20 Questions

(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)

Jeff Gladd

By Bonnie Blackburn
Dr. Jeff Gladd is something of a maverick. Trained as a family practice physician, he spent several years working as a traditional doctor, seeing multiple patients for brief office visits, ending most visits with prescription pad in hand, doling out the latest medicines to fight lifestyle-based diseases and conditions.

It wasn’t until his children, Sam, Lily and Maggie, were born that he had an epiphany of sorts. “I need to improve my health” so that he would be able to care for his family. He did “like I was taught, I thought I’d just cut calories” and he’d lose weight and be healthy. A long-time athlete, Gladd was used to his body behaving as he wanted it to. But something changed, and he realized that traditional ways of losing weight and getting healthy weren’t working. He lost 50 pounds in six months after studying nutrition and, he says, listening to his wife, Neely, who urged him to eat more fruits and vegetables and to drink more water.

“Why didn’t I learn this” in medical school, Gladd asked. “There’s something to this nutrition” and its effects on the human body.

Gladd left “traditional’ medicine behind and studied for two years with Dr. Andrew Weil through the Center for Integrative Medicine in Arizona, learning about how the foods we eat affect our bodies and about the mind-body-spirit connection in promoting health. Gladd opened a solo practice focusing on Integrative Medicine and sees just a handful of patients a day, with office visits lasting an hour or more. He doesn’t take insurance and offers a variety of supplements that he says will help the body heal itself with proper diet, exercise and meditation. He also answers questions each Wednesday on Indiana’s News Center. Find out more as we play 20 Questions with Dr. Jeff Gladd.

When did you first become interested in general health care?
I was always attracted to biology and science. I never thought there was another kind of medicine. I put blinders on and went through the motions of medicine.

What is integrative medicine?
It’s the combination of the best practices of traditional medicine with the best of complementary and alternative medicine. It’s the only way. It’s the only chance we have. It’s health promotion versus management of disease. It’s about creating a culture of health, empowering patients, teaching them they have power over their health.

How important is patient education?
It is absolutely key. Without it there is no health care. We have hour-long visits that are packed with information. The doctor has to listen to the patient. Empowerment is knowledge.

How is integrative medicine different than traditional medicine?
Integrative medicine gave me the tools to listen and understand and rebalance the body. Health is not merely the absence of disease. It’s so much more than that. Medications are largely band-aids for managing symptoms. Integrative medicine gets to the root of the (issue).

What are the three biggest health problems in the country and how does integrative medicine address them?
Obesity, diabetes and poor digestive health. We address them with whole foods, (better) nutrition, regular exercise and daily stress management practice.

How did you get interested in this?
My wife was way ahead of me on this. She was raised by a whole-foods vegetarian. She harped on me!

Has anyone had a strongly negative reaction to your practice?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised that that’s not the case. We get a lot of referrals from (traditional) physicians. We get a lot of support. There’s never been any direct confrontation.

What’s it like to be on television?
It’s fun. I love Corrine (Rose). She’s great. A lot of people (who call in) have never been able to connect with their doctor. We have a friendly sit-down and chat about health.

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened because of your TV exposure?
People come up to me in the grocery store and keep me honest. They look in my grocery cart to make sure I’m eating right!

Which alternative practices surprised you the most as being the most helpful?
Mind-body therapies are the most impactful. Things like breathing. A simple cycle of relaxation and breathing exercises is the most impactful. Yoga is very positive. People who do that have a force field around them that protects them from disease. Nutrition is a big focus. Things like getting the digestive system back in balance. I’ve done them all and I know why to use it and what to expect.

What therapies don’t work?
I don’t think there are any that don’t work. I’m a big believer in the placebo effect. I would rather have the side-effect profile of what I’m doing than the side effect from medication. What doesn’t work? (De-toxing) foot baths, skin testing for parasites. Iridology is not reproducible. If people believe in them, there are no side effects and if people believe they are getting better, I don’t stop them.

At what point do your patients come to you?
Many have been through the (traditional) system. I’ve got younger people, the pro-active group. The people who have been doing it all their lives.

How does health insurance affect your practice?
I don’t take insurance. Health insurance rewards physicians for seeing high volumes of patients or doing high volumes of procedures. I do neither. I charge $249 per hour and most of my patients view that as a tremendous investment in themselves. My goal is to put myself out of business.

What does it mean to be a healer?
You are willing to connect to a patient, whether emotionally or listening, that helps guide their body toward healing. It isn’t me who fixes people. I’m just a guidance counselor for that process. People heal themselves.

Is there a spiritual aspect to  your practice?
Absolutely. Part of the mind-body connection is that. I am very concerned about patients’ spirituality (but) I don’t define what spirituality is.

What is your greatest joy?
Being with my wife and children. I’m a homebody. A weekend at home with nothing to do, that’s my dream.

How would you fix health care?
That’s a great question. I would make a big investment in primary care. I could change primary care (to focus on) nutrition, mind-body practices, and then I’d reimburse primary care so they can come out of medical school with(out) that giant mountain of debt. I would reward for health, not just numbers.

Do you practice what you preach?
100 percent.

If you could wave a magic wand and fix a societal ill,  what would it be?
I’d remove the desire for sweetness.

How can people tell the difference between true natural therapies and snake oil, for lack of a better term?
That’s the beauty of integrative medicine. It speaks the evidence. Though, actually, snake oil has omega 3 fatty acids. Maybe there really is something to snake oil
after all!

Posted: Thu, 08/25/2011 - 10:37 am
Last updated: Wed, 05/23/2012 - 3:13 pm