Holistic Medicine Meets Primal Principles

real_life_stories_stories-1-2Hey, folks! It’s Friday once again, and that usually means it’s time for one of your amazing success stories. But something remarkable has been going on here at Mark’s Daily Apple that gave me an idea. Over the last year, there’s been a core group of people that our worker bees at MDA have gotten to know exceptionally well—a group of people that have gone above and beyond in their involvement in all things primal. I’m talking about the students in our Primal Blueprint Expert Certification program. Many of them have taken the knowledge from the program and inserted it directly into their personal and professional lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined. So I thought it’d be a great tradition to occasionally highlight some of their accomplishments—to share some of the ways they’re helping bring primal principles mainstream through their acts of passion.

So today, to kick off this segment, I thought we’d start with one of our Cert graduates, Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons, a holistic medicine practitioner who uses Chinese medicine and primal lifestyle principles to help patients thrive in a whole-body, East meets West modality. She’s a wealth of knowledge, so I thought we’d pick her brain a bit.

Hot Yoga Downtown at the Gardens yoga1 Dana Leigh LyonsTo start, tell us a little about yourself and how you came across the primal lifestyle.

I began following a primal lifestyle in my early 30s, while studying medicine. Before that, I spent 10 years as a vegetarian with a chronic-cardio habit—continuing on that path even when it was hurting my health. Adopting a primal lifestyle was pivotal to my own healing and in shaping my practice as a doctor.

These days, I run a holistic clinic with my husband. Our Alchemist Eating program helps people who experience food and eating as a place of struggle or pain. I work with clients both at our clinic and through long-distance sessions.

How did you come to study holistic nutrition?

I studied holistic nutrition as part of my medical training. In Chinese Medicine, we have an area of study called “Nourishing Life Principles.” This encompasses more than just food, but nutrition is a central component.

Within our medicine, individualized eating guidance—together with herbal medicine and acupuncture—helps patients to heal and stay healthy. Diet and lifestyle aren’t just “add-ons.” They’re an essential part of our modality—and an essential part of keeping people well!

What are some of the major tenets of your holistic nutrition practice?

I start with 5 core principles—everything else emerges from here:

  1. The body and mind make up an interconnected system. When there is balance in that system, wellness results.
  2. Finding balance is a process. Our eating patterns are a core component of this process and manifesting a healthier version of ourselves.
  3. There is no one best diet for all people. The optimal eating pattern is individual, responsive and relational.
  4. The primal eating guidelines offers a powerful starting point for finding one’s optimal eating pattern. Placing primal principles within the context of Chinese Medicine food therapy provides a guide for crafting an individual eating plan and continuously adjusting that plan to align with shifting needs.
  5. Eating is more than just eating, and food is more than just food. They are wrapped up in our history, our identity, our social context and our beliefs. Changing eating patterns requires self-experimentation and mindful, focused exploration. It is a learning process that extends beyond what’s on our plate.

Given your previous education in holistic nutrition, what motivated you to take the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification course?

Together, primal principles and Chinese Medicine are a powerful combination. Each brings different perspectives and tools to the practice of “eating and lifestyle therapy.” But they share core places of alignment—this is part of why combining them makes sense and works.

The course was a wonderful bridge between my personal success with primal eating and my professional practice of medicine. It offered a wealth of information collected by a trusted source in an expertly presented way. The material is extremely accessible—explaining complex topics using clear, simple wording that I can use with patients. Also, it was fun!

What are some examples of overlap between holistic nutrition and primal principles?

Both are holistic in considering the whole body-mind system, rather than compartmentalizing symptoms or parts. They also see real-food eating patterns as a powerful way of supporting health and preventing disease.

And yet, both also recognize that eating is just part of the picture. Primal and holistic lifestyle principles encompass far more than a set of “food rules.” Eating well is a big deal—but so is adopting other habits and patterns that help us thrive.

Do you think there’s a strong demand for services like yours?

Absolutely! So many people experience food and eating as a place of struggle. And so many are suffering from health conditions that could be alleviated or eliminated by eating differently.

Oftentimes, people long to change their relationship with food (and movement) but don’t know how—or they know how but going it alone is just really tough. They are overwhelmed and looking for trained guidance and support.

What opportunities has the Cert given you as a health advocate that you didn’t previously have?

It has created closer connections with the primal community and real-food movement. It also expands my access to and credibility with people who embrace primal principles but who may not have considered holistic medicine as an option.

What’s something invaluable you do in your practice that you think more people should know about?

Alchemist Eating combines individualized, primal eating guidance with prescription of herbal medicines and Western supplements. This combination makes for outstanding outcomes.

