Natural practitioners guide their patients to healthy lifestyles that can help prevent or reverse signs of illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the public health challenge of the 21st century is chronic disease. Seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases, and heart disease, cancer and stroke are the top three causes of death in the U.S. that account for more than 50 percent of all deaths each year. And in 2005, 133 million Americans (one out of every two adults) had a chronic illness.
Further, the CDC reports that obesity has become a major health concern, as one in every three adults is considered obese, while almost one in every five young people between the ages of 6 and 19 is classified as obese. The medical community is so concerned about the obesity epidemic that the American Medical Association (AMA) voted to label obesity as a disease at its 2013 Annual Meeting.
Western medicine is still the most popular and accessible type of treatment in the U.S., which oftentimes is coupled with prescription drugs and surgery to treat the symptoms of an illness. In fact, according to a study1 published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 4.02 billion (with a cost of $319.9 billion) prescriptions were written in 2011. Yet, with the rising cost of health care in the country, many Americans are looking for alternative approaches to regain and maintain their health, and most natural practitioners would agree that making important lifestyle changes are vital to accomplishing this task.
“I believe that lifestyle significantly influences the risk of contracting common disease and definitely affects our body’s ability to heal,” said Deborah Waddell, founder of Skyland’s Acupuncture & Wellness Center, Long Valley, NJ. “Of all the lifestyle choices we make, those concerning what we put into our bodies are particularly important because we have tremendous control over those choices and hence our health.”
You Are What You Eat
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Unfortunately, the standard American diet (SAD) is full of processed food lacking in nutrients and is causing a number of health problems.
According to a 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Standards Survey, the average American diet included only five percent of vegetables, while 23 percent of the American diet was found to be grains (only four percent were whole grains). Another 26 percent was made up of meat, dairy and eggs, while 23 percent consisted of added fat.
“I think the acronym states it best: SAD. The standard American diet is laden with processed, nutritionally valueless foods that are contributing to low-grade inflammation in the body and an increased risk for chronic disease,” said Holly Lucille, ND, RN. “When you look up ‘diet’ in the dictionary, it literally means ‘habitual nourishment’… People should avoid foods that aren’t food anymore and have become edible food ‘products,’ which are usually low in nutrients and high in colors, fillers and refined sugars.”
Research is showing that “we are what we eat,” as many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and autoimmune diseases are a result, at least in part, of SAD. “It is well known that many of the causes of chronic diseases in the U.S. are linked to our diet,” said Rikki Keen, sports dietitian and Health Ambassador for California-based FRS Energy Endurance. “Poor diet promotes chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, abnormal blood lipids, high blood pressure and overweight or obesity.”
Further, many doctors practicing Western medicine do not ask the simple question of “What are you eating?” when patients come to them with health issues. During Dr. David Perlmutter’s keynote at the 2013 Integrative Healthcare Symposium (IHS), he noted that when a dog is ill, the first question a veterinarian is likely to ask is, ‘What are you feeding your dog?’ “Why don’t we ask that of our patients?” he said.
Keen said that people suffering from a disease or illness should avoid pro-inflammatory, high glycemic and pro-oxidant foods, including animal-based foods, and opt for a more plant-based diet. According to a study2 published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, eating more red meat over time is associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Study results indicated that increasing red meat intake of more than 0.5 servings per day was associated with a 48 percent elevated risk over a four-year period.
Waddell explained that in addition to avoiding processed foods, meat and especially dairy from their diet, those suffering from heart disease, cancer and diabetes should also avoid all sugar. “Sugar is more addictive than cocaine and it is in all processed food, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which is also loaded with GMOs (genetically modified organisms),” she said. “For those suffering from heart disease, they must also limit the amount of fat in their diet. Most people who have heart disease can eliminate their statins and most if not all medications when they followed an ultra low fat, plantbased diet. Similarly, diabetics that follow a plant-based, whole-foods diet with only whole grains have been able to decrease or eliminate their medications.”
While eating a plant-based diet is important for those with chronic health problems, eating a “clean” organic diet can also greatly benefit the body. Although a study3 published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine in 2012 found that there is no nutritional difference between organic and conventional foods, organic products are grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or other toxic ingredients, which make them much healthier for the body.
According to wellness expert and health ambassador for California-based FRS Energy Endurance, Laura Lewis, consuming foods on a regular basis that are laden with pesticides, added hormones and antibiotics may compromise healthy cell function, hormonal production and may lead to various adverse health conditions.
