We sat down with Dr. Mylaine Riobe, a Board Certified Medical Doctor with over 15 years of experience and the Director of the Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine. The author of two books, has a passion for medicine and health, so we asked Dr. Riobe on her tips for living your best life.
How did you become involved in medicine?
I grew up in a “medical” family. My mom is a nurse and my dad is a dentist. My grandparents all worked in hospitals, so I was always surrounded by medicine in some way. My grandmothers introduced me to holistic alternative medicine as a child when they would send me out into the yard to pick herbs for remedies. I had an innate fascination with the workings of the human body and that interest only got stronger as I grew older.
What is a day in your life look like?
My day starts out with meditation before I get out of bed, even if I’m in a hurry, I take time to meditate even if for only 10 minutes. I also go through all the blessings in my life for which I’m grateful every morning. I say a prayer, then I’m up and going. I have a an organic protein shake to start, a cup of espresso or two, then I get ready for my office if it’s a work day. On school days, I get my kids ready and drive them to school on my way to the office. I take my morning supplements and drink at least 1 glass of room temperature water.
Once I get to the office, we have our morning huddle to be sure we’re ready for our day. Due to the nature of my work, I don’t see a lot of patients in a day; I typically spend at least 30-45 minutes with each patient. By 10 a.m. I’m having my oatmeal and another protein shake or four egg whites. I make sure I fill a glass container with room temperature water to drink. My typical morning schedule starts and 9 a.m and goes until 1 p.m.; then it’s lunchtime. I have a salad with chicken or sometimes a wrap with some veggies and chicken. I take my afternoon supplements. I usually have another shot of espresso at lunchtime. My afternoon starts again at 2 p.m and goes until about 6 p.m.. After work I change and head to the gym for a workout. More water!
I hit the gym usually around 6:30PM, workout for about 60 minutes. I lift weights mostly and do a small amount of cardio on a reclining stationary bike for 20 minutes so I can read. Then I head home and relax with some dinner and my night supplements. I love to spend time with my kids when I’m not at work. I work three days a week so that I can be home with my kids as much as possible and also get some “me” time. I’ve learned that to be more productive, you have to find that sweet spot between work and relaxation. During my off days, I’m still “working,” but it’s mostly on fun work like blogging, writing my next book or doing research. I try to engage my kids since they often give me great ideas!
On my days off, I usually sleep in, do my meditation, gratitude and prayer practice and spend some time outside in nature to stay grounded. I’m usually home when my kids get out of school so I can help with homework and after-chool activities. I try to catch up with things I wasn’t able to do at the office on days off, too. Being a solo medical doctor means managing your own business and taking a lot of work home, so it’s important to love what you do!
What are some tips for people to start living their best life?
- Listen to your heart and follow your passion. Don’t pay any attention to what other people think because it’s none of your business. Only what you think matters.
- Take time for self-care. This was the hardest lesson for me to learn. As a doctor, a mom and a business owner, I would often lose myself in the day, and I became exhausted and even depressed. I felt guilty if I was too tired to play with my kids or if I didn’t complete a task. It wasn’t until I practiced self-care, putting myself first in a healthy way, that I began to take better care of myself so I could do more for my family and get more done in the day. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but it’s the only way to maintain your balance as a woman in the 21st century.
- Start every day with meditation and gratitude. If you are of a belief system where prayer is used, then definitely pray. This sets the tone for the entire day. Starting off remembering all the great things in life (even on a bad day) will keep you moving in a good direction.
- Eat! Many people skip meals because they feel that eating is a waste of time and just makes them gain weight anyway. This couldn’t be further from the truth! It’s critical to eat breakfast very soon after waking even if it’s a protein shake. Eat every 3-4 hours and make sure you have enough pure protein sources in your diet. Given my calling as an integrative doctor, I’m blessed to know how to eat healthy. I strongly recommend everyone see an integrative doctor for proper advice. Most integrative docs work with nutritionists who will help you get on the right path.
- Drink a lot of room temperature water throughout the day
- Be active. Work out at least 3-4 times a week. It doesn’t have to be intense; it’s the consistency that matters most. Getting a trainer to get you started is always a great idea.
- Don’t expect drastic changes to come quickly. In fact, things may get a little worse before they get better, but with consistent practice, great things will happen. Once you get great momentum, it’s a great feeling that doesn’t go away. It’s like training for a marathon. It feels awful but once you’re in great shape and achieve your goal, you wouldn’t trade in all the pain you experienced getting there!
What is one thing people can do to maintain or improve their health?
See an integrative physician regularly. This system of medicine is specifically designed to prevent diseases and better manage chronic symptoms and conditions. Integrative medicine emphasizes good nutrition and lifestyle choices that keep people healthy. An integrative physician should be your “primary care” doctor if you wish to prevent diseases and feel great.
What is the ground-breaking integrative fusion technique that you created?
The Riobe Method is a technique that evolved after I studied traditional Chinese medicine with my mentors, Dr. Liping Chang and Dr. Fu Di. I took a very unconventional path in my study of Chinese medicine; I studied for five years and did a two-year internship with my mentors.
