Britt Reuter: Hi to everyone who is joining us! This is another Women in Wellness conversation where I get to introduce all of you to a female professional with a heart to serve others, and talk a little bit about what it is that they do, who they support, and what resources they may have available for you to explore.
I’m Britt Reuter and I help women experiencing gut issues, hormone imbalances, and autoimmunity. I run an online virtual clinic from my home in the Boston area. If you want to learn more about me and what I do, you can visit my website www.brittreuter.com or find me on facebook or instagram @nutritionbritt.
My guest today is Carie Perrino. Carie is a Registered Dietitian with a bachelor’s degree from University of Missouri. She has been practicing functional nutrition for the past 5 years in her company, Feel Good Nutrition, LLC. The company started to help people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or, IBS) resolve their symptoms and feel good for life. Carie had been struggling with IBS for 10 years and when she resolved her own IBS in 2 weeks with the help of food sensitivity testing, she felt it was kind of a no-brainer to start a company to help others. Quickly the company evolved to helping all people with chronic inflammation, from arthritis, to autoimmune diseases to IBS. Most recently Carie made a decision to go back to school and is currently in Naturopathic Medical school at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and is seeing patients part time.
I’m so excited to have her here. Welcome Carie!
Carie Perrino: Thank you, Britt!
Britt Reuter: Let’s just jump right in. Tell us a little bit about your background. You practice as a registered dietitian and food sensitivity specialist, but now with this recent decision to go back to school to be a doctor, tell us what went into that decision.
What went into your decision to go back to school and become a naturopathic doctor?
Carie Perrino: Yeah, so its kind of evolved over a long period of time. I started kind of exploring the dietetics world with my own struggles with food, obviously with my IBS. Kind of grew up in this foodie family where I tried probably every single diet. And then when I found out that I could make a living talking to people about food, that was kind of like “Why not?”. It was kind of fate. So, I went the dietetics route. And then over time practicing in a hospital and keeping my private practice, I was starting to develop kind of these conflicts with how I thought I should be practicing and how it was practiced, how dietetics was practiced in a hospital. I was feeding patients what I was considered considering very inflammatory foods, and encouraging them to drink Ensure and all these things that I didn’t necessarily believe in. I had a conversation with my manager like, “I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t know what how can I make this work for me.” She told me that she agreed with where I was coming from and that hospitals are based on patient satisfaction and how they’re reimbursed is based on patient satisfaction. So, the menu, making sure that it made patients happy was very important, versus teaching somebody that just had heart surgery or coming out of some major illness how to eat in a healthy way. I just couldn’t really vibe with that. So, I left the hospital world and continued my private practice. I got a job working at an integrative clinic in Arizona, a branch of MD Anderson Cancer Center, based in Arizona. I worked in their integrative clinic with an integrative and functional medicine practitioner, two acupuncturists, a massage therapist. One of our doctors also did Ayurvedic medicine. I was kind of surrounded by my people practicing in a very holistic way, making recommendations that I would have been recommending if I were able to. I was thinking about all of this, as a dietitian, I kind of reached that glass ceiling pretty quickly. I love seeing patients, and the next move in the clinical world is to be a manager. And that’s not really where I want it to go.
I started exploring advances in my career and started with Physician’s Assistant (PA) school. I took all my prerequisite classes and applied to PA school for two years in a row and didn’t hear back from the programs. It was very discouraging. Like, I didn’t even get a “no”. Give me something, please! I was being treated a number and I didn’t appreciate it. I went into go talk to one of the program’s administration people, and they told me that because I was a dietitian and because I wrote my essay about how I saw food as medicine that they didn’t think that nutrition was a vital part of health care and being a dietitian was my downfall. I lost it.
Britt Reuter: That’s shocking! That’s something that I think a lot of people are going to be really stunned to hear. A lot of people are commenting on how little training doctors get on nutrition and how nutrition can be such a powerful tool. It’s interesting to hear the acknowledgement from schools that actually turn-out doctors and other health care providers within that system that they’re not even open to it.
