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Heal Thyself

When it comes to your health, the best thing you can do is protect and defend against future problems. These six local health experts say smart thinking about nutrition, supplements, and mind-body connections can make prevention almost painless.


Integrative medicine is starting to transform the Western world. And here in Minnesota, it’s blooming like crazy.

Our state’s ahead of the curve when it comes to holistic care, according to Bill Manahan, MD, an assistant professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota Medical School and past president of the American Holistic Medicine Association. Manahan, whom peers call “a sage” and “the father of holistic medicine in Minnesota,” recently completed a tour of 20 integrative-medicine clinics across the state and says he was “blown away” by the innovation and success rates he encountered.

“In the last five to 10 years, there’s been a dramatic increase in patient knowledge and patient demand for a broader picture of healing,” says Manahan.

In other words, people are clamoring for the kind of integrative care that so impressed Manahan: Doctors who uncover the root cause of illness instead of just treating or masking symptoms. Physicians who take body, mind, and spirit into account and look carefully at the influence of lifestyle habits like diet, activity, and rest. People are looking for providers who count scientifically backed methods like acupuncture, herbs, dietary changes, and meditation among their tools—along with Western medicine’s diagnostic tests, prescription medications, and procedures.

People also want their doctors to spend time with them. Initial appointments with many integrative-medicine doctors run one to three hours, a relief to anyone sick of the hi-how-are-you-here’s-a-prescription-bye routine.

Minnesota’s lucky to have many excellent integrative doctors. (Find some at holisticphysicians.info.) We recently talked to six of the most respected names in the field and asked them to share their tips on everything from preventing headaches to improving digestion.

Of course, no health advice would be complete without a friendly reminder that you, dear reader, are a unique individual. It’s a good idea to check with your health-care provider before making changes to your health or medical routine.

Dr. Thomas Sult


Board-certified in family medicine and holistic medicine; training in functional medicine, herbs, and acupuncture

Digestion, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis

“The gut is the hub—70 percent of all immune-system tissue in your body lines the gut. When you get inflammation in the gut, you get abnormal immune-system interactions that can result in autoimmune diseases or neurological problems.”

➻ Eat whole foods. Unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and whole grains result in more probiotics, the “good” bacteria in your gut that detoxifies, improves immune function, and aids digestion.
➻ Eat fermented foods regularly. Make or find live fermented vegetables, cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and miso, which breed probiotics.
➻ Choose foods with soluble fiber, like shallots, bok choy, chicory, garlic, and onions. They encourage growth of good bacteria.
➻ Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg of fish oil daily. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA reduce inflammation.
➻ Take probiotic supplements and consider food sensitivities, especially to wheat, dairy, and soy, if you already have digestive problems.

Dr. Mark Hoch


Board-certified in family medicine and holistic medicine; trained in osteopathic and nutritional medicine, tai chi and chi gong, and Trager neuromuscular therapy

General preventive care, injuries, body-structure alignment problems, thyroid and adrenal issues, pain, mental health

“The idea of prevention is often fear-based, like ‘I don’t want to get this!’ instead of ‘I’m doing this so I can be healthy and lead a life that doesn’t require a lot of outside intervention.’ That’s key—engaging the self-healing, self-regulating, self-correcting mechanisms of the body.”

➻ Eat local, fresh, and in-season organic food. It’s nutritious, and you’ll reduce your intake of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Researchers have found pesticides in tumor tissues of people living in areas with high rates of breast cancer.
➻ Find a form of exercise you enjoy that’s rejuvenating for your entire body, like tai chi or yoga.
➻ Live your purpose and passion through meaningful work. A Department of Labor study in the 1970s showed the no. 1 risk factor for first heart attacks was job dissatisfaction.
➻ Follow a set of spiritual principles. Engage in regular prayer or meditation. It’ll keep you balanced, ensure you stick with your values, and treat yourself and others well.

Dr. Carolyn Torkelson


Board-certified in family medicine and holistic medicine; training in clinical research and botanical, nutritional, and Tibetan medicine

Integrative care, women’s health, breast care, wellness care, fibromyalgia, chronic disease

“Changing some of your habits can have benefits. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that 38 percent of cases of breast cancer in the United States could be prevented through diet, activity, and a healthy weight. Many factors contribute to breast cancer, and some of those factors you can change with lifestyle modification.”

➻ Maintain a healthy weight. There’s a connection between obesity and breast cancer. Estrogen production in fatty tissue may be to blame.
➻ Reduce omega-6 fatty acids, found in fast food, and polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and increase omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish. Consider daily supplements of 1 to 2 grams of fish oil.
➻ Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level. There may be a relationship between low levels and breast-cancer risk.
➻ Drink green tea. Its antioxidant properties may decrease risk.
➻ Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day.