Equally important, we work with clients as partners—helping them get where they want to be with health, weight and wellness. Going it alone when you’re struggling with food and eating can be really hard. As part of a healing partnership, we’re in this together and move from a place of mindfulness, compassion, abundance and fun.

profile picture Dana Leigh LyonsWhat’s the most rewarding part of what you do?

By far the best part is watching people get where they want to be…in a way that is less about “diet” and more about integration and lifestyle. They start to feel and look better…and this becomes something enjoyable and sustainable—and something they then share with family and friends.

What advice would you give others who don’t yet have formal educational training, but want to become health advocates? 

Living with authenticity and integrity is number one—be really honest about where you are, and model the sort of lifestyle you wish to share with others. Second, embrace lifelong learning—both through self-experimentation and by seeking outside knowledge. The Cert course is an excellent place to start!

Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons

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67 thoughts on “Holistic Medicine Meets Primal Principles”

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  1. Perhaps not a reaction you expect, but although the story of Dana is amazing, I am always looking forward to Friday success stories …..

    1. +1 on success stories.

      Found myself glossing over the post.

      Dana’s “success story” style comments in this comment section was more what Fridays are about.

      This would be good on another day. I think part of it is that we come here primed for our weekly Friday success story treat.

  2. I’m very appraciative of what we get already for free so it feels curmudgeonly to say this, but I agree.

  3. I agree. I look forward to the success stories every Friday. I enjoyed this post but perhaps you could do feature stories on other days?

  4. Like the others, I found this interesting, but would rather see a success story on Friday. Put something like this on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

    1. Me too! Absolutely part of my routine. (Cool photo of the upside-down pose, though!)

      1. +1. Sorry. LOVE my Fridays: Hard workout, big yummy Primal breakfast + Success Story. And ditto, would love to have these posts on other days.

  5. Very cool. I’ve tossed around the idea of seeing a holistic practitioner for some of the health issues I can’t seem to shake. I was a little hesitant because I thought I’d have a vegan/vegetarian diet be pushed on me as part of the equation. But if there are primal-aligned docs out there, I’m up for it. 🙂

    1. Right?? It’s so refreshing to hear that there’s a possibility I won’t get tofu shoved down my throat!

    2. I’ve been visiting a TCM practitioner for a number of years, it’s not about vegetarianism! In fact the Taoist texts warn about too much grain… it is all about what’s right for you as an individual – for some vegetarian is, but not for most and this style of holistic medicine understands that.

      Acupuncture (Eastern style) is just awesome. All about balancing your energy systems so the body can heal itself.

    3. Definitely encourage you to seek out a primal-aligned holistic practitioner, Daniel. Thankfully, there are more and more out there!

      Modalities such as Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine and osteopathic medicine are often very helpful at resolving or at least alleviating long-term health issues–even in cases where conventional medicine hasn’t brought much or any relief. Best wishes!

      1. Sorry–meant David:)

        And right on, Kelda–Chinese medicine definitely emphasizes that there is no one best diet. What’s optimal is very individual.

    4. I finally found a Naturopathic doc who is on board with the Paleo diet, and not judgemental about diets in general. We are currently working on some issues I have, such as adrenal issues/menopausal hormonal fluxes that I just have not been able to get a handle on and needed someone to suggest alternatives for, and “coach” me.

      The first Naturopath I tried was too-closely following the Allopathic “playbook” as I like to call it. Call around your area and you may be surprised!

  6. Acupuncture was AMAZING for some of my inflammation issues when good ol’ diet and exercise weren’t quite doing the trick (even after going primal for quite some time). When you’ve abused it for a while, sometimes your body needs all the extra help it can get.

    1. So great you had such a wonderfully healing experience with acupuncture, Alex!

      It was what first drew me to study Chinese medicine: In my late 20s, acupuncture did wonders for resolving physical injuries caused by chronic over-exercise while also improving my quality of sleep and peace of mind. I was like: I want to be able to fix myself with these amazing acupuncture needles!

  7. What an interesting approach! I always appreciate seeing other people’s perspectives on how they synthesize diet/lifestyle and mental health. Fascinating point about food being a “place of struggle.”

    1. Thank you, MxDx and Cheri. Really wonderful feedback to hear what resonates for folks. And in my experience, many, many do indeed experience food and eating as a place of struggle. So wonderful–and such a beautiful form of freedom–when that starts to shift.

  8. Though this is a departure from the normal Friday routine, I appreciate hearing what Dr. Lyons is doing with her practice. Perhaps this is just a different kind of success story? 🙂

    1. My thoughts too! I’ve been considering taking the cert, so it’s interesting to hear how primal has helped Dr. Lyons with her career, in addition to her health. While, I’m far cry from being a doctor, I’d love to start helping people live a healthier life!

