People think that their doctor knows more about their bodies than themselves. That way of thinking is very wrong. You are in your body 24/7, so you need to be more curious about it. You are on a journey to where you want to be, and the doctor is your guide. Whatever works for someone might poison you since everyone’s genes are different. That is why everyone’s health should be personalized.
Join Whitney Lauritsen as she talks to Dr. Ibby Omole, a licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist, about understanding your body and what diet works for you. Learn more about personalized health, and discover why we need to embrace change in our diet. Finally, find out what it’s like to be a black woman in a “white profession.” Listen in to Dr. Ibby’s journey and what preconceived systems need to change.
This episode is sponsored by Athletic Greens and Zencastr.
- Get a FREE 1 year supply of immune-supporting Vitamin D AND 5 FREE travel packs of AG1 (episode sponsor) at athleticgreens.com/WELLEVATR.
- Visit zencastr.com/pricing and enter promo code “wellevatr” to get 30% off your first three months.
Listen to the podcast here
Body Curiosity And Health Systems That Benefit All Of Us With Dr. Ibby Omole
Something that often happens with guests on this show is a pre-conversation before we start recording. Dr. Ibby and I started to get into some deep, interesting things. I said, “Can we pause and have this conversation on the show because it is so good?” We are going to jump right into where we left off in our offline or private conversation, and that was centering around a few things. I would love to start with your background, Ibby, because you were telling me about your parents and what that was like to grow up. I would love to share that with the readers. Could you start back at the beginning with that?
I am a first-generation African-Canadian. My background is that my parents are from Nigeria. I was born in Canada but moved back to Nigeria when I was 2 and then moved back to Canada when I was 10. I moved to this very small town. My family was, probably, for a lot of people in the town, their first interaction with a non-TV Black family. Real flesh, “My goodness. They do exist,” interaction. That was an interesting childhood for me. It was difficult. It was mixed because I learned a lot. There are a lot of interests that I have as an adult. I was talking about this idea of how it would get put into different boxes. “This group of people is good at this and this.”
Certain people play piano. I’m a classically trained pianist. I played piano for The Royal Conservatory piano. A lot of people are shocked, which is like, “Why should you be shocked that I play piano?” I also ran track. I took off that stereotype about being a good runner. I ran track. I learned a lot. I know how to curl. I know how to bowl. I know how to ski. I love Shakespeare. I prefer playing classical music on the piano, weirdly enough. I’m not interested in popular songs like Beethoven, Vivaldi, and Chopin. That’s me.
Relating that back to health because I have always been health-conscious but in my early twenties, I got my Master’s in Environmental Health Studies with a focus on Health Promotion. How does our environment affect our health? Not just our physical environment but our spiritual and emotional environment. How do all these aspects contribute to how we experience our health?
I completely got into yoga. I became a vegetarian. My family was like, “What’s going on with you?” I was doing things very differently or non-typical Black things, which is interesting because there’s an assumption that Black, Brown, Asian, and White people do certain things. I’m interested in exploring all these stereotypes and the way they shape how we approach other people or even how they have an effect on how we experience our health. It has been interesting growing up in a very small town and having to figure out where I fit in as an adult doing all these non-traditional activities or having this non-traditional interest, so to speak.
There’s a lot more that we have in common than I realized. One of them is that my father is into Shakespeare and is a pianist who loves classical music. I’m like, “You two would get along.” The interesting thing that you are touching upon is also the traditional side of things. I grew up with parents that had a lot of emphasis on tradition, especially my mother, and sometimes her thinking felt too rigid because I remember for so much of my life feeling like I didn’t want to have to do something just because people have been doing it for a long time.
That’s a huge part of my personality. I don’t think about it too much. I’m a little on the rebellious side but not intentionally. I’m not trying to rebel in the sense of stirring things up and getting people aggravated. It’s that I push back against things that don’t make sense, and especially, I don’t like it when people say things like, “That’s the way things are or that’s the way things always have been.” That drives me nuts because I believe that we are constantly learning as a society, and there are plenty of examples of things that we’ve done that have been completely wrong.
You talk about health, where we are learning so much about our bodies. There’s still a big mystery, and you look back on some of the health practices that people did years ago. We are doing things that now we would never think to do anymore, and we’ve changed the rules. To have a rigid viewpoint on health doesn’t make any sense. Of course, the viewpoints on treating other people and how we continue to have.
There is so much emphasis on the horrible things we’ve done to other human beings in the past but we have to keep our attention on what we are continuing to do to people in 2022. It’s interesting to hear how you are using these phrases like non-typical and I think, “Why does anything have to be typical?” Why do people want to put us in these boxes,” as you brought up?Stereotypes shape how we approach other people. Click To Tweet
That’s a big thing for me. I’m very similar to you in that sense. I’m constantly asking the why. Why do we always have to do it? That’s what we always do. Why? What’s the rationale? Just because you’ve always done something that maybe worked five years ago doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work now. If you’ve always gotten takeout food, and your family tradition has takeout food three times a week, and you watch TV.
Maybe it worked at a certain point, and now you are at a different point, and that is no longer a healthy practice for several reasons, and you have to shift. I feel, as human beings, we are very interesting, in the sense that there’s such a resistance to changing things or for some people, maybe a perception of, “I’m losing something. By me changing, this change is at a loss.”
I will change if it’s of benefit to me but if there’s a perception that, “This change means less for me, less resources,” then in that case, even if somebody else is suffering, I don’t want to sign onto that. Not thinking of the collective benefit of having a cohesive and healthy community relationship, country, city or world. People were like, “That’s what we’ve always done,” but I’m like, “Why do you have a new iPhone then?” Keep your iPhone from 2008. Tell Apple, “I’m not upgrading. This is my phone. I’m not changing it.” Don’t get a new laptop.
