Laura’s Story: Know and Trust Your Gut

Laura Hill Temmerman was excited about a full-time job at a west coast academic medical center after completing graduate school, researching service excellence and the clinician-patient relationship. In 2008, she started experiencing stomach flu-like symptoms which would eventually be diagnosed as an extremely rare gastrointestinal (GI) bacterial infection. Several specialists, a functional medicine doctor, and a licensed naturopathic doctor later, Laura finally found the treatment and recovery path that was best suited for her body. With the help of physicians who took time to understand her condition, Laura now lives a full life and confidently understands the tools needed to manage her health.

Laura’s professional role

With an engineering background and graduate work in healthcare management, Laura enjoyed her full-time career in a leadership role in an academic medical center. Her work focused on process improvement applied in a service context. “I really loved the ability to have both precision and human narrative guiding the work,” Laura explained. She focused on bringing a healing environment to the medical center’s patients, optimizing the relationship between the patient and healthcare provider. Little did she know, she would become the patient struggling to communicate effectively with her own doctors in just a few short years.

Inspired by family

Laura and her husband biking Grizzly Peak Century.

Laura enjoys building relationships with people at work. She is detail-oriented, comprehensive in her assessment of a situation, and naturally inquisitive. Her ability to connect with people through one-on-one relationships made her an excellent candidate to research and launch a formal service excellence program in the hospital setting.

Growing up, Laura’s parents worked in healthcare. She learned the difference made by direct patient contact and genuine compassion, a unique experience she recalls instilling a “call to contribute.”

Several years prior to her graduate school program, Laura’s father began to struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Laura and her family were stymied by issues with regulatory misinterpretation of her father’s needs in his care facilities despite having experience within the healthcare industry throughout their lives both personally and professionally.  A misguided response to state guidelines required a move from one facility to another. This caused catastrophic dementia behavior symptoms in her father and unnecessary upheaval for the family. 

“Anyone who has been around dementia patients knows that any disruption in routine and in people they recognize and trust causes difficulties for both the patient and the family,” Laura said. Her father died in 2007, just one year before Laura would start to develop health issues of her own.

Declining health yet surrounded by medicine

Laura in her professional role 3 years post-diagnosis.

In October 2008, Laura began to experience stomach flu-like symptoms, although she would eventually learn she had an extremely rare gastrointestinal (GI) bacterial infection. This infection became the environmental trigger for her ultimate diagnosis of pancolitic (involving the entire colon) ulcerative colitis. It was only after working with a slew of doctors that she ultimately found the source of her pain and discomfort.

After one month of not recovering from her “stomach flu,” Laura could not eat, felt nauseous, and was rapidly losing weight and strength. She went to her primary care doctor for testing, where she was referred to a GI specialist. After a few visits, it was still unclear what was going on.

Looking for a natural approach

Laura received a recommendation from a trusted friend to a naturopathic doctor, Melody Wong, ND. A comprehensive battery of tests discovered the infection, and Dr. Wong talked with her about her test results in person for over an hour. Dr. Wong explained that although as a naturopathic doctor she did not typically begin treatment for patients with antibiotics, because of the severity of this infection, “if there is one time in your life that I am telling you that you need antibiotics, it is now.”[1]

The GI specialist wasn’t familiar with the lab Dr. Wong used and would not prescribe antibiotics for the infection detected by the laboratory.

“That shook me up,” Laura recalled. In December of 2008, she returned to Dr. Wong and began a natural treatment.

If NDs do prescribe medication, they anticipate and address potential side effects of that medication with natural therapies.

Do Naturopathic Doctors Prescribe Medication?

Early in 2009, after multiple requests and nearly begging, Laura finally received a prescription for a “standard, generic kind of antibiotic” from her primary care doctor, who knew nothing about treating the infection. However, she had a sensitivity to something in the antibiotic and could not complete the prescription. She returned to the doctor’s office, ultimately being seen by a different primary care doctor covering for her usual provider. This person took the time while Laura was in the room to research the infection, informing her that the antibiotics previously prescribed were not indicated for this particular infection. The new doctor prescribed a different antibiotic to be taken for seven days. Laura noticed some modest improvement but still was unable to eat solid food.

She began contemplating medical leave from work: “I was either in the bathroom or in bed, and that was it.”

Naturopathic and functional doctors work together

Laura biking part of the Tour de France 5 years post-diagnosis.

