The fight against breast cancer is personal for Jennifer Simmons.
For breast surgeon and functional medicine practitioner Jennifer Simmons, health and wellness wasn’t a choice as much as it was destiny. “I come from a breast cancer family; it was just a natural progression for me to become a breast surgeon,” says the first cousin of Linda Creed, the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter who famously passed away from the disease. “When I decided to go into medicine, I knew that I wanted to figure out a way to help people like Linda who were dealing with this life-or-death diagnosis.”
But after 17 years as one of the region’s top breast surgeons, a Graves’ disease diagnosis turned Simmons’ world—and just about everything she believed in when it comes to medicine—upside down. Unwilling to do any of the drastically radical measures that were recommended to her, she eschewed the traditional course of action and forged her own, more holistic, path.
Three years later, this once- traditional medical doctor has rapidly become the Main Line’s go-to healer for functional medicine with the recent opening of her Real Health MD practice (700 S. Henderson Road, Ste. 230, King of Prussia, realhealthmd.com).
So what is functional medicine? “Functional medicine looks to get to the root cause of whatever is derailing your health and helps you to restore wellness or preserve health using food, nutrients and lifestyle,” says Simmons. “Instead of focusing on disease, we focus on the pillars of health—nutrient-dense food, proper sleep, daily movement, mindfulness, stress management, avoiding toxins and promoting social connections. I don’t diagnose anything and I don’t cure anything. I just help people take a better path, and that often leads to health.”
Dealing with ailments from childhood obesity and ADHD to heart disease, cancer and infertility, as well as Alzheimer’s and lupus, the programming at Real Health MD takes place over a three- to six-month period. After a lengthy evaluation, Simmons offers individual food and lifestyle prescriptions. A health coach and nutritionists then help patients to slowly implement changes.
Of course, “you can’t do what I do and not talk about diet and supplements. Food and nutrients are the foundation of functional medicine,” says Simmons. That’s where Debbi Niggemann, owner of Bryn Mawr’s Arrowroot Farmacy and Cafe (825 W. Lancaster Ave., arrowrootbrynmawr.com), comes in.
“We’ve become a resource for the community to learn about ways to restore or maintain their health, prevent disease and be inspired to include whole plant-based foods in their diet,” says Niggemann. She’s the latest proprietor of the health food and supplement mecca that recently moved and changed ownership, going from 40 years as a Woodstock-esque health food location to what has now become the Main Line’s Goopiest “farmacy.”
“I think everyone still wants a magic pill that allows them to heal without making any changes in their current lifestyle,” says Niggemann, a clinical and integrative nutritionist and natural foods expert. “When we help someone make the connection between the foods they eat, their state of mind and how often they exercise with the way they feel, true healing begins.”
Photography by: Courtesy of Jennifer Simmons