People upgrade their cars. They upgrade their laptops and cell phones and many things but then this other thing is like, “Nope, it’s tradition. This is what we do,” without questioning well, “Why do we do it this way, and does this still make sense?” Changing doesn’t necessarily mean you are giving up anything. You could be having a better version of yourself and your family.
I find it fascinating when there are some traditions that I keep because I’m like, “That makes sense. It makes me feel good. They are healthy.” In other traditions that, to me, I don’t see as valuable or healthy, I’m willing to let them go. I don’t see that as me losing a part of myself because, in the process, I’ve gained something new to add to me.
I love the way that you put that and that example of the iPhone, the cars or all these other things that people seem not only easy to change but eager to change and something else you said about being resistant to change. I’m thinking about how I feel like I’m resistant to staying the same but that in itself can be challenging too. I’m curious about your perspective on this, where in the health world, there seems to be a borderline addiction to change. “I’m always going to uplevel. I’m never good enough as I am. There’s always got to be something better that I can try.”
A lot of that can be linked to capitalism or consumerism. A new product is coming out every day, and the marketing. Convincing us that there’s something wrong with who we are, we need to buy this thing to feel better or look better. How do you feel about that as a health professional? Do you find that clients are coming in constantly thinking that there’s something wrong with them?
That’s an interesting one. For the most part, for people that come to see me, there is something going on. Most people will come to see me as a naturopathic doctor because either they have been dealing with an illness or health condition for years or even months, and it’s not getting better. Maybe they decided they didn’t want to do medication like pharmaceuticals or maybe try the pharmaceuticals but they are not feeling good about themselves.
What I notice is that there is this jumping from one thing to the other like jumping from one practitioner to the other practitioner. People would be like, “How about this supplement? There’s something else. I need this because I saw.” Advertising is like somebody that hasn’t had cable for over two decades. It has been going to be fascinating how my opinion and views of things are different. We don’t have cable in our home, and I haven’t had cables for decades. I don’t get all the advertising. My kids don’t get all the advertising. I have Premium on YouTube so that I could skip all the ads.
I can see this because people are constantly being bombarded with stuff that’s making you question yourself. In the medical field, for the longest time, the idea is that the doctor is the expert on your body. “Go to the doctor. They know best. They will tell you what to do,” which is farming out your power over your own body to another human being. I tell patients, “You are in your body 24/7. I don’t know your body as well as you know your body.”
This is more of a partnership that we are having and are entering into. You and I are partners. I have some knowledge, and you want to get to a certain place. It’s like a guide. You are like, “This is where I want to go, and I know the way to get there.” Together, we are going to work together to get to where you want to be. I do notice that because there’s so much information coming at people, it’s either people are constantly changing or get into a certain camp like, “I’m a vegan.” There are so many diets that, even for me, I can’t keep up but people get entrenched in, “This is how I have to eat for life.”
I see that as very problematic, and I will use myself as an example. For so many years, I followed all the recommendations. All the recommendations that were given are general. It’s not personalized to the person. A good one is the gut. Everybody should eat fermented foods. I was spending so much money. We lived on the West Coast, going to my farmer’s market, where I love paying a ridiculous amount of money for fermented food that was made by a very lovely person that was blessed. It was beautiful and organic. Also, kombucha and doing all this fermented stuff.
I have to say, in general, I felt healthy but I was having some health issues that weren’t making any sense. I also tried the paleo diet and couldn’t understand why I gained more fat. Why did I go to the doctor, and he was telling me that I was pre-diabetic? I’m like, “I don’t eat processed foods. We cook every day of the week at my house. I cook every day. I have to the farmer’s market. I got my veggie box delivered. How am I pre-diabetic? My kids have never been to McDonald’s. We don’t need fast food.”
I stopped doing the paleo diet because it didn’t make sense. Fast forward a few years later, I got interested in genetics, and my kid has to be my genetics. I’m always finding the why in things like, “Why is this happening? Why are you sick? Why do you have diabetes? Why can’t you sleep?” It’s always that question of why. I discovered that from a genetic perspective, half the stuff I was doing did not agree with me.
I don’t do well with histamine, and fermented foods are high in histamine. I used to be like, “If you have a good diet, you don’t need a multivitamin.” I had all these glitches in how my body processes. The pre-vitamins that we get from food. I could eat as many carrots as I want to and certain foods but I’m not going to have enough active amounts of these vitamins in my body. Now, I take a multivitamin every day.
This idea of getting into a certain camp and then believing that you must follow that until you die. I’m a person that will go to a restaurant, order a vegan salad, and put a piece of grilled chicken or sausage on top of it because my body likes that. My body functions with that. It’s the polarization that I noticed that’s also creeping into healthcare. If you are not this way, then you are not healthy.Just because you've always done something doesn't mean it will work now. Click To Tweet
I love that you touched upon histamines because this is something I have been dabbling in off and on, and I circled back to it because I had a reaction that didn’t make sense, similar to you. I’ve dabbled in all sorts of different diets. I have been plant-based for years now. Even with plant-based eating, I’ve dabbled with different variations, which has been tricky. I’ve spent way too much time thinking about my weight, in my opinion. I’m like, “If I can put what my body looks like aside but focus on how my body feels, that has started to become a lot more important.”
One thing that I have been struggling with for many years is a lot of nasal reactions like sneezing, itchiness, and all that. One thing that’s helped me a lot was cutting back on histamines, and similar to what you said and is worth emphasizing is that perspective of all these gut-healthy foods like the fermented foods that you’ve touched upon. People say, “They are great for you. Everybody should eat them,” but those are all high in histamines, a great majority of them, at least.
