A woman comes into her new patient appointment with 13 prescription bottles, which she carefully lines up on the desk next to the exam table. When the doctor comes in, she can’t tell him what a single one is for, yet confirms that she has been taking them diligently for the last few months. The doctor performs a quick exam, and reviews each bottle. He asks her how she is feeling, and before she is finished talking, has prescribed her a 14th drug – one to address a new side effect that has arisen from drug number who-knows-which. There is no comprehensive review of her medical history, no discussion of the merits of continuing each drug, and no consideration for what the woman really wanted out of the doctor’s visit. She leaves as helpless and ill as she came in.

Is this what medicine has come to?

This is a true story from when I shadowed an internal medicine doctor a few years ago, but it’s not an anomaly. A recent study estimated that the average primary care doctor spends 15 minutes per visit, with only about 8 minutes spent face-to-face with the patient.1 A 2001 study found that a patient is lucky to get 12 seconds to speak without interruption.2

You don’t have to accept this model of care.

Now is the time to take an active role in your healthcare.

To take preventive measures.

To be informed.

To ask the right questions.

To find someone who will listen.

To get what you want from your healthcare provider.

To take your health into your own hands.

And I’m going to show you how, in 20 simple steps.

1. Focus on prevention

It might seem obvious that staying healthy is the best way to take charge of your health. According to a 2002 article published in Science, 70-90% of all chronic diseases are caused by environmental factors and can be avoided through lifestyle changes.3

In other words, invest in your health now, and you can avoid the financial and personal costs of disease later in life.

2. Avoid inflammatory foods

Many of the foods that are staples in our diet are nutrient-poor and highly inflammatory. They are also among the top drivers of modern chronic disease. These include:

Grains: You’ve probably heard about “heart healthy whole grains”. The major cereal grains include wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, oats, rye, and millet. But are they really a health food? Consider the following:

  • Cereal grains, especially wheat, have been linked to gut permeability and systemic inflammation, the cornerstones of many modern chronic diseases4,5
  • Grains are nutrient poor, not satiating, and highly rewarding to the brain6,7
  • Grains contain high amounts of phytates and lectins, anti-nutrients that block the absorption of minerals like magnesium and calcium8
  • Traditional cultures that ate grains went to extreme lengths to soak, sprout, and ferment grains to reduce these anti-nutrients9

Sugar: This one probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Sugar is perhaps the #1 food driving the epidemic of obesity and diabetes:

  • Like grains, sugar is nutrient poor and highly rewarding to the brain, leading to reduced satiety and overeating10
  • Excess sugar consumption leads to hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar), metabolic dysfunction, and diabetes

Refined seed oils: In the 1950s, the American Heart Association recommended switching from saturated fats to “heart healthy” vegetable oils. Since then, rates of obesity, metabolic disease, and heart disease have only increased.

  • A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that there was no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease or all-cause mortality11
  • The polyunsaturated fatty acids in seed oils rapidly oxidize when exposed to heat, and the resulting lipid oxidation endproducts are highly inflammatory12
  • Seed oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease13

Replace industrial seed oils with heat-stable cooking fats like coconut oil, ghee, and tallow. For cold use, try olive oil or avocado oil.

3. Eat a nutrient-dense diet

Macronutrients include carbs, protein, and fat, while micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. When I talk about nutrient-density, I’m usually talking about micronutrients — specifically, the amount of micronutrients and how bioavailable they are.

The most nutrient-dense foods for humans include:

  • organ meats
  • fish and shellfish
  • meat, poultry, and wild game
  • eggs
  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • nuts and seeds
  • herbs and spices

Along with clean water and healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, lard, tallow, olive oil, and avocado oil, these foods are the foundation of a healthy diet.

