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Functional Medicine: A New Healthcare Approach that Works

Holistic Well-Being with Parsley Health Founder Dr. Robin Berzin

by Genevieve Kim

May 22, 2019


Do you know someone or have you experienced chronic illness or pain? You are certainly not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six in ten American adults suffer from a chronic disease, and four in ten suffer from two or more. The U.S. spends $3.3 trillion in annual health care costs, of which the majority is spent on chronic diseases.

Yet even with all this spending, people with chronic diseases are often met with little to no relief.

Out of frustration, many patients have searched for care outside of the traditional allopathic (or Western) modalities of medicine, turning to alternatives such as naturopathy, traditional Chinese Medicine, and osteopathy. What these alternative medicines have in common is a holistic approach to a patient’s health, including nutrition, lifestyle, emotional well-being and environment—not just symptom and pain management. So, why aren’t more people turning to these alternative forms of health care?

The answer: health coverage. Evidence of skepticism of other medicines can be found in health insurance plans. Though diet and exercise are essential to health, only a handful of insurance companies cover regular visits to a registered dietician, fitness classes or gym memberships. With health insurance costs already high, patients often cannot afford to look at therapies outside of their coverage.

But there is an emerging discipline that has been gaining momentum over the last decade, bridging the divide between allopathic-health insurance validated medical programs and alternative practices: Functional Medicine.

Functional medicine takes a systems-based approach to health, focusing on treating individuals rather than symptoms, and provides new models of cost-effective and accessible programs for those who cannot afford the ever-increasing costs of healthcare.

Serving both the question of efficacy and access, functional medicine combines various practices of health that integrate the whole patient, not just a member ID number. Parsley Health is helping to build that bridge.

A membership-based primary care practice founded by Dr. Robin Berzin, Parsley Health is on a mission to change the ailing healthcare system through functional medicine and affordable care.

We asked Dr. Berzin about her views on functional medicine, rituals and what it means to be “healthy”.

What makes functional health different from other disciplines that use medical science with a holistic approach, like naturopaths, homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Osteopathy, Ayurveda, etc.? What goes into holistic bird’s eye view of health for you?

Robin Berzin: Functional medicine is a whole-body approach to care that focuses on getting to the root cause of the problem through evidence-based medicine. It’s not ‘natural or the highway,’ rather it’s about choosing the best tool to address the illness or symptom. At Parsley Health, we look at everything from diet, exercise, lifestyle, sleep, and stress to relationships, medical history, and family history.

One of your Instagram posts states that it’s important to define success on your own terms. How would you define “successful” health?

RB: This is really based on each person individually based on their personal, career and personal goals. What might look like success for one person might not be for another. In terms of health, it’s appropriate to remember that your body is the only vehicle you’ll have for your entire life. Treat [your body] well, don’t make food the enemy, and eat real food. Be mindful.

Provide yourself with a strong foundation for what makes you feel well and be well.

How have you seen your own health evolve since Parsley Health has gone from concept to where it is today?

RB: My own health really shifted after I found functional medicine. I was in medical school when I started to develop cystic acne that wouldn’t go away. I tried everything from the birth control pill to cortisone injections, but nothing worked. As a last ditch effort, I turned to functional medicine and did a 30-day elimination of gluten and dairy. After about two weeks my skin started clearing. That was my first taste of how powerful functional medicine could be.

What is your self-care ritual and how did you develop it? Do you have any advice for others getting started with a self-care ritual?

RB: Self-care became especially important to me after having a baby. If I am not energized, calm and clear, how can I lead a team or be there for my son? For me, that’s a yoga class at least two or three times a week, meditation every day (even if it’s for five minutes while I walk the dogs), and limiting coffee to one espresso in the morning and only drinking alcohol two or three nights a week at most. My supplements are also part of my self-care routine; I take B-vitamins for mood and energy and magnesium glycinate for sleep.

I developed my self-care routine through a lot of experimentation, and I recommend others do the same. Try something to see if it works for you. Your self-care routine does not have to be the same as your friends’.

What does a world filled with Parsley Health look like?

RB: A world filled with Parsley Health would be a dream! Parsley Health focuses on preventative care and resolving and managing chronic illness through diet and lifestyle changes. I think if the world was filled with Parsley Health, we would see chronic disease plummet and health care spending decreased as a result.