I've had the pleasure of speaking to Stephanie Johnson, Founder of Riviera Wellness Clinic in Antibes & Nice. Stephanie is a certified nutritionist, integrative healthcare practitoner as well as a coach of Functional Medicine. She specialises in finding the root causes of illnesses and resolving them with a holistic approach such as lifestyle changes, dietary amendments, and supplements. Not only does Stephanie assert that she can help identify and address chronic issues such as headaches, mood swings, fatigue, eczema, and gut problems, she also targets debilitating autoimmune diseases.
Watch my full interview with her here:
Functional Medicine looks for the root causes of your illness while conventional medicine is more interested in treating your symptoms. Both need to co-exist but Stephanie believes that conventional medicine should be targeted at acute problems (if you broke your arm, or are bleeding out or are in an immediate life-threatening situation) while Functional Medicine should target symptoms of imbalance in your body (hormones, heavy metals, digestion, skin issues etc).
Even autoimmune diseases, where the immune system is triggered to fight something in the body but ends up attacking both the good and bad cells and wreaking havoc, can be submitted into remission by identifying what is causing it. Autoimmune diseases are infamous to be very difficult to understand - very little is known about triggers them, it can affect anyone of any age, and worst of all, many patients are told that they will have to live with the disease as nothing else can be done for them except to take medictions to try to deal with the symptoms of the disease.
No one knows this better than Stephanie Johnson, who suffered from a hormone-based autoimmune disease and was told, at the age of 21 years old, that nothing else could be done and she would just have to learn to live with the disease. On top of her diagnosis and dead-end on treatments, the medication had caused her premature menopause.
"I remember getting back into the car and calling my boyfriend, now husband, and I just burst into tears. There's nothing else we can do. I was 21, there was so much of my life left and there was this debilitating illness which was just making me feel bad for most of the time"
Stephanie tried dieting to try to stave off the onslaught of the disease but she would still experience flare ups and progress was painfully slow, with any little digression or "cheats" from her regimental diet causing her to tumble from weeks of progress she had made.
3.5 years after she had been diagnosed, Stephanie stumbled upon a doctor online who practiced functional medicine and after working with him for just 3 months, Stephanie felt that she had her life back again. Since then, it's been her life mission to help others like herself, who feel trapped and disabled by their diseases and have been turned away by doctors who tell them that nothing else can be done.
"We don't believe that, we believe that there is a reason why your body is reacting the way that it is and we have to try and work out why, kind of like health detectives."
A consultation with Stephanie will typically consist, first, of a thorough questionnaire, listing all your symptoms and medical history, even before you step into her office. This will give her a better idea about what you're suffering from and she can begin to put the pieces together to try and identify the possible root causes. Stephanie will then make a recommendation on a battery of tests you could do to help her assess where the imbalance in your body is.
The list of testing could be for:
Heavy Metal Levels
Gut Flora Microbiome
Hormone & Cortisol
Nutrient & Mineral Absorption
IgG, IgE, IgA Food Sensitivity
Omega 3, 6, 9 profile
Cholestrol and annual bloodwork
Truth be told, these tests don't come cheap and they're not covered by social security. Each of these tests can cost between 88€-150€ or more for genetic testing. However, they're not ridiculously inaccessible, you will probably only need to do a few, not all, of these over a period of months, and if you're suffering from a chronic illness, it's a better investment to spend money towards identifying the cause and eliminating it once and for all instead of paying for medication to try and alleviate symptoms that will only come back again.
Stephanie works with your budget during the consultation as well. While she recommends these tests as a good way to really find out what's going on in your body, if you don't have the budget to take multiple tests, she'll recommend which ones would make the most sense to take first. She can also try to pinpoint what is wrong just based on your symptoms and make recommendations on what you need to cut out from your diet or which supplements you need to add - every consultation is bespoke.
It's also not just life-sentence diseases that Stephanie treats, chronic symptoms like headaches, rashes, insomnia, constant fatigue are all signs of your body trying to tell you that something is not right and it's fighting something within you. Many people will try to push through these symptoms until they feel like they can't cope with them anymore before they decide to see a doctor or specialist about it. Finding the cause of these seemingly day-to-day symptoms and working towards eliminating them will not only save you the pains of having them but could also prevent a more serious problem later on.
I can see the sceptics raising their eyebrows and thinking - if this works so well, why isn't this already part of conventional medicine? Isn't finding better solutions part of the responsibility of the medical industry?
One reason that Functional Medicine is frequently overlooked is that it's a long process that requires a lot of commitment to the patient. This isn't a quick fix, you'll need to work with Stephanie typically for about 3 months, and even after that you'll need to continue to work on your own and be very aware of what you put into your body as well as adjust your lifestyle accordingly. The current conventional medical system is already overwhelmed and doctors don't have the luxury of spending 1.5 hours in the first consultation, as Stephanie would, to review your medical history and try to analyze where the issue may be originating from.
Another reason is that what Stephanie does cannot be industrialised - her recommendations are lifestyle changes, dietary amendments, and supplements. The pharmaceutical industry thrives on making shiny pills that you take to make you feel better or help you deal with the symptoms easier without actually addressing the cause of your illness. However, you'll find that there are often side-effects from taking one medication frequently, and you therefore take another pill to counter that side-effect and before you know it, you'll have to be taking multiple pills to deal with the initial one problem which can wreak more havoc than what you initially had.
"Medicine is a wonderful invention, it's something the world has benefited from but I think that one of the reasons why there has been so much pushback (towards Functional Medicine) is because it is so attainable and so reachable. Conventional medicine does have its place and time, but so does Functional Medicine and I personally believe we should be able to also help people in a fully holistic way."
What to expect from a consultation with Stephanie Johnson
You'll receive a questionnaire beforehand with a series of questions about your symptoms and medical history. During the consultation (that can be online), Stephanie will take 1-1.5 hours to ask you more about your medical history to try and better understand what's going on in your body. She'll make her recommendations on what she thinks you should test for (if you're not keen on getting tested yet, these recommendations will revolve around what you can eliminate or add in your lifestyle and diet based on your symptoms).
The first consultation is 150€ but just for the members of the English-Speakers on the Riviera group, Stephanie has kindly offered a 25% discount on this first consultation (valid until 31 May 2020). Please note that this also includes the review of your test results so it is, in fact, two sessions.
Even in lockdown, Stephanie can mail you the testing kits that you can perform yourself at home and you'll simply need to mail your samples to the laboratories, all of whom are still currently open. The only test that needs you to be at the lab in person are blood tests.
Following the analysis of your results, depending on the severity of your illnesses, Stephanie will follow up with you in shorter sessions. A typical follow up takes about 3 months but the frequency changes each month as the first month would be the toughest but subsequently, as you get used to these changes, you'll need to consult with her less.
Month 1 (4 sessions) - 225 euros
Month 2 (3 sessions) - 180 euros
Month 3 (2 sessions) - 90 euros
Again, each person is different and some may need more time to address their individual problems but this gives you an idea of the commitment that you will need to work with Stephanie.
Lockdown is probably the best time to reflect on the status of your health right now and explore options to invest into your health in the long-term. Take advantage of Stephanie's current discount to finally address those symptoms that have been nagging at you for a long time.