Habits & Health episode 32 with Dr Renee Wellenstein, a functional medicine practitioner in New York. She stepped outside the box of conventional medicine to take a radically novel approach to heal herself from the deep depths of burnout. She has overcome several obstacles and mastered the art of leaping into transitions with each pivot. She takes those experiences and helps female entrepreneurs up-level their performance, thereby up-leveling their income by beating burnout, finding balance, and living a more holistic life.
In this episode, we discuss how she overcame these obstacles, her journey into functional medicine and what she learnt about conventional medicine from going hospitalisation herself.
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This video is related to an older episode featuring Fran McElwaine
Tony Winyard 0:00
Habits and health Episode 32. Welcome to the habits and health Podcast, where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. Brought to you by an educator and coach for anyone who wants to create a healthier life. here's your host, Tony Winyard. Welcome to another edition of the podcast where we aim to give you ideas to improve your health in various ways or, or maybe the habits that you have that will improve your health. Today's episode is with Dr. Renee Wellenstein. She is a functional medicine practitioner, and she talks about how she had a major accident about 12 years ago that changed the way that she looked at things and changed many things about her life as well. So we find out a lot more about that and how she got into functional medicine, what functional medicine, what functional medicine is, how it helps you, and so on. So that's this week's episode with Dr Renee Wellenstein.
Hi Renee, how are you?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 1:03
I'm pretty good. Thank you.
Tony Winyard 1:05
We were just talking before the recording started. And you mentioned you're in New York. But as you mentioned, most people would think of New York and the Big Apple and everything. But that's not quite the New York you're in?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 1:16
No, there is a big state outside of New York City, New York City is quite small as far as land size. And there's this huge state that's attached to it. And I am right in the middle of that state out in the country. So it's beautiful, where I live, it's quiet, it's calm. It's exactly what a productive I don't like to use the word busy a productive mom of twins needed in her life 13 years ago. So
Tony Winyard 1:44
sorry, is that how long you've been living where you are? Now?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 1:47
Guess 13 years, my children just turned 14. So we moved up here when they were just babies at one. And I just needed more peace in my life because I was living outside of New York City. So I did have new york city living for many years. And I loved it at that point in my life. But like anything, we all go through seasons, and my season when they turned one was, let's tone it down a little, let's calm down a little, let's spend not so much time in traffic commuting to work. And such, I worked enough as an OB GYN at the hospital. So I didn't want to spend all that extra time that I had free in the car of commuting, you know, in lines at grocery stores or such. So we decided to move out of the suburbs of new york city to the country and just for a better quality of life, while they're growing up and better school, not to say the schools in the city aren't are the best. But
you know, I just wanted to not worry about my children for 18 years, or at least 40, less about them for 18 years.
Tony Winyard 2:51
And you touched upon quality of life there. And that's quite a quite strong connection with what you actually do for a living, isn't it?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 2:58
That is correct. Yeah, I, you know, it's interesting, when I moved up here, my definition of quality of life was you know, just calming down and being quiet and not rushing. And it took me a couple years really to get out of that city. Go Go Go rush, rush rush. It's really interesting what that does to your body. And and I continue sort of the rush, rush rush in that my career as an OB GYN was very high stress. And what I got to slow down a bit and get outside in nature more was a horse. So I always say what do you do when you get to the country you adopt a horse off of a racetrack? And I am a daughter of a dairy farmer. And I had asked him when I was seven for a horse and he said, No. And I said back when I was seven, I remember this you watch, I want to have my horse. So at the age of 39, I got my horse and then I fell off that horse and broke my back. So and I always say that's always where my story begins. Because up until then, I thought I had this storybook life of you know, successful ob gyn living in the country mom of twins, who got a horse for her own trail rides and boom fell off that horse and my life changed and how what happened from then, so I broke my back and it's interesting because up until that point, you know, here I was gone 150 miles per hour still despite the the calmness of my environments. And again, my children at this point were four going on five and again, I was very busy at the hospital, you know up every couple of nights on call and such. And I literally had to do nothing but lay in a bed because of the broken back. And so for the next six months, I danced around a lot of you know, pain and pain medications and rehabilitation and my injury was one that they was inoperable. They couldn't put I always say I was Humpty Dumpty that fell off the wall that couldn't be put back together again because the injury or have in bones that are attached to muscles that are constantly under tension. So they this unless they put me in traction and didn't let me move for six months, there was no way of repairing them. So I chased this pain and in such and I don't do well on narcotics, which are those strong pain medications that they give for, for pain. And if I did take them, I was chasing them with all of the other medications for the side effects like the nausea and the constipation. So at six months of time, I actually had a procedure, a minimally invasive procedure on my back to at least get me off of the drugs and back to work. And when I went back to gynaecology, I could no longer operate or deliver due to some physical range of motion issues and the pain obviously. So I got to the point where, you know, I would experience pain, and I just couldn't put out of my head. And when you're a doctor operating or delivering those babies, you have to put the patient above your own physical discomfort. And at that point, in to this day, I couldn't do that anymore. So I was confined to the clinic doing pap smears all day. And it's interesting. And I did that for a couple years, and I would always come home going, gosh, I just don't feel like I'm changing lives anymore. You know, I gave up a good portion of my life to change lives. And when you're in that capacity of just counselling women about x y&z and doing their pap smears, I just, again, my life changing ability was doing their surgeries delivering their babies, and, you know, starting them in the office setting if they had a problem, but then completing it elsewhere and taking them on their journey as far as their health so. And that's what I did as a conventional doc. And
