Dr. Leah Gordon is near and dear to the Needed community. From identifying common consumer needs to informing product development to helping with ingredient selection, Dr. Leah is an active advisor, informing the product pipeline. As a specialist in women’s health and an expert in integrative and functional medicine, she is able to cast a wide net across her patients’ overall health and go deeper into the root causes of their unique health issues. She is most passionate about natural hormone balancing, digestive health, pregnancy preparation, fertility, and the root causes of low sexual desire. Her warmth and genuine care for her patients and community come through the instant you meet her and see her smile.
How did your nutrition journey start?
From a nourishment perspective, food was always a big deal in my family. I grew up in Colorado in a family where farming, ranching, and horses were at the root of our family heritage and culture, going back many generations. Our plates usually consisted of delicious arrangements of meat, potatoes, carrots, peas, bread, and a lot of dairy. While that doesn’t necessarily present the healthiest picture of eating, these meals were incredibly nourishing to me at the time. This was especially true as they were always prepared with love by my mother, with many recipes being passed down from my grandmother. Eating as a family was a normal occurrence in our household as well, and that was also incredibly nourishing to me. So, I can say that food was a central theme in my life while growing up.
I think the key to my health journey, however, was learning that nutrition - the nutrients and types of foods that I was putting into my body - could really impact my general health and how I felt. This was made very clear to me through a work experience course I took in middle school. During 7th and 8th grade, I was placed in a position at an alternative spinal rehabilitation clinic. I ended up working there until I left for college, a total of six years. The doctors there focused mainly on traction therapy, physical therapy, and massage. Since it was an integrative clinic, we really prioritized education and lifestyle awareness for patients. I learned so much about lifestyle factors, including nutrition, during that time, and it motivated me to be more health conscious myself. I wanted to be an example for our patients and I fell in love with the educational aspect of health. That experience started me on my path to further study nutrition--which opened up my eyes to naturopathic medicine--and sparked my desire and drive to become an expert in the natural medicine space.
What do you find the most rewarding and the most challenging about being in charge of your family’s nutrition?
It has been a beautiful journey being able to share my knowledge and my training with my parents and siblings and help them shift health outcomes by expanding their awareness of nutrition and how what they eat impacts their body. It wasn’t a simple journey, however, and I have seen firsthand that shifting your lifestyle and the entire culture of how you were brought up to eat takes concentrated effort and dedication.
In my own household, my husband and I split our food and nutrition responsibilities 50/50. We both shop, food prep, and cook, depending on our own unique schedules with us both being entrepreneurs. The real reward there is that we feel great when we prepare our own meals, and we each enjoy eating each other’s food creations. The challenge is obvious: it takes a lot of work! We put a lot of thought into the strategy and we have to create the space and time to shop for the right ingredients and prepare meals often. However, we are blessed to be able to afford high quality food and we also make it a priority. The majority of our budget is spent on food, but we know it pays off in how we feel on a daily basis and our health for the long run. We are truly investing in ourselves because, after all, we are what we eat!
Of course, there is no magic food that will address all of the nutritional needs in your household, but what are some of your go-tos and why?
We like to build meals with four basic components: a nutrient dense carbohydrate, such as a root vegetable, a healthy protein such as chicken, fish, or beef, a vegetable, such as broccoli or leafy greens, and a healthy fat, such as avocado. We love warm foods like soups and stews, and baked chicken is a staple in our diet. This might shock some, but my absolute favorite breakfast is a piece of cooked salmon on a bed of greens or sprouts. The healthy fats and protein set me up for a great day. I swear - I never feel as good as I do on a day that starts with a nice piece of salmon!
What role do supplements play in your approach to nutrition?
In my opinion, supplements should play a supplemental role. Personally, I use them to augment my diet, when needed. In my practice, I use them to build up stores of low nutrients and as a strategic tool for shifting health outcomes. For example, if a patient doesn’t eat healthy omega-rich fish often, I will recommend a great Omega-3 supplement. I may use that same fish oil to help reduce inflammation in someone who has digestive issues or autoimmunity. In general, Vitamin D is really difficult to get from diet alone, so I’ll often prescribe a supplement like that to ensure a patient is getting enough. Supplements are something that can shift and transform based on the needs of a person at their unique stage of life or in their unique health journey.
What are your go-to daily supplements?
Right now, I take a fish oil, vitamin D, a prenatal, a probiotic, an herbal tincture to help with digestion, and an adrenal support supplement occasionally.
What dream product do you wish existed, but can’t seem to find?
As someone who is deeply passionate about pregnancy preparation and fertility, I am dying to find (or help create - hint hint) a suite of products that follow women from preconception through postpartum. I would love something that would provide birth control support, a detox from hormonal birth control, a prenatal tailored to each trimester, and postpartum support, as this is such a demanding time on a woman and her nutritional status.
We are interested in exploring nourishment at the intersection of food, family, and community. Can you tell us a story about an especially nourishing meal that you had alone or shared with others?
My husband and I were recently traveling in France. One night, we met a friend of mine at a beautiful French restaurant. I was enjoying the most delicious french onion soup I have ever had, something I never eat in the US, as dairy and wheat products from our country don’t make me feel good. The breads and cheeses in France are crafted in a way that do not wreak havoc on my digestive system, so I took the opportunity to indulge. We were enjoying great food and wine and sharing stories. I was able to see and truly experience that the French lifestyle and culture is all about pleasure. In that night, in that experience, I thought to myself, “This is what life is all about: enjoying the people I love and sharing beautiful experiences with them.” It was pure bliss.
What books have influenced your personal nutrition education the most?
There are too many to name; however, the following sum up what I have learned in a nutshell quite nicely!
Adrenal Thyroid Revolution - Aviva Romm. MD
Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal - Dr. Datis Kharrazian, DC