Dr. Ayla Hopkins Is Changing Women's Health One Vitamin B Shot At A Time
I am low-key (or high-key as the kids say) obsessed with wellness. I also am perpetually tired, which has sent me on a lifelong pursuit to better understand my own personal health so that I feel more energized… and to then share that information with the world.
A few months ago I noticed a sign for Vitamin B shots at my local Flywheel studio. It was one of those things that I just couldn’t seem to get out of my head, so much that I decided to reach out to the doctor that was administering them to learn more. It’s a compulsion, guys. I just want to know the things and meet the people. As luck would have it, Dr. Ayla Hopkins, the brains behind Voda Health, is an absolute fucking delight. We met at Juicebox Cafe and I immediately wanted to save her number to the favorites in my phone.
I wrote about my experience taking one of her B12 shots for Seattle Refined (you can read it here), but wanted to share my full conversation with Ayla here because she is such a delight and also I learned so much. About naturopathic medicine, supplements, and different things the female body thrives on. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
Lizzie: Ayla! I am so excited to have you on here. So tell us, who are you and what do you do?
Ayla: I am a naturopathic doctor. I went to Bastyr University, which is an incredible school in Washington. So, I started in primary care, just kind of a family practice and it was awesome. In Washington state, naturopathic doctors are considered primary physicians. So, we are able to be in a family practice setting, diagnose, prescribe, and it's awesome. With that we are also able to bill insurance. That being said, insurance wise, it has been messy. As a naturopathic doctor, I won't necessarily have the same respect as an allopathic doctor. So we could be doing the exact same procedure, probably spending more time with the patient and getting reimbursed terribly. It’s difficult, with how much care and time you put into it to not necessarily have the same impact because you’re in in the back office!
L: I can imagine that's taking away from the work that you want and need to be doing.
A: Yes! And you know you have to jump through certain hoops. I get it and I think that it’s so important that those hoops are there. So as all of this was happening, I saw doctors doing these injection therapies and got really excited them. It’s how I first discovered the Vitamin B shot. Vitamin B is doing amazing things for people. I was blown away by that! That’s kind of how this whole power boat started which means I travel around and I provide somewhat of a concierge service where I set up and I give vitamin and nutrient injections. I try to pair with local businesses that I see that seem like we can promote each other. So for me, that’s the world of health and fitness. They provide the space, I just provide the Vitamin B injection. It’s safe, it’s quick, it’s effective, I think with naturopathic medicine, it’s a journey. It is a lot of lifestyle change and things can take a long time but is extremely effective. I have seem so many healing stories that it can take a lot of time and a lot of patience. So the shots make people feel good and I just love that motivation and momentum and hope for your health.
L: Is that really frustrating for you, as a healthcare practitioner, to have people that just always want instant gratification and a super quick response?
A: When I first started I would think OK, I’m a naturopathic doctor. I was trained to get to the root cause and to not provide a bandaid that just covers your symptoms. But it also is helpful to have a quick fix while you are on your wellness journey, so part of me started wanting to provide that to people. This lets me get into their daily lives and be in public spaces where naturopathing medicine can start to get some recognition. I mean… I meet people everyday that don’t know what a naturopathic doctor is.
L: That’s so crazy to me that especially in this area in Seattle that someone wouldn’t know what it was!
A: Yes! I am still blown away. Most people think I am a nurse or maybe I am not even medically trained but they still seem to trust me. They will ask me for a card and it will say ‘Dr. Hopkins’ on it and they will still say “Oh, you’re a doctor!”
L: That’s kind of insane.
A: It is just this thing they just say like “Oh are you a nurse? That’s great. I love the nursing profession! They are the most incredible human beings” It’s just funny to see people, they just automatically assume that which is fine. I like that kind of surprise for people in a lot of different realms in my life. It’s my job.
L: Do you think it's like the perspective you have to take like “Oh, it's funny!” or otherwise it gets really frustrating? Like when I tell people I run my own business, I get a lot of like “Oh, does your husband pay all the bills?” or “That's so fun that you get to just like hang out and do this thing for fun!” I mean it is a FUN job, but I’m not just doing it for fun. It’s for profit, you know? But I think in some ways people just can’t wrap their head around the idea of a young woman crushing it on her own.
