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Dietary Advice To Promote Health & Weight Loss

INTRODUCTION

Regardless of your genetic makeup, your dietary and lifestyle choices can dramatically affect how you look, how you age, and how happy, healthy, and active you will be throughout your life. Aside from living a healthier and more enjoyable life, it is estimated that your dietary and lifestyle habits can also add or subtract around 10-20 years to your lifespan. The so-called “Danish Twin Studies” established that less than 25% of how long the average person lives is dictated by genes. In other words, most of how long and how well you live is within your control.

Dietary fads may come and go, but this discussion includes recommendations supported by scientific studies and those that have stood the test of time. We will begin by discussing some different nutritional approaches, and end with a summary of recommendations based on those approaches. As you read this paper, you are encouraged to click on the links provided to get more detailed information and recommendations online. These dietary recommendations support an overall optimal level of health & body weight. Along with a healthy lifestyle (exercise, sleep, stress management, etc.), this advice will play an important role in preventing, and in many cases reversing, most of the major chronic degenerative diseases including: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and stroke. In addition, because these recommendations provide an overall anti-inflammatory effect on the body, they tend to aid in injury healing, decrease chronic pain, help with mental illness including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and may slow the outward signs of aging. As your overall state of health improves, your immune system function, energy, mood, and sleep also tend to improve.

Before we delve deeper into our discussion, one important point to note is this: it is more important to emphasize health-promoting foods in your diet than to try to avoid every “bad” food completely. Good nutrition, like most lifestyle choices, involves a healthy balance – and for most people, there is room for moderation.

PERSONALIZED NUTRITIONAL CONSULTATION

The recommendations in this paper will be useful to most people, but a personalized nutritional consultation with the doctor is typically a more optimal approach. If you have specific questions, health concerns, or weight loss goals, you should call the office at 773-525-9355 to schedule a private 30-minute consultation with the doctor. During the consultation, the doctor will gather information about your current diet, as well as your specific health issues and goals. Individualized advice regarding diet and nutritional supplements will be given and recommendations for your future follow-up visit(s) will be discussed.

THE IMPORTANCE OF INDIVIDUALIZATION

Before we begin our discussion of different nutritional approaches, the importance of individualization cannot be over-emphasized. If you are allergic to a particular food, or even just sensitive to it, it will tend to cause immediate or longer term health problems, including chronic inflammation. It is important to pay attention to how your body reacts to different foods. You should seek out the healthy foods that tend to make you feel good, and avoid any food that tends to trigger any undesired health symptom including: undesired weight gain, pain, inflammation, allergic or hypersensitivity reactions, fatigue, poor concentration, depression or anxiety. For more information regarding the best way to individualize your diet, we recommend scheduling a personalized nutritional consultation with the doctor (refer to the section above).

AN INTRODCUTION TO THE VARIOUS APPROACHES

Now that you are aware of the importance of individualization and personalized consultations, we can begin our discussion of the various types of nutritional approaches to improve your health. Note that while each of these approaches may emphasize different key points, there tends to be more similarities than differences in their viewpoints. With few exceptions, rarely will you see any major contradictions from one approach to the next. At the end of this discussion, a summary of recommendations will be provided in an attempt to simplify the large amount of information provided.

CALORIE RESTRICTION APPROACH

Eating less, or “calorie restriction” (CR) is probably the most well-documented and scientifically proven way to improve your health and lose weight (especially when combined with exercise). Simply put, if you want to live a longer and healthier life, you should eat less (unless you currently weigh less than your ideal body weight). The CR Society International emphasizes the importance of improving your diet before significantly restricting your calories, and posts useful information and guidelines on how to best do this. The idea is to avoid “empty calorie” foods (foods high in sugar, fat, food additives, etc.) and ensure that the foods you are eating are high in nutrient content and relatively lower in calories. Once your diet consists primarily of nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse foods (vegetables are the best example), you can safely begin to gradually reduce your total calorie intake.

The advice to eat frequently throughout the day and to consume five or six small meals daily has become very popular dogma in recent years. But as this practice became more common in the 1980’s, so has the rise in obesity. The rationale for eating frequent meals throughout the day is that it increases your metabolism, but there is very little conclusive evidence to support this claim, and some evidence to dispute it. Furthermore, this practice has led many people to snack on “energy bars”, “breakfast bars”, “granola bars” and other forms of high-sugar, high-calorie processed foods which lead to weight gain. Generally speaking, this advice to “eat many small meals, frequently” has promoted the false concept that it is OK to be constantly eating, which may be contributing to the increasing rate of obesity that we see today.