over the course of a couple of years of doing that, and coming home many nights to my husband and saying, geez, I'm just not fulfilled on my job anymore. But what else do I do? I was experiencing some major medical problems aside from my back pain. And, you know, they included the inability to get up in the morning, I really had low energy throughout the day, I find myself coming home from the office and just pop in on the couch for the rest of the day, I'm counting down the hours of getting back home to lay down, unmotivated, I just didn't feel like aside from work that I felt like doing anything, terrible cravings, weight gain, I can go on and on and on. But, you know, when I had gone to my doctor, because I had gotten to a point where I just couldn't deal with this anymore. You know, I was like, wow, this is just I don't know what is going on. And being in that world of medicine. Of course, this sounds like depression, and it just didn't feel like depression. So I remember her saying, Well, you know, that's, I think that's what it is. And of course, I was like, I guess it's got to be there's nothing else. So I went on an antidepressant. And it didn't get better. Actually, I had all the side effects. And I still had my symptoms. And so what happens if you fail one medication is that is that the wrong diagnosis is the wrong medication. So after about three months on that one particular medication, I was actually put on a second. And the same thing happened, at which time I started asking questions like, gosh, I don't think this is right, but what else could it be? And I got so frustrated with the fact that he still felt awful. And now he felt even worse, because of the side effects that I abruptly went off and started looking for answers elsewhere. And that's when I stumbled upon the world of functional medicine.
And I didn't even know what that was. And what was really interesting is here I am in the medical world, and I'm only trained to make a diagnosis. So whatever your symptoms are, I'm trying to shove you in a box, which I felt like I was shoved into even though it didn't feel like classic depression. And of course, slap a medication on it and call it a day. And I say that again. Because that's how I was trained in medical school. There's a lot of science behind what we do as doctors but I feel like it's overshadowed by making that all come You know, all encompassing diagnosis of putting all the symptoms together, trying to come down with one thing and then putting a medication on it. And you know, it's kind of Yes, how we're trained but number two as a society This is what many people want because we're so busy nowadays we don't have time to be to feel unwell, you know, to feel low energy or fatigued or what have you. So and I can say that also because that's how I felt as a patient as well. You know, when I broke my back I said after about six weeks I'm like just put me back together again. Come on, like what are we waiting for? When I had those symptoms? Yes, give me the medication I need to feel better you know, so I was of that mentality also like I wanted done yesterday. I don't even want to wait 24 hours and what happened is over those couples, you know, that year or so, of trying these medications and still experiencing all my symptoms, I was number one asking questions like there's something else. But number two, thinking Gosh, I'm ready to do more. And again, So that's when I got into the world of functional medicine. And I remember the first conversation I had on the phone with a doctor. And of course, you know, I got on the phone with her because it was actually another reason I got on the phone with her not for my own personal health. But she started to talk about my own personal health. And I said, Well, you know, here's what's going on, and I don't even know what you do. But everyone else I feel like has turned their back on me and told me, it's number one, normal and or number two, you're going to have to live with it for the rest of your life. And I really knew the turning point was the night I laid in bed with my husband feeling completely helpless and hopeless. And again, I'm in the medical world with colleagues that do this for a living, and I feel this way, you know, how are other people feeling, but I remember telling him, I can't go on living like this. And here in the next two rooms, I had these little kids. But here's our mama thinking, I can't live like this. That was scary. That was probably the scariest time of my life. And, you know, I thank God every day that she this functional medicine doc was put into my realm because I would not have found her on my own. And, you know, as I'm talking to her on the phone, this that night, I googled functional medicine, I was like, Oh, this is cool, like root cause medicine, like getting to the root cause of why someone feels the way they feel. She then went on to explain what she thought was going on with me. And of course, you had to see me googling as she's talking adrenal fatigue, right, because that's what we called it seven years ago. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, this is exactly how I feel throughout the whole day. And then she went on to say, you know, of course, we're going to confirm it with some testing in the office. But this is what you can do right? Right away. And it did not include medications. It included some simple things, you know, a few strategic supplements and some things I could start doing in my lifestyle, including validation that this was real, it wasn't all in my head, which I think is the huge problem that I had. And when I talk about things like adrenal dysfunction, or you know, quote, unquote, burnout, which I think a lot of people can recognise a lot better as far as symptoms. I think a lot of people start thinking it's in their head. And I think that was the biggest thing for me is like, once I validation that it was not this was real, it was not in my head. That was my first step into healing. And ironically, in that same conversation, she offered me a job. And here I am conventionally trained as an OB GYN have no idea what even functional medicine is, until I google that that same night, but the fact that in one conversation, number one, she exposed me to functional medicine and what they actually did number two, she listened to me, which was unlike any other Doc, she actually listened to how I was feeling, she validated my feelings, and she came up with something that sounded a lot more plausible than a diagnosis of depression. And she started to say, these are simple things you can do at home, like, you know, you don't necessarily need me, but this you know, you can, obviously the guide as a guide, because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. And right then in there, I was like, Yes, I found my purpose again, like, this is what I am supposed to do. This is why I had a back injury, this is why my life completely took a 180 degree turn. And just like that, I signed up for a fellowship in functional medicine. I applied for it and started my continuing education as a functional medicine provider, and never in one one day since that day, I've ever regretted it because it has completely changed my life. My family's life, and obviously, everyone I work with.
