Posts Tagged ‘Health’

The Work of Byron Katie: “I’m not living up to my full potential.” Is it true?

Have you ever stressed out about something you think other people want you to do? Watch as this man questions the thought, “I’m not living up to my full potential.”  Funny how we let our minds convince us our thoughts are true that may not be true at all.  And then, those thoughts become beliefs we act on or at least stress and worry about so much it can begin to affect our health and well-being.

Part 2 here.

Oligofructose…an excellent substitute for sugar and artificial sweeteners

I just did a search on PubMed for “artificial sweeteners” and came up with 162,789 resulted published articles.  Wow, it’s no wonder there are so many questions out there about which artificial sweeteners are safe and how much is too much.  I haven’t even sorted all that out yet myself- except to say that moderation is the key with sugar and artificial sweeteners alike.

However, I have come across a natural plant fiber used as a sweetener called inulin or oligofructose.  The main sources of this are Jerusalem artichoke and chicory.  It’s a sugar free sweetener with a glycemic index of approximately zero!  This means, it does not cause any surges in your insulin levels after eating making it very different from sugar or complex carbohydrates.  Studies have shown it to be helpful in stimulating the immune system, decreasing the bad bacteria in the intestine, alleviating constipation, lowering the risk of osteoporosis (by increasing the absorption of calcium in the gut), reducing the risk of plaques building up in your arteries and lowering the risk of colon cancer. In fact it seems to act very similar to dietary fiber in our bodies and some have even proposed classifying it as dietary fiber instead of it’s current classification as a carbohydrate.

If you’d like to try it out for yourselves, check out these ChocoPerfection bars.  They are sweetened with oligofructose.  That is definitely the best “sugar-free” chocolate I have ever tried with none of the side effects of sugar alcohols.  If you’re looking for a way to satisfy your sweet tooth without the sugar rush followed by the inevitable crash, try these. Absolutely delicious!!

Preventive Medicine

Preventive Medicine refers to preventing medical illness and disease instead of treating a disease after it exists.  I continue to be amazed at how many patients I see a day who are physically suffering from diseases that can be prevented (referred to as primary prevention) or at least managed better to have fewer complications (referred to as tertiary prevention).  For a doctor this is an important and sometimes overlooked area of practicing good medicine.  It’s becoming a more and more recognized part of quality medical care as people are searching for ways to provide good care at a more economical cost.  There is even a new field of medical training referred to as preventive medicine.  As a patient, I invite you to become more proactive in taking part in your own preventive medicine.  YOU are the one that lives your life everyday!  You know what you eat and what bad habits you have.  Being honest with yourself and your doctor about the effect those habits can have on your health is the first step in looking for ways to stay as healthy as you can.

If our country successfully adopted healthy lifestyles and reduced the incidence of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, our cost of medical care would plummet.  Education about healthy diets does not seem to be working.  I notice that taking a deeper look at what is driving people to turn to unhealthy food or physical inactivity despite their knowledge about what is good for them is more important.  Studying the social determinants of health (for example, those that don’t believe they can afford healthier options or have transportation to get it) and the mental determinants of health (for example, poor coping skills causing a anxious person to turn to food for comfort) I believe is the answer.  I invite you to take a look at your own life, what is holding you back from making the lifestyle changes you already believe you should make? 

 Addressing that is true preventive medicine.

How do you define being healthy?

What does it mean to you to be healthy?  When so many are concerned with “being healthy,” perhaps it would be beneficial to take a look at what that actually is.  Is it merely being free from any disease or ailments?  Is it freedom from any physical suffering? Does it mean not having to take any vitamins, supplements or medications…ever?  Does it mean you never have to go see a doctor? If we are not sure what the goal is, how will we ever get there?

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

“Physical, mental and social well-being.” Physical well-being involves taking care of the body you have to live your life in: nutrition, fitness, medical care.  Mental well-being involves a balance of self responsibility and self love, appropriate coping mechanisms to assist you in dealing with stress, freedom from worry, learning you can be happy no matter what circumstance you are in.  And finally, social well-being involves having meaningful relationships with healthy communication.  When it comes down to it, life is about relationship with yourself and others.

Physical, mental and social well-being are intertwined together.  So what do you think, are you healthy?  I’ve noticed that if you work on mental well-being first, the rest tends to fall into place.

Next post: how preventive medicine addresses physical, mental and social well-being.

Heal your mind and notice if the body follows.

A dear friend reminded me of the importance the mind has on the physical body’s health.  When your thinking is contaminated with stressful thoughts, that stress can come out in many different ways and manifest in your body.  Your immune system may be weakened and unable to fight off infections.  You may not be able to sleep with the thoughts churning in your mind.  When you do not have a way to deal with those thoughts, the only alternative is to find a way to escape from them.  Maybe it’s with eating to numb the mind, turning to drugs or alcohol, escaping from the pain with prescription medications (narcotics, antidepressants, etc.), sex, smoking, watching TV, too much exercise or not enough exercise.  These addictions, where you turn to escape from the pain, may eventually lead to obesity, heart disease, cancer, dependence on drugs and alcohol and the list goes on and on.