    2. super cool pose. I bet it feels really good.

      I like the Friday success stories too, and SHE IS A SUCCESS STORY.

      When I am doing that pose I will be a success story.

    3. I also consider this a success story. So positive, and opens a window on the world. I have a holistic physician in addition to my primary “by the book” doctor. Guess which one gives me thoughtful advice and which one just wants to prescribe a pill for everything?

      I really don’t care what day of the week you use. I read them all. 🙂

  9. bit of a different success story, but i enjoyed this!

  10. I was looking forward to the Friday success story also but was just as pleased to get this. It is nice to see the crossover of Primal to other areas (“holistic nutrition”) and within people’s careers.

    1. Thank you, Eva Marie, Dino, Lizzie, Angel, Granny Gibson and Paleo will ferrell!

      I’m sorry others are disappointed at missing out on the usual Friday fare this week–I really enjoy those stories too!

      But, even if it wasn’t clear from this post, I very much consider myself a “primal success story”:) I started reading MDA years ago–about the time I started medical training and even before adopting a primal lifestyle. Indeed, MDA and Mark played an important part in convincing me to give this “primal thing” a go.

      The result? A tremendous turnaround in my body-mind health. Things I had suffered from for 10 years (and which were getting worse) resolved.

      Chronic injuries started healing–and stopped recurring; low energy and poor sleep resolved; my adult acne and constant nasal congestion cleared; my muscle tone improved and my weight held steady without having to run an hour a day (now I don’t run at all–just practice yoga); my period returned after 10 years without one. I FELT clear, energized, strong…happier!

      That’s really just the quick list. But, in short, my own success in adopting a primal lifestyle is precisely what inspires me to integrate it with my practice of holistic medicine.

  11. “…we’re in this together and move from a place of mindfulness, compassion, abundance and fun.”

    Preach it, sister.

  12. Ha ha, Friday’s are my least favorite day at MDA. (Sunday is my fave) So today I suggest that everyone who drops in to read a “success story” and is disappointed, make yourself the star of today’s story.

    1. awesome 🙂 i will be my own success story of the day. WAY to be positive.

    2. Fridays are my least favorite, too. I usually don’t read the success stories, honestly. I guess a lot of people, most of whom haven’t actually written a success story, take offense to that statement. I support everyone who finds success in the adoption of a primal lifestyle, but I’ve never paid much into success stories in any place or time of my life.
      I wasn’t crazy about this segment either, but I liked the freshness of the concept.
      Mark: I’m in favor off you switching between formats every now and again.

      1. I usually just skim over the success stories. While I’m thrilled for the people who have regained their health and lost a ton of weight in the process, it gets to be too much same-old, same-old every Friday. I, too, am in favor of seeing new ideas appear.

  13. Combining a primal lifestyle with holistic medicine can be very powerful! I was suffering from severe endometriosis—so bad that during my cycle, the inflammation would pinch my sciatic nerve and cause unbearable pain that radiated from my lower abdomen down into my legs. That’s on top of “normal” horrific cramping. (“Normal” meaning what I had considered normal for so many years.) I couldn’t walk, stand, or function a day or two out of the month.

    Through diet, daily movement, weekly acupuncture (only a $40 copay with insurance, FYI!), and prescribed herbs—all of that pain slowly went away. I couldn’t believe “that time of the month” could stroll by without me batting an eye!

    Over time, I developed an ovarian cyst (mucinous cystadenoma) that required western intervention via laparoscopy. I had this procedure once before in 2012 and recovery was brutal. However, recovery from this surgery was a breeze! I absolutely thank my lifestyle and acupuncturist for making this such a gentle recovery. I’m exactly three weeks post-op today and feel like a new woman.

    I really love what Dr. Dana and others like her are doing and that the primal community is getting to see first hand how these two varieties of wellness go hand in hand.

    Congrats to Dr. Dana for HER version of a success story! Keep spreading the good word!

    1. I feel like I’m just like you! I can’t walk at the moment because it’s the first day of my period and I had 2 ovarian cysts in the past few years.

      I feel like when I explain to anybody how bad my periods are nobody thinks it’s THIS bad. I know it’s not normal, it has just became my normal. I just wish I knew why it magically disappeared after I went primal or why it came back even though I’m still primal.

      1. My periods were so bad that when I was in labor, it wasn’t half bad. At least during labor, there is an interval between pains. With cramps, it was constant.