Aside from eating too frequently, the other common pitfall for most people is portion control. In the U.S., we have become conditioned to eat way more than we should, especially if you are accustomed to dining out in restaurants, where portions are often two to three times larger than they should be to maintain an ideal body weight of a healthy adult. Many people find that they need to consume roughly half the amount of food that they are used to eating in order to achieve ideal body weight. As you consume less, it is normal to feel hungry. If you feel especially hungry, light-headed or weak between meals, try just eating a small piece of fruit or cut up veggies, and/or a small handful of nuts, seeds, or trail mix just to hold you over until you are ready for your next meal. After a few weeks, your body tends to adjust to the reduced amount of food, and you will likely tend to become uncomfortably full if you return to your old ways of overeating. Eating healthier and consuming less calories will actually decrease your desire to overeat. Eating a high-nutrient diet actually makes you more satisfied with less food, and actually gives you the ability to enjoy food more without overeating.

WHOLE, NATURAL FOODS APPROACH

The next important practice to follow is to consume whole, natural foods (organic, whenever possible) and avoid processed foods, fried foods, regular and diet soda, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, artificial food additives, preservatives, junk food, and all forms of sugar. This will help you to achieve the goal of eating nutrient-dense, rather than empty-calorie foods, as discussed in the previous section. The Westin A. Price Foundation provides detailed information about this very important approach. Generally speaking, whole foods are foods that do not contain added ingredients. Whole foods tend to spoil after a few days, while foods with very long shelf lives tend to be processed and should be avoided. Whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, brown rice, eggs, and wheat berries (the entire unprocessed wheat kernel from the plant) are all whole foods. If a food does not closely resemble how it looked in its natural state (when it was still growing or from the part of the animal that it came from), it is unlikely to be a whole food.

Almost all forms of bread (even “whole wheat”), flour, crackers, cookies, pasta, and white rice are processed and not whole foods, and should therefore be avoided. (When was the last time you saw flour or loaves of bread growing in a field?) Whole grains that should be consumed in limited or moderate amounts include: brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, barley, millet, whole steel cut oats, and wheat berries.

Food additives and chemicals such as diet soda, regular soda, artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated (trans) fats, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and preservatives should be avoided as much as you possibly can. You should also beware of foods marketed as “reduced fat” or “zero sugar”, as these foods often rely on unhealthy food additives to accomplish this goal. The best way to eat foods with “50% less sugar” or “50% less fat” is to choose natural foods that have sugar or fat in them, and just cut the portion size in half.

Animal proteins and dairy should be limited, consumed in moderation, or avoided completely – depending on your specific health goals, food sensitivities/allergies, and ethics. Keep in mind that from a calorie restriction perspective, these foods are relatively high in calories compared to the amounts of nutrients they contain. It is very clear that you should absolutely emphasize fruits and vegetables over meat and dairy. A strict vegetarian diet may not be necessary, but a plant-based diet emphasizing more whole & natural foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is certainly more healthy than the typical American diet. If you do decide to consume animal protein and dairy, you should choose leaner cuts of meat, limiting red meat to once or twice per week, and avoid charring, blackening, browning, and smoked meats to reduce cancer risk. Also be sure to choose meat & dairy products that are naturally-raised, grass-fed, hormone & antibiotic free, and organic whenever possible. Fish should be wild-caught (not farmed) whenever possible.

Pasteurized and homogenized milk and cheese derived from it are not considered whole foods by many nutritional experts. The high heat and processing reduces the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it contains (like calcium) and enzymes that are normally contained in raw milk are destroyed. In addition, the process involved in reducing fats and in some cases adding artificial food additives & flavors make most commercially available milk more of a processed food than a whole food. For this reason, many health experts take what is considered by some to be a controversial stance by recommending that any dairy consumed should be from raw milk and dairy products. Follow this link for information on where to buy raw dairy products in Chicago.

THE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET APPROACH

Aside from the Calorie Restriction Approach and the Whole Natural Foods Approach, another important approach to consider is The Anti-Inflammatory Approach. Most chronic health problems are associated with high levels of inflammation in the body. In fact, many scientists and cardiologists now understand that elevated levels of cholesterol are not the sole culprit in heart disease. Rather, it is the combination of high cholesterol and inflammation that can be dangerous. Without the inflammation, elevated cholesterol is relatively benign. The main cause of too much inflammation in the body stems from eating too many pro-inflammatory foods, or foods that tend to encourage inflammation. These foods tend to cause weight gain, and can trigger or worsen many conditions including chronic pain, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, allergies, recurring infections, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and skin problems. A pro-inflammatory diet can also contribute to anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism, and other psychological problems, which is very well-documented in the book: “Gut And Psychology Syndrome”. Pro-inflammatory foods also tend to interfere with the body’s immune system and its ability to heal from injuries and illness.

One of the simplest and most effective nutritional approaches to improve your health and maintain an ideal body weight is to consume foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body. This is often referred to as “the anti-inflammatory diet”, but it is not the typical modern “fad diet”. It does not require you to count calories or points, measure portions, or follow an unnecessarily restrictive or disease-promoting regimen.

Here’s how it works:
In general, foods can be classified into one of two groups, based upon the effect that they have on your body: anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory. The foods that tend to promote better health exert an anti-inflammatory effect, while the foods that tend to cause chronic disease, depression, chronic pain, weight-gain, inflammation, premature signs of aging, and many other diseases do so because of their pro-inflammatory effects.

