WHAT IS WHOLISTIC LIVING?

I wanted to spend some time talking about living a wholistic life.  What does this mean?  Well, in a general way, it means attempting to be more naturally-minded in living, eating, in health, attitude and philosophy.  A person is made up of body, soul and spirit, so attention to all of these areas is essential for “wholeness.”  There are many people who take great care with their diet and health, but they neglect the soul and spirit and in doing so, sometimes they continue to not feel or be well.  Many times people feel overwhelmed in terms of looking about how many things are wrong in the world, or in their life and relationships.  Some people shut down when confronted by stress, abuse, perfectionism, or health obstacles.  I am here to tell you that the first thing you need to do is take some pressure off yourself and realize that while many things may be wrong, a journey starts with one step.  Too many clichés may be aggravating, but another I commonly use is, “Rome was not built in a day.”  Frequently when I am evaluating patients, we find multiple areas that need work.  Sometimes that information in and of itself can be stressful.  But my advice to my patients is that they should expect that changes can come slowly, but having an area to focus on for many is a great relief, instead of a big question mark, i.e. “what is wrong?”

A more natural approach to living can start very slowly and be gradually built upon.  The first thing you can do is to
begin to educate yourself:  read, Read, READ!  It doesn’t matter what age you start, you can always make positive changes to your life starting right now!  Just remember to relax and enjoy the ride (don’t sweat the small stuff):

DIETARY CHANGES:

Since we all have to eat every day, this is a great place to start. To try to improve your health, you have to ENGAGE in your health.  Too many people are seeking a quick fix or a magic pill to address their particular medical problem, but the truth is that many problems start with what we are eating.  As our society has gotten more technologically advanced, everything has speeded up.  How many of you have felt that you just never have enough hours in the day to get things done?  Many times our diets have taken a backseat because of our crazy schedules.  I know about this from personal experience.  My husband and I are both physicians, with five active boys, in addition to church, sports and other family activities.  Trying to be healthy in the midst of this life can be very difficult, but ironically it can be just as difficult for a single college student, a retired couple, or just a very busy working person.

SHOPPING FOR HEALTH

Many of you know about the advice to shop the perimeter of the store as most of the packaged, convenience and frozen foods are centrally located.  But as a busy mom, I don’t always have time to prepare elaborate meals, although I have some great babysitters who do.  In more recent years, there has been a greater appreciation by the grocery stores and the food industry that people are trying to be healthier.  I frequently buy quick brown rice or other natural whole grain goodies like couscous that are very easily prepared to go along with your dinner.  My kids love couscous and it literally takes about 7 minutes to make.  Whole-grain or high protein blended pasta is a better choice than white refined pastas.  If you look closely, you may even be able to find high-fiber sprouted grain products like Ezekiel bread (www.foodforlife.com).  Many people who have digestive issues need to go gluten-free (www.glutenfree.com).

What if your grocery store doesn’t carry much organic produce or it’s too expensive for your budget?  Then try a great fruit and vegetable wash to get rid of most of the chemicals (I like this one: www.veggie-wash.com).  I don’t
usually recommend washing fruits and vegetables in bleach water because food can be porous and absorb detergents.
Plain soap and water will get off most dirt and pesticides but not wax.  Here’s a useful guide to know when to spring for
organic if you have limited funds.

What about meat?  If you can’t pay $12.00 a pound for Laura’s beef (www.laurasleanbeef.com), look for sales on meat that is labeled hormone and antibiotic free.  The FDA does not allow poultry to be given hormones, but sometimes the birds are injected with colorings, preservatives and flavorings.  Look for those products that are minimally processed or organic.

Time magazine recently did article about which organic products were worth paying more for.  Milk and eggs came out on top.  It stands to reason that the better the animals have it, the higher quality there is in what comes out of them.  For milk, whole organic milk is a great choice for most, especially kids who need that fat for brain development.  The way to fight the obesity epidemic in America is not to make kids drink non-fat milk:  it is to get them off sugar and processed foods.  I personally feel even commercial organic milk is not optimal due to the lack of digestive enzymes.  If you know of a small, safe and clean local farm that can supply raw grass-fed milk, I believe that form of dairy has the
optimum nutrition.  If you don’t have this access or you don’t feel comfortable with raw milk, although our former
generations did just fine on it, then go for organic whole milk as long as your family is not sensitive to dairy.  Eggs
that are from hens that are allowed to run free-range and not given pesticide-laden feed are the best (don’t pay extra for the addition of omega-3 fatty acids as most of these are poor quality and rancid).  For an excellent review of chicken and egg issues, see this article by Dr. Mercola.  Organic cheese is hard tocome by but at least you can look for natural on the label.

One of my frequent statements to my patients is “if it comes out of the ground, or hangs from a tree or comes out of an animal, it is better for you than if it comes in a box with fifteen ingredients on the side, half of which you can’t
pronounce.”  The more “convenient” the food, the more likely it is that it is highly processed and full of
preservatives and artificial ingredients. And rather than most “diet” products being better for you, they are
generally full of more fake ingredients like artificial sweeteners, chemical flavor enhancers and fake fats.  The more
your food looks like real food the better and the rule of thumb is fresh is better than frozen is better than canned.