Laura’s mother found a functional medicine doctor in Kansas City near her mother’s home. Dr. Jane Murray ultimately validated what Laura had heard from Dr. Wong, and confirmed that Laura would need antibiotics for at least one month because of her particular infection. It was Yersinia entercolitica, a bacterial infection related to the Black Plague (Yersinia Pestis). Together, they discussed the impact and risks of continued antibiotic treatment on her body.

“It really gave me that trust and belief I needed at the time to know my condition could improve,” Laura reflected. “With both Dr. Wong and Dr. Murray, if something was not working, they wanted to know right away. They wanted to be on the phone with me or see me in person to do any course correction.”

The CDC estimates Y. enterocolitica causes almost 117,000 illnesses, 640 hospitalizations, and 35 deaths in the United States every year.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The infection began to clear, but her GI health was still not back to normal. She and Dr. Wong discussed how to reduce inflammation. By then, Laura was showing symptoms similar to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

When patients fall through the cracks

There are systemic issues in patient care. Laura describes,  and patients can fall through the cracks. Things get lost in the system, even to patients who are in a bit of some urgent need for something.”

More testing ensued, and Laura got a call with a diagnosis a few days after a colonoscopy and began “maintenance medication.” Again, she was referred to a few specialists, and she discussed taking prednisone with specialists. She was on prednisone for most of the summer.

Listen to your body.  Keep an open mind to explore your options. Follow your intuition for your health is in your hands.

Melody Wong, ND

“I was very honest with the doctors and explained that I was not comfortable staying on medication for the rest of my life. I’m not talking about six months from now. I’m not even talking about two years from now. ‘But what if in five or ten years I am stable and want to reduce my medication? Are you open to that?’ The doctor made it very clear she would not discuss it any further. They were not open to that.” 

Laura was not content with the idea that there could be no improvement in her long-term care plan, whether for a chronic illness or acute symptom relief.

Use your ‘Gut’ instinct

Laura displaying her love of health, nature, and exercise.

Laura finished the visit but walked out from that doctor’s office knowing she would never be back. She says that if someone reading her story takes anything away from it, it should be to know your values.

“Use your gut instinct. Pun intended. Know what trust for you feels like.”

Laura Hill Temmerman

After that visit, Laura began seeing the GI specialist who she still sees today. He listens to her and adjusts medication accordingly. “He said, ‘I’m not going to tell you what to do. It is your body; you know your body,’” she described. “We talked about what to do when issues come up, establishing how to address any symptoms quickly knowing I was decreasing off of a therapeutic medication  load.”

Laura has now been off of her maintenance medication for at least five years. The fact that she cannot remember the exact date is a testament to Dr. Wong’s impact on her health by understanding how diet and supplemental nutrition can be used to manage inflammation.

“I have developed the sensitivity and attunement with my own body to understand what I need, and I can do it quickly enough and in an informed way so I do not need to resort to prescription drugs to control my issues,” Laura explained. “Many times, the prescription drugs were masking what the real issues were for me.” This isn’t to say any patient with the same diagnosis should do the same thing as me. It depends on the severity of the case and complex circumstances unique to each of us. But I firmly believe every patient can find further stability and health by actively engaging with a licensed naturopathic doctor in their care process to strengthen their body’s immune response and mitigate inflammation.

Laura considers her health journey an extraordinary educational experience, learning the efficacy of working with naturopathic medicine and functional medicine and the fact that some, though not all, conventional medical doctors are open to natural and integrative approaches.

“It was a tremendous learning opportunity about how the systems of our body are meant to stabilize us,” Laura said. “But we have to provide those systems the nutritional resources and sometimes the boost wherever there  is a deficit or gap.”

There’s a learning opportunity for everyone involved, really

“I think there needs to be an openness to learning about different modalities. This is similar to how I learned to develop that trust with my care team so that providers across different dimensions and modalities grew to  trust one another.” Of course, all with the potential of helping Laura find and maintain better health care outcomes.

Laura Hill Temmerman serves as the Patient Experience Advisor for NGA Healthcare Consulting, is an active volunteer and board member with the California Association of Healthcare Leaders and also teaches Pilates at two studios near San Jose, CA. She holds gratitude and positivity as guiding principles in her self-care in order to best help others.

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

Get Involved!

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.