In general, the anti-inflammatory foods tend to be fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and wild-caught fish. Most fatty meats, fried foods, dairy, grains, sugars, juices, and food additives tend to be inflammatory. The inflammation Factor website has more detailed information about this approach, as well as numerical inflammation ratings for most foods. Keep in mind that you need not avoid all inflammatory foods. A more reasonable approach is to try to achieve a healthy balance between foods so that at the end of the day, your total food intake has more of an anti-inflammatory (rather than pro-inflammatory) effect on your body. Dr. Andrew Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid is also a very useful resource.

GLYCEMIC INDEX APPROACH

Another important factor to consider is the glycemic index of foods. Low glycemic index foods should be chosen over high index foods. The reason that foods with a higher glycemic index, such as simple or refined carbohydrates and sugars, are harmful is because they cause more dramatic spikes in blood sugar, leading to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. Foods or meals that balance fat, protein, and fiber with sugar/carbohydrate content tend to have a lower glycemic index.

BLUE ZONE APPROACH

Blue Zones are areas that researchers have found populations of people that are far healthier, have far fewer chronic diseases, and reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States. The five Blue Zones that have been identified and studied so far include: the Barbagia region of Sardinia; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California; and Okinawa, Japan. The diet, environment, and lifestyles of these groups have been extensively studied in order to determine which factors are responsible for their remarkable levels of health and longevity.

The researchers found that the lifestyles of all Blue Zones residents shared nine specific characteristics. They refer to this list of characteristics as the Power 9. While there are many lifestyle characteristics on this list that are well worth reading, the 3 dietary factors from this list are listed below:

  1. People in all of the Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink only 1 glass per day (preferably red wine), sipping it slowly, with friends and with food. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 5 or more drinks on Saturday.
  2. Vegetables, soy beans (whole – not processed), beans, lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat (mostly pork) is eaten on average only five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of deck of cards.
  3. People in the Blue Zones do not overeat, and tend not to eat to the point of feeling completely “full”. Rather, they tend to stop eating when their stomachs are around 80 percent full.

Use the Blue Zone Vitality Compass as a fun and informative way to calculate your biological age, life expectancy, and the years that you are gaining or losing due to your lifestyle choices. The tool even makes individualized suggestions as to how you can improve your health and live longer.

OTHER DIETARY CONSIDERATIONS

SUGAR: WHY AND HOW TO RESTRICT IT

The amount of dietary sugar you consume is of vital importance to your overall health. Too much sugar consumption will typically cause your blood glucose levels to become elevated, which can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, premature aging, and an overall shortened life span. In an effort to reduce their risk of heart disease, millions of Americans have focused on reducing dietary fat consumption. Ironically, this may actually be making the problem worse. Many “low fat” foods contain excessive amounts of added sugar in order to make them more palatable. A better approach would be to focus on eating foods containing health-promoting fats.

For optimal health (including weight loss and prevention of chronic disease) it is recommended that you avoid or heavily restrict even raw, “natural”, and unprocessed sugars such as unrefined cane sugar and raw honey. Artificial sweeteners and refined sugars should be avoided completely (or as much as possible), and include: agave sweeteners, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and sodas.

4 tips to reduce your simple sugar consumption and stay healthy:

  1. One healthy alternative to sugar is the herb stevia.
  2. To control your sweet tooth, keep in mind that regular exercise can significantly decrease your sugar cravings.
  3. Another way to decrease sugar cravings is to drink water with some fresh lemon juice whenever you get a sugar craving.
  4. Fresh fruit or frozen fruit blended into a natural sorbet is a healthy alternative to simple sugars and unhealthy desserts.

FATS & OILS

Over the past several decades, dietary fat has been erroneously blamed for contributing to many chronic diseases including obesity. However, modern science has conclusively shown that simply limiting your consumption of fat, even saturated fat, is not sound nutritional advice. The truth is that some fats are healthier than others, and these healthy fats are extremely anti-inflammatory and play a crucial role in promoting good health, energy, mood, and even weight loss.

Sources of the healthiest, most anti-inflammatory fats include: most nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds), and omega-3 fats found in fatty cold-water fish, whole soy foods, avocados, olives, and extra-virgin olive oil (ideally organic). The unhealthy fats, which are widely considered to be toxic, should be avoided: anything hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, any oil other than extra virgin olive oil not labeled “unrefined” or “expeller-pressed”, trans fats, processed or refined oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil, margarine, safflower oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil and vegetable shortening.

In terms of cooking with oils, it is important to understand that fats tend to become unstable and therefore harmful and even toxic at higher temperatures. Because almost all food contains some amount of fat (even vegetables), it is healthier to cook anything (especially animal protein) at lower temperatures. So regardless of which fats or oils you choose, it is healthier to steam, boil, and poach versus broiling, sautéing, frying, and grilling. That said, certain fats are more stable, and therefore less harmful, at higher cooking temperatures. In general, the healthier oils tend to be the least stable and most toxic at higher temperatures. For this reason, you really should avoid cooking with olive oil. It’s great for salad dressings or to drizzle over already cooked foods, but not for cooking. Because it is more stable, some nutritionists recommend canola oil for cooking, but it is very important to choose (organic) expeller-pressed brands. Most experts believe that even healthier options for higher temperature cooking include avocado oil and grape seed oil, which provide more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects.

