Dr. Carleigh Golightly is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and founder of EmpowerMed Integrative Clinic in San Diego, California. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Golightly is passionate about expanding the rights of NDs nationwide and has been elected to the lead via the California ND Board of Directors. She is also dedicated to bringing naturopathic medicine to underserved communities and frequently participates in medical mission trips. Dr. Golightly discovered naturopathic medicine through her own teenage struggles with crippling anxiety, hormonal imbalance, and IBS. Frustrated with the pills her doctors offered her, she went outside the box seeking truth about healing. Through years of personal research and trial-and-error, Dr. Golightly was able to overcome her own health issues.

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Alice: Dr. Carleigh Golightly is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and founder of EmpowerMed Integrative Clinic in San Diego, California. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Golightly is passionate about expanding the rights of NDs nationwide and has been elected to the lead via the California ND Board of Directors. She is also dedicated to bringing naturopathic medicine to underserved communities and frequently participates in medical mission trips. Dr. Golightly discovered naturopathic medicine through her own teenage struggles with crippling anxiety, hormonal imbalance, and IBS. Frustrated with the pills her doctors offered her, she went outside the box seeking truth about healing. Through years of personal research and trial-and-error, Dr. Golightly was able to overcome her own health issues. We are so excited to have you on today!

Dr. Golightly: Yes. Thanks for asking me to be on today, Alice. I am excited to be here.

Alice: Yes, thanks for being a part of this. We kind of start the podcast off with some quick questions. What is your favorite place in San Diego?

Dr. Golightly: Okay. I am a San Diego local. I actually grew up here.

Alice: Oh, wow!

Dr. Golightly: I have to say that my favorite place, I have been going there since I was a kid and it is kind of always been one of my escapes, is sunset cliffs and ocean beach. Have you ever been down there where you drive, you drive all the way down and then there is kind of ends in this dirt parking lot? Yes, just look over the cliffs and out into the ocean? That is my favorite spot in San Diego, and it is regularly where I go when I just need to clear my head.

Alice: Wow, that is lovely. Where is your practice in San Diego?

Dr. Golightly: I am in Rancho Bernardo.

Alice: Oh, okay. Perfect. Yes, the sunset cliffs are gorgeous.

Dr. Golightly: I know. It is amazing. It is a very special place in San Diego.

Alice: Wow. What is your favorite dessert you have ever concocted?

Dr. Golightly: Okay. I had a lot of fun thinking about all the different dessert. I love baking. It has been something that I have just enjoyed my whole entire life. But the best dessert I have made recently is I made carrot cake cupcakes from scratch. Then, I made a homemade cream cheese frosting and topped it with sea salt and then crushed pecans–

Alice: Oh my God!

Dr. Golightly: It was out of this world.

Alice: That sounds amazing. Do you give these to all your friends this…?

Dr. Golightly: No, I should though. I actually made them… for what did I make them for? It was for someone’s birthday. I am having trouble remembering who is it was now, but I made it for a birthday party. Then, I kind of got in the swing of making them and then I had these cupcakes at my house on a regular basis which is dangerous to do.

Alice: That is amazing.

Dr. Golightly: Yes, it was amazing but also horrible because I was eating and I am like, “Okay, no! I have to [inaudible] them for a while mostly because it just got a little scary for a minute there.

Alice: Yes, that is incredible. Wow. What is your favorite place you have ever traveled?

Dr. Golightly: I have actually been all over the world. I have been to Thailand. I have been to Australia. But quite honestly, my favorite places are here in California.

Alice: Really?

Dr. Golightly: Yes. I have done a lot of backpacking in my life. I have done a lot on the Pacific Crest Trail up through the Sierra Nevadas and all that stuff.

Alice: Wow.

Dr. Golightly: I have to say that is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world, and it is right here in our backyard. It is not far away at all. Then, I also love Joshua Tree National Park. That is another place that [?] I would go amazed by and it is so beautiful.

Alice: Wow. I have never been there but I have been wanting to go on a road trip in–

Dr. Golightly: You have got to go.

Alice: –probably good times.