4. Move your body

A recent study found that even just 21 minutes less sedentary time per day was sufficient to improve body composition and cardio-metabolic biomarkers.14

Our ancestors moved for many hours throughout the day, getting consistent, low-level activity interspersed with periods of higher intensity effort. Aim to get more movement throughout the day:

  • Sit less. Aim to stand for at least half the day. Try switching out a regular desk for a standing or mobile workstation.
  • Sit differently. When you do sit, don’t always sit the same way. Squat, fold one leg under you, or even just sit on the floor. These are natural movements that come easy to hunter-gatherers and should come easily to us as well.
  • Sit for shorter periods. Several studies have found that just breaking up prolonged periods of sitting with light walking was enough to improve blood sugar control in adults. Aim to get up and moving for 5 minutes every half hour.
  • Move more. Incorporate more walking and non-exercise physical activity into your day. Walk to work, park farther away, or return phone calls while taking a walk.
  • Exercise intensely. Aim for at least thirty minutes of light-moderate intensity exercise daily where you work up a bit of a sweat. Avoid very high-intensity exercise if you’re still struggling with some health issues. Try a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training.

5. Manage stress and make time for play

Manage your stress, whether through meditation, mindfulness, organizational strategies, or doing something you enjoy. If you’re chronically stressed, it will derail all of your best efforts to get healthy.

Make time for pleasure and play, and protect that time like it’s as important as anything else in your schedule. It will probably help your work performance! People who regularly make time for rest and rejuvenation are more productive and creative.

6. Supplement strategically

We should get our nutrients from food whenever possible. However, some nutrients are difficult to obtain in adequate amounts due to modern environments and lifestyles.

VITAMIN D: As our modern lifestyles increasingly keep us indoors, vitamin D deficiency is becoming increasingly common. A vital micronutrient, Vitamin D:

  • Regulates cell growth
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promotes calcium absorption
  • Regulates neuromuscular and immune function

Be sure to get your 25-OH D levels checked periodically if you are supplementing with Vitamin D, as excess levels can also be detrimental to health.

VITAMIN K2: This little-known super vitamin is lacking in most modern diets. Vitamin K2:

  • Activates certain proteins
  • Regulates calcium metabolism and strengthens bones
  • Prevents atherosclerosis and heart attacks

I recommend taking vitamin D and K2 together, as these two work synergistically.

VITAMIN C: Vitamin C can be obtained from some vegetables and citrus fruits, but data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey suggest that 90% of Americans don’t reach optimal levels15. Vitamin C:

  • Maintains structural components of the body
  • Sustains levels of antioxidants
  • Boosts immune function

I like to get Vitamin C along with antioxidants from acerola berries.

MAGNESIUM: Most modern soils, and consequently, the plants that are grown in them, are depleted of magnesium. Magnesium:

  • Is required for the function of over 300 enzymes in the body, including every enzyme that uses cellular energy
  • Contributes to the structure of bone
  • Helps maintain GI motility

Take magnesium before bed, as it helps with melatonin production.

Always discuss supplemental nutrients with your healthcare provider.

7. Support your gut

Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut”. Centuries later, modern scientific research has confirmed that indeed, the trillions of microbes that inhabit the human gut are intricately connected to health and disease.

The gut microbiome:

  • Aids in digestion & metabolism
  • Protects against pathogens
  • Modulates the immune system
  • Regulates neurodevelopment

Unfortunately, most modern gut microbiomes have been put through a war zone of broad-spectrum antibiotics, medications, environmental toxins, and an endless stream of processed foods.

How to restore a healthy gut:

  • Probiotics, especially a good soil-based probiotic like Prescript Assist (no affiliation), can potentially help to re-seed the microbiome with beneficial microbes.
  • Fermented foods are incredibly beneficial to the GI tract. They contain probiotics and aid in digestion. Aim for consuming fermented foods at every meal.
  • Home-cooked bone broth is extremely soothing to the GI tract. Studies show that gelatin improves gut motility, supports a healthy mucus layer, and reduces intestinal permeability.16

8. Get your hands dirty

Growing some of your own food is an incredible way to connect to the food system, get healthy exposure to soil microbes, and get regular sunlight and movement.

