January 21, 2016 — Throughout the past 10 years, Jenafer Colapinto struggled with digestive disorders and crushing fatigue. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2013, the 29-year-old product development specialist for Avery Products in Manhattan underwent surgery in 2014 to remove part of her colon and small intestine.
Yet, despite taking medications to suppress abnormal immune system responses and to reduce inflammation in the lining of her intestines, Jenafer continued to experience symptom flare-ups that are the hallmark of chronic Crohn’s disease. When her Valley gastroenterologist, Haleh Pazwash, M.D., suggested a consultation at Valley’s new Center for Integrative Medicine, Jenafer says she was eager to try a holistic approach to controlling Crohn’s.
“Dr. Pazwash has taken wonderful care of me, so I was confident in following her advice,” says Jenafer, who lives in Madison, NJ.
Jenafer met with the Center for Integrative Medicine’s Director, Jodie Katz, M.D., who specializes in functional medicine and is board-certified in family medicine. Dr. Katz begins each new patient’s 1½-hour evaluation by examining the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that influence long-term health and chronic disease. She developed a wellness program for Jenafer that combines conventional medications with other safe and effective therapies, including dietary improvements, all-natural biologic supplements to reduce intestinal inflammation, and probiotics to balance her digestive system. Because Jenafer’s B12 level was low – a side effect of the removal of her small intestine’s ileum – she also takes oral B12 supplements.
“There is a clear relationship between diet, stress, and Crohn’s, which is most likely caused by an interaction among genetic factors, environmental triggers, and an abnormal immune response,” explains Dr. Katz. “At our Center, we promote balance in mind, body and spirit, and advise all of our patients to engage in activities that help them relax and bring joy. We also suggest avoiding environmental pollutants, such as plastic water bottles, cosmetic products that contain certain chemicals, and toxic cleaning products.”
Jenafer practices 30 minutes of yoga every day and paints with watercolors. She is currently in the midst of an elimination diet, during which she initially gives up corn, wheat, soy, sugar, eggs, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, beef, and processed foods. Every three days she reintroduces a food or beverage to see if it causes any Crohn’s symptoms. Jenafer credits her elimination diet with relieving the Crohn’s, as well as neck and back pain and sinusitis, which have plagued her for years.
“Every now and then I crave a cupcake,” laughs Jenafer, “but I have learned to cook and prepare all-natural healthy foods so that I can still have pancakes, eggs, and banana bread. I am no longer tired and have no stomach pain. I have never felt as good as I do now.”
Every patient’s personalized program supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself, notes Dr. Katz.
“Ms. Colapinto’s positive experience is just one example of the successes we’re having at the Center,” she adds.
The Center for Integrative Medicine’s services also include integrative health and wellness coaching, functional nutrition counseling, Reiki, “M” Technique® touch therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, and more. Cooking classes and mindfulness for teens will be added in 2016.
Dr. Katz is joined by Benita Burke, M.D., FACC, ABIHM, cardiologist and board-certified integrative medicine practitioner; Maria C. (Mary) Mazzer, R.N., HNB-BC, HWNC-BC, the center’s health and wellness nurse coach; and Kristen Bradley, R.D., registered dietitian with a background in functional nutrition.
The Center for Integrative Medicine is located at 1200 E. Ridgewood Ave. in Ridgewood. To make an appointment, please call 201-389-0075.