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I’ve been in pain every day for the past four years. This isn’t an exaggeration—I’ve been riddled with bloating, cramping, and all sorts of other stuff I won’t go into detail about. While I initially chalked it up to normal stomach stuff (I’ve been lactose-intolerant for as long as I can remember), I quickly came to learn that it was anything but normal. After every meal I ate, I looked like I was six months pregnant (I was not) and I often had to flake on my friends because of unexpected flare-ups. After one-too-many canceled plans, I decided enough was enough.
Realizing something wasn’t right was only the beginning. What followed was a number of unsuccessful trips to all sorts of doctor’s offices (turns out I have SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). I would get my hopes up every time, only to be let down by a lack of results and increasingly expensive medical bills. I went to one doctor that put crystals all over my body and $500 later, just told me to stop eating nightshades. My other doctor prescribed me with almost four rounds of antibiotics, with no mention of how that might affect my gut biome. I felt like Goldilocks, looking for a doctor that was just right—except, it wasn’t as easy as “third time's the charm” for me.
I had definitely fallen prey to a number of Parsley Health Instagram ads in the past and while I of course smashed that follow, I never took the time to really look into the services they provided. I figured it was much more about branding and experience than about results, and at that point, I had lost any and all hope in ever feeling good again. It wasn’t until one night in August that I was chatting with a friend about the trials and tribulations of living with SIBO that he mentioned having really good results with Parsley Health. He had been through the same uphill battle of endless appointments and mixed advice; he knew the struggle, so I took his recommendation seriously. Boy, am I glad I did.
Who Is Parsley Health For?
What ultimately sold me on Parsley Health was its commitment to holistic medicine. Parsley’s approach combines “conventional” Western medicine with functional medicine and a more whole-body, patient-forward lens on your health. It looks at lifestyle factors first (like nutrition, exercise, and sleep), but also is open to using more “traditional” methods when necessary. It is, in short, the best of both worlds.
While I especially recommend Parsley Health to those with ongoing or chronic conditions, a tenet of functional medicine is its preventative approach—even if you feel okay, Parsley and its doctors (all “highly-skilled with advanced training” according to their website) can also help to make sure you are optimizing your nutrition and wellness to avoid any issues in the future.
Because they treat such a wide variety of issues, Parsley Health offers two different health plans. The 12-month plan is perfect for someone looking to tackle multiple symptoms, conditions, or areas of their health, while the 4-month plan is more suited for someone coming in with one very specific health goal in mind. While I thought $150/month was a bit high at first, the second I signed up, I was proved wrong—for this kind of care, $150 is a steal. One thing to note: while your membership fee covers doctor’s visits, health coach visits, and exceptional customer service, lab tests and supplements aren’t included in this cost. That said, lab work is covered by most insurance companies and Parsley is aware of different limitations that some folks might have with regard to budget; I was honest with my doctors about how much I wanted to invest in my health, and they went above and beyond to cater a plan based on that ballpark.
Ready, Get Set, Go
Before I dove all in, I had a membership consultation meeting with a lovely Parsley Health team member named Andre. The meeting was approximately 15 minutes and consisted of me asking any and all questions I had about the program. This already felt immensely different from my traditional doctor experiences, with front desk associates that looked at me with daggers if I asked one too many questions. Andre was incredibly convincing—I made up my mind seconds into our call.
After getting set up with a 12-month plan, I logged onto the Patient Portal and was blown away with how user-friendly everything was. There were quite a few intake forms for me to fill out, which I usually dread. However, being able to a) do these online rather than on paper and b) take my time with them (instead of rushing to finish them before the nurse called my name) made the whole process surprisingly enjoyable. It was nice to dive into detail on my medical and personal histories, and being able to do them at my leisure allowed me to be more honest and comprehensive, which would in turn let my doctor make the most informed recommendations possible.