Don’t have space? Join a community garden or volunteer at a local farm. You’ll probably meet many like-minded people who also care about their health and are willing to share their knowledge.

9. Sleep deeply

Simply put, you cannot be healthy without adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to heart attack, depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, stroke, and more.17

Among other things, sleep:

  • Improves cognitive function and memory
  • Increases resilience to stress
  • Boosts mood and energy
  • Improves immune function

Aim for eight hours of sleep every night, and make it a priority. Create a set bedtime and routine around going to bed.

Do your best to avoid exposure to blue light for at least two hours before bedtime. Exposure to blue light before bed has been shown to reduce levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone, by as much as 50%.18

  • Install apps like f.lux or Twilight on your devices. These apps sync with your local time and block much of the blue light emitted from screens after the sun sets.
  • Consider getting a Himalayan salt lamp or a red lamp bulb for night-time lighting.
  • Try wearing blue blocking glasses after dusk, especially if you need to use a screen. Yes, they look dorky, but your sleep is worth it!

10. Avoid environmental toxins

Toxins are ubiquitous in the modern environment. A recent study found that the average woman applies 168 different chemicals to her body every day; the average man, 85 different chemicals. Many of these are known to cause cancer or reproductive issues19.

We continue searching for an elusive cure for cancer, yet apply known carcinogens and otherwise harmful ingredients to our bodies on a daily basis:

  • Sulfates and polyethylene glycol in shampoos
  • Phthalates and parabens in moisturizers and lotions
  • Triclosan and triclocarbon in toothpastes
  • Heavy metals and formaldehyde in makeup
  • Aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants
  • Oxybenzone and octisalate in sunscreen

Whereas the European Union has banned more than 1,000 ingredients from use in cosmetics, the FDA has prohibited a meager 11 ingredients20.

While we can’t control our exposure to all toxins, we can reduce the burden on our bodies. Ditch carcinogen-laden cosmetic products in favor of more natural alternatives. Use stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic bottles that contain BPA or other plasticizers. Consider getting an air purifier and water filter to reduce your family’s exposure to toxins in the home.

11. Don’t put off a health complaint

Sometimes something feels “off” and we just dismiss it instead of seeking care.

But a minor problem can quickly turn into a major health issue if untreated.

Putting off a health complaint is the equivalent to saying you don’t care about your future health and happiness. Take time to “tune in” to your body and how it’s doing. Commit to getting to the bottom of a health complaint, however small, and figure out why it is occurring.

12. Find a provider that will listen

I mentioned earlier that the average primary care visit lasts 15 minutes, and the patient only gets to talk for an average of 12 seconds before being interrupted. This is absurd.

Find a provider that will listen to your health complaints with compassion and genuine concern. If you’re not satisfied with the care your doctor is providing, find another!

13. Determine what you want out of the interaction

Ever left the doctor and felt like your concerns weren’t addressed? Identify what it would take for you to feel satisfied with your visit to the doctor, and write down a few goals before your next visit. Want a new treatment plan? Want to try getting off a medication you don’t think you need? Make sure you know what you want BEFORE stepping in the doctor’s office.

14. Go to the doctor with specific questions in mind.

Do some research on your condition prior to seeing the doctor. While google may not provide the best medical advice, it can give you some background knowledge and give you some ideas of questions to ask. Better yet, try google scholar or pubmed, if you have experience reading scientific literature.

Write your questions down. It’s easy to begin a doctor’s visit with questions in mind and forget to get them addressed as the doctor rushes in, performs a quick exam, and proceeds to write a prescription. Make sure you get what you want out of a doctor’s visit, and that you don’t leave without your questions answered. If you don’t understand the reason for something, ASK! You should leave the doctor’s office feeling more knowledgeable than when you walked in.

15. Don’t take the doctor’s opinion as gospel

Doctors are humans that make mistakes. Can you really blame them, when they only have 15 minutes to hear your symptoms, diagnose, and prescribe a treatment? They simply can’t have time to review your entire medical history and figure out what’s best. Doctor-induced disease is estimated to be the third leading cause of death in the United States.21

Nobody is more invested in your healthcare than YOU.  Question recommendations. Seek other opinions. Don’t make a decision lightly based on one doctor’s perspective.

