Empowering Patients to Recover Zest for Life
Dr. Ellen Lewis founded Westport’s Shalva Clinic in 2012, returning to the Connecticut of her childhood after years on the West Coast. The word shalva means “peace” or “serenity” in Hebrew, which is precisely the atmosphere Lewis sought to create at Shalva Clinic. It is also something she wants patients to experience when their body comes back into balance.
“As a naturopathic physician, my approach to health is based on body, mind, spirit and something else that is indefinable,” Lewis explains. “That’s zest for life. We either have it and we flourish, or we’ve lost it and that’s opened the door to illness. I want to inspire people to live with vitality, and to really love life!”
During the past six years, Shalva Clinic has grown from a small one-person office into a full-service naturopathic clinic offering a wide range of services and therapies. Working from a different paradigm of health than conventional medical physicians, the practitioners at Shalva understand that achieving optimal health is about more than relieving symptoms. Lewis sees herself as a bridge between the two approaches because she had been accustomed to a more conventional Western style of health care before shifting to the more natural approach.
“I grew up on Western medicine. I realized when I was a patient and then a personal trainer and personal training educator that there was a better way to do things than what was happening in the conventional arena,” Lewis says. “It’s so rewarding and affirming when people are truly empowered about their own health and able to recognize the positive effects of the changes they have chosen to make for themselves.”
Lewis uses an array of diagnostic tests and treatments in her practice such as clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, vitamin and mineral therapy, biotherapeutic drainage, phytoembryotherapy, homeopathy, physical medicine, hydrotherapy and lifestyle counseling. She treats all ages from infants to seniors and says her role is that of detective. She typically spends 90 minutes with a new patient during an intake appointment, asking detailed questions about all areas of life, doing a physical exam and putting the pieces together to identify an individual’s underlying core concerns rather than focusing on obvious physical symptoms.
There are three full-time naturopathic physicians, one part-time naturopathic physician, an APRN, a massage therapist and an herbalist and energy worker currently working at the clinic. Lewis enjoys the camaraderie and collaboration that have come with the expansion. “My vision was always to evolve into a multi-practitioner clinic and there are lots of benefits to that,” she says. “The best is that none of us have to do it alone. We’re in this together for the good of all our patients.”
Each physician is a general practitioner with areas of expertise and particular interest so they attract different patients with a variety of needs. Lewis realized she had a passion for womens’ health when she was in medical school; she is also a certified naturopathic midwife. “I started working with the women, they started bringing their husbands to see me, and then their families,” she says. “While I have a special interest in womens’ health, I am happy to treat anyone who would like their life to feel more enjoyable and rewarding again.”
Lewis has recently launched a new multi-dimensional program based on that exact premise. Her Love Life! Program grew out of her clinic practice, where she realized many of her patients were presenting with the same issues. “They felt okay, but not great, or they just can’t shake their fatigue,” she says. “They were stressed, or not eating right, or not getting enough sleep. I always say that the foundations of health are simple, but they’re not always easy. I knew my patients could use some additional support to get the most out of life, and it occurred to me that if they needed support, then many other people did, too.”
The Love Life! Program gives subscribers a variety of tools to help keep them on track with their individual goals. These include: a monthly newsletter; a seasonal/quarterly masterclass on specific health challenges; a private Facebook group, discounts on recommended supplements and vitamins, and a once a year phone consult to review their health goals and concerns.
Lewis is expecting her first baby in November but will maintain her practice and teaching responsibilities at the University of Bridgeport as well as her active involvement in the politics of naturopathic medicine. The limited scope of practice for naturopathic physicians in Connecticut continues to be a source of frustration. “Progress is being made, even if it is slowly,” she says. “The current situation is just detrimental to patient care and that’s what really bothers me. I work with a lot of people with diabetes. As they implement lifestyle and dietary changes, their need for their pharmaceutical medication can drastically change. Sometimes they can’t get in to see their primary care physician right away, but I am not allowed to issue them a new prescription. They wind up overmedicated because they’re caught between two doctors.”
“That’s why I do what I can to advocate for the profession as well as acting as a bridge when needed with other medical professionals,” she says. “Every person deserves to feel their best and we’re really all in this together.”
Nicole Miale is Publisher/Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley, CT and Natural Awakenings Greater Hartford. Connect at NicoleM@NaturalAwakeningsMag.com.Edit ModuleShow Tags