Tony Winyard 13:37
So how long ago was that?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 13:40
That's about seven years ago now. Yeah. 2014 so I was in, you know, this is about a two year journey, my injuries in 2012. And this was, you know, a two year journey, but probably actively for, you know, 2013 to 2014 is when I had all these symptoms. And, you know, classically I probably had, I was on the verge of burnout for years because of my just, you know, mom of infant twins trying to juggle that and, you know, living in the city for all those years, and then you know, trying to decompress a bit but still working crazy hours at the hospital and in my free time running and jumping on a horse and and, you know, I feel like that that burnout can expand, you can experience it from long chronic stress, but then in my case was that long chronic stress and boom, broke breaking my back, you know, and that just that traumatic event was enough to throw me into a tailspin and the interesting thing is, it was so overshadowed by my my pain for so long that I just equated everything with my pain, you know, my fatigue with my pain and low energy and inability to really want to do anything and cravings and weight gain and all of that I was like, Oh gosh, it just is because of my pain and medications because I was on a slew of medications right after the injury and Yeah, so I do, you know, I think it was actively from 2013 to 2014, I was chasing these symptoms, because they became a little more apparent to me. And I kind of brought them to the forefront. But the back pain, even though I had it like down, I'm a level, and 2014 is when I got my answer. So I actively started to heal 2014. And I want to say, within a couple months, I started at least feeling better, I didn't feel great yet, but I did start seeing changes that were positive, which kept me going. And I would say it was probably about a year and a half before I felt kind of back to myself again.
Tony Winyard 15:38
And so how, how now is your the fatigue and your back. And so on
Dr Renee Wellenstein 15:43
the back, I still deal with, you know, I've done a lot of mind body work over the past, you know, five years now, and I feel like big endian I felt I feel like I word started working on my mindset even seven years ago, because I was very much in that victim mentality. For many for two years, I went through all the stages of grieving because I, I lost the life that I knew, I felt angry, I felt like no one knew how I was feeling you know, so I had to go through that whole process and, and including the process of poor me, like you don't know what it's feeling, it feels like to wake up with back pain, you know, like that whole pain mentality. And I really had to snap out of that I truly wanted to heal. And so while I'm, you know, still notice it and bothered by it, I don't let it run my life anymore. As far as fatigue, it's interesting, in burnout, like I have this very type A gogogo personality I it's what got me through medical school and OB GYN residency, and I really honour it, I love it. However, I sometimes don't know when to stop. And you know, I really have an and I've really mastered this over the last couple of years of implementing strategies of self care to really keep myself like, toned down a bit 24 seven, just so I don't overdo it and get as deep down in the depths of burnout like I did seven years ago. So because that was not fun, you know, and I can't this point in my life, I can't, I don't want to feel like that again, you know, yes, I could go lay down and whatever. But that's not how I want to live my life. And I feel like it comes down to a period of just maintaining the level I'm at. And always feeling great. And when I start feeling a little bit of dip, which I think everyone feels you're in there, especially over the past year, to really, you know, now realise it's a calling for me to just get, you know, tune out from everybody else and tune back into me and give myself when I need.
Tony Winyard 17:43
We've everything that you went through with the with the injury, and then the various encounters with different doctors in the medication. And then the the training you've gone through with a functional medicine, I imagine you're able to help patients so much more than you're able to identify maybe more and so on.