Dr. Golightly: Right now is the perfect time of the year to go, too.

Alice: Oh, I have got to make it there. Okay.

Dr. Golightly: Very good. Go for it!

Alice: Okay, if you could have any other profession, what would it be?

Dr. Golightly: I would actually go into regenerative agriculture.

Alice: What is that?

Dr. Golightly: I know! That is what everyone says. Basically, regenerative agriculture is the use of… Basically, the use of agriculture in a way that regenerates the soil and allows it to become stronger or more fertile over time instead of less fertile. A lot of people do not know about the way that we basically use conventional meat and the way that we used monocropping to create all of our plant products is actually destroying the soil. What regenerative farmers are doing is they are actually regenerating the soil using plants and animals that work together like you would find out in normal ecology, right? Creating this nice little ecosystem that allows the soil to basically continue to be as healthy as it originally was.

Alice: Oh, that is so interesting. Because I have heard of this slash and burn idea or rotating crop on two different fields, but that is so fascinating.

Dr. Golightly: Yes, is not it? There is a couple of places. There is one place, in particular, out in Georgia called White Oak Pastures that has been doing this for a while and they are fantastic. It is starting to gain in popularity, and there has actually been some research done on it that regenerative agriculture might have the ability to help us with some of our carbon emission issues. Basically, helped to save the planet essentially.

Alice: Oh, what are you saying?

Dr. Golightly: Yes, it is something that I think everyone needs to know about because it is incredible. It is just these farmers that are just clunking away, doing their thing. Yes.

Alice: Wow, that is so interesting. Are you a big gardener yourself then? Do you have a backyard and trying to–

Dr. Golightly: Like plant? No, I do not.

Alice: Okay.

Dr. Golightly: I live in a condo, so I do not really have–

Alice: Okay

Dr. Golightly: I have a raised planter where I attempt to grow something but–

Alice: That is good. Yes. If I keep anything alive, it is success.

Dr. Golightly: Yes. I have got lots of succulents in my house and I am pretty good at those, but you know…

Alice: Yes. Those are real– those are good. I have some here. I just do not touch them and just see what happens.

Dr. Golightly: Exactly.

Alice: Yes. What has been keeping you busy during quarantine?

Dr. Golightly: Oh my God! Okay. During quarantine, it was kind of a really interesting time because I actually started my private practice in February, early February.

Alice: Wow.

Dr. Golightly: I had about five weeks of everything being normal before all shutdown. But it was kind of interesting because it gave me the opportunity to really slow down and sit and think and be [?] intentional about where I wanted to take my business, right? I got the opportunity to spend more time thinking about what I want my message to the world to be and how do I want to get it out there? I have really been working on my business and forming a business that I actually am something I am proud of, something that I want to share with people, going on podcasts and stuff like this with you and writing articles in my website. All these types of things. That was a big piece of what has been keeping me busy during quarantine. It is really just working on my business and having a really, truly purpose-driven business that is not here just to make money but it is here to have an impact on the world as well.

Alice: Oh, that is amazing.

Dr. Golightly: Yes, that is one thing I have been working on. But then I also picked up some fun hobbies, too. Yes, I started crocheting again.  I know. Like a little old lady.

Alice: That is cool!

Dr. Golightly: I made a baby blanket for my boyfriend’s niece which was cool.

Alice: It is so nice.

Dr. Golightly: I became obsessed with making the perfect loaf with sourdough bread. There has been a lot of sourdough bread in my house as well.

Alice: Yum.

Dr. Golightly: Yes. Yes, no kidding. I started taking dance lessons.

Alice: Wow, what kind of dance?

Dr. Golightly: Everything, everything. There is a formal dance studio down the street from my house. I originally went there because I wanted to learn country two-step. I love country music so I just wanted to–

Alice: Cool!

Dr. Golightly:  dance. My boyfriend and I started going with that intention but the way that the studio teaches is that they roll in all these different dance styles into their–

Alice: Cool.

Dr. Golightly: –club. Not only we are learning country two-step, we are learning cha-cha and rumba and waltz and tango.