A lot of foods that people talk about as being healthy might have health benefits but if they are making you feel awful, it’s not worth it. I was very surprised. I had an a-ha moment around a yogurt that I eat. People talk about yogurt being this great, perfect food. I had a plant-based coconut yogurt with no sugar, and it tasted great and had simple ingredients but there was a probiotic strain in there that was activating my histamines.
I looked it up, and low and behold, it was on the list of high histamine probiotics. I had no idea. People say probiotics as a whole category are great. I imagine this type of thing comes up for you too, given that your knowledge of histamines and how to lump things into categories, whether, as you said, unprocessed foods. Any unprocessed food will be good for any person.
I had a personal experience with histamine as well because I’m lactose intolerant. It’s a trial and error to find a non-dairy yogurt that does not taste disgusting. I got to say, they are gross. I’m used to taking herbal tinctures and stuff like that. It’s not as if I’ve had a very sugar-heavy diet, and that’s why it’s gross. I’ve taken some very strong herbs but some of the yogurts are gross. The consistency, the taste, and the look of it.
My oldest son, at one point, is like, “Mom, stop buying yogurt. I’m okay. These are so bad.” I thought, “Honey, you are right. This does taste horrible.” I skip it. I wouldn’t have yogurt. It’s okay. I’m fine. I finally found a coconut one with great consistency. I work out about 3 to 4 times a week and thought, “I’m about to do a hit workout. Let me have a little snack. A little yogurt and granola before my workout.” I was feeling great. I did my electrolyte water. I had the yogurt.
Patients tell me that their brain feels fuzzy. I’ve never had a fuzzy brain but I’m like, “This is what people mean.” I was disoriented. I did not work out that day because, all of a sudden, I had incredible fatigue. I thought, “This is so weird. I don’t feel well. I don’t feel very clear in my head.” I laid down or did something else.
Two days later, time for a workout. I paid $10 for that type of yogurt. I’m eating it. I’m like, “Nope. I already paid the money. This is going down. We are going to try this again.” The same thing happened. I realized I was like, “It’s a histamine reaction that I’m having.” I’m not breaking out in hives. I have anaphylaxis to certain foods as well, which is pretty bad but instead of me breaking out in hives, what I had was incredible fatigue and brain fog.
I’m like, “Now, I know what patients are talking about when they tell me they have brain fog. This is what this feels like.” I was in Costco. I should have gotten an avocado farm. I was going through a bag of Costco avocados a week. I was doing kombucha and kefir and spending way too much money on fermented foods that I should be spending. From personal experience, there are quite a few people that genetically are not able to break down histamine in their digestive tract. There are certain probiotics that increase the level of histamine.
There are other probiotics that help you break down histamine. People say, “Take a probiotic.” Eating fermented foods doesn’t work for everybody. Some people need to slow down and significantly reduce their fermented food intake. I also have seasonal allergies, which keep getting worse each year. I thought, “I’m getting older.” This is what happens. You hit a certain age, and everything starts falling off the bus. What’s going to happen tomorrow? It’s because I was eating so many fermented foods when spring came around. My allergies were horrible to the point that I wasn’t sleeping.
I started waking up at night to go to the bathroom. I blamed my boys. I’m like, “Those kids wrecked my pelvic floor.” I had two big babies, and I’m not a particularly big person. I went to pelvic floor physical therapy. I’m like, “My pelvic floor is going to hell,” and then I discovered it was a histamine reaction because I will have kombucha or kefir with dinner to help digest my food and get my microbiome going.
Ever since I cut out that stuff, I still have the same pelvic floor. I haven’t had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom anymore. I still have allergies but they are super manageable. I take quercetin and some natural antihistamine, and I’m on my way. Probiotics are not all created equal. We have this system, and this also extends to the natural health realm, where everybody gets lumped into the same category. “Everybody needs to be on a probiotic to improve their gut health. Everybody needs to be on fish oil. This diet is the best diet.”
I respectfully disagree with that view with my experience and working with people using their genetics. People come to me and I’m like, “I don’t know how you should eat. I don’t know what exercise you should do. I have no idea what vitamins you should take. I honestly don’t know. I know what works for me but I know how to find out what’s best for you.” That’s looking at your genetics because when you do things from a genetic or genomic perspective, then you are dialing into what that particular person needs. What I may need may not be what benefits me. What’s my medicine, maybe your poison, and vice versa?
Most research that’s done is not looking at genetic variabilities between us as human beings. As a whole, it has been interesting working with a variety of people from different ethnicities. We have way more in common as a human species which has enlightened me to the social construct that has been used to divide us because when you look at a genetic level, we are way more similar than we are different.
There are going to be some aspects of my DNA that are unique to the fact that my ancestors are from Africa and your ancestors are from Europe. There are going to be pockets of things that would apply differently to us but by and large, there are a lot of genetic similarities that we carry that this variant is going to affect me similarly, as it’s going to affect you, even though we are two different ethnicities.
I’m hoping that the natural health field or healthcare, in general, will embrace going back to looking at people more on an individual level and getting away from this camp of everybody needing to be gluten-free or dairy-free. Meat is bad for everybody. I’m like, “It depends on the kind of meat.” There are different types of meats. You can’t say, “All meat is bad,” but there are some people that do well and benefit from a plant-based diet.Changing doesn't mean you're giving up anything. It means you're a better version of yourself. Click To Tweet
If you feel good on a plant-based diet, have minimal nutrient deficiencies, have energy vitality, and are thriving, then absolutely, yes. Do that. Some people do not thrive on a solely plant-based diet, and they may have to add animal products or do a lot of supplementations for them not to be deficient. Getting away from this right or wrong way to eat or to do things would be very helpful for our emotional, mental health and our physical health.