Dr. Kara Parker


Board-certified in holistic medicine; training in naturopathy and integrative medicine

Preventative health care, adrenal and thyroid problems, chronic fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, nutritional consultation, and mind-body-spirit balance

“Humans used to get up and go to bed with the sun and spend their days outside eating whole, fresh foods. Periods of stress were short. Today, stressors are constant: busy lifestyles, bad diets, lack of sleep. Our adrenal and thyroid glands don’t get the nutrients or rest they need, so you end up tired or achy with mental slowness, depression, and loss of libido.”

➻ Balance activity with rest, relaxation, and downtime.
➻ Support your thyroid with iodine, in seaweed; selenium, in Brazil nuts; vitamin A, in yellow and orange vegetables; and zinc, in nuts. Adrenals need B vitamins (in animal meat) and zinc and vitamin C.
➻ Eat organic. Thyroid and adrenal glands are especially sensitive to chemicals and heavy metals in water or the environment.
➻ Check your thyroid by asking your doctor for a Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibody test. A TSH test is not sufficient. Check adrenals with a total testosterone, DHEA sulfate, morning cortisol, and four-time salivary cortisol test.
➻ Consider eliminating gluten, a protein in wheat that may contribute to autoimmune thyroid problems.

Dr. Henry Emmons


Training in Ayurvedic medicine, herbal therapies, mindfulness psychotherapy, and mind-body therapies. Author of The Chemistry of Joy and The Chemistry of Calm (October 2010).

Holistic psychiatry, depression, anxiety, mind-body therapies

“The usual ways of treating depression and anxiety don’t work well over long periods of time. We’re finding that an integrated approach—looking at nutrition, fitness, and the psychology of mindfulness—helps most people improve or recover more fully. It’s nothing magic—it’s just more effective than medication or even psychotherapy.”

➻ Exercise. Mild aerobic exercise quells anxiety. Vigorous aerobic exercise reduces sluggishness.
➻ Take a daily B vitamin complex, 2,000 mg of an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, and 2,000 to 4,000 IUs of vitamin D.
➻ Calm your mind with meditation, breathing, and yoga practice.
➻ Develop close, meaningful relationships.
➻ Eat healthy foods. Learn your Ayurvedic type to further tailor your diet.

Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff


Board-certified in internal medicine and pediatrics; training in medical acupuncture and herbal medicine

Pain, fatigue, insomnia, digestive conditions, neurological conditions, cancer, mysterious illness

“It’s not just about giving a prescription—it’s about working with all the issues that contribute to nourishment in the greatest sense, from diet and nutrition to exercise and spirituality. People are recognizing that, they’re saying, ‘I went to my doctor, but what else can I do?’ That’s a really important question: What else can I do?”

➻ Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels, especially if you have fibromyalgia or nonspecific aches and pains. Supplement as needed to maintain a minimum of 40 ng/ML. That often requires taking at least 1,000 IUs of vitamin D daily.
➻ To help prevent migraines, take 400 mg of magnesium and 400 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2) daily.
➻ Try acupuncture, a highly effective way to reduce pain and migraines.
➻ Look into possible food sensitivities, especially if you have headaches or general pain.
➻ Take 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids EPA/DHA daily.
➻ Engage in activities that encourage balance, strength, and flexibility.

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Old to new | New to old
Jun 8, 2010 11:27 am
 Posted by  littlefilly

I applaud your article on integrated health care since that is the best approach to medicine; but need to tell you the doctors you picked are not very good. I am a practicing integrative nutritionist who has referred clients to them and been to myself such as: Dr. Sult, Torkelson, Hoch and Parker. While they are good for basic problems, they are not good for complex health cases. I have a complex case that they have misdiagnosed, mismanaged and have wasted my time and money. Dr. Sult is moody and limits his follow-ups to 15 minutes (not 1-3 hours like the article states), Dr. Torkelson is a complete airhead and knows very little, Dr. Parker and Hoch have bungled so many of my clients and myself that I won't refer to them again.

If you want a good integrative practitioner, go to a naturopath or go to California, Arizona or east coast.

Jun 29, 2010 05:45 pm
 Posted by  northnode

I cannot speak for the other doctors in this article, but Dr. Kara Parker has been treating me for several years and I am now much better than I ever was. She did not give up and thoroughly tested many possibilities before finding the answer. She is great!

Jan 20, 2011 04:22 pm
 Posted by  mystic

I have been dealing with Dr. Sult for the past three years and consider him a wonderful doctor. Before I met him, I had been all over the state trying to get help with my immune issues. I was feeling extremely discouraged and depressed. He gave me hope,understanding, and a continuing treatment plan that I consider lifesaving. I seriously feel that if it weren't for him,I would likely have become wheelchair bound. I have not been to the other doctors that you mentioned in the article (I didn't need to),but I can sincerely say that I have total faith in Dr. Sult and his recommendations regarding my health. I have no hesitation in recommending him to important people in my life!