Dr Renee Wellenstein 18:03
Absolutely. You know, it's so interesting, I always say it's, I feel like regular medicine also is very beneficial. And I never want anyone to think that I'm anti doctor anti medication because I'm married to a doctor, you know, who goes and saves lives in the hospital every single day he is needed. What I am really against nowadays is the fact that it's become so commonplace for us for every little symptom, we have to run to our doctor to get a medication, when I feel nine times out of 10 that you can, you can feel better without running to your doctor and getting the medication. But once again, it comes down to taking the time to do that, you know, potentially being your own advocate for your health, which unfortunately nowadays, that's my biggest thing that I say to people it's like you there's a there's a tonne of information online and some of its true and some not. But again, it's just being your own advocate doing your research asking questions. And potentially if it doesn't feel like it's something life threatening, trying something on your own before running to the doctor. And you know, there's again, a tonne of people also that work in this realm of holistic health or functional medicine that are more than willing to help you guide you on your way whatever the case may be. So I do think that what I do now is not as cookie cutter as it used to be, you know, again, I remember back in the day just following I was an OB GYN for over 15 years and very much practising. Okay follow the algorithm other protocol and where what path Do you go down and what do we have to do next kind of scenario. There's it's and I'm not belittling medicine and our training. It's very complex and difficult. However, I feel like it takes a lot of the thinking outside the box out of it like you were just very much you. You have your zebras that you really oh that's rare and the snapper Like, if it's not an ICD 10 code, which is a code that you circle on the health insurance forums, or, or billing forums or whatever, whatever they call them now, but that they can submit to their insurance. It's not a real entity. And when I went back and did my training on functional medicine, a lot of the things I was learning, I remember learning in medical school, I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I remember that. And the beauty of it, learning about it, again, in functional medicine training is because now I, it wasn't just rote memorization, it was like, oh, wow, that hormone pathway really does make sense now, and Wow, look at this can go here. And so really made learning a lot easier. And just the fact that things happen so much more before the diagnosis in our bodies that we can actually intervene and improve upon, before getting to that point of like a diagnosis, because a lot of times many symptoms could lead to an underlying issue with a particular organ, but not necessarily have to land on one particular diagnosis, or, you know, or many organs, but you can you focus on one, improve the health of one gut health, for instance, a lot of things can improve your immune system, your mental health, you know, so, I do find that what I do now is a lot harder and that no two people are alike. I call it personalised medicine for a reason. And I think everyone does, because I find no two women are like and what their underlying root causes are for their, they could have the same exact symptoms, but their underlying root causes are different and how I go about treating them is different.
Tony Winyard 21:37
And just the at this point, I mean, anyone who's listening now, who may be came to this conversation with no knowledge of functional medicine, medicine, so they're probably starting to get an idea of what it's about now, from what you've been saying so far. But could you give maybe a definition for they may still be a little bit vague? What exactly is this functional medicine that you've you've been talking about? Yeah, it's,
Dr Renee Wellenstein 21:58
it's, you know, I always like to reference it as root root cause medicine. And what that means is essentially your symptoms, why are you having your symptoms? You know, let's go a little bit deeper down as far as is it related to an issue in your, your gut or your you know, and And furthermore, is it related to a lifestyle habit, such as nutrition or lack of sleep or lack of hydration or nutrient deficiency? Or toxicity, like a heavy metal toxicity or something from our foods or chemicals we're putting on our body or hormonal imbalance, okay? We have hormonal imbalance causing heavy menstrual period. Okay? But why? Right? So like, Is it too much oestrogen? And why is it too much oestrogen? Again? Is it the chemicals we're putting on our body? Is it you know, from some of the foods that we're eating? Is it from the fact that you're not breaking down oestrogen in your gut, which is a real thing that gut bacteria helps do that as well. So we kind of start with the symptoms and kind of stepwise back. Okay. Okay. It's due to hormones. But why keep going back versus the way I could have been? I was trained as, okay, it's hormones, what pill? What hormone Are we going to give you to correct that imbalance as opposed to saying, and I'm not against that even I used to prescribe what they call bioidentical hormones, which are more natural hormones. But I would always also ask why. Right? Because if it's something that's not laid, as long term, I'm grateful, you know, it's great for putting people on either a supplement or medication, short term, but then come back and ask why. So it's essentially going and asking the why behind the symptoms and trying to dig a little bit deeper. And sometimes it's literally peeling the onion back one layer at a time, because we are complex, we're humans, and it's not generally a goes to Z, you know, it's A to B to C to E to like, it's a roundabout way of getting there. And if you want, in my opinion, optimal health is achieved by really getting down deep and figuring out the why. Because you will find that if you improve, say it's a, again, let's go back to gut health, because that's so integral to our overall health, you start eating better, and making sure that you're absorbing your nutrients and everything's moving through. So you're detoxing and you can stick the hormonal imbalance in that immune system that seems compromised all the time and your mood changes and, you know, so many other things that are related to gut health. So I do find that it's just it's, I would love to say is the future of medicine. But it's and I wait, but I don't know if I'm gonna see it in my lifetime because I do feel that consumers even of healthcare are getting a lot smarter about taking care of themselves and knowing that a medication is really not going to give them the long life that they are truly looking for.
