Dr. Kashi Rai studies relationships within the human body. When a patient comes to her complaining of a particular symptom, Rai, a family practice physician, doesn't focus only on fixing the immediate problem; she examines the entire body to determine the biochemically unique aspects of the patient. Rai normally runs numerous blood tests to discover this information, and she then employs individually tailored interventions to restore the patient's physiological, psychological and structured balance. Part of the intervention can involve dietary supplements, which Rai studied under the guidance of an Ayurvedic physician from India before she graduated from medical school. Rai sees her eclectic educational background as part of her search for as all-encompassing a system as possible. For Rai, medicine isn't about polarizing terms like Western or Eastern. It should be integrative science-based healthcare, which treats illness and promotes wellness.

Q: So you don't consider yourself an Eastern doctor or a Western doctor?

A: I don't. I feel that what I'm practicing is utilizing the strengths of many different wisdoms, and it's not limited to any one system. I do extensive testing to see if any of the so-called alternative therapies are actually making an impact, so I'm looking for feedback in a Western sense. For heart monitoring, there are many supplements you can take, and you can see if they're having an effect. For instance, with fish oil and vitamin E, you can track the C-reactive protein, which is an inflammatory marker. These supplements will decrease that protein. Digestive enzymes will decrease fibrinogen; too much of this protein can decrease blood flow in your coronary arteries. These are things you can track in the blood stream with standard blood work.

Q: How are you different from your typical Western doctor?

A: In a nutshell, they don't use nutrient support. I prescribe dietary supplements.

Q: As consumers and patients, how do we know which supplements are safe and beneficial and which companies are trustworthy?

A: I don't think you always do. It's a problem. I frequently look for supplements that are third-party independently tested for both the amount and the purity of the product. I can check the blood work to see if there's an improvement, so then I know they're working. The problem is if I don't see an improvement, I don't always know if it's the wrong thing I've asked them to take or if it's a problem with the supplement. It's not an easy answer.

Q: Should people be taking supplements on their own?

A: I think by and large they should be. The gain they might obtain would definitely warrant them trying at least some general supplements, or the better-known supplements. Minerals and B vitamins are some of these. There are some name-brand multi-vitamins that they certainly wouldn't go wrong with. As they get into some of the more specific supplements, doing some homework and getting a sense of [whether] you feel any different is worth using yourself as an experiment. I'm not talking about mega-doses; I'm just saying see how you feel.

Q: You treat the whole body, not just symptoms. If a patient came to you complaining of headaches, how would you proceed?

A: I would get their history and do any pertinent examinations that would apply. I go into more depth on hormonal analysis than what's customarily done, but I use everything possible to try to identify what the problem is. I test for lack of nutrients, and I think that's what really sets me apart.

Q: In your opinion, where does disease come from?

A: I think it comes from imbalance. The imbalance doesn't have to be physical; it can come from spiritual imbalance, psychological imbalance and a physical imbalance. All of these imbalances on various levels communicate with each other. So, for instance, an emotional imbalance can manifest physically, and when you change something physically, it can also affect an emotional imbalance.

Q: Do you use any controversial treatments?

A: The word controversial is kind of a stumbling block for me, because I really study hard before I use a therapy, so in my mind it's not controversial. Let's just say I use some therapies that are not widely utilized. I do a fair amount of metal detoxification, and some therapies that enhance energy production like glutathione, which is the compound the liver uses to restore its own health. When you give that intravenously, it's very successful. It helps the liver and helps to generate energy for people who are really worn out.

Q: You prescribe drugs as well as these alternative therapies. Is there a middle path for what you do and Western medicine?

A: I think I'm it. I think that's why people come to me, because I'm a board-certified doctor. I'm melding traditional Western medicine with biochemical investigation. I use a lot of herbs that are considered more Eastern. The reason I got started in this is because I studied with this Ayurvedic physician for eight years before I went to medical school. I am half-Indian, so that makes a difference. I'm very colored by an Eastern heritage.

Q: How do you choose between prescribing drugs and alternative therapy?

A: If I can identify the imbalance, then I'll treat the imbalance, first and foremost. Then I'll look at the effect of treating the imbalance. If I can't identify the imbalance or if time is more critical in treating the disease, then I'll definitely use pharmaceutical agents.

Q: In your opinion, when should someone go to a doctor?

A: What's your definition of a doctor? I think that what people are striving for is a state of wellness, and anyone who can help give them more feedback to attain a better health status than they currently have, then there's always room to see a doctor. In general, without symptoms, the current system is not set up to identify imbalances, so therein lies the difficulty. Look at genetic testing. It's really nice to know what genes you may have problems with. There are things you can do to compensate for that. The sooner you know those areas, the sooner you can make sure you don't have any long-term negative consequences. Unfortunately, the current system does not incorporate a level of feedback for imbalances that are not so obvious symptomatically.

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