Carie Perrino: I think that a lot of these programs are kind of stuck in the dark ages with continuing how they were training people 20 years ago. Medicine and nutrition and people’s expectations, consumers expectations are changing and more people are demanding nutrition. The PAs that I had been shadowing before I applied were all really excited. They were like “You’re going to work in primary care, and you’re going to be able to help people with diabetes and heart conditions and all of these things. Avoid statins and delay their medications, and do what you can.” They thought it was wonderful, so I went into this interview thinking I had a leg up. I was like “This is going to be great. They’re going to love me.” Yeah, it was really the opposite reaction. I was a little shocked.
When I had asked them, “What do I need to do for next year? What would you recommend? I really want to be here.” They said, “Quit your job as a dietitian, become a medical assistant, or a CNA, and show us what you’re willing to give up to be here.” I had said to the guy, “So you’re asking me to give up everything that I believe in?” And he said, “Yes. We want you to work full time as a CNA, or medical assistant. Work part time as a waitress to make up the money and show us that you believe in medicine, and that medicine made a big impact in your life.” I was like “But I see food as medicine and it has made a big impact in my life.” That wasn’t really what they wanted to hear.
Britt Reuter: Not to dismiss the value of a physician’s assistant program or a trained physician assistant, they are very valuable part of our healthcare, but I know a lot of people who have gone through that program who didn’t do half as much as he was asking you to do to prove your stuff to even try to get into the program. So, it seems like such a double standard that they will admit other candidates without the nutrition training that you have. Which, like you’re saying, wouldn’t that be an asset not a deterrent for an administration board for school? That is astounding. I have no words.
I went into go talk to one of the program’s administration people, and they told me that because I was a dietitian and because I wrote my essay about how I saw food as medicine that they didn’t think that nutrition was a vital part of health care and being a dietitian was my downfall. I lost it.
Carie Perrino: After that I just kind of let it all go and decided that I was going to really ramp up my private practice and start churning out core audience courses and all these things. One day I went to lunch with the acupuncturist that I worked with at the integrative clinic, and she had mentioned naturopathic medicine. Before that I was thinking I was going to get my integrative and functional nutrition certified practitioner certificate, and be a dietitian with my IFMCP and practice that way, and it was going to be great, and I was totally fine with that. And then this word naturopathic came into my life. As a dietitian from Chicago where a naturopathic medicine isn’t licensed, I didn’t know what that word meant. I was like, “What do they do? What is this mysterious medicine?” I reached out to program down the street from me. I think if this is all fate because it’s one of the top programs, the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. I emailed them and I said, “Hey, I would to come in and talk to somebody”, and they said, “Oh, you’re in luck! We’re having our orientation this weekend.” So everything was falling into place for me.
I went to the school and everybody that was there was so friendly, which is opposite of my PA school interview experience where nobody wanted to have a conversation. I made a lot of efforts to be like “Oh, what’s your background? And where did you come from?” I wanted to chat and nobody wanted to talk to me. It was very cutthroat and silence and uncomfortable, almost. But this experience at the naturopathic school, I was like “Wow, why is everybody talking to me? This is weird.” We went for a tour, and they had a botanical medicine garden, and we were picking off flowers and eating them. I was in love.
Then we sat in on, they were interviewing some NDs that had graduated from the program. I asked one person a question about the difference between naturopathic medicine and functional medicine, because that was where my route was and that’s what I believe as a dietitian, and he said, “A naturopathic doctor is a functionally trained doctor from day one. Whereas an allopathic physician and regular MD, Ph. D, DO even would be considered allopathic medicine, and then they go get this IFMCP an integrative and functional medicine certified practitioner, and they have to kind of retrain their brain to think about it from a different perspective.” Hearing that, I was like this is where I’m meant to be. I applied to the school, interviewed a couple weeks later and got in! We started school in October and it’s all been kind of a whirlwind. I think I learned about naturopathic medicine, maybe April of last year.
It’s a four-year program. So going from thinking I was in a two year program to now being in a four year program, it’s kind of a lot to take on when you’re a little bit older and want to settle down and get your life moving. Everybody in this program, I feel like I’ve never been in a room with so many people that I have things in common with. We all come from a different struggle, but it’s all ended in the same place. So, it’s pretty amazing.
