Dr Kourtney Sanfelice of Balanced Wellness Solutions: 5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve Your Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Gain Control of Stress with Purpose — I do this with my toolbox of holistic tools. This is not an easy task and will change most days for people. It requires you to pause, reflect, and identify what is causing stress or anxiety in your daily life. If is something that is unchangeable, find the things that bring you peace: yoga, meditation, massage therapy, breath work, petting your dog, talking to a friend, crocheting, baking or anything else that you enjoy.
As a part of our series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Kourtney Sanfelice.
Dr. Kourtney Sanfelice is a Functional Medicine Practitioner, Pharmacist, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Yoga/Fitness Instructor and CBD Specialist. CBD education became her passion as she learned the benefits of the amazing plant by transforming her own health, tapering off a medication she was taking for 16 years with one week of a daily CBD regimen. Over the past five years, Kourtney helped hundreds of people achieve their health and wellness goals using CBD.
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 graduated in 2005 from Temple University School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia. A few years after graduating, I left my corporate retail pharmacist position to work from home for a mail order pharmacy. I made this change in order to fulfill my desire to be a stay-at-home mom (I was pregnant, expecting my son in a few short months) but still maintain my career as a pharmacist. Working at home was not ideal for me, as I was not working directly with people.
After my son was born, I started taking Zumba classes to lose my pregnancy weight. I was encouraged by my instructor, who loved my upbeat energy, to get licensed to teach Zumba classes. I received a group fitness certification through the American Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and started teaching Zumba several times a week at the local YMCA and a small dance studio. It was so much fun and rejuvenated my mind, body, and soul. I eventually started working at an independent, family-owned pharmacy where I was able to connect with patients and help them with their health and wellness goals. I ultimately found my passion in educating people using professional grade CBD oral tinctures.
I have worked one-on-one and helped hundreds of people achieve improved health and wellbeing with CBD. Eventually, my focus expanded to helping people holistically, not only with CBD but also with supplements, herbs, nutraceuticals, and nutrition. I became a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which further deepened my knowledge of integrative and functional medicine. I also received my certification as a Functional Medicine Specialist through the Functional Medicine Business Academy. I now work as an independent community pharmacist and have my own functional medicine practice, Balanced Wellness Solutions, LLC, where I serve as a mentor, educator, and clinician to help clients find balance in their everyday lives, manage stress, improve nutrition, address the root causes of health issues, and obtain personal wellness goals.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My journey from one end of the healthcare spectrum, where I started as a corporate retail pharmacist, to the opposite end, where I now practice holistic care and functional medicine, has been mind-blowing. As a pharmacy student and corporate retail pharmacist, I learned about the human body, how it functions and malfunctions, and how to use pharmaceuticals to “fix” those malfunctions. I learned how drugs work on different conditions, as well as side effects, dosing, drug-drug interactions, drug-condition interactions and how to safely dispense, advise and recommend treatment. I now often cringe when I fill certain prescriptions and spend a great deal of time in my practice reaching out to people to make sure they are taking the proper supplements to replenish what they are depleting when taking certain medications and often provide guidance as to how to substitute prescription medications with more natural products and treatments. While there certainly is a need for traditional Western medication and prescriptions, the big focus of my practice is to help my clients balance traditional medicine with holistic and natural solutions.
The process for dosing CBD runs totally counter to the traditional pharmacist dosing process. CBD dosing is extremely patient-specific, as it is used for so many different conditions related to our endocannabinoid system and our bodies’ homeostasis. Teaching people to go into CBD dosing with an open mind to figure out what they need is the polar opposite of what I have learned and taught as a pharmacist. But it works, and it works well!
I started using CBD for anxiety and episodic panic attacks when some CBD samples arrived in my pharmacy over five years ago. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. I started researching and decided to give CBD a try. In one week, I tapered off citalopram (Celexa), an anti-depressant that kept my anxiety under control for over 16 years (except for during my pregnancy) and never looked back! Of course, my anxiety is a work in progress that I address every day, but I am now armed with a holistic toolbox of resources that enables me to avoid taking a medication with so many chemicals and side effects. What I am learning now as I deepen my knowledge of functional medicine is the relationship between my anxiety and my hormones and other health issues that I have experienced over the years.
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?
There have certainly been a few “mishaps,” as I always try new products or treatments on myself or close family and friends before I start with clients. Using CBD has been quite a journey for me. There was a lot of trial and error on my behalf as I taught myself about CBD. Six years ago, the CBD market was nothing like it is today. The education was limited, the products were much less polished, and there was a huge legal gray area, as laws were in flux in many states.
