Stephanie Grutz knew from a young age what she wanted to do — help people.
The daughter of an entrepreneur father and a nurse mother, Grutz was inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps by becoming a nurse and in her father’s by starting her own business.
She began as a dietary aide in a nursing home when she was 16. She studied to be a registered nurse at Northeast Iowa Community College and the University of Iowa, then completed her nurse practitioner training at Allen College in Waterloo, Iowa.
Following her graduation from Allen, Grutz, 32, began working at Manor Care in
“I had worked in long-term care my whole life, so I thought this would be perfect for me,” she said. “What I realized when I went there was that it was like a mini hospital. Everybody was coming to me with their issues. It threw a lot of responsibility at me right away. I felt like that honed in on my acute NP skills.”
While caring for others, Grutz was dealing with medical issues. She was diagnosed with a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis.
“When I graduated as an NP and started my new job, I had a flare so bad that I landed in the hospital,” Grutz said. “That was my point where I was desperately searching for answers. I was a healthy person, so why did I get this disease? That’s when I found integrative medicine.”
Integrative medicine is the practice of taking into account the whole of the patient, including their lifestyle. While the field includes aspects of Western medicine, it is focused on getting to the root cause of an ailment, rather than just treating the symptoms.
“If someone has a migraine, we can give them medications, but why are they getting the migraine?” Grutz said. “Usually, it’s a hormonal issue or food intolerance or all of these underlying conditions. If we treat those, the person won’t have headaches anymore.”
Grutz began testing the waters and putting her knowledge into practice by renting space in a Dubuque acupuncturist’s office, seeing patients one day per week, while continuing to work and climb the promotion ladder at Manor Care.
“They wanted me to travel and train people,” she said. “At the end of the day, I wanted to help people in my shoes, before they got to the point of being elderly and on 60 pills.”
In 2014, Grutz faced another chronic health challenge when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“I decided I really wanted to help people through integrative medicine,” she said. “I had really started looking at that with my own health. So, that led me on my own journey.”
With her business partner and boyfriend, Alex Goerdt, Grutz opened Balance Integrative Health & Wellness in Dubuque in November 2016.
“I built up my practice all through word of mouth marketing, and within about seven months, I had a three-month waiting list,” she said.
Karen Sawvell, 39, of Dubuque, has been a patient of Grutz’s for three years.
“Stephanie was literally my last-ditch effort to figure out what was going on with me,” she said. “I had been sick since high school. I never received answers to my illnesses or was offered a cure. It was frustrating and discouraging. I felt defeated.”
Sawvell had relegated herself to the belief that she was mentally ill or had just been dealt a bad health hand, things that had both been suggested by doctors. Then a friend referred her to Balance Integrative Health & Wellness.
“I honestly went to the appointment without high hopes or optimism,” she said.
Grutz spent time talking to Sawvell about her medical history, her lifestyle and her health struggles. Grutz ordered labs and started Sawvell on a course of IV treatments and supplements.
“Once the labs came back, we had answers,” she said. “Nothing I had ever gotten in the past. It turns out I had bacterial overgrowth in the intestine causing horrible inflammation, Lyme disease and a thyroid that wasn’t functioning properly.”
Sawvell credits Grutz and her colleagues with saving her life.
“I went from planning my funeral in my mid-30s to now looking at what my future offered,” she said.
There are three distinct arms to Grutz’s business, all based on an integrative health model.
“I have a very unique practice in the Midwest,” she said. “Balance Integrative Health is where I see patients and do their in-depth consultations. Then, there is Vive IV Therapy, where I do IV therapy, IM (intramuscular) injections, nebulizers. We have a hyperbaric oxygen chamber also. Select Balance is a supplement line that Alex and I created. I design what’s in it, and he does all the graphic design and labels.”
Approximately 75% of Grutz’s IV patients are dealing with cancer. It is a realm of medicine that Grutz never intended to delve into.
“The day after I started my clinic, I got a call from someone in Iowa City that had cancer,” she said. “I just didn’t have an interest in cancer patients because I wanted to treat chronic illness patients. But what I realized is they’re very similar. So, I got training in integrative oncology, and that’s really my passion now.”
IV therapy for cancer patients involves high doses of Vitamin C, intended to curb the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. While most people who take a daily Vitamin C supplement are getting 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C, Vive patients are getting 50,000 milligrams by IV.
“Vitamin C kills bad cells, but it doesn’t kill normal cells,” Grutz said. “Chemo kills all cells, and there’s a time where that’s needed. Integrative is all about killing the cancer but healing the body as well.”
Grutz and Goerdt are working on launching a mobile clinic to accommodate many patients who travel up to an hour and a half for their appointments.
“It will be Vive on a bus,” Grutz said. “Some people can’t come to us, so we will go to them. There are a few Amish communities I serve in Wisconsin and Illinois, and this will allow me to reach them more easily.”
Grutz continues to relish her role as a “health detective,” keeping on top of new therapies, speaking at conferences and webinars and empowering her patients to take charge of their bodies.
“I give the power to the patient,” she said. “Nobody’s going to fix you. I’m not going to fix you. I’m here to be the detective. You get to make the choices. Because at the end of the day, you’re the only one living in your body.”
Michelle London writes for the Telegraph Herald.