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Tony Winyard 25:18
It's funny you say that because I was just thinking that many people are almost conditioned to just go to a doctor and expect medication for whatever it is that they've gone to the doctor with. So I wonder, in some ways, functional medicine, maybe for some people, especially if they're not really don't have a good understanding of what functional medicine is. And they're used to this diet paradigm where they just simply get a medication that maybe be overwhelming for some people who suddenly they're they're told all these things, and there's all these different things that have to be addressed. So how do you handle a situation like that?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 25:54
Yeah, I mean, I, I work a little differently with clients. Now I don't actually work in the doctor fashion that I used to in an office because a couple things. Number one, I found that even though I was still I was spending an hour with my patients an hour, which is unheard of here, at least in the US, it's like you're lucky to get five minutes. And that's not and I say that again, with much love for my fellow doctors, because I was in that situation as well. That's the healthcare system, unfortunately. And it's, I think, getting even worse, but I always thought, wow, I'm spending an hour with a patient. But here's the reality of the situation when I pulled back and I actually was no longer in the office setting. I was still overwhelming her because like you just said, you know, there was a lot to get into that our visit. Like I went to go over all her bloodwork spiel every like I'm big into educating like, I want to know the why myself. So I, I'm telling a lot of my patients like, this is why this is happening. And this is why this is happening. And take this and take that and do this and do that. They would walk out of my office with their head spinning. But I didn't always see it because I was like, Oh, great, I changed your life, right? Well, they would come back three or six months later, and they would mostly women, I did work for those four years with men as well. But I would say the majority of the women would come back with their heads hanging low thinking or saying to me, I feel like such a failure, I did one out of the 10 things that you want me to do. And here's the reality, when I had to pull back and say why wasn't that working? I was overwhelming her even more than she already was, she came to me in generally one of those symptoms was an overwhelming stress and inability to get healthy and take control of her health. And here I am just pouring more on her to do list. So what I do now is I actually, literally when I work one on one with clients, I hold them by their hand, and I give them bite sized pieces. So there's much more contact with them. And much less overwhelm. Because I find that women they will carry they will. And men as well men were it's very interesting. My male patients were very good at. They didn't always listen in the office. They always call after the appointment, say What did she say. But they were very good at following through. Like they had their lists, they were very much like doo doo doo, I do everything she says. And then my, my ladies would listen to me, but then they couldn't always carry through. So it's very interesting in the comparison, but it's not 100% for either, but in general when I had to really evaluate what worked and what didn't work moving forward, because at the end of the day, I'm here and put on this earth to change lives and to improve health. And I really had to try to figure out the best way to do that. And that meant just more frequent touch points with the clients not leaving them on their own for three or six months to implement. And I do find especially with women, and I do believe with men as well, support and accountability is key, especially when you're making a lot of these changes in the rest of your household is not you can feel very alone, you can feel like what am I doing this for you especially again, it was a support or even being ridiculed for your lifestyle changes. It's really interesting how many people I work with that. You know, you don't go to a party and get ridiculed for eating the crackers and chips, right. But if you go and bring a veggie platter and just hang out the veggie platter, there's they say things like what do you only eat veggies, you're trying to get healthy, trying to lose weight, you know. And it's so interesting, because I've gotten this feedback from a lot of people that they feel judged for their healthier lifestyle. And it's really very just a very interesting observation in my opinion. So anyhow, I do find that the support is key. And the continued accountability, because I work again with I currently only work with women. Again, they've generally very productive again say that in lieu of busy women that are juggling many things and they do want to get healthy and I believe you can have it all you can do it all. It's just how we Deliver the information.
Tony Winyard 30:01
So since you've adjusted to you mentioned about, you know, a few years ago, you were maybe overwhelming some patients and now you're kind of doing it one one step at a time. So I imagine there, it's much easier now for your patients to, to help themselves with whatever they they've got.
Dr Renee Wellenstein 30:18
Yeah, and I feel like a lot of people as soon as they start, and again, I find men are much more regimented than women. Again, I, I've viewed like just hormonal changes, and how men do things and how women do things. And I do find that when women fall off, they think like, they throw in the towel, even if it's after just one night of falling off, or one day or one weekend. And they throw in the towel and just give up everything that they've done. And I do find that that continued support, even if they quote, unquote, fall off, we pick them right back up again, until they have the faith and the confidence in themselves to do it, themselves. And that's my goal. By the time we are done working together, because I don't function as a doctor, there is a finite relationship. But I, it's my goal and our time together that I have built, we have just habit stacked healthy habits on top of another. So it's become really much easier for them to adopt these healthier lifestyles and stick to them. A lot of women come to me on grief for a month, a grief for two months, and then they completely fall off and they go back to doing what they were doing. Number one, getting out of that mindset. So when we start working together that you know, that's what you have in your head that you're good for a month or two months. So um, yeah, so I feel like, you know, the support, the accountability is key in the baby steps is also key.
