Dr. Claudia Laufer, DAOM, L.Ac. is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine with specialization in Healthy Aging and Integrative Medicine. She is a licensed acupuncturist and medical herbalist in the State of California, acupuncturist at Being Alive, a non-profit organization offering free services to the HIV community, and is clinical supervisor and faculty at Yo San University. Dr. Laufer studied psychology at Antioch University, and then proceeded to study Traditional Chinese Medicine. She earned her Masters degree in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (with highest honors) and her Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) from Yo San University in Los Angeles.
Born and raised in Germany, where holistic and herbal medicines were common even within mainstream medicine, Dr. Laufer was introduced to holistic health care early on: "It always fascinated me that simple remedies like sage tea or linden flowers were powerful enough to treat certain diseases. Many of the herbs we used at home were often plants that grew along the roadside, like valerian, nettles or yarrow. The idea that nature grew medicine sparked my life-long interest in learning as much as I can about natural medicine."
It was Dr. Laufer's own struggle with hyperthyroidism due to Graves' disease that lead her to study TCM. "The endocrinologist I saw at the time told me that the prognosis for Graves' disease was pretty grim, that I most likely had to get my thyroid ablated which could lead to permanent hypothyroidism, and that there was little I could do about it. I really didn't like that answer, so before I decided on a course of action, I did my own research." In the end, she opted for an integrative approach: Western anti-thyroid drugs in combination with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, qi gong exercises and dietary changes. The results of this approach amazed even her doctors; within 6 months, all symptoms of the disease had vanished, and the thyroid function was stable without further need of medications.
This success story, and being able to help hundreds of patients with similar diseases, prompted her interest in healthy aging and integrative medicine. "Healthy aging requires us to thing about aging before we get old," Dr. Laufer explains. Many factors play into how we age: prenatal care, childhood nutrition and lifestyle, environmental factors and exposure to toxins, adequate exercise and sleep, daily stressors and how we deal with them, social networks and relationships, and regular preventative care. Eastern medicine addresses all these factors, with exercise regimes like Tai Chi and Qi Gong which address stress, prevent disease and treats specific disease patterns, with diet that considers each patient's individual constitution, and with herbs which can help correct imbalances in the body.
During her clinical training at Yo San University, her interest in autoimmune conditions prompted her to complete a clinical externship at Being Alive, a non-profit center offering health services and acupuncture to HIV positive patients in a community clinic setting, where Dr. Laufer now works as a supervisor for acupuncture interns. Working with highly complex cases and patterns of immunological disease, she gained insight into the complex workings of the immune system and effective treatment options. She also realized that a holistic approach that focused as much on diet, stress management and exercise as it did on treating the presenting symptoms was the key to successfully treating these disorders. At Yo San University Clinic, Dr. Laufer treated patients for gynecological disorders, autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal problems, pain, depression, insomnia, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes and many other health conditions. For the past two years, Dr. Laufer provided acupuncture to seniors at Wise & Healthy Aging, a non-profit organization providing services to seniors for the Los Angeles Westside.
In her practice, Dr. Laufer focuses heavily on nutrition. "I had learned from my previous experience with thyroid disease that diet plays a huge role in managing disease and staying healthy. When my son was diagnosed with ADHD, I immediately started to adjust his diet to eliminate foods that would trigger the condition, and I made sure to add the right nutrients to support healthy development. Even though my son will always be more impulsive and active than most kids, his performance at school, in his social circle and at home are not negatively affected by his ADHD. With the right diet and occasional acupuncture and herbs, my son is doing very well in life without the need of medications." Dr. Laufer also holds free public lectures on healthy nutrition, and provides all patients with detailed nutritional guidelines for their specific conditons.
"One of my greatest passions is to teach people how to take care of themselves and how to take charge of their health. Many of today's diseases could easily be avoided with simple corrections in diet and lifestyle. However, with the mass of conflicting and downright false information in the media and on the web, it can be quite difficult to know which are the right changes. In my practice, I strive to help my patients navigate this jungle of information, and to provide them with the tools they need to be healthy."
The Power of Integrative Medicine
Integrative medicine is a practice of medicine that focuses on the whole person, and makes use of not only conventional western medicine, but of all appropriate medical therapeutic approaches, including acupuncture, herbs, chiropractic, cranio-sacral therapy, massage therapy, physical therapy, exercise and nutrition. Integrative medicine takes a very customized and personal approach to healthcare, and heavily relies on the partnership between practitioners and patients. Integrative medicine practitioner will engage the patient, help them identify contributing factors to the disease and work with them to make the necessary changes in their lives to achieve the best health outcome. A study done by Duke Integrative Medicine found that integrative medicine programs achieved more profound and comprehensive health benefits than conventional programs. Natural health is built onto three pillars: mindfulness, self-care and professional care.
Mindfulness is the first steep in attaining health. It is the art of staying in the moment and being aware of your physical, mental, social and spiritual states. By staying in touch with our bodies, we will be able to recognize imbalances before they turn into major symptoms or diseases. It will also make us more aware of how our environment affects us, and enables us to make better choices in the long-term for better health. So in a sense, mindfulness is at the center of good health.
Self-care starts once we become aware of how our own habits are sabotaging our efforts to attain health. In today’s busy world, many people take care of everything and everyone - except for themselves. Taking care of self is often dismissed as selfishness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Areas of self-care include establishing healthy relationships, a supportive social circle, regular exercise routines, healthy diets, personal growth and spirituality, living in a clean and healthy environment, and stress management.
The last element to natural health is professional care. This means for patients to seek help before symptoms get out of hand and disease develops. An important step in this is to find a practitioner who is open to an integrative approach, who will listen to the patient and work together with them to decide on the most appropriate treatment plan. Professional care includes supplements, pharmaceutical drugs, preventative medicine, conventional treatments as well as complementary treatment modalities like acupuncture or chiropractic care.