Women In Wellness: Lisa Campanella-Coppo Of Functional Medicine & Wellness On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Women In Wellness: Lisa Campanella-Coppo Of Functional Medicine & Wellness On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing


I wish I had more time during my early adulthood to focus on wellness and stress relief.

Today, more than ever, wellness is at the forefront of societal discussions. From mental health to physical well-being, women are making significant strides in bringing about change, introducing innovative solutions, and setting new standards. Despite facing unique challenges, they break barriers, inspire communities, and are reshaping the very definition of health and wellness. In this series called women in wellness we are talking to women doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, fitness trainers, researchers, health experts, coaches, and other wellness professionals to share their stories and insights. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Campanella-Coppo, MD, FACEP IFMCP..

Dr. Lisa Campanella-Coppo is a Board-Certified Emergency Physician & an Institute of Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP). She owns Dr. Lisa M. Campanella-Coppo, MD Functional Medicine & Wellness, P.C. based in NJ with virtual access in NY and VT. She is passionate about helping clients obtain health, wellness, and freedom from the symptoms of chronic disease, particularly: IBS, autoimmune disease, post-cancer care issues, long-term covid, chronic Lyme, hormone imbalances and stress-related illnesses.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Istudied medicine at NYU School of Medicine and continued my career as an Emergency Medicine Physician training at Bellevue Hospital/ NYU. I spent fifteen years working in the Emergency Department and then transitioned to Medical Education and Urgent care 7 years ago. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment regimen for my breast cancer led to my developing an autoimmune disorder and multiple debilitating joint issues that required several surgeries to be able to walk without pain and use my hands. I struggled within the conventional medical community to find someone who could help me and was introduced to functional medicine by one of my physicians. I started an elimination diet and within 3 weeks, not only did my acute symptoms markedly improve, but several chronic illnesses that I had suffered from since childhood were resolving. I was fascinated! I tried to find a functional medicine provider in my community and was unable to find anyone who could see me. I decided to teach myself functional medicine and began to study at the Institute for Functional Medicine. For 3 years I studied and used my newfound knowledge on friends and family members to treat illnesses and symptoms that they have been struggling with for years. I was in awe at how powerful the functional medicine approach was for improving the quality of life for friends and family members suffering from autoimmune conditions, chronic pain, mood issues, and gut issues. I decided that this was how I wanted to practice medicine for the remainder of my career and started my own practice in January of 2023.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

During my medical school and residency education at NYU School of Medicine, I taught Anatomy during the summers. There was a group of Italian professors that were collaborating with the department and we became friends. At the end of my residency, I spent 8 weeks at the University of Bologna learning about their medical system. The Italian approach to life, death, and end of life fascinated me. They focused on living well for as long as possible through good nutrition, fresh natural foods, daily exercise, community connection, and regular rest and relaxation. At the end of life, they focus on death as a natural end to a good life and they focus on easing suffering and allowing patients to pass as gently as possible. My experience left an impression on me, and I believe it planted the seeds for my future work in functional medicine.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was a resident in the Emergency Department, a young woman came in dying from a severe traumatic injury. I remember promising her family that I wouldn’t let her die. She died and I will never forget my sense of powerlessness or guilt with how I had handled her family. I wish I had prepared them better and given them a chance to say goodbye. I realized that death is a part of life, and I am not going to be able to save everyone, nor should I have the hubris to believe that I could. I learned to be as honest as I could with my patients about their illnesses and their prognoses but also to not feel badly if I didn’t have the tools to prevent the inevitable. It made me focus more on helping to people live their best lives and prepare them for the best death they can hope for.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I feel that we are at a turning point. The American lifestyle with the excessive stress, processed foods, environmental toxins, and little priority given to spending leisure time with loved ones or doing things that bring fulfillment and joy is making us all sick. People are realizing this and are looking for better ways to improve their health span and live their best lives. I want to feed into this movement and serve as a guide to people looking for their best life.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better well-being? Please give an example or story for each.

