Why I Started Parsley Health—A Radically Different Medical Practice

We hear a lot about how US medicine is broken, from how much we spend annually ($4 trillion) for unimpressive outcomes, to the growing epidemic of obesity and diabetes, to problematic financial models, to the growing malaise amongst doctors.

Across US health care, a lot of smart people are crafting solutions to these problems, but in my view the reality is that many of them are generating efficiencies on top of a broken product.

The real problem is that conventional primary care as it’s practiced today no longer serves the needs of most people, be they wealthy or under-served, be they patient or provider.

I am started Parsley Health, a new kind of medical practice that directly addresses these problems, first by providing something called Functional Medicine rather than traditional primary care, and second by providing functional medicine in a tech driven, modern and affordable way.

What is Functional Medicine?

I became a functional medicine doctor because early on I recognized two major limitations of the conventional medicine.

First conventional medicine does not effectively address the fact that most individuals’ health is determined by three things: day-to-day behavior; access to health-defining resources like unprocessed food and regular exercise; and how lifestyle choices affect the body, about which education levels are  shockingly low amongst all socioeconomic demographics.

Second, conventional medicine is overly reliant on drugs that suppress symptoms but do not address the underlying cause of disease. Your insomnia, for example, isn’t due to an Ambien deficiency, but a conventional doctor doesn’t have the time, the resources or the training to educate you and support you in addressing the multifactorial reasons you can’t sleep, so you’re given a drug like Ambien, which is addictive and has multiple problematic side effects.

Functional medicine is an approach to the practice of medicine that better suits the needs and challenges of the 21st century individual because it addresses the root cause of disease, and seeks to understand the multiple upstream factors that determine a person’s health, including personal history, genetics, current lifestyle, environment, and mental and emotional factors.

Functional medicine’s toolkit is also much broader. It takes advantage of best practices from all over the world, including diet and lifestyle modification, stress management, detoxification, supplements and botanical medicines, and when necessary, prescription drugs.

Functional medicine works because its providers spend meaningful time with patients–often visits are 60+ minutes–which allows them to create authentic two-way therapeutic relationships and to provide the level of education and support that most patients today need in order to make meaningful lifestyle changes.

Functional medicine has earned greater acceptance across the medical establishment, most notably with this October’s opening of the Cleveland Clinic’s new Center for Functional Medicine. But today functional medicine is still not available to most Americans.

Parsley Health’s goals are to provide functional medicine to mainstream Americans, thereby lowering the chronic disease burden, lowering health care costs, improving the happiness of doctors, and improving the user experience in health care for more people.

Parsley achieves these goals in four specific ways. First, by providing its services through a direct-primary care based membership model, meaning patients pay a monthly subscription fee. Parsley Health is making functional medicine accessible to many more people than before, while still avoiding the limitations of accepting insurance, which stifles doctors’ ability to offer new models of care delivery.

Second,  Parsley offers unlimited health coaching services. Health coaches are critical members of the functional medicine team because of the importance of education and personal support to the success of patients who would otherwise struggle to make and maintain lifestyle change.

Third, by providing functional medicine through a digital technology-driven services platform, Parsley is able to make health care more efficient, modern and enjoyable for both patients and providers. From backend office services, to patient access to all labs, notes and health care data, to tracking outcomes in real time, technology is the backbone of Parsley’s practice.

Fourth, Parsley saves money in two ways. One, it largely reverses and prevents chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, asthma, autoimmune disease and even dementia, which account for more than 75% of health care costs. Two, as an alternative to an employee wellness program, Parsley can save employers money through improved productivity and lower insurance premiums.

Parsley Health is ultimately a new hybrid model of health care that combines the functional medicine approach that makes more sense for patients of all walks of life, with new care delivery models that both increase access to better medicine for more people, and that let doctors practice the kind of medicine that makes them feel good too. Parsley opened in February in New York City, and I invite you to find out more at parsleyhealth.com.

