Food Is Not Your Enemy

How to Reduce Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, & Blood Sugar Without Meds
March 17, 2020, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Drugs, Exercise, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

Is it possible to improve your numbers without medication?

Yes, it is!

If your doctor expresses concern about your cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar levels, most will encourage you to try making food and lifestyle adjustments before writing you a prescription. And if they don’t do this, tell them you’d like to try before taking pills. Medications have side effects—cholesterol medication can damage your liver, for instance—so the fewer prescriptions in your life, the better. (Of course if your numbers veer into dangerous territory and you’re not able to improve them without medication, by all means take your doctor’s advice and fill that prescription.)

Here are some ways that you can try to reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, naturally…

Cholesterol. The keys here are lowering your intake of saturated fats and refined carbs, upping your consumption of fiber-rich food, and adding more healthy fats into your diet. Weight loss and exercise tend to help too. Specific things to try: cook with olive oil, get the white grains out of your life and eat whole grains instead, and choose fish more often than red meat.

Blood pressure. We hear a lot about reducing sodium to bring blood pressure down, which is important. But also important is eating a diet rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium; exercising; managing stress; and keeping an eye on your weight. Specific things to try: cook at home more as restaurant food contains a lot of salt; regularly eat bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens; and try to get 30 minutes of moderate activity every day.

Blood sugar. Prediabetes and diabetes can be reversed in many people. If your A1c level, a long-term measure of blood sugar, is high, the most important things to do are to switch up your carbs and lose some weight. Specific things to try: get away from sugary foods (don’t worry about fruit, I’m talking about cookies, ice cream, soda and the like) and white flour, and instead choose healthy carbs like whole wheat bread and pasta, quinoa, brown rice, and nourishing, fiber-rich starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots. Of course you’ll want to pair these better carbs with lean protein, lots of green veggies, and healthy fats throughout the day too. Plus, again, exercise.

And if your numbers look good, let’s keep them that way! Doing all of the above now will prevent your doctor from raising an eyebrow at your blood work in the future.

How Your Diet Can Heal You–Or Harm You

There’s a pill for everything. Pills to treat symptoms, pills to help prevent diseases, pills to deal with mental health issues. Sometimes these pills are very necessary, and can truly save lives. But there are times when food can work as well as medicine—if not better—when it comes to addressing specific health concerns.

Here are just a few examples:

-Just recently a study found that we can reduce the risk of dementia significantly just by changing our diet—eating in a way to lower blood pressure and weight make a big difference here.

-Many people can avoid taking drugs to lower their cholesterol—which can cause such side effects as headaches, muscle pain, and increased risk of diabetes—by switching up their diets. Eating more nuts, seeds, fiber-rich foods, olive oil, and fish and sidelining such foods as white/refined carbs and sugar can make a huge difference in our cholesterol numbers.

-Increasing intake of healthy fats from plants and fish and reducing the toxic combination of sugar and too much caffeine can really help people who are suffering from depression and/or anxiety.

-Blood pressure can respond quickly to changes in salt intake. Before committing to a lifetime of taking blood pressure meds, which also can have unwanted side effects, try significantly reducing your salt intake by eating less restaurant food and processed food like chips/pretzels, cold cuts, and canned soups.

-Rather than taking acid-reducing pills (which inhibit absorption of B vitamins) or downing Tums like candy, notice if there are particular foods that are causing your reflux or stomach upset. From experience working with my clients, I’ve found that this is true virtually 100 percent of the time.

You really can think of every bite of food you’re eating as something that is either going to lead to greater health, or something that could harm your health. So choose wisely, and make food your medicine rather than your poison.

How Diet Can Affect Your Skin
September 27, 2016, 12:51 pm
Filed under: Dairy, Drugs, Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets | Tags: , ,

Millions of people, both teens and adults, suffer from acne. I myself did for much of my life—I remember at age 9 putting on mud masks to try to dry out my pimples, and by age 15 I was on Accutane, a prescription medication which we now know can cause liver damage and increase one’s risk for depression and suicide.

There can be a strong hormonal component to acne, but the food we eat can also have an effect—something dermatologists generally don’t mention. Inflammation is a big driver of skin eruptions. While many factors can contribute to inflammation, such as nutrient deficiencies, toxicity, and allergens, our processed, sugar-laden diet can be the number-one cause. Added sugars and all the foods that quickly convert to sugar in the body, like white bread, white pasta, and white rice, lead to an increased risk of breakouts.