Alice: Wow!

Dr. Golightly: Like everything. It has just been so much fun. I am totally addicted now. They got me.

Alice: Oh, that is so cool. Is it just virtual from your living room?

Dr. Golightly: Initially, it was. They were doing Zoom classes. Now, they have the studio open so we can all come in, masks and everything, and everyone is distanced apart, but they have a nice [inaudible] studio so it works out.

Alice: Oh my God, that is awesome. That is very cool. Can you talk a little bit more about your practice? What is naturopathic medicine for our listeners?

Dr. Golightly: Yes. This is a fantastic question because most people have no idea what it is what I do. When I say I am a naturopathic doctor, they look at me like, “Excuse me? What is that?” Just to kind of set the stage and give a little bit of background, the best way to kind of answer this question and give people an idea is to talk a little bit about our training. We go through four years of medical school, most of which looks a lot like conventional medical school. We have our years with all of the “ologies”. We go through the anatomy, the physiology, biology, biochemistry. We learn you endocrinology, gastroenterology, all these different things. Basically, how are we going to diagnose and treat stuff, right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: Then, we also do clinical training so we have training with… We have an attending physician. We have a resident physician. We actually see patients in the clinic and administer different therapies and help to treat them. Where everything differs is in our modalities. The types of things that we use to treat people. In conventional medicine, most of what is used is pharmaceuticals, right? That is just a tool. Not good or bad, it is just a tool. What naturopathic doctors use are not only pharmaceuticals, but we will use botanical medicine. We will use supplements like amino acids and stuff like that. We use IV therapy. We use mind-body medicine. I trained in regenerative injections. We just have a much larger toolbox, in general, to be able to treat people with. Really what it kind of comes down to is not only do we have a difference in modalities, we also have a philosophical difference as well. Conventional medicine for many years has really been focused on what disease. What is our diagnosis and what pillory going to give to treat that, right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: See, naturopathic philosophy is more about why. Why is the body imbalanced? Why is this happening? Then, how can we restore balance? We use all those tools in our toolbox to answer that question of why. That is kind of in a nutshell. That is what a naturopathic doctor does. We are experts at getting down to the root cause of disease and then helping people to restore balance and optimize their lives.

Alice: Wow. It is more like a fulfilling. As it is integrative medicine, integrating everything within there as opposed to just, “Here is a pharmaceutical.”

Dr. Golightly: Absolutely. You got it.

Alice: Wow, that is so interesting.

Dr. Golightly: Yes.

Alice: Since starting your business, what has been… COVID has definitely thrown a wrench in there but what have you learned about opening your own practice and starting a business as a female business leader?

Dr. Golightly: Well, I have learned that I am going to feel like a novice every single day of my life and be okay with that. Honestly. Owning a business can be a very humbling thing because, for me, I started this business with not a whole heck of a lot. I specifically did not want to take [?] any sort of small business loans or anything like that, so I started very small.

Alice: Wow.

Dr. Golightly: I started with the lowest overhead I could possibly find. I actually got some loans from family members and things like that because I really did not want to add on to the mountain of student loan debt that I already had, right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: I intentionally started very, very small and have been very dependent on other members of my community and my contacts and the people that I have committed to pouring my life into to help me build my business. It has been this very kind of organic, slowly changing, morphing sort of thing. I love it, honestly. It is simultaneously the hardest and most interesting thing I have ever done which is saying a lot because I went to med school, right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: I did all of that and then I got [?] out of that. Now, I am like, “[?] Are you okay? Putting a business is pretty darn hard.”

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: It has really challenged me in a lot of ways, but I think the way that has really challenged me is to become more of myself, right? Because people, especially when you are the face of your business and you are very forward-facing and you are doing things like podcasts and talks and things like that or even when you are just face-to-face with a patient, they can tell when you are not being authentic, right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: People know right off the bat if you are coming at them with a fake… You know what I mean? They know. For me, it has really challenged me to step into my own and own who I am.