Tony Winyard 31:37
Are there any patients that maybe when they first came to you, they'd been to many different doctors and kind of on a point of giving up? And maybe, I don't know, maybe I didn't have much faith in it, you'll be able to help them either. And they were really surprised with the experience with you.
Dr Renee Wellenstein 31:54
Yeah, absolutely. You know, and it's interesting, I got I have a lot of those. I think nowadays, I'm getting more of the women that are being more proactive right out of the gate. But in my history, I've had a lot of people come to me that have been chasing either the different specialties, or their doctor has given up on them, and they just know there's something going on. And they do come into that first appointment with that mindset, kind of like I did with my doctor, like, Okay, what do you have, because everyone else has given up on me, I'm willing to do anything, it's really interesting, because those are the people that are willing to do anything, and they're willing to put in the work to feel better. And I always say, you know, you don't you didn't get here overnight, if you're not going to get better overnight, especially with the kind of medicine that we're practising, you know, it's really, it's a long game, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon and you want to feel better and stay in good health or optimal health. It takes it takes time. And just like with myself, and my condition, I didn't get to that state overnight, you know, yes, it took breaking my back to sort of put me over the edge. But kind of coming into that situation. It took me two years to get to that point where I was so deep down in the depths of you know, at that point burnout that I I just was willing to do anything that I needed to do to feel better, especially if there's hope that I could feel better. That's all I needed.
Tony Winyard 33:12
What would you What do you think about some doctors? There's some criticism of functional medicine by by some doctors,
Dr Renee Wellenstein 33:20
Tony Winyard 33:22
What do you make of that?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 33:24
You know, my, it's interesting, because I actually, I always like to say I was one of those doctors that didn't have the ego that thought like if I didn't learn about it, it's not real. And that's really the reality of the situation is we didn't learn about it in medical school. It was just cleaned over by pharmaceuticals. And so you know, a lot of Doc's think, like, if it's not in my medical book, or my pharmacopoeia, which is our little cheat sheet for medications, it's not, especially with supplements, you know, and, and I'm not saying everyone doing what I'm doing in the world is doing it. I don't wanna say correctly, I don't want to judge but like there is some some non truths out there, okay. And I but I do think that the majority of us are doing it are trained or doing it well or doing a science based evidence based medicine. And so I do think there's a couple things I do, I do view it as if I didn't learn it, it's not true and we did learn it. And number two, I do find that a lot of regular Doc's see it as competition and I see it more as collaboration. You know, we are at the end of the day, we're just trying to get the population as a whole healthy, whatever way that person wants to get healthy. If it is going to get a medication and again, there's only so far you can get with medications a lot of times I think, you know, if you don't address what got you there is only going to worsen the medications just going to make it tolerable and you know it if they want to get healthy my way they come my way and I do think it can be collaborative meaning Yes, you have to do your Dr. You need an antibiotic? If you get an infection, yes, you know, but when you're out of the hospital or you're not in an acute situation, let's work on just maintaining good health. So I don't see it as a as a competition. And, again, I'm hopeful in the future that it'll be much more collaborative versus competitive. And I do think just getting physicians like myself, you know, I was trained, I went to medical school, I had another career and allopathic medicine, you know, an OB GYN, so, you know, I do know that how I was trained, and I do know the science behind health conditions. And so I in that's the majority of practitioners like myself, that are physicians, we've had other careers in medicine, we know. So we know what obviously is safe to treat. Without? And what and what needs medication?
Tony Winyard 35:49
Can you see any signs that it is changing?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 35:53
I can always see, Yes, I do. Actually. I mean, even when I was in office, I would have a handful of regular Doc's sending patients my way that were requesting more natural treatments. And, and again, I say, handful, so that was better even than 10 years ago, when there was zero, you know, it's like a handful, you know, five, I've been out of the office now for 43 years. But for four years total, you know, I did have a handful of people that doctors that would refer their patients to me, for more collaborative care, I did have, you know, cancer patients coming to me. And again, I worked with her oncologist for just a better quality of life while they're undergoing treatment or post treatment and had suffered some hormonal imbalances and worsening kidney function and such. So I do, I do find it takes a special physician in the real in the conventional world to really say there's many ways of healing a person, and that includes alternative treatments, and I'm all for such things as acupuncture and energy work and such. And I do find, you know, I do think acupuncture, at least here in the US is, is becoming more mainstream. So
Tony Winyard 37:06
it seems I mean, I, I get the impression, there's a few, there's a few doctors I've been sort of, I say, come across, I suppose in the last few months, who are now looking at functional medicine, and actually, or some of them have actually started training in functional medicine to become a functional medicine practitioner. Is Is that something that you're aware of? of many doctors? Do you know of doing anything like that?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 37:31
Yeah, yeah, I mean, so many here as well, you know, I do, I do find personally, at least the Doc's that I've come in contact with, we've all had our personal experiences in the conventional world, and the conventional model has failed us, which is what has I don't know if I've ever met anyone who hasn't had a personal health experience, where they had sought care outside of the conventional world because they were not getting help. In my experience, it's been 100% of the people that I have my colleagues that have been in similar situations as myself and and you know, we've we needed to get our answers, we knew we could feel better and and when we found those answers for ourselves, we all realise that we needed to do this for our patients as well. So I do find a huge number is gaining momentum actually now, ever since the pandemic, because again, we felt so hopeless, and in the beginnings, people were turning towards supplements and such, because that's all we had, we didn't know what else to do, but to support our immune system. So I think, you know, I hope we don't have situations like that again in the future. But I think it was a wake up call that we have to have more than just medications and vaccines in our in our tool belt at the get go to just arm ourselves with the best health that we can be in to to combat these illnesses.