Dairy can also be a trigger, thanks to the hormones found in such foods as milk, ice cream, and cheese. Dairy raises the levels of male sex hormones in the body, which can drive the development of pimples.

In addition to minimizing sugar and dairy, what will also help your skin is eating an anti-inflammatory diet, consuming more healthy omega-3 fats (fish and nuts/seeds) and fruits and vegetables, actively managing your stress (stress increases inflammation), getting enough sleep (lack of sleep also leads to inflammation), and exercising regularly.

Give these suggestions a try, and you just might be able to toss all the harsh face washes and ointments in the trash!

How Your Eating Habits Can Affect Risk of Depression
February 24, 2016, 10:50 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Drugs, Healthy Lifestyle, Oils, Sweets | Tags: , , , ,

Do you struggle with depression, or know someone who does? If so, you’re not alone. More than 100 million Americans cope with some level of depression—that’s one in three people. Why is this problem so widespread, and is there anything you can do about it, other than taking prescription pills?

There are many factors that can lead to depression, and those factors are going to differ for everyone. But one factor that is usually completely overlooked by the medical establishment is diet. On the whole, Americans eat so poorly that we are literally starved of the nutrients we need to keep our brains healthy. Here are some easy changes you can make to your diet to help ward off depression…

Eat your fats. Your healthy fats, that is—specifically foods high in omega-3s. Omega-3 fats are critical for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, and 99 percent of Americans do not eat enough of these fats. The best sources of omega-3s are fish, nuts, and seeds. It is worth noting that in Iceland, a country whose people eat a ton of fish, depression rates are extremely low (and this is a country where it is dark much of the year).

Reduce sugar intake. There are a million reasons to avoid foods with added sugar, and one of them happens to be that sugar can contribute to depression.

Eat lots of whole, real foods. The American diet of convenience tends to leave us shortchanged when it comes to nutrients. And a deficiency of such nutrients as folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin D can lead to increased risk of depression. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits every day, in addition to lean proteins like eggs and chicken, whole grains, and legumes.

Heal your gut with food. More and more research is showing that there is a strong connection between the brain and what’s going on in the gut. Eat the kinds of foods that will help the right gut bacteria proliferate in your intestines: green vegetables as well as fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.

The Best Natural Ways to Treat a Cold or Flu
December 3, 2012, 11:39 am
Filed under: Drugs, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

As we’re now deep into fall, cold and flu season is very much upon us. In an ideal world, your immune system would be in tip-top shape and you’d avoid getting sick in the first place–tips for strengthening your immunity can be found here–but sometimes there is just no avoiding catching a cold or coming down with the flu. Should you start to sniffle or feel that telltale scratchiness in the back of your throat that signals the onset of illness, take action right away:

Flood yourself with fluids. This is key the moment you feel sick–make sure that you pretty much constantly have a cup of either hot tea, broth, water, or orange juice in your hand. Hot liquids in particular are very soothing for the throat. I have found that nine times out of ten, drinking lots of fluids at the first sign of sickness chases away my cold before it goes any further than that initial scratch in my throat.

Break out the honey. Honey has antimicrobial and healing properties. Enjoy honey in tea, hot water, or even by itself when you’re sick.

Gargle and/or flush your sinuses with salt water. Mix about half a teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of warm water and gargle several times a day–this will help soothe your throat. A neti pot, which channels salt water through your sinuses, will help ensure that your nasal passages are kept moist, decongested, and clear of pathogens.

Try these helpful foods. According to Paul Pitchford, author of Healing With Whole Foods, certain foods are particularly beneficial for treating colds and flus. These include cabbage, green peppers, parsley, carrots, broccoli, turnips, parsnips, horseradish, scallions, garlic, lemon juice, grapefruit, and most other fruits.

Sweat. Pitchford is also a proponent of sweating therapy, which helps draw the toxins out of your body. He recommends drinking a cup of hot herbal tea, taking a hot shower or bath, having more hot tea, then covering yourself in blankets and sweating.

Hope this helps–stay well!

The Problem With Those Pills

“May cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, cancer, depression, risk of suicide, increased risk of heart attack or stroke …”

Sound familiar? It seems that every drug advertised on TV these days includes a disturbingly long list of possible side effects. While children frolic with dogs and women hula hoop in slow motion on the beach and men fly kites while hugging their wives, we’re told how these pills may, unfortunately, kill a certain number of us.