One day, about five years ago, I was taking my CBD tincture, which back then was a bottle with no markings. A “dropperful” was a different quantity to whomever drew it up (whereas today packaging is labeled for dosing and specific concentrations). I took a “dropperful” of “high concentrate” CBD oil. My syringe sputtered as my bottle was getting low. I decided that I needed more to get the full dose that had been helping me therapeutically. Well, I guess I filled up the syringe all the way and only meant to put half the dropper in (remember, no actual dose). About an hour later, I am not sure what I was feeling, but it was pretty “trippy.” If you are taking a quality product, you should not get impaired, given the small amount of THC (0.3% or less), but in this case I felt very “strange” to say the least. I am not sure how this was possible with the small amount of THC that was supposedly in the bottle, but I was getting a first-hand lesson in the difference in product quality, integrity, and labeling. I now preach to my patients to learn their sources so that this doesn’t happen to them. You want to know what you are putting in your body, especially if you are using it to treat specific conditions, particularly serious conditions. If you are treating seizures, you want to be darn sure you are taking the correct product and dose, even if it is “just a plant.”
I have researched and tried many brands on the market, and, while the industry has come a long way in general, it is crucial to pay attention to what you are using. There are approximately 3,500 CBD brands on the market, and approximately 93% of them are adulterated and mislabeled. Not all CBD is created equal. Go to a healthcare professional who can educate you on how to use the various CBD products, the difference between products, and most importantly, the purity and quality of products. Anyone can slap a label on something and call it their own. If you choose to do your own research, you need to find out the farming process, where the hemp came from, its genetics, the cannabinoids included, and a certificate of analysis that describes the integrity of the product. I want people to understand that they should seek help from someone who is experienced so that they can safely achieve their therapeutic best!
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 feel that I have a unique, broad spectrum of knowledge to help my clients. I started with my Doctor of Pharmacy degree back in 2005, worked in corporate retail and mail order pharmacy, and eventually in a family-owned independent pharmacy. I taught group fitness and Zumba for about six years, and I am currently finishing up 2021 with my certification as a Yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner. I am a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach as well as a Certified Functional Medicine Specialist. I treat each client as an individual, helping them with their own personal needs. My wide background of education, knowledge and experience helps me to guide my clients on their path to wellness, whatever that looks like to them.
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?
Yes! I am so grateful for my very best friend, Theresa Moore, who is like a big sister to me. She has had an enormous impact on me in both my personal and professional life. I met Theresa when I was at a very transitional point in my life. I was in an unhealthy marriage and had a monotonous job that offered little of the personal rewards that I now enjoy. Theresa has been an amazing friend who helped me find my self-worth that I lost along the way. Some days were harder than others as I went through a divorce and started my life over, which was a very scary process. Theresa encouraged me to follow my dreams and to never give up. She continues to challenge me to be the best version of myself and helps keep me grounded when I need support. But my gratitude goes beyond our very special friendship. This past year Theresa created a self-awakening program that was designed to provide a 200-hour Yoga instructor certification. However, this program was so much more than that. It was an amazing tribe of women who grew together. We learned so much about ourselves and each other through Yoga, meditation, Reiki, holistic self-care, workshops, and book club discussions. It was a life-changing experience of self-growth and awakening. This program taught me so much about myself, enabling me to better serve my clients in the functional medicine space.
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?
Yes, it is so simple to say the obvious things that we should all do to be “healthy,” but the reality is so much more complex, as every person has their own goals, momentum, stress, and health issues. What is simple for some people is not always easy for others, for a variety of reasons. Each client must be treated as an individual with their own needs, goals, and obstacles. The main things that I see my clients needing help with are:
- Accountability — Having someone to check-in with, someone to be a support system and a cheerleader. Not all people need this, but for some it is essential for them either to get started or to keep going.
- Societal Pressures — So many people feel an extreme amount of stress trying to keep up with our fast-paced, technology-driven society, with busy schedules and the need to balance work, family, friends, social activities, health and wellness and physical activity. We live in a world where you can get anything pretty much immediately with the push of a button. No matter what a client needs help with, anxiety almost always becomes part of the equation when we meet and start working on goals. There is always a root cause for this anxiety, and my goal is to address and treat it.
- Mindset — Patients should seek to evaluate and modify their lifestyles on a daily basis. The key is to focus on the positives and the things that we are grateful for in our lives. There are days that we are going to fail. We are going to have days with poor nutrition, missed workouts or lack of physical activity. There will be days that we didn’t drink enough water or drank too much alcohol or coffee. There will be obstacles every day, but it is important not to give up. We need to keep going, whether we are progressing, derailed, maintaining, or taking baby steps. Every day is a blessing.
