Clinical Team Spotlight: Dr. Lillie Luu Nguyen, DCN, CNS, LDN
Meet Dr. Lillie Luu Nguyen, DCN, CNS, LDN, a Vibrant Clinical Liaison, and San Franciso-based Integrative Clinical Nutritionist.
In this month's Clinical Team Spotlight, we dive into Dr. Lillie's passion for gut health, cardiometabolic health, and women's hormones, and explore her unique approach to solving complex cases. With an unwavering commitment to improving lives through functional medicine, Dr. Lillie has carved out a successful career by combining her expertise with a genuine love for helping others.
Below, Dr. Lillie shares what led her to functional medicine, her #1 advice for patients and providers, her favorite Vibrant lab tests, and a few surprising talents that serve her well personally and professionally.
Background and Education
What are your credentials and certifications? Where did you go to school?
I am a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN), Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LDN). I went to UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) for a degree in biology and then earned my master's and doctorate degrees in Clinical Nutrition from MUIH (Maryland University of Integrative Health). So, I'm a licensed and board-certified nutrition specialist and a professional member of the American Nutritional Association.
My Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition is a newer degree, but it's one that many nutrition professionals like registered dieticians, clinical nutritionists, and others are starting to gear toward because it is a terminal degree. It’s essentially the cream of the crop in terms of trying to advance our knowledge and skill base in nutrition. It’s similar to getting a Ph.D. with real-life applications.
What led you to pursue that degree?
I started off being a pre-med major. I wanted to be a doctor in the traditional sense for a really long time.
But then I decided that integrative and functional medicine aligned more with the way I wanted to help others by taking the best parts of conventional medicine and holistic medicine and putting them together to take care of other people.
If I wasn’t going to pursue gastroenterology, the next best field in healthcare was Clinical Nutrition because I could still work with the GI tract and put into practice what I've studied. So here I am.
What is your area of focus?
I really like gut health, cardiometabolic health, and hormones related to women's health, so conditions like PCOS and menopause are what I usually focus on within my own practice.
Why are you interested in those areas?
Prior to working for Vibrant, I was also a professor of Anatomy and Physiology, and the GI tract was something that I was leaning more into.
This is because it’s super interesting to see how we have, from the mouth all the way down to the bottom, all the different compartments within the body and all the different things that happen at each spot.
It's still one system, but it's kind of like, wow—it's so interesting to learn all the different functions and factors that affect each part.
I think of it as having my own puzzle pieces to solve for each section.
Are you a big puzzle person?
I am. I like the challenge of puzzles, and learning about the GI tract is like a puzzle where if something is missing, I have to figure out what best fits here or doesn't work.
Can you describe your role at Vibrant?
I am one of the Vibrant Clinical Liaisons facilitating communication between the clinical team, other Vibrant departments, and the providers. You may also find me on the other end of provider consults, as I do clinical lab education a few times a week as well.
What led you to Vibrant?
A Vibrant clinical team member, actually. Brooke Mader. I got to know her and then the rest of the team.
And I just love how supportive everyone is here and how incredibly brilliant everyone is.
I wanted to be part of a company whose product I could stand behind. And I love Vibrant testing because of the science behind it. Plus, it’s in one of the largest technology hubs in the nation.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
Seeing the rapid progress and constant expanding growth here at Vibrant. For example, when we propose ideas for educational material, it's banged out from idea to paper at lightning speed.
I also love brainstorming complicated or complex cases with my team.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being able to have a career that balances consulting and teaching. So while I love providing nutrition counseling for my own patients, I also like teaching others how to read lab tests and be more competent in laboratory markers through Vibrant. That can really be a game changer during consults for other providers as well.
Teaching others can continue the cycle of healing for other people.
What is your favorite Vibrant lab test?
I mean, how do I choose one? I have three that I specifically love: The Gut Zoomer, the Urinary Hormones Panel, and the NutriPro Panel, just because they cover all bases.
You have the foundation with the Gut Zoomer. Then, if there's ever a concern in someone's intervention where you ask, "Why isn't anything budging?" I usually like to look at hormones with the Urinary Hormones Panel, because those are pretty finicky little things.
