Categories Expert Series, Functional Medicine

Functional Medicine Practitioner Spotlight: Zhanna Tarjeft

3X4’s new Functional Medicine Practitioner Spotlight series features interviews with practitioners, consultants and functional medicine thought leaders to explore everything functional medicine practitioners need to know about successfully building, managing, and growing their private practice. 

The following is an interview we recently had with Zhanna Tarjeft, FNP-Owner at Sprouts Health.

What can you tell us about your practice?

ZT: At Sprouts Health, I use a comprehensive approach to finding and resolving the root cause or causes of health issues, looking at the body as a whole of systems (gastrointestinal, immune, etc.) instead of a simple summation of work of different organs.

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and that’s what brought me into Functional medicine. I was also unlucky enough to live in a toxic mold house (black mold and other very bad types of mold) which compromised my own health and the health of my family significantly. I do not dismiss my patients’ symptoms – I look closely into the causes and possible treatments to get them better.

My patients also begin to question why their body got into self-destruction mode. We are trying to find the answers to these questions together. I focus on thyroid health, digestion, hormones, but uncover a number of different underlying nutritional imbalances, toxic exposures, viruses, and parasites that add on to the full picture of disease.

I offer online, video conference (internet), phone, and in-office appointments. My patients also know they will see me personally as their clinician, not a different PA, MD, or NP each time they visit the office.

You can find me at my current office here, or online.

What surprised you the most when you started your practice? 

ZT: I was very surprised how sick my patients are and how little help they get from the conventional medicine approach. I was able to send several of my patients for a thorough thyroid workup that was not done by several doctors before me. In those cases, the thyroid cancer was diagnosed upon reviewing the results and followed up with the specialists in this field. I am passionate about diet, lifestyle, and nutraceuticals instead of thyroid hormone supplementation but at the same time some patients start on their journey too late when the damage to their thyroid is done and I spend a lot of time educating them on why I am suggesting this or that treatment. In a million years I would not have thought that my journey will also bring me to treating people who developed biotoxin illness caused by toxic mold exposure. But through my own experience, I am able to help many who come to see me now. 

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome as you built your practice? How did you overcome it? 

ZT: Marketing and social media were the hardest parts for me. When I started my practice I did not realize I would have to be the “jack of all trades”. But as I got better and better at it – I developed a small community of people who love reading my posts and give me more perseverance and encouragement to help more people than just treating one person at a time. 

What advice would you give to other practitioners considering launching their own practice? 

ZT: I would suggest to be patient and never stop learning. It took me a lot of diligence and perseverance and three years of owning my own practice that I started from scratch to see it thrive now! There are a lot of benefits of being my own boss, but at the same time it may not be for everyone. If you strongly believe that it is your way – keep diligently working and do not give up. The funny thing is that when I was ready to give up and started looking for a 9-5 job – more patients came into my door and more patients I was able to help. The word of mouth spread fast and now I have to find free time to work on marketing and business development because I simply do not have the time besides patient care and developing the treatment plans.

What excites you most about the field of functional medicine?

ZT: After graduating with my second Master’s Degree, I practiced for a while in a conventional medical environment, but as I became ill myself and got diagnosed with the condition of autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease) I realized that the conventional approach left me with little to no treatment options. Simply sitting back to watch and wait as my own body continues to destroy my thyroid gland did not seem too cheerful to me. The risk of developing other more severe autoimmune conditions goes up exponentially as you have one autoimmune condition. I intuitively knew there had to be other options. Which in turn led me to come across the Institute for Functional Medicine and I started learning new methods to identify and treat the root cause and how I happened to develop a thyroid issue in the first place. I am very excited when my patients feel better and how they see the difference in how miserable they were until they got to address their health issues in a comprehensive way. Functional medicine helped me a lot by improving my own health and now I am also able to help my husband and our daughter to deal with the aftermath of living in a toxic mold house for 6 years. 

Where do you see your practice 5 years from now?

ZT: I would love to be able to continue helping people in achieving their health goals and in feeling better. I believe I will still be passionate about thyroid health, but at the same time I have so many educational goals to learn more about Lyme and mold illness, Alzheimer’s treatment and viral illnesses. I am working on my health program that will be able to help more people, but, unfortunately, due to time constraints, it is not happening as fast as I would like it to happen.