The most stable fats for cooking are solid at room temperature. For this reason, many nutritionists recommend cooking with coconut oil, butter, or lard. Coconut oil is a unique case in that it is believed by many nutritionists to possess many health-promoting benefits, but is condemned by others largely because it is a saturated fat. While more conclusive research is needed, we believe that it is a healthy choice if used in moderation, and is probably a healthier plant-based option as compared to the other saturated animal fats like butter or lard. Regardless, you should be fine if you combine a variety of these whole food, natural saturated fats in moderation along with moderate exercise to burn off some of those calories, and balance that with the healthiest anti-inflammatory fat sources described above.

HARMFUL CHEMICALS IN OUR WATER AND FISH

Mercury toxicity is a growing health concern and appears to play a significant role in many types of health problems and chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s, MS, autism, Parkinson’s and ALS. The main sources of mercury exposure are dietary consumption of fish and from dental amalgam (fillings). Although wild-caught fish can be an excellent source of anti-inflammatory and health-promoting essential fatty acids, other (mercury-free) sources include pure fish oil and krill oil supplements, avocados, olives, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds (especially flaxseeds).

Because of the problem of mercury and other contaminants in fish, we recommend limiting (once per week or less) the types of fish that are known to contain the highest levels of mercury: tuna, chilean sea bass, orange roughy, marlin, shark, mackerel, swordfish, snapper, grouper, and tilefish. Fish containing medium amounts of mercury should also be consumed on a limited basis (no more than once or twice per week): striped sea bass, halibut, lobster, carp, cod, and ocean perch. Fish containing lower levels of mercury should still be limited, but can be eaten in moderation (2-5 times per week): catfish, clams, crab, crawfish, oysters, pollock, sardines, anchovies, salmon, shrimp, sole, tilapia, haddock, scallops, squid/calamari, trout, and whitefish.

We offer specialized lab testing to determine if you have toxic levels of mercury or other toxic metal poisoning. Please let the doctor know if you are concerned about your level of mercury exposure or think that you may be at risk. We will be happy to refer you to a facility that can safely replace your dental amalgams and offer safe, natural detoxification/chelation treatment.

Regarding drinking water, we recommend using a reverse osmosis water filtration system for a variety of reasons. Aside from improving taste, it does a very good job of removing most impurities and toxic chemicals from tap water. It is far more effective than the inexpensive and commonly used charcoal carbon activated filters. It is healthier (and far cheaper and better for the environment) than bottled water, which contains the harmful chemical BPA. Most home units sell for $250-$600 and require a yearly filter replacement. For around $20/month, you can also rent a unit from a local water delivery company with no up-front, installation, filter, or maintenance costs.

FOOD ALLERGIES & SENSITIVITIES

Food allergies and food sensitivities tend to contribute to inflammation and a wide variety of health problems, chronic disease, chronic pain, and weight gain. Examples of foods that can be problematic for some people include: soy, corn, eggs, citrus fruits, beef, yeast, fish, shellfish, nuts, chicken, and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, green/yellow/orange/red peppers, and potatoes). But the most common problematic foods are gluten (wheat, flour, and many other gluten-containing foods) and dairy. In fact, so many people are allergic or sensitive to dairy and/or gluten that many health experts recommend severely restricting it or eliminating these completely from everyone’s diet. Indeed, many people have seen a dramatic reduction of symptoms and chronic disease, as well as overall improvement in their health (including weight loss) by eliminating or severely restricting dairy and gluten from their diet. Before adopting such a restrictive diet, you may want to take a more individualized approach and have a food allergy blood test or try the elimination diet. The elimination diet is often thought to be superior to lab tests because it gives you accurate “real-world” results. Here’s how it works:

You first need to avoid all the common foods (listed above) that humans are known to be sensitive to, for about one month. After you notice that you are feeling better, you can add the foods listed above back into your diet, one food at a time. Evaluate how you feel with each new food addition for about 2 weeks before adding the next food. Any food that causes you to feel worse should be eliminated. When you have finished going through the list of foods, you should have a pretty clear idea of which foods you are sensitive to and should therefore avoid.

THE CONTROVERSY OVER SOY: SHOULD YOU EAT IT OR NOT?

Once heavily promoted as a cancer-fighting super food, soy is now being condemned by some as contributing to cancer and other health problems. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, “There is actually a lack of convincing evidence to endorse either claim. Beans in general have dramatic benefits to protect against breast cancer. A healthy diet includes a variety of beans, and not a disproportionate share of calories from any one food. Some soy beans or tofu added to a healthy diet should not be expected to be a risk or offer significant benefit.” However, he also states that “Evidence does suggest that Americans would benefit from replacing some animal protein in their diet with soy protein. Decreasing the percentage of animal protein in the diet is desirable. Soy products can be useful in moving toward a plant-centered diet with less saturated fat, less animal protein, more plant protein and more fruits and vegetables. Soybeans are rich in protein and the amino acid content makes them a complete vegetable protein.”

