Eve Prang Plews has the distinction of being a part of the Institute for Functional Medicine’s first cadre of students to receive its practitioner certification of IFMCP. A founding member of XYMOGEN’s Board of Advisors and serving as XYMOGEN’s Director of Education, Plews travels around the country at the request of many different organizations to teach both healthcare practitioners and the public about integrative medicine. She is the developer of SpeakEasy (not associated with Speakeasy Inc.), a presentation skills training program for clinicians, which she also teaches. She received radio station WNMF’s “News and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year” award in 2010 for her contribution to improving public health through her many speaking engagements, podcasts, and weekly live, call-in radio show. Besides physical health, Plews is also passionate about the health of our planet. That’s why she got involved in the United Nations’ CleanSeas Initiative, which launched in February of 2017.
In her position on XYMOGEN’s Thought Leadership Council, Plews spearheaded XYMOGEN becoming one of the first corporations to actively support the United Nations’ CleanSeas Initiative by committing to reducing its use of plastics. The company has already transitioned many of its formulas’ packaging from plastic bottles to film dosing packs in paper cartons, which is expected to reduce plastic use by 40 percent. Plews says she firmly believes that a contaminated planet creates contaminated people. "If we want good health, we must take care of the planet, which will take care of us," Plews says.
Why did you become an integrative medicine practitioner?
EP: I was very sick. I had four surgeries by the time I was 16. I went to lots of “mainstream” doctors, but I wasn’t getting better. I just felt terrible all the time. I now know that it was because of my horrible diet. Back then, I thought sour cream was a food group! I grew up in Pinellas County, Florida, and we grew tomatoes. We used toxic pesticides, such as malathion, as well as DDT for mosquito control. It’s no wonder I was so sick.
ABOUT EVEProfessional affiliations and titles: Licensed Nutrition Counselor, IFMCP, XYMOGEN Thought Leadership Council
Name of Practice: Full Spectrum Health, Sarasota, Fla.
Years in practice: 29
Number of employees: 5
I just knew there had to be something more I could do. So at 24 years old, I walked into my first health food store. I read an avalanche of books on medical botany, nutrition, and homeopathy, just to name a few; and I decided to make a change. I went from the diet I grew up with, which consisted mainly of meat, starch, and refined carbohydrates, to eating organic vegetables and fruit and having a more plant-based diet. Today, I no longer eat gluten. I take supplements for my specific needs and my health is terrific. Before, I felt defeated, in pain, and sick all the time. Now I feel great and I’m excited to start each day.
My own life experience is what drew me to the healing arts. I knew integrative medicine was what I wanted to do. To ease suffering is my first commitment. I want to help other people get better, just like I did.
What is your philosophy on health?
EP: First and foremost, I stand on a science platform. If science doesn’t demonstrate the effectiveness of a treatment, I’m not going to use it. I’m not the hippy dippy clinician. Secondly, I meet people where they are. I can’t badger patients into being healthier. I’m there to support them. I’m not there to slap a patient’s hand and say “no-no”. I’m there to be a coach and to teach them they have choices about their future.For example, if a patient is going to some fast-food place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, I’m not going to get them to eat only locally grown, 100% organic food overnight. Maybe we start small and introduce a new vegetable or new ways to prepare familiar ones. Too often people eat the same four or five vegetables because that’s all they’ve ever eaten. Just switching to coleslaw from French fries with their burger is a big step for some clients. Also, I want to give patients realistic expectations. Our culture is centered around this idea that you can just take a pill and everything will be fine. Pick up any magazine or turn on the TV and you’ll see ads for prescription medicines that run the gamut. But then you read the fine print and see the side effects. It’s pretty frightening. And then there are lawyer ads everywhere for people who have been hurt by these drugs. It really should wake all of us up and ask if the medical community or drug companies have our best interests at heart!
Some patients come to me expecting they will take this herb or this vitamin and, poof, they’ll be all better. There is so much more involved. I’m here to teach and guide my patients so they can make better choices and live better lives.
What do you see as the most important issues facing integrative medicine today?