Britt Reuter: Yeah, and now we’re living and working longer. Even if you were to achieve your dream job by the time you’re 35 or 40, that could be another 30 plus years practicing that and that makes a big difference, feeling passionate about what it is that you do. That keeps you energized like nothing else. There’s no cup of coffee, there’s no trips to the Bahamas that can really take the place for feeling in alignment with what it is that you do day in, day out. Kudos to you for investing in yourself that way, and listening to those promptings because it can be so scary to go outside your comfort zone in that way to take on the additional debt and invest so much time and all that. I’m guessing because of how passionate you are about it that, had you tried to ignore those promptings, that life would have probably made it uncomfortable for you. It kind of has a way of doing that. I don’t know if you noticed that. But if you’re like, “No, I don’t want to do that it’s so scary.” And you put it off and put it off. But it’s life or the universe or God or however you want to frame it keeps coming after you. “No, you gotta do it, you gotta do it.” So, it’s good that you were at the first “you gotta do it” and then you just did it. Saved yourself a lot of time!
Carie Perrino: For a long time I thought PA was this thing that I had to do. And then I got the news that I that I did get and I was like okay, time to reframe this. I had another route I was considering, and then this other door open, and I was like “Okay, I might as well explore this, right? It’s not gonna hurt. Nothing bad is going to come from asking the questions.” It’s just been a miracle I think that to have everything kind of fall in line. Following what the universe has laid out for you and putting it out there. I have been very into manifestation and talking about if taking clients is what I want from the world, and slowly but surely, these things are falling into place. And I think it’s that consistency and being very open to talk to people about my journey and their journeys, and hearing people’s stories and all this stuff. That’s kind of bringing it all together.
Britt Reuter: I love it. That’s awesome. It’s such a good story, too. So, I really appreciate you sharing that with us. I feel it’s one that’s been a similar story that some of these other conversations that I’ve had another couple of other women have shared, where it was like, “I literally cannot face showing up to the clinic, and practicing in a way that’s outside of integrity for me personally.” You see that a lot. There’s a lot of stats that are showing now that over 50% of doctors are considering changing their career. It’s so to do what it is that you care about. I’m so glad that you did that.
Carie Perrino: Yeah, thank you. Yeah.
Britt Reuter: So what is it about naturopathy that most attracted you to that profession? Versus, we talked about the PA program and that door kind of closing on you. You’re a smart person, you got into a doctorate program, there’s a number of other standard Western medicine and more alternative medicine programs that you could choose from. Why did you choose naturopathy?
What is it about Naturopathy that most attracted to that profession vs say another advanced/doctoral program?
Carie Perrino: I think as a dietitian, and kind of as I was developing my practice, the most important thing to me was treating the whole person and to be able to get to the root cause of something. But as a dietitian, I don’t necessarily have that freedom all the time. I can’t treat, prescribe, and really follow somebody throughout their whole track, or throughout their whole journey and that was something that I was really craving. So, PA school was going to do that for me, in a way allow me to treat somebody and follow them and be their primary care, and be the person that they come to with any issues and outside of nutrition, kind of teaching the body to heal itself in in that way. So obviously, the PA world didn’t want that. The naturopathic world very much believes in treating the whole person and has that functional perspective that I have been kind of utilizing in my nutrition practice so far. So now, I think one of the most appealing things is learning all of these different modalities. We learned botanical medicine, and we learned homeopathy, and we learn how to do adjustments on people. So physical medicine, botanical medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture and having multiple different ways to approach a patient, and to tailor the treatment to what they’re ready for. Not every person that I see for nutrition consultations is ready to change their whole diet. So to be able to say, “let’s start with a homeopathic treatment”, which is very simple as compared to, “let’s remove gluten and dairy and all and make it a little bit more difficult for you to be social and feel comfortable” and that’s not something that you’re used to. I’m fresh into this program so I don’t know a whole lot as far as we have learned all of that yet. I know what’s coming and I’m really excited to be able to take that approach, and not just to do, a standard review of a patient and standard physical exam, but also to look at from a Chinese medicine perspective, and kind of combine all of these different methodologies to create a treatment that’s going to work for each patient individually.
