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Empowering Female Entrepreneurs With Autoimmune Disorders – Exclusive Interview With Dr. Aislynn Hunt

Dr. Aislynn Hunt is a second-generation naturopathic doctor with expertise in treating autoimmune disorders and complex chronic disease. She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder at the age of 20 and through the experience of frustration, isolation and hopelessness that is conventional autoimmunity healthcare, she realized her path. She made it her goal to support patients on their journey to optimal wellness with a compassionate, evidence-based and empowerment-focused approach. Dr. Hunt's mission is to help female entrepreneurs address their autoimmune disorder so that fatigue and frequent flares aren't holding them back from doing the things they love and making the world a better place.


Image photo of Dr. Aislynn Hunt

Dr. Aislynn Hunt, Naturopathic Doctor


Introduce yourself! Please tell us about you and your life, so we can get to know you better.


I’m Dr. Aislynn Hunt, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Vancouver, BC. I was born and raised in a small town in the West Kootenay region of BC and through this, I developed a deep appreciation for community, nature, and a balanced lifestyle. My journey to naturopathic medicine was slightly unconventional because my father is also a naturopathic doctor so I was aware of what naturopathic medicine could offer from a young age. However, it wasn’t until I had experienced health concerns of my own that I realized my career path. Outside of work, I’m often spending time with family and friends, at the gym, or doing yoga. I love getting into nature, whether it’s hiking, canoeing or skiing. I also enjoy quiet days spent reading, baking or meditating. Follow me on Instagram @dr.aislynnhunt to learn more and follow along with my journey!


Can you elaborate on how your personal experience with an autoimmune disorder influenced your decision to pursue naturopathic medicine and how it shapes your approach to patient care?

 

I’d be happy to! My story begins in 2017 when I started having a series of strange symptoms. I had severe fatigue, outbreaks of hives, and travelling joint pain that was so intense I couldn’t move those joints. All of this disappeared for a few months until I tore my hamstring, which led to swelling and inflammation in my knee on that leg. I was referred to a rheumatologist and got an appointment 6 months later, which is unfortunately a standard wait time to see a specialist in Canada. They then cycled me through several different drugs, which had minimal effects on my symptoms and eventually I was told that my only option was to start taking a biologic. Biologics are pharmaceuticals that act to shut down the immune system, which can put you at risk for a variety of serious concerns like life-threatening infections and cancer if taken long-term.

 

I was 21 at the time and didn’t accept that this was my only way forward so I went to see a naturopathic doctor. Their approach was starkly different – it involved looking at the underlying cause of my inflammation, which was related to poor gut health. Removing trigger foods and healing my gut lining was ultimately what allowed me to get my autoimmune condition under control and that was life changing for me. I was able to get back to activities that brought me joy, like skiing, hiking and going to the gym, which improved my mental well-being. The education and support provided by my naturopathic doctor was also incomparable to that given by the conventional medical system and for someone struggling with a daunting and painful health concern, it was much needed and appreciated. I felt empowered, optimistic and confident working with a naturopathic doctor, which was a significant change from the feelings of fear, hopelessness and isolation induced by the conventional medical system.

 

This cumulative experience is ultimately what inspired me to pursue naturopathic medicine. I wanted to help people struggling to manage their autoimmune disorder or complex chronic disease with a holistic, evidence-based and compassionate approach. My approach to patient care is also intrinsically connected to this experience. Having felt the frustration of being kept in the dark, I aim to educate my patients, putting the power back in their hands. Rather than suppressing the immune system or covering up symptoms, I work to uncover the root cause of disease and address that. My goal is to create radical change in the current landscape of autoimmunity healthcare so that no one has to experience what I went through.

 

That’s a powerful story, thank you for sharing. For the people reading this that don’t know what autoimmunity is, can you explain what this is and common symptoms people would be experiencing?

 

Autoimmunity is when the immune system becomes dysregulated and starts attacking your own tissues and organs. Common autoimmune conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Common symptoms would be things like severe fatigue, brain fog, muscle or joint pain and frequent infections. Autoimmune conditions are usually diagnosed with abnormal markers on a blood test or imaging. Some autoimmune disorders have specific markers that you can test while others are diagnosed through a combination of clinical presentation and non-specific lab markers. The prognosis of autoimmune disorders is typically progressive damage of self-tissues that your immune system is attacking like your joints or organs. Autoimmune disorders also create systemic inflammation that can lead to cardiovascular disease if left unaddressed. Some autoimmune disorders can also be fatal if they’re not well-controlled so they are serious and shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

How do you empower your patients on their journey to optimal wellness, and what role does education play in your practice?