The impact of soy on your health largely depends upon the type of soy products in question. Consistent with the whole foods approach discussed above, you should avoid any processed foods, including processed soy products. Whole, unprocessed soy products can be safely consumed in moderation, including: edamame, whole soy beans, and a type of fermented soy bean called natto. Tofu, soy milk, and tempeh would be considered lightly processed, and may also be safely consumed in moderation. If you choose to consume these foods, it is recommended that you consult The Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Soy Scorecard which rates the quality of companies providing a variety of soy products. Some examples of heavily processed soy products to avoid include: tofu-turkey, soy burgers, soy ice cream, soy hot dogs, soy cheese, and isolated soy protein.

STRATEGIES TO IMPLEMENT THESE HEALTHY DIETARY CHANGES

Although you may already be aware of most of these nutritional approaches, you may find it challenging to integrate these healthier choices into your lifestyle. However, most people find that with a bit of advance planning and a willingness to replace some old habits with new ones, it’s really not that difficult to eat healthy. Make an effort to buy most of your food for the week in advance, and make healthy choices when doing so. You need to exercise your will power while at the grocery store. If you make healthy choices there, you won’t have any junk food or unhealthy foods at home. Then pick a day that you have some extra time (Sunday for most people) to do a little food preparation for the week. Chopping up and storing fruits and vegetables (or buying them already prepared from a salad bar) will save you lots of time later during the week when you are most busy. Finally, limit how often you eat out, but when you do, try to make the healthiest choices possible. It’s not as easy to eat healthy when dining out, but if you’re only dining out 10-20% of the time, you’ll save yourself some money and improve your health.

The challenge of eating a healthy meal “on the run” can be overcome by preparing a fresh smoothie. Another healthy meal would be a green salad with a variety of vegetables that you prepare at home in advance, or a store-bought prepared salad. Vary the ingredients, and include the amount and types of protein that you find provides you with the optimal amount of energy. Healthy protein and fat sources may include hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, lean meat such as turkey or chicken, fish, beans, and vegetarian meat substitutes like tempeh. Make sure that all your meals emphasize fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains over animal protein. Aside from a green salad, one great way to increase the amount of green leafy vegetables into your diet is to chop up large quantities of them each week in advance and then add them to virtually any sauce, tomato sauce, soup, whole grain or pasta dish, and even serve any protein on top of a bed of them. Healthy “on the run” snacks include fresh fruit, cut up vegetables, trail mixes, hard-boiled eggs, freshly juiced vegetable juices (carrot, beets, greens, etc.), an apple with peanut butter or other nut butter, and energy balls.

A few other miscellaneous tips:

  • Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and/or expeller expressed flax oil. Other seasonings can include any of the following: fresh herbs, diced hot peppers and/or garlic, unrefined sea salt, pepper, lemon or lime, and mustard.
  • To decrease the amount of dressing on a salad, especially when dining out, always ask for dressing on the side with a wedge of lemon. By squeezing the lemon and some salt & pepper (if desired), you’ll need only a small fraction of the dressing that you would normally use.
  • Use fresh avocado instead of butter, mayonnaise, or other unhealthy processed sandwich spreads.
  • Squeeze lemon in water to help reduce sugar cravings. You can also drink this every morning for a variety of health benefits which may include: alkalizing your system, improving digestion, improving immune system function, cleansing/detoxification, decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, reducing phlegm and reducing allergy and respiratory symptoms.
  • Choose unrefined sea salt and avoid refined, iodized table salt.
  • Drink tea often, if not daily. White tea has the highest concentration of antioxidants, followed by green tea, but even black tea contains health-promoting antioxidants. Naturally decaffeinated varieties are available, but you can decaf your own tea. Just steep regular tea in a bit of water for 10-20 seconds, dump out that water, and re-steep as usual. This will remove about 80% of the caffeine.
  • Berries are an especially good fruit choice, as they have a relatively low glycemic index and contain a very high amount of antioxidants.
  • For more nutritional information and healthy recipes, check out the following:

FASTING FOR HEALTH

If you are suffering from an inability to lose weight and/or chronic pain or any chronic disease, homeopathy and/or some type of fasting program is likely to help you significantly. Fasting is not only a powerful way to lose weight, but also to detoxify the body and improve your overall health. If you make healthy diet and lifestyle choices, the improvements that you experience during the fast will tend to last for weeks, months, or even for years after the fast.

What is Fasting?

Fasting is defined as the avoidance of solid food for a certain period of time. By this definition, we all fast daily when we sleep – it is a natural function that the body was designed to do. Some fasting for spiritual or religious purposes requires that no liquids be consumed, but all sensible fasting plans allow for hydration with plenty of water, and sometimes also tea or other liquids including fresh juices. There are many different types of fasting, but water-only fasting is considered to have the most profound effects on weight loss and your overall health.

