Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Magic Health Potion: Does It Exist?

In short, NO. Absolutely, without a doubt, NO.

I know in our Western culture, where we want everything in microwave fashion, it is ingrained in us to find the quick and easy way to health and wellness. I see people seeking it out all the time, and no matter what good evidence they hear to the contrary, they often continue to search for it. I could sit down and spell out exactly why Eating Well, Moving Well, Thinking Well and Resting Well is the formula for optimum health right in front of them, and it would all make sense, but the minute a quick solution is bandied about, it seems inherent in our nature that we grab onto it.

I don't know why that is. I know when I hear about such products, I am initially hopeful. But within a few minutes of thinking about it, without even researching it further, I know innately in my heart that it's probably just like one of the other many different products I've seen come down the pipe over my 2 decades of being in the wellness business. And most likely its popularity will peak, and then fade, especially if/when health issues come about related to this miracle product as so often happens.

My heart actually breaks for people that want it so badly to be the magic formula for them. I want optimum health for everyone: me, my family and our society so badly I want to scream when I hear someone promoting a product as the answer to our ills. Our society makes it so easy to slip into this mindset that "for every ill there is a pill". Think about this, does health really come in a pill? Is the solution for health and wellness wrapped up in a tiny drink or capsule? We all know in our heart that it doesn't come that way. Even with the supplements I take and promote, I know they don't create good health by themselves. It comes from taking care of our body with good nutrition, movement, rest and right thinking. There is no other way, period.

Often many of these products promote themselves as natural. This is particularly true in the weight loss realm. However, simple research often shows that though the products are natural, they contain things that can be harmful, particularly stimulants. Ma Huang was one that was used in the last decade, now there is one being used called "guarana". Stimulants such as these increase your heart rate, can cause palpitations and raise blood pressure when used in products to help with weight loss. Yes people WILL lose weight on them. And yes they can become skinny, but they can become skinny and have a heart palpitations, anxiety, or heart attacks. Look back on the product from the early/mid 90's called Formula 1. It was a weight loss products, sold in multilevel marketing form and was quite the rage. I remember many patients of mine trying to get me to promote it since it was "natural". Later when heart issues occurred in many of those taking the product, it went away, thought it's made an appearance again in something of a new form I hear.

Stimulants also "stimulate" one's adrenals. That can lead to adrenal fatigue or burnout, and more health issues with weight gain in the long run. Additionally, once someone loses weight on a product, if they stop taking the product they will gain the weight back, so they are essentially on the product for life (which by the way never happens in my experience, people always stop taking the product at some point,and sadly, but predictably, the weight returns).

Beyond that, I am really on a mission to get people to understand that weight loss doesn't mean health. Think about it. Anorexic people are not healthy. Starving people in 3rd world countries are not healthy. Unfortunately our society thinks thin is equivalent to health, and it's just not so. One can lose weight, but still have stress issues that lead to a heart attack. One can exercise perfectly but still not get enough good rest and end up with ill health. So the goal should never be "weight loss". It should be optimum health, and pursuing that will usually lead to weight loss. And some of them cause such rapid weight loss that it is not considered healthy. 2-3 pounds/week is optimum weight loss, more than that can be dangerous to your health.

My friends, please, please know there is no magic formula for health and well being. If all you want is weight loss, there are products that can help you lose weight. Knowing what I know, and having been around as long as I have been, I cannot and will not endorse them at all. If you are going to use them, you need to be aware of their side effects, and think long and hard about what your goal really should be, not what society says it should be.

Until next time...Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Are You Inflamed?

Yep, most likely you are. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you live anything close to the typical Western lifestyle, you can bet that you have at least a little bit of chronic inflammation in your body.

So now you're probably thinking "So What?" I understand. It's a vague concept this whole inflammation thing, it makes no sense to the average person. Unless you are a bit weird like me, you probably don't spend hours at a time on the computer reading up on abstract topics like this. That's ok, I am here to sum it up for you in 47 pages or less (just kidding, should be only few paragraphs).

Why is this topic important? It's important because if you have chronic inflammation inside you, you have basically created the breeding ground for illness, EVERY illness, from colds to the flu, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, from Alzheimers to cancer. Degenerative diseases thrive in this kind of atmosphere, and obviously this can have seriously deleterious effects on your health and well being.

So, if I am saying I just about guarantee you have inflammation in your body, how would I know that? Because most of you reading this are living the standard American way of life. You follow the Standard American Diet (SAD) at least a good part of the time. You don't exercise enough. You live a stress filled life. You don't sleep and get proper rest as much as you should. Maybe you have some really bad health habits like smoking, or drinking soft drinks (diet or non). Sound familiar? It should, most of us have challenges in one or more of the listed areas. Most of us are walking around "simmering" under the skin, setting ourselves up for increased chances of many debilitating illnesses.

