Dr. Mamie Burruss is a Little Rock, Arkansas native, Vermont-licensed naturopathic doctor (ND), certified yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, full-time doctoral student of Chinese medicine and acupuncture and the owner and founder of DrMamie.com. If there ever was a person to learn from and listen to regarding living a holistically healthy and preventative lifestyle, we think Dr. Mamie is it.

What we love most about Dr. Mamie, other than the fact that she’s passionate about empowering others with information and tools so they can regain control of their health, it’s that she’s committed to always learning more and continuing her studies about health and wellness. And, we love that she’s made herself and her services available to patients virtually while she continues her training and studies. Read more about Dr. Mamie’s services and how you can work with her virtually at Dr.Mamie.com.

Read on for our Q&A with Dr. Mamie and learn more about her story, along with her philosophies on chronic disease, the areas to look at if you want to live a healthier lifestyle and more on her own daily routines…

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR OWN PERSONAL JOURNEY TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW, STUDYING IN THE FIELDS OF NATUROPATHIC AND TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE.

In short, my needs weren’t met through the current paradigm. I’ve had my own set of health issues, and conventional medicine failed at addressing them. I struggled with chronic GI issues, skin rashes and hormone imbalances for years without much relief from pharmaceuticals. By my mid-twenties, I had decided that there must be a better way to deal with my chronic health problems. One day soon after, the concept of naturopathic medicine found me, and I instantly fell in love. And so my journey into naturopathic medicine began. 

WHAT LED YOU TO DECIDE TO CONTINUE YOUR EDUCATION AND ENROLL AS A STUDENT OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE AND ACUPUNCTURE?

My life purpose and goal is to help as many people as I possibly can, and I see Chinese medicine as a powerful way to expand my toolbox and do even more to promote health and healing. I consider Chinese medicine to be the original “functional medicine”, and it beautifully complements the naturopathic and contemporary functional medicine approach that I already offer. Amazingly, Chinese medicine philosophy and treatment approaches have survived for thousands of years and spread across the entire world. That alone speaks volumes to me! What’s so interesting is that research is now providing a scientific explanation for what Chinese medicine practitioners have known and done for millennia.

SO HOW WILL THE ADDITION OF CHINESE MEDICINE AND ACUPUNCTURE CHANGE YOUR PRACTICE ONCE YOU COMPLETE YOUR TRAINING?

Right now, my practice has a strong focus on naturopathic and functional medicine. It’s also completely virtual at this time, i.e. consultations are held over a secure video conferencing platform. This makes me available to more people and also keeps me accessible to Arkansans while I’m away at school, which is really important to me. Arkansas is my home and my roots, and I want my work to be available to the people that live there.

But, once I complete my training in Chinese medicine, my practice will become more of a hybrid of naturopathic, functional and Chinese medicine, which I think will be an incredibly powerful combination. I also have plans to return to Little Rock, Arkansas after graduation and establish a healing center. I want to see patients in person, but I will still offer virtual consults for those who don’t live in the area.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT NATUROPATHIC AND CHINESE MEDICINES, AND THE WAY YOU ARE ABLE TO WORK WITH PATIENTS?

Naturopathic medicine is incredible, and I’ve seen it change so many lives, including my own! What I love most about naturopathic medicine is that it is a health-oriented, “root cause solutions” approach. It’s not about masking symptoms or trading a pharmaceutical for a supplement. It’s about digging deep into a person’s history and whole-body presentation so that you can identify and address the core imbalances that created the symptom(s) they are dealing with. This approach is what allows true healing to occur. It’s what allows someone who has been dealing with chronic issues for YEARS to create a different reality.

Chinese medicine was created and refined during a time when diagnostic testing wasn’t available. So I love that this medicine incorporates these interesting but accurate ways to assess and diagnose what’s going on with someone. Looking at the tongue and using Chinese pulse assessment, for example, gives us a way to understand someone’s health condition on a deeper level, so we can help them right away; we aren’t waiting around for lab results to come back. It’s a different set of tools and a different vocabulary, but the Chinese diagnosis methods are a really valuable way to assess someone’s health status and use that information to guide treatment and recommendations.