Jan 24, 2011 05:13 pm
 Posted by  Posted by peace

My first visit with Dr Salt was in September 2010.I have always been an active, healthy person. My symptoms had been getting worse in the last year. I had severe mid-back pain, moody, memory loss and lying on a heating pad continuously. I was taking 6 to 16 Ibuprofen a day and having a glass or 2 of wine a day. I have twin boys 5 years old and this schedule was not working for us. One visit to Dr Salt and he asked me to take a test, NutrEval- A comprehensive nutritional evaluation to see how my body was processing the nutrients. I took the test and found out my body can not process protein like it should. Dr Salt requested for three months I use the Comprehensive Elimination Diet(for me, no dairy, pasta, gluten free, no bread. Foods with the most protein - squash, spinach, salmon, oatmeal, eggs, beans and brown rice.) Multigenics IC no iron 2 with each meal, 2-Spectrazme with each meal, 1-Ultraflora with each meal, 1 scoop K-Pax breakfast and one scoop with dinner. I immediately started feeling better the next day. I since have taken no Ibuprofen, I have no more wine and no heating pad, I feel fabulous! I thank Dr Salt for getting my life back!

Jan 29, 2011 08:20 pm
 Posted by  Brenda

I had a very complicated case in which four different doctors including a neurologist could not figure out what was wrong. Dr. Sult, being an integrative physician, has a more comprehensive approach to health care. Unlike a regular family doctor who only prescribes medication Dr. Sult helps with supportive care to help the body heal itself. His office has some options not found at any other clinic.

If it were not for Dr. Sult I would now be in a wheel chair or worse. After years of suffering and pain I am now seeing results.

Jan 29, 2011 09:16 pm
 Posted by  Jony

When looking for a new physician I was looking for an integrative care physician. Because of the years of health challenges I was currently having the regular main stream medicine was not helping. Dr. Sult's approach looks at the whole body to find practical solutions. I am amazed at what his new clinic has to offer.

Dr. Sult has a very careful approach to health care. Thank you Dr. Sult for making a difference.

Jan 30, 2011 03:19 am
 Posted by  Ms. Johnson

Dr. Sult is wonderful. I was a very ill person who was unable to find any answers to my medical problems from any other health care provider before I found him. My condition has greatly improved under his care, and I am very optimistic about my future.

I would also add that he has a great personality and takes time to actually listen to his patients--an important but rare practice these days. I would highly recommend him to anyone in search of answers.

Nov 6, 2012 02:03 pm
 Posted by  Robert Najlis

Its great to see more holistic healthcare practitioners. There are indeed many excellent healthcare providers in Minnesota, and we all have the opportunity to share our health and wellness information. You can also see some more resources here: https://www.mediyak.com

Mar 12, 2013 01:59 pm
 Posted by  WingMan & Tonto

I have been a patient of Dr. Sult's for almost ten years. I DO have a COMPLEX case. Every other doctor I went to, GP/FP to Emergency-room Phys, could not figure out what was wrong with me. The last thing I received from a "regular" doctor was a sincere apology and RX for Xanax to deal with whatever was going on. Dr. Sult not only diagnosed and treated me immediately out of the crisis I was in, the regimen he put me on made me feel the BEST I had ever felt, ever. I didn't realize I could feel so well. My case is complex, so it did not stop there, and I continue to see him 1-2X per year to stay on top of things, or more for testing, as needed. Most patients do not see him for this long. Most find better health with him and move on.

Dr. Sult is a "go-beyond" kind of doc. He gave me tips and hydration regimen when I ran my first marathon. He regularly asks about my sister (& her family), a former patient of his. He plays with my daughter when she comes with me to appointments & he gives me parenting advice. He gives me RX for books and info to help ALL of me. We TALK. It matters to him to spend the time he needs with patients to listen and fully understand. (Thus accurately diagnose and treat.)

Back when he was a Practitioner at Integracare Clinic, my new-patient or new-issue appts were an hour or more, and follow-ups naturally less (15-30 min), as expected. He still took the time he needed with me (or I needed with him!), even when he "got in trouble" with his schedule because of it. (BTW, regarding 15 minute follow up appts, this is a typical CLINIC practice, enforced by the CLINIC, and governed by insurance companies.)

As mentioned, Dr. Sult is also NO LONGER at INTEGRACARE CLINIC, as he practices at his own clinic:

3rd Opinion
Functional Medicine Clinic
Willmar, MN 56201

(877) 824-2101
(320) 235-2101


I have not met the other practitioners, but we are blessed to have integrated practitioners like Tom Sult, MD.

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