If you had to choose, would you rather have a healthy body or a healthy mind?  As Byron Katie says, “I hope you chose mind because bodies don’t make it.”  Heal your mind and notice if the body follows.  Start by just noticing what thoughts you are having in the moments before you turn to your escape, whatever that is for you.

“I’m not good enough.” ”My body shouldn’t be hurting.” ”I am alone.” ”I’m too fat.” ”I have too much to do.”

If we are honest, we all have them…just notice.

Vitamin B12- who needs it and are pills okay?

Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin mostly obtained from dairy products and meat.  It is a critical ingredient your body needs to make red blood cells and also helps your nervous system work correctly.  If you have low B12 levels, you might have anemia, depression, dementia or neuropathy (pain, burning or tingling sensation).  Some people with low B12 also have high levels of homocysteine which may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Your doctor can run a simple blood test to see if your B12 level is low.

The most common reasons for low B12 are 1) not taking in enough in your diet or 2) a problem with your stomach or intestines that prevents you from being able to absorb the vitamin.  This includes Pernicious Anemia (where you do not have the cells needed in your stomach to absorb B12) or long standing heartburn or ulcers or having had surgery on your stomach or intestines.

In the past, everyone who needed B12 supplementation was given shots- initially given several times a week for a couple weeks and then once a month. Now we know that unless you have a problem absorbing B12, it is just as effective to take a daily pill instead of getting a shot.  Over the counter Vitamin B12 pills do not have enough B12 to increase your levels- you need to take at least 1000 mcg of B12 everyday.  You can get a prescription for this high dose from your doctor if you levels are low.

Even if you’ve been getting Vitamin B12 shots for years, you can switch to the pill and it will be just as effective unless you have a problem absorbing B12 from your digestive tract.

How much TV do you watch a day?

According to a recent study by Nielson, the average American watches about 5 hours of TV per day or 153 hours per month.  That’s almost 160 hours per month – equivalent to another 40 hour work week.  In a 65 year life, that person will have spent 9 years watching television!  That doesn’t even count the time spent playing video games or on the computer.  Did you know the average American youth spends 900 hours in school in one year and 1500 hours watching TV in one year?

It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that children have their screen time (TV, videos, video games, computer time) limited to no more than 2 hours total per day.  If yours or yours child’s screen time was truly 2 hours a day, how much time would be left to participate in more stimulating and productive activities? If you only watched 2 hours of TV a day, your children would also be much less likely to watch over 2 hours a day.  There would be more time to exercise or be involved in some sort of physical activity, spend more time in conversation with our children, help them with homework, prepare healthier meals and eat them with our family.  Essentially, there would be more time to do a huge number of activities that are likely more valuable than watching TV.  Next time you say “I don”t have time to exercise or cook my family a healthy dinner” add up the hours that week you spent glued to the TV and ask yourself if that is really true?

Where do you spend most of your time in the grocery store?

Here’s one thing I have noticed about the grocery store.  The healthiest foods are located around the periphery of the store.  That’s where the dairy, meats, fruits and vegetables are found.  The aisles are typically filled with pre-packaged, processed carbohydrates and bad fats.  Think about your trips to the grocery store- do you find most of the items on your list around the periphery in the produce and refrigerated sections or do you spend most of your time weaving your way through the aisles?  More “aisle time” probably reflects the amount of unhealthy food you are stocking your pantry with which almost certainly reflects what you are eating.  Except for an occasional trip to an aisle for a specific item like beans or legumes for example, try spending your next trip to the grocery store only around the periphery and notice the difference in what’s in your refrigerator when you get home.

Makeover your kitchen

Wanting to make over your body?  The best place to start is your kitchen.  Good nutrition is in part about knowing which foods are good to eat but it may be more about altering lifestyle habits.  Even if you know what’s good to eat, if those foods are not around, you won’t eat them!  So how do you start establishing a lifetime of good nutrition?  Well, start at home!  Your dietary willpower and discipline will be frequently challenged at potluck dinners, social events, lunch meetings at work, etc.  But, what matters more than an occasional non-nutritious meal is the other meals you are eating the majority of the time.  Start by making your home a “safe place.”

Here are some excerpts from Gourmet Nutrition by John Berardi, PhD, founder of Precision Nutrition.

“If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, you will eventually eat it.   That’s right, if you wish to be healthy and lean; you must remove all foods not conducive to your goals from your residence and replace them with a variety of better, healthier choices.  Now, before you go thinking that this is just a suggestion- one way to improve your body- we want to make it clear.  This is the only way to improve your body….We assure you that once you makeover your kitchen, your body will follow.”

Take a look in your fridge and pantry- is it filled with soft drinks, fruit juices, processed foods wrapped in colorful wrappers, boxes and containers?  If so, it may be time for a kitchen makeover.