A: No yeah I get asked a lot, it’s pretty funny, if I’m expanding to other areas or states. It’s just me right now! People don’t get that it isn’t this huge thing. They’ll ask me “Where’s the headquarters?” and I say “In my apartment!” Also depending on what I’m wearing or my hair people get confused and will say “Oh, I saw somebody different last week!”
L: Ha! People are so weird. So I’m curious to know what pulled you into this? Like was there one moment in college that really made you feel like you wanted to be a naturopath?
A: I think it started in undergrad. My older sister got onto a health kick in middle school and my parents didn’t know anything about it. We were at McDonalds and eating our Cinnamon Toast Crunch with extra sugar on top. Then we started reading magazines and getting into healthy food and we were very excited about it. We were always very active and doing sports. So that was how I saw how important that was to my health complex.
When I decided I wanted to be a doctor, I was planning on just regular medical school. I went to Western, got my undergrad in pre-med, and worked in a hospital as a nurses assistant. I was on the cardiovascular unit and I was so blown away. I think we have the most incredible inventions to save lives. But there's definitely something deeply flawed with our methods. So these people would be, I will not tell you how many times I saw somebody come in with like a quadruple bypass, their chest is ripped open and their family will come in to congratulate them with aBig Mac and extra large fries and a large pizza. There was something wrong there and I felt like something needed to be addressed. I didn’t know anything about naturopathic medicine, I had never even heard of it at this point. So I started looking a little bit into nutrition, a couple other things and then I found Bastyr and I was like that is exactly what I am looking for. That was kind of like the journey.
L: I think that's just like part of school though like “I’m going to go into this!” and then as you go you think “Oh this is what I’m studying? I had no idea!”
A: I started a kinesiology degree and like I didn't even know what kinesiology meant but like it sounds cool! It’s been so incredible. I am blown away by the human body and how intelligent it is, especially if we get it basic things to thrive.. It can do some many things. You can truly start to have a feel for your health. There are obviously different conceptions of medicine and sometimes you might have a medication and need somebody to advise you on that. I’m still very thankful for that aspect of medicine. No matter what diagnoses you have I think getting your foundations of health in place will do wonders.
L: I totally agree. Even just in teaching fitness classes I run into so many people who don’t do something simple for their health like… just drink more water. It’s such a basic thing and they are clearly so dehydrated, and I just sit there thinking, “Do you know how much better you will feel just if you were hydrated a little bit more than you already are?”
A: Voda is water! I was like what is the most important simple thing we can do for our health? And I love the name voda. That’s how I got the name Voda Health. And here I am! I never thought of myself as a business person. Ever!
L: Yes! So how did you get from school to running your own business? What was that transition like?
A: So I was going through school and I shadowed a lot of incredible people, doctors that built their own clinics or did their own badass thing. I looked up to them and was like “You know what? I’m going to support them. I am going to be an employer, an independent contractor.” I don’t really want to take on this whole business thing. That's just what my frame of mind was like at the time. Then I ended up with having a residency position I was in. I just realized there was a lot of things that i saw be different and that I wanted to change. I started to realize that I am just this very ‘alpha’ person. So I decided to do my own thing. Now being in this position, I can't imagine going back.
You mentioned your dad in a post, and my dad also started his own business and is just the hardest worker I have ever seen. I just grew up and saw my dads work ethic, I saw his success, he an incredible artist. I mean it goes back to psychology,maybe even child psychology, and how you are raised. If you don't have that growth mindset around you, then so many people with closed mindsets. They don’t see the opportunities.
L: I agree. I do think there are people who are raised to have that safe career, and that they have to have all of these posessions, and that that is the only version of what success can look like. It’s so powerful to be going against the grain.
A: And having vulnerability. That’s something I am really into. It also something I strive for everyday- to be more vulnerable. I have a hard time with it. Putting yourself out there and doing something new is scary and its vulnerable and to take that first step I think can definitely be intimidating.
L: I think that's awesome. I find that there is a lot of vulnerability in my business, or for people that I interview, or the women I feature. If you find something that’s kind of raw, it gets the strongest reaction from people in a very positive way. Especially people our age. We all grew up with social media and are getting sick of all the bullshit. We just want people to be real. I feel like my readers, even if they are not ready to be vulnerable, they appreciate when other women are because it just gives them permission to like think “Okay, I can just put myself out there, I can fail, it's going to be okay”. I think there is this real hunger for that type of vulnerability just out in the female community. I definitely feel it in Seattle.