“Pesticides are toxic. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and the USDA try to make sure that the amounts contained in the foods we consume are ‘tolerable,’ however, with cancer being one of the leading causes of death in our country, I am on the side of the fence that errs towards eating as ‘clean’ as possible,” she said. “I recommend the consumption of certified organic foods as a safety measure. With a plethora of toxins that exist in the air we breath and in the water we drink and use on a regular basis, our bodies are already working harder than usual to stay healthy.”
And while Keen recommends that it is best for people to get the required amount of vitamins and minerals through food sources, at times this is not a possibility. This is where dietary supplements are beneficial, and research is showing their benefits. For instance, according to a study presented at the American Diabetes Association 73rd Scientific Sessions in Chicago, IL, vitamin D supplementation significantly lowered blood pressure, improved mood and spurred weight loss in women with type-2 diabetes, who also showed signs of depression.
“Typically vitamin D and omega-3s are the initial dietary gaps I try to fill with supplements. I then assess other potential healthy nutrients not being met via diet, such as antioxidants and probiotics,” Keen said. “It’s important to note supplementation should be highly individual. Depending on dietary practices, blood work, sport or health condition, I may recommend specific nutrients (i.e. iron, calcium, magnesium).”
Lewis also recommends that patients consult with their doctor to explore taking supplements to support the immune system such as quercetin. “Quercetin has been found to boost the immune system, decrease cholesterol, lower blood-pressure, to name just a few of its super-powered benefits. Keeping in mind that we are all biochemically unique, it’s important to note that what is good for one person, may not be good for another.”
FRS products are based on the core ingredient quercetin, green tea extract and seven essential vitamins. FRS products come in a variety of delivery methods including liquid (ready-to-drink, concentrate), chews and powders. For instance, the FRS Healthy Protein includes 20 g of whey protein isolate, a very high quality whey was chosen due to its high protein concentration and very low amounts of sodium and cholesterol, according to Keen.
Mind & Body
A healthy, balanced diet, while incredibly important, is only one piece of the puzzle. Being active, getting enough sleep and having the ability to handle stress all have a profound effect on the body. “Regular, moderate exercise helps maintain optimal cardio-vascular health by improving the condition of the heart and lungs as well in helping to reduce high cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, elevate mood, increase flexibility and muscle strength, boost libido, bolster the metabolism, and the list goes on,” said Lewis.
Researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) found that a 15- minute walk after each meal may help older people regulate blood sugar levels and could reduce their risk of developing type-2 diabetes, according to a study4 published in the journal Diabetes Care. These 15-minute walks were also found to be as effective at reducing blood sugar over 24 hours as a 45- minute walk of the same easy-to-moderate pace. Further, the study showed that postmeal walking was significantly more effective than a sustained walk at lowering blood sugar for up to three hours following the evening meal.
“I can’t say enough about exercise from many perspectives: bone health, cardiovascular, mental wellness, sleep-wake cycle, weight loss, etc.,” said Dr. Lucille. “If someone isn’t exercising, I will simply ask them to start moving ‘intentionally,’ just to get them going and then we go from there.”
Exercise is not only good for the body, but is beneficial to help relieve stress. According to Mark Van Buren, owner and head instructor of the Live Free Yoga Studio in River Edge, NJ, stress is one of the biggest issues our society faces, and our lifestyle and diet choices directly impact the levels of stress we experience daily. “Stress is known to create tremendous amounts of negative side effects on your body,” he explained. “It lowers your immune system, raises your blood pressure, screws up your digestion and may lead to heart disease. Stress keeps your body in the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, which is a very active state.”
Additionally, stress often interferes with the ability to get a full night of rest. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), seven out of 10 adults in the U.S. say they experience stress or anxiety daily, while one-third have experienced persistent stress or excessive anxiety, or that they have had a panic attack. Seven out of 10 of those adults said that they have trouble sleeping.
Further, the ADAA reported that the majority of adults with a stress-induced sleep problem experience it at least once a week, and more than half experience it at least several times a week. Seventy-five percent of adults whose sleep is affected by stress or anxiety say that their sleep problems have also increased their stress and anxiety—54 percent say that stress increased their anxiety about falling asleep at night, while 52 percent of men and 42 percent of women reported it has affected their ability to remain focused the next day.
Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, meditation and yoga all offer physical, mental and even emotional benefits. “Acupuncture helps to restore balance to the body and hence is most beneficial, since according to Chinese medicine, when the body is in balance the patient is in excellent health. Acupuncture is used to treat a myriad of diseases such as digestive, skeletal, degenerative, neurological and muscular to name a few,” said Waddell, noting that Acupuncturists Without Borders has been sent to areas such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and earthquake-ravaged areas to treat the workers for post traumatic stress.
