Doctor Jaclyn Tolentino is a Board Certified Family Physician practicing in Parsley Health, Los Angeles. She’s not your typical doctor, as she believes in incorporating both conventional and Integrative medicine when working with her patients. She firmly believes in addressing one’s health issues holistically, looking at all parts of the body and treating this as a whole. We were particularly drawn to her story, being a cancer survivor and not always being as healthy as she is today. We’ve definitely all struggled with finding our groove when it comes to our health and this is why we think Doctor Jaclyn’s story is truly inspiring. It proves that it’s never too late to begin, she gives us some amazing insights into health and wonderful tips too!
Q&A with Doctor Jaclyn Tolentino:
Q: Take us through your health journey.
A: My health journey can definitely be divided between what I considered being healthy before breast cancer, and what I considered healthy after. Before breast cancer, I think I would have told you I did live a healthy lifestyle. I was conscious of what I ate, I tried to exercise, I tried to make time in my life for things like family and friends. But I was pushing myself very hard at work, throughout residency and afterwards, in a conventional medical practice. During my time in Miami starting with residency, I wasn’t managing my stress well and I had no boundaries around my time or energy. I was really running myself into the ground because I thought that was just part of the journey as a young doctor. And then breast cancer just shook my entire world right off its foundation. I made it through treatment, and then I had to learn a different way to take care of myself, a way to actually thrive, and not just to “push through” things.
Q: What did you learn about yourself that surprised you most during this time?
A: How resilient I am mentally and physically. There were days during my cancer treatment when I thought "I'm not going to make it." But I always did, and now I know what my body is capable of, and I know it will fight for me. I think there's an inclination when you are diagnosed with cancer to feel very betrayed by your body. but once I saw how hard my body fought to restore itself and get back on track, I am absolutely amazed at my own capacity for healing.
Q: You mentioned that our bodies have an innate capability to heal itself, also known as our body’s innate intelligence. Could you tell us more about this and what it means?
A: I think this ties into my previous comments about witnessing the resilience of my own body during my cancer journey.
All this really means is that the body innately seeks balance when it encounters disruption. Basically, if given the choice between wellness and sickness, your body wants to be well. It's designed with several physiologic mechanisms that will try to restore it to a state of wellness if it is capable of doing so, which is why it's important to keep all those mechanisms and systems functioning properly, and to nurture their actions with our lifestyle choices.
Q: How important is diet and lifestyle to one’s health?
A: It's extremely important. Our bodies are only as good as the habits and practices we use to take care of them. It's a really common analogy, but I think it's effective; your body is just like a car. If you want to keep it running, you have to do the maintenance. You have to fuel it correctly, you have to make sure all of its many parts are moving smoothly, you have to repair a component if it's not functioning properly. Nutrition and lifestyle are your everyday “body maintenance” - the fuel you're giving your body to run, and the practices you adopt to ensure it stays strong, flexible, dynamic, and properly rested.
Q: How important is one’s mental health to our overall health and wellbeing?
Chronic stress in particular can cause so many health issues, that's why it's so important to develop effective strategies for coping with stress.
Q: How would you describe the functional and integrative approach?
A: The functional and integrative approach is basically a whole-body, holistic philosophy that considers every aspect of a person's life in our treatment approach to understand the root cause of disease and lay down the foundational groundwork for true wellness. So we're looking at physical health,mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and the impact your community and environment has on your wellbeing. Another important aspect of the functional and integrative approach is the depth of our toolkit. Our process is very collaborative, so we're working with a care team that includes doctors, health coaches, and other healing practitioners - and you! You're definitely playing a role in your care team. Some days we might use high-tech diagnostic testing, but other days that might involve just being present with you and discussing how breathwork can help you cope with your stress and anxiety.
Q: We love Parsley Health! Could you tell us a bit about how it works?
A: At Parsley, we're really focused on collaborative, patient-centered care. Our patients join as Members (there are different membership plans and options to meet your specific care needs), and will have the opportunity to work with doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, health coaches, and our fantastic patient care team. We see patients virtually in 48 states, and in person at our Centers in Los Angeles and NYC. I’m a Senior Physician on Parsley’s virtual team, seeing patients who reside in California and Florida.
Our patient visits are much longer than the typical doctor's office visit, especially the first visit, where we'll cover your health history and start identifying major goals and health concerns, including the patterns from which they developed. From there, we'll develop a personalized treatment plan, which your health coach will work with you to help implement. We support that treatment plan with things like consistent follow-up appointments and messaging through our patient portal. This is intended to be really personal care, centered on what works for you and what doesn't. All of our care decisions are going to be informed by your individual needs and goals. I wrote a blog post on the Parsley Health website about what you can expect at your first visit with us, which you can check out here.
Q: What exactly is the role that hormones play in one’s health?
Hormones and hormonal health were really what sparked my interest in functional and integrative medicine, because no matter what age you're at, no matter where you are in your life journey, hormonal health is going to be relevant to you and your overall optimal health.
Hormonal imbalances can contribute to poor sleep quality, weight loss or gain, irregular menstruation, irritability, poor digestive health, mood swings, and so many other symptoms that people experience. I chose hormone optimization as a specialty because I'm really fascinated by all of the processes our hormones influence, and I love working with patients to find that optimal hormone balance that allows them to feel their best each day.
Q: Do you have any morning rituals?
A: My morning rituals are very simple. I don't like to be rushed, so I get up nice and early, so I have plenty of time to get ready. I like to start the day by just spending a few minutes in quiet reflection, or thinking about my intentions for the day.
Getting ready isn't a huge process for me, I've really simplified my beauty routine, especially since I made the switchover a few years ago to really clean beauty products. From there, I always like to make a smoothie, a matcha latte, or my morning mushroom coffee drink. My morning drink is such a big part of my ritual for starting the day; depending on what I intuitively feel my body needs, I'll change up the ingredients accordingly. My dad used to make me a smoothie every morning as a kid, and it's a habit I've really continued to enjoy as an adult.
Q: What is your go-to meal on a weekday? Do you have any favorite Filipino dishes?
A: My favorite Filipino dish is actually also one of our go-to weekday dishes, which is sinigang.
We make sinigang several times a month at our house. We do different variations with organic vegetables and grass-fed meats or shrimp, and I always find it so restorative and nourishing. It's really a perfect meal!
Q: What would be your top tips to keep our immunity strong during this pandemic?
The best way to navigate the challenging situation we're in right now is to make sure you're exercising appropriate and robust safety precautions, and taking the best possible care of your body. If you're concerned about things like nutrient deficiencies or immune status, that's something you should absolutely discuss with your doctor. There are lots of factors that go into keeping the immune system strong and healthy.
Q: What is your favorite form of self-care?
A: Spending time with my family. That may sound really simple, and not super luxurious or indulgent, but since breast cancer so many things in my life have become simplified, including my priorities. And time is really a luxurious thing; as a very busy physician, setting boundaries around my personal life is necessary for me to thrive and feel like I'm caring for myself. I'm in contact with my family almost daily, we're constantly sharing updates and photos with each other, and feeling connected with them is very important to me for my overall health and wellness.
Dr. Jaclyn recommends...
Books to read:
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown,
Places to visit:
Any place that's going to inspire you, and stimulate all five of your senses. Even right now, when traveling has been very limited for us, I've really been enjoying rediscovering the joy my backyard brings me.
Superfoods to eat:
Mushrooms - I love mushroom anything!
Anything that brings you joy and you're able to do consistently!
Ways to destress:
Breath work, music, fresh air and sunshine,