Expert Profile - Minh Tran
Dr. Minh Tran, DC
Functional Medicine/ Neurology Chiropractor
Dr. Minh Tran’s Bio:
Dr. Minh Tran is the owner and clinic director of NorCal Brain Center. He uses a multi-disciplinary approach including physiotherapy, neurological rehabilitation, comprehensive lab testing, dietary and lifestyle changes to restore his patient’s health in the shortest amount of time.
Dr. Tran was born and raised in Fresno, California and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Biology from the University of California, Davis, where he developed his passion for learning about the human body. He then went on to complete his graduate work at Life Chiropractic College West, and then pursued his postdoctoral education in Clinical Neuroscience. He is a board certified Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board (DACNB) and is currently pursuing his Fellowship in Clinical Neurochemistry and Nutrition (FABNN) and Fellowship in Traumatic Brain Injury and Rehabilitation (FABBIR).
Dr. Tran has had years of advanced postdoctoral training in Functional Medicine and Neuroendocrine studies to provide a comprehensive and unique approach to patient care. Dr. Tran uses the latest techniques and research to improve the health and well being of patients. As an individual with an autoimmune disorder himself, he understands the process of how to work with these complex diseases to stabilize and manage them on a personal level.
He looks at the body as a whole instead of a sum of its parts, and that allows him to determine the root cause of the issue and develop a personalized treatment plan to resolve the issues, instead of just treating the symptoms. He specializes in post concussive symptoms, mental health issues, and metabolic disorders.
In his free time, he enjoys free-diving in Monterey and Carmel, pushing his physical boundaries with Crossfit, spending time with his family, and making various fermented foods at home.
What life events or challenges that you’ve experienced (could be minor, could be major) – whether you’ve experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to pursue a career in psychiatry?
For as long as I could remember, I had always been a carefree person. Whenever I would encounter a stressful event or be put into a situation that would normally cause other people anxiety, I was easily able to brush it off and not let it affect me. However, in the past five years I have noticed that my stress levels and anxiety have significantly gone up. The smallest things would cause anxiety, I noticed that I would feel down and depressed without any obvious cause, and overall I felt like I was emotionally unstable. Because I felt like there was no logical reason why I should be feeling anxious/depressed, I began to investigate why I felt this way.
I sought out therapy from a licensed psychologist, tried to exercise often, and clean up my diet. These things definitely helped, but I still had underlying feelings of anxiety and depression. Things finally came to a head when I had my first panic attack at work. It was any ordinary day, however my anxiety peaked up and I ended up rescheduling all of my patients for that day because I felt like I could not take it.
Eventually, I ran a blood test on myself for neurological autoimmunity which came up positive – I felt like I finally had some answers why I had been feeling this way for the past few years. After putting myself on a strict autoimmune diet, healing my gut, continuing positive lifestyle choices such as exercising and meditation my mental health has drastically improved. Though there are times where I still feel anxiety, I feel as if I have control over my life once again. Living with mental health challenges has instilled in me a passion for helping others who feel lost and uncertain about what to do about their mental health issues.
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?
These events in my life have truly opened my eyes to the pain and suffering that individuals with mental health problems are going through. I understand how debilitating these conditions can be for any person, no matter how they look on the outside. The person who laughs the most on the outside can also be the one who is suffering with the most severe depression, the person who appears the calmest can also be the one who has the worst anxiety. As I learned more about the challenges people with mental health problems were going through, I also learned about how the current healthcare system treats individuals suffering with these conditions.
It was not about finding the root cause of their problem, like I had done so for myself. It was about managing symptoms and covering them up with medications that they would have to take for the rest of their lives. I began to notice more and more people on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, some of which had been taking them for decades. I empathize with these people and am determined to do my best to help improve their mental health by looking for the root cause of their symptoms.
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?
My passion for functional neurology/medicine started when I was in chiropractic school. I came to school thinking that I was going to be solely a musculoskeletal/pain practitioner. I was exposed to functional neurology my first quarter, and what attracted me to this wonderful field of medicine was how specific and all encompassing it was. You could do a specific neurological assessment to determine the exact dysfunctional area in the neuraxis, perform a therapy and get immediate changes. In my mind that was mind blowing and I knew immediately that I was going to devote my life to learning more about the nervous system and how to treat it. As I learned more about the nervous system I realized that in order to treat the nervous system I had to do more than neurological rehabilitation, I would have to learn about the body and metabolic system. In my eyes you cannot separate the two, there are metabolic influences that are integral in treating the majority of neurological conditions out there.
As I learned more about functional medicine and the impact of addressing metabolic concerns in people, I became more and more excited about the future and how this was going to help my patients.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
Whenever I work with patients, I focus on two systems – the neurological and the metabolic systems. Every patient who walks in my door gets a complete neurological assessment. This includes the traditional neurological exam, videonystagmography, computerized posturography, qEEG, and other testing depending on the situation. They also get lab work done specific to the patient, which can include a complete blood panel, DUTCH hormone testing, organic acids testing, stool testing, or antibody testing. This allows me to get an overall idea of which areas that we need to focus on, what neurological systems are dysfunctional and need to be addressed, and which dietary/lifestyle changes that need to be had in order to obtain the best result.
I pride myself on how thorough we are with each patient so that we can truly identify the root cause of their issues.
How did people react when you share this approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
Most of our patients have been to a long list of doctors before they make it into our clinic. They tend to have exhausted all of their options, whether it be family doctors, medical specialists, or even other holistic practitioners. One common theme that I have heard over and over is that these doctors tend to have their own personal biases on what is going on, and do not truly listen to the patient. After hearing about our approach and seeing how well we listen, most patients have a renewed hope and they become excited because our process is something that they have not heard about before. In the end I believe patients want two things – to be heard and to have trust in what we do, and that is what we strive to achieve.