(Originally posted on The Health Care Blog)

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Are We Clean Eating Our Way To An Eating Disorder?

Last week’s articles in Salon Magazine and Fast Company revived the term “orthorexia,” and declared the growing trend towards gluten-free, dairy-free, virtue-based, clean food to be “obsessive.” Both asked if we as a society are breeding a new generation of food-restriction junkies who are victims of their own compulsive behaviors around food.

So how do you know if your restrictions have gone too far? Where do you draw the line? And how do you know if you have an eating disorder like orthorexia?

The answer is in how you approach your eating choices in the first place, which comes down to the conversation you have with yourself every day when you eat. This conversation can go generally one of two ways.

1. The Fear Conversation goes something like this: This food is dangerous. This food is dirty. This food is toxic. This food will make me sick.

2. The Love Conversation is more along the lines of this: This food is healthy. This food will nourish me. This food will make me strong. This food will give me energy. This food is good for the planet.

As a Functional Medicine doctor I spend a lot of time talking to people about what to eat, and what foods not to eat. I see how eliminating certain foods that people are sensitive too – frequently gluten and dairy –  help them resolve chronic symptoms like acne and even irritability and depression.

I also see how simply cutting back on the processed, industrial-chemical laden “food” that fills our grocery stores reverses many of the chronic diseases that plaque our country – from high blood pressure to diabetes – within days to weeks.

But these articles are a good reminder for all of us – patients, doctors, consumers, health coaches – to focus on what ultimately drives healthy behavior and that’s a healthy relationship with your body.

So how do you cultivate this kind of healthy relationship with YOU?

1. Cut out the repetitive reel of negative talk about or to your body. If you tell your friend they suck all the time they will probably quit being your friend. Your body is no different.

2. Define your health by something other than the number inside the waist band of your jeans.

3. Look at food as a source of love and pleasure not a source of punishment or fear.

4. If you find yourself anxious over food and restaurant choices, ask yourself what exactly you are afraid will happen, and if it happens can you recover? For most people the answer is yes, and knowing that you have that kind of resilience is power.

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5 Simple Steps for Making 2015 Your Greenest Year Ever

Here are five concrete ways you can make 2015 your body’s greenest year and reap the benefits of a cleaner, more energetic and vibrant healthy life.

1. Cut out sugar.
Avoid candy, soda, and processed carbs (cakes cookies crackers, muffins and bread) wherever possible. Eat only naturally occurring sugars that come in fruits and vegetables. And if you’re having a hard time sticking to this goal, try a sugar detox – sometimes the only way to quit is cold turkey.

2. Have a full plate of greens every day.
Whether you are Paleo or Vegan or think both ideas are ridiculous, everyone agrees that greens are gold. They are a delicious low-calorie nutrient dense way of ensuring that you get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber content that are critical to good digestion and overall health. Spinach, kale, chard and mustard greens are great places to start!

3. Get a standing desk.
Or find other ways to spend at least 5 hours a day on your feet – instead of on your butt. New research is showing that genes that have been linked to obesity weren’t always a problem, but that living less active more sedentary lifestyles has turned once harmless genes into ones that make us more likely to gain weight and develop diseases like diabetes.

4. Toss toxic cleaning products.
Rethinking the soaps sprays detergents and powders living under your sink are an easy way to go green. Brands like Method and Seventh Generation are in almost every drug store these days and are not only more environmentally friendly they exclude common toxins found in cleaning products like phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and chlorine – a commonly consumed toxin that replaces iodine in receptors disrupting thyroid function in some people.

5. Take care of your brain!
More and more exciting research is coming out about how foods and behaviors affect brain health and can increase your risk of dementia and Alzheimers. Some of the easiest ways I believe you can take care of your brain are numbers 1-4 above: cut out sugar, eat more greens, stand and move more, and remove unnecessary toxins from your life!