Tony Winyard 38:52
How do you see functional medicine developing progressing in the next few years? decades?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 39:00
Oh, my goodness, there's so much. I mean, I do think more and more studies, I you know, the interesting thing is there's not a, there's studies out there, but I think we're gonna see more studies on non medication supplements, you know, for for use in certain diseases and illnesses, because in the past, they were never funded well, because they weren't pharmaceutical based studies. And I do think we're going to probably see more of that. Just because again, over the past years experience, we need other things that are to about as far as research and what works and what does not work on certain things, including infection. So I do think we're going to find more and more uses of supplements and just lifestyle changes and you know more and more about gut health and the connection with gut health in the gut bacteria is huge, the muck the bacteria in the gut as far as the utility of a good balance and studying on how to improve that because we keep coming back to the gut, but that's really the source of a lot of our inflammation in our body. disease. So I think there's going to be a lot more research on gut health, mental health. Gosh, I just, I just think there's just so much coming our way. And I do I love functional medicine, but you got to stay on the cutting edge, it's always changing, you know, there's always something new coming out another new study. And there's a lot we can do with our health that we do not need a medication for.
Tony Winyard 40:24
And so how, for your personal practice, how, you know, how do you see yourself maybe developing in your practice expanding over the next few years?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 40:36
Yeah, you know, there's only one of me and the way that I that one of the limitations I knew with my practice is that the way I've designed it, now, there's only a handful of people I could work with, because it's so high touch, versus, you know, in the past, in the office, I'd see six or eight patients in a day, which again, does not sound like a lot to a regular doc who sees 30 that's what that was my whole life. 3035 68 and a day doesn't sound like a lot, but it was still, you know, again, it's not cookie cutter medicine, there's a lot of brain work that goes into the heads, a lot of documentation. Now with how I work with with women, there's a lot fewer that I can work with. So I'm actually designing more group programmes to you know, more women to go through it together on common things that, you know, I see I'm talking about over and over again, including stress and adrenal health, aka burnout. And trying to number one, bring the cost down, because it is an investment to work with functional medicine providers. But now that you see me online, or you go to an office, it's costly, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna sugarcoat that, but the degree and level of care you get from a provider, like myself is, is exceptional. So, um, but I am in the process of designing more group programmes. So again, one to keep the cost down, but number two, to impact more women's lives at once. And number three, I do find women do very well, knowing they're not alone. They thrive and community and support and just not only support accountability from me, but from other women going through the same exact thing they're going through.
Tony Winyard 42:11
Okay, changing. You know, we've been talking about functional medicine for the last 40 minutes or so, what? One of the things? Well, one of the questions I asked most of my guests is, is there a book that's particularly moved here at all in the last few months or years or so?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 42:27
Yeah, you know, I love I love listening and reading I, that's another part of my personality, I am a lifetime learner, I don't care what it's if it's on business, mindset health. So I'm always listening to at least one book, and probably reading three at a time. And I have to say, the most impressive one, it was a fairly long book to listen to. But if you are, again, an overwhelmed, busy woman, I often will listen to a book while walking my dog. So a little nature, a little self personal development. But I love a book, it's called The Presence Process by Michael Brown. And it's a lot of it's about something that I really want to pay attention to myself and sort of use your platform to talk about which is just being more present in the moment in our bodies, you know, kind of talking about the last year plus where we were supposed to have slowed down because we let you know, we've cut down on all the outside noise of you know, having to go to the store and having to bring the kids to school and such. But I do find that we just muddied the waters with a lot of other buisiness. And we have become even more detached from our body, and how we feel and to the point where I sometimes now talk to women, they don't even know what makes them happy anymore. So the presents process by Michael Brown is a longer book, it is a it's more of an experience. It's something that goes through yourself. And it's very experiential book. And I've read through it once. And now it's a process of me going through it myself, but it's just becoming again, more into the present moment more in control of your thoughts. You know, the mind body connection, just, it's just an amazing book.