Britt Reuter: Yeah, you just radically increased the tools in your toolbox, so to speak, and it’s the amount of customization that you’re going to have access to that has just increased exponentially, compared to maybe like you’re saying with a nutritionist, where it’s you start with a going to get the gluten out of your diet because you’re reacting to it. But as a naturopath you might be able to choose a couple different routes.
Carie Perrino: I 100% plan to keep my RD. I value what I have learned as a dietitian, the program that I went through was fabulous. I think I use it all in some way, shape, or form. I think all of these experiences that I’ve had up to today are really forming who I am as a practitioner, and what I’ll be able to do. Keeping that my main area of focus. I’m hoping to hold on to real tight is my food sensitivity testing, because that really revolutionized my practice, and has allowed me to help so many people. I mean, it’s hard to be able to remove and be on such a strict elimination diet with food sensitivity testing. It’s not easy. But for the patients that I see, and the people with IBS that were struggling for 10 years or can’t leave the house or have autoimmune diseases that really debilitate them, or they can’t work or whatever the case may be, those people are at the point where they are willing to make changes, whatever changes that is required of that. So, it’s kind of nice, just to be able to have all of these different tools in my toolbox and what I need when I need it, and be able to help the person in whatever way that fits them.
Britt Reuter: Yeah, that’s so awesome. That’s really where it’s at, right? That’s our heart. That’s what led us into these professions is just wanting to help people feel better. And now you’re so much more empowered to do that. I’m so excited to see your learning unfold and your career journey unfold. A couple years from now, when you’re finished with the program, this will be really cool for you to look back on, you’ll be like “Oh, I remember where I was at back then.” This is gonna be awesome.
Completing a doctoral program can be so demanding mentally, emotionally, spiritually some would say. How do you maintain balance in your day to day life? And are there any habits or life hacks or supplements that have been particularly helpful to you?
Are there any habits, life-hacks, supplements that have been particularly helpful to you in maintaining balance?
Carie Perrino: Being a dietitian we can attest we are very type A personality. I have to study I have to do well. And I’m very hard on myself if I don’t do well. Finding ways to change that and kind of adjust and be comfortable with maybe not knowing 100% of the information, but knowing 90% of the information, we’ve been adjusting to that and kind of trying to change my mindset slowly. Which I think is a healthy thing to do.
Britt Reuter: Sure. I mean, I agree. But let’s also a big opportunity for me too, so I’m nodding my head not being like “Yeah, girl. You need to work on your mindset.” Because you’re talking to me!
Carie Perrino: During our orientation, we were introduced to a note card way of studying. So, these flashcards through an app called Anki. During class or after class, immediately I go through all of our notes, and I put them into note cards. That gives me the ability to study everywhere, I so I can still do my life things and not feel I’m missing out on time. I use these Anki flashcards when I’m at the grocery store, or waiting to check out in line, or when I’m at the gym on the treadmill, so I’m not really losing time. But I’m still getting in my workout and my personal care and getting my groceries bought so that I’m not eating out every day. Making time for things that really matter, but not really compromising what else also else is important to me. So that was one thing. I also ordered grocery order my groceries.
Britt Reuter: Huge time saver!
Carie Perrino: Being a dietitian and living in the food world, I can spend probably two hours in the grocery store just looking at all your products or looking at the ingredient list. Because picking up one natural peanut butter is not the same as another.
Britt Reuter: It’s like our toy store. I get lost in there for hours.
Carie Perrino: Grocery shopping is my clothes shopping!
Britt Reuter: In the show notes, in the transcript, I love singling in on a quote. That is it!
Carie Perrino: It is so true. If I don’t have the time I try to make time for that. Because it is something that I feel I need in order to feel satisfied. Everyone has that thing that they need and I really need to go look at the new products.
Britt Reuter: You’re like holding up pasta, “Does this look good on me?”
Carie Perrino: Haha, Right! What can I try that’s new today?
Really the important thing is to continue to work with patients, especially in the food sensitivity world, because ingredients are the most important thing. I don’t really care what the food is. And we may not consider it the healthiest food. But if it’s something that doesn’t trigger your foods and trigger reaction for you, I’m gonna allow it. Yes, I see value in only eating healthy foods and all of that, but there’s a point where, when you’re on such a restrictive diet, you can’t restrict that much. So, if there’s a potato chip that works for somebody you are welcome to it, just don’t overdo it.
