INTERVIEW with MICHELLE ROGERS
Thyroid issues. Chronic insomnia. Food sensitivities. Skin flare ups. Hair loss and thinning. With a growing number of us dissatisfied with the solutions being offered by western medicine for these and other chronic conditions, it seems we are en masse turning to more traditional modalities of healing that focus on the body as a system and not just a collection of 'parts'. In our search for optimal wellness outside of the current paradigm we discovered Michelle Rogers ND, MSAOM, FDN-P, the owner and founder of The WELLthy Woman. Michelle is holistic online practitioner and coach and her website a space providing health support for entrepreneurs, health practitioners, and those looking for solutions beyond simple pharmaceuticals. We recently sat down with Michelle to learn more about her holistic journey, living off the grid in Portland, the current epidemic of hair loss (and how we can deal with it) and what she thinks about the current pandemic.
Can you tell us a little about your background and what led you to pursue a career in functional medicine?
My journey actually began with animals. I’ve been an avid animal lover (but far from vegan), my entire life. I used to volunteer at the local vet, bottle-feed abandoned kittens, and they ended up hiring me. I quickly became bored and disheartened with the typical conventional approach of antibiotics, vaccines, steroids and surgery, so I found an alternative veterinarian. She brought me under her wing as a research assistant, where I helped assist her approach animal health from a holistic lens. She provided acupuncture, bodywork, Chinese herbs and physical therapy with these animals and I was mesmerized.
During this time, I had a traumatic fall, where I briefly lost consciousness and the pain that resulted was more intense than anything I had ever felt. I couldn’t sit, stand or lay down to relieve it. She gave me a single acupuncture treatment, along with some herbs to take for a couple weeks, and my pain completely disappeared. It was the confirmation I needed to pursue alternative therapies.
I fell in love with holistic health and wellness and knew I needed to integrate both naturopathic therapeutics with East Asian philosophies. I completed my doctorate of naturopathic medicine, masters of acupuncture and oriental medicine and earned a certificate in Chinese herbal medicine. I completed my program with an unforgettable six-week intensive externship in Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi’an, China.
Your focus is on health at the cellular level. Can you tell us why this is important?
A collection of cells makes up an organ or a gland (like our liver, thyroid, brain, ovaries, etc). Organs make up systems (like our nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, etc). Thinking of the body as a whole, our cellular health determines our organ or gland health, our organ health determines our system health, and the health of our systems determines your state of your overall health (and WELLth!).
I firmly believe that approaching our health from a cellular standpoint can only result in systemic - whole body - improvements. This means that the health of EVERY system in our body improves. Although cells carry out unique functions, they all function essentially the same way. This makes cellular health the most streamlined, effective and efficient approach to your health and wellness.
What exactly is the WELLthy woman method?
The WELLthy Woman Method is a 6-month program where I help women gain unrivaled energy and mental focus using specialized functional lab analysis. With this specialized testing, we are able to create a completely customized protocol using personalized nutrition, lifestyle enhancements and targeted nutrient therapy.
I know firsthand what it’s like to drag yourself out of bed, rely on my afternoon pick-me-ups to get through the day and pray to the sleep gods that “tonight is the night I actually get some rest”. Upon digging deeper into my own health, I discovered I was battling Hashimoto’s and PCOS. I wasn't given any answers -- let alone the solution -- I needed.
I tried eating several “healthy” diets, exercising and taking handfuls of recommended supplements, but I quickly learned a hard lesson: you can do ALL the right things… but unless you GET TO THE ROOT, it’s not possible to make profound and sustainable strides towards optimal health.
In my efforts to master everything about health and wellness, I was able to reverse BOTH of my diagnoses -- all without taking medications or relying on a broken medical system.
Do you incorporate other healing modalities such as Chinese medicine or Ayurveda into your practice and if so in what way?
With my background in Naturopathic Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, I’m able to pull from a large bag of tools, resources and methodologies. In regards to integrating these modalities, I use personalized nutrition, targeted nutrient therapy and lifestyle enhancements based on my background, my clients’ needs and their lab results.
On the subject of skin and hair health, what are some of the more common complaints you receive? Do you think skin and hair health are related?
The most common concerns I hear about are around thinning hair. Women who end up seeing a lot of hair ending up on their brush, in their drain or even when they brush their fingers through their hair. Skin and hair health are definitely related -- EVERYTHING is related!