While I was filling out my forms, I did experience a slight glitch (everytime I tried to submit a form, an error code came up), but I reached out to an incredibly pleasant customer service member and had the issue resolved within 24 short hours. After (successfully) filling out my health forms, I spent some time exploring the site before booking my first appointment with my doctor. Parsley’s site makes it super easy to choose the best doctor—you can see their specialities and look for one that best aligns with your needs. I scheduled an appointment and in a matter of seconds, saw a Google Cal invite pop into my inbox—a type A’s dream come true.
The First Doctor’s Visit
The first thing I noticed was that the appointment was scheduled for 60 minutes. I don’t think I’ve been with a doctor for that long in my entire life (and I’ve had a colonoscopy and an endoscopy…). This alone meant a lot to me—as someone with a very long and confusing four years of medical information (from SIBO to IBS to hormonal acne), I needed all the time I could get. My first appointment was a telemedicine appointment; while I was bummed to miss out on the whole West Hollywood office experience, Dr. Stivi made me quickly forget all about that. The appointment felt much more intimate than past doctor appointments—we laughed, we cried (ok, just me), and we made a thoughtful and intentional plan.
She scheduled a number of lab tests and sent over a bunch of holistic recommendations to relieve symptoms in the meantime. It’s been a couple of weeks of using her recommendations and I’ve already seen a huge decrease in symptoms. I loved that she thought of these holistic remedies as a supplement to what would be a very methodical, scientific, and lab-informed approach to my gastrointestinal issues—I could tell that she was taking me seriously. Most importantly, she was respectful of my budget and delineated which supplements she felt were most essential and least essential. I also loved that the products she recommended didn’t seem attached to Parsley Health in any way at all (I’ve felt conned at a number of product-pushy doctor’s offices before). I could trust Dr. Stivi.
In the end, I got my West Hollywood moment after all. My lab visit was scheduled in person at the Parsley Health office, and while most of the place was closed due to COVID-19, the little sliver of perfect furniture and a gorgeous color palette that I did get to see did not disappoint. My appointment with the nurse was seamless and quick, and I was offered some snacks and boxed water after my blood was drawn. It didn’t feel like she was rushing me out, and we were able to talk and connect with one another throughout the process. (Again, was this real life?!)
The First Health Coach Visit
I’ve been dreaming about my first nutritionist appointment for years, and my first health coach visit was everything I had hoped for and more. We had tons of time to talk and nerd out on all things low-FODMAP, gut health, hard-to-digest veggies, and my health coach was genuinely excited to answer all of my (many) questions. Within an hour of our appointment ending, she sent over comprehensive Visit Notes, which included a 7-day meal plan for my low-FODMAP test (for anyone who has tried going low-FODMAP before, having a delicious, well-thought-out list of recipes was a game changer). We’re going to keep in touch about how things are going and feeling at the end of the week, and take next steps from there. I’m grateful to have someone to hold me accountable and to support me throughout what is undeniably a tough elimination diet process (and she was kind enough to let me snap that photo of us at the end of the appointment, too).
A Whole New Me
While I am definitely nowhere near solving all of my health issues, I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s very reassuring to know that there are two incredibly qualified, intelligent, and thoughtful doctors in my corner. The burden of switching doctors, writing down notes in chicken scratch at every appointment, and doing WebMD research when you haven’t heard from your doctor in weeks is REAL, and I am forever grateful to Parsley Health for lifting that burden off my shoulders in one fell swoop. Happy gut, here I come!
5 More Reasons To Love Parsley Health:
- They have a free 3-week trial that includes care manager and health coach visits, as well as an introductory health plan.
- They’re woman-owned. Founder Dr. Robin Berzin is a renowned doctor and wellness expert.
- According to their website, 97% of members see an improvement in their symptoms (I was one of those 97%!)
- They’re very helpful for any folks without health insurance, and their team works hard to find you the best rates possible for lab tests, prescriptions, etc.
- Their Instagram is a health nut’s dream.