Grocery shopping is my clothes shopping!
Britt Reuter: Well, yeah. Because people they can kind of develop, I’m drawing a blank on what it’s called now. But it’s that eating disorder that comes from wanting to always just be healthy.
Carie Perrino: Orthorexia?
Britt Reuter: Yes! So, yeah. Being too fearful of food and feeling you need to be perfect. Which obviously, that’s something that we struggle with, right? That’s not healthy, either. Mindset matters. You can’t put all of your eggs, so to speak, into the food restrictive basket and ignore stress management, or sleep, or all those things. They all equally matter. I just love that you kind of have that, a little bit more relaxed. Take the pressure out of it. We’re going to avoid your reactive foods you feel better. But this isn’t “I’m the food police” now.
Carie Perrino: Exactly. So, I want to find things that make it easy. Talking about sleep and stress, you have to make everything that you’re going to eat, meal prep everything. Hummus, and make your own potato chips and crackers, even. That would be the perfect world, right? But you would spend all your days, be up late, and then not to mention having a family and having to make food for all of them too. I feel we’re doing everything we can to help you avoid your symptoms, the least we can do is make it a little bit simpler. Not everybody’s used to eating food that they make from scratch 100% of the time, and most of the people that I work with are busy moms, working dads, working moms and children in high school. Like, “You got to find something work for me otherwise, it’s not realistic.” That’s a big part of what I have what I have to do, in order to feel I’m ready to see patients and make those recommendations. I do try to make time for that when I can. We are big meal preppers, so I really eating leftovers. So ideally, a couple of meals, maybe two to three meals a week, and then we feed on leftovers for otherwise, or it’s kind of fend for yourself and keep snacks.
Britt Reuter: Cold cereal again, I guess.
Carie Perrino: Right? I know it’s terrible, but sometimes necessary. Especially weeks that we have exams. I think one week that wasn’t even finals I had five exams, or four exams and a practical. Don’t even talk to me. Like, I’m not making dinner. Don’t have time for that.
But then in the supplement world, I think the first quarter of school, I got really sick at finals week. And I think it was the lack of sleep because I was up all night – not all night, but long time. And I was very stressed out, you know as my first quarter I have to do well, this is going to shape the rest of my fifteen quarters, no pressure. So, I was up really, really late. And I really wanted to do well. And that stress and taking all of that on made me really sick. And that was a struggle. So, I’ve always taken a multivitamin and fish oil, a probiotic. I tried to take my vitamin D even though I’m here in Arizona, most of us are deficient. And then our botanical medicine club makes elderberry syrup. It’s this magical syrup. That makes you better. So great. So, I bought their elderberry syrup. And I take that especially at times where we have exams, I’m really particularly stressful weeks to try to avoid any kind of downfalls in my immune system. So those are probably my big things. And then melatonin. Bach’s flower essence makes this melatonin, they’re gummies, and I’m not a huge gummy person. But I’ve taken liposomal melatonin that’s under the tongue. And it made me very crappy. And kind of changed who I was, it changed my personality. This Bach’s flower essence Melatonin is very mild, and I can take half a dose and get a really good night’s sleep and kind of be refreshed for the next day. And over the weekend, I take the full dose and I sleep 10 hours. And it’s really nice.
Britt Reuter: That sounds wonderful.
Carie Perrino: I think making time for all of that. The other thing that I love about my school is that for the students that are above us that are practicing, and in classes learning acupuncture, and learning physical medicine, they have the opportunity to come in at lunch, and practice on students. It’s a free service for students, because you’re kind of the training dummies, right? I take full advantage of mainly the adjustments, because I tend to hold a lot of stress, in my shoulders.
We have a yoga studio. My best friend at school and I take advantage of some longer lunch breaks that we have to take some time to stretch and just kind of chill out and not be so go go go all the time. It’s been really healthy to develop these friendships and have people to laugh with. That’s kind of how I’ve been getting through my stressful times, I guess.