16. Be informed about your own health status

Having data about your own health is empowering. Direct-to-consumer laboratories now allow you to get extensive information about your genes, cardiovascular risk, heavy metal exposure, hormone balance, microbiome, gut function, nutrient status, and more. In many cases, these do not have to be ordered by a physician.

Beware of traditional lab reference ranges that are based on the “average” American. These are not ranges that are designed to optimize your health and PREVENT disease. Scrutinize your lab results carefully, and compare them to lab ranges designed for healthy people, or find a provider who will do this for you.

17. Ask about alternative treatments

Rarely is there only one possible course of treatment. Yet patients are often told “take drug X every day and I’ll see you back in 6 months”. No need for questions, discussion, or an explanation.

I believe this is fundamentally wrong. Even if there is one treatment of choice, there are often adjunctive treatments that can make the primary treatment more effective.

Respectfully ask about alternatives and the potential benefits and risks of each course of action. If nothing else, it will make you more confident in the treatment that the doctor has recommended.

18. Ask “does this solve the underlying problem, or just treat my symptoms?”

If the answer is “treat your symptoms”, it’s not a long-term solution, and may “solve” one problem by creating another.

If the answer is “solve the underlying problem”, great! You’re likely on your way to restoring optimal health, and you’ve probably got a great provider who is working to find the root cause of disease.

19. Cultivate community and social support

Whether you’re going through a chronic illness or just trying to optimize your health, social support and community is crucial. Human beings require social interaction to be psychologically and physically healthy. Over 80 studies have revealed that social support has benefits for cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune health.22

20. Never settle for anything less than fantastic health

“If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” – Chuck Pagano

Do you wake up every day full of vitality and ready to take on the day? If the answer is no, there’s room for improvement!  Never settle for less than fantastic health, no matter what stage of life you’re in. You only have one body, and one life to live. Now is the time to take your health into your own hands!

If you liked this article, be sure to subscribe below!

If you want to see what NGmedicine can do for your health, click here to learn more and get a free consultation.

Sources:

  1. Asan, O., Smith, P. & Montague, E. More Screen Time, Less Face time – Implications for EHR Design. J Eval Clin Pract 20, 896–901 (2014).
  2. Rhoades, D. R., McFarland, K. F., Finch, W. H. & Johnson, A. O. Speaking and interruptions during primary care office visits. Fam Med 33, 528–532 (2001).
  3. Willett, W. C. Balancing Life-Style and Genomics Research for Disease Prevention. Science 296, 695–698 (2002).
  4. Drago, S. et al. Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 41, 408–419 (2006).
  5. de Punder, K. & Pruimboom, L. The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and Their Role in Inflammation. Nutrients 5, 771–787 (2013).
  6. Huebner, F. R., Lieberman, K. W., Rubino, R. P. & Wall, J. S. Demonstration of high opioid-like activity in isolated peptides from wheat gluten hydrolysates. Peptides 5, 1139–1147 (1984).
  7. Ifland, J. R. et al. Refined food addiction: A classic substance use disorder. Medical Hypotheses 72, 518–526 (2009).
  8. Cordain, L. Cereal Grains: Humanity´s Double-Edged Sword. 84, 19–73 (1999).
  9. Reddy, N. R. & Pierson, M. D. Reduction in antinutritional and toxic components in plant foods by fermentationaaThe term ‘plant foods’ is used in the context of food derived from plant sources. Food Research International 27, 281–290 (1994).
  10. Avena, N. M., Rada, P. & Hoebel, B. G. Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 32, 20–39 (2008).
  11. Souza, R. J. de et al. Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ 351, h3978 (2015).
  12. Kanner, J. Dietary advanced lipid oxidation endproducts are risk factors to human health. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 51, 1094–1101 (2007).
  13. Simopoulos, A. P. The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 233, 674–688 (2008).
  14. Pesola, A. J. et al. Accelerometer-assessed sedentary work, leisure time and cardio-metabolic biomarkers during one year: Effectiveness of a cluster randomized controlled trial in parents with a sedentary occupation and young children. PLoS ONE 12, e0183299 (2017).
  15. Schleicher, R. L., Carroll, M. D., Ford, E. S. & Lacher, D. A. Serum vitamin C and the prevalence of vitamin C deficiency in the United States: 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 90, 1252–1263 (2009).
  16. Scaldaferri, F. et al. Gelatin tannate ameliorates acute colitis in mice by reinforcing mucus layer and modulating gut microbiota composition: Emerging role for ‘gut barrier protectors’ in IBD? United European Gastroenterol J 2, 113–122 (2014).
  17. Mullington, J. M., Haack, M., Toth, M., Serrador, J. M. & Meier-Ewert, H. K. Cardiovascular, Inflammatory, and Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases 51, 294–302 (2009).
  18. Gooley, J. J. et al. Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96, E463–E472 (2011).
  19. Exposures add up – Survey results | Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | EWG. Available at: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2004/06/15/exposures-add-up-survey-results/. (Accessed: 17th May 2017)
  20. Nutrition, C. for F. S. and A. Laws & Regulations – Prohibited & Restricted Ingredients. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/guidanceregulation/lawsregulations/ucm127406.htm. (Accessed: 17th May 2017)
  21. Starfield, B. Is US health really the best in the world? JAMA 284, 483–485 (2000).
  22. Uchino, B. N., Cacioppo, J. T. & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. The relationship between social support and physiological processes: a review with emphasis on underlying mechanisms and implications for health. Psychol Bull 119, 488–531 (1996).

20 ways to take your health back into your own hands

 

A woman comes into her new patient appointment with 13 prescription bottles, which she carefully lines up on the desk next to the exam table. When the doctor comes in, she can’t tell him what a single one is for, yet confirms that she has been taking them diligently for the last few months. The doctor performs a quick exam, and reviews each bottle. He asks her how she is feeling, and before she is finished talking, has prescribed her a 14th drug – one to address a new side effect that has arisen from drug number who-knows-which. There is no comprehensive review of her medical history, no discussion of the merits of continuing each drug, and no consideration for what the woman really wanted out of the doctor’s visit. She leaves as helpless and ill as she came in.

Is this what medicine has come to?

This is a true story from when I shadowed an internal medicine doctor a few years ago, but it’s not an anomaly. A recent study estimated that the average primary care doctor spends 15 minutes per visit, with only about 8 minutes spent face-to-face with the patient.1 A 2001 study found that a patient is lucky to get 12 seconds to speak without interruption.2

You don’t have to accept this model of care.

Now is the time to take an active role in your healthcare.

To take preventive measures.

To be informed.

To ask the right questions.

To find someone who will listen.

To get what you want from your healthcare provider.

To take your health into your own hands.

And I’m going to show you how, in 20 simple steps.

1. Focus on prevention

It might seem obvious that staying healthy is the best way to take charge of your health. According to a 2002 article published in Science, 70-90% of all chronic diseases are caused by environmental factors and can be avoided through lifestyle changes.3

In other words, invest in your health now, and you can avoid the financial and personal costs of disease later in life.

2. Avoid inflammatory foods

Many of the foods that are staples in our diet are nutrient-poor and highly inflammatory. They are also among the top drivers of modern chronic disease. These include:

Grains: You’ve probably heard about “heart healthy whole grains”. The major cereal grains include wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, oats, rye, and millet. But are they really a health food? Consider the following:

  • Cereal grains, especially wheat, have been linked to gut permeability and systemic inflammation, the cornerstones of many modern chronic diseases4,5
  • Grains are nutrient poor, not satiating, and highly rewarding to the brain6,7
  • Grains contain high amounts of phytates and lectins, anti-nutrients that block the absorption of minerals like magnesium and calcium8
  • Traditional cultures that ate grains went to extreme lengths to soak, sprout, and ferment grains to reduce these anti-nutrients9