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Why I’m Starting a Radically Different Kind of Medical Practice

(Originally posted on The Health Care Blog)

We hear a lot about how US medicine is broken, from how much we spend annually ($4 trillion) for unimpressive outcomes, to the growing epidemic of obesity and diabetes, to problematic financial models, to the growing malaise amongst doctors.

Across US health care, a lot of smart people are crafting solutions to these problems, but in my view the reality is that many of them are generating efficiencies on top of a broken product.

The real problem is that conventional primary care as it’s practiced today no longer serves the needs of most people, be they wealthy or under-served, be they patient or provider.

I am starting Parsley Health, a new kind of medical practice that directly addresses these problems, first by providing something called Functional Medicine rather than traditional primary care, and second by providing functional medicine in a tech driven, modern and affordable way.

What is Functional Medicine?

I became a functional medicine doctor because early on I recognized two major limitations of the conventional medicine.

First conventional medicine does not effectively address the fact that most individuals’ health is determined by three things: day-to-day behavior; access to health-defining resources like unprocessed food and regular exercise; and how lifestyle choices affect the body, about which education levels are  shockingly low amongst all socioeconomic demographics.

Second, conventional medicine is overly reliant on drugs that suppress symptoms but do not address the underlying cause of disease. Your insomnia, for example, isn’t due to an Ambien deficiency, but a conventional doctor doesn’t have the time, the resources or the training to educate you and support you in addressing the multifactorial reasons you can’t sleep, so you’re given a drug like Ambien, which is addictive and has multiple problematic side effects.

Functional medicine is an approach to the practice of medicine that better suits the needs and challenges of the 21st century individual because it addresses the root cause of disease, and seeks to understand the multiple upstream factors that determine a person’s health, including personal history, genetics, current lifestyle, environment, and mental and emotional factors.

Functional medicine’s toolkit is also much broader. It takes advantage of best practices from all over the world, including diet and lifestyle modification, stress management, detoxification, supplements and botanical medicines, and when necessary, prescription drugs.

Functional medicine works because its providers spend meaningful time with patients–often visits are 60+ minutes–which allows them to create authentic two-way therapeutic relationships and to provide the level of education and support that most patients today need in order to make meaningful lifestyle changes.

Functional medicine has earned greater acceptance across the medical establishment, most notably with this October’s opening of the Cleveland Clinic’s new Center for Functional Medicine. But today functional medicine is still not available to most Americans.

Parsley Health’s goals are to provide functional medicine to mainstream Americans, thereby lowering the chronic disease burden, lowering health care costs, improving the happiness of doctors, and improving the user experience in health care for more people.

Parsley achieves these goals in four specific ways. First, by providing its services through a direct-primary care based membership model, meaning patients pay a monthly subscription fee. Parsley Health is making functional medicine accessible to many more people than before, while still avoiding the limitations of accepting insurance, which stifles doctors’ ability to offer new models of care delivery.

Second,  Parsley offers unlimited health coaching services. Health coaches are critical members of the functional medicine team because of the importance of education and personal support to the success of patients who would otherwise struggle to make and maintain lifestyle change.

Third, by providing functional medicine through a digital technology-driven services platform, Parsley is able to make health care more efficient, modern and enjoyable for both patients and providers. From backend office services, to patient access to all labs, notes and health care data, to tracking outcomes in real time, technology is the backbone of Parsley’s practice.

Fourth, Parsley saves money in two ways. One, it largely reverses and prevents chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, asthma, autoimmune disease and even dementia, which account for more than 75% of health care costs. Two, as an alternative to an employee wellness program, Parsley can save employers money through improved productivity and lower insurance premiums.

Parsley Health is ultimately a new hybrid model of health care that combines the functional medicine approach that makes more sense for patients of all walks of life, with new care delivery models that both increase access to better medicine for more people, and that let doctors practice the kind of medicine that makes them feel good too. Parsley opens in January in New York City, and I invite you to find out more at parsleyhealth.com.
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New Year’s Day Spanish Breakfast Torta – Gluten Free Dairy Free Delicious

We made this traditional Spanish torta for breakfast on Christmas day and it was soooo good we are making it again this week for New Year’s Day!

