Dr. Amy Maher is happy to announce the opening of a new integrative medical clinic. She is located at Ashland Holistic Health Clinic, 325 A Street, Suite 1, near Ashland Hardware. She is a dual-board certified physician combining her medical expertise with alternative healing therapies. She helps women suffering from chronic pain and fatigue, hormonal issues, mood disorders, digestive problems, and other signs of imbalance. Her intention is to guide each woman towards better health to access her own vitality and live a fulfilled life!
Growing up in Alaska, I learned the value of a strong connection with nature for good health. Therefore, I am thrilled to be in Southern Oregon. My family moved to Ashland in March 2014. We immediately fell in love with the valley, so nurturing and restful. We are thankful for the warm welcome from this precious community. We feel fortunate to call this place our home.
With regards to my training, I lived in Portland for medical school, San Francisco for residency, and New Mexico for fellowship in chronic pain management. Prior to medical school, I earned a Master’s in Public Health and did health care research. For the past 7 years I have been studying nutrition, mind-body practices, strengthening exercises, and wholistic health.
What inspired you to become a doctor?
I was the first person in my family to become a physician, and I recall wanting to be a doctor from a very early age. Of course, the reasons have changed over the years. Today, I feel honored to be in this role. It is gratifying to make a connection with my clients and share in their lives. Women can make simple lifestyle changes, get it all done, and still feel vibrant and alive.
What inspired you to incorporate alternative and holistic modalities into your practice?
My approach developed over the years and was influenced by the knowledge gained on my own personal health journey. As a young resident physician, I had little time for self-care. After residency, I was depressed, de-conditioned, and disconnected from my heart and soul. I remember having sciatica, carpal tunnel, and having a hard time mustering the strength to push a full shopping cart! Therefore, I had no choice, and made some huge lifestyle changes. As I healed myself, I learned how to help others.
As a chronic pain doctor, I quickly became disillusioned by Western medicine and quite disappointed by its limitations. I began combining diet, supplements, mind-body techniques, and strengthening exercises into the treatment plan. My approach today focuses on these techniques.
Currently, my passion for wholistic healing continues to support my daily life. Each day, I eat healthy foods such as broth and fermented vegetables. My daily yoga and sound practice is quite simple, yet powerful. I use potent supplements that boost my energy. Most of all, I have compassion for myself in this busy modern life. My lifestyle choices keep me healthy and sane.
Can you explain how chronic pain relates to nutrition?
I will start with an often-used quote from Hippocrates, ‘All disease begins in the gut.’ As you can see, the medical community has known the importance of a healthy gut for quite some time. However, in modern medicine and science, this has been forgotten.
If the gut is not healthy, the kinds of bacteria that live there will change. There will be too many bad guys eating up our nutrients and making lots of nasty toxins. The cells that make up the gut lining will be sick and not do their job correctly. This will affect every system in our body, including our nervous system. Bottom line, our body will absorb more toxins and less nutrients. We may experience chronic pain, fatigue, or mood disorders.
Recently, modern medicine is understanding the relationship between gut and overall health. How exciting! Even the most complex chronic pain syndrome can get relief. A healthy gut is also key in treating most mental health diseases such as anxiety and depression, digestive problems such as bloating, gas, etc., hormonal issues such as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid issues.
What type of conditions are you typically treating?
Although there is a list of conditions below, it seems more important to describe WHOM I am treating. I offer my services to busy women juggling career, family, and self-care, no matter where they are on the health spectrum. Let me explain.
There exists a spectrum of ‘health’ where most women reside. On one extreme, some women are severely imbalanced, experiencing severe symptoms such as pain and fatigue, unable to function. Next, some women are highly functional but show signs of imbalance. They may be drinking caffeine to get out of bed each morning, have trouble concentrating, or have difficulty sleeping. They are at risk of getting sick. Finally, some women have the fortune of being physically and mentally balanced but still feel unfulfilled. They have the opportunity to ask themselves meaningful questions like ‘What things are true for me?’ ‘Is my heart open?’ and ‘Am I following my dreams?’ All women yearn to be fulfilled in their lives. We have more space for this when we are healthy. My approach helps women understand where they are along this spectrum and how to walk wisely towards optimal health for the body, mind, and heart.
