Expert Profile - Debbie Hutchinson
Dr. Debbie Hutchinson, DCN
Functional Medicine trained Doctor of Clinical Nutrition
Dr. Debbie Hutchinson’s Bio:
When a loved one became ill and they were not getting viable answers or hope for improvement, Dr. Hutch’s passion to find a different path beyond traditional medicine was ignited. Dr. Debbie Hutchinson is a functional medicine trained Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN). Her practice is based solely on a tele-wellness® platform that has enabled her to reach patients, both nationally and internationally. She began serving her patients in 2011 when she became a Health & Lifestyle Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
Dr. Hutch graduated with honors from Regent University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology with an emphasis on substance abuse. Then, she completed her master’s in nutrition, with honors at the prestigious University of Bridgeport, and finished her degree as a Functional Medicine trained Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN) at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH).
Often, she collaborates with great leaders in functional nutrition, functional medicine, functional neurology, functional immunology, and environmental medicine. She continues her education with organizations that are the best in the world in functional medicine training, where she gains invaluable clinical wisdom in some of the most complicated cases.
Dr. Hutch is most eager to work with patients who may have become frustrated with what is commonly experienced with modern-day treatment options. Participating in taking charge of your own health is expected and yields the best outcomes. The partnership we will develop to begin your best life now is also one that encourages loved ones to participate so they too can be better support for you.
“I am thankful for the struggle because, without it, I wouldn’t know my strength” ~ Unknown.
What life events or challenges that you have experienced (could be minor, could be major) whether you have experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to have a practice focus on patients with mental health challenges?
As I consider my own encounters with mental and emotional health and addictions, I realize their impact has been leading up to today. As an adolescent, I was involved in a motorcycle accident that resulted in a head injury with long-term residuals. I had emotional problems that carried on through the years in some capacity. I eventually surrendered to drugs and alcohol, which led me to an event that caused hallucinations and ultimately resulted in anxiety and panic. I became pregnant at seventeen. When my baby was about 8 months old, I called my mom for help because the prescribed psychiatric medications were making me lethargic. Her actions saved my life. She gave me a choice – either continue to take the pills for the rest of my life or flush them. I flushed every one of them. However, these life events did not lead me to become a practitioner. It wasn’t until years later that my own child’s struggles with addictions, mental health, and emotional problems changed my direction.
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
My experiences with the current mental health system made me want to become an advocate for those who struggle. I was appalled at how a patient in need of mental health care was treated.
The very first emergency room visit was horrific, as were all eight of them. Often the loved one would come out of the hospital worse than going in. I realized what we were being offered was not working. All the medications made things worse. I fought that system for almost 4 years and then one day I realized I needed to rethink my approach when I came across a quote by Buckminister Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” So, I did!!!
After 8 hospital stays, 24 pharmaceutical medications, numerous trips to the emergency room, 2 suicide attempts, and self-harm, and after giving 3 recommendations to state hospitals I said, I’m done!! We are not dealing with mental health this way any longer. I fired everyone. No one seemed to be listening anyway and no one ever provided a solution. I refused to believe that my loved one would never get well or would never one day come off those toxic drugs. The only thing we were offered was if this therapy and medications did not work there was NO possibility of HOPE. However, once we found a functional medicine approach, we realized this model could offer something different, something more. It offered us HOPE in healing the whole person: Spirit – Soul – Body! We felt we were being heard and our story was relevant to our experiences.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on working with patients dealing with mental health issues, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
Every encounter I had stirred my desire to help those who struggle mentally. Every one of them solidified the next. What I encountered was that people are desperate. They want to feel well. They want answers to why they are having their struggles. The ones who pull on my heartstrings in the most profound ways are those and their families who are given a diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar. I truly believe this group of people is put in a different category when it comes to allopathic medicine. In my own experiences, they tend to be heavily medicated. These medications have significant consequences on the person’s overall health and wellbeing. Ultimately, this method will never get to the root cause because it only puts a bandaid on a festering wound.
Furthermore, there are many possibilities why someone may be experiencing symptoms of mental and emotional distress, but unfortunately, they are given a label, and no one is considering underlying root causes. There is a different lens we can use that is viable and has been substantiated in medical literature and clinical practice for decades.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
First, I listen with compassion and patience. The patient completes comprehensive intake forms to help me learn more about them and it is a chance for them to tell their story. I want to know WHY you have the symptoms and/or diagnoses? I also encourage loved ones to participate and be supportive, so the person does not feel alone in the process.
Lab testing is a viable part of the process. For example, serotonin is a well-known neurotransmitter, but the problem is patients are given SSRI medications and told they will need to take these drugs to feel better. NO! The problem with the serotonin pathway isn’t the lack of Celexa, Prozac, or Zoloft. It is micronutrients and cofactors that allow these very important neurotransmitter pathways to function optimally. A functional medicine approach also uses other labs such as Organic Acid Test (OAT), stool testing, nutrigenomics, conventional testing, and others. At the first appointment, We decide where to start with testing according to the individual’s needs.
Finally, being a military family, I love working with our veterans and military personnel to offer the best possible care for those who struggle. I offer meditation at no cost to our military members. One of my husband’s Army buddies is sharing his story on the first audio on how meditation helped him get through one of the most horrific experiences of his life. I am providing the link for you here. www.healthjourneys.com/turningtides
The goal is to have the person feeling well enough that they no longer need the medical community, including me. However, this takes work, time, and commitment. I can’t do this for you, and neither can your loved ones. Nevertheless, we can all come alongside you and support you through it all.
“I found life in everything that once killed me. For sometimes running out of breath is all that’s needed to truly learn how to breathe.” ~ Sherian Gamal
I would consider it a great honor to serve you in your healing journey!