You’ve touched upon so many nuances because what I’m hearing is all the complexities that go into figuring out what’s right for you, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming and confusing. For me also, this histamine realization I had I stumbled upon it. I have a few videos I did many years ago. I came across this book about low histamine eating, and back then, it was the only resource I could find. There was such minimal information, and that’s another example of our evolving knowledge base of what health is because sometimes things are under the radar. You need a professional to bring you there. You have to be mindful of all the marketing out there.
Even when you are talking about the plant-based diet, I have been vegan since 2003 and watching that evolution happening where it was on the more fringe side when I started, and now it’s become trendy. The danger of it becoming trendy is that, to your point, there’s a lot of messaging out there lumping people in and saying, “Don’t eat these things.” There’s an ethical side to it, which is a completely different matter.
On the ethical side, there has been a lot of progress to find creative ways to get nutrition from non-animal sources but even there have issues. Just because it’s vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to make you feel good. Some people, though, would rather physically personally suffer so that they can relieve suffering from another animal, and that’s their choice or they are passionate about the environment. That’s another thing too.
If you are choosing to suffer, that’s a different story. To your point, I’m seeing how some people are almost silently suffering because they feel like they should be doing something, so they can’t even fully recognize the fact that they are unnecessarily suffering, and maybe the suffering is the result of doing what everybody else is doing.
There are these two sides of it where I have this belief that people should be treated equally but we have to acknowledge that we are not all equal on every level. There are so many variables that go into somebody’s physical, mental, and emotional experience. That’s where it becomes complex. That’s where we need to ask questions and not make assumptions.
I absolutely agree with you. Are we eating too much animal-based products? A hundred percent. When people come to me, I’m like, “Here’s a diet diary. Write down what you are eating. Let me have a look.” The vast majority of people are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. There are certain things we have to change in the system. I’m not saying that having animal products is beneficial for your health. There are ways to source ethical and healthy animal products. Is it going to cost you more money? Yes, but you are going to eat less. I eat less animal product because it is expensive.
The four of us will share a steak. We are not each having an 8-ounce steak. That’s the difference. The difference is that the sheer volume of animal products that we are eating is so out of balance with other nutritious things that we should be putting into our bodies like more fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. What I’m advocating for and telling people is, “Your plate should be mainly plant-based.” Based on my genetics, I was a vegetarian for about 5 or 6 years. When I went to naturopathic medical school, in my first year, I was dying.
One of my teachers had to call me aside and say, “Are you okay.” I was like, “Why?” It’s because you are falling asleep in class. You don’t look well.” I’m like, “I’m okay. I’m just tired.” I did that for about 5 or 6 years and slowly started incorporating some animal products but ethically-sourced animal products. Now, that I look at my genetics, genetically, I need a lot of protein but very little carbs, and I don’t do well with saturated fat.
If I had a diet that was very heavy in animal products, it would be bad for my heart. I have to balance these plant-based proteins like legumes, nuts, and seeds with a little bit of animal product for me to find that balance where I’m meeting my protein needs but I’m not going over my fat intake allowance that I’m able to have. Knowing what my body needs and uses efficiently has been a lot less daunting for me to figure out what I should eat and how.
I can’t do carbs. My body does not metabolize carbs very well. I’m like, “I will do vegetables,” like starchy vegetables. We make pizza every Friday but make it at home. That’s the only time that I’m doing anything that’s got a significant amount of carbs in it but again, it’s learning how to find this balance. I’m also an acupuncturist. A big part of Chinese medicine is balance. Our lives and society are swinging from one extreme to the other. It’s like a pendulum.
That’s how things seem to be swinging and I get it. The extremes are exciting, and they are sensational. That’s what draws attention in people but there’s so much talk about mental health and the middle is where you are at that equanimity. You are not on one end or the other. You are right in the middle. Is it sexy? Not particularly. Is it exciting? Probably not, but it’s healthy. It’s peaceful and calm.
It depends on where you want to be and what you want in your life. Are you looking more for the big swings or that middle? I feel healthcare needs to get away from these big pendulum swings that we seem to be doing, and it’s becoming very confusing for people because I have people come in. I’m telling them, “As a naturopathic doctor, this is what I believe is going to help you.” They then see something on TV, on Facebook or on Instagram, and it becomes this tug of war. “Do I listen to you? I have paid you a lot of money. You have the qualifications but the packaging and the advertising, all the stuff looks so exciting. This has to work.”
I tell people if they want to try it, as long as it’s not going to interfere or not bad for them. Most of the time, they are like, “I tried. It didn’t work.” I’m like, “That’s okay. People have their experiences and do their thing but the messaging out there is becoming very overwhelming and confusing for people to figure out how to survive as human beings.
Something as simple as a basic need such as food has become complicated. How can you figure out bigger things? Why are you here, and what are you doing with your life when you can’t even figure out what to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Should you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner? “Should I snack? Should I not snack? What snack should I have? How much water should I drink? Maybe I should stop having coffee. Coffee’s bad for you.” “No, coffee is good for you.” It’s insane. I get all this stuff because people come to me, and it’s overwhelming. I can see how it’s become very overwhelming for the average person to figure out what they should eat, let alone figure out their lives.
That is so beautifully said, and it’s interesting because, speaking of social media, I work in social media, and I spend a lot of time on TikTok as my main platform. It is such a fascinating place to spend time because you hear perspectives from all these different people around the world. This is why I love it. You can curate it in a way that brings in the information that you are interested in, and sometimes, other things will come into your feed that you wouldn’t normally be interested in. You start to learn things.A doctor doesn't know your body as well as you know your body. Click To Tweet
I have a curiosity about beauty, culture, and fashion sometimes, even though I don’t get involved with them. I’m not someone that regularly wears makeup or shops for clothes. It doesn’t interest me on my personal level in that way but I’m interested in it in a cultural sense. I end up seeing a lot of content about people like the Kardashians and how they impact the beauty standards and all that. One of their family members, Courtney Kardashian, is launching a new supplement line.