Tony Winyard 44:06
Well, we'll put a link to that. So that's an audio book as well as that. Yeah,
Dr Renee Wellenstein 44:09
yeah. It's a big book. So I you know, in some books that I really like and the audio version, I will get both the audio and the the regular book. So
Tony Winyard 44:18
yeah, I often do that as well. If people want to find out more about you, where where would they look,
Dr Renee Wellenstein 44:23
I have a website but it is always under development. But https://www.drreneewellenstein.com/ is my website if you want to learn a little bit more about me and you know, because I have an online business, and because I'm so passionate about changing lives, I am online on all social media platforms. I am Facebook, Instagram, tik tok. I have a YouTube I have a podcast like, in my opinion, any way that I can get some free information out there to change lives and give women like that aha moment. They might just need to hear one thing, even men, gosh, I speak to women but men. One of the things I'm talking about pertains to all people. So as long as wherever I can give you the aha moment, come find me at Dr. Rene Lowenstein.
Tony Winyard 45:05
And what's the name of the podcast? Love the leap with Dr. Rene. And so what is the the main focus? What do you know many functional medicine
Dr Renee Wellenstein 45:13
holistic health? Yeah, you know, I call it love elite, because I found that in 2014, when I made that abrupt decision one night to, you know, jump into the realm of functional medicine, it was really on a intuitive hit like, this is what I need to do next, I have found that my, I have really relied on my intuition, which is part of something called Human Design is part of my human design. And as a doc, I think I muted that a lot for many years. Because what's intuition, right, like that gut feeling? And I found that when I started honing in on that gut feeling of like, yes, do that. Yes. Don't do that. Yes, do that. I really found incredible changes in my life, you know, health wise, professionally, all across the board. So love the leap. It's exactly what I do. I just leap when I find something to be right. And it's all Yeah, mostly holistic health topics, functional medicine topics.
Tony Winyard 46:08
And finally, Rene, is there a quotation that you particularly like?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 46:14
Well, there's a couple, I think, just coming off the fact that, you know, we start we talked a lot about lifestyle changes inside, you knows as the basis of functional medicine, I think a lot of the core concepts would revolve around hydration and good nutrition and sleep. I always say, you know, we can talk about it like we did today. So lifestyle changes. They seem simple, but they're not always easy. And, you know, again, we make it sound so simplified here. But we're talking to that overwhelmed person, right? And yes, it can do X, Y, and Z. But when you try to implement that, when you're already, you know, busy and exhausted and all the things it's not as easy as it can seem. So again, they seem simple, but they're not always easy.
Tony Winyard 47:00
And Didn't you say you had another one as well?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 47:01
I did. Yeah. Awareness is key. Yeah, I always say I was saying I have so many i think if i sat and listened to what I say over and over. And what I mean by awareness is key is anything in your life, especially regarding actually anything regarding your health, your relationships, your finances, you don't know what needs to be changed to optimise your health, your relationship, your finances, unless you're aware of what's currently going on. So you know, in regards to stress, for instance, if you run around saying I'm stressed, I'm stressed, I'm stressed about what? Like what is stressing you out, like, let's really break it down. So you can take action of remedying that stress, because we always talk about stress management and this and that, but what are you actively targeting? Like it's great to meditate and take walks in nature. But whatever that underlying stressor is, if you're not taking action and trying to relieve that stress, it's going to remain and you're just going to be continuing to run around saying I'm stressed, I'm stressed. So awareness on every aspect of your life is key.
Tony Winyard 48:03
And just before we finish, is there any message or any thoughts you'd like to leave the listeners with anything about maybe about health or life in general?
Dr Renee Wellenstein 48:12
Yeah, it is your birthright to feel amazing. Like I think, you know, everyone's so used to feeling okay, or I'm good. No, you want to feel amazing. We get one life, get one chance at this life. Life is too short, not to make every day an amazing day and feel great.
Tony Winyard 48:30
Ronnie, it's been a pleasure. Thank you very much. Thank you. Next week is Episode 33. And my guest is Hayley Twigg Wheeler. She's an emotional empowerment coach and she's also a speaker, workshop facilitator, facilitator and author. And she has a programme called emotion mind dynamic, where she helps to facilitate life changes for people who have depression and anxiety, issues with confidence and so on. So we go into that programme and how she helps people and how that all came about. So that's next week's episode. Hayley Wheeler. Hope you enjoyed this week's show with Dr Renee Wellenstein if you know anyone who would get some real value from this, please do share the episode with them. And hope you have a fantastic week. See you next week. Thanks for
tuning in to the habits and health podcast where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on your favourite podcast app. Sign up for email updates and learn about coaching and workshop opportunities at Tonywinyard.com. See you next time on that habits and health podcast.
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