EP: Educating our patients about their toxic load. Our individual toxic load is based on all the toxicity being put in and on to our bodies. It’s not just about the food you eat but also the products you use on your body and in your home. From fluoride and heavy metals in the tap water to hygiene, beauty products and cleaning supplies, we are accumulating toxins everywhere. STOP putting them on your skin and in your mouth. Then we can talk about detox.
I think it is imperative that we make a counterpoint to the corporate strategy that there is a pill for every ill. Also, we need to teach our patients that there is a difference between food that is eaten for nutrition and food as entertainment. This allows patients to become conscious eaters.
What do you see for the future of integrative medicine?
EP: I have no doubt more and more patients, as well as doctors, will see the benefit of integrative medicine. The definition of doctor is learned teacher, not prescriber. I suspect there will be an influx of more integrative practitioners opening clinics. We are already seeing how medical students are interested in and requesting courses in herbs, Chinese medicine, and other complementary medicine arenas. Thankfully, we are also seeing higher education institutions offer courses in these areas. I see that we are only going to need more experienced integrative health educators in the years to come.
What is your view on America’s health care system?
EP: We need to treat the whole person, not just the disease. I feel the mainstream medical system is confusing and hurting people. We need to come together. Medical physicians, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and homeopaths—we all need to work together. I think compassion is what we all could use a lot more of. Health care should be about easing suffering—or more importantly— preventing it in the first place.
What do you teach your patients?
EP: Every meal helps determine your future health. Do you want to be more alive or more dead? It’s your choice. But here’s the real deal: They think they have only two or three choices. That’s not true at all. At the grocery store they used to ask you: paper or plastic? Now we have more choices than that. You can bring your own bags. You can use bags made of recycled products, cloth bags, or even cardboard boxes. I hope my patients come to understand that every day they get to make choices—not just about what they eat but how they live.
Can you share a patient success story?
EP: Oh, yes. A woman recently returned in a desperate state. She had come for an initial consultation a year or so ago presenting with acid reflux, mental fog, poor sleep, memory problems, and more. I explained that fifty percent of my patients with acid reflux are sensitive to dairy. My outlined treatment plan included eliminating dairy for a time and reporting on the results. She did none of what I outlined, as she didn’t want to give up cream in her coffee or ice cream at night.
Over the year, she went to several mainstream doctors who sent her home with additional prescriptions, including a different PPI (proton-pump inhibitor) that didn’t work. She continued to get worse. This time she followed my recommendations by changing her diet, using specific supplements, and nourishing herself correctly. And, lo and behold, her health improved rapidly. Not long after, she was taken off many of the prescription medications. This patient needed someone to do the detective work and find out what was causing all her ailments instead of just treating her symptoms. She also needed what a lot of my patients need: nutritional coaching.
What do you love about what you do?
EP: Watching people smile now when they didn’t or couldn’t before. I love seeing the spark in their eyes and knowing they changed their life for the better; and that they will live a better, perhaps longer life because of it.
Do you have any hobbies?
EP: Astronomy and physics are alongside gardening and birding. I’m an education junkie. I’m almost always taking a class or learning something new. My gray cells love to dance. I feel like if I’m not learning, I’m not having fun.
How do you support your own health and wellness?
EP: I garden. I grow my own food. This allows me to know the exact source of what I’m eating and gives me more time to be in nature. It’s also a great stress reducer. Digging, raking, weeding, and harvesting provide some physical exercise and an outlet for tension stored in our bodies. I have a background in botany and I love being around plants. And as we know, plants give off life-giving oxygen, so I see organic gardening as wonderful support for a healthy mind and body. Plus it is delicious to prepare and eat food freshly picked from your yard.
Are there any charitable organizations you are involved with?
EP: I’ve run a local HIV support group for 26 years. I had a very good friend die of AIDS. Studies across the board have found that strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation are critical for those with HIV to live long lives. I love offering my help and support there.
Now my attention is on the UN program #CleanSeas. I urge everyone to go to Cleanseas.org to see how much difference you can make just by no longer using or accepting plastic straws at restaurants or with your takeaway food. Without a healthy planet, we have nowhere to live.