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.

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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From Fixed to Fierce: How to Survive a Pandemic

breathe, soften, stay curious, heal, karyn shanks md

Dear One,

I don’t know about you, but I’m ditching all social media and news forever! And maybe all casual conversation with strangers while I’m at it. Have you ever heard so many locked down stories in your life? How things are. How we should behave. What must happen. Yada, yada. I’m sick of it.

You’re absolutely right—I’m being triggered. And that’s about me, isn’t it?

So, I pull out my…

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Stay Curious

Stay curious.

Lately I’ve been studying my ass off, scouring the scientific literature to learn as much as I can about COVID-19—the virus associated with it, how it’s behaving, who is affected and why, what effective strategies can be used now and in the future, and what we’re learning to protect us going forward.

I love how the global impact and novelty of this situation is driving a hunger…

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care, hope, heal, healing, love, heal yourself, heal ourselves,

Dear One,

We weren’t broken then.

We aren’t broken now.

Not us.

Not our world. Not our communities. Not the planet.

If not broken, what the hell are we? What kind of Pollyanna idea is “unbroken” anyway?

I’ll tell you what it means. We’re … Complicated. Messy. Mean as hell. Heartbroken. Scared. Gorgeous. Amazing. And Beautiful. All these things. All at once.

But not broken.

Because we are…

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COVID-19 Lessons

Dear One,

In recent conversations with good friends—smart and worldly friends—I realized how uncertain and scared many of them are about the COVID-19 pandemic. More than I expected.

Like, what it is. How it affects us—really. Why we are responding as we are. What we can do to protect ourselves and others. How we safely move forward with our lives.

I’ve heard remarks like, “I didn’t think…

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