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Exclusive Interview With Dr. Romi Fung - Embracing A Naturopathic Holistic Approach For Dementia

Brainz Magazine Exclusive Interview

 

Naturopathic doctors are healthcare practitioners who prioritize addressing the root causes of diseases through evidence-based natural means. Dr. Romi Fung, ND, is a renowned naturopathic doctor who practices in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. A second-generation Chinese Canadian born in Vancouver and raised in Richmond by immigrants from Hong Kong. He has an impressive formal education, consisting of a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences from Simon Fraser University, a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and a Master of Science in Aging and Health from Queen's University. Dr. Romi is currently a Ph.D. Candidate and completing his thesis dissertation in Aging and Health from Queen's University. He is also a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner from Functional Medicine University, Certified Bowen Health Therapist from Bowen College, and Certified Brain Health Practitioner from Amen University.


Dr. Romi takes a holistic and comprehensive approach to understanding the unique needs of his patients. He has treated over thousands of patients ranging from digestive concerns, low-functioning thyroid, fatigue, diabetes and insulin resistance, and cognitive impairment. Dr. Romi is known for his gentle and kind demeanor, along with his clear, passionate approach to teaching and guiding his patients to achieve optimal health.


Dr. Romi Fung, ND

Could you share the story behind your decision to become a doctor?


I have always wanted to be a doctor. I grew up with video games and always resonated with using the cleric, healer, white mage, priest, bishop, high priest, acolyte, or any other support class in role-playing games. Jokingly enough, everyone who played these games with me knew I would be the healer in the group no matter what. Now that I’ve become a doctor, I feel like I’m living the dream and it’s not surprising for anyone to know that I am in the healthcare field. I’m now a healer in real life! However, I would be a teacher if I wasn't a doctor. As a naturopathic doctor, I get the best of both as I teach not only my patients about their health and conditions and what they can do for their health but to the community, students and medical interns, and the medical profession.


Before we get started with your professional work, tell us what makes you unique. What words would people describe you as?


I love to walk around and would walk long distances where I would get stares when I tell someone I came on foot. Earlier today, I walked to do a health talk on bone health and osteoporosis and was asked where I was coming from. It turns out it was about a 40-minute walk away from home on foot! I am described as someone with the most meticulous writing. I went through medical training with the least doctor-like writing by most of my colleagues! I failed on a chart because my writing was too small and neat to have been hand-written! I have been told I am someone who’s always studying and never stops learning. One colleague, in particular, would ask me what I am studying now rather than how I was doing. I love learning and find everything is an opportunity. I spend my days off at the coffee shop just listening to lectures or reading. As we speak, I am currently learning more about Longevity and Wellness taught by Dr. Datis Kharrazian and the Kharrazian Institute. People describe me as brilliant, articulate, approachable, ambitious, and purposeful.


How would you describe your business, and what services do you offer to your clients?


I currently run a solo practice as a naturopathic physician in Richmond. My patients will consult me for their health concerns, including digestive complaints such as bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, hormone imbalances, fatigue, and low energy. However, my special focus and clinical interests involve cognitive health optimization and dementia treatment. My ideal patients are motivated to change their lifestyles to optimize their cognitive health. I believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that especially speaks for dementia. I have patients seeking my expertise after experiencing changes in their cognition that haven’t impacted their activities of daily living.


These people in their 40s and 50s know that the brain's health is vital for the latter years of their life. I help these patients by identifying what may be contributing to their cognition. We go through a comprehensive examination and consultation, from taking the history of their health, previous health conditions, living environment, and other associated symptoms, to assessments, including cognitive testing. I also run several laboratory tests (blood and urine) to ensure the cardiovascular system, inflammation, insulin, hormones, iron, vitamin D, and such are optimal. It has been found that these lab tests will reveal abnormalities a couple of decades before dementia symptoms arise. I will recommend targeted supplementation, nutraceuticals, lifestyle, and diet modifications, and potential hormone and pharmaceutical prescriptions. We make realistic goals and timelines and follow up in the weeks and months following the initial and interpretation consultations.