The Benefits of Fasting

Done properly, fasting tends to provide the following benefits:

  1. Weight loss.
  2. Cleansing and detoxification of the body.
  3. Decreased chronic pain and inflammation.
  4. Decreased cardiovascular disease risk and in some cases reversal of heart disease.
  5. Decreased cancer risk and in some cases help with treatment & recovery.
  6. Decreased diabetes risk and in some cases help with treatment & management.
  7. Improved cognitive function, concentration, and mental clarity.
  8. Improved symptoms of mental disorders including anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
  9. Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
  10. Normalized appetite and food cravings, making it easier to maintain ideal body weight.
  11. Decreased migraines, headaches, and allergies.

How Does Fasting Work

It is estimated that 65% of the body’s energy is used by the body for the digestion of food. By giving the digestive organs a rest, fasting frees up this energy so that it can be used for healing, recuperation, and detoxification. Fasting promotes a process known as autophagy, which literally means “self-digestion”.

Autophagy leads to detoxification and repair of cells, tissues and organs by eliminating foreign toxins as well as the natural metabolic wastes (which are also toxins) produced even by our healthy cells.

Advanced glycation end products (AGE) build up in cellular tissues and lead to atherosclerosis, aging, diabetes, nerve damage, the deterioration of organs, and many other chronic health problems. Along with improving your overall diet, fasting is the most effective way to remove the accumulation of AGE and other waste products and toxins.

Our cells have the natural ability to clean cholesterol, fat, and debris from our arteries; restore health to joints that are attacked by arthritis; and bring us to a level of health that we may never have anticipated. The most dramatic results can be seen when the body is given total rest from the work of digestion of food and the toxins contained in so much of our food supply.

How does fasting remove toxins from the body? When you go without eating for more than a day or two, the body enters into a state of ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the body runs out of carbohydrates to burn for energy, so it burns fat. And the fat is where the body stores many of the toxins it absorbs from the environment.

Precautions When Fasting

Fasting is not for everyone. Certain people should not fast, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • People with wasting diseases or malnutrition
  • Those with a history of cardiac arrhythmias
  • People with hepatic or renal insufficiency
  • Those on certain medications

Other important tips to consider:

  • Anyone who fasts for extended periods (greater than 2-3 days) should do so only under the supervision of a healthcare provider knowledgeable about fasting.
  • Most people should go on some type of detox diet in preparation for the actual fast, especially those with unhealthy eating habits.
  • In order to sustain weight loss and improved health after the fast, a healthy diet must be maintained in the future.
  • If you’ve never fasted before, you may want to consider a short or modified fast to start with. Many people find that a routine of intermittent fasting (discussed below) prepares their bodies and makes it much easier to perform a longer water-only fast at some point in the future.
  • As discussed above, individualization is the key to any health practice. It is best to discuss with one of our doctors what type of fasting plan, if any, may be the most appropriate for you.

Different Types of Fasting

Water Fasting

Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a leading authority on fasting, which he explains in his highly recommended book: Fasting & Eating for Health. He states that the most effective type of fast is the water-only fast, to be done for at least 2-3 days. Many people can safely and effectively fast with water only for several weeks at a time.
Modified Fasting

A modified version of the fast can also be effective. One example of a modified fast is to start out by consuming only fruits, vegetables, and plenty of water for 2-3 days, then 2-3 days of only water and freshly juiced vegetable juice, then 1-3 day of only water, then 2-3 days of only water and freshly juiced vegetable juice, and then only water and fruits and vegetables for 2-3 days. Depending on your health goals, coffee and tea may also be allowed during a modified fast. If doing a modified fast for the first time, it’s best to plan on making no plans other than rest during the water-only days. Some people feel energetic during this period, but others may prefer to rest.

Cleansing Diet

Although not really considered fasting, a cleansing diet can also help you achieve many of the health benefits of fasting. Examples include a juice cleanse, where only freshly juiced vegetables and limited amounts of fruits are consumed. A modified version of a juice cleanse would be to juice during the day, and then eat a raw or vegan, or at least a heavily plant-based dinner in the evening. Depending on your health goals, coffee and tea may also be allowed during a modified fast.

Intermittent Fasting & the 18/6 Diet

Intermittent fasting (IF) is another approach that is attracting growing popularity as well as scientific evidence documenting its effectiveness with regards to overall improved health, decreased chronic pain, weight loss (specifically targeting fat cells), normalizing appetite and food cravings, improved sleep, mood energy, concentration, and improved athletic performance. Also, many people find that a routine of intermittent fasting prepares their bodies and makes it much easier to perform a longer water-only fast at some point in the future.