The pharmaceutical industry banks on the idea that people would rather, for instance, continue to eat unhealthy, high-calorie junk foods and take a pill to solve their reflux or high cholesterol or high blood pressure than making changes to their diet or lifestyle. And the companies are largely right in this assumption–if you can pop a pill, many of us think, why bother doing anything different? Pills are just so easy.

But the important thing to remember is that pills don’t solve the root causes of many of our health problems–they merely suppress symptoms. Let’s take headaches. Sometimes, regular headaches can be caused by a lack of magnesium in the diet. Taking a pill to get rid of the headache pain does not address this deficiency. And by not addressing this deficiency, other problems, like poor bone health, can arise. Now, look at cholesterol. High cholesterol is often caused by poor diet. If you take a prescription statin drug but continue to eat the same way you always have, your body will still suffer–that diet may lead you to become overweight (if you aren’t already), which then leads to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases. Your cholesterol numbers may have improved, but you’re not a whole lot healthier. And you may not be so happy to hear that the FDA just linked statin drugs like Lipitor and Crestor to risk of memory loss.

So instead of looking to solve everything through pills, try taking a look at what can be improved in your life. That chronic gastritis may be the result of an overly stressful job–that’s exactly what I realized many years ago, which led me to seek out a new job and allowed me to toss aside the Prilosec prescription. Your insomnia may be due to lack of exercise, or too much alcohol in the evening, or that third cup of coffee you have each day, or also, an overly stressful job. Make some adjustments in any of these areas and you may no longer need the Ambien.

If you take greater ownership over your own health, you won’t have to put yourself at the mercy of the drug-makers. And that means a whole lot fewer possible side effects.

Four Tips to Help You Lower Your Cholesterol
February 21, 2010, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Beans, Chronic Disease, Drugs, Eggs, Fruits, Grains, Oils, Vegetables | Tags: , , ,

Cholesterol research is an ever-evolving thing: One day we’re told that eggs are an absolute no-no if we have high cholesterol, and the next we hear that it’s actually okay to eat eggs. Doctors have been prescribing statin drugs like Lipitor left and right for patients with high cholesterol, but then recent research has shown that following a Mediterranean-style diet is just as effective at lowering cholesterol as these drugs. What to do?

Here are four tips to help you reduce your cholesterol without resorting to prescription drugs:

  1. Fiber, fiber, fiber. Fiber helps rid the body of cholesterol, and is crucial for overall good health as well. Beans are a terrific source of fiber, as are fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
  2. Cut out the white stuff. Refined carbohydrates–white breads, white pasta, white rice, white sugar–are wreaking havoc on our health, including our cholesterol. Replace these processed products with whole grains.
  3. Eat antioxidant-rich foods. Berries, dark chocolate, red wine, green tea–all of these are high in antioxidants and will help lower your cholesterol.
  4. Eat as the Cretans do. The model Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of the island of Crete, a place where, until the recent influx of fast-food chains, heart disease was virtually non-existent. Their diet is rich in fish, olive oil, green vegetables, and whole grains.

Chicken: Safe or Scary?

We’ve been hearing for years that we should cut down on the amount of red meat we eat. Since these exhortations began, Americans have largely been plunging their forks into chicken instead — to the tune of 8 billion birds a year — because it’s healthier, right? Well, that depends. Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.

How To Fix Obama’s Health Plan Before It’s Too Late

Dr. Mark Hyman, who’s on the forefront of changing the way medicine is practiced in this country, has posted a 9-point plan for fixing our health-care system on his site. It’s spot-on, emphasizing the need for preventative care and a change in the mindset that our every ill should be solved by taking a drug or going in for surgery. I highly recommend reading it.

Deepak Chopra Defends Oprah

While I recently expressed concern on my blog about Oprah recommending that her viewers go get themselves some free KFC grilled chicken, which is marinated in trans-fats and MSG, in general I do believe that Oprah’s heart is in the right place when it comes to health and wellness.

Deepak Chopra writes a nice defense of Ms. Winfrey in the Huffington Post this week, which is worth checking out because he goes into some depth about what’s wrong with our health-care system and the critical role that nutrition plays in preventing illness. I believe so strongly in what he’s saying, and will, as I often do, point to this fact, which I think sums up our problem: studies have shown that following a Mediterranean-style diet reduces cholesterol levels much more effectively than statin drugs (Lipitor and the like), and yet doctors continue to prescribe these drugs rampantly. This is something that has got to change.