Health Insights column: Multifaceted approach to creating optimal health
Optimal health is all about living and eating to obtain a healthy body, mind and spirit, yet optimal health is different for everyone. We have different genes and grew up in different environments and social economic classes, so health management is not the same for everyone.
Ultimately we all need to take charge and be responsible for our own health. Unfortunately, the majority of us let the pharmaceutical companies take care of our health with the ill-fated result of prescription drugs having become the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
The side effects of drugs are often worse than what the drug is designed to treat; yet people continue to look for magic-bullet cures. And then there are individuals who go to the health food store clerk to ask what they should take for a health condition self-diagnosed on the Internet. There is a substantial risk letting someone with minimal knowledge recommend a vitamin or supplement to resolve a health issue.
IDENTIFY ISSUES SPECIFIC TO YOU
So how can we obtain optimal health? By reviewing our diet and lifestyle with a professional specifically trained to look at your diet and diagnosis and treat disease (e.g., a naturopathic physician or another holistic practitioner). Diet is the key for most chronic diseases. However, the same diet does not work for everyone; it really depends on the health issues of the person.
For instance, high cholesterol is due to too much saturated fat in the diet. Yet many of my patients state they eat healthy and have high cholesterol because of genetics since everyone in their family has high cholesterol. This is not due to genes; this is because they eat like everyone in their family.
Each of us needs to take a good look at our diet to identify what we are eating that is causing the problem. Statins are not the answer because of the side effects, such as muscle aches, dementia, asthma, etc. If we continue to eat a diet high in saturated fat, we will increase our risk for heart disease and cancer.
If one has gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, one likely has food allergies and malabsorption issues that have not been identified. If one has memory issues or a history of Alzheimer’s, they would do better with a healthy fat diet and lifestyle changes. As you can see, diet can be very different for individuals depending on their health issues.
THINGS WE ALL NEED
Despite the fact that diet must be individualized, some things are universal. Sugar is not good for anyone. It increases inflammation in the body and thus increases your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other diseases. This includes fructose, sucrose, maltose, glucose, etc.
Genetically modified organisms, or engineered foods, are treated with herbicides such as Roundup, which can cause neurological issues and has been associated with cancer. This is why organic, local food is better.
Alcohol should be used in moderation, which means one or two drinks one to three times per week. Alcohol has been linked to many cancers, such as breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancer.
What about exercise? Ideally, we all should engage in one hour of exercise five times a week. Studies show that any more exercise than this has no more health benefit. In fact, more exercise can increase our risk for heart disease and cause more wear and tear on our joints. This is why most individuals in the Vail Valley have already had a knee or hip surgery or replacement at a very early age.
What about lifestyle? We all need to eliminate as many chemicals as we can in our environment. Chemicals in our environment cause all kinds of health problems, such as increasing our risk for cancer, Parkinson’s, autoimmune disease, liver disease, etc. Chemicals such as parabens, household cleaners, benzene, formaldehyde, radon, lead, herbicides, pesticides and mercury, just to name a few, are in our skin-care products, lotions, sunscreens, shampoos, supplements, etc. If you cannot identify a name in the ingredients of a product, it is probably not a clean product.
As you can see, we can take charge of our health by taking the responsibility to eat healthy, exercise and eliminate as many toxins as possible in our environment. If you do have a health problem, go to someone with experience to help you diagnose and identify the cause of your health issue, rather than treating the symptoms with medication or supplements.
Deborah Wiancek, a naturopathic physician, has had a family practice at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic & Pharmacy for 18 years. She can be reached at 970-926-7606 or email@example.com. Visit riverwalknaturalhealth.blogspot.com or follow twitter.com/riverwalkhealth.