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Meet Jennifer Brand

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Brand.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the practice, why don’t you give our readers a few quick bullet points about you and your story.
I am a clinical nutritionist. I have a Bachelors Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, a Masters Degree in Public Health, a Masters Degree in Human Nutrition, and I am a Certified Nutrition Specialist.

When I think about what has shaped who I am the most, and what led me to want to serve others, there are five things that come to mind.

First, I was born with Poland Syndrome, a congenital defect. I do not have a pectoralis major muscle on the right side of my chest, and I’ve had (to date) five reconstructive surgeries to create a look of symmetry. This affected my self-esteem and body image, and I’m sure has been a huge contributing factor to my struggles with disordered eating habits.

Second, when I was 16 years old I was in a car accident that put me in the hospital for 12 days. I went through the windshield with my face and broke my left femur. In the trauma unit that night a strong, and compassionate physician made sure a plastic surgeon stitched up my face before anything else was done, including getting my leg put back together.

My facial scars have faded and you’d never know they were there unless I pointed them out. My leg healed too. It’s amazing how the body can heal physically. What doesn’t heal as well is the emotional trauma. Post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression are struggles I’ve had since then.

Third, I’m a science geek. I first realized I wanted to do something in the field when I was in 8th grade. I remember listening to my science teacher talk and thought to myself, I want to be a scientist. When I was18 years old I became interested in nutrition.

Fourth, in 2016 I had what I thought was the flu. By day three it seemed to be getting worse so I went to urgent care. The doctor looked at me, and my recent health history (I had some labs done in the few months prior that were slightly skewed but not recognized as problematic), and started inquiring about my eating habits. As the words came out of my mouth, I heard it. I had been starving myself. I didn’t have the flu I was starving.

This is a reason why I don’t believe in dietary restriction unless it’s absolutely necessary for health reasons, like overt food allergies for example. Unnecessary dietary restriction can lead to disordered eating habits, eating disorders, and nutrient deficiency. These problems, in turn, can have disastrous health consequences.

Lastly, about those labs I mentioned. I’ve struggled with digestive issues since the early 2000s. After I eat my first meal of the day, I need to be by a bathroom. This has happened pretty much every day since about 2002. I’ve spent so much time in the bathroom that I had hemorrhoid surgery about six years ago — the horrible procedure where they need to remove internal ones. The pain was severe.

The problem was, none of the medical professionals that treated me addressed the underlying cause of why this was happening in the first place, so the issue continued, and the hemorrhoids came back.

I started seeing a conventional gastroenterologist in 2016. He was not able to help me resolve my gastrointestinal issues, in spite of all the labs and procedures that were conducted. Most things, except for those slightly skewed labs I mentioned that allowed the urgent care doctor to identify my disordered eating, came back normal.

This is common in so many of my clients. They feel awful, and have all sorts of symptoms, however their lab work is mostly normal so their doctors send them on their way with a prescription to manage symptoms.

The solution I’ve found for myself, and what I do with my clients, is use a functional medicine perspective, meaning addressing why the symptoms are occurring in the first place rather than just masking them with medications, and cutting foods out of the diet that might be triggering symptoms for example.

Medications mask symptoms by shutting down or altering metabolic pathways in the body, which only serves to further impair what’s already broken. Symptoms are tied to systems and all systems in the body are connected. When you shut down or alter one pathway with medication, the rest will suffer.

Reactions to foods are not a root cause of symptoms rather they themselves are a symptom of impaired gut health.

Since I’ve worked health issues from this perspective, I’ve experienced resolution of my symptoms, as have my clients.

Whatever your health issue is, I’m sure you can relate. It can control your life. What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t have to, and the key is finding that root cause. We need to determine why the health issue is occurring in the first place, and once we do we can address it with diet, nutrient supplements and lifestyle interventions. This is a natural and holistic approach that will improve health and bring about healing. The body is built to heal itself, and it can if we give it what it needs to do so.