Nothing soaks up a night of champagne like potatoes, eggs, and olive oil, and yet this recipe is as healthy as they come. It’s totally gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian, and we’ve made it green by adding spinach!

New Year’s Day Spanish Breakfast Torta by RBMD – adapted from Epicurious.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 large eggs
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb spinach leaves, rinsed
  • Smoked paprika for garnish
  • A few flat leaf Italian parsley leaves chopped for garnish
  • A large omelette or frittata pan

Preparation:

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, arrange the onion and potatoes in a flat layer and cover with 1/2 cup olive oil. Cook the vegetables, gently stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender but not browned, 7 to 9 minutes.

2. While the onions and potatoes are cooking, sautee the spinach in a skillet with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Once the spinach is thoroughly wilted place on a bed of 3-4 paper towels, then roll up the spinach and wring out, getting out as much excess water as possible. Chop roughly and set aside.

3. Drain the cooked onions and potatoes in a colander set over a bowl until cooled. (The oil collected in the bowl can be used later in the recipe or for another preparation.)

4. Place a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. Arrange the potato mixture and the spinach in the skillet in a flat layer and then pour the eggs over top. Cook the eggs, pressing the edges into the center as they begin to cook. Once the omelet is set enough, gently shake the pan to keep it from sticking on the bottom. Continue cooking until almost completely set, 6 to 8 minutes. Slide the omelet out onto a large dinner plate and invert it back into the pan to finish cooking the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more.

4. Slide the finished omelet onto a large serving plate and sprinkle with the smoked paprika and the parsley. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

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The New Supplement Shop is Live!

It’s a wild world for supplements out there. The industry is largely self-policed and as a result anything and everything can end up on the shelves of your local health food store claiming all kinds of benefits. This is why it is so important to know what you’re buying, to buy from trusted manufacturers, and to buy through doctors who have access to medical-grade natural and botanical products.

Why?

First of all, physician-only products from trusted manufacturers are made from higher quality ingredients. They are also tested for contaminants like mercury, which has ended up in herbal supplements from overseas. Most importantly, they contain therapeutic doses of the active ingredients. An over-the-counter brand of tumeric for instance might be made from high quality sources, but the actual quantity of the active anti-inflammatory ingredient – the curcumin – might be so low that the supplement is a waste of money.

This is why for the first time I am offering my personally curated supplements online in my new shop! A great place to start is my Rebuild breakfast protein shake and the Blend prebiotic fiber that goes with it. Thrown into a blender these two together make a smooth filling and highly nutritious vegan, gluten free breakfast option. The shake is packed with vitamins and minerals as well as L-glutamine, an important fuel source for the cells that line the intestines, cells that get damaged by high sugar, low fiber diets, by alcohol, by drugs like pain relievers, and by stress.

All of my products are made by cGMP* certified manufacturers I have worked with for years that craft only the highest quality safe and effective medical grade supplements. I am starting small, but more products are on their way!

And if you’re looking for a gift option, or want to get ready to detox January 1, my Table Detox program is a great place to start. You get all the supplements, a natural gourmet chef-designed recipe book, and access to my online resources – workout guides, meditation videos and more – that will jumpstart your road to health in the new year!

* For more on cGMP certification of drug and supplement manufacturers visit the FDA website.

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The Secret to Perfect Happiness

I just got back from a trip to Bhutan, a small Himalayan country located between Nepal, India and Tibet. Bhutan is ruled by a beloved 5th generation monarchy, that aims to preserve their unique culture while still cultivating happiness. In fact the country builds their foundation on Gross National Happiness, not Product.

And despite the evolutions of the modern world, all new architecture in Bhutan must be built in traditional Bhutanese style. There is a 100% tax on any car importation to help keep traffic congestion at a minimum, and there is a cap on import of cigarettes for personal use. If you travel to Bhutan as an outsider, you are not permitted to roam free. Every westerner must be accompanied by a government sanctioned guide.