Van Buren explained that yoga and meditation not only aim to lower the stress in the body, but can also give a person the tools to deal with situations in a more open and non-judgmental way. “As your stress levels go down, you will definitely notice a shift in your body and mind,” he said. “You will feel lighter and your body will finally have the chance to unwind.”
He continued that people of all ages and health statuses can practice and benefit from yoga and meditation. Yoga, which is a natural, drug-free way to be at ease with your body and mind, has the potential to heal your body of aches and pains, and can allow your mind to become aware of, accept and release past traumas, anxiety, depression, etc., while meditation can teach a person “how to stay with yourself just the way you are, and gives you the freedom and clarity to act, not based on habits or impulses, but rather in an appropriate way for each unique situation you may find yourself in,” Van Buren explained.
A New Approach
Because a number of patients are now more educated about their options, causing them to have a different view of how they should approach their health, some medical professionals who practice Western medicine are adopting a more integrated approach toward treatment plans. “The conventional Western reductionist approach is only appropriate for a small percentage of clinical presentations,” said Dr. Lucille. “Most everything else deserves a more comprehensive look.”
For instance, in 2012, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), which uses an integrated care model, incorporated chiropractic care within all of its facilities. “Overall patient health improves with the noninvasive, non-drug approach of chiropractic care,” said James Rosenberg, DC, national director of chiropractic care at CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center and the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP), noting that the majority of CTCA patients suffer significant stress on their neuro-musculoskeletal systems due to cancer and affiliated treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
“Doctors of chiropractic are able to reduce stress to the nervous system by providing conservative care to musculoskeletal dysfunctions, which helps to improve the patient’s healing ability and functionality,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “Chiropractic care at CTCA is an important piece to the integrated health care approach by providing patients with an evidence-based, low risk approach to care.”
FRS’ Keen is optimistic that the integrative approach to medicine will become more commonplace in the near future. “I believe a driving force will be the current high cost of services and a growing emphasis on wellness and health promotion,” she concluded. “Our current health care system needs to be providing more seamless, coordinated and comprehensive care centered on the patient. Working as an effective health care team will only better the communication and outcome for all.”
1 Craig W. Lindsley. The Top Prescription Drugs of 2011 in the United States: Antipsychotics and Antidepressants Once Again Lead CNS Therapeutics. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. 2012; 3 (8): 630.
2 An Pan et al. Changes in Red Meat Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes MellitusThree Cohorts of US Men and WomenRed Meat Consumption and Type 2 Diabetes Risk. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2013; : 1 DOI: 10. 1001/jamainternmed.2013.6633.
3 Crystal Smith-Spangler, Margaret L. Brandeau, Grace E. Hunter, J. Clay Bavinger, Maren Pearson, Paul J. Eschbach, Vandana Sundaram, Hau Liu, Patricia Schirmer, Christopher Stave, Ingram Olkin, Dena M. Bravata. Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives? A Systematic Review. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012; 157 (5): 348-366.
4 Loretta DiPietro, Andrei Gribok, Michelle S. Stevens, Larry F. Hamm and William Rumpler. Three 15-min Bouts of Moderate Postmeal Walking Significantly Improves 24-h Glycemic Control in Older People at Risk for Impaired Glucose Tolerance. Diabetes Care. 2013 DOI: 10.2337/dc13-0084.
Healthy Take Aways
■ According to the CDC, seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases.
■ A 2011 USDA Standards Survey reported that the average American diet included only five percent of vegetables, while 23 percent of the American diet was found to be grains (only four percent were whole grains).
■ According to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers found that a 15-minute walk after each meal may help older people regulate blood sugar levels and could reduce their risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
■ In 2012, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America incorporated chiropractic care within all of its facilities.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
■ American Medical Association, www.ama-assn.org
■ Anxiety and Depression Association of America, www.adaa.org
■ Cancer Treatment Centers of America, www.cancercenter.com
■ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov
■ Deborah Waddell, Dipl Ac, Lac, (908) 399-2861
■ FRS Energy Endurance, (877) FRS-4YOU, www.frs.com
■ Holly Lucille, ND, RN, www.drhollylucille.com
■ Live Free Yoga Studio, (201) 406-8779
Natural practitioners guide their patients to healthy lifestyles that can help prevent or reverse signs of illness.