Dr. Dana Cohen Shares Her Wellness Secret
- Written By:Alexandra Perron, Managing Editor
You could say thatDr. Dana Cohen "stumbled" into functional medicine. After answering an ad while doing her residency, she ended up working side-by-side with the renowned Dr. Atkins (yes, as in the Atkins Diet). It changed her life and her career, and today she’s at the top of her field. Her New York City practice relies on comprehensive testing and data to activate the body’s natural healing mechanisms through nutrition, supplementation, and healing therapies. One of her secret weapons? Water. Her book, Quench, is all about using hydration to tackle everything from fatigue to gut health. We caught up with Dr. Cohen to hear more about her philosophy, what questions her patient’s are always asking, and her hydration hacks.
Tell us about your journey to where you are today, what led you to pursue functional medicine?
I was fortunate enough to stumble upon it. While still in residency at Albany Med I found an ad that said a “world renowned wellness center” was looking for an MD in NYC. I immediately thought it was a spa and having worked in hair salons my whole high school and undergrad (as a receptionist) time, I wanted in! I love the creative atmosphere. It turned out to be for Dr. Atkins and I was like, ok I’ll apply. I got the job and he changed my life—I never turned back. In fact, I was unhappy in primary care internal medicine, but at that point I was over 200K in debt and couldn’t turn back, I had to work. He taught me a completely new way of thinking and I saw miracles daily at that office, often just by changing a diet!
I love that your site says "not just a doctor but your wellness guidance counselor" — tell us a little more about the work that you do in your practice?
If I can empower people to take charge of their own health by making lifestyle changes and diet changes- I have done my job well. I can then proceed to give nudges along the way i.e. with hormones, or prescriptions or supplements to enhance what we are trying to accomplish. Better health, less fatigue, less symptoms of whatever, will follow. I prescribe (whether meds or supplements) with the idea of always coming back to it and trying to get off of them. I do extensive testing in my office. I love data and love to look at biochemistry and see how levels are affected by what we put in our bodies, whether it be food, supplements, hormones, or medications.
What do you love most about what you do?
Truth is there is nothing better than helping a patient feel better and change their life and health. It is so fulfilling. It is hard for me to say because I don’t feel like I do the work, the patient is the one who has to do the work. But it does feel good when a person emails me and says the book, Quench, has changed their life! What could be better?
What is your wellness philosophy? Has it changed at all over the last year with the pandemic?
I have many—real whole food, movement, hydration, low sugar… but what I have learned is that nothing is 100% and our outlook and our minds play an even bigger role. Meaning when I gave up strictly dieting because I was worried about my weight and looks, that is when I felt the healthiest and most beautiful in my life. The pandemic has only enforced this. I ate A LOT over the pandemic, but I cooked more than ever and I am happy and loved and doing good work and writing a new book, that I know will help many people.
You wrote a book all about hydration—what led to that? What are people "missing" when it comes to hydration?
I have always wanted to write a book but couldn’t find “my book” until my coauthor brought me a smoothie one day to tell me about the work of Dr. Gerald Pollack. He is a renowned water researcher and discovered another phase of water-structured water or gel water, he calls it E-Z water. She blew my mind and then told me about her work as an anthropologist and how desert people hydrate. I looked at her and said, Gina, do you want to write this book? I knew hydration was incredibly important and I also knew most of us weren’t doing it right. Eating your hydration is the missing link and we need to hydrate better through food. I now think hydration is the single most important thing to treat and prevent chronic disease.
How do you stay hydrated? Any tricks or hacks that work for you?
Front-load your water. Drink a big glass (8-16 oz) first thing in the am, add a pinch of real salt and a squeeze of lemon. Load up on veggies! It’s so simple. Cook and eat more vegetables. Drink one green smoothie a day.
What has been your biggest wellness struggle and how have you conquered it?
We teach best what we most need to learn. Learning how to properly hydrate has been a life changer for me! I used to sit at my desk for 8-10 hours straight and not get up once to pee. I suffered from fatigue and stiffness.
What’s the most common question you get asked by patients?
This can run the gamut, but so many patients ask about supplementation. Especially over covid lockdown. My answers is this: Quality matters, dosing matters, and “boosting” your immune system is not always a good thing. A timely example is with elderberry extract supplementation for COVID. It may help with prevention but should not be taken if symptoms develop. It can actually make things worse for those who get infected with covid by boosting a pro-inflammatory cytokine. It can get complicated but this is where functional medicine is key and finding the right doctor to prescribe what you need as an individual and from a biochemical standpoint is the answer.
What makes you feel your best?
A good belly laugh. Being by the ocean. The ocean will cure almost anything.