What made you think of becoming a naturopathic doctor among other health professions, and why dementia?


Health is so much more than the absence of disease; Health stems from how well we eat, move, think, perceive, act, give, connect, and live. I understand the interconnectedness of these domains and how they impact our health. As a naturopathic doctor, I am trained very well to detect these subtle changes and be able to request labs that show biochemical changes that happen decades before the decline of cognition takes place. I think I started having a pet peeve when people said they’d have a brain moment and immediately concluded that they were getting old. After my extensive (and continuing) education on neurology and the brain, I realized there is so much about the brain we must not overlook. One of these things is that a subtle sign such as brain fog and memory lapses may be harmless initially, but when it becomes more frequent, it should warrant an investigation. I chose dementia as I couldn’t stop learning about cognition and our brain. I knew this was a sign that I must explore more deeply in this field.


People do not just get dementia, nor even depression or anxiety. There are many factors of the body that contribute to the health of the brain. I have lived with debilitating depression growing up and understand I may have a 4-fold increase in the risk of developing dementia as I know the pathways of depression predisposed me to develop dementia through an inflammatory pathway. Knowing this, I put great weight on my cognitive and mental health and take great strides in optimizing my health through better sleep, exercise, nutrition, community, and purpose. However, only a few people know about these facts and secrets. My mission is to make a difference in the health of others, especially involving their cognitive health.


I became a naturopathic doctor knowing the philosophy of health is so much more than waiting until symptoms develop. My training as a naturopathic doctor expanded more than just treating conditions, but optimizing health, preventing disease, and educating my patients and my community about the foundations of health. It has been the road less traveled as not many people know what a naturopathic doctor does. But with the rise in chronic diseases, the conventional model of one single therapy (ie. Monotherapy) is not effective when the majority of chronic diseases are coming from how we live which cannot be remedied by a single pill. The way we eat, sleep, move, think, interact, breathe, and even conduct all impact our bodies and health. There’s something called epigenetics, where even though we may have desirable or not-so-desirable genes, it has to do with our lifestyle factors that properly turn on (or off!) these genes. That’s why we are not our genes, but rather our lifestyle.


Dr. Romi Fung, ND

What kind of audience do you target your business towards?


Because of my mission, the audience I want to target is those in their prime years who are achieving their careers and life but are starting to see their health slowly decline and need some support in their cognition. This is the prime time now before the brain gets to be affected. I want to ensure lasting brain health as early as possible. Some sayings say that the brain doesn’t fully develop until in your 30s, and then it starts to deteriorate in your 40s. I intend to ensure we maintain and optimize brain health as early as in your 30s and 40s to prevent the rapid decline in cognition in your 60s and 70s. There is a natural age-related decline, but I believe that most dementias in those in their 60s and 70s are not due to natural aging. I also work with middle-aged adults and older adults in their cognition; however, the message I want to urge the community to know is that this condition of dementia has to be caught early on for the best prognosis. It gets more challenging to work with those who are more advanced, and we have to set expectations.


It appears that you have a substantial workload as a naturopathic physician. Do you have any additional professional responsibilities?


I truly live and breathe what it means to be a doctor. In looking at the etymology of the word “doctor” you get from the 1300s Classical Latin docere meaning, “to show, teach, cause to know.” As a naturopathic physician, I live and breathe the idea of health and teaching to my patients and the community, and academia. I am an Academic and Clinic Faculty at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine – Boucher Campus in Vancouver, BC, Canada, a leading institution in training naturopathic doctors in North America. I am the lead instructor teaching Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture to aspiring future naturopathic physicians. I teach, engage, and allow my students to apply theories and learn to assess patients holistically using the traditional art of medicine. Teaching TCM trains students to think outside the box and connect the dots by looking at the big picture rather than being fixated on a symptom.