        1. That’s something I wonder each time I’m agonizing in my bed, is it really more painful than that to give birth??

      2. Coco, Leslie, and any other women reading this who suffer from cycle problems – Google Stefanie Ruper. I have a history of long-term amenorrhoea, PCOS, endometriosis and general period-based misery, and while going Primal two years ago alleviated many other health problems it didn’t bring back a normal cycle for me. I did some digging on the internet, and Stefanie’s approach has been incredibly helpful to me. I’ve just started my fourth 28-day, virtually pain-free cycle in a row – feeling very happy and relieved!

        1. (Oops, it’s actually Stefani without an ‘e’ on the end, sorry!)

    2. Thank you, Leslie! And thank you for sharing YOUR success story! You offer a beautiful example of how powerfully healing the combination of holistic medicine and primal lifestyle can be. Wonderful to see!

    3. Community acupuncture can be in the 20-40 range for an hour’s treatment. Worth looking for in your local area.

  14. I too look forward to the success stories however, as someone currently pursuing a career in Naturopathic medicine this was awesome to read as well. I think this certification would just be another great addition to my arsenal. Congrats on your success Dr. Dana!

    1. Thank you, Ashly! And definitely agree that the cert would be a wonderful complement to your career path and medical practice. So awesome to hear of other practitioners and practitioners to-be moving in this direction!

  15. Thanks for your feedback, everyone. Don’t worry. The regular Friday success story format won’t be changing.

    Thank you again, Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons, for sharing your wonderful story.

    Grok on!

    1. Much gratitude to you, Mark. You truly played a pivotal role in my success story…and in inspiring me to help others create health & eating success stories of their own. Thank you!

  16. Interesting, I recently started supplementing my allopathic health care with care from a naturopathic doctor (all out of pocket … American insurance companies). She is great BUT is a proponent of a vegetarian lifestyle, but not a hard sell on the subject.

    There is no doubt allopathic doctors have a very in-depth, difficult and challenging course of study, resident program, certification etc. but wish they were more open to augmenting their approach with a holistic approach. I read that traditional physicians and naturopathic doctor work hand-in-hand in France, that should be the model word-wide.

    People are actually complaining about a different approach to a MDA Friday for one week? Flexibility folks, flexibility lol.

  17. Long time reader, first time poster. Just chiming in to echo some others. I wake up on Fridays excited to read the success stories. This was fine, but meh.

  18. Nice change from the success stories! Could you interview someone whotook the course and went to more of a fitness direction? Thanks-change is good!!

  19. Dana, I loved hearing about your practice. You are an inspiration. And the photo of you and your cat is adorable!

    To everybody who felt they needed to complain about the change from the usual Friday programming, fine, make your point, but at least acknowledge the amazing woman who so generously shared her story today. You may have missed the success story, but I missed the usual stream of positive commentary that follows.

    1. Or, people can comment however they please. You complained about those who complain. Your prerogative.

      1. Yes, very clever, I did complain about complainers. So let me clarify: Send a private email to Mark if you don’t like his editorial choices. Don’t use the comments section on someone’s else’s post to say “you (Mark) should have published something else.”

    2. Thank you, Beensi. Much gratitude for your kind words. And, as I wrote about in greater length above, I DO consider this a primal success story…one that inspired me to help others create health & eating success stories of their own. Blessings:)

  20. Friday Success Stories!
    Tuesdays?….Wednesdays?….Cert Graduates!

  21. I like Dana and her site, glad to see her here as a success story.

    Just wish someone like her was here by me in Oregon!!!!

    1. Hey 2Rae! I’m a client of Dana’s and I live in Colorado she does long-distance work too, and I’ve found it really instrumental to BIG changes in my life and I work to integrate Primal Living and Eating. I just hired her long-term because it’s so helpful!
      Just thought I’d mention that it’s working really well for me!

  22. “The body and mind make up an interconnected system. When there is balance in that system, wellness results.”

    Absolutely. And if you want to get scientific, I think placebo effect is some solid proof of this, too 🙂

  23. I am awed by that incredible photo of the “chest stand” or what ever you would call that. I can’t even begin to imagine how one would get to that position…?

    1. I believe it’s the full locust Yoga posture (Shalabhasana). Very difficult and very impressive!

      1. Ha, ha….well, I practice quite a bit (twice a day every day…and have done so for probably 14 years). But the most powerful yoga for me remains breathing and stillness and those are way more accessible:)

  24. We have come to accept Friday success story as a weight loss/strength transformation. I think the intended message Dr. Dana intended to convey is her success story is the process of incorpoting a holistic component to paleo fundamentals to yield success in others. Success none-the-less. Success is the process of applying primal principles and achieving enough positive feedback to say, “This works, it’s the right thing for me and I plan to keep living this way”

    1. Cheers, Jack Lea Mason. And yes, success takes myriad forms. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading the Friday stories–all different, all inspiring!