Natural Supports of Wellness

I???d like to review the elements that make up something I call the Pillars of Health. These are eight lifestyle choices that provide the foundation of good health, which include:

  • Being active
  • Managing stress
  • Detoxifying your body
  • Sleeping long and well
  • Eating nutritious, whole foods
  • Drinking pure, filtered water
  • Balancing your pH
  • Taking targeted supplements

In last week???s newsletter, I talked about the importance of exercise, as well as why dealing with stress, detoxification, and sleep are so important. This week, I???d like to discuss the four additional pillars of health: food, water, supplements, and correcting imbalances in your body???s acidity or alkalinity.

Eating nutritious, whole foods

Confused about what you should be eating? With all the contradictory information out there, who can blame you? So let???s take a closer look at nutrition essentials and what they mean to you.

To function, the human body needs the nutrients in real, live food. When I say ???live food,??? I simply mean unprocessed, unrefined food as close to its natural state as possible. Processing and refining remove important nutrients and beneficial substances, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In other words, you???ll get far more nutrients from eating an apple as opposed to an apple turnover. Similarly, choose whole grain products over the refined versions, which have been stripped of nutrition.

Your digestive system breaks down what you eat and delivers the nutrients via the bloodstream to cells throughout your body. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins ??? known as macronutrients — are key nutrients we obtain from food, along with fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals.

Breakdown of the Big Three

But what exactly are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and why are they so important? Let???s take a closer look at each one:

  • Carbohydrates are sugars and starches found in foods like vegetables, fruit, cereal, sugar, pasta, bread, rice, and beans. Often called carbs, they are the body???s primary fuel source. But some carbs are healthier than others. Favorable, or complex carbs (vegetables and fruits), digest slowly, so you feel full longer.  Unfavorable, or simple, carbs (sugar, candy, cookies, pies, cakes, bread, refined foods like white rice) are digested quickly in the body, causing insulin levels to spike. Clearly, all carbs are not bad, and the complex variety is absolutely necessary for good health.
  • Fats, like carbohydrates, have unfairly acquired a bad reputation. Fats are essential to health. Like carbohydrates, fats provide energy, and some fats are better for us than others. Our bodies cannot produce essential fatty acids (EFAs), so we must obtain them from food or supplements containing omega-3s and omega-6s. Since the processed and fast foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD) are loaded with omega-6s, too many people are dangerously low in omega-3s.
  • Protein is an essential nutrient found in every cell of the body, where it is used to create new cells and repair old ones. Protein is one of the key building blocks of muscles, skin, cartilage, bones, and blood. In addition, it produces hormones, enzymes, and other chemicals your body needs. Generally, when we think of protein, we think of meat, but there are excellent protein sources, such as beans, whole grains, and nuts. These foods provide vitamins, minerals, and much-needed fiber, too, making them outstanding meat alternatives.

Clearly, each of the macronutrients is vitally important for our health. This is why I do not recommend excluding any one of these categories in diets such as the no- or low-carb approaches often touted for weight loss. Eliminating or drastically reducing carbs is a recipe for disaster.

Balance Nutrients for Better Health

Based on a 2000-calorie diet, here are the target numbers for each of the three macronutrient categories, according to the federal government???s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) guidelines.

  • Carbohydrates should equal 50 to 60 percent of your total daily calories. You should consume about 300 grams of carbs each day. Focus on favorable carbs from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans.
  • Fat should equal 20 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. You should consume about 45 to 80 grams of fat each day. Americans tend to overdo it, so watch your fat intake. For cooking, focus on good fats, such as olive, coconut, or grapeseed oil. I also recommend omega-3 supplements to ensure you???re getting sufficient quantities of healthy essential fatty acids. For your convenience, I formulated my omega-D3 to be a stable, toxin-free source of these important nutrients.
  • Protein should equal 10 to 15 percent of your total daily calories. Adult men over the age of 25 should consume about 63 grams, and women should aim for 50 grams. Most Americans consume about 100 grams of protein daily, far more than they need.  If you don???t work out, the extra protein does not build muscles and is not stored; it???s simply eliminated when you urinate, requiring your kidneys to work overtime.

Bottom Line: Eating real food ??? and avoiding processed and fast foods ??? are among the most health-enhancing changes you can make.  

Drinking pure, filtered water

You can survive for weeks, even months, without food, but you can only live for a few days without water. You need water to digest food and remove waste through the kidneys and skin. Water provides cushioning and lubrication for your joints, keeps your skin cells plump, assists delivery of nutrients via the bloodstream, and protects the intestinal tract lining from damage by enzymes that digest food. Water plays a role in breathing, body temperature management, brain functions, and a long list of other processes. In short, you need water ??? and plenty of it ??? to maintain good health.

What about the standard recommendation to drink eight glasses of water daily? Unfortunately, this one-size-fits-all recommendation doesn’t address individual needs. I tell patients that they should be drinking the equivalent of half their weight in ounces of water daily. In other words, if you weigh 160 pounds, half of that is 80 ??? the number of ounces of water you should be drinking. Eighty ounces is 10 eight-ounce glasses. Anything less short-changes your entire body of a vitally important nutrient.

That said, it’s also important to consider factors that may make a difference in your personal water intake. Certain medications, such as antihistamines, for example, can be dehydrating, as can hot, dry weather, intense workouts, beverages containing alcohol or caffeine, and a high-salt diet. Clearly, the ???eight glasses a day??? notion needs to be adapted for each individual’s lifestyle.

In addition to keeping you thoroughly hydrated, drinking plenty of water can significantly reduce the risk of a healthy individual having a fatal heart attack, according to a study of more than 20,000 men and women. Researchers found that drinking five or more glasses of plain water daily is as important as a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and not smoking when it comes to preventing a fatal heart attack.