Britt Reuter: Yeah, I mean, I’ve found the same thing where baking in extra efficiencies to give you time back. And then I’m also trying to find ways to kind of break a stress cycle midday works so much better for me, because I tend to just be stressed out all day. And then it’s eight o’clock at night and it’s like “alright, well wrap this up, we gotta go to bed.” And then I won’t be able to sleep because I’ve been nonstop stressed out all day long. So that’s so smart, to take that midday lunch break even. And just regroup and do yoga flow. That’s got to pay off big time.
Carie Perrino: Yeah, I definitely feel I’m much more reenergized to go through the second half of my day. And then we have 10-minute breaks between our classes. Each of our classes are two hours and we have a break in between. Almost all of the people in my class take that time to walk up and down the parking lot to get some fresh air and be outside and kind of not talk about school and talk about something else. We really value those breaks that the school gives us in order to just kind of regroup and process what we’ve learned in that hour, so that we can move forward and continue to learn something else.
Britt Reuter: So cool, I love it. It’s such a good reminder as a practitioner to practice what you preach. We’re always telling clients or patients to manage stress better so I just love that in this very stressful time or season in your life you’re really looking for ways to implement that. And I think that’s just such a good example, you’re being such a good role model to people.
Carie Perrino: Thank you! It’s not easy. I think before I got into school I wasn’t as good at practicing what I preach. It’s very hard working from home and a virtual practice to step away. I’m sure you experienced that, right? I do. Setting alarms like “Okay, I need to set this alarm so that I remind myself to get up. And then that alarm comes and goes, but I’m in the middle of something!” You gotta commit. That self-care is so important. You can be a better practitioner for your patient’s and your clients and really pour into them everything that you have all still taking time to reserve that for yourself, that time for yourself so that you can rebuild yourself.
Britt Reuter: I joke with my husband sometimes and I say that I’m the worst boss or the worst manager that I’ve ever had. She is relentless! She makes me work through every single lunch break. She’s making me check Facebook and Instagram at 6am, and I don’t put it away to nine or ten at night. She is a real piece, you know?
Carie Perrino: We tend to be very hard on ourselves, I think compared to how it would be to work for somebody else working in the private practice by yourself. It’s like, “Alright, I’m holding all the slack. I’ve got to do all this stuff, because nobody else is going to do it.”
Britt Reuter: I feel maybe this is just a good time to insert that if you’re someone who needs permission to set better boundaries in your schedule, to be a little bit nicer to yourself, we (me and Carie) grant you the permission.
Carie Perrino: Yea, absolutely. You need that. You have that.
Britt Reuter: This is redeemable for a lunch break and a normal bedtime, you guys. Right? That’s great.
If people want to follow your journey through naturopathic school, if they want to connect with you through your nutrition website, where are some places where they can reach out and connect?
Carie Perrino: Instagram is probably the best place. I’m not really great at posting because I feel I just got so much going on. But I try to get on live, try to post some stories and things that. My Instagram is @feelgoodrd. And then my website is www.feelgoodnutrition.com. You can contact me on there or contact me on Instagram. And I’d love to talk to anybody. Especially if you’re struggling with food sensitivities.
Britt Reuter: That’s right. Oh my gosh, yeah, that’s your jam.
This has just been so fun, and I’ve just really enjoyed getting to know you better, and learning about your journey and everything that you’re trying to accomplish right now. Thank you so much for joining me here today.
Where can our viewers/listeners learn more about you and connect with you?
Carie Perrino: Absolutely. Thank you for inviting me. And I’m excited to see your journey unfold also, and how this is going to blow up because everyone’s gonna love it. It’s so great that you’re interviewing women in wellness specifically so that we can all band together. And I think it’s important to build this network of female empowerment and to realize that we’re all there for each other. It’s not this competition, and I know we talked about that.
Britt Reuter: That’s totally my heart, so I’m so glad that that resonates with you. And I can tell it’s really picking up momentum with other women as well, which is great because this is the manifestation of collaboration over competition. And I think that it’s something really important that we need right now. It’s been a pleasure to have you be part of this women and wellness community, so welcome and thank you again, so much.