We have many customers that report they have thinning hair or hair that simply won’t grow. How would you begin to address this?
This is the biggest concern I hear about, and there are a few areas that you want to consider.
- Stress is a huge player. When we’re in a state of stress, our sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) response is hyperactive, our blood flow (and nutrients!) are being shunted away from the cutaneous tissues (hair, skin, etc.) to the vital organs and large muscle groups. When our cutaneous tissues are not getting adequate nutrients, the hair follicle cannot maintain its integrity and the hair falls out. I therefore recommend really taking time to prioritize stress reduction and management. Don’t just think about it, but create time/space in your schedule to unwind every single day. Get a 24-hour cortisol test to see how resilient you are to stress and create a game-plan to restore your adrenal function, if needed. Try red light therapy to help restore blood flow and cellular function.
- Gut health is another huge factor, because if there is inflammation and irritation along the gut lining, our microbiome is imbalanced and our ability to breakdown and absorb foundational nutrients is diminished. If our cells are not getting the appropriate vitamins, minerals and amino acids, then our hair follicles will not function correctly. I recommend a comprehensive gut analysis with a quality food sensitivity test to create a customized protocol for your body.
- Toxic overload is a sneaky player, because it can be hard to identify a single culprit. When we have excess toxic build up in our body, whether due to environmental exposure or sluggish detox pathways, we can have increased levels of inflammation causing various downstream side effects, including autoimmunity, hormone imbalances, dysbiosis and other factors affecting hair health. To address this reduce your overall toxic exposure by evaluating your cleaning products, personal care products, use of plastic, quality of food and water. Make modifications slowly to avoid overwhelm.
- Thyroid imbalances are frequently overlooked, because many women have subclinical presentations, which means that the standard labs look “normal”. The thing is that “normal” does not always mean healthy. Thyroid autoantibodies and elevated levels of Reverse T3 can be directly correlated hair loss. Do a comprehensive thyroid assessment, including autoantibodies and other markers to assess thyroid function.
- Androgen metabolism is another possibility that is frequently overlooked. Depending on your functional genomics, your body may favor certain hormonal pathways that would convert your androgens, like testosterone, down a more potent pathway leading to elevated levels of DHT. Elevations in DHT can result in hair loss for both men and women. For this I recommend running a comprehensive hormone panel that includes hormone metabolites.
They say you are what you eat. What are some of the top supplements or superfoods that you recommend for hair health and growth?
We always want to know the cause or the WHY behind the hair loss, before we start throwing darts and guessing how to approach it. This is why functional lab analysis is so important -- it ends up saving a lot of time, energy and money, not to mention months or even years of frustration trying to figure it out.
Some supplements, herbs and foods that are likely to help include:
- Nettles (high mineral content)
- Horsetail (silica)
- Bamboo (silica)
- Collagen (amino acids)
- Bone broth (amino acids, minerals)
- Minerals like zinc
So much of our health starts in the gut. What are your thoughts on keeping the microbiome healthy?
In naturopathic medicine, gut health is the ultimate foundation. If you think about it, our gut is the gatekeeper of what enters (and exits) our body. If there is dysfunction resulting from irritation and inflammation, then the whole body is affected.
Gut dysfunction can lead to issues breaking down, absorbing and assimilating key nutrients. It can cause immune over-activation through leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, which can lead to issues like autoimmunity. If our gut is not functioning well, it can hinder our ability to detoxify potentially toxic hormone metabolites. It can also directly affect our microbiome, which is responsible for nutrient management, immune health, neurotransmitters related to mood and hormone balance.
It’s wonderful that there is a heightened awareness of the microbiome these days, because it is such a huge player, when it comes to our health and long-term wellness. However, what many people do not realize, is that there is also a microbiome on our skin, including our scalp.
If we use topical hair therapies, shampoos, conditioners and other products, we’re not only subjecting our bodies to harmful chemicals, but we are also disrupting the delicate microbiome that our hair follicles depend on for optimal functioning. Using non-toxic and naturally derived products can help maintain this balance.
Where do you stand on the mask issue and on the pandemic in general? Should we be at war with this virus?
Wow, that’s a BIG question, and actually something I’ve been bullied for on multiple platforms, but you asked, and I’m an open book.