I saw some people reacting to it because, as Kardashian, they are very good at branding. The supplement line has a catchy name, and it has cool packaging. I’ve seen some different perspectives on these people saying, “Maybe this is good because, for the age range they are probably targeting, it’s likely that they feel confused and overwhelmed when buying supplements because most of them are not well-branded. Would you rather buy something that looks like it was made in the ’70s or would you like to buy something that looks current and hip and is marketed by a famous person?”
There’s the other side of that saying, “It could be dangerous because maybe they are creating this packaging because they want to make as much money as possible. That’s at the cost of somebody buying something that looks nice but doesn’t have results.” I’m curious if you have an opinion on Kardashian or not, but just on the branding in the health world.
You could say this about food packaging too. There’s so much work that goes into making something look appealing, and there’s no denying that it’s driven by capitalism. People want you to buy their stuff. I tend to be drawn towards less branded products because part of me thinks, “Maybe they are not spending as much time branding it because they are focused on making it taste good or have good ingredients. Maybe this is a small business that doesn’t have the budget.” I find myself not trusting the fancy packaging in a lot of cases because I think, “Are they in this for nutrition or the money?”
That’s interesting because the supplement industry is not regulated. Whitney, you can start your own supplement company tomorrow if you care to in your kitchen, and you could put stuff together, capsule it, and slap a fancy label on it. Pay somebody a lot of money to promote and advertise it for you. We are now in an age where it’s all about what something looks like. What I’m noticing is a lack of questioning, and maybe people are exhausted and tired of life that they only want somebody to tell them, “What should I eat? What should I drink? What should I take?”
I get that from people a lot and I’m like, “I get you are tired and exhausted. Why don’t we try to give you more energy and resource so you can start thinking about the things that you are doing and the choices that you are making?” Everything is all about packaging or what it looks like. “This person looks a certain way, so they must know what they are talking about.” Not necessarily.
I don’t follow the Kardashians. They make handbags and SPANX-likes things and stuff like that. I believe everybody should, in a way, whatever their strength is. I am not a surgeon, so I’m not going to come here talking about surgical things. That’s not my wheelhouse. That’s not my strength. I’m a naturopathic doctor. I’m an acupuncturist. I’m going to talk to you about what I know and also what I know from experience. I don’t know to who they’ve sold the supplements to. I don’t know who is under the medical advisory board telling them, “This combination of stuff is good for you.”
As I often tell patients, when you are buying stuff like in a health food store or online, there are certain guidelines as to what you can put in your supplement. At least, I know that in Canada, there is. A lot of times, people will come to me and say, “I tried that supplement. It didn’t work.” I said, “It didn’t work because it was over the counter, and you didn’t take enough of it.” It’s like taking your antibiotic at a quarter of the dose and then saying, “My infection is still there. This antibiotic sucks.” It’s like, “You must take penicillin 500 milligrams, 3 or 4 times a day for it to be effective.”
There’s a reason there is a dosage amount. Any supplement or drug has what you call a half-life, which is the amount of time it takes for half of it to be broken down in your body. There are different genetic variants, so people are going to do that process a little differently, depending on their genetics. If you take your medicine shorter or longer than what’s recommended, it is going to affect the kind of effect you are going to get from the medication.
The same goes for supplements. If you are taking a supplement and there isn’t a therapeutic dose for everything, there’s a certain amount that you have to take for it to be therapeutic. That means it exerts a physiological change in your body. If you need 400 milligrams of magnesium to calm down and you are taking 50 or 150, you are not going to feel calm. It’s not magnesium. You bought the wrong kind but it’s not your fault because how are you supposed to know that there are 6 or 10 different types of magnesium, and they all do different things?
There’s one to make you poop. There’s one to make you feel calm. There’s one for your mind. There’s one for a muscle function. I could go on and on. If you are trying to sleep and picked up the magnesium for poops, you may not notice that, “My bowel movements are working out nicely these days but you did not buy it to have a poop. You bought it to be able to sleep. When people come to me, “That’s a good product but you have to take ten of these for you to get the effect.” The dose per capsule is so low that you have to take so much of it for you to get a therapeutic effect.
Having said that, there are some companies that only sell to medical professionals. The reason is that those companies have to follow certain guidelines. Even though nobody is regulating them, they are self-regulated, and there are best practices that they have to adhere to, and they only sell to professionals. When you come to me, and I give you a supplement, are you paying more money for it? Yes. It seems like you are paying more money for it but you only have to take 2 capsules instead of 10. Which one is cheaper?
When you get a product that’s only available to healthcare practitioners, the responsibility is on the healthcare practitioner because they have a license. They should know what they are doing. They should know the maximum dose of this supplement or this herbal remedy. After this dose, you will have side effects. Can you have side effects from taking supplements and herbal remedies? A hundred percent, yes. Can you have drug-herb interactions? Yep. Can you have drug supplement interactions? Can you have herb-supplement interactions or herb-drug interactions? Absolutely. You can have all of those things.
It’s like buying a car, which I guess some people do base on how the car looks and not saying, “How many gallons am I going to get per mile?” Economically, you want to get an efficient car. You get a car that looks good but then it costs you $500 a month to fill it up. You get a car that it’s not shiny but you are only paying $200. Where are your priorities when it comes to your health?