As we discussed above in the CR Approach section, eating frequently throughout the day may not be a healthy option for many people. IF offers the opposite alternative to that practice, and a return to the way our ancestors used to eat. The basic premise of IF is to fast for longer periods than is typical on a daily breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule. There are many different varieties of IF, but it is typically performed on an ongoing basis. Some people make a daily habit of simply skipping either breakfast or dinner. There is no conclusive research as to why, but many people report having less hunger throughout the day by simply skipping breakfast, despite having been told that “it’s the most important meal of the day”. Others fast all day every other day, every third day, once per week, or once or twice per month. Some people who travel frequently for work attempt to offset the high calorie work meals by fasting on the first and last days of their trips, thus also avoiding subpar airline food.

There are many variations of intermittent fasting, but we have seen the most compelling research and results with what we call the “18/6 diet”. For this diet, you simply fast for 18 hours each day, and choose a 6-hour window of time in which to eat. For example, if you are not usually very hungry first thing in the morning, you may choose to delay breakfast until noon or 1:00, and then eat dinner around 6:00 or 7:00 pm. Alternatively you could choose to eat breakfast at 10:00 am and have an early dinner around 4:00pm. With any type of IF, when you eat changes, but what you eat does not. You should still make healthy food choices as described above and throughout this discussion. Snacks in between the larger meals, as long as they fall within your designated 6-hour window, are fine. Plenty of water should be consumed throughout the day, during both the 18-hour fasting time, as well as the 6-hour eating time. Depending on your health goals, coffee and tea are also allowed. It is normal to feel hungry before you have broken your fast. If you feel very hungry during your 18-hour “fasting window” (outside of your 6-hour window of “eating time”), it is advised that you simply drink more water or herbal tea and “wait it out”. These feelings of hunger usually diminish within an hour or less. If you are actually feeling weak, dizzy, or light-headed during your “fasting time”, then by all means sit or lie down, and eat some fruit if necessary. Usually 1 or 2 bites will do the trick, but sometimes an entire piece of fruit may be necessary. This does not significantly interfere with the fasting period or decrease the effectiveness of your IF practice.

To improve your overall health or to help you achieve your weight loss goals, consider trying the 18/6 diet or other type of IF. Try it for a month or two and assess the results before deciding if this is a long term lifestyle change worth making.

WEIGHT LOSS

The healthy dietary approaches described above are consistent with healthy weight loss. If you are still having trouble maintaining an ideal body weight despite adopting these changes, then follow these recommendations:

  1. Consult your doctor for lab tests to rule out metabolic disorders including hypothyroidism.
  2. Follow the Calorie Restriction Approach guidelines more closely. It is not uncommon for many Americans to need to cut their caloric intake in half in order to achieve an ideal body weight.
  3. Increase your level of physical activity, to as much as 1-2 times per day, for 40-60 minutes, 4-6 days per week. High Intensity Interval Training can also be very effective in burning more calories and boosting your metabolism in less time than traditional aerobic workouts.
  4. Continue to adhere to the Whole, Natural Foods Approach, but pay special attention to avoiding all processed grains, flour, and sugar. If necessary, consider eliminating or severely restricting all grains – even whole grains and starches.
  5. Consider fasting and/or intermittent fasting approaches as discussed in the previous section.

VITAMINS, OTHER SUPPLEMENTS, AND HOMEOPATHY

In a perfect world, a healthy diet is the best way to get your nutrients, but our world is far from perfect. Nobody consumes a perfectly healthy diet, the soil in which food grows has become depleted of nutrients, and we are constantly exposed to environmental toxins and stress, which increase our need for nutrients and antioxidants. This is why most health experts have recommended that you should take multiple vitamins daily, to reduce your risk of chronic disease, recover faster from illness & injuries, and improve energy, mood, sleep, and physical/athletic performance. Multigenics is the multivitamin that we recommend taking daily.

Vitamin D deficiency is a serious epidemic that is associated with many diseases including increased risk of many forms of cancer, osteoporosis, colds, flus & other infections, poor immune system function, and seasonal affective disorder (the winter “blues”), or “S.A.D.” The scientific literature confirms that that due to the wide use of sunscreen and lack of exposure to sunlight, most people are deficient in vitamin D. Therefore, we highly recommend getting your Vitamin D levels tested and taking a liquid Vitamin D3 supplement if your levels are below 50.

Another important supplement that most people should consider taking is an essential fatty acid supplement called “Tri-EFA” which contains fish oil, flax seed oil, and borage seed oil. Depending on the state of your health and your specific goals, other supplements may be indicated on an individualized basis. The most common are calcium, magnesium, and various antioxidants including Coenzyme Q10.

Homeopathy is also one the most effective ways to improve your health and overcome chronic pain and acute and chronic diseases of all kinds.

WEANING OFF COFFEE & CAFFEINE

Whether or not to drink coffee is a controversial topic in nutritional medicine. While some studies have shown health-promoting benefits, caffeine is a highly addictive drug that interferes with the REM phase of sleep and can reduce the quality of your sleep. Since deep, quality sleep is so crucial to our health, mood, and energy levels, it would seem prudent to avoid any chemical which interferes with this vital process. That said, one’s individual sensitivity to caffeine should also be considered. Some people seem to do pretty well with 1 or 2 cups of coffee in the morning. For others however, this practice can lead to headaches, anxiety, increased pain sensitivity, insomnia, and rebound morning fatigue which leads to dependence on the drug. In our experience, most chronic headache sufferers will need to remove caffeine from their diets in order to be fully cured.