In our sugarized society, it is no wonder that diabetes is on the rise as well as heart disease, obesity and cancer, all of which can be associated with excessive sugar intake.  In general, I recommend being on the lookout for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is very metabolically destructive and hidden in many foods that you wouldn’t imagine (like salad dressings, pickles, bread).   I highly recommend you go to www.youtube.com and watch Dr. Robert Lustig’s videos entitled “Sugar:  The Bitter Truth.”  Dr. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist and childhood obesity specialist.  He cites high fructose corn syrup in sweets and other foods and fructose in general through excessive juice consumption to be the chief foundational causes of the obesity epidemic (along with hydrogenated fats and white, refined bakery products).

Sugar substitutes that are chemically produced like NutraSweet, Equal and Splenda (trademarks of aspartame and sucralose) are no better.  These chemicals are what we call excitotoxins which means they directly stimulate the brain (that Diet Coke addiction is not just about the caffeine).  In many patients, these sweeteners cause migraines and mood disorders, and studies have shown that people with excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners actually have more problems with weight than people who don’t use them.  In general, if you need a sweetener, I recommend using stevia or xylitol, which are not artificial chemicals and do not raise your blood sugar.  If you are going for the real thing, I would suggest using small amounts of organic raw sugar or raw honey (although not in babies).

Finally, examine what you’re drinking.  Many people are getting an excessive amount of calories in what they drink.  Sodas, sweet tea, coffee drinks, slushes usually have lots of sugar, or HFCS, or both!  Some alternatives besides plain water or milk include flavored sparkling waters without added sweeteners (La Croix and Perrier are two of my
favorites).  Ask for your coffee or tea unsweetened and carry a few packets of stevia to add yourself.  One of our family’s favorites is a new stevia-sweetened soda called Zevia.  It tastes really great and comes in many flavors (our favs are ginger ale, orange and black cherry).  You can find Zevia at the health food store, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or online.  You might try your hand at homemade lemonade or fruit teas using some of thesealternative natural sweeteners.  Beware of agave nectar.  Although this product has been sold to the public as a natural sweetener, it is essentially the same thing as corn syrup (except it’s not made from GMO corn!)  Stick to very small amounts of real maple
syrup or blackstrap molasses.

LOCAL RESOURCES

It is easy to quickly become disenchanted with the limited offerings of your local grocery store or the high prices of Whole Foods.  Whether you live in a rural area with lots of local farms and a metropolitan area with proliferating farmers’ markets and CSA (community supported agriculture) groups, you can find alternatives sources for better food.  Many local farmers (as opposed to large industrial farmers) do not use chemicals or pesticides on
their food, although you do have to ask.  With the growing appreciation of organic foods, there has been an
increase in farmers with the same philosophy who want to cater to that interest.  One great website for finding such things as grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and raw milk is www.eatwild.com.  They even have a section on farms that ship if you don’t happen to live close enough to go and buy directly from the farmer.  To find out if there is a CSA near you, check out www.localharvest.org/csa/.   You can join these groups for a monthly or annual fee and get a regular delivery of in-season locally grown fruits and vegetables.  Check out your local newspapers, websites and health food stores to find out about farmer’s markets near you.  Another option if you live in the city is to participate in a community garden where you can actually get your hands dirty by renting a small part of a bigger garden and producing your own food (www.communitygarden.org).

Perhaps it’s time to start growing your own food at home!  My brother and sister-in-law live in the city
and have a very tiny patio and almost no front yard.  Yet they have thriving containers that produce broccoli, tomatoes and peppers with very little space involved.  Even if you have no experience, there are lots of resources out there (www.organicgardening.com) and you don’t need much room at all…even a window-sill can be used to grow some herbs if you live in an apartment complex.  If you use high quality products in your containers or raised beds (www.drearth.com), you will get very high yield, many times even better than what you can get in a full-sized garden with poor soil.  Growing your own is really the only way to ensure that you have the best fruits and vegetables with no additives.

Unfortunately, our exposure to all these chemicals and pesticides in the environment has greatly contributed to our poor health as well as increased the incidence of infertility, developmental and behavioral disorders like ADHD, auto-immune disease and cancers.  Because of the widespread use of these chemicals, there is no such thing as a safe place to live anymore.  So even if you do your best to try to eat better and consume very few chemical-laden products, the
truth is that the very soil in which our food is grown, the water we drink and with which we shower, and the air we breathe is contaminated.  While it might seem depressing and impossible to address, you can make a difference in you and your family’s lives by the choices you make every day.  Because of the rampant exposure most of us have gotten to these toxins, we must do more than just eat right.  That’s why most people need to detoxify (I say most because there are some people that are unable to undergo active detoxification because they are pregnant, nursing or have active liver or kidney disease and can’t eliminate toxins properly).  I focus on different ways of detoxifying which range from simple daily things to drink, to deeper levels of detoxification like enemas, chelation or using products like the far-infared sauna.  A great resource in this area is the book “Detoxify or Die” by Dr. Sherry Rogers, an environmental physician. Have a happy, hormonally-balanced, healthy day!