This is news to me. I do not follow the Kardashians at all. I didn’t know one of them was getting into the supplement business but I don’t know their qualification. Even if they are not qualified, I would like to see who’s on their medical advisory board. As far as I know, none of them have a Medical degree. How do they know what is going to be helpful for a particular person that has a health problem?
This is using your platform and your notoriety to promote something that, in my opinion, maybe you are not qualified to do. Again, maybe somebody is advising them, and they have a medical team to be like, “This is possible,” and that’s helping them. For the companies that I use, you can go to their website, and it shows you who is on their medical advisory team.What's my medicine might be your poison, and vice versa. Click To Tweet
Who is guiding the formulations of these supplements? When I see medical doctors, DOs, DCs, NDs, PhDs, I’m like, “This is based on research. I want supplements that are based on research, so when I recommend it to someone, I know that it is going to help you with your health issue, and you are not wasting your money.”
You touched upon a few amazing things, as usual. I love the way that you think through these. You are so passionate about awareness and paying attention, and your point about people perhaps feeling so overwhelmed that they want someone else to pay attention. They want someone else to do the research. They want someone else to tell them what to do, and that’s very relatable but if we can at least ask some questions, it puts us on a track that perhaps steers us in a better direction.
It’s a practice too if you can turn the box over of something before you buy it and read a little bit about it before buying it because you saw an ad on Instagram. If you can talk to your doctor about it, great. A lot of these supplements do advise that you talk to your doctor but how many people do that? Maybe at your next appointment, if you are going in for a physical and annual exam, bring some supplements with you and mention them or talk about some food brands and have a conversation. It could take a few minutes but make this big impact.
As you have been talking about genetics, I’m so interested in digging into that further but something else that I want to make sure that we touch upon. You and I were speaking before the recording about a different element of appearance. We have the appearance of products and how the visuals might be a little bit deceiving. You were sharing with me an experience you have about people perceiving you in different parts of your country of Canada.
It sounds like North America in general, the East Coast versus the West Coast, and the different types of treatment and how some people were treating you differently based on the way that you look and how you noticed a big difference between the different coasts of North America. I would love to hear you speak more about that. Why do you think that is? Since you are a why person, why do you think people treat you differently as a doctor based on how you look?
That is such a complex question because, for so many of us, going back to that tradition and the way things are, we are all a product of our environment and our family. Some of us come from very open families. Others are not as open families. When I look at my group of friends, we are mixed. My kids have a lot of people they call auntie and uncle that don’t look anything like either one of their parents or them.
If you are raised in a certain kind of family, a city or town where maybe you don’t see a lot of representation, there’s that preconceived notion of who you feel can help you or can’t help you. I know my father as a surgeon, he had people who say, “I don’t want a Black man operating on me.” In my field of naturopathic medicine or natural medicine, in general, it’s slowly changing but it’s seen as this field that things that mainly White people do.
I am getting more and more people of color. I’m getting more Black women and some men that are reaching out to me to say, “I want to do this naturally.” For a lot of people, when I was in Vancouver and for me personally, it was difficult for me to make inroads and get my foot in the door to so many places to talk about some of these ideas or be invited to give a talk or my perspective on health.
My perspective is going to be slightly colored based on the fact that I’m a Black woman of African descent that was mainly raised in Canada. I have that juxtaposition within me in the sense that it’s interesting. If I were to go to Nigeria, I’m not Nigerian but then I’m not Canadian. People ask me, “How long have you been here?” “I was born in Montreal.” There’s that assumption that I’m not from here but I’ve lived in Canada. I was born in Montreal. I moved to Nigeria for about 8 years from the age of 2 to 10 and then my family moved back here.
More of my life has been spent in Canada as a Canadian than in Nigeria as a Nigerian. That assumption that, “I’m not from here,” I had a situation in one of the clinics I worked in BC where a lady came in and she’s like, “I’m looking for a naturopath.” The front desk person was like, “We have a naturopath that works here. Her name is Dr. Ibby Omole, and she’s great.” She was like, “Where is she from?” She’s like, “I don’t understand the question.” I was in the back room listening to this conversation, and she was not aware that I was there.
The front desk person is like, “She lives in BC. She’s from here.” She’s like, “But where is she from? That name? Where did she go to school?” She’s like, “She went to school in the States. She did all her schooling in Canada and then did her Medical degree in the States.” She makes some comments about, “These people come from somewhere else. They then go somewhere for two years.” I could tell that the front desk person was visibly uncomfortable. Initially, she didn’t realize where this was going. There are all these preconceived notions about who holds knowledge and who doesn’t. Who can help me, and who can’t help me? Who is smart, and who isn’t smart?
These are very deep notions that go back to colonialism, and you can’t start unpacking all these things without talking about colonialism and the portrayal of other people as others that are there for less intelligent, driven or everything. Ninety-five percent of what we do is in our subconscious. We are only running a program that we have been given.
We think we are making all these decisions but no. You are making a decision based on a program that you have probably been running for all or most of your life. When people are making these decisions, I don’t think it’s a cautious thing but I do feel like underneath it. For some people, there is this way of thinking that’s based on who they believe is intelligent and knowledgeable.
Oftentimes, that person is not a Black woman. Even though she may have way more degrees than anybody else, that still doesn’t sink in and break that barrier but on the East Coast, it’s way more diverse compared to West Coast in Canada. BC is not as diverse in the sense that there are three types of ethnic groups that make up BC like Asians, Caucasians, and Indians. The South is Indian.
That’s like South Asians. That is the population. You have South Asians, Asians, and Caucasians. They make up the bulk of the population in British Columbia. Any other minority group is very tiny. You move over to the East Coast, Ontario, that’s way more diverse. Those numbers, maybe around 25% or 30% of the population, are a visible minority.
