. If somebody wants to follow up and check out your … Where’s the best place for them to go. Is it Dr. Jill? What’s the best website?

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Just my name, jillcarnahan.com is my main website. All my podcasts, videos, links to store, links to services are all there. So that’s the best site. And then Instagram’s a great place, just Dr. Jill Carnahan as well because I post the latest and a little bit of fun stuff from my personal life too.

Michael Roesslein:

Okay, great. Yeah, we’ll have all the links right below in the show notes too to make it easy. But for people who are just listening, you can head over there, check it out. Thank you so much. I really had a blast. It was fun to finally connect. The direction this conversation went in is one of my favorites, so personally I’m satisfied and excited.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Me too, Michael. Thank you so much for having me. Because the same thing, I didn’t know all the details about you and I love the work you’re doing, love that we got to talk about Gabor because he’s one of my favorites. So absolutely aligned and really, really enjoyed it.

Michael Roesslein:

Right. Maybe someday I could get you two in the same room.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Yeah.

Michael Roesslein:

So that’d be a fun conversation to be a fly on the wall for. So thank you Dr. Jill, thank you for all the work that you’re doing. Sorry you had to go through so much to figure out that that’s what you needed to do. But when we hear it, when we’re in it like, oh this is happening so that you can do, nobody wants to hear that when you’re in it. It always is retrospective. It’s like, “Oh, that happens so I could be doing this.” So if you’re in it, I’m not trying to, I don’t want to use the word Gaslight, but we’re not telling you, “Oh, this is in your best interest. It’s going to do all these great things.” It is, but I understand that when you’re in it, it’s also very difficult. So keep some hope that you’re going to come out the other side and it’s going to be steering you in a direction that is a course correction, almost.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Absolutely.

Michael Roesslein:

Thank you so much. We’ll talk again soon. Excited to check out the new book. Everybody go to the website, go to the Instagram, look for the book.

Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD:

Thanks so much, Michael.