How does water help prevent heart attacks? Dehydration increases blood’s ???stickiness,??? and raises levels of several heart-disease risk factors. You know how hard you have to squeeze to get honey out of a plastic bottle. That’s similar to how hard your heart has to work to pump blood when you’re not drinking enough water. Now, contrast that image with a squeeze bottle filled with a free-flowing liquid like water. No comparison, right? So simply staying hydrated protects the heart by making it easier to do its job.

Bottom Line: There is no substitute for fresh, pure water when it comes to maintaining good, overall health.

Balancing your pH

Acidosis (high levels of acid in the body) is a topic that’s rarely addressed in conventional medicine. Acidosis is caused by an acid-alkaline imbalance in the body. That doesn’t sound particularly far-fetched or outrageous, yet some medical authorities claim there is no such thing. Don’t believe it! I’ve been a doctor for nearly 25 years, and acidosis is both real and under-diagnosed. Yet nearly every patient with the condition that I’ve worked with is skeptical about the diagnosis at first, simply because they haven???t heard the term before.

Recent studies are showing that chronic, low-grade acidosis has an impact on everything from children’s growth rates (excess acidity slows the growth process) to decreased bone and muscle mass and the formation of kidney stones in adults. Clearly, acidosis is not something to be taken lightly.

Acidosis, which is caused by poor diet, toxins, stress, and hypoxia (too little oxygen), creates an imbalance in the body’s pH levels. Ideally, the body???s pH should be slightly alkaline, in the range of 7.2 to 7.4 (just a bit more alkaline than water, which has a neutral pH of 7.0). If measurements show a lower pH, that means you are in a state of acidosis. By contrast, a pH above 7.43 signals excessive alkalinity, or alkalosis, which is rare.

Acidosis can have a significant impact on your health, especially the body’s mineral stores. If the pH level drops below 7.2 ??? even by a very small amount ??? the body takes alkaline minerals, like calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, and potassium from the bones or tissues, creating an environment where diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes, can flourish.

There is a simple test to determine if your pH levels are putting your health at risk. Purchase litmus paper (available at most pharmacies or medical supply companies), and follow the directions on the product to check your second urine of the day.

If the test shows excess acid (in other words, if the result is lower than 7.2), the first step in correcting the problem is to make simple dietary changes. Eliminate or cut back on foods that promote acidity and increase intake of fruits and vegetables. Almost all fruits and vegetables are alkalizing, with the exception of tomatoes, cranberries, and blueberries. Surprisingly, in spite of their citric acid content, most citrus fruits have an alkalinizing effect when consumed, so enjoy lemons, grapefruit, and related fruits (with the exception of oranges) without worrying about contributing to acid levels. In fact, a cup of hot water with a bit of lemon is a soothing afternoon or evening beverage with an acid-reducing bonus.

If adding more vegetables to your diet is difficult right now, consider one of the greens supplements on the market today. These can be an effective solution, especially for people who are just not able to balance their intake of acid-producing food for one reason or another.

Bottom Line: Correcting acidosis can set the stage for better health by eliminating an imbalance that is largely ignored by mainstream medicine.

Taking targeted supplements

As a practicing physician, my patients frequently ask about dietary supplements, including vitamins and related substances. Here are the top two questions:

Do I need to take vitamins?

Which vitamins should I take?

Since these topics come up so often, let???s take a look at both issues right now, starting with the first question.

Do You Need to Take Vitamins?

Short answer: Yes! Everyone needs to take vitamins, even those of us who study nutrition and eat carefully. Studies show that basic nutrients, such as those in a simple multivitamin, can improve everything from markers of aging and heart disease to memory and mood. Furthermore, I???ve seen patients reverse heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a number of other ailments by taking the right combination of vitamins. Several of my patients have even been able to cancel different types of surgery, including one heart transplant, after taking appropriate supplements. That???s how much difference vitamins and other nutrients can make in your health.

Even if you eat a healthy diet, you probably aren???t getting all the nutrients you need. Over-farming depletes minerals and lowers important nutrient levels in many foods. In addition, several nutrients are lost to pesticides and herbicides, and are reduced further during transportation, storage, and cooking. As a result, it???s next to impossible to obtain the recommended amounts of many nutrients from food alone.

Which Vitamins Should You Take?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question because individual differences play a huge role here. Age, gender, ethnicity, existing health conditions and medication, occupation, medical history, family history, activity level, food preferences, stress levels, sleep patterns, exposures to pollution and toxins, and many other factors play a role in answering this question.

That said, here is my list of the top nine supplements that I believe most people should be taking. I recommend purchasing products from an established company, rather than a generic, cut-rate brand.

Daily multi-vitamin and -mineral As directed by an established company
Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) 2,000-3000 mg
Vitamin D3 1,500 IU
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) 100-200 mg
Melatonin 3-5 mg
Curcumin 500-1,500 mg
Probiotics Minimum 10 billion live organisms
Natural Vitamin E 400 IU
Vitamin C 1,000 mg

If you???ve been vitamin shopping lately, you know that there are literally dozens of choices for each of these products as well as a wide range of prices. For too many people, price alone is the deciding factor, and that can be a huge mistake. Buying an ineffective product because it???s cheap will not benefit your health. Do your homework and buy from companies with a reputation to protect. For example, look for firms that stand behind their supplements and offer money-back guarantees. And please don???t be disappointed if you don???t see improvement overnight. Remember, nutritional supplements can take four to six weeks to reach therapeutic levels in the body.  Instead, focus on eating well, staying active, managing stress, reducing acidity, detoxing, and sleeping like a baby. Those changes enhance the benefits you???ll get from supplements, and create a foundation for health free of drugs.