Sugar: This one probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Sugar is perhaps the #1 food driving the epidemic of obesity and diabetes:

  • Like grains, sugar is nutrient poor and highly rewarding to the brain, leading to reduced satiety and overeating10
  • Excess sugar consumption leads to hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar), metabolic dysfunction, and diabetes

Refined seed oils: In the 1950s, the American Heart Association recommended switching from saturated fats to “heart healthy” vegetable oils. Since then, rates of obesity, metabolic disease, and heart disease have only increased.

  • A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that there was no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease or all-cause mortality11
  • The polyunsaturated fatty acids in seed oils rapidly oxidize when exposed to heat, and the resulting lipid oxidation endproducts are highly inflammatory12
  • Seed oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease13

Replace industrial seed oils with heat-stable cooking fats like coconut oil, ghee, and tallow. For cold use, try olive oil or avocado oil.

3. Eat a nutrient-dense diet

Macronutrients include carbs, protein, and fat, while micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. When I talk about nutrient-density, I’m usually talking about micronutrients — specifically, the amount of micronutrients and how bioavailable they are.

The most nutrient-dense foods for humans include:

  • organ meats
  • fish and shellfish
  • meat, poultry, and wild game
  • eggs
  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • nuts and seeds
  • herbs and spices

Along with clean water and healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, lard, tallow, olive oil, and avocado oil, these foods are the foundation of a healthy diet.

4. Move your body

A recent study found that even just 21 minutes less sedentary time per day was sufficient to improve body composition and cardio-metabolic biomarkers.14

Our ancestors moved for many hours throughout the day, getting consistent, low-level activity interspersed with periods of higher intensity effort. Aim to get more movement throughout the day:

  • Sit less. Aim to stand for at least half the day. Try switching out a regular desk for a standing or mobile workstation.
  • Sit differently. When you do sit, don’t always sit the same way. Squat, fold one leg under you, or even just sit on the floor. These are natural movements that come easy to hunter-gatherers and should come easily to us as well.
  • Sit for shorter periods. Several studies have found that just breaking up prolonged periods of sitting with light walking was enough to improve blood sugar control in adults. Aim to get up and moving for 5 minutes every half hour.
  • Move more. Incorporate more walking and non-exercise physical activity into your day. Walk to work, park farther away, or return phone calls while taking a walk.
  • Exercise intensely. Aim for at least thirty minutes of light-moderate intensity exercise daily where you work up a bit of a sweat. Avoid very high-intensity exercise if you’re still struggling with some health issues. Try a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training.

5. Manage stress and make time for play

Manage your stress, whether through meditation, mindfulness, organizational strategies, or doing something you enjoy. If you’re chronically stressed, it will derail all of your best efforts to get healthy.

Make time for pleasure and play, and protect that time like it’s as important as anything else in your schedule. It will probably help your work performance! People who regularly make time for rest and rejuvenation are more productive and creative.

6. Supplement strategically

We should get our nutrients from food whenever possible. However, some nutrients are difficult to obtain in adequate amounts due to modern environments and lifestyles.

VITAMIN D: As our modern lifestyles increasingly keep us indoors, vitamin D deficiency is becoming increasingly common. A vital micronutrient, Vitamin D:

  • Regulates cell growth
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promotes calcium absorption
  • Regulates neuromuscular and immune function

Be sure to get your 25-OH D levels checked periodically if you are supplementing with Vitamin D, as excess levels can also be detrimental to health.

VITAMIN K2: This little-known super vitamin is lacking in most modern diets. Vitamin K2:

  • Activates certain proteins
  • Regulates calcium metabolism and strengthens bones
  • Prevents atherosclerosis and heart attacks

I recommend taking vitamin D and K2 together, as these two work synergistically.

