The Story of the Barkows

On their first date at a fish house, Stephen and Pamina each ordered fish (cooked in oil, not butter) and steamed vegetables as sides. Neither was sure if the other was imitating the order just to make the other feel at ease. By the end of the date, though, they felt like they had known each other for years. It was then that Stephen pulled out a little package, wrapped in plastic and said uncomfortably, “I hope you don’t mind, I always take a few supplements with my meal.” Pamina started laughing, reached into her purse and pulled out a sandwich bag with her own supplements. She said playfully, “That’s all you take?” to which he replied, “No, I left the other half at home because I didn’t want to seem geeky.” That gave way to a long talk about their similar diets and lifestyle habits — it was obvious that with so many shared values, they were meant to be.

Many years, two dogs and a daughter later, the Barkows center their lives on health, happiness and helping others achieve the same lifestyle. “For the most part, we are all born healthy but it takes a lifetime of retraining yourself to stay that way,” says Stephen thoughtfully. Pamina adds, “This lifestyle that we lead is a very personal decision that has taken discipline.”

When Pamina was 20, she had horrible stomach aches. The doctors weren’t sure what was truly wrong and treated her with medication after medication that led to a number of side effects including additional inflammation, moodiness, disruption of sleep patterns and some of her hair falling out. “I thought to myself, I’m too young to feel this tired and this sick,” she remembers.

It was then that she went to see who is now her mentor, a biochemist, Scott. “He taught me about what food does to my body on a biochemical level. It changed my view of food forever. I changed my whole lifestyle and I’ve been beyond healthy since.”

Stephen’s story starts with watching his mom die of breast cancer. “Back then, they didn’t have the tools and knowledge that they do today,” he remembers with a saddened tone. “I watched them try so many different things only to have her feel temporarily better and then take a turn for the worse.” A decade later, he would watch his father go through the same heart-wrenching process. “It’s because both Pamina and I have experienced and seen pain on such a personal level that it’s such a passion for us to spread the message of natural health,” concludes Stephen.

Out of that passion, IllumiNutri was born. Combining Stephen’s expertise in the medical field with Pamina’s knowledge in food and nutrition, the result is a balanced and strong partnership both at home and at work. “On our days off, we cook and take walks together,” Pamina giggles, “and during work hours I teach people about food and about the benefits of movement.” Stephen adds, “We are the real deal, we believe and follow what we teach. That’s because it actually works.

Stephen Barkow, MD

“The body has the potential to heal itself… if we give it the support it needs.”

Deeply rooted in Western medicine, Dr. Barkow also looks holistically at the human body and seeks out natural pain relief treatments when possible for his patients. With an impeccable track record and credentials, he has repeatedly been recognized for his work in the Pain Management field. Some of his credential highlights include:

  • Over 20 years of experience
  • Dual board certified in Pain Management
  • Board certified in Emergency Medicine as well as Anesthesiology
  • Clinical Assistant Professor at University of California at Irvine Medical Center
  • Advanced Clinical Instructor for the International Spine Intervention Society
  • Named Physician of Excellence by the Orange County Medical Association
  • Named a Top USA Doctor by US News and World Report
  • Given the Patient’s Choice Award by Vitals.com

Pamina Barkow, CNC

“Unlike most nutritionists, I know how to make food taste yummy!”

What began as a childhood love of cooking in her grandmother’s kitchen slowly grew into a career in helping people eat healthier and be happier. For the past decade, Pamina has worked with people who have special dietary needs, specializing in patients with celiac, dairy and other dietary sensitivities. In addition to her education and technical skills, Pamina is also a mother who can relate to busy family schedules and the challenge of eating healthfully.

  • Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CNC)
  • Classically trained chef, Laguna Culinary Arts (LCA)
  • Master’s Degree from University of California, Irvine
  • Former Culinary Instructor for LCA
  • Former Culinary Chair for Susan G. Komen, Pink Ribbon Ball