Here at Yellow Co., we take a wholehearted and holistic approach to work/life integration and fully believe that when you take care of yourself, you can take better care of the world and those around you. When it comes to healthcare, Parsley Health uses functional medicine to help patients find the root of their problems by taking the whole person into consideration before diagnosing or prescribing. Having gone through her own journey with cancer, our Do-Good Dozen winner for this month, Jaclyn Tolentino, brings her whole self to her work at Parlsey Health’s new West Hollywood location in Los Angeles with her in-depth experience and knowledge. Read on to learn more about Jaclyn, how you can improve your health and well-being and participate in this important shift in primary healthcare.
Tell us a little about your story, your own personal health journey and how that informs the work you do today?
My journey as a physician basically started in childhood - I’ve pretty much always loved science, always wanted to be a doctor. I choose to attend an osteopathic medical school in part because it embraces the whole-body philosophy, which really appealed to me, and I went into family medicine because there’s something extremely rewarding about the caring for someone through every season and chapter of their life. But my journey to becoming a functional medicine doctor started after a life changing breast cancer diagnosis in July of 2016.
Navigating the medical world as a patient is an entirely different experience than occupying that space as a provider, and nothing can prepare you for the realities of facing a serious illness.
Going through my own process of treatment and recovery opened my eyes to the ways in which we, as physicians, can be practicing medicine better - and smarter! It also taught me how to be a better, stronger, more empathetic healer - I’ve carried every step of my journey as a breast cancer warrior into my current medical practice and it influences the way I work with each of my patients.
Can you share what functional medicine is and how Parsley Health is redefining health care through their membership offerings?
Functional Medicine is a patient-centered, whole body approach to cultivating wellness, treating disease, and preventing chronic conditions. At Parsley Health, we’re looking at every aspect of a patient’s overall health - that includes physical, emotional, even spiritual wellness. If you’re coming to our offices to address a specific concern, we’re not just trying to alleviate the symptoms - we’re looking for the root cause of the issue and addressing that using every tool available to us. That might include advanced laboratory testing and diagnostics, lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, exercise, and mind-body approaches. Unique to Parsley Health, I team up with our health coaches to provide consistent support throughout the membership. I like to think of functional medicine as a really expansive toolbox, and it’s my job as the practitioner to select the best possible tools to address your individual needs. Parsley Health combines the best of functional medicine and primary care, into an advanced model of care that’s modern, progressive, holistic, and most importantly, effective.
What are the most common issues you are seeing in your patients?
The most common issues I see with my patients are hormone imbalances, autoimmune conditions, and gut issues. Maintaining homeostasis in the body is really important – when one aspect of our overall health is thrown off, that can have a ripple effect that presents in a wide variety of symptoms. My patients are dealing with issues like inflammation – often their gut is involved - and that can manifest in symptoms from disrupted sleep, weight gain, skin issues, irregular menstrual cycles, and ongoing digestive problems. My role as a provider is to help facilitate conditions that are conducive to restoring balance in the body.
Increasingly, I’m also seeing patients who have been diagnosed with cancer and are within different stages of their cancer journey, from recent diagnosis, to undergoing treatment, to recurrence prevention. Working together to develop strategies to optimize healing, including a holistic approach to understanding tumor microenvironment is an important part of my overall wellness plan for these patients.
Although every body is different with various needs, what are some basics you feel everyone should incorporate in their lives to holistically take better care of themselves and to help or avoid the issues mentioned above?
There are so many simple changes you can make that can have dramatic implications for your overall wellbeing.
The first, and most important step, is to pay attention to how you feel. Listen to your body!
That sounds so simple but cultivating an awareness of how we feel in our own bodies is an extremely useful skill that can actually be quite challenging! Start checking in with yourself regularly - several times a day - especially after things like meals, exercise, or sleep - or even lack thereof. That’s how you’re really going to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of things like nutrition, sleep hygiene, stress reduction, or even what types of physical exercises are going to be most effective for you.
From a lifestyle standpoint, we’ve really got to remember to do those things that we know we should be doing, but we often find difficult. Sleep! Hydration! Managing stress levels, which can have such a huge impact on our physical health. Getting the diet under control – that’s a very individualized factor but getting it right with our diet begins with listening to the signals our body is sending us.
What was a self-limiting belief that held you back from being your best self? How did you overcome (or how do you continue to work on) this false-truth you were telling yourself?
Fear - it’s a common belief, but an extremely powerful one; fear of failure can keep you locked into situations that are not serving you and patterns that are limiting your ability to thrive.
Fear is such a profound part of reckoning with a serious illness.
There are the big, obvious fears of course, but there’s also a lot of subtle fears that come with that experience. I think a lot of health care providers, doctors in particular, can struggle with being diagnosed with a major medical illness because it’s so antithetical to the role we were prepared for as providers of care. We’re the ones that are supposed to have the answers - and it can be very disorienting, and even embarrassing, to suddenly find yourself on the opposite end of the equation. But you do learn to prioritize your life in a completely different way, including shedding a lot of fears. ### You learn to stop waiting for the perfect time or circumstance to start pursuing the things that are important to you; instead, you just have to dive in and you can’t worry too much about the possibility of failure. Cancer teaches you to be your own strongest advocate, and your biggest cheerleader.
What are 3 life essentials that keep you centered and focused?
My number one life essential is my family; I couldn’t do what I do without my husband, the never-ending support of our wonderful families and friends - and of course our precious dog, Cali. They are the core that keeps me grounded and true to myself in every decision I make. But if we’re talking about non-family essentials, I would say my big ones are:
Sinigang, which is a Filipino stew that’s tangy and savory at the same time, thanks to its tamarind-infused bone broth base. I make sinigang pretty often and I’m always looking for ways to maximize its nourishing, comforting essence with fresh vegetables and grass-fed meats. I can’t recommend it enough!
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. My husband gave me a copy several years ago, and I’ve come back to it several times since then, especially when I was at more challenging points in my breast cancer treatment. I think some of the lessons it offers are universally applicable to any challenge you may encounter, which I think is part of its value.
Curiosity. Staying curious is an essential part of living in this world, especially as it relates to your health. Always be prepared to learn as much as you can, and even challenge information or ideas when necessary.
If someone doesn’t live where Parsley is provided, what can we look for in health providers as we hope to help the shift in how healthcare works?
Find a provider who listens! That alone is absolutely golden; you want someone who will work with you, side by side. But you might not have to wait too much longer to see a Parsley Health provider – we’re currently expanding our telehealth practice to new markets very soon!
Illustration by Hanna Snyder for Yellow Co., Photos courtesy of Parsley Health