One of our favorite things about Angel Road is that it gives us a chance to share the wisdom of people who inspire us with all of you – and Penelope is our latest inspiration. Meet Dr. Penelope McDonnell, an NYC-based Naturopath who chatted with us about staying healthy this winter, managing stress, and what we put on and into our bodies. Mother of four boys, doctor, and avid world traveler, Penelope juggles work, family and health like a pro – all amid the hustle and bustle of New York. Penelope graciously took a few minutes of her busy day to share some approachable, realistic, not-too-crunchy Naturopathic wisdom with us that we hope you can apply to your own day to day…
For our readers braving cold weather, what are some tips for staying healthy?
In the winter, everyone tells you to constantly wash your hands, and avoid other people that are sick. However, it is more important to focus on strengthening your immune system to fight off those germs and illnesses. One of the most important things you can do is exercise; heating your body and sweating is great to rid your self of toxins. Spending some time in the sauna will also work wonders. Secondly, eating fresh fruits and vegetables will give your body the nutrients it needs. Half of your diet should be fresh organic vegetables. Thirdly, plenty of sleep and supplements will keep your immune system strong in the winter. Vitamin C is essential, Vitamin D is great for the lower amount of sunlight you receive in the darker winter months.
How does your skincare choice affect your overall health?
The largest organ of your body is your skin! What you put on it changes your health. Everything you put on your skin it absorbs; and if it is a chemical product, your body isn’t sure what to do with it so it sends it to the liver. Having your liver burdened affects your risk for disease, how you age, your mood, and increases your propensity to illness in many different ways. The closer products are to their natural state, the better they are for you. That’s why products like Tata Harper are changing the market; the closer your products are to the farm, the healthier they are!
What relaxes you?
I love to meditate. Ten minutes in the morning and the evening can totally change your day. It takes so little time to reset your body, but people rarely take the opportunity to do so. Naturopaths try to identify the root cause of a problem. Instead of prescribing heavy doses of medicine, we would rather find out what is making someone sick, stressed, tired, anxious, etc. Meditating is a great way to tap into this. It’s like therapy in a bottle! I also love to do Pilates for a tough, mind-clearing workout. Also, Great Jones Spa in NYC is a wonderful place to get a massage and re-center yourself.
What are some of your other favorite spots in NYC?
I attended Columbia, and I love going back up to campus. It’s sort of off the beaten path, but there are so many great restaurants and it’s a little escape while you’re still in Manhattan. I’m also a huge nerd—I love the New York Public Library. I also enjoy taking my poodle, Sadie, for long walks along the Hudson.
What does your ideal day look like?
Any great day starts with a good night sleep! It also has really good food—eating healthfully and nutritiously with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I love my job, and my ideal day has about 5-6 hours with patients—not too much or too little work. I also love to connect with friends, exercise and walk my dog. And every good day has 1 ½ hours of just time to myself to relax and re-set.
After business school, working on Wall Street, and raising a family of four boys, what inspired you to go back to school and become a doctor?
My oldest son Paul was very sick when we were living in Europe. He had been to a variety of doctors, and still wasn’t feeling better. I brought him to a doctor that practiced alternative medicine, hoping to try something new. Within a week, he was well. I began to feel so strongly that there were more answers to our health than our current medical system provides. I also love to study, and wanted to know more; I eventually decided to go back to school and have been practicing ever since.
Dr. McDonnell is a licensed Naturopathic physician, part of CT-based Naturopathic Partners. She has offices in both NY and CT. If you’re interested in seeing her to improve your overall health, contact drmcdonnelll@