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Living and Eating Healthy
In 1998, I was filming The Talented Mr. Ripley in Ischia, a little island off the coast of Naples in Italy. I got a call that changed my life. My father had been diagnosed with throat cancer, and it was stage four. Although he underwent treatment and survived for another four years, I watched his health deteriorate slowly until his death in 2002. During this time I began to read about Eastern medicine and the body’s capacity to heal itself. I tried to get my father on board -- with mixed results. He loved acupuncture but hated macrobiotic food, which he likened to “biting into The New York Times.” I had read somewhere that in Asia, the concept of going to the doctor when you were already sick was akin to digging a well when you were already thirsty. This struck a chord with me. Over the years I have had my share of medical issues, as we all do. Recently I have found three doctors (one in London, one in New York and one in Los Angeles) who have helped me tremendously. Heeding their advice has helped me out of some very sticky health problems (pneumonia, anemia, stress, etc.). Below they offer their points of view and some ideas about how we can achieve our best health.
Healthier By The Day
You want to feel healthier, everyone does. You want more energy, a better body and the ability to do what you do better. Like most other people, you’ve listened to the experts, read their advice and never been sure which of it applied to you or was really worth doing. That's because the things that help you get healthier are usually unique to you. There is no universal plan for better health, no best diet, workout routine or way of solving problems. As unique as you are, there are some guidelines you can follow that will help improve your health:
Start with sleep. Sleep eight hours or more each night. Do what you have to do to get to sleep; there are plenty of natural agents that work. Try them: herbs (valerian), tea (chamomile), amino acids (tryptophan or hydroxy-tryptophan) and vitamins (magnesium and B6). These can be powerful sedatives and work just as well as prescription agents without the risks. Sleep plays a powerful role in determining your appetite, energy and attitude. Sleep better for two weeks before changing your diet. Then try eliminating "white" foods, those that are made with sugar, white flour and milk. If you eliminate them one at a time, start with flour, then eliminate dairy and then sugar. Sugar is easier to quit after a few weeks of no other "white" stuff. Remember high fructose corn syrup and dextrose are sugar by another name. Give yourself about two weeks to get used to each before eliminating the next one.
Exercise regularly. I know you want to but you don't have the energy to do it. Sleep eight hours for two weeks, then start eliminating "white" foods. After two weeks of sleeping and eating better, you'll have the energy to exercise. Begin as you like. If you are totally out of shape, start by walking 15 minutes a day and add a minute every day for the first month. At the end of a month, you'll be up to 45 minutes a day, which should make you ready for whatever more strenuous form of exercise you want to try. Experiment with them all to see what works best for you and stick with it.
Police your thoughts and deal with your feelings constructively. Most of the background chatter in our mind is worrying, judging, criticizing, defending and complaining. Catch yourself and create a distraction by redirecting your thoughts toward the things that you are grateful for and optimistic about.
All these are free (okay, except if you have to buy the sleepers) and all are within your ability. No professionals required. By doing them you will create a customized health plan that will surely result in you getting healthier by the day.
Christian Renna, D.O. LifeSpan Medicine, 2008
Dr. Christian Renna is a nationally recognized expert in the field of contemporary preventive medicine and the founder of LifeSpan Medicine clinics.
Another Inconvenient Truth
The human body is a self-healing, self-renewing, self-cleansing organism. When the right conditions are created, vibrant well-being is its natural state. We have departed from the ways of nature and live under less than natural conditions. Like global warming, the toxicity of our planet is undeniable. I call it "Another Inconvenient Truth." The air we breathe, the water we drink and shower with, the foods we eat, the cosmetics we use and the buildings we live and work in, are loaded with toxic chemicals that alone or in combination cause disease, suffering and even death. When we remove these obstacles and add what is lacking, our bodies bounce back into health as if by magic. This is natural, common-sense medicine, enabling the body to heal, regenerate and even rejuvenate itself.
With this in mind, if you live in a modern city and want to stay healthy, there are two fundamental practices to follow: detoxification cleansing and eating real foods, just as nature intended food to be.