I’m for personal sovereignty first and foremost. I believe we should have choice over our own bodies in any and all circumstances. Without jumping into a debate about whether masks work or not (which I do not believe they do), the core issue is around making your own choices and not imposing, compelling, threatening, bullying, pressuring, shaming or guilting someone else to abide by your own belief systems.
I also do not think we need to be “at war” with this virus. Referring back to the microbiome piece, there is also a microVIOME that we are currently learning so much about. Bacteria and viruses are not our enemies -- we have had a symbiotic relationship since the beginning of our existence, and I believe it is absolutely absurd for us to think that we can “win a war” against a virus that is constantly mutating and adapting to its environment.
It’s also tragic that so many people are now viewing themselves, their families and their neighbors as walking biohazards. We NEED to exchange bacteria and viruses to survive as a species. This is how we maintain a healthy and diverse microbiome and microVIOME.
Going back to personal sovereignty, it’s imperative that we take responsibility for our own health and wellness. There are SO many things that we can do to improve and sustain our health and immunity. Of course, there are the foundational measures around quality sleep, nutrition, movement, stress management, low-toxicity living, sunlight, etc., but you can also get far more specific, when you incorporate functional lab analysis. Using these tests, you can take a deeper look into how your body is functioning at the cellular level, which allows you to create a much more personalized approach, so you can optimize your health in the appropriate way, without the guesswork.
If you were in Fauci’s position, what would be your recommended protocol for enhancing and optimizing the immune system?
If I were in Fauci’s position, I would FIRST ensure that I could make unbiased recommendations by dropping any financial interests I have in pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines, especially those that had contracts with the U.S. government and those that have been indemnified against lawsuits having to do with adverse reactions to vaccines.
It is also important that we revisit the term “quarantine”, which was originally used to isolate the ill and immunocompromised. The way it is being used today, to isolate the healthy and vital, is actually a euphemism for house arrest. If I were in his position, I would not be making decisions based on one variable alone. I would be taking into account the effects this “quarantine” has had on other chronic conditions, mental health, suicides and other deaths of despair.
I would also, as a default, act with humility and recommend that people be given factual information regarding risk assessment, followed by the freedom of choice to make the best decisions for their bodies and families.
I would also seek to minimize the media-generated panic by contextualizing the cases vs. death rate. This would then be openly compared to other viruses that we have lived with for centuries.
If I were in Fauci’s shoes, being in an older generation, I would also not be asking my grandchildren to make sacrifices for me, that will directly affect their development on a physical, mental and emotional level. As adults, parents and grandparents, I believe it is our responsibility to make sacrifices for the children who make up the future of our community.
Instead of masks, quarantines, social distancing and vaccines, I would be educating the public around real, practical steps they can take to directly improve their health and immune function. I would be demonstrating the importance of spending time with your community, getting natural sunlight, moving your body in nature, quality nutrition, and simple nutrients and herbs that can compliment their conscious choices.
There is so much that we can do when we take responsibility for our own health and wellness.
You have recently decided to move off the grid. What was your reasoning behind this and where did you find your cute farm animals?
I’ve actually been living in a rural town outside of Portland, OR now for about four years with my partner. We’re not entirely off the grid, but we’re heading in that direction! Living on ten acres allows us to live in more alignment with nature. It decreases our overall toxic exposure due to improved air quality and lower EMFs. In a way, it allows us even more health sovereignty, because we can have more control over what we are exposed to, whether that be air, food, water, energetic stressors or contact tracers.
We’ve also recently incorporated our first (of many!) four-legged critters. We ended up choosing a starter flock of Soay Sheep, which are a really rare and intriguing breed that has a lineage dating back to the Vikings. We plan to breed, sell and likely eat them as the years progress. Eventually, we’ll get pigs, chickens, geese, turkeys and maybe even one of those beautiful highland cows. Coming full circle, I’ve surrounded myself with animals, because they bring me joy and spending time with them is the quickest and simplest way to relieve stress for me. I could sit and watch them for hours.
It’s quiet and peaceful out here, and it’s a constant reminder that the real virus is our dependence on the media. When I sit on my deck or hike in our woods, I remember that everything is actually okay. The birds, squirrels and deer have no idea that we’re all panicking over an insignificant virus. The earth is continuing to thrive, and so can we, if we choose.-HT