Robin Berzin: Embracing Change and Healthy Aging
Dr. Robin Berzin connects the best of functional medicine with the natural transformation of aging
A whole-body approach to care is at the heart of a functional medicine-inspired way of living — one that considers an all-encompassing panorama of a person's unique needs, goals, and overall well-being.
Whether through nutrition, exercise, and supplements or examining genetic factors and underlying causes of disease, this holistic, patient-centered, and science-based medicine model considers those biochemical, lifestyle and dietary elements that can influence and transform our day-to-day health experience.
"Ninety-eight percent of your health story happens outside the doctor's office."
For functional medicine professional Dr. Robin Berzin, the founder and CEO of Parsley Health in New York City and a 2022 Influencer in Aging, taking a broad-reaching view of an individual's dynamic ecosystem is vital to elevating and supporting optimal physical, emotional and mental wellness.
At her clinic, by combining the best of primary care with functional medicine, Berzin has created a third model of treatment that responds to the present (and ever-evolving) field of health care, distilling her expertise into a one-of-a-kind medical service designed to make an individual heal and thrive.
I asked Berzin to expand on this 360-degree, integrative-body route to long-lasting health through the lens of today's older population, the future of health care and patient-first strategies for promoting well-being.
The Path To Being Well
How do we trace this path to optimal well-being, and what does it even entail? For Berzin, "Well-being means listening to your body. Meditation and yoga have been significant parts of my life since my mid-twenties; I practice both daily."
"Before I found these practices, I subsisted on green apples, protein bars and coffee sweetened with Splenda because I thought it was healthy," she says.
"Meditation and yoga have been significant parts of my life since my mid-twenties"
Berzin explains, "In truth, it was probably the worst thing I could do for my health, but I was so disconnected from my body that I could not feel the state of imbalance I was living in."
However, through this lifestyle-dietary imbalance, she began to tap into what was happening inside her body and gained clarity, harmony and new levels of energy overall.
"When I began my yoga practice and reconnected with what was happening inside me, all the other dominos started to fall into place. I found more calm, balance and energy than I could ever generate while running on a treadmill and drinking coffee," she says.
It was through Berzin's own transformative experience that she found her passion for medicine and became a doctor.
The Intersection Between Health Care and Older Adults
It is no surprise that our modern health care system is shifting in multifarious, complex ways. Yet, one of the most significant advances exhibited so far is "treating patients to help them not just survive, but to thrive," she says.
According to Berzin, "It is an incredible time to be in health care because we see the shift away from the revolving door of prescriptions and specialist referrals and the traditional 'one-size-fits-all' model."
Berzin says we are heading toward a more integrated, synergetic medicine paradigm, or "one that values the patient-provider relationship, understands that the body is an integrated system and meets you wherever you are. It is functional, proactive and value-based."
In addition, she adds, we (as a nation) are also embracing functional medicine, "which understands the body as an integrated system — rather than isolated parts — so that we can implement the right solutions at the right time."
Moreover, when it comes to America's aging population, adopting this innovative, holistic outlook on the body and sustainable health is paramount. "At Parsley," Berzin says, "we developed our national menopause protocol with this in mind – and it works."
"Our data shows that 88% of Parsley patients improve or resolve their menopause symptoms within their first year of care, and 30% of patients reduce medications related to menopause treatment," she says.
Finally, "menopause is getting the attention it deserves. For too long, it was talked about only in hushes and whispers, which has resulted in 73% of the 55 million working women with menopause suffering in silence without treatment," says Berzin.
Let's Talk Healthy Aging
"Aging is a healthy and natural process," Berzin says. An essential pillar of functional medicine, aging well involves, among other things, acknowledging and acting strategically on the biological transformations and transitions that occur as early as our thirties.
"It is important to make healthy choices for the things that make us stronger, sleep better, help brain function and meet us where we are now. To embrace the changes and not try to stop the aging process – to recognize that our health needs to change and evolve," Berzin says.
Optimal Aging For Older Adults
Berzin's new book, "State Change," offers an innovative, actionable toolkit for employing core actions that can lead to a positive mental state and peak physical health.
"Finally, menopause is getting the attention it deserves."
"There are five core steps I recommend to all my patients to reach that 'unlock': get [health tests]; move your body to train your brain; learn how food is medicine for your mood; sleep (it is when your brain takes out the trash!) and re-evaluate your relationship with tech, alcohol and drugs," she says.
Further, she believes that as patients, understanding and owning our agency and power to enable ultimate well-being are pivotal to our health.
"Ninety-eight percent of your health story happens outside the doctor's office, which means that as doctors and health coaches, we are only a fraction of the equation."
"For example, what you eat, how you move, and how well you sleep are central to your health; this all happens outside our watch as medical providers," Berzin adds.