These are the reasons why mission is to help others sift through the confusion and misinformation, and teach them what I know to help them improve their health and heal.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been a bumpy one. I opened my practice in 2013, the same time I went back to school to earn my second master’s degree in human nutrition. I was also working full time. In 2016 I graduated (the same year that my health hit rock bottom), and the tug to focus on the practice of clinical nutrition grew stronger. By 2017 I hit a breaking point. I quit my full time, well-paying corporate job to focus full time on my private clinical nutrition practice.

I’ve made sacrifices beyond my wildest expectations in order to continue to pursue my dream. Nothing I would have done could have prepared me for the road ahead. There is no roadmap for this, no matter what someone tries to sell you saying there is.

The most challenging part of the journey has been my own personal development. I’m becoming who I am supposed to be, my authentic self, in order to live my dream. I’ve had to travel outside of my comfort zone, very far outside of it, and I know I need to keep stretching my own boundaries as I continue on this path.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
This is a quote I wrote, that I sums up best what I do.

“Food comes first. But it won’t matter much if you can’t digest, absorb and use nutrients from foods you eat. This is clinical nutrition. Connecting the dots between your diet, your gut health, and your unique biochemistry so that you can meet your health and healing goals.“

I’m a gut health expert. Health begins in the gut.

All of the biochemical processes in your body that allow your body to function run off of nutrients from the foods you eat. Those nutrients are the fuel for your engine.

If you are not eating the right nutrients, your body simply can’t function appropriately. Even if you are eating the right nutrients, if your gut health is impaired and you can’t digest and absorb those nutrients, that fuel won’t be available to your body.

If your biochemical processes are impaired, you can’t use that fuel. Biochemical processes might be impaired because of prescription medication use for example. It’s important to understand that many prescription medications work by shutting down, or altering biochemical pathways in your body in order to stop the symptoms you are having.

It’s also important to understand that symptoms are tied to systems and these biochemical pathways. All systems and biochemical pathways are connected. Altering one will affect them all. It’s a domino effect.

The underlying cause of your health problems is left unresolved, and will fester and cause additional problems. Next you find yourself with new symptoms, and you’re not sure if they are a new health problem, or a side effect of medications you are taking, and you’re given yet another medication for the new symptoms. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Also, 80% of your immune system is located in your gut microbiome (which is your gut bacteria).

You can now see how imbalances in your gut, problems with digestion, and poor diet therefore impact your entire body, and your health status.

My approach looks for the underlying causes of your health problems, and corrects gut, digestive, and biochemical imbalances and dysfunction with natural means. This is how we bring true relief to those struggling with health problems that have yet to be resolved.

Clients typically come to me with health concerns including:

-Low energy, and fatigue
-Food cravings
-Resistant weight loss, and unexplained weight gain
-Hormone imbalances
-Mood disorders (depression, anxiety)
-Neurologic conditions (cognitive decline, Parkinson’s, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s, migraine, sleep disturbances)
-Digestive issues (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, gut infections like candida and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, among others)
-Skin problems (psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, acne, dermatitis)
-Allergies, and asthma
-Autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, psoriasis, eczema, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis)
-Cardiovascular and metabolic conditions (dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome)
-Joint pain, arthritis and osteoporosis

These health problems, as well as many other chronic and complex conditions, can involve gut, digestive, and biochemical imbalances and dysfunction, and they can be supported and often addressed with diet, nutrient supplement and lifestyle interventions.

If you are struggling with health problems, and your gut health hasn’t been explored, I encourage you to do so. That’s often the key to resolving your health issues.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t believe in luck being responsible for the outcomes of my life and my business. I believe in health, in life, and in business that if you focus on what you want and work towards it with patience and consistency, you will ‘manifest’ your destiny. I also believe that uncertainty is where you find your opportunity. There is no plan B. Plan B gives you an out. The reason many people fail to meet their dreams of good health, happy life, and successful business is because they give up on them and can’t live with the uncertainty. Following your dreams requires you to be agile, and you must pivot, often. Those who can weather the storm succeed.

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