Alice: That is wonderful. Yes, it sounds like… This is the craziest time to open but it sounds like you are making the best of it and really figuring out who you are as well as what your business is and what that voice is. What is…

Dr. Golightly: Yes. I truly believe that challenges are really an opportunity for growth, right? It is all about just kind of reframing the way that you see the world, right? Bad things are going to happen at any time and any day, but what are you going to do? How are you going to move through that? How are you be kind of become better because of it?

Alice: Yes, that is wonderful. Put on those rose-colored glasses.

Dr. Golightly: Yes.

Alice: Yes, reframe.

Dr. Golightly: Yes, exactly.

Alice: Yes. You also do a lot of volunteer work. Would you mind talking a little bit about that?

Dr. Golightly: Yes. Unfortunately, it is something that is kind of I have had to take my foot off the gas with that during COVID, right? Because–

Alice: Makes sense.

Dr. Golightly: –we have no ability to be able to do a whole heck of a lot of this type of stuff. But the volunteer work, I am a big believer that serving others is the greatest gift that we can give. From a more scientific research perspective, that is my kind of esoteric perspective, but from a scientific perspective, there have been studies done that show that people who serve others, who volunteer, are happier and live longer than those who do not.

Alice: Wow.

Dr. Golightly: Yes. I think science is kind of catching up with some of these pieces of age old wisdom that we have kind of known for a long time. I really do think the secret to life is really just this idea of servant leadership, right? How do you lead by helping others? It is really kind of about focusing on humility and realizing that it is not about you, it is really about everyone else and what kind of unique gifts that you have that you can give to the world that will help other people. I do a couple different types of volunteering. I have my medical volunteering and then I am really involved in my church as well.

With my medical volunteering, a lot of that really started when I was in medical school. There is an organization called Naturopaths Without Borders, right? Doctors–

Alice: Oh, wow!

Dr. Golightly: for naturopathic doctors. We did a lot of work in Mexico. We would go across the border down to Rocky Point. We also had a local clinic in downtown Phoenix, for the underserved in downtown Phoenix. Then, when I went to Thailand, I went to Thailand with NWB as well. That has been a really incredible experience for me, and I hope for the people who have come to see me too because it challenges you, like I said, as a doctor and as a human being really, to just connect with people from all different walks of life and see not how different we are, but really how similar we are, and how we all kind of have the same… We have the same desires, right? We want to be loved. We want our families to be taken care of. We want to be healthy. It does not matter where you go. That fits everybody, right?

Alice: You are helping people with their basic human needs.

Dr. Golightly: Right. Exactly, yes.

Alice: Yes. Oh my God! That is wonderful. You are just all over the world just helping people as a naturopath which is amazing. Now, here in San Diego with your own practice. What should we be thinking about when we are thinking about medicine? What would be some advice that you could give us? Just kind of changing our mindset.

Dr. Golightly: Let me think. What should we be thinking about? Honestly, I think that something that people need to understand… Actually, I recorded a podcast about this yesterday with one of my friends which is, I think that we need to understand that a lot of the things that make you healthy are completely free. There is kind of this idea out there that you cannot afford to be healthy, right? I have heard that a lot in a lot of different circles like, “I just cannot afford to eat well,” or “I cannot afford to…” this type of stuff.

A lot of what you can do to make yourself healthy, some of the best health interventions that we know of are actually completely free. That is things I just talked about serving or volunteering, that is free. All it cost you is your time. Going out into the sunlight, getting that vitamin D exposure, completely free. Drinking water, hundred percent free. Unless you are buying the five-dollar bottles of water from wherever. It should be good quality water.

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: Switching your food from getting processed packaged foods to more organic whole foods. That will actually save you money. Again, it is going to cost you money but you have got to eat, right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: The cheaper your foods are where the higher quality foods are going to be really important. Spending time investing in your relationships with your family, your friends, stuff like that, completely free. Exercise, movement is free, right? Getting outside and moving your body. Smiling, laughing, all that type of stuff. These things are all incredibly therapeutic and they are totally free. Starting there, if you are someone who is like, “Look, I just really cannot afford to go see a naturopathic doctor,” or “I cannot afford to…” whatever. Start there. Start with that stuff.

