Karyn Shanks MD

Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, Body-Mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-five-year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

Reclaim Joy

I want you to remember how joyful life can be. And how it’s possible to live both a hard life and a joyful one at the very same time.

I’ve come to learn that joy is a practice.

It’s not an innate state of mind. Or a gift for the lucky few.

Rather, it’s the result of a steady daily practice to reclaim the energy sapped by the hard work of living.

Living has been hard these days, eh?

Pandemics,…

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How to Survive Storms, Pandemics, and, Well, Everything.

soothe, settle, heal, be present, chop wood

Here we all are.

Global pandemic with no end in sight.

School, no school, or home school?

Working from home, not working, where will the money come from?

Racial injustice come-to-Jesus right now. Educating ourselves to step up best we can.

Inland hurricane. Trees down, roofs crashed, crops ruined. Lives upended here in Iowa.

And this is only part of the chaos and uncertainty in our lives,…

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Everyone’s Got Stories to Get Out of Their Way

heal, story healing

Everyone has stories to get out of their way.

Carrie’s Story

Carrie was told a story that nothing was wrong, though she was sick and suffering and knew in her bones what her doctor said wasn’t true. But the very same story was repeated many times by experts who must have known more than she did.

She was sick and suffering. She knew that. She knew her life had suddenly changed when she…

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Soothe and Settle

flow, soothe and settle, heal

I just finished writing in my journal about two minor but painful events that I just couldn’t let go of. They kept swirling around and around in my mind without resolution and left me feeling inadequate, disempowered, and uncomfortable. As soon as I unloaded my story on the pages of my sacred journal, I then wrote these words to myself, “Good job on the feelings, K! Now, let’s soothe and…

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We are Unbroken.

Unbroken, science of human potential, heal

My entire philosophy of healing and medicine can be summed up in one word: Unbroken.

This is how I approach every single one of my clients (and myself!)—that in spite of our pain, suffering, stuckness, and longing for things to be better, we are inherently unbroken.

Instead, through our pain, suffering, stuckness, and longing for things to be better, we’re called to discover what we need to…

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Thoughts About Freedom

freedom, heal

Dear One,

In the season of the United States’ Independence Day, I find myself reflecting on the meaning of freedom.

Even as a little girl I found myself confused by the words of the Star-Spangled Banner, written during the War of 1812—the “second war of independence” from the British—later becoming our national anthem and theme song of our independence and patriotism. To my young mind…

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Permission to Fail

permission to fail, wisdom, heal

Dear One,

Why is failure so dang hard?

Sure, there are setbacks and disappointments that lead us to change our plans, but what about those colossal failures that call our worth and belonging and faith into question?

Like losing a job. Blurting out the wrong thing and hurting a loved one’s feelings. Trusting someone who lets us down.

Or worse—the failures we have no control over and have far…

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What Makes Healing So Hard?

heal, potential, born to heal, Karyn Shanks MD

My whole life’s work is dedicated to helping people heal and live their full potential.

We’ve talked before about the new science of epigenetics upending the old cultural narrative that our genes are our destiny and we have no personal control over our outcomes.

Epigenetics, the science of directable gene-environment-lifestyle interaction—of directable human potential—gives us a whole new…

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We are our narratives: from medicine to white supremacy

cultural narratives, white supremacy, all is one

Dear One,

You know me as a physician and scholar of the cultural narratives that define what medicine is today. I’m fascinated by how the way medicine is practiced in America is profoundly influenced by dominant narratives about science, the human body, disease, gender, sexuality, race, and what we believe about our futures.

I’ve come to realize that it’s all narrative. Everything we think we…

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How to Heal Ourselves from the COVID-19 Pandemic

biodiversity, heal, resilience

Dear One,

Can we be honest with each other? Here in this space where it’s safe to do so?

The virus isn’t our problem.

There. I’ve said it.

I’ll say it again. The virus is not our problem. It never was. And until we get this through our fearful heads, looking for the simple story and simple solutions, we’re going to remain in a world of hurt. And tragedy. And sorrow. And it’s all so…

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