Regulating The Nervous System with Dr. Patti Kim

Regulating The Nervous System with Dr. Patti Kim
Dr. Patti Kim believes nature runs on rhythms and our bodies will only ever feel their healthiest and most vibrant when we are in sync with them.

The LA-based naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist blends naturopathic medicine with traditional Chinese medicine to support her patients. Those who visit her atelier trust her implicitly, thanks to her soothing demeanor and immense knowledge of the body.

Here, we spoke with Dr. Kim about the synergistic benefits of combining multiple medicine modalities, she explains why digestion and nervous system regulation are key factors in skin health, and shares some of her personal wellness tips and tricks.

You practice both naturopathic and Chinese medicine. How do you combine both of those modalities?
I treat patients as individuals, not as blood tests or lab results, or conditions. Every treatment plan is tailored to the individual and it’s quite easy to blend the wisdom of both systems of medicine when it’s called for. Sometimes, I’ll just utilize the tools of naturopathic medicine, using more western herbs, nutraceuticals, and foundational lifestyle medicine. Other times, a patient’s body calls for naturopathic modalities as well as the unique ways acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs support and nourish the body. It’s really just about listening to the patient and listening to the body and what it’s asking for.

How can acupuncture help get the root cause of what might be going in our bodies?
We have a tendency to overthink and complicate things in health and medicine. And yes, the body is complex, with many components and layers. But health is also really simple at its core. Stuckness, stagnation, and traffic jams of qi create illness. Flow, release, movement, and expression create health and more manifestation. Acupuncture ultimately gets at the root cause of all health issues by creating more flow and by deeply relaxing the nervous system.

How does facial acupuncture help with skin health?
On a physical level, facial acupuncture creates microtrauma that allows the body to build more collagen and elastin. On an energetic level, it brings qi and balance to the meridians that run through the face. It also balances organ networks that are out of balance through the body points that are used as part of the treatment.

Why should we tune into our body’s natural rhythms?
When we think of any system of natural medicine, we often think of herbs, supplements, food, and things we put in and on our bodies. But ultimately, true health and the actual meaning of natural medicine is understanding that we are microcosms of the universe and our environment. We are inextricably linked to the rhythms of our planet and universal energies.

For instance, anytime things move quickly in nature, it is often destructive or intense, like a thunderstorm, hurricane, or earthquake. Nature likes to move steadily and slowly. And our bodies are the same. Anytime we try to do things too quickly, whether its braces on our teeth or trying to build muscle, inevitably, there’s a pushback. Even my LASIK surgery from years ago is finally wearing off because my eyeballs were forced to be a certain way.

Along those lines, nature runs on rhythms. And our bodies will only ever feel the healthiest and most vibrant when we are in sync with those rhythms. Health isn’t about the herbs we take. It’s about understanding and honoring our connection to nature and that we ARE nature itself. It’s getting harder and harder the more we develop and rely on technology. Technology has a place in our society and can be so helpful. I have hope we will eventually figure out the balance.

How much of our physical symptoms are rooted in stagnant energy?
As I mentioned above, health is ultimately simple. When everything is soft and flowing and moving, things run smoothly. It’s like a nice flowing river with enough water, yet not too much to cause flooding or rapids, but not too little, so it’s a little trickling stream. If we don’t have enough energy, it can also cause stagnation. So we need to make sure we’re nourished and fed so that the energy is moving. We need both. It would be like eating a large meal and not being able to digest it or having healthy digestion, but not eating enough food to feed the body.

When it comes to healing the skin, where should we look when wanting to get to the root cause of our skin issues?
Balancing the nervous system, processing stress, and optimizing our digestion are the first places to start. You can use the fanciest creams and potions and take the most expensive supplements, but if we’re not looking at how we feel, process, dissipate stress, and how healthy our digestion is, it’s like focusing on getting new curtains before repairing the foundation of the house. Our digestion is linked to our nervous system because it not only physically builds our neurotransmitters but energetically; it’s about how we take in and digest the world around us.

Do you have any anti-aging hacks?
There are no shortcuts and hacks when it comes to aging with grace and balance. All the basics matter the most—proper and enough hydration, deep quality sleep at the right times, nutrient-dense food, and most of all, enjoying your life. How our bodies age is merely a reflection of how we are living our lives.

That said, adding in more minerals and antioxidants (especially the body’s super antioxidant, glutathione) can be very helpful in combating the toxic world we live in.

Pivoting to hair growth and hair health, where do you start with a client when someone comes in looking for solutions?

I would start with bloodwork and hormone testing. Hair issues can be related to iron deficiency (including not enough iron storage), hormonal issues like suboptimal thyroid or low estrogen, high androgens, adrenal dysfunction, and yin deficiency in Chinese medicine.

What do you practice personally when it comes to maintaining good health?
Take at least 5 minutes out of each day to rest and not have any stimuli (no music, no podcasts, no Netflix). It doesn’t have to be meditation, as that world alone can be intimidating to some. Think of it as just resting our nervous systems. With my patients and for myself, I call it “adult nap time.” It can be as simple as going in your car midday or going into the bathroom and just sitting with your eyes closed for 5 minutes, but ideally, laying down if possible. We all say we have no time, but I know that we all have 5 minutes to do this.

Bedtime is by 11pm—this is something I’ve struggled with my whole life but have gotten so much better at. Also, low to no refined sugar, and morning walks to get movement and sunshine in to trigger my cortisol awakening response.

There are some nutraceuticals I take myself. I may rotate formulas, but I’ll take some form of omega-3, probiotics, adaptogens, and magnesium for the rest of my life since our bodies use up these resources and can’t manufacture them on our own to help the body’s resiliency to stress.

What advice would you give for living a healthy, well-lived life?
Think about the days that you feel so filled up inside that generosity and kindness pour out of you effortlessly. Think about the days when you can’t help but smile at a stranger or let someone go ahead of you in line. Hone in on what makes you feel that way and seek out more. Ultimately, we are here as humans to connect, help, and evolve. We can only do that if we are truly filled up to the point where connection and service to others feels so easy. Also, remember that you are going at the exact right pace in life and you’re where you’re supposed to be.