A: I think that's incredible and it’s been a lot of fun following my passion. I think it’s just this general empowerment of women and I’ve really found the importance of getting to know yourself and heal yourself and going within is so profound. And it’s scary in a society where you’re supposed to be partnered up and not be alone. I do so many things along. I travel alone, I go eat alone. My sister cannot imagine going to eat alone at a restaurant. I love that healing, going within, reflection, and finding somebody to help guide you through that if you need that.
L: Do you work on this with your patients?
A: When it comes up if I can give them some encouragement that’s great. Right now another profound thing with the shots is… I truly care about these people. They sit down in my chair and I talk to them and just to have that connection, eye contact, such a basic human interaction I think is really important. I think just that can be super healing, even if we aren’t going super in-depth on life, just to know that somebody cares is nice to interact- whethere they get the shot or not.
L: I love that you are still like “well even if you don’t get the shot I still care about you as a person.” There is so much sales stuff happening in the world that’s really inauthentic and I think that people want to talk to somebody, talk to a stranger, and have good interaction.
A: The shots are so easy to sell! They help so many people feel so great that I don’t event really need to help try to sell them on them, it’s just like “give it a try”. It helps so many people feel so great that it’s incredible. But there are some things that you have to do more of the selling part of it and that can get difficult.
L: Really good lifestyle changes take a while and that can be really intimidating for people.
A: That’s the thing! Healing and making changes is hard and it takes a long time and I think that having support for that process is important.
L: So tell me about the shots. How do people feel when they take them?
A: So it ranges all over the place which is great, but the most common things that people feel are better energy, better mood, often times people notice mental clarity and that their brain fog lifts and they can focus. A lot of people also find that they can sleep better. Fatigue is such a problem that almost everybody deals with at some point and it could be their diet, or how much they’re sleeping at night or whatever, but for something to give you more enregy during the day and to help you sleep at night, AWESOME.
L: That’s amazing! And to have a clear head! I was talking to a couple people about this the other day- everyone is changing up their diets because they feel so foggy and they just can’t figure it out, and I think that’s something we are all becoming aware of right now. That feeling of oh, i don’t really feel mentally at my peak right now. So what’s the benefit of the shot vs. taking just like.. A buttload of B12?
A: Yeah so you’ve probably seen all sorts of B12 before. People get so excited about their B shots and they fill out all their paperwork, but then I pull out the needle and they’re like WHAT! It’s a SHOT?! They think it’s a shooter! There’s a huge group of B Vitamins. B12 is a super important one for a ton of different processes which is why it’s such an important one. Integral for our blood health, brain cell health, DNA repair, liver health, it’s just hard to absorb. So it takes a bit more complex of a digestion process than our other vitamins. So you can be taking all you want in supplements or things like 5 Hour Energy…
L: and I’m sure everybody says that!
A: but B12 is only available in animal products, so vegans and vegetarins will have a really hard time. I think it’s most concentrated in like beef liver and oysters or something, which, how often are you eating those things? So sometimes we can just be excreting it. I like when people are taking a B supplement for them to also take a shot. If they feel so much better than when they take their supplement, that probably means they aren’t absorbing as much of the supplement as they thought. So that’s why we do it as a shot. On top of that i have a couple different combinations of B Vitamins as well as other nutrients that are hard to absorb, like glutathione. Once again, a hard one to absorb. There are a lot of supplement companies trying to figure out what to attach it to to make it more absorbant in our bodies, but IV or shot is going to be the best.
L: There are so many forms -gummies and powders and then this and then that! And it is like… what is the most efficient way to do this?
A: Yeah! So one of the studies I read said that we are maybe absorbing about 40% of our supplement, which isn’t all that much especially how much we spend on supplements and if we are doing them daily… the shots usually lasts quite a bit longer. Glutathione is kind of our incredible anti-aging one. It’s in every single one of our cells, it protects our cells, it just starts to decrease as we get older. It gets depleted with stress or illness or whatever, detoxing. This one can sting.
L: So then, should these shots be taken everyday? Do you take them once a day?
A: I recommend once a week. Once weekly for five weeks, and I offer the fifth one free. That’s kind of just an initial series, it gest people built up, you also try each shot and figure out which one your body responds to the best. You really will feel different from one to the other. So regardless of what the benefit says, we go by what you feel. I’ll have clients go once weekly and then take a week or two off. For some people it will last longer and then they come in monthly, for some people it’s such a profound affect and it only lasts them a week, so they come back weekly. Also the shots have Folate, which a lot of people are familiar with from Folic Acid. It actually helps metabolize the B12. So some people will notice the shot only when that Folate’s added. Everybody is different!