What can we do to combat this? What can we do to stop simmering and "be cool"? Simply put it comes down to my often repeated, but never more true, wellness formula: Eat well, Move well, Think well and Rest well. Yep, it's really that simple. However, simple doesn't always mean easy. Take a hard look at yourself, truly evaluate yourself in each of the 4 pillars of wellness I just mentioned. How are your eating habits? Are you eating real food or "edible food-like substances"? Real food either grows or at one point had eyes. Are you buying organic foods more and more? Typical procedures for raising cattle/chicken produce very unhealthy meat for you and I to consume, meat that can create more inflammation. Meat in and of itself isn't bad for you, but bad meat is, and if you're not eating free range meat, chances are your meat is bad (read the recent articles on how much of our meat supply is tainted, disgusting).

Further ways to solve the inflammatory problem include exercising appropriately with resistance training and intense cardiovascular training. Supplementation to offset the inflammation producing habits in our eating can help (think Fish Oil supplements among other things). Taking time to de-stress and remove stressors that affect our life goes a long way to reducing inflammation. Proper rest allows the body to cool down, and thus alleviates inflammation.

It's very do-able, if you've got a big enough reason to make the changes. We help with that in our office, but there are wellness coaches throughout the country these days. Find one that teaches what I speak of, spend time with them, learn from them and act on what you learn. Soon you'll be able to say you are "totally chill".

Until next time...Be Well (stay cool)

Dr. Bruce

Saturday, April 9, 2011

HELP! I Want To Quit!!!

Ever feel that way? With regards to eating well? Or exercising? Taking care of yourself and trying to improve your health and wellbeing is not always an easy task. We all know it’s the right thing to do, and many really do WANT to make the necessary lifestyle changes to become healthier. But so many fail at it, or never really even get started. Why is that? How come some people can seem to have boundless energy for working out, undying commitment to eating well, and an unswerving focus on caring for their physical, mental and spiritual health? What is the difference maker?

In truth there are several difference makers, some of which I’ve written on before. One of the biggest difference makers is the size of your “why”. See my blog post entitled “When The Facts Don’t Count” for more information on that. This month I want to focus on another difference maker, one that I experienced firsthand in a huge way just last month, and continue to experience weekly in my pursuit of wellness: Community.

Sometimes it’s tough to get up and go. Sometimes it’s tough to continue to make the best decisions for your health. Floating downstream is always easier, but even a dead fish can do that. If we’re going to swim upstream, we need to put ourselves in a position where we have the greatest chance of success, or the least chance of failing or quitting. If we create a community of wellness oriented people, or join in on an existing one, we create a safety net to help us from falling off the wagon. The community can be as large as you want, or it can be as small as 2 people, though I recommend 3-4 at least.

How does it work? Simple. You find these people, and you commit to each other to pursue the vision of wellness. That might mean the only thing you commit to is working out together 3x weekly. It might mean you get together and walk in the neighborhood nightly. It can mean that you commit to attending wellness seminars and connecting with each other afterward to implement whatever it is you’ve learned. It can mean that once a week you get together with some friends and sample some new healthy recipes that you research. It can look like a lot of things.

I’ve had what I call accountability partners in my church. We would get together and spend time discussing our walk with God, do a bible study or just hang out and spend time together as friends, or with our families for a meal. We felt free to encourage each other, and sometimes even speak into each other’s lives when we see something amiss that the other person might be blind to, in a loving way of course!

That concept applies to our physical health as well. For instance, I have 2 other gentlemen, and just recently a female business associate joined in, that all like to do a spin (cycle) class on Monday and Friday mornings at 5:15. The night before, we text each other to check in, or send a Facebook message doing the same. That way we are reminded and we commit to each other to being there. It works well, and when one falls off the horse, we continue to stay in touch to encourage them to come back. I have to admit that there are times when my alarm goes off early in the morning, and I would like to stay in bed, but knowing I have accountability partners expecting me to be there pushes me to get up and get moving. And, I ALWAYS feel better after completing the class and am glad I went.

I also have a friend that used to live in our community, and he and I exchange emails about what is going on in our lives with regards to our attempts to work out regularly. We challenge each other, and enjoy reading about each other’s successes. Sometimes there are challenges we’ll express, and it’s good to hear those too and we can help each other through them.

It’s great to have a group to celebrate a win with too. In March, I, along with about 800 others, participated in an attempt at a world record for the largest outdoor spin class sponsored by Lifetime Fitness. It was two hours long and hot outside. It was exhilarating to see the mass of people on their spin bikes together and pushing themselves in the heat and humidity. After completing the long 2 hour class, I enjoyed a few moments of celebration with my instructor from spin class and several other regular attenders of the class. That’s yet another huge plus in developing community/accountability partners in your quest for wellness; celebrating the victories.

I would encourage you to find another person, and more than just one if you can, that you feel comfortable with and ask them to be your accountability partner. My son has caught onto this and recently asked 2-3 people, including me, to hold him accountable in his workouts. In our office we have two couples that work out 3x weekly and help keep each other focused (of course they enjoy going to breakfast afterward, so the social aspect kicks in too, but I am ok with that if it keeps them exercising and staying in shape together!) Find that person or those people, develop that commitment to wellness and see where it will take you!

Until next time…Be Well!

Dr. Bruce