I am also a clinical supervisor at the teaching clinic, attending to senior interns in their final year of naturopathic medical schooling. Senior interns see their patients under my supervisor, and I ensure it is a learning environment for the students. Besides my work with my private practice and academia, I engage the community in their health through health presentations and seminars at community centers, libraries, and other functions. I think I’ve done over 150 of these talks already in the past four years! I love teaching, and it is truly a delight to see the audience connect the dots in understanding their health. I am also a lifelong learner. I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Aging and Health. I am arranging to defend my proposal in understanding the situation of atypical antipsychotic use in community-dwelling patients living with dementia. Some additional training and certifications I have completed related to dementia are the ReCODE 2.0 protocol by Dr. Dale Bredesen on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, Cognitive Decline and Dementia Clinical Strategies and Treatment Options by Dr. Datis Kharrazian of Kharrazian Institute. I have completed the Brain Health Certification for Health Professionals by Dr. Daniel G. Amen of the Amen Clinics, amongst other certifications.


Dr. Romi Fung, ND

It's remarkable to see all the work you've accomplished. Would you be willing to share some of your most significant career achievements and any awards you've been presented with?


I feel privileged to be working with patients on their health and to have patients trust my advice and expertise. I have been honored to be nominated as a Finalist for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce for two years in a row, as well as Top 3 Naturopathic Clinics in Richmond BC by Three Best Rated for the past four years, Best Naturopathic Service in Richmond BC for the past three years, and voted as Best Naturopath by the Readers of Richmond News Best of Richmond for the past three years. However, I think the most significant rewards come from my patients and being a part of their journeys. One of my recent patients with whom I’ve worked for a few years came in with a chief concern of dementia. In her 70s, she could not do anything or verbalize much to her family members. She became forgetful about names and other things but was most concerned about her family was how she had caused a few fires by leaving the stove on when cooking. We worked on several interventions after we assessed her. There were some concerns about her cardiovascular health as she was insulin resistant, high in homocysteine (a measure for cardiovascular health), and high in certain heavy metals. We got her to take some supplements and get proper exercise.


What also thrills me is having patients who are eager and motivated to optimize their cognitive health. I have a patient in their 60s who is not exhibiting cognitive decline, but because they have parents who have Alzheimer’s’ disease, they want to ensure they don’t go down that trajectory. We went through genetic testing and some cardiovascular lab testing due to a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure and have found some level of insulin resistance, high HbA1c, and high homocysteine that can contribute to a poor prognosis of cardiovascular disease if left untreated for another decade. After working with simple supplementation and lifestyle changes, the patient feels their thinking is clearer and they feel more energetic to perform more exercise. That is setting this patient for better health and more reasons and capability of optimizing cognitive health.


Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Romi! Is there anything you’d like to share with the Brainz Community?


I believe we have to be proactive with not just our physical health but also our brain health. Proper sleep, proper exercise, and proper nutrients go a long way. Starting simple but profound habitual changes builds and goes a long way in cognitive health. Ultimately, you have to love your brain. By loving your brain and giving the brain what it needs, you make better decisions to optimize the health of your brain. Those with diabetes exhibit changes in their prefrontal cortex, which is part of the frontal lobe of the brain. This part of the brain is superior to our executive functions, which involve focus, concentration, and decision-making. If that part is affected, then your choices are influenced by that change and people continue to make negative choices for their brains. The point is that there is so much growing evidence about our small choices affecting our brains. That’s the power of habit and how good habits can contribute to good brain health.


We are often informed to undergo screening for a colonoscopy when we turn 50. But is there anyone that tells us about screening for our brains and cognition? I believe we ought to consider doing that as early intervention, even prevention, and optimization, will allow all of our brains to work better beyond middle age. Get your blood work done and screen for the basics that can contribute to brain health, such as vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, homocysteine, HbA1c, fasting insulin, and RBC magnesium, amongst others. In addition, even conducting cognitive objective testing like the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) physicians can conduct can detect changes over time once taken a baseline. There’s growing evidence of SPECT scans measuring blood perfusion of the brain and brain activity. That’s the message I want to share with the community.


Thank you Brainz Magazine for having me!


For more info, follow Dr. Romi Fung on Youtube, Instagram, FaceBook, Linkedin and visit his website!

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