I’ve gone from 1% to almost 20%. That’s a big jump, and I spoke to another colleague who’s also an acupuncturist. She said, “On the East Coast of Canada, especially Ontario is the most diverse province that we have.” People are used to seeing different people from different ethnicities hold positions of power and influence and do well in those positions. That idea that only one group of people have the knowledge, I don’t think, is as prevalent. Not that it is not there but maybe it’s a little less prevalent and I have more people from different groups reach out to me to say, “We like what you have to say. We are interested in your perspective.”Balance may not be sexy and exciting, but it's peaceful and calm. Click To Tweet
I found that very fascinating. I had a South Asian lady reach out to me and be part of her group. “You and I are doing this now.” I’ve had people within the Black community also reach out to me to say, “We like your message and what you are doing. Would you come to talk to our group?” This has all happened out here, not when I was on the West Coast.
One of the big themes of our discussion seems to be around a few things. I would say not making assumptions based on what someone or something looks like in looking at tradition and how we’ve done things with a curious lens versus assuming that the way we have been doing things is still going to work in this present moment. Also, honoring the differences within ourselves and others and asking those questions. That curiosity throughout this whole process of, “What’s going on with me? What’s going on with someone else?” and raising our awareness so that we are not carrying our biases about ourselves and others, especially when it comes to health?
This comes up so much too. On another level of appearance, the more that I’ve learned about health, the more I see how much our society, especially in North America, has placed this emphasis on things like thinness, youth, and beauty, as if those are all the definitive indicators of health. You can look a certain way and have horrible health. You can also look another way and have great health but people might assume based on marketing and societal traditions like, “This is how you should look if you are a healthy human being.”
That is something we are fighting against. All of the struggles that people have if they don’t fall into a certain box, and the more I’ve raised my awareness, I’ve seen how the ideal beauty, again, seems to be in North America, is a thin young white person. They work out, eat probably a trendy diet, and are in a certain age range. They dress a certain way, and all of those seem to be ideal. It seems like anyone who’s not that is looked down upon and not taken seriously.
People make assumptions about their health, their education or all of these other factors. Talking with you grows my desire to examine that on a personal level but also here on this show. Continue to recognize those media standards that have been set out. Also, your point about colonialism is so interesting because many people are striving for something that very few people even have. Percentage-wise, the people that are represented in the media are falling into a very minority on their own.
The percentage of people that have those types of bodies that we see represented on television, very few people have those bodies, and yet, those are the bodies that we are conditioned to strive for and to constantly change ourselves, and at what cost is my ongoing question. I love your messaging around asking more questions and focusing inwards on who you are, not who society is pressuring you to be.
That’s very important, the focusing inwards. I’m always telling people that this is an inside job but there’s so much noise getting to that point where you could do that inside job. This isn’t anything new. I remember growing up, and the idea of beauty was nothing that looked like me. I always like to see the most beautiful women in the world. I’m like, “Those represent women that are in a court of the world.”
You search the entire world. It’s like, “Did you search the entire world?” You can’t put a bunch of women in a magazine that is from North America. If you are a young girl, anywhere else in the world, you are not beautiful. Even if you are a young girl in North America, you are not beautiful because your nose is a certain way. Your hips are in a certain way, and your hair. For the longest time, I used to straighten my hair and wear it straight.Maybe people are so exhausted with life that they just want people to tell them what to do. Click To Tweet
A few years ago, my sister was like, “Cut your hair.” I’m like, “I can’t cut my hair. What if I lose patients?” While we were having this conversation, the first thing that came to mind is my practice would suffer if I cut my hair and go short and natural because it may make some people uncomfortable. They are going to be like, “I don’t know.”
Now that I sit back I’m like, “It’s interesting how much conditioning or stuff that sips in there. You may not be aware but I’m like, “That is so interesting.” It wasn’t, “What style am I going to do? What color am I going to color it?” The first things like, “I can’t do that because of where I am.” I’m like, “I might lose patients.” My patient base is a majority of Caucasian people. What if people all of a sudden are like, “I don’t think she’s going to be able to help me because of the way she looks physically,” especially with my hair?
This beauty culture is interesting. I have sons and not daughters but at least I feel it’s getting better. I see more companies that are representing different bodies in their campaign. The idea of Black women in general, we have back sides and hips. I’m not one of those Black women. I’m always being reminded by my sister that I fit the European standard of what a body should look like. I’m built very slightly and rather thin.
I have been like this all my life but for all the other Black women that are not built like that, they have hips and thighs. They are curvier, and all of a sudden, they are not beautiful for a body shape that they had no choice. It’s not like you had a choice. “Put me in this body. I will take that body.” You don’t. Your bones are the way that they are, and your muscle structure is the way that it is.
When we are talking about health, I’m more interested in looking at, “Are you nutrient deficient?” If you can, you move through your day and do all your activities. You are able to wake up in the morning, and you feel refreshed. Get your day done, and go to bed. There are other ways for us to measure health. There are ways that we can check certain markers to see if somebody is healthy or not.
Much of this is based on emotion. We have an existential crisis at this particular point. Everybody’s emotions are very high. I’m a person that likes to look at the facts. “Is this person healthy?” There are ways we could figure it out. I have always been thin, and a few years ago, I discovered that I’m not as healthy as I thought I was despite the fact of me being a naturopathic doctor, having all this knowledge, and doing everything I’m telling my patients to do. You can’t look at someone, and based on that, “You fit a certain size. You are healthy. You are a size 10. Automatically, you are not healthy.”
We have all these systems set up, and those systems are being challenged, and the question is, “Are we going to deal with it like a five-year-old and have a tantrum about it or are we going to start having this conversation and saying, “How can we build a new system where as many people win?” I always believe in win-win. I’m always telling people and my kids, “I want a win-win situation. I want you to win. I want me to win.”
