By Julia Szabo
Too often, the first authority consulted by wellness warriors facing a health challenge is Dr. Google. We’ve all been there—but what if, surfing the net, we mistakenly choose the wrong supplement for what ails us? We might unknowingly disarm an antibiotic by taking it with a probiotic, or cause a scary drug interaction. Preventing such scenarios is the mission of a new breed of health expert: the integrative pharmacist.
David Restrepo, a registered pharmacist and the founder of New York City’s Vitahealth Apothecary, has earned a sterling reputation among both physicians and patients for prioritizing safety while maximizing wellness. This licensed health-care professional not only holds a degree from an accredited college of pharmacy, he also is fluent in complementary therapies ranging from homeopathy to Chinese and Western herbs, from acupuncture to Ayurveda.
“David is one of the smartest people I know,” says Amie Valpone, best-selling author of Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). “When I was going through a decade of chronic illness, he was supportive the entire time. Vitahealth Apothecary is my go-to for supplements and health supplies. I send all of my clients to David, not only because he is brilliant but also because he is so kind and patient.”
The benefits of consulting an integrative pharmacist can be life-changing for those undergoing chemotherapy, and Vitahealth’s First Avenue store is conveniently located steps from Memorial Sloan Kettering. Restrepo often recommends what he terms a “strengthening protocol” to combat common deficiencies that occur in the body, whether related to a particular medication, or as a result of the stress the body undergoes while fighting chronic disease, such as cancer. “In certain cases, selenium, zinc, magnesium and vitamin D3 become depleted,” Restrepo says, “And we know that the body functions better when these are at the higher range of normal.”
Restrepo takes care to recommend the specific forms of vitamins and minerals—methylated B vitamins, for example—that our body bodies can best absorb. His customers learn what to look for on a supplement ingredient panel: “Magnesium stearate that is vegetable-based is fine, but there are some other ingredients you can do without,” he says. “For purity and efficacy, you want fewer extra ingredients. You definitely don’t want titanium dioxide, talc or aluminum.”
Most conventional pharmacists work behind the scenes, anonymously filling prescriptions. But at Vitahealth Apothecary’s two locations, Restrepo frequently pauses from his back-office duties to interact with customers and dispense advice, both in person and over the phone. His goal, like that of all good integrative pharmacists, is partnering with MDs to make the healing experience smooth and free of side effects. “A supplement isn’t always the answer,” Restrepo concludes. “The answer can take many forms—including good eating habits and various mind-body practices—and we love to take this holistic journey of discovery with our family of customers.”