Lillea Hartwell, ND, RH (AHG), is a licensed naturopathic doctor and registered herbalist on a mission to catalyze your autoimmune healing journey. She embraces obstacles as tools to learn and grow. Botanical medicine, mind-body techniques, clinical nutrition are just some of the modalities she uses to do this. She earned her naturopathic degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. Her passion lies in general medicine, especially in acute care settings, including wound care and minor surgery, rheumatology, and other autoimmune conditions.
In this feature Dr. Hartwell shares her approach to healing with tips to maintaining wellbeing and self-care.
Please share your background and what sparked your interest in holistic healing and Naturopathic Medicine?
As a very young child I battled several infectious diseases that impaired my immune system and were ultimately resolved by tribal medicine. I believe that sparked my first interest in alternative medicine. Diagnosed with one autoimmune condition by the time I was in middle school, another my junior year of college, and another at the end of naturopathic medical school, I recognized that the current medical system allows folks to slip through the cracks. I spend my time in my practice supporting the population that I belong to, autoimmune patients, in the way I wish I could have been when I was first diagnosed. I did not grow up knowing I wanted to be a doctor, I grew up fascinated by the world around me, every subject, every story, all so unique. A lifetime of battling disease and misdiagnoses called me to the field of medicine. Diagnosed with multiple autoimmune conditions and chronic infectious diseases that my doctors told me were incurable by my early 20s, doctors frequently told me there were no new treatments and often did not believe my symptoms. Being who I am, I sought answers for myself and found them in the many modalities of naturopathic medicine. Before attending naturopathic medical school, I completed rigorous coursework to earn my Honors Bachelors of Science in Plant Sciences, with an emphasis in medicinal ethnobotany and a minor in Environmental Sciences from the University of Arizona. A true outdoorsy plant lover, I find plants and the use of plant medicine fascinating which lead to my becoming a registered herbalist. I also have online trainings so that I can be in multiple places at once—I’ve found that establishing the foundations of health in that medium can expedite the healing process for many.
What is your approach to healing?
From the most foundational level, I enable the human body to heal itself. By discovering the root cause of disease I can do this. This looks very different for each person, sometimes its replenishing nutrient deficiencies, re-establishing normal microbiomes in different areas of the body, identifying exacerbating parts of life whether its their job, their environment, their way of interacting with the world. And once we’ve established the foundations of health and worked through root cause issues, I arm my patients with tools to not only manage or reverse their disease progression but to also prevent future disease.
What are the main services offered at your naturopathic practice?
I am a general medicine practitioner that focuses on the treatment of autoimmunity, infectious disease and endocrine disorders. I am on a mission to catalyze the journey toward overcoming autoimmunity by embracing obstacles as tools to learn and grow. You can see more of how I do this by visiting my website drlilleahartwell.com. In the state of Arizona, where I am licensed and practicing at my clinic Saguaro Blossom Medical Center, naturopaths have the largest scope of medicine. This allows me to use the full range of naturopathic medicine, including more invasive procedures like minor surgery, intravenous and intramuscular injectables as well as acupuncture (and other Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities). I also frequently utilize clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, pharmaceuticals, and many other modalities to support the healing process of my patients. I am really passionate about dermatology and minor surgery procedures. I remove moles, skin tags, lipomas, cysts, and so much more in my private practice. The services page on my website gives full access to all that I do as a practitioner, I am happy to be able to support my patients with so many diverse modalities.
Are there any non-negotiable practices you use personally to maintain your wellbeing and self-care?
The two practices I most staunchly abide by are 1) not responding to other people’s urgency and 2) honoring my own needs through asserting a boundary. Both have historically been very challenging to implement within my life, especially in my profession as a physician and teacher. I have found that when I don’t follow these 2 practices, it deeply impacts how I feel about my work. Physicians and teachers are leading the group of retirees and quickly leaving their respective fields. I believe it’s largely because of constantly having to respond to the created urgency of others and not honoring their own needs by not drawing boundaries. I have learned there will always be someone wanting something done their way, on their time and we live in a society of instant gratification as a norm. Unfortunately that’s become expected of physicians too, even in non-urgent situations. I plan on being in both fields for my career but I couldn’t imagine doing that if I didn’t follow those 2 practices.
In your opinion, what is one simple thing we can do for our health?
Something huge that I see many people undervaluing is the impact of high quality sleep. The human body is capable of healing itself given adequate tools and time but a body that is chronically sleep deprived is more susceptible to disease than one that is not. The toll and impact of chronic sleep deprivation continues to reveal deeper harmful effects the more we look into it in the medical community.