VITAMIN C: Vitamin C can be obtained from some vegetables and citrus fruits, but data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey suggest that 90% of Americans don’t reach optimal levels15. Vitamin C:

  • Maintains structural components of the body
  • Sustains levels of antioxidants
  • Boosts immune function

I like to get Vitamin C along with antioxidants from acerola berries.

MAGNESIUM: Most modern soils, and consequently, the plants that are grown in them, are depleted of magnesium. Magnesium:

  • Is required for the function of over 300 enzymes in the body, including every enzyme that uses cellular energy
  • Contributes to the structure of bone
  • Helps maintain GI motility

Take magnesium before bed, as it helps with melatonin production.

Always discuss supplemental nutrients with your healthcare provider.

7. Support your gut

Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut”. Centuries later, modern scientific research has confirmed that indeed, the trillions of microbes that inhabit the human gut are intricately connected to health and disease.

The gut microbiome:

  • Aids in digestion & metabolism
  • Protects against pathogens
  • Modulates the immune system
  • Regulates neurodevelopment

Unfortunately, most modern gut microbiomes have been put through a war zone of broad-spectrum antibiotics, medications, environmental toxins, and an endless stream of processed foods.

How to restore a healthy gut:

  • Probiotics, especially a good soil-based probiotic like Prescript Assist (no affiliation), can potentially help to re-seed the microbiome with beneficial microbes.
  • Fermented foods are incredibly beneficial to the GI tract. They contain probiotics and aid in digestion. Aim for consuming fermented foods at every meal.
  • Home-cooked bone broth is extremely soothing to the GI tract. Studies show that gelatin improves gut motility, supports a healthy mucus layer, and reduces intestinal permeability.16

8. Get your hands dirty

Growing some of your own food is an incredible way to connect to the food system, get healthy exposure to soil microbes, and get regular sunlight and movement.

Don’t have space? Join a community garden or volunteer at a local farm. You’ll probably meet many like-minded people who also care about their health and are willing to share their knowledge.

9. Sleep deeply

Simply put, you cannot be healthy without adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to heart attack, depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, stroke, and more.17

Among other things, sleep:

  • Improves cognitive function and memory
  • Increases resilience to stress
  • Boosts mood and energy
  • Improves immune function

Aim for eight hours of sleep every night, and make it a priority. Create a set bedtime and routine around going to bed.

Do your best to avoid exposure to blue light for at least two hours before bedtime. Exposure to blue light before bed has been shown to reduce levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone, by as much as 50%.18

  • Install apps like f.lux or Twilight on your devices. These apps sync with your local time and block much of the blue light emitted from screens after the sun sets.
  • Consider getting a Himalayan salt lamp or a red lamp bulb for night-time lighting.
  • Try wearing blue blocking glasses after dusk, especially if you need to use a screen. Yes, they look dorky, but your sleep is worth it!

10. Avoid environmental toxins

Toxins are ubiquitous in the modern environment. A recent study found that the average woman applies 168 different chemicals to her body every day; the average man, 85 different chemicals. Many of these are known to cause cancer or reproductive issues19.

We continue searching for an elusive cure for cancer, yet apply known carcinogens and otherwise harmful ingredients to our bodies on a daily basis:

  • Sulfates and polyethylene glycol in shampoos
  • Phthalates and parabens in moisturizers and lotions
  • Triclosan and triclocarbon in toothpastes
  • Heavy metals and formaldehyde in makeup
  • Aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants
  • Oxybenzone and octisalate in sunscreen

Whereas the European Union has banned more than 1,000 ingredients from use in cosmetics, the FDA has prohibited a meager 11 ingredients20.

While we can’t control our exposure to all toxins, we can reduce the burden on our bodies. Ditch carcinogen-laden cosmetic products in favor of more natural alternatives. Use stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic bottles that contain BPA or other plasticizers. Consider getting an air purifier and water filter to reduce your family’s exposure to toxins in the home.

11. Don’t put off a health complaint

Sometimes something feels “off” and we just dismiss it instead of seeking care.