WHEN IT COMES TO THE BIG PICTURE OF LIVING A HEALTHY AND BALANCED LIFESTYLE, WHAT DO YOU FIND THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE MISSING?

The big picture answer is almost always going to be diet and lifestyle. I cannot stress enough how much food and day-to-day choices matter. They are SO POWERFUL. There are actually five areas that I believe must be balanced for optimal health and longevity:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Movement
  3. Stress management
  4. Sleep
  5. Detoxification

However, in my experience, I have found that most people have issues in at least one, if not more, of these areas. And often that manifests as sickness and chronic disease at some point. So with my clients, we are always looking at how imbalances in these five areas could be contributing to their health concerns.

DO YOU FIND THAT ONE OF THESE AREAS MORE THAN OTHERS ARE TROUBLE AREAS FOR MANY PEOPLE?

Stress and toxicity through environmental exposures seem to be the two areas impacting almost everyone, but these issues aren’t getting the attention they deserve. I see a lot of chronic gut dysfunction, hormone imbalances and autoimmunity, which are all significantly impacted by chronic stress and toxins. This is why it’s so important to take a whole-person approach! Everything is connected.

IT SEEMS THAT MANY PEOPLE TODAY DEAL WITH SOME SORT OF CHRONIC HEALTH ISSUES. WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THAT IS?

I think it’s a combination of poor nutrition and compromised gut health, a sedentary lifestyle, inadequate sleep, chronic stress and constant exposure to environmental toxins. Genes certainly play a role, but their expression is very dependent on diet and lifestyle, so we can’t use our genetics as a scapegoat. Chronic disease is typically diagnosed in the 4th-6th decades of life, though we’re definitely seeing a trend in recent years toward younger onset, but that’s not when these conditions start. They’ve been brewing under the surface for year, sometimes decades, as symptoms. The symptoms are your body’s way of communicating the presence of imbalance and dysfunction.

People tend to ignore these early symptoms because the current paradigm is retroactive and disease-oriented. Let’s what until you have a diagnosable problem before we do something about it. Plus, I think we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that poor health is a normal consequence of aging, and yes, health declines with age. But there is nothing normal about chronic disease, no matter how old you are! So we have these symptoms for years that we ignore or take a pharmaceutical for, and eventually — because the underlying dysfunction hasn’t been addressed — we manifest a full-blown disease or diagnosable illness. I believe that the conventional idea of “prevention” — yearly exams, annual bloodwork and even vaccines — is grossly missing the mark. The collection of symptoms that you are experiencing tell a story about what’s going on in your body. We need more doctors who are really listening to that story and who are focused on addressing the root cause(s) and adding health.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BALANCE? DO YOU BELIEVE IT REALLY EXISTS?

Sometimes when we think of balance, we think of finding this fixed state where everything is “kumbaya”. But this fixed state of balance doesn’t exist in the body or anywhere else in nature. Everything is constantly changing, so the “balance” will constantly shift depending on what’s going on in a person’s life, their diet, external conditions, etc. We call this shifting state of balance “homeostasis”.

So when I think of balance in terms of health, I think it’s really about creating more resilience in the body, so the body can more easily adapt to what it encounters at any given time: toxins, stressors, a bacteria or virus or other factors. We need to focus on helping the body become more adaptable and responsive, so that when we encounter something that throws us off — because that’s going to happen, that’s life — our body can respond appropriately and return to a state of healthy balance more quickly.

I like to use the visual of a piece of bamboo: it’s strong but also flexible. We need this same balance of strength and flexibility in our bodies. We need to be able to bend without breaking.

While we are on the topic of balance, it’s important to mention that every person is different and will need a different approach to their health and their lifestyle. Balance for one person will look different than balance for someone else.

WHAT IS YOUR THEORY ON NUTRITION? DO YOU FEEL THAT THERE’S ONE WAY OF EATING THAT WORKS FOR EVERY PERSON?