This is not how my husband and I usually like to travel. As a New Yorker, my husband likes to be in command of his destiny. He’s also really into food and researches any restaurant well in advance. A bad meal is just poor planning, and dinner is almost always a destination or event. We are very active, making the most out of every minute, and we are prepared to turn on a dime if things aren’t what we want them to be. Like many Americans, we are pretty good at shaping our desires into reality.

But then we got to Bhutan, and had to throw all of our typical travel expectations out the window.

The Food

In Bhutan, the meals were all pre-set meaning, you didn’t order from a menu. Every lunch and dinner was the same: plain white rice, sautéed veggies in oyster sauce, and mystery chicken stew. The few nights we finished dinner in fifteen minutes, from start to finish. We weren’t drinking alcohol, so there was no reason to hang out in the hotel restaurant. We usually arrived at dinner hungry and looking forward to eating, but the seemingly rushed experience sent us back to our room, feeling disappointed.

The Schedule

We usually ran out of things to do and see by around 4pm every day. We hiked and saw temples and evidently, seem to walk around faster than the average tourist. In one small town, we found ourselves with the choice between sitting in our room, or wandering a riverbank amongst a herd of cows, with trucks roaring nearby. So we ended up back in our room.

The Activities

We are not great site-seers. We like to experience a place like the locals do eating the food, meeting people and experiencing the customs. We also prefer to be in nature more than cities to escape the hustle and bustle of life in NYC.

But this is not what Bhutanese tour guides have in store for you. They show you every temple, dzong (fort) and official site, including the capital’s zoo, complete with every official national animal like the legendary cross between a cow and goat.

So what happened?

We initially met the above realities head on with straight up western resistance. At one point we insisted that we spend two of our days trekking and hiking instead of temple hopping, with hopes this would expend our energy. But otherwise we were locked into the itinerary that was set for us.

And then, something incredible happened. We adjusted. Without fifty plus choices about everything we ate and did, and without a packed schedule filling every minute, the space to just be took over, and started to feel strangely natural.

We watched movies on the computer in bed every night, something we never have time or make time to do at home. We traded the iPad back and forth and read, or found books left behind in the hotels and read those. We came to appreciate reading things we never would have chosen in the store.

We went to bed early and got up early, falling into the natural rhythm of the place. We started appreciating the nuances of the food, the variations in the flavor of the sauce or the way the vegetables were cooked, or the unexpected presence of greens. Gluten- and dairy-free were mostly out the window for the week, and we stopped caring that our small meals weren’t always enough to satisfy our hunger.

We took a traditional Bhutanese hot stone medicinal bath, and stayed sitting in the water filled with camphor leaves for the full 45 minutes, completely content with no rush to get out.

Our communication with each other even got better. We both have a tendency to become fixated on work, and logistics of day-to-day life like the dog and the house can become rocks that weigh down the energy of our conversation. We got more expansive and present, and made each other laugh over small things. The social media moratorium helped too.

By the time our last day came, we were sad to leave. At first we had actually wondered if the trip was going to be too long! We felt so clear, calm and grateful.

Bhutan is unlike anywhere else in the world. What appears uniform is, I think, a lack of choice that fuels the national happiness quotient they often talk about. Everyone we met, from old women working in the fields to barefoot monks and tour guides, greeted us and each other with huge smiles. They may not have everything, but they mostly have what they need, and we by extension got to experience what we needed too.

I realized that I don’t need some of the things I thought I did to be happy. I don’t need to go to yoga class, or have my meals always be delicious and balanced, or to always make the most of every minute of the day.

I don’t need endless choices, or the pressure to always make the best choice.

What I do need is to go to bed early and wake up early. I need to laugh with my husband about nothing. I need simple, clean and satiating food. I need time away from computer screens and to spend a good part of my day moving my body. I need to be out in nature.

