ILLUSTRATION BY DANIEL BARCELÓ
Gleaning insight from her own health struggles, Dr. Jen Negrin focuses on an approach to health and wellness that takes into consideration the whole person.
After the birth of her second son, Jen Negrin went in for routine blood work. The results revealed that she had hypothyroidism, a low thyroid hormone. With new mothers frequently experiencing fatigue and other elements that make them feel out of balance, Negrin assumed it was just normal postpartum symptoms. However, after showing the results to her father-in-law who practices functional medicine, she went in for further testing.
The new tests revealed that Negrin had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a more chronic case of thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the thyroid and turns against the body’s own tissues.
With a clearer understanding of her diagnosis, Negrin was able to improve her health through some lifestyle modifications and supplementation. It was through her own personal health struggle that she decided to explore more about integrative/functional medicine.
“After experiencing firsthand how much one’s health can change with the right foods, stress management, and supplements alone, I was driven to learn more about this approach,” says Negrin. She would go on to complete a fellowship training through the Academy of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine (A4M).
“I now feel more authentic when speaking to patients about making lifestyle changes because I’ve done the work myself.”
Prior to her diagnosis that eventually led her to a fellowship with A4M, Negrin already had an extensive medical background. She received a medical degree at the University of Miami School of Medicine and trained in family medicine at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. However, during this season of life, Negrin admits to being “more focused on disease management than prevention.” With her medical school experience comprised of all-nighters and junk food as a means of survival, Negrin’s Hashimoto’s diagnosis was the wake-up call she needed in order to change her health habits.
“I actually tell people that Hashimoto’s was my blessing in disguise,” says Negrin. After practicing family medicine for 10 years, Negrin received her board certification through A4M in 2013 and has been practicing integrative/functional medicine since 2014.
“I focus on progress, not perfection, in my health journey,” says Negrin. Because of her autoimmune condition, she has been 100-percent gluten-free since 2012 and eats more vegetables than ever before. “In general with food choices, I prioritize nutrient density — eating foods that are most nourishing — the majority of the time.”
In addition to nutrition, Negrin has found it helpful to also prioritize consistent exercise and the amount of sleep she has each night, along with being intentional to leave margin for spending time with family. Her journey toward a more holistic approach to her health has better prepared her for work with her patients. “I now feel more authentic when speaking to patients about making lifestyle changes because I’ve done the work myself,” she says.
Negrin’s approach to her practice takes into consideration the same process that has worked in her own life — learning to holistically nurture the whole person. “I really value getting to know my patients and hearing their stories so that I can best serve them,” says Negrin. New patients set up an initial consult which lasts approximately one-and-a-half to two hours. From this initial conversation, Negrin and the patient are able to determine together if her practice is a good fit for the patient.
In her practice, Negrin aims to be more of a medical consultant while working in conjunction with a patient’s current healthcare team. “I do not replace a patient’s primary care physician for general wellness checks or acute concerns,” she says. Many of her patients are interested in natural alternatives for better managing their existing health conditions. In order to customize the best wellness plan, Negrin evaluates the patient’s medical history and does blood work and other specialty testing as necessary. “Holistic living to me means following your own individual path for wellness,” she says.
I really value getting to know my patients and hearing their stories so that I can best serve them.”
As witnessed through her own health journey, our lifestyle choices play a significant role in the state of our health and the quality of our lives. In order to live a healthy life that takes into consideration our whole person, we must take note of what we eat, how we move, how much we sleep, etc. “I firmly believe that the body has an innate ability to heal itself when given the proper materials,” says Negrin.
Because of this belief, she places great emphasis in wellness plans that remind the patients of how much power we have over our own health in a world that often seems inundated by frequent new medical advances. “In some cases, medications are necessary because we are dealing with life-threatening conditions. But in many cases, medications are being used as band-aids for symptoms,” says Negrin.
She does not dismiss the need for modern medicine but believes it is important to pay attention to the unique build of our bodies, too. “Medical specialists are necessary, but it is important to remember that everything is connected. Medicine is not one-size-fits-all.”
Overall, Negrin has been grateful for how her own journey has been able to provide opportunities for her to play a significant role in the health journeys of patients in the local community. Moving forward, her main goal “is to continue to deliver the most compassionate and highest quality of care to as many patients as I can.”
How to Incorporate Holistic Health Goals Today
Taking the step toward developing an integrative/functional health plan that serves your goals may seem intimidating at first, especially if holistic wellness is new territory for you. So, Dr. Jen Negrin recommends a few easy first steps to get you going in the right direction.
1. Start small. It takes a lot of work to break old habits. Focus on one area that you can work on improving, and focus on mastering just that before moving on to the next thing. “I believe that just like small hinges move big doors, committing to one small change at a time will make a big difference over the long run,” says Negrin.
2. Focus on adding rather than subtracting. Instead of focusing on eliminating processed carbs or sodas, consider how you can drink more water or add more vegetables daily. “Overall, I find that adding something is easier than working on subtracting something,” says Negrin. “Add more hours of sleep. Add more play and personal reflection time.”
3. Build in accountability. Inviting others into the process builds in often-needed accountability when achieving new goals. ”Some of us need accountability to make habits stick, so getting the whole family involved or getting an accountability partner can also help you stay on track,” says Negrin.
Dr. Jen Negrin
Nutritional and Metabolic Medicine
151 2nd Street SW, Winter Haven, FL 33880