The other part two, I would say, of it is just understanding that really the things that you do now set the stage for what your life is going to look like in your fifty’s, your sixty’s, and your seventy’s, right? The choices that you make right now play a huge role in what things are going to look like when you are eighty. Taking that personal responsibility right now, in this moment, and saying, “You know what, when I am eighty, I want to be able to travel the world still, and I want to be able to be there at my grandchildren’s wedding, and all those types of things.” Think about that. Project out what you want your life to look like when you are in that age of your life and start making choices now that will get you there.

Alice: I think that is so interesting. You are having us reframe this idea of health in our mind kind of what you were talking about earlier and how to rethink about things. I guess, thinking about this integrative whole of what it means to be healthy which I think is… that is so fascinating. A great way to think about, “Oh, each choice that I am making is a choice to be healthy.” Even just like what you were saying about the sunshine, that is just so lovely. We can all get that.

Dr. Golightly: Yes.

Alice: Were just especially important right now.

Dr. Golightly: I totally agree– I could not agree with you more. It is now, right now, in the time that we are in, we have kind of been forced to get down to the bare bones of things, right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: Get out and get that sunshine. Get out and walk around. It is amazing. What a simple ten- to fifteen-minute walk outside will do for you. It is crazy.

Alice: Yes, that is just amazing. I am a New Yorker. I grew up in San Diego, but I live in New York right now. But it is not assured that you will even get out of your apartment when we have been quarantining. But San Diegans, you guys have the beach, you have the sunshine, you have a backyard sometimes. But every time I get outside here in New York, it is just that sun is so inviting and warming and just fills your soul in a way. That is a lot of–

Dr. Golightly: We are wired to need it.

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: Our brains actually do not function optimally when we do not get sunlight exposure. It messes up your circadian rhythm. When I work with patients that have sleep issues, one of the things that we talked about is getting out first thing in the morning and actually getting bright sunlight exposure because that is what tells your brain, “Oh, hey, we are awake now. It is time to be awake.” You get that boost of energy in the morning and that supposed to come from things like getting that sunlight exposure. Then, you are supposed to slowly kind of wind out throughout the rest of the day. That light, that change in light like sunset, as it goes through all those different color changes with the reds and the orange and stuff like that, that is actually sending a signal to your brain to start to transition from daytime awake mode to nighttime sleep mode.

Alice: Wow, that is so fascinating!

Dr. Golightly: When you think about that, it is not surprising that we have so many people with sleep issues because we are inside most of the time under fluorescent lights and your brain has not adapted to that environment yet.

Alice: That is so interesting.

Dr. Golightly: Yes.

Alice: Wow. Just transitioning us into another topic, something that I always ask on the podcast is what is your definition of womanhood?

Dr. Golightly: That was such a interesting question. When I saw that you sent it over, I was like, “Oh man, that is an interesting one.”

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: . I was not entirely sure how to answer that. I just kind of listed some of the characteristics that I think that I found inspiring in women who have really inspired me. Some of those things are things like grace, right? Carrying yourself with a certain way, with a certain kind of confidence and understanding that you are worthy and that you have a mission here on earth, right? The other thing is courage, right? Being able to do things, not just because you are brave or whatever, but be able to do things even though they scare you. Things that you really find valuable and you really think have a purpose and a place in this world, you have the courage to stand up for those things and the courage to promote them in your life. In whether that be you have the courage to build a strong family or the courage to start a business or any number of things. Womanhood, I think, is not defined to a woman who stays at home with her kids or a woman who owns a business or a woman who does all of the things, right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: We can do anything but I think what we do is we bring a certain air to it that maybe men can but it is a little bit harder for them to do. We have this kind of grace, we have this compassion, and we have this ability to bring wisdom to certain situations that maybe other people are not able to bring.

Alice: Yes. I think that is just awesome. I love to asking this question because it is hard. You have to stop and think a little bit but I think grace and courage and compassion are all things that, of course, we can get on board with, like as womanhood.

Dr. Golightly: Yes.