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.)
- Gain Control of Stress with Purpose — I do this with my toolbox of holistic tools. This is not an easy task and will change most days for people. It requires you to pause, reflect, and identify what is causing stress or anxiety in your daily life. If is something that is unchangeable, find the things that bring you peace: yoga, meditation, massage therapy, breath work, petting your dog, talking to a friend, crocheting, baking or anything else that you enjoy.
- Keep Active/Challenge Yourself — Keep both your body and your mind active. Whether it is going on a nature walk or hike, a high intense cardio training, or my new favorite, a fun Peloton Bike ride! Challenge yourself. Do a fun themed puzzle or find a cool Lego to construct, create a DIY household project, or read an interesting book and learn something new.
- Join a Group — Whether is a book club, a fitness group, game club or dog training group, it’s always fun to make new friends or connect with old friends with common interests!
- Trade Healthy Recipes with Family/Friends — You are what you eat! Finding things that are healthy and delicious and make them part of your lifestyle. Then share your heart-warming meal or treat with someone you love! Eating well should be part of a life-long journey, no dieting required!
- Create a Joy Jar — Yes, as big, or as little as you want! Decorate it from your heart. Every day, I add little things to it that bring me gratitude. Sometimes it’s just a little note or word on a piece of paper that reminds me how my life is blessed. They are little reminders that make my heart happy.
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?
- Improve Mental Health — Get those endorphins flowing!
- Establish a Routine — Have a daily regimen that keeps you well-rounded and balanced!
- Improve Physical Health — Get that heart rate up to help prevent disease and promote overall wellness!
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
What’s most important is that you consistently keep active and moving.
- 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity daily to get the heart rate up! Even just simple walking, take it at your own pace.
- Yoga for stretching and keeping limber. Again, take it at your own pace, whether it’s five or ten Sun Salutations upon waking in the morning or an active Vinyasa class.
- Keep your muscles toned and strong, no weights required. You can use free weights to fit your body type, or just use your body’s natural resistance (push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, for example).
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is my all-time favorite book! The constant theme in The Alchemist is to pursue your dreams and follow what your heart desires. Wherever your heart leads you, you will find your treasure. In the book, a boy travels from his homeland in search of a treasure. He encounters many obstacles along the way and ultimately discovers a “treasure” within himself resulting from his experiences, the people that he met and the lessons that he learned.
This is a must-read for all, no matter what journey they are on or what path they are following!
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. :-)
I want people to know that there is no fast and easy way to health and wellness. It is an ongoing, life-long journey of choices, not a quick-fix or easy answer. It sounds funny coming from a career pharmacist, but I am all about my patients reducing their reliance on pharmaceuticals to the extent possible and changing their underlying lifestyles to be the healthiest forms of themselves. This is a daily process, and we are all constant works in progress. There is not and will never be a magic pill or uniform answer, as every person is an individual with his or her own unique needs. As I learned in my education at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, we must balance the nutrition on and off our plates to achieve health, wellness, and happiness.
When working with myself and my clients, my goal is to figure out the cause of disease or health conditions and treat them from the root cause up.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started.” — Mark Twain
I have always waited for “the perfect time” to get started doing things, especially starting my own business. The truth is that there is no perfect time! Just get started, even if it is with tiny steps, one at a time. The little things turn into bigger things, and dreams start becoming reality. I was struggling starting my own functional medicine practice until I met Dr. Christine Manukyan, who changed my life and put my career on a new path that I never imagined was available to me. When I joined Dr. Christine’s Functional Medicine Academy, she taught me how to become focused on getting started, and that the learning process will continue forever. There is nothing to wait for. Get into the messy action and things will fall into place. I took a leap of faith, and I did just that. My functional medicine practice is growing every day and I love working one-on-one and in groups with my clients. By focusing on what I can do, instead of what can go wrong, and having the mindset of moving forward every day, I have taken my practice to new levels, and I am helping people achieve their health and wellness goals.
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 :-)
Wow! This is a hard one! But someone who has impacted me at some rough times in my life is Mel Robbins. I just love her genuine and sincere personality. Mel is so real in describing her own struggles, past and present, that I feel like I could relate and chat with her as a girlfriend over coffee about anything and receive fantastic, practical, judgment-free advice! Her five second rule and daily journal changed my life. It ties into my quote from the last question. Just get on your feet and get started! It doesn’t matter how big or small the task. Just move forward!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Podcast: Balanced Wellness Solutions with Kourtney (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google, Castbox, Amazon Music, Stitcher)
Facebook: Kourtney Chichilitti Sanfelice
The Wellness Pharmachic
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!