Dr. Nasha Winters is a CEO, bestselling author, naturopath, and oncology specialist. Her journey with cutting out sugar and fueling her body through ketosis began after her own battle with cancer. As a result of her own experiences with alternative medicines and practices, she pursued education in naturopathic medicine and Chinese medicine to be better able to help others struggling as she had. Dr. Winters believes in treating the patient as a whole, both mind and body, and that approach is what she teaches to physicians today.
Dr. Nasha Winters, you are a board-certified naturopathic doctor, a fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology, and also studied acupuncture and Oriental medicine. What led you to this point in your career?
I have always been a life learner, and would frankly still be getting degrees if my husband hadn’t created a moratorium! But it was my own health challenges that piqued my interest in health, the sciences, and general wellbeing. Each time I learn something new about myself, or about a patient, it only reveals more questions and keeps me seeking more answers. Nearly three decades into a terminal cancer diagnosis, I am constantly in search of what causes disease and what can be done to reverse the process.
There are many misconceptions about what a naturopath is. What are the 5 biggest myths you encounter that you would love to set straight?
I used to get this a lot: “Are you a real doctor?” (Now, not so much.) There are actually a few misconceptions around this one, so there are a few myths tied up here.
First, a doctorate implies someone got a post-graduate-level education and received the highest level of education in whatever field they chose to study.
Second, the word doctor in Latin is docere, which means teacher. What standard-of-care, insurance-billing doctor today has the opportunity to spend the proper time with their patient teaching them how to be healthy and avoid disease?
Third, the years I have spent studying in and out of institutions (undergraduate and two post graduate degrees) while maintaining my continuing education, credentials, licensure, and malpractice along with mentoring healthcare providers and clinical environments around the world and supporting well over 10,000 patients on their health journeys has humbled me to know this: we each have our own inner doctor, one we need to honor and consult on a regular basis.
And finally, just ask the number of MD/DO colleagues I have mentored, or who have mentored me or given me the privilege of supporting them on their own healing journeys, what value I brought to their own healthcare process.
What is the biggest difference in the way you practice versus a physician? Do you find that your patients are more trusting and accepting of your approaches to treating the patient as a whole?
Folks find me when they have grown weary of standard of care or are not finding the help they need. These patients are are often distrusting of medical providers in general, often feeling as though they have been abandoned and they have no more options except for a last resort. But naturopathic medicine does not need to be just a last resort. We treat the body as a whole. We encourage a healthy body and mind to help prevent issues before they arise instead of focusing solely on the aftermath of the issue, the diagnosis. “Why is this happening?” is often just as important as “How do we fix this?”
When it comes down to the basics, it’s not naturopath versus physician and Western medicine. There is no reason why we cannot work together with the common goal of advocating and caring for our patients. And that is exactly what I have been doing in my own practice. I currently mentor both naturopaths and other healthcare providers looking to broaden their outlook on integrative oncology. My lifelong goal has been to be able to provide compassionate, advanced, integrative whole body care for patients and to one day have a facility that facilitates this goal as well as educates others on its practices.
Are naturopathic approaches to oncology becoming more commonplace in Western medicine? Do you work in conjunction with other healthcare providers to treat patients collectively?
It has taken a very long time, well over a quarter century. However, in the last few years, the role of integrative oncology has found a chair at the table. It is enhancing a lot of changes in the field of oncology research and patient outcomes, and most who seek my services today are from the standard of care model, be it healthcare providers, researchers, or industry leaders. I no longer consult directly with patients; instead I work with doctors to help them learn and master an integrative approach to help serve their patients better.
You personally battled cancer. Did that experience allow you to better treat your patients because you have a deeper level of understanding?
I used to keep that part of my history a secret from my patients and colleagues because of how I was treated when I did not go with a standard of care approach. Mind you, I was given no options, so had to cut my own path. But now, when I share my experience, I see an emergence of hope, trust, and community. Of course, I understand many of the concerns, fears, doubts, overwhelm and grief that so many face with this diagnosis. But I also have a unique perspective to see it through a different lens—one as patient, doctor, guide, researcher, scientist, student, and caregiver.
How does the ketogenic diet play into your practice? How do you implement it?
Diet is an integral part of treating the whole body. How could it not be when it is the source of fuel that allows the body to function or misfunction? I believe strongly in providing the body with whole food sources, eliminating processed foods and oils, fasting, and striving for ketosis. However, whether the patient decides to enter a state of ketosis is up to them, be it via fasting, eating to the ketone meter, or through a strict ketogenic diet. But one thing is for sure: sugar and processed foods do not have a place in a healthy thriving body, let alone one battling cancer.
How can people newly diagnosed with cancer advocate for themselves to make sure they are getting the treatment they need and be heard by their healthcare team?
It’s important the patients understand that it is their life and their body. They need to set goals and stick with them. They need to find a healthcare team that not only supports those goals, but is willing to work with them to achieve them. This doesn’t mean that the patient is always right. Your healthcare professionals have gone through extensive training to be able to treat you, whether we are talking about naturopaths or physicians. But a good provider will explain things to their patient and work with them to educate them and make every possible option understood so that the patient can make informed decisions about their body and life.
With much research being done on cancer and alternative treatments and interventions, it’s disheartening that many patients aren’t introduced to these alternatives until it’s a last resort. What are your views on this, and how do you see this practice changing in the future?
While I can’t give too much away, I have been working on opening a teaching hospital that will work to treat the patient as a whole, offering them an assortment of state-of-the art treatments. We will be able to treat them in the way we prefer: as a person, not just a billing code. This has been my life’s work and it’s finally coming to fruition. So stay tuned for more information!
To learn more about Dr. Nasha Winters’ mentorship program for clinicians who want to become masters of the metabolic approach, visit her website here.