Dr. Jennifer Ashton: A Real Doctor

Published On May 15, 2015 | May/June 2015

Meditation eliminates this term called, Monkey Mind, meaning restless, unsettled, indecisive – when your mind is all over the place – it tames this allowing you to go about your day with clear, concise thinking, one thought at a time.

Tips and health advice from author and celebrity MD on the hit TV show, The Doctors

By Nicole Carbon, photos courtesy of CBSTV Distribution/The Doctors

You may recognize those gleaming brown eyes and the brilliant blond hair from the hit TV show, The Doctors that airs daytime on ABC, or for sharing her expertise as the health correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America. If you’re lucky, Dr. Jennifer Ashton may be your healthcare provider, as she has an active Ob-Gyn practice in New Jersey. She splits time between New Jersey, with her family and practice, and Los Angeles where The Doctors tapes. I had a chance to catch up with her in between tapings of the show and pick her brain, not just on women’s health, but her belief in food as medicine, combining Eastern and Western medicine practices, and on the mantra she wished she learned earlier in her meditation practice.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton is in her final year of obtaining her Masters in Nutrition. She is one of very few MDs with a media platform and a degree in nutrition, adding to her already-established credibility. Food is paramount to Dr. Ashton, not only at home with her family, but also in her practice. It plays a vital part in overall health. She believes that food interacts with our biology and the future of medicine will rely heavily on nutritional science, yet it is something doctors learn little about in school. She says food as medicine is a “no brainer.” While she tries to eat mostly organic at home, she does say that while this way of eating may be healthier, “We still don’t understand why or if it is.” She tells me that she is interested in safe and nontoxic pesticides but the studies are often flawed and can be a challenge to understand. She also admits to being a terrible cook and that her husband doesn’t trust her to do the grocery shopping. Don’t let this humble tidbit fool you; you’re in excellent hands when you are in Dr. Ashton’s care.

As a leading figure in healthcare, Dr. Ashton stresses the importance of finding a healthcare provider – for a woman that could be a gynecologist – “who you don’t just like, but love.” This figure should be your partner in health for decades. She suggests finding someone by word of mouth. “Ask your friends and friends of friends,” says Ashton. She is still human and can say with complete honesty that she has not developed too many unhealthy habits except for splurging on fitness. That’s her vice, spending on fitness. She indulges in fitness attire, gyms, and classes. She admits to not drinking enough water. “It makes me pee a lot and I’m so busy, so it slows me down,” she says with a laugh. She also admits liking the way a “healthy” glow looks as the result of getting a suntan. She does use an SPF 50 everyday on her face and says she could do better with the sunscreen. She does have a few social drinks each week, too.

I was curious whether she combines Eastern medicine practices into her Western practice and she does! When I brought up the subject of meditation, Dr. Ashton said she was intrigued and she often will write prescriptions for acupuncture and a few select supplements. She also believes in incorporating Ayurvedic medicine into her practice depend on a balance of mind, body, and spirit. This past November, Ashton was inspired to delve a little deeper into meditation and attended a four-day course on Transcendental Meditation at the David Lynch Foundation. This style of meditation is a mantra-based meditation practice. The course included two hours of meditation each day. On most days when at home, Ashton tries to adhere to 20-minutes of meditation twice a day. She has noted massive benefits including improvement in how she thinks, feels, and decreased stress levels.

I can personally attest to the powers of meditation, just five to seven minutes a day makes a huge improvement in the way you navigate through your day, or the way your mind works that day. It eliminates this term called, Monkey Mind, meaning restless, unsettled, indecisive, etc. It’s when your mind is all over the place. Meditation tames this allowing you to go about your day with clear, concise thinking, one thought at a time. Other benefits of meditation, that Dr. Ashton can attest to, include lower blood pressure, less inflammation in the body, and a boosted immune system. In the TM practice of meditation you are “given” a mantra. There are many different classes of mantras – some have healing powers and all are meant to be transcending, creating a healing effect for the whole body, mind, and more. Mantras are given by trained Transcendental Meditation teachers and are not to be shared with anyone. I asked her Dr. Ashton about her mantra and all she would tell me is that, “I wish I had learned it a long time ago.”

Moving forward in medicine, Dr. Ashton says there is a growing focus on cancer diagnosis and treatment, oral health, mental health, and she would love to see advances in Ob-Gyn, a sector that has lagged behind. What women can tune into now is their own menstrual cycle. “A woman’s period should be considered a vital reflection on overall health,” stresses Dr. Ashton. Women shouldn’t have to suffer through their periods and they should be evaluated with the following details in mind: how many days in between and how heavy the flow. These indicators are the blueprint to gynecological health. One warning sign includes irregular periods; they should be between 24-28 days. Passing blood clots can be an early warning sign of endometrial pre-cancer or cancer, and of benign fibroid tumors.. Don’t assume your period is “normal,” talk to your doctor about even slightly subtle changes.

What’s next for this dynamic mother, doctor, wife, author, and TV celebrity? She has no plans to give up practicing medicine. She believes she was put on earth to take care of patients. She’d like to develop women’s health products that are innovative and pertain to a healthy lifestyle. She is a frequent guest speaker and loves meeting people in different parts of the country at these speaking events. As busy and in high demand as she is, she is proud to say she does accept new patients and sees them 23 hours a week in her New Jersey office. Her patients visit her from all over the world. In between annual visits, she connects with her patients through text, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. “I love my patients.”


Dr. Ashton’s Advice on Health Throughout the Decades

Most important decade to establish healthy behaviors that will take you through the rest of life. At this point in your life you are an adult and you should establish the ideal trifecta of healthy patterns that include eating, sleeping, and moving. This is the time to set healthy eating habits, get enough rest, and make exercise an integral part of your daily routine. She stresses the importance of nailing those three things down in this stage of life.

This is the prime time for child bearing. Dr. Ashton advises to consider your health as though you were pregnant at all times. “Pregnancy, labor, and delivery should be treated like any other athletic event,” says Ashton. “You have to train for them, have optimal health before you get pregnant.”

{ With children }

Dr. Ashton labels this the “selfish decade.” For most, you’ve finished having babies, you have established your career and your relationship. This is the time to refocus on you. Get your body ready for menopause by practicing the trifecta you mastered in your 20s, – eat well, sleep well, and move! In this decade subtle hormonal changes can occur.

{ Without children }

If you are in this decade without having had children, you are naturally at slightly higher risk for uterine and ovarian cancers. Dr. Ashton suggests considering starting a low-dose birth control pill to lower the risk of getting these cancers. This is a vital time to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

We are living longer and this may be the half way mark in life for many. Start to pay close attention to preventive care. In this decade cancer risk starts to go up. This is the time to pay close attention to muscular and bone health, and flexibility is key in this period of life. Taking up a yoga practice during, or before, this decade could be highly beneficial for bone and muscle health, to increase flexibility, and to keep joints lubricated.

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