Meet Dr. Tom Messinger at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic
Dr. Tom, are you new to the area?
Yes, my wife and I moved to Talent 7/2019. We had lived in Portland, OR for 13 years. We loved it there but had a strong calling to live rurally and leave the city life. It was a big decision that we did not take lightly. I had an extremely successful practice and was the director of a busy integrative clinic with 10 other doctors. I was very close with my patients. However, my life was entirely work, typically putting in 70-hour work weeks. I had a desire to bring more balance into my life in addition to helping people heal.
What made you choose Southern OR?
Well, for anyone that has lived in Portland, having more sun! Also, the people are really nice, and I love the beauty of nature that is pervasive here.
Tell me about your practice as a Naturopathic Doctor.
Being trained as an N.D., with every patient, my first step is to figure out what are the possible underlying causes of their health issues. In medicine this is referred to as a differential. If one does not identify the underlying causes and just treat the symptoms, then that is equivalent to a band-aid. As we all know, band-aids may help at first, but then they no longer stick. The readers may notice that I used the word “causes” plural. This is because I have found that with chronic illness, it is rare to have only one underlying cause.
In the first visit, which is often 2 hours, I take a very detailed history because that provides me with clues to what underlying causes are contributing to the patient’s symptoms. We perform testing to confirm the suspected underlying causes. While waiting for results, I start my patients on therapeutic treatments at the first visit. It is important to lay a strong foundation to successfully treat the underlying causes. This varies from patient to patient but includes optimizing the person’s diet and supporting key detoxification pathways.
Over the years, my practice has morphed into specializing in treating patients who have been to numerous providers, including MDs, DOs, and NDs, and have not found answers to their health issues. Many of the patients I have seen struggle with chronic fatigue, chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, gastro-intestinal issues, auto-immunity, hormonal, and neurological issues. When a person has some or all of these issues occurring, there is usually a few common threads that are resulting in multiple body systems being involved. When I do workup on these patients, I often find that they are suffering from Mold Illness and/or Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.
Lyme disease is known as the “great imitator” because it can mimic so many other conditions. However, there are certain symptoms that are strongly suggestive of Lyme disease. A valuable pre-screening tool that anyone can do is take the Horowitz Lyme Screening Questionnaire. It is available online for free. Published data has shown it is reliable on differentiating patients who may Lyme disease from those who do not. I do not simply rely on the questionnaire. I arrive at a diagnosis based upon history, physical exam, and laboratory findings. Interestingly less than 50% of my patients who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease had recollection of a tick bite. Also, there is multiple peer reviewed published papers showing that the “classic bulls-eye” rash occurs in as low as 9% of the cases.
Due to various political and financial issues (that I will not get into in this article), in some circles the diagnosis of Chronic Lyme disease is controversial. However, there are over 700 peer reviewed papers showing that the spirochete causing Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) can persist in the body for years even after prolonged antibiotic treatment.
I have had a number of patients who upon doing their own research suspected that they had Lyme disease and they went to their PCP. Their PCP, following the CDC Standard of care guidelines, will often run the Lyme Elisa test. If this test comes back negative, the CDC says no further testing is necessary. The patient is then told they do not have Lyme disease. The problem with this is that multiple studies have shown the sensitivity of the test (the ability of the test to detect a disease if present) is between 33-49%. Meaning, at best, the majority of patients who have Lyme disease would have the diagnosis missed if running this test. As a result, as part of my workup, I am ordering Lyme testing that is sensitive and has a greater chance of finding the infection if present.
Can someone recover from Lyme after having it for a number of years?
Absolutely, there are a lot of great treatments that I employ that have shown a lot of benefit. Treatment is often comprehensive. We need to address the chronic infection, the biofilms, the downstream damage that has occurred from the infection, strengthen and regulate the immune system, and upregulate the detoxification pathways to clear debris.
How about Mold Illness?
24% of the population has a genetic defect that when they are exposed to mold in a water damaged building, their immune system cannot identify it and thus it is not eliminated from their system. Mold, being a living organism, can then colonize in the body. The most common places it colonizes are the intestinal tract, sinuses, and sometimes the lungs. Mold then produces mycotoxins which activate the same inflammatory biochemical pathways in the body that the Lyme spirochete does. Thus, there is a great similarity of symptoms between the 2 conditions. The most common symptoms include fatigue, what is referred to as “brain fog”, chronic sinus congestion, and IBS type symptoms. There are many other symptoms that can occur, including neurological illnesses, kidney disease, and increased sensitivity to external stimuli. When someone reports being unusually sensitive to common stimuli, one thing to think about is Mold Illness and Bartonella. Mold, plus Bartonellosis (an infection contracted by bites of a tick, flea, or cat scratch/bite), are great sensitizers of the nervous system. People can become hypersensitive to light, sound, smells, noise, EMFs, and chemicals.
How do you diagnose Mold Illness?
It is by performing a urine test looking for the presence of mycotoxins. A person does not need to be currently living in a moldy environment to be harboring mold in their system.
How do you treat all of this?
I wish I could tell you that there is a simple, straightforward protocol for each diagnosis. I wish it were that simple, because it would make my job easier. Each person is an individual, had their unique life experiences/infections/traumas and thus the treatment must be tailored to them as an individual. There are a lot of considerations that I take into account in developing the treatment plan. I have seen a fair amount of patients that I place in the category of being extremely sensitive and in those cases, we have to do things to first calm down their nervous and immune system just to pave the way so we can treat the identified underlying causes without causing an aggravation of symptoms. With all of this being said, I use integrative treatments such as diet optimization, herbs, homeopathy, Neural Therapy, Shiatsu, Ozone, and will utilize pharmaceutical antimicrobials for treatments when indicated. I have had a number of mentors over the years, but a lot of what I do is based upon the teachings of Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, and Dr Neil Nathan, MD. Their wisdom in treating these chronic conditions has greatly helped me to help my patients.
Where do you practice?
My practice is located at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic in Medford. To try and maintain balance in my life, I see patients 3 days per week, and devote 2 days per week to study, research and administration tasks. I am seeing patients in person with the proper precautions and the clinic is following OHA COVID guidelines. I also offer phone or virtual appointments.
In addition, I do offer free 15 minute phone consults. That allows prospective patients the opportunity to explore if working together would be a good fit for them and if they feel I can help them