I believe that understanding your disease on a deeper level is a very empowering process for patients. By educating patients on what caused their autoimmunity, what their triggers are, and how to reduce their inflammation, I’m putting the power in their hands. It allows patients to better comprehend the rationale behind my treatment suggestions and makes them more motivated to create lifestyle and dietary changes.

 

The word “doctor” is derived from the Latin verb “docere,” meaning to teach. The concept of “doctor as teacher” is one of the fundamental six principles of naturopathic medicine. I always incorporate this in 1:1 appointments with patients but I’ve realized that creating online educational programs allows me to accomplish more in appointments and use this 1:1 time more effectively. I’ve created two autoimmunity-focused programs that aim to meet people at different stages in their healing journey: Autoimmunity Empowered and Autoimmunity Transformed.

 

Autoimmunity Empowered is a self-led program for those that maybe aren’t ready for 1:1 care yet or for those that live outside of BC. This program is designed to give people that answers they’ve been seeking about their autoimmune disorder: what caused it, what their possible triggers are, and what their obstacles are in getting better. I also give some lifestyle and dietary suggestions that can be helpful in preventing autoimmune flares and reducing the severity of symptoms like fatigue and pain. I understand the frustration that people experience when they try a new treatment or medication and it doesn’t work. I also understand that naturopathic care can be expensive and I want to lower the financial barrier so that my knowledge is accessible to more people. My goal with this program is to get you back to the life you had before your autoimmunity diagnosis and to have the ability to do things that bring you joy that your autoimmune disorder has held you back from.

 

Autoimmunity Transformed is my 12-week signature care program for people that are ready to begin their wellness journey. I work with them 1:1 over the course of six appointments to find the root cause of their autoimmune disorder. This involves a comprehensive intake consultation, lab testing and interpretation, followed by four stepwise treatment-focused appointments. You will receive a treatment plan roadmap following the first appointment that’s personalized just for you with your specific goals, preferences and budget in mind. This program also include five online modules to provide you with all the information you need to understand your autoimmune disorder, weekly group coaching calls, as well as fun community events to connect with others that are on their autoimmunity healing journey.

 

What are some common challenges female entrepreneurs with autoimmune disorders face, and how do you help them overcome these obstacles to achieve better health and productivity?


Female entrepreneurs experience unique challenges in their work life and when an autoimmune disorder is added into the mix, it can be extremely challenging. Chronic fatigue and brain fog are common symptoms of autoimmunity and this can make it difficult to accomplish all of the tasks associated with running a successful business. Women often feel social pressure to do everything and be everything, which is why I often include lifestyle counselling in my treatment plans. I frequently recommend things like establishing boundaries, taking regular breaks and finding work-life balance for my female entrepreneur patients. Autoimmune disorders can be exacerbated by chronic stress and overworking, so incorporating self-care and rest into one’s daily schedule is key. As a female entrepreneur myself, I understand the need for a streamlined healthcare approach. This is why I created online programs that can be completed at any time and online coaching calls for accountability and questions. I also offer telemedicine appointments to accommodate their busy schedules.

 

You mentioned creating radical change in the landscape of autoimmunity healthcare. What are some changes that you think need to be made?


Currently, the Canadian healthcare system is overwhelmed and it’s been overwhelmed for a long time. If you book an appointment to see a family physician, you’re only allowed to bring up one symptom and they give you 5 minutes of their time. Autoimmune disorders are far too complex to be addressed adequately in this current healthcare model and usually patients have multiple symptoms. The significant wait time to see a specialist is also not appropriate for patients that are truly struggling with their health. If you’re scared, in pain, and not able to function in your daily life, waiting 6 months to even talk to someone is ridiculous. I think that naturopathic doctors should be part of the healthcare team in Canada so we can take some of this burden. We have the same level and quality of education as medical doctors, we can prescribe pharmaceuticals and we can order lab testing but we also have extensive education in modalities like nutrition, lifestyle counselling, herbal medicine and intravenous therapy. We are the future of healthcare and many Canadians would agree with that statement. I think it’s a point of pride for the conventional medical system that we have not been accepted under MSP yet but they are at their breaking point and we are ready to help.

 

What words of wisdom would you like to give people with that are considering beginning their autoimmunity healing journey? And for those that are inspired by our discussion, how can they connect with you?


Visualize your life free from the burdens of autoimmunity. Imagine how it would feel to be free from the stress you feel during a flare, free from the fatigue that makes it impossible to function optimally, and free from the pain that holds you back. This life can be yours and it would be my pleasure to guide you on your healing journey. You can connect with me via emailing or you can take a look at my website. I’m currently working at Lumicel Health Centre in Vancouver on Mondays & Fridays, Optimal Health Collective in Burnaby on Wednesdays & Saturdays, and EvokeLife.Co in Vancouver on Tuesdays & Thursdays.

 

Read more from Dr. Aislynn Hunt

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