Alice: Definitely that womanly wisdom or that wisdom that is inherit to the woman starting a business or working at home or what have you. I think that is just wonderful.

Dr. Golightly: Yes. Oh, good. I am glad you like that

Alice:  If you had any advice for a woman just walking down the street and you could give them one piece of advice, what would it be?

Dr. Golightly: Oh, man. Anyone that at all, just walking down the street and I just–

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: Honestly, everyone has some kind of dream. Everyone has something that they want to do with their life, but for one reason or another, they are not doing it. Whether that be they want to get healthy so they can run a marathon. Whether they want to start that business. Whether they want to renew that relationship with that person in their family. I feel everyone has something that for some reason they are not quite doing. There is a number of reasons why. One of the prevailing things I hear in my office is, “I do not feel I am good enough,” or “I do not feel I can do that,” or “I am scared to or…” You know what I mean?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: There is some kind of excuse or something that prevents us from being able to access that next level of ourselves. If anyone, anywhere, man or woman even really, was wanting one piece of advice from me, it would be to find that thing and just bust through it. Just start making progress on it. Because you do not want to get to the end of your life and say, “Oh man. I really wish I had done that and it sucks that I did not because I was so scared about money.” You know what I mean?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly: That is a big fear that is out there with people like, “What if I do not have the money?”, “What if I fail?”, “What will other people think of me?” All these types of things that really keep us living a half-life.

Alice: Yes, that makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Golightly: You are not really full, assuming what you are here to do. I believe that each and every person has a unique set of skills and abilities that they can give to the world. I do not want anyone to go through their whole life not being able to fully express that. That would be my advice to anyone.

Alice: That is amazing, Doctor Golightly. Was that your practice for you? Starting a practice?

Dr. Golightly: Yes. Starting a practice and having that being really a jumping-off platform to help and inspire people, to overcome the things that hold them back. Whether that be… For me, it is a lot of people with health issues, right? For me, personally, it was my health issues that drove me forward and helped me to discover all of this type of stuff.

Alice: Wow.

Dr. Golightly: Even if my practice can be a conduit to that for someone else, I have done my job. But also to help people kind of reframe some things in their mind. Almost everyone in my office has some level of anxiety or depression. One of the common themes with that is lack of purpose and fear. We start having those types of conversations about like, “Okay. Do you have a purpose in your life? Because I do not believe that your purpose in your life is just to wait to retire and then what?” Right?

Alice: Yes.

Dr. Golightly:  A lot of many people are living like that. So many people. When you think about it, think about the people that you know. There is a lot of them out there. Just living so that they can get a paycheck, so that then when one day they can retire and then they will do what they want to do.

Alice: Wow.

Dr. Golightly: But what if you do not get there?

Alice: Yes. That is a great question. I need to start reframing things. No, it was so wonderful. Is there anything else you would like to add to our listeners?

Dr. Golightly: Oh my goodness. I think I have added enough.

Alice: Yes, it is great. It just adds to the conversation. It is wonderful. How can people find out about your practice?

Dr. Golightly: Yes. I am online at empowermedclinic.com. I am also on Instagram @dr.carleighgolightly.

Alice: Perfect! Amazing. Thank you so much for being on today.

Dr. Golightly: Welcome. Thanks for having me, Alice. This has been a lot of fun.

About the author

Alice Cash is the Marketing Manager for Jubilance by day and an award winning Theatre Director by night.  Leading the podcast Weekly Woman, she loves her candid conversations with women from all over the world about how they live and the amazing things they are doing to make a difference. Alice is also the editor of the bi-monthly newsletter the Jubilee, a blog dedicated to the power of female wellness especially concerning menstruation.  She’s worked in France creating theatre pieces and taught drama and filmmaking to women and children in Haiti.  She graduated from Georgetown University and holds two master degrees from NYU and The New School.  Alice has traveled to  40+ countries, including Tibet.  She is a New Yorker and can often be found in Central Park, searching out the best bubble tea, or directing a play, you never know where she’ll show up. @alicesadventuresinwonderworld
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