Yes, I do give myself shots. Twice a week I do glutathione, once a week I do a B shot. I love to give myself a shot before I workout, it totally helps for exercise recovery. If you look at the athletic supplements, almost all of them have B vitamins in them because they truly are important. It’s just a question of if you’re absorbing them or not. You know not only are you absorbing it, but there are also a lot of supplements that aren’t very good quality or aren’t in the form that is best utilized by our bodies.
L: There are so many amazing benefits listed on here, and I felt like when I was a college athlete all they pushed was just protein, protein, protein. Like, just drink more Muscle Milk. And why weren’t they telling us to take Vitamin B and all of these other things, it’s just so crazy the advice that we did and didn’t get. How have I gone so long without knowing all of this!?
A: Yeah! B shots are acually banned I believe by the Tour de France because it is such a preformance enhancer.
L: That’s so crazy!
A: which is cool because it kind of speaks to the effects of the shots.
L: I was just wondering if the NCAA lets people take these or the Olympic Committee.
A: I need to look into that! Besides all of the energy and mind benefits I also have so many women whose hair has stopped falling off. Their iron was normal and their thyroid was normal and nothing actually seemed off, but then they realize that maybe they just weren’t getting enough of their vitamin B or absorbing it. A handful of people have told me that it’s completely taken away their hot flashes, so it really is going to go where your body really needs it and it can help people in so many different ways.
L: We both have a passion for helping women learn about their resources and their health. What are a couple things that you wish more people knew or were doing daily to take care of themselves?
A: I would say, I absolutely love the idea of a morning routine. Something that is your own little thing that makes you feel joy, or hope, or loved in the morning. I love waking up and my routine of making my coffee. I have this little area that I created with a candle and I can sit down, enjoy my coffee, and I love that. It goes back to self care and carving out time for yourself. I also really believe that women should be lifting more weights!
L: People get so freaked out about lifting weights and I just want to tell everybody you will feel so powerful. I feel so amazing about life, not even my body, after I lift.
A: No matter what your goals, muscle mass is so important for longevity. It helps your metabolism and all these other things that could benefits you physocially, but also it just instills this confidence, this badassery where you walk out and you are just like FUCK YEAH I can take on the world.
L: My stepmom is in her 70s and she got into lifting. I talked to her a while a go and she had just deadlifted 90 pounds. She has seen a huge change in her health. It’s so cool to have that feeling knowing you lifted more weight than you’ve ever lifted. It just makes me feel safer too just being out in the world knowing I lift weights!
A: Yes! It totally shows you that you can take on the world yourself!
L: I feel like I’ve met so many women who are like I started lifting weights and then I got out of a bad relationship or I went on this vacation, and it’s just like a gateway drug to doing all of these awesome things.
A: I fully support that kind of gateway drug! People do joke though that they’re addicted to these shots! And it’s a good thing though, it’s a good feeling to be addicted to. Unless you have a severe type of kidney disease or one of a few genetic things where you get a little over stimulated, otherwise it’s totally good.
I would also say this goes down to my foundations. Food and diet is so important. With diets, and even naturopathic medicine, It’s really easy to get bogged down with what you should and shouldn’t be doing and I want to try to liberate people from that stress. You know you may have a sensitivity to something and that is important to acknowledge but also no, not all gluten is bad, I want people to let go of some of that stuff and try to add in more positive things like more vegetables. If you believe that what you’re eating is going to nourish you and support you then just eat it! You know just listen to your body. It’s not like saying don’t eat this or don’t eat that. I’m more saying eat your veggies, eat your water, eat your fermented foods, get your fiber. All that amazing stuff. How you do that? I don’t care.
L: And still treat yourself! I feel like people get so scared of food so quickly and like you said gluten isn’t bad, but maybe don’t eat gluten all day everyday because then of course you’re going to feel like shit. We are in this culture where everybody wants to have a label and I think we all just need to eat like normal people and if you want to take something out for a while, take it out, but also don’t feel bad if you want to put it back in.
A: Yes. We need so shed this guilt associated with food. It’s so prevalent everywhere. There is shaming on what you’re eating and what you look like. We don’t need to have a label on our food.