Here is the list of most common conditions I treat:
• Adrenal fatigue such as low energy, fogginess, insomnia, mood swings, sugar cravings, and weight gain or loss
• Chronic body aches and pains, including fibromyalgia or migraine
• Hormonal imbalances, such as stress, thyroid or sex hormones
• Mental health issues: anxiety, depression, or overwhelming feelings of stress
• Digestive problems such as abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and flatulence
Studies have shown that stress is extremely prevalent in young women. Please say more.
Younger women, particularly if they are full-time professionals and/or mothers, are clearly struggling with the level of stress in their lives. Challenges such as building a career, starting a family, cultivating intimate relationships, and caring for ourselves are formidable! As a doctor and a mother of a 4 year old, I totally relate. Simple lifestyle changes make a huge impact. For example, we can spend less Facebook time and more real ‘face to face’ time with our friends. Quality time with girlfriends immediately decreases our stress hormones!
I love the idea of asking oneself ‘Is my tank full or empty?’ and ‘How do I know if it is full?’ These simple questions ask us to take a moment and check in with how we are feeling in our bodies, minds, and hearts. With simple and practical lifestyle changes, we can fill up our tank. Here is exactly how we will do it.
A typical visit with me includes a thorough medical evaluation. We will spend time together so that I can understand your challenges and priorities. I will suggest lab tests and imaging, if necessary. We will make a treatment plan including lifestyle changes, supplements and medication management. I may suggest that you join one of my group classes as described below. We will begin the journey back to health that may take 6 months or more, as this truly is a commitment to yourself.
Many of us are dragging around, just trying to get through our day. You mentioned ‘filling up our tank.’ What specific steps can be taken to see benefits?
When life seems really crazy, you can always make the effort to spend time with your girlfriends. Physiologically, women have an easier time coping with stressors when spending quality time with other women.
In addition, there are simple changes in your diet that can make a huge difference. For example, modifying sugar, alcohol and caffeine intake can lead to more stable energy throughout the day. These changes may take time, and patience is needed. However, there are some potent supplements that may give you a more immediate energy boost. In particular, taking adaptogens daily can stabilize your energy level and give you the capacity to make the long-term changes.
In addition to watching what you eat, another great way to maintain good energy is to have an ‘attitude of gratitude.’ A daily gratitude journal shifts our perspective and helps maintain a positive attitude. Negative thoughts are just as harmful as processed foods, or environmental pollutants. This is one reason why I practice and share yoga with others. Just a few minutes of a mindfulness practice each day can have huge benefits on your health.
Tell us about some mindfulness practices you encourage your patients to utilize?
Our bodies have a powerful innate ability to heal. Mindfulness practices encourage relaxation and strengthen the healing response. My two favorite practices are breath-centered yoga and sound therapy for healing.
With regards to yoga, a simple practice done in the comfort of your own home reaps big rewards. This yoga is for everybody. It improves your posture and strengthens your core. It optimizes your breathing patterns and focuses your mind. If done daily, like brushing your teeth, you immediately notice the health benefits.
Another simple, yet powerful mindfulness practice is in the realm of sound. I use voice, and healing instruments (such as singing bowls, tuning forks, and drums) in these intuitive healing sessions.
I have been fortunate to study with some brilliant yoga and sound teachers over the last decade. I look forward to sharing yoga and sound at the clinic.
You also offer group visits and classes at your clinic: Please tell us more.
Research from Shelley Taylor, PhD, at UCLA has shed some new light on women and stress. We now understand that women react differently than men. Instead of the traditional ‘fight or flight’ response, it appears that women display more of a ‘tend and befriend’ response. To explain, women react to stress by using nurturing and bonding behaviors, particularly with other women. For example, they create relationships and work together to relieve the cope with stressors. The female nervous system requires more social interaction to deal with stress.
I am excited to offer group visits, classes and workshops. By working together in groups, we can nurture our body, mind and hearts as our ancestral sisters once did. I look forward to collaborating with local experts in the areas of nutrition, supplementation, stress management, mental health, mind-body connection, Ayurvedic care, postural health, personal growth, and more.
What do you think your patients most appreciate about working with you?
Women often express how confused they are about what they should eat, how they should exercise, and what supplements and medications they should take. The media delivers many mixed messages. Combining quality visits with medical expertise, I clarify what plan is appropriate for each woman.
My hope is to support women to have strong bodies, clear minds, and open hearts. In this way, we can feel happy and healthy while we manage our very demanding lives. We can tap into our own wellspring of vitality and age gracefully.
Amy Maher, MD
325 A Street, Suite 1 Ashland OR 97520