1) Detoxification cleansing:
Approximately eight hours after eating our last meal the processes of digestion, absorption and assimilation are completed and the body enters into detoxification mode, a function we don't think about often. A healthy body, used to eating natural foods, needs around four hours to cleanse and detoxify itself from all the waste products of normal metabolism. This is without counting the toxic overload of modern life. It's a really good practice to fast every day for 12 hours after our last meal: eight hours to complete food processing plus four to allow for detoxification. So if your last meal is at 10pm, don't eat anything before 10am. Breakfast should be exactly that, break-fast, or breaking the fast. This would be enough in a toxin-free world. Since that is not the case, we should periodically make an extra effort to go deeper and catch up with the cleaning, as it were. This is where detox cleansing programs come into play. There are many programs available today based on different systems and philosophies of healing. Some are great, some dangerous. Make sure someone who understands and has experience guides you.
How often and for how long one should engage in detox programs depends on how clean one is to begin with. In addition to all of the above, one should educate oneself as to how to keep our environment toxin-free. Water and air filters, eco-cleaning utensils, chemical free cosmetics, green architecture, alternative fuel vehicles…
2) Real foods:
We used to pick our food from trees and the earth, and hunt or fish the rest. Now we buy it in modern supermarkets. Ninety percent of the products in supermarkets come in some kind of container. In order to extend shelf life, these food-like products are loaded with chemicals, preservatives and conservatives that kill bacteria. Most products also contain additives to give them the color, smell, taste and texture that will tempt us to buy and eat them. The remaining 10% of what is edible – the produce, the fish, the meats and the dairy products – are loaded with chemicals as well. All of these chemicals cause havoc inside our bodies, being the most intimate source of toxins for us since we throw this mixture in our bellies and soon enough it passes into our blood.
Returning to a more natural way of eating is the best way to avoid disease and premature aging. It also keeps the weight off. Buy organic foods, shop in your local farmer’s markets. Increase the consumption of vegetables, fruits, seeds, grains and legumes. More raw foods are better for health (enzymes remain intact), the environment (smaller carbon footprint) and the pocket (lower utility bills).
To round things up, don’t forget to nourish your soul. The future of medicine is "no medicine." If we return to a more natural life, our bodies become the best doctors.
Alejandro Junger, MD
Dr. Alejandro Junger is a cardiologist who practices integrative healing. He currently sees patients in his private practice at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York and, in 2008, he was named the Director of Integrative Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital.
My journey with nutrition came from looking after performance artists and dancers who were trying to find a healthy balance between diet, looking good and having enough energy to perform. I use the age-old wisdom of ayurvedic medicine, the holistic approach of osteopathic medicine and basic common sense to help patients realize how to achieve their own optimum health. The older, more natural forms of medicine work predominantly on promoting and improving the body’s ability to eliminate waste (detoxification) and also towards finding balance and well-being. My motivation is towards not only the nutritional needs of a healthy body, but also on encouraging better sleep patterns, ways of coping with stress and reducing its effects on the body, and teaching individuals how to care for themselves and make healthy lifestyle choices: the true mind-body-spirit sense of health and well-being.
My first bestselling book, Joshi's Holistic Detox explains in more detail the fundamentals of my detox and dietary program, but its essence lies in:
- Avoiding all refined carbohydrates including white flour and sugar
- Avoiding all foods with chemical preservatives and flavorings including foods that contain toxic elements (such as heavy metals, e.g. tuna)
- Drinking at least one to two liters of pure water daily to help the body clean and detoxify itself
- Eating fruit and vegetables that are ripe, fresh and as free of chemical fertilizers as possible
- Minimizing tea, coffee, dairy products, and alcohol
- Boosting your health and vitality with a diet rich in organic, ripe fruits and vegetables.
- Eating protein such as white fish or white meats with each meal
- Sleeping at least eight hours a night and practicing some gentle exercise, yoga or meditation every day to reduce the effects of stress on the body.
Neish Joshi, Joshi Clinic
Dr. Neish Joshi is the founder of the Joshi Clinic in London, and has developed a unique approach in his practice, embracing centuries-old Indian traditions, ancient Ayurvedic wisdom and a wide variety of other healing philosophies from all over the world with both eastern and western approaches to orthodox medicine.