No, nutrition is very individualized. There are general truths when it comes to eating and food that every person should pay attention to, but we also have to look at their specific health challenges and needs: are they overweight, do they have gut dysfunction, are there hormone imbalances, is there an autoimmune condition, etc? That’s why nutritional and dietary recommendations are at the heart of every plan I create when I work with someone.

The general truths that are for every person include: making sure you “eat a rainbow” of color everyday for a broad spectrum of phytonutrients, eating a plant-passionate diet (I like to recommend at least one pound of veggies every single day), consuming adequate protein with every meal, enjoying healthy fats, having as much variety in your diet as possible and minimizing packaged and processed “food” items.

Bottom line: eat whole foods, don’t get too caught up in all the fads and trends and work with someone that can help you find the right eating and nutrition plan for YOU. 

WHEN IT COMES TO LIVING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE, WHAT ARE YOUR OWN DAILY NON-NEGOTIABLES?

Being a full time student, as well as an entrepreneur, means I have to be very conscious of getting my self-care time in. And I’ve learned that if you don’t make the time for self-care, then it just doesn’t happen. I like to prioritize my self-care in the morning because for me, it might not happen if I put it off until later in the day. Things always come up unexpectedly that demand your time and attention!

I wake up about three hours earlier than my day starts so I can have time to hydrate, stretch, meditate, walk my dog, do some at-home exercises for strength building and eat a relaxed breakfast. Doing this routine first thing in the morning guarantees that I’ve taken care of myself that day, so even if I get no other self-care in, I’ve still given myself the time and attention I need to feel healthy and balanced. And these little things — like making sure I drink water upon waking and walking my dog — they really do add up big time when it comes to feeling like I’ve taken care of myself, which is important. I also try to journal at night to release the day. I’ve found this improves the quality of my sleep and my mental-emotional health. And I like to look ahead at the next day, at what’s on my schedule and what’s on my to-do list, and set some intentions. I have a lot to fit into each day, so planning is really important and helps me prioritize and stay focused.

As far as food, I make most of my meals on the weekend, so I don’t have to cook much during the week. So on the weekends I’ll do my grocery shopping, meal prepping and cooking. I often enjoy a fresh smoothie or juice to increase my nutrient intake and I like to have plenty of healthy snacks available because I’m always on-the-go. I have a dehydrator that I use to make different raw food crackers, flat breads or other goodies, but I always try to change things up and try new recipes. Variety is the spice of life! 

If possible, I also like to try and do some kind of self-care activity in the evening, which might be as simple as walking my dog again (it’s good for me and him, both!). Or, I might do some sort of creative activity like play my guitar, draw or color, or even just dance around my space. 

WHAT KEEPS YOU ON TRACK THROUGHOUT THE DAY WITH YOUR SCHOOLING AND WORK-LOAD FROM VIRTUAL CLIENTS?

It helps me to take regular breaks throughout the day, so I’ll just stop for five or ten minutes every hour or so and do some breathing exercises. Or, I’ll walk barefoot in the grass or soil, which is called earthing, and it helps me to feel more grounded and calm and to reconnect with myself. Research is finding that there are so many benefits to earthing, including decreased pain and inflammation and normalization of the circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). And it’s free!

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE FRIDGE STAPLES THAT YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?

That’s a tough one! I would say:

  1. Nuts and seeds (hemp seeds are one of my favorites because they’re a complete protein, but I keep a variety) for snacks, homemade raw treats and smoothies.
  2. Fermented foods which support a healthy balance of beneficial bugs in the gut.
  3. Ample veggies and leafy greens, in a rainbow of different colors.

ANY OTHER KITCHEN TIPS YOU CAN SHARE?

I think this is really important: I don’t bring anything into my kitchen that I don’t want to be eating. I think it’s important not to have that temptation there, it’s not worth doing to yourself.

WHAT IS THE MANTRA YOU’RE CURRENTLY LIVING BY?

Do at least one thing today that your future self will thank you for.

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