I then studied the field of functional medicine, which is a more modern holistic or alternative medical field that emphasizes lifestyle changes and cutting-edge cellular based testing, which looks inside the body’s cells for data rather than looking in the blood work, which is almost always normal unless you already have a disease. What I realized is that Chinese medicine and functional medicine actually work great together in finding causes that either alone can’t find. So I evaluate all my patients using Chinese medical evaluations to determine the root causes. Once I know the root causes from this perspective, I then find the functional medicine testing that would best compliment that information.
So for example, if a patient comes in stating that she is always tired and has no energy, I evaluate her with Chinese medical principles. Some of the patterns that cause fatigue in Chinese medicine are spleen qi (pronounced chee) deficiency (which is most closely related to the gastrointestinal system in conventional medicine) , damp retention (which we’d most closely equate with inflammation), blood stasis or qi stagnation. There are many other patterns but these are just a few. If a patient has spleen qi deficiency, this tells me I need to do a stool analysis to determine gastrointestinal function. This analysis is very different that what patients experience at the conventional doctor’s office.
We examine their stool to determine enzyme function, inflammatory markers to determine food allergies/intolerances, leaky gut, infection with bacteria, parasites or yeast, and we also examine the microbiome (which is the army of good bacteria that lives in the large intestine. We can also tell if a patient has malabsorption of proteins or fats and much more. I can laser beam down to the right test after a brief evaluation rather than chasing symptoms by doing a bunch of tests that may be normal.
When I perform testing, I’m expecting it to be abnormal and I’m expecting to be able to successfully treat that patient because I already know the path to take beforehand. If, on the other hand, blood stasis (or poor circulation) is the cause of fatigue, I know to do testing of a different kind. I may send this patient to a cardiologist if I suspect heart disease, and I will perform testing to determine the function of the liver by checking for heavy metals that prevent good liver function. I may check for genetic mutations that prevent good liver function. So the pattern according to Chinese medicine successfully drives the testing to get quick answers that result in relief of the symptom from the root cause with natural methods.
I also provide nutrition and lifestyle recommendations that suit the pattern, so the spleen qi deficient patient will get a different diet plan than the patient with blood stasis. Both will be aimed at reversing the pattern imbalance seen on examination. This system has allowed me to see patients from an entirely new perspective and I’ve helped people I couldn’t help before using the Riobe Method.
You were close with your grandmother, who introduced you to holistic healing methods as a child. How does that impact your practice today?
My entire practice today is holistic. When I was a child, I though holistic medicine was a bunch of hocus-pocus. Now that I’ve both experienced it and also read the world literature about it, I am a firm believer. I remember sitting in class for Chinese medicine, and as I finally began to grasp the very complex concepts they teach, I began to hear my professors saying the same things my grandmother used to say. It was almost eerie. I remember thinking: “Grandma is right!”
About 95% of my treatments are holistic. I rarely prescribe antibiotics or any synthetic drugs. I try to safely get people off medications by finding the cause of the underlying condition that caused them to need the medication. Once we successfully treat the root cause, we slowly wean them off non-essential medications like antidepressants, antacids, statins, anxiety meds and more.
If a patient needs a conventional medicine intervention, it’s critical to make these recommendations. Even when integrative medicine is applied, surgery may be needed or medication may need to be used for certain more serious conditions. It’s important to use all systems of medicine, using their best aspects. My grandmother always exercised balance in her life, and this lesson remains with me daily. She had a quiet, zen demeanor that was very impactful. She was a rock, a true role model. I try to be that for my kids and also for my patients.
What is your book The Tao of Integrative Medicine about?
The Tao of Integrative Medicine came about as a result of the lack of information that the American public and the medical establishment have about health and wellness. I found it astounding and frightening that we were not learning the most important things to keep us healthy. I found that most of my time with my patients was being spent educating them about the true causes of their symptoms and conditions and how they came about. I spend most of my time emphasizing the need to remain committed and consistent with a lifestyle plan. The Tao is an explanation of how we got into the health crisis that we currently experience and it maps a road to wellness using already established systems of medicine known to emphasize prevention of diseases. The book highlights the main causes of disease today and explains how Chinese medicine and functional medicine work to prevent diseases and to improve chronic conditions. It also emphasizes the need to shift our paradigm from preventing death from disease to preventing the disease itself. It also paves a path towards using integrative medicine as a form of primary care in the future.
How do you stay grounded and focused?
My spiritual practice, faith and holistic lifestyle keep me grounded. Without proper nutrition and exercise, it’s hard for the body and mind to properly function. You can’t be grounded if you’re not healthy. Improving the body function helps the mind and spirit connect. This helps bridge the mind, body and spirit keeping me grounded. I can be more present with my kids, friends and patients, and this helps fuel my fire and keep me motivated, even on the more difficult days. On really hard days, my faith keeps me focused on my spiritual practice. I’ve come to realize that a force much greater than I is guiding my life, and if I align with it, rather than fight against it, I have a much smoother ride!
To learn more go to http://riobeintegrativemedicine.com/.