1 . Clean Healthy Eating: I have suffered from skin rashes, asthma, migraines, and horrible menstrual cycles since I was a teen. I was a product of the low-fat, high-carb revolution and I believe that my diet ultimately contributed to the changes in my body that led to cancer. The health journey that I have been on started when a physician suggested an elimination diet. I was in awe at the power that food had to cause my symptoms and how quickly my chronic illnesses improved when I removed irritants from my diet. Changes in eating and instituting food plans are difficult things to do. Our diets are not only what we do to nourish and feed our bodies, but are also steeped in tradition and are part of our social structure. I advise my clients to take a European approach to food. Enjoy it, lean towards a diet based on fruits and vegetables and whole grains, eat plenty of healthy fats, and enjoy the occasional glass of wine or piece of dark chocolate. Focus on the wonderful things you can eat and discover new recipes. We all get into ruts and if you really think about it, we eat the same 4 or 5 things for each meal. Shake it up and mix it up. Come up with 5 new healthy breakfasts. Have dinner for breakfast or breakfast for dinner. Enjoy meals with family and friends.

2 . Making time for fun: As a physician, my life has always been about working myself to the point of exhaustion, first in school, then in residency, and then in my job. My entire life was about delaying gratification. Cancer was my wake-up call. It really brought home the message that I have limited time to do the things that I want to do and be with the ones that I love. Work is important but needs to be put in its place. Leisure time needs to be a priority both for my health and well-being and for my family. When I leave this earth, I want to leave it knowing that my loved ones will have innumerable memories of good times that we spent together enjoying each other and life.

3 . Breath Work and Stress Management: Adrenalin/Cortisol is the master hormone in our body. It is the driver of inflammation and imbalances in our thyroid hormones and sex hormones. It is the one hormone that is profoundly affected by our thoughts and our behaviors. Our culture extols excessive work and does not place enough emphasis on rest and recovery. I found stress management to be the hardest thing to incorporate into my own wellness journey and was very resistant to it at first. I use triangle breathing throughout my day to keep my cortisol curve in check. When I take a deep breath to the count of four, hold it to the count of four, and then slowly release it to a count of 8, I relax. I also listen to guided meditation for 10 minutes a day. I have yet to get to a point where my mind is not wandering halfway through the session, but I find that giving myself a 10 or 15-minute break daily leads to a better overall sense of wellness and calm.

4 . Gentle Movement: I have spent a great deal of time in Italy during my education and was lucky enough to develop amazing friendships with people who welcomed me into their homes and shared their culture. One of the things that I remember vividly was the first time I was invited to “fare un passegiato” (take a walk) after dinner. I was staying with a friend in her hometown and after dinner, we went out to take a walk. I was amazed that the entire town was out in the streets walking chatting and spending time with one another. I realized that movement and activity didn’t need to be relegated to going to the gym but should be incorporated into our day-to-day activities. I have tried to do this with my life. I have moved away from having coffee or lunch with friends and I now invite them to go walking with me for an hour in one of the beautiful parks where I live. I have even moved to having “work meetings” this way. Like breath work, movement is something that we need to do throughout the day to maintain our health.

5 . Sleep: Sleep is so important to our health. Healing and detoxification, particularly of the brain, occur in sleep. Sleeplessness ages us and leads to disease. I never realized how much screen time affected my sleep until I gave myself a screen holiday. I challenged myself to stop looking at screens for 2 hours before bed. I was utterly amazed at how much better I slept. Sleep hygiene is important and should include having a cool, dark, quiet room to sleep in free of allergens, taking time before bed to wind down, and limiting eating and screen time for the 2 to 3 hours before you plan to go to sleep.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Our medical system is broken, with a focus on medicating acute illness and very little emphasis on wellness and ascertaining the root cause of a patient’s disease. I would love to see a system where physicians are given the time they need to get to know their patients and focus on eradicating the root causes of their illness. I would love to see a system where patients can access support for implementing healthy nutrition habits, exercise stress, and sleep management. I believe this movement has already started with the energy of people who are asking the right questions and looking for better answers and I am excited to see where we all take it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. I wish I understood the power of food sensitivities and imbalances in the gut to cause disease.
  2. I wish I had more time during my early adulthood to focus on wellness and stress relief.
  3. I wish I had realized sooner how amazing the Mediterranean diet is and how important fat is in the diet.
  4. I wish I had realized sooner that harder and faster is not always better with physical activity.
  5. I wish I realized how important sleep was to my health before I chose a career that had me working nights.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

I feel strongly about mental health. There is a very powerful mind-body connection and stress and chronic hypercortisolism drives disease. There are ways to improve mental health that can be easily incorporated into our daily lives. I truly believe that we must first calm our minds and give ourselves time to rest and recover and then we can look outward to supporting movements to improve the world around us.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

You can visit my website at Functional Medicine & Wellness (drcampanella.com) or follow me on Instagram @drcampanellafmw.

Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at CrunchyMamaBox.com.

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