The NutriPro Panel provides the whole background of a person's health just because we already work on the nurturing portion, but we have to look at the nature portion.
NutriPro gives you that background into what a patient's genetics are saying about their health and how we can fuse nature and nurture in their healthcare plan.
What motivates you to get out of bed and do the work each day?
I live for the "AHA" moments during consults when I'll explain something and the providers will respond with, "Oh my gosh, I didn't realize that" or "I never knew that." Having the skills and knowledge base to help others who need that guidance is very rewarding.
I like knowing that I can help make other people's days just a little bit better.
What is your #1 advice for providers?
Think outside the box, meet patients where they're at, and start low and slow. It often comes down to realizing that you know more than you think you do, and I have to tell myself that all the time.
What is your #1 advice for patients?
Healing is a process and will take some time. Make use of the free discovery calls with potential care providers until you find someone that's a good fit for you, be an advocate for your own health, and remember that what works for one person may not work for you.
Do you have any seemingly unrelated job or life experiences that helped prepare you for your role today?
Being a professor for years helped prepare me for my role as Clinical Liaison. I was not only a professor but also used to teach elementary school kids. I was in charge of the science departments, teaching after-school programs for little kids. Just doing the little science experiments for them was the jumpstart for me. Then moving into teaching college students and pre-med or pre-nursing students was what solidified my passion.
I just realized that I need to be teaching. I need to teach others about science and how people can use that information for their health.
When you learn things in school, there’s always the question, “How am I supposed to do this in real life?” I want to teach people how to apply this knowledge in real life.
It’s also helpful because not everyone learns the same way. As a teacher, I have to teach in different styles because everyone has a different learning style. Similarly, in my consults, I use a ton of analogies because everyone learns differently; I’ll teach the same concept in different ways. This especially applies in virtual consults or over the phone because it can be hard to envision things when communicating online.
Outside of Work: Hobbies and Interests
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I live by a beach and enjoy going to the nearby beach because it's a 15-minute walk from my home. We also live next to the giant Golden Gate Park, so I'll play disc golf or do archery there. I'm always trying to do things to better myself, so I'll learn a new skill like jujitsu or martial arts. I've also tried learning a new language, but it's a slow process.
The ultimate activity I like to do is arts and crafts like origami and just filling my life with more experiences rather than tangible items.
I also like traveling whenever I can, just because. I enjoy traveling to new places and tasting their food, learning about their experiences, and hearing the different languages. I love being exposed to new cultures. Finally, I love watching anime and playing video games.
What is your favorite origami project?
It may be no surprise, but I like making Lily flowers. I'll make a bunch of Lily flowers and then fold a vase or even a basket and give those out as gifts.
But my current origami project is 1,000 paper cranes, also known as Senbazuru, for my wedding. Japanese lore states that cranes are known as the bird of happiness and can live for 1000 years. So for every crane folded, they carry it to heaven to grant you a long and harmonious marriage, or one wish.
Where is your favorite spot in your city?
My home! I found a golden nugget here in San Francisco when I was looking for an apartment. We live on the top floor and have a balcony, which is so rare for apartments here. I get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge on my left and then downtown San Francisco ahead of me. Then to the right is the iconic Sutro Tower. So I have this beautiful sweeping 180-view of half of San Francisco!
Share one surprising fact about yourself
I can say all 50 states in alphabetical order in under a minute just because of a song I learned as a kid. I’m really good at memory and word games, so I also love Scrabble, monikers, and stuff like that.
Also, I don't know how relevant this is to everything else, but I could do a winged eyeliner in five strokes or less.
Dr. Lillie Luu Nguyen, DCN, CNS, LDN is a California-based Certified Nutrition Specialist and Clinical Liaison for Vibrant Wellness.
She specializes in gut health, cardiometabolic health, and women’s hormones and has a doctorate in Clinical Nutrition.
Whether solving a health mystery or tackling jujitsu, Lillie approaches every challenge with enthusiasm, determination, and just the right amount of creativity. She loves to learn and improve herself, and help others do the same.
Schedule a consultation with Lillie on her website and follow her on Instagram @dr.lillieluu .