Spotlight: Sage Holistic Health
by Corey Radman
Sometimes “Aha!” moments creep up on you. Sometimes they strike like static shocks built up from your shuffling steps. Either way, the thoughts are so true; you can’t believe they didn’t occur to you before.
Kathryn Plummer, Naturopathic Doctor (ND) and Dee Koloski, ND, Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc) both had life-altering “Aha’s!” that led them to become healers. For one, the realization was sudden, the other required more shuffling about first. But both women eventually realized that they wanted to be the kind of doctors who healed whole people, not just parts of people.
Kathryn, who was a practicing massage therapist at the time says, “I had the proverbial light bulb go off in my head while giving a massage one day. It hasn’t happened before or since, but it was pretty powerful at the time. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do!” The future Dr. Plummer applied for admission the next day to the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), the oldest accredited naturopathic medical college in North America.
For Dee, the process was indirect. She shunted about a bit, finding the things that she didn’t want before accidentally discovering the exact place she needed to be. She remembers her first light bulb moment.
“I had finished my biology and chemistry undergraduate degree, taken my MCATs and was attending a ‘student-for-a-day’ lecture at medical school." As she sat in the lecture hall, she looked around and felt out place. "The lecturer had brought in a guest speaker ... who had lined up all his medications on the table and was talking about the different colored pills and what they did. I realized right then that I wouldn’t like myself at all if I completed this education.”
Dee was devastated. Her presumed intention had been wrong. It took several more months and an extended stay in the woods to finally land exactly where she needed to be, at NCNM.
“The moment I walked on campus, it felt like home,” she says.
That sense of belonging, of peace and safety is exactly the sensation you get upon arriving at the clinic forged by the two naturopathic physicians in 2003, after their graduation from natural medical school. Sage Holistic Health sits like an oasis of calm in the midst of the growing downtown Loveland area.
Dr. Plummer describes their clinic as nurturing, professional and healing. “People look forward to coming. They sit in the garden outside to just be quiet, even before we see them. Patients view this as a sanctuary. They feel better just knowing they are coming.”
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website:
Naturopathic medicine is based on the belief that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies’ ability to ward off and combat disease.” NDs are trained to blend the best of modern science with natural techniques to restore health, rather than treat just a sickness.
The doctors at Sage understand that body, mind, and spirit are really all one connected unit. Dr. Koloski, who goes by Dr. Dee, explains, “We are hoping to find balance for our patients between spiritual, mental/emotional and physical life.” As opposed to an allopathic physician, naturopathic doctors view symptoms as clues rather than just problems to be fixed.
“Will we address pain right now?” posits Dr. Plummer.
“Absolutely, but we will also look for the underlying issue that is causing the pain and try to address that as well. We’re not about just giving someone a supplement, an herb or a treatment to cover up symptoms. Symptoms are your body’s language to tell us there’s a disharmony.”
Being a naturopathic doctor can be like being a detective, following symptoms as clues. Dr. Dee elaborates, “A broken ankle because you fell on your dog has a pretty obvious cause. But we often see people with chronic illness that has been going on for weeks, months, years or even decades. They have often had specialists and other treatments that didn’t work.” Both say that this type of slow unraveling of symptoms is extremely rewarding.
Typically, the doctors will look to lifestyle and diet as a first level of treatment. Then sometimes supplements or herbs in combination with lifestyle change as a secondary approach. NDs approach patients as a member of a team, understanding that building a working relationship takes time and discussion.
The doctors find that having created a safe place for spiritual and emotional well-being can also be potent medicine. “People don’t have a safe place to come talk about what’s going on or to ask questions,” says Dr. Plummer. “If they want to ask about their squishy earlobes, that’s fine with us,” she kids.
“Patients realize that this is a safe environment to talk and feel they are going to be heard," says Dr. Dee. "Sometimes, we hear things they’ve never told anyone else, things that they feel great shame or guilt over. Sometimes, just in the act of witnessing that, the veil lifts and the symptoms go away.”
Lifestyle & Herbs
The belief that the human body can heal itself is one of the guiding principals the doctors rely on, which dictates their treatment regimens. Dr. Plummer says, “People don’t often come here if they want something in a bottle,” which is why the first thing the doctors do is talk at length with patients rather than reach for quick supplements or herbs. “This is teamwork,” she says. “I know natural medicine and you know you. People know whether they will ever exercise regularly or eat something totally foreign.”
“People in our society have a sucky diet,” she whispers through cupped hands. “It’s sad. So sad, because people come in and tell me they have Pepsi and Pop Tarts for breakfast, skip lunch, drink pop all day and maybe have a frozen pizza for dinner. Also, they are tired, have heart palpitations, poor memory and their muscles ache. I could treat all those things, but why? Why?”
So they start with drinking water regularly. Then baby step to just a healthy breakfast, then snacks, then a healthy dinner. Then exercise. “And I haven’t talked at all about herbal supplements,” says Dr. Plummer. “That comes later if patients still need or want something.” Through discussion and explanation of medical jargon, both doctors try to encourage “Aha!” moments for their patients. Often, they say, patients will have lifestyle induced health issues that they didn’t realize were killing them until they came to Sage Holistic Health.
Dr. Plummer explains that herbal supplementation along with diet and lifestyle changes can be more powerful than pharmacologic treatment. This is due, in part, to the broad spectrum that the herbs cover. Medicines may treat a headache or a stomach ache, herbs affect the entire body.
“They act on many more parts of the body than just your squishy earlobe,” she smiles.
The two doctors have enough certifications and degrees to fill a scrapbook. Thus, if you’re looking for natural healing, chances are they have something that will help.
Dr. Plummer specialized in botanical medicine in her doctorate training and, additionally, has her previous career as a massage therapist to lean on. She provides body work techniques including Swedish, deep tissue, neuromuscular, shiatsu and craniosacral therapy. She believes that touch is a vital component to health and hugs her patients regularly. She specializes in general family care, and with common ailments such as fatigue, digestive disorders and allergies, and women's issues. Dr. Plummer tends to see most of the children who come to Sage.
Dr. Dee is the resident expert on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her expertise in Chinese herbs and acupuncture provides the second arm of the practice. In addition to acupuncture, Dr. Dee employs multiple treatment modalities, including moxa, cupping, Electro Therapeutic Point Stimulation (ETPS), Qi Gong, and electrical stimulation. Some of her specialty areas include women’s health (especially around irregular menses and menopause). She estimates the second most common ailment she treats for is gastro intestinal (GI) trouble.
In the state of Colorado, naturopathic doctors are not eligible for medical licensure, which means that a part of their training from natural medical school isn't commonly recognized. In 15 other states, NDs function as general practitioners and family physicians and hold prescription privileges (meaning they could administer vaccines and the occasional antibiotic). They are required to graduate from an accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical school as well as pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) in order to receive a license. The doctors of Sage both hold medical licenses from the state of Oregon.
Dr. Dee is the immediate past president of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CoAND). She co-authored two sunrise applications requesting regulation of naturopathic doctors by the state legislature. She continues working hard toward the regulation and acceptance of the industry in Colorado. According to Dr. Dee, CoAND is currently re-strategizing in preparation for future work on this issue.
Sage Holistic Health can be found online at www.sageholistichealth.com.
Corey Radman is a freelance writer living in Fort Collins. Her passion for story threads its way through all her work, which has been published at 5280 Magazine, Style Magazine, Northern Colorado Medical & Wellness, Get Born Magazine, and The Mom Egg. She can be contacted via her website www.fortcollinswriter.com.