Thank you Bhutan for helping me see these things. I wouldn’t have asked for them otherwise, but sometimes in life you get what you need, not what you want. This is the secret to perfect happiness.

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My 5-Step Natural Glowing Skin Care Routine

Travel is rough on the skin and I am living in six different cities this fall, from Jaipur to London to Berlin. I’ve found myself breaking out more than usual, partly because on the road it’s harder for me to completely stay away from my triggers (gluten and dairy) but also because so many changes and flights create a lot of stress for the body’s largest organ.

Luckily, I had lunch recently with my friend the incredible London-based singer and artist Alexis Mercedes, whose skin literally glows from a mile a way. She hooked me up with her regimen. I’ve already used it a few times and I’m obsessed.

Step One:

Cleanse twice daily with a mix of 65% organic coconut oil, 30% organic castor oil and 5% avocado oil with 5 drops of essential oil of frankincense. Massage the mixture into the face for a full 2 minutes and then wipe off with a warm wet towel, letting the towel sit on the skin for 30 seconds or so to open the pores.

Note if your skin is dry, go easy on the castor oil as it is very drying to the skin.

Step Two:

Exfoliate with a mixture of organic wild flower honey and brown sugar – be gentle or skip this step if you have sensitive skin. Wash off with a warm towel.

Step Three:

Spray the face with rose water toner. It smells amazing and is cooling and anti-inflammatory

Step Four:

Hydrate your skin with your favorite natural moisturizer. I like mixing three drops of Sunshine Botanicals’ Essential Fatty Acid formula with 2-3 squirts of their Essential Hydrating Fluid. Their products were designed by the wife of a master herbalist. Everything is 100% non-toxic and formulated to heal the skin.

Since chatting with Alexis I have been adding 2 drops of frankincense essential oil to my moisturizer combo too!

Step Five:

This one is my tip! Stay hydrated with a lot of room temperature water with fresh lemon juice squeezed in every day.

If you try this regimen let me know how it goes!

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The First Yoga, Food & Functional Medicine Retreat

I am leading a wellness+ yoga + foodie retreat at Old Stone Farm in Rhinebeck, NY, November 6th-9th!

One of the reasons I became a functional medicine doctor was because of the transformative experience I had on a yoga retreat 8 years ago. When you step away from your regular routine for even a few days and focus on living well, nourishing your mind and body, and joining a community of like minded people, the results are massive.
This is why I am beyond honored and excited to be leading my first wellness retreat with ABC Carpet & Home! Old Stone Farm is a gorgeous 250 acre horse farm, inn and spa. Everything about it defines why the Hudson Valley is magical, and it’s only a short train ride away from NYC. This retreat will be a powerfully healing experience.
Book fast because there is a 25% early bird discount until September 30th –
  • Singles – Book Here – starts at $1688 + tax until 9-30
  • Doubles – Book Here – starts at $2713 + tax until 9-30
The retreat is called Whole Body Healing and includes the following:
  • All delicious healthy meals by Matt the farm’s amazing in-house chef
  • Cooking class with chef Carolina Santos-Neves of Comodo NYC
  • Yoga each morning with Nikki Vilella, one of my favorite Kula teachers
  • One-on-one sessions with me to help you to optimize your health
  • Meditation classes and hikes in the woods each day
  • Free time for massages – their spa is ridiculous! – and for getting to know the horses and the grounds
  • Awesome people who are into living well
  • A beautiful luxury room at the inn
  • Transportation to/from Rhinecliff Amtrak station

Sign up now with Old Stone Farm or if you have questions, write to hello@robinberzinmd.com for information!

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Tomato Love Summer Salad

Nothing is better than late summer tomatoes!

I have my friend Jane to thank for this gorgeous Jersey tomato grown right on her farm. Diced, sprinkled with sea salt, drizzled with olive oil, and scattered with fresh basil from the window. Summer lunch perfection, sweet tomato love.

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