Food is medicine and can affect physical as well as mental health. My interest in healthy eating and supplements started not long after I was injured. As a hobby, I started reading books about vitamins and minerals. I would use this information to doctor myself when I developed a urinary tract infection or even the common cold. I noticed that after I started taking supplements and eating a healthy diet, my body reacted more quickly to medications and I had fewer infections that lasted for shorter periods of time. During medical school, I was surprised that very little time was dedicated to this subject. Today, I use my medical knowledge together with an explosion of information in the area of diet and supplementation to support my own health and advise my patients.
Choosing a diet to follow and what supplements to take to improve your health can be overwhelming today. There are a few simple steps you can take to start. I strongly advocate eating whole foods and avoiding anything that is processed. Large corporations have one primary goal and that is to increase profit margins and deliver to their shareholders. In order to do that, they will modify foods to contain fillers and other processed substances that taste good but lack essential nutrients. The food is increasingly filled with empty calories, which actually deplete our body’s vitamins and minerals. This can lead to weight gain, the development of diabetes, elevated blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Another helpful hint to get started on a healthy lifestyle is to figure out how many calories you should consume each day to maintain or lose weight. A great website to calculate your caloric needs is http://www.globalrph.com/harris-benedict-equation.htm. Once you have your daily calories calculated, you can start comparing that number to how many calories you actually consume each day. Many people are surprised to see how many calories they can cut out of their day by simply drinking water. Achieving your proper body weight alone can reverse many medical problems and make you feel terrific. I also strongly advocate taking a basic multivitamin mineral every day since stress depletes these nutrients and many commercial foods are nutrient deficient. For specific conditions, the cautious use of herbs and spices can also be very helpful. The use of herbs in particular should be discussed with your doctor prior to use since they can cause damage to the kidneys and liver taken incorrectly.
When you are under stress, physically immobilized, or just interested in living a healthy and long life, it is important to read about nutrition. Ideas about health are always changing and it is prudent to stay on top of the latest information from reliable sources. Several articles in the mainstream media as well as medical journals are challenging our current USDA recommendations to eat low-fat and consumed 45 to 60% of our diet from carbohydrate foods. There is growing evidence that saturated fats may not be as harmful as currently suggested. Dietary adjustments tailored to your individual needs are becoming increasingly popular and the focus of a new specialty called Functional Medicine. When it comes to diet and nutrition, be an active reader and never afraid to challenge the status quo.
I base all these comments on my personal experience as well as increasing evidence in the medical literature. In future blogs I will comment on the benefits of individual supplements to target specific ailments and popular diets in the news today.