With my patients, I tell them, “This has to be a win-win. If there’s something you are not going to do, let me know. Be honest with me. It’s not a personal attack. Let me know so that we could have a win-win. I feel we have all these systems that have been set up that worked well for a while. A certain percentage of the population benefited, and a big chunk did not benefit. What are we going to do about that?We need to allow other people to sit at the table. Click To Tweet
When we are looking at economics, we have our food system. We have our healthcare. Many healthcare systems are crumbling, and there’s this reluctance to change. Start looking at things differently. We can’t medicate our way out of the current health crisis that we have. It’s not going to work, and we have to come up with new alternatives. It means allowing other people to sit at the table that may have solutions that maybe you haven’t thought about. That’s exactly where we are.
From my perspective, when I look at humanity and what’s going on, we are at a crossroads where we need different systems that are going to benefit not just some of us but all of us as much as possible. I know that’s a daunting thing but all people can benefit when only some people are making all the decisions for everybody. Only one voice is being heard when there are other voices that could be brought like any other relationship that you have.
You have friends that have different experiences. They have different backgrounds, and you don’t always have to agree but you could at least listen to each other’s perspectives and have a common ground where you are meeting. Our healthcare system worked in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s but it’s not working. The food guide is not working, and many things are not working, and people are getting sicker.
From that, becoming more frustrated but I’m worried about the next generation. I look at my kids’ generation, and the prediction is that there will be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan in a very long time. You have to take a hard look at our systems and what we are doing, and how we are doing it. Are we doing things based on emotion and tradition or are we doing it on facts and not cherry-picked? It’s very easy to cherry-pick certain things, “This fits my agenda and my MO,” but looking at all the information and then, from that, picking the best solutions that are going to help as many people as possible.
This has been such a beautiful conversation. I love the way that you think about these things, and it has inspired me to continue to ask questions and challenge the systems. Also, to push back and remain curious. There are a lot of people that don’t want the citizens to be curious. There are a lot of people that don’t like questions and don’t want change, as you said from the beginning but we have to find the internal strength to ask these questions and to find out how to take care of ourselves and to take care of others. That has been a huge takeaway here for me with this conversation and thinking about all the nuances and overwhelm.
How at times, this might feel like a lot for us but as you also mentioned and I loved this. You were talking about that when somebody comes to see you, you are asking them like, “How can they make some shifts so that they can have more energy in their life?” That is a beautiful place to start at. If you can create some more energy in your life, then suddenly, it feels easier to take on these systems. It feels easier to ask questions. You have the room within yourself.
I love your passion for genetics. This has been lovely. I’ve learned so much from you. I would love to know, for the readers who want to learn more about you and get in touch, do you offer virtual sessions. Can people see you from anywhere in the world if they want to? If so, how would they do that?
I have, especially when it comes to genetics and stuff like that. I have my website, DrIOmole.com, and there’s information on how to contact me on my website. If you have questions, there’s a portal for patients that I see because I practice in both BC and Ontario but for anybody else anywhere in the world that maybe has some questions about me, I have a general box that you could click and put in your questions and stuff like that.
Sometimes, I help connect people to whomever, another person or practitioner that I feel would be able to help them. For the most part, I know my strengths and my wheelhouse. I’m comfortable because that is where my strength lying. Sometimes people get in touch with me and helping them find resources. We are trying to tackle all these big things and haven’t taken care of the foundational stuff. I always tell people, it’s like a house. You are building a house and worried about the curtains, the furniture, and the chandelier but you didn’t think about the foundation.
You are not thinking about, “Hold on a second. What kind of a foundation am I getting?” I see it. The foundation is boring. It’s like cement and some stuff. “Who wants to talk about the foundation? Let’s talk about the exciting, fun stuff.” There is something to be said for getting back to foundational stuff and basic stuff that’s driven by logic. Again, I invite people to think and be open to being curious. I talk to my boys about having a growth mindset. It’s like, “I can’t do that.” I’m like, “You can’t do that yet. You are working on that. It’s a practice but there is one thing that’s inevitable. Change is going to happen.”
You could either approach it like a five-year-old having a tantrum and screaming and kicking or you can approach it with curiosity and some deep breaths. Lean into it a little bit. Lean into it slowly. When you are no longer curious, and your mindset is so fixed, life is challenging. Your health is challenging. Without any energy, it’s impossible to do anything and make any kind of lasting, sustainable change to your health.
I will recommend to people to be more aware of themselves. No doctor has more knowledge about your body than you. It’s impossible. Finding a practitioner that’s willing to meet you halfway and say, “We are going to take baby steps together and get you a little bit more support. We are going to give you a little bit of breathing space.” Sometimes, people want to take a breath like, “I want to take a breath and rest.” Now, I’m ready to start walking but you are trying to run a marathon on empty. It’s going to be very challenging, overwhelming, and probably not successful.
What a wonderful way to wrap up the conversation. Thanks again, for squeezing in some more wisdom there. It’s impressive. You have so many helpful things and ways of thinking. I love all your metaphors and visuals. It has been fantastic, and I appreciate all the work that you do. The first thing that I said when we got onto the recording platform was. I was like, “You beam joy and beauty.” It’s a magnetism about you visually and through your voice and your words. It’s very easy to appreciate who you are as a human being. Thanks, again, for being here with me.
Thank you so much for having me. I’ve had such a wonderful time talking with you.
About Dr. Ibby Omole
I am a licensed naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist. I help motivated individuals find lasting solutions to their digestive, hormonal and chronic health issues so they can have better energy and vitality. My clinical areas of focus are genomics, fertility, pelvic health and digestive health.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the This Might Get Uncomfortable community today: