Dr. Ani Rostomyan of SheAni: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve Your Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Approaching social distancing from a positive angle and reconnecting with family and kids during Pandemic was the only choice for many in United States and abroad. Mental health crisis is also on the rise, along with a chronic disease epidemic. Using social distancing in a meaningful way for many people became the only coping mechanism to deal with pandemic. People reconnected with their college and school friends, friendships revived due to the situation and that made me hopeful that we, as a society are still resilient and strong.
As a part of our series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ani Rostomyan.
Dr. Ani Rostomyan is a Clinical Pharmacist and Functional Medicine Practitioner, who specializes in Pharmacogenomics and Nutrigenomics consulting. Dr. Ani received her master’s and Doctorate degrees in Pharmacy and has been practicing as a Clinical Pharmacist in Los Angeles, CA for the last 7 years working with patients with Chronic diseases, such as Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension and High Cholesterol. Dr. Ani discovered her calling in Precision Medicine and founded She Ani, Inc, a concierge consulting company, focused on Pharmacogenomic and Nutrigenomic consulting — functional and holistic ways of improving one’s overall health and well-being.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
I also want to thank you for allowing me to share my story and expertise in health and wellness. I’m originally from Armenia, a beautiful, ancient country in South Caucasus, and a former Soviet Republic. I was born and raised there in a family of a doctor and a teacher. Moving to the United States in 2007 with hopes and dreams of pursuing a pharmacist career and recognition was a risky and challenging venture, which thankfully opened many opportunities for me to serve patients and become an expert in my field.
My personal family struggles with Type 2 Diabetes and my father’s early passing from its complications in 2010 empowered me to help more people so they do not go through the same route of suffering as my father did. I do strongly believe Type 2 Diabetes is preventable and is an epidemic of the 21st century, now affecting even younger generations to a great degree.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Every patient’s story is interesting to me; they all come from diverse backgrounds and cultural heritages. When I help patients change their health to a better state and improve their outlook on health outcomes, that is the most beautiful story of the day.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
Great question! The funniest mistakes happened from my interesting English pronunciation as a beginner, when I had just moved to the US.
I can’t stop laughing at myself when as a Pharmacy Intern, back in 2010, I misspoke and was telling to one of my patients about acing in my exams and I said “I can’t believe, I’m such an ass in this”, patient looked me in the eyes and kind of laughed with me and not at me, which I so appreciated. Having English as my second language has gotten me into similar quite interesting situations more than once for sure.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I have worked as a Clinical Pharmacist my entire professional life. Being a medication and disease state expert helps me confidently manage Chronic diseases such as Type2 Diabetes, Hypertension and High Cholesterol. What I have come to realize is that our health is far beyond medications and pill for every ill. The abundance of available medicines used in managing Diabetes is astounding, yet disease rates are growing, and diabetes is getting younger. Very soon we will have one of every three adults in the US with type 2 Diabetes if we do not make core changes in our health behaviors. What does that mean? Our hijacked metabolic system is not designed to absorb and utilize the excessive amounts of sugar in our foods. Added Sugar is everywhere, even in foods where it should not be. I say to every patient, “Food is number one Medicine,” we can cancel all medications in the world, but we cannot cancel food. Diabetes is managed in our kitchens, pantries, and grocery stores, not for 15 minutes every 3–6 months in our doctor’s offices. My entire career is and will be dedicated to helping people get to their optimal health and maintain it. That is one of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about Nutrigenomics where every patient can get dietary and lifestyle recommendations tailored to their own unique genome.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Excellent question! It may sound a bit cliché, but I am thankful to my parents, to my mother, the motivator for me and my father, the cautious non-risk taker. They both equally contributed to my personal and professional growth. Living in a post-Soviet, economically impoverished and small country, which I call Motherland, Armenia, and going through many hardships related to socio-economic, political circumstances and destroyed infrastructure, infused endurance, and resilience in me.
For example, as an elementary school pupil, I had to do all my Homework during daylight because we only had 1 hour of electricity during the day, and we had to run our basic errands during the scarce 1-hour window. It may seem harsh, but I’ve learned how to prioritize tasks and figure out solutions to tough problems because of hardships experienced during childhood.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
Firstly, chronic disease is an invisible demon, patients do not see immediate consequences of uncontrolled Diabetes and it is hard for them to visualize having end stage kidney disease and getting hemodialysis three times a week 20 years from now due to irreversible kidney damage from Diabetes complications. Examples go on and on.
Then comes mindset and adaptability to change and new habits. Unhealthy mindset can block us from incorporating healthy behaviors.
Lastly, is lack of social support system, family, friends, clubs, that unite people of same health interests. Lack of support system is yet another significant barrier to better health.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional, and physical health.)
1. Approaching social distancing from a positive angle and reconnecting with family and kids during Pandemic was the only choice for many in United States and abroad. Mental health crisis is also on the rise, along with a chronic disease epidemic. Using social distancing in a meaningful way for many people became the only coping mechanism to deal with pandemic. People reconnected with their college and school friends, friendships revived due to the situation and that made me hopeful that we, as a society are still resilient and strong.
2. Practice gratitude and mindfulness, and reach out for mental health support if needed. I teach my children to practice gratitude and being thankful and verbalize the need to speak about mental health issues and same advice goes to patients. Destigmatizing shame of voicing out mental health concerns is a beautiful way of improving our overall well-being, since we are not harboring the emotions and instead, are seeking solutions.
3. Learn more about holistic nutrition and brain boosting foods and supplements.
Once we’re on a path to bettering our health, possibilities are endless. I always encourage my patients to read and learn more about health and wellness, since informed patients make better patients and health outcomes are much more favorable for them.
I learned long ago from a Pharmacy mentor in my hospital rotation, that when patients ask questions and are inquisitive and compliant, their chances of better health are much higher.
For example, with my Nutrigenomics consulting business, I do get quite a few calls and messages from patients asking about genomic tests that identify genetic predisposition to nutritional deficiencies or differences that may predispose them to certain conditions like obesity or diabetes. That makes me proud. If people are more inquisitive about emerging science, aware of health-conscious behaviors, brain boosting supplements and overall higher quality and healthy eating, they eventually contribute to overall improved population health as well.
4. Utilize newer health IT solutions to improve mental wellness, like the sleep and meditation app Calm.
Virtual reality in healthcare, applications that promote mindfulness, yoga, meditation and visualization, and variety of other mental health support tools offer great solutions for patients who are looking for answers to their questions. We live in an era where everything is at the tip of our fingers and accessing high quality health information is quite affordable. I remember when one of my patients overcame insomnia and chronic fatigue after my advice to use the Calm app, she was meditating regularly before bed from then on. This shows that Health IT solutions can tremendously improve patient outcomes and quality of life, with sometimes less medication and health care dollars spent.
5. Using Nutrigenomics testing to identify unique health concerns and personalize dietary and lifestyle recommendations based on this emerging science is another way of improving overall health and wellness.
This emerging field may and will be the answer to many unexplained disease states and metabolic conditions, and the future is very bright for Nutrigenomics. We soon will eat according to our genes and prevent more diseases with proper health approaches. Compared to where the field was 10 years ago, Nutrigenomics is an emerging science and innovative concept in current health and wellness industry. For example, caffeine metabolism is highly dependent on an enzyme in our liver which is the CYP1A2. Some people, due to their genes are slow metabolizers of caffeine. This makes caffeine circulate in their body for longer time and increase the risk of higher blood pressure in patients. Nutrigenomics testing can identify patient’s metabolizer type thanks to modern technologies, and we can make proper recommendations based on it.
For the longest time, I have observed my patients reacting very differently to the same medication or nutritional supplement regimens.
As a pharmacist, I knew that drugs’ mechanism of action depends on our genetic makeup and other factors, such as age, gender, comorbidities, concurrent medications, etc. Nutrigenomics and health entrepreneurship are my newfound passion, as I work privately with each patient and accompany and guide them into a journey to identify medications, nutrients and lifestyle according to their genes.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
Great question! Regular exercise not only is very suitable for weight control but also for Blood pressure control, mood regulation, feeling fit and motivated. It helps prevent many other illnesses and most importantly Type2 Diabetes. Many published high-quality studies indicate the beneficial effect of exercise in disease prevention, overall well-being, lowered risk of mental health issues and greater financial success. Most successful people I have encountered recently are continually active and have many sports hobbies.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
Depending on individualized Nutrigenomics test results, which help outline the type of exercise needed, it is variable depending on a person’s individual characteristics. I always recommend utilizing the exercise they enjoy, because it’s super effortless to do what we like. Cardio, weight bearing or stretching exercises are crucial in certain body types, disease states, or age. They also greatly benefit certain personality types or those in challenging social circumstances.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The book that made a significant impact on me is the “Molecules of Emotion,” by Dr. Candace Pert Ph. D., and foreword written by Dr. Deepak Chopra. I rediscovered how mind, spirit and emotions are essential part of our physical being as well.
Western medicine addresses diseases based on organ systems, while Eastern medicine considers the healthy mind, body, and spirit as pillars of overall health. We were never taught these concepts in Pharmacy school, and I had to do my own research from books like “Molecules of Emotion”.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
This is an ever-evolving question I ask myself and honestly my answer hasn’t changed much. As a Pharmacist and Nutrigenomics specialist, I always say incentivizing population to achieve better health is one of the most effective ways to prevent chronic disease epidemic in our country. Human nature is peculiar; if we can incentivize people to become consumers of healthier foods, such as low-carb, low-sugar, gluten free, cage free, free range, or keto products, then patients who are improving their health, staying in a healthy weight range, normal blood pressure range, having blood sugar and other health markers in control, should have access to free gym memberships or yoga classes, or things of this sort, this will motivate them to continue maintaining good health in exchange to freebies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Absolutely! — I was a book worm since early childhood and was an avid reader in three languages, English, Armenian and Russian, and it truly helped me cope with economic hardships during post-soviet turmoil in my home country, Armenia.
I have many favorite quotes, but this one particularly resonated with me the last year and a half.
“Somewhere in the world there is a darkness only you can heal. To do it, you have to face your shame.”
Working on mastering health entrepreneurship being an introvert was quite challenging. This quote helps me conquer shyness and talk about concepts that enlighten me with more confidence.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I am so grateful for this question; thank you for asking. I have had imposter syndrome for the most of my adult life, it just happened by pure accident to hear on a podcast that Jessica Alba, a phenomenal actress shared having suffered from the same imposter syndrome while at the top of her career and being successful in her business as well. That empowered me not to feel alone in my personal transformation journey. I even wrote about it in my collaborative book compiled by twenty women in healthcare who undertook holistic journey in their careers just like me.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
I would love to share my LinkedIn and Instagram profiles, where I network and share updates on my business:
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Thank You for having me and for the opportunity to be featured in the magazine. It truly is amazing how lifelong connections are made through various social media outlets and which oftentimes leads to fruitful collaborations and friendships. Thank You again.