But a minor problem can quickly turn into a major health issue if untreated.

Putting off a health complaint is the equivalent to saying you don’t care about your future health and happiness. Take time to “tune in” to your body and how it’s doing. Commit to getting to the bottom of a health complaint, however small, and figure out why it is occurring.

12. Find a provider that will listen

I mentioned earlier that the average primary care visit lasts 15 minutes, and the patient only gets to talk for an average of 12 seconds before being interrupted. This is absurd.

Find a provider that will listen to your health complaints with compassion and genuine concern. If you’re not satisfied with the care your doctor is providing, find another!

13. Determine what you want out of the interaction

Ever left the doctor and felt like your concerns weren’t addressed? Identify what it would take for you to feel satisfied with your visit to the doctor, and write down a few goals before your next visit. Want a new treatment plan? Want to try getting off a medication you don’t think you need? Make sure you know what you want BEFORE stepping in the doctor’s office.

14. Go to the doctor with specific questions in mind.

Do some research on your condition prior to seeing the doctor. While google may not provide the best medical advice, it can give you some background knowledge and give you some ideas of questions to ask. Better yet, try google scholar or pubmed, if you have experience reading scientific literature.

Write your questions down. It’s easy to begin a doctor’s visit with questions in mind and forget to get them addressed as the doctor rushes in, performs a quick exam, and proceeds to write a prescription. Make sure you get what you want out of a doctor’s visit, and that you don’t leave without your questions answered. If you don’t understand the reason for something, ASK! You should leave the doctor’s office feeling more knowledgeable than when you walked in.

15. Don’t take the doctor’s opinion as gospel

Doctors are humans that make mistakes. Can you really blame them, when they only have 15 minutes to hear your symptoms, diagnose, and prescribe a treatment? They simply can’t have time to review your entire medical history and figure out what’s best. Doctor-induced disease is estimated to be the third leading cause of death in the United States.21

Nobody is more invested in your healthcare than YOU.  Question recommendations. Seek other opinions. Don’t make a decision lightly based on one doctor’s perspective.

16. Be informed about your own health status

Having data about your own health is empowering. Direct-to-consumer laboratories now allow you to get extensive information about your genes, cardiovascular risk, heavy metal exposure, hormone balance, microbiome, gut function, nutrient status, and more. In many cases, these do not have to be ordered by a physician.

Beware of traditional lab reference ranges that are based on the “average” American. These are not ranges that are designed to optimize your health and PREVENT disease. Scrutinize your lab results carefully, and compare them to lab ranges designed for healthy people, or find a provider who will do this for you.

17. Ask about alternative treatments

Rarely is there only one possible course of treatment. Yet patients are often told “take drug X every day and I’ll see you back in 6 months”. No need for questions, discussion, or an explanation.

I believe this is fundamentally wrong. Even if there is one treatment of choice, there are often adjunctive treatments that can make the primary treatment more effective.

Respectfully ask about alternatives and the potential benefits and risks of each course of action. If nothing else, it will make you more confident in the treatment that the doctor has recommended.

18. Ask “does this solve the underlying problem, or just treat my symptoms?”

If the answer is “treat your symptoms”, it’s not a long-term solution, and may “solve” one problem by creating another.

If the answer is “solve the underlying problem”, great! You’re likely on your way to restoring optimal health, and you’ve probably got a great provider who is working to find the root cause of disease.

19. Cultivate community and social support

Whether you’re going through a chronic illness or just trying to optimize your health, social support and community is crucial. Human beings require social interaction to be psychologically and physically healthy. Over 80 studies have revealed that social support has benefits for cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune health.22

20. Never settle for anything less than fantastic health

“If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” – Chuck Pagano

Do you wake up every day full of vitality and ready to take on the day? If the answer is no, there’s room for improvement!  Never settle for less than fantastic health, no matter what stage of life you’re in. You only have one body, and one life to live. Now is the time to take your health into your own hands!

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By |2017-09-24T12:55:43+00:00September 22nd, 2017|