Without exception, all of our patients who have weaned themselves off caffeine report feeling more stable, consistent energy levels compared to when they were using caffeine. If you are hesitant to shift to a caffeine-free lifestyle, why not try it for a month or 2 and just see how you feel? The key to weaning off without suffering from fatigue and headaches is to do it very slowly and gradually. Depending on how sensitive you are, it is recommended to decrease the amount of caffeine (from tea, coffee, or other sources) by 25-50% each week. For example, if you are used to drinking 3 cups of coffee per day, decrease that amount to 1 ½ – 2 cups per day for the first week. The second week, drink only ¾ – 1 cup per day, and so on. After you have cut down to less than 1 cup per day, you could do a week of decaf before cutting out caffeine completely. Decaf coffee still has a considerable amount of caffeine in it, compared to decaf tea which contains virtually none. Depending on how sensitive you are, you may need to remove even decaf coffee from your diet in order to meet your individual health goals.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Especially if you are not at your ideal body weight, you need to restrict your calorie intake, focusing on nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding “empty calorie” foods.
  • Eat a whole, natural foods (organic whenever possible) plant-based diet, with an emphasis on daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Avoid food additives, preservatives, added sugars, trans fats, diet and regular soda, processed and refined foods, and flour.
  • Avoid or consume animal protein and dairy in moderation. Choose meat & dairy products that are naturally-raised, grass-fed, hormone & antibiotic-free, and organic whenever possible. Fish should be wild-caught (not farmed) whenever possible.
  • Eat a diet that is more anti-inflammatory than pro-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatory foods are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and wild-caught fish. Most fatty meats, fried foods, dairy, grains, sugars, juices, and food additives are inflammatory.
  • Restrict sugar and other foods with a high glycemic index. Combine foods to ensure that you are eating low glycemic index meals. Foods or meals that balance fat, protein, and fiber with sugar/carbohydrate content tend to have a lower glycemic index.
  • Integrate healthy lifestyle and diet choices like those living in the Blue Zones. These include moderate alcohol consumption (1 glass of red wine per day), eating a whole foods/plant-based diet, and not overeating.
  • Choose healthy fats and cooking protocols, including extra virgin olive oil and flax oil at room temperature, and (organic) expeller-pressed, unrefined grape seed oil, avocado oil (and perhaps canola and coconut oil) for cooking.
  • Eat wild-caught fish in moderation for its anti-inflammatory and health-promoting effects, but restrict consumption of farmed fish and types of fish known to contain high levels of mercury.
  • Pay attention to which foods you may be allergic or sensitive to, and avoid those foods. Many people have improved their health dramatically by avoiding the two most commonly problematic foods: dairy products and wheat/gluten.
  • Restrict or eat only moderate amounts of soy, but choose whole, quality, organic forms over processed.
  • Buy and/or prepare healthy food options in advance each week, so that you can eat healthy foods even when you are busy and “on the go”.
  • Choose unrefined sea salt and avoid refined, iodized table salt.
  • Drink (naturally decaffeinated) tea often, if not daily. Naturally decaffeinated versions are good options. White and green tea is best, but black is good too.
  • Berries are an especially good fruit choice, as they have a relatively low glycemic index and contain a very high amount of antioxidants.
  • To improve your overall health or to help you achieve your weight loss goals, consider trying the 18/6 diet or other type of intermittent fasting. Try it for a month or two and assess the results before deciding if this is a long term lifestyle change worth making. Strongly consider discussing fasting options with one of our doctors, especially if you are suffering from an inability to lose weight and/or chronic pain or chronic disease.
  • Take a high quality multiple vitamin daily.
  • Get your Vitamin D levels tested and discuss with our doctors about how to keep your blood levels optimal (50-80).
  • Take an essential fatty acid supplement like “Tri-EFA” daily, which contains fish oil, flax seed oil, and borage seed oil.
  • Discuss with our doctors your individual need for additional supplements, which may include calcium, magnesium, and various antioxidants including Coenzyme Q10.
  • Discuss with our doctors how homeopathy may be a natural alternative for you to overcome acute and chronic pain and diseases of all kinds.
  • Consider reducing your caffeine consumption to 1-2 cups per day, if not weaning off completely.
  • Choose reverse osmosis filtered water over bottled or tap.
  • Remember that it is more important to emphasize health-promoting foods in your diet than to try to avoid every “bad” food completely. Good nutrition, like most lifestyle choices, involves a healthy balance – and for most people, there is room for moderation.
  • Always remember that health advice, including any nutritional recommendation, is always most optimal when individualized. So be sure to listen to your body and how it reacts to different food choices, and consider scheduling a personalized nutritional consultation with one of our doctors.
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