“Your results are normal!”

The story of how one woman with diabetes and chronic fatigue restored her health.

A team of health experts in the St. Luke’s Health System Lifestyle Medicine Department helped Deena Clark make lifestyle behavior changes that relieved her body’s stress.

Sean Hashmi

Deena Clark had type 2 diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver and chronic fatigue when she discovered the lifestyle medicine program at St. Luke’s Health System in Boise, Idaho.

The intensive program featured a multidisciplinary health team committed to helping her make sustainable changes to her health habits related to the six pillars of lifestyle medicine defined by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine — nutrition, physical activity, stress management, restorative sleep, positive social connection and avoidance of risky substances.

“At first, it was a little intimidating because I didn’t know what to expect,” Clark said.

It became clear quickly that Clark needed to “jump into the water,” said Jennifer Shalz, MD, DipABLM, medical director of St. Luke’s Lifestyle Medicine Department. Under the care of the St. Luke’s lifestyle medicine team, Clark transitioned to a whole food, plant-predominant diet, addressed her sleep issues and developed a regular physical activity program.

Soon, her energy began to improve.

“The plant-based diet allowed me to reduce my medications,” Clark said. “It had a direct result on my chronic fatigue. It took me awhile to understand the stress that my body was under.”

Clark was fortunate to find a health system committed to integrating lifestyle medicine into its patient care. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of non-communicable conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke are preventable through lifestyle behaviors.

St. Luke’s Health System, a founding member of ACLM’s Health Systems Council, a collaborative learning community of health systems that have actively begun integrating lifestyle medicine programs into their organizations, “had the vision to move into more of a value-based care model,” Dr. Shalz said.

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Dr. Jennifer Shalz works with Deena Clark in the St. Luke’s Lifestyle Medicine Program (Image by Story Gorge).