Integrative Medicine

When Pamela Wible MD held a meeting to find out what would create an ideal medical experience for patients in her town, she discovered they wanted an integrative approach to their medical care. What exactly is that? And why would they want it?

What is integrative medicine?

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Why functional and integrative medicine?

Today is the first of a series of occasional posts featuring a video or article that says something I couldn’t say as well. This is Dr. Russell Jaffe, a conventionally trained medical doctor who came to practise functional and integrative medicine as a result of trying to debunk those very philosophies. Let him tell you about it in this 5-minute video…

One of my favourite spots was when he said the essence is to live in harmony with your nature. I’d be interested in hearing what struck a chord with you.

Simplify. Use your whole brain.

Making decisions about health can be complex and frustrating. How can you possibly know what is the right thing to do?

The complicating factor is that most of us make decisions with only one-half of our brain. For example, suppose you want to know what is the best diet. Your left brain will have a field day. You can listen to interviews, read blogs and books, ask family and friends. You’ll find masses of eating rules, opinions, and theories—many of them conflicting.

With all of that to consider, your left brain may be driven to distraction trying to determine the pros and cons of these various approaches. It may seize on something and make a plan with great enthusiasm, only to have it fail shortly after you implement the plan. That makes no sense to you because the idea or theory was such a logical conclusion from the information you found. Frustrating? No doubt!

Here’s the missing piece…

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Food matters.

Three years ago, I decided to educate myself as part of a self-designed program of recovery from complete thyroid impairment and endometrial cancer. I wanted to know what would give me the best shot at repairing the physical devastation I’d experienced.

It was my good luck that this decision occurred just when on-line health summits hit the Internet. I watched. I listened. I took notes.
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Brain on Sugar

This photo is not me having a bad-hair day. It’s how things felt inside my head before I stopped eating sugar and greatly reduced other carbohydrates. I managed to keep functioning and sometimes smiling, but it was hard work. And I’m not sure I fooled everybody, although I tried.

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Within a few months of eating no sugar or grains, I realized my brain was feeling like this…

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…and I began smiling more, even in a Canadian winter.

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I’m not the only one…

A couple weeks ago, I posted about new research showing that Alzheimer’s can be reversed. The success of the program comes from using a whole-system approach to discover the causes of disturbed brain function in each individual. To do this, they look at 36 factors in the areas of diet, environment, toxins, activity, and stress. Sugar is one of those factors. Continue reading

Partying With Health-Conscious Friends

Hosting a party can be complicated these days. Here’s a musical description of the dilemma…then some of my practical suggestions for coping.

First, a quick primer…

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Using Less Sugar in Holiday Sweets

It’s not surprising that we over-use sugar in this culture. As I discussed last week, the sugar industry long ago  manipulated public perception to believe that fat is really bad for our health and there is no need to be concerned about sugar. That isn’t actually true.

You can find lots of information about why to avoid sugar. Google it and you’ll see discussions of insulin resistance, inflammation, triglycerides, hypertension, fatty liver and, of course, diabetes.

And then this came from Dr. Alan Christianson in a mailing about not getting sick during the holidays. White blood cells are part of the immune system and when they are weakened, we are more likely to come down with a cold or the flu. Continue reading

Credit Card Minimum Payments: Who knew??!

The consumer culture has become a complicated and complex place to live. Dealing with money is no longer simple and straightforward. It’s easy to make financial mistakes that haunt us for years, yet insights to help us navigate through the tricky parts of the system are fragmented and inconsistent. I observed this during my 27 years teaching a college course in consumer economics, and it concerns me. That’s why I wrote Conscious Spending, Conscious Life. I hope this book will bring coherence and consistency to the way we think about money and how we deal with it.

There are so many things that people just don’t know. Early on, I discovered that many students thought if they made the minimum payment on their credit card balance, they weren’t in debt. They used their credit cards and paid the required minimum, thinking they were doing the smart and adult thing. However, that was an illusion.

When we see situations in their true light, they come into focus in a new and clearer way. Here’s an example: $3172 in purchases on a credit card at 18.5% with minimum payments of $63/month. Assuming nothing else is bought on this credit card and the minimum payment is faithfully made each month, the last payment will be made Continue reading

Capturing the Essence without Going Nuts

We live in a culture of excess. Over the top. Hyperbole. It’s a challenge to maintain perspective, or what my grandmother referred to as a sense of proportion. Blowing things out of proportion was not a cool thing when I was growing up. Yet it so easily happens. One thing leads to another, and pretty soon… Continue reading

Simplify and Civilize Your Food Shopping

Last week I wrote about dealing with too much information when researching health issues online. Unfortunately, for those of us living in a consumer-oriented culture, the Internet is not the only place where we have to deal with too much to choose from. Think supermarkets. Finding good food and not being distracted by everything else is challenging.

Overconsumption is not an accident… 

Overconsumption is built into the consumer culture, where the story is based on beliefs that “big is better” and “more is best.” Many people buy into that viewpoint with no discernment as to whether it’s in alignment with their values.

Overconsumption, literally, is a major concern with regard to our eating habits. Eating too much and eating the wrong things can cause chronic complex conditions that are debilitating for the person and a major cost to the health care system.

Being aware of our tendencies and habits is useful in helping us manage ourselves, our spending, and our appetite. Self-awareness is a huge asset, and one worth cultivating. to counterbalance  the mindless consumption encouraged by the consumer culture and most  players in it.

Understanding the playing field…

One of our best defences is understanding the forces at play in the consumer culture. When we are informed and aware, It’s easier to navigate the system without being consumed by it.

Checkout at a mega-supermarket

In the world of business as it is widely practised, making a profit is the only point of the game. Everything is geared toward generating that profit. This means inducing consumers to buy—preferably more than they planned to.

That’s the basis of the super-store concept. And it’s why retailers offer “two-for” or “three-for” deals: they want you to buy two or three of an item rather than just one. Most of us do, in an automatic psychological response to the thought of getting a deal.

Supermarkets are arranged to encourage impulse buys. Music is upbeat to put you in a good mood, but slow enough so you’ll have time to see the items you pass. None of this happens by accident. According to Marion Nestle, author of  What to Eat:

…breathtaking amounts of research have gone into designing these places. There are precise reasons why milk is at the back of the store and the center aisles are so long. You are forced to go past thousands of other products on your way to get what you need…. The stores create demand by putting some products where you cannot miss them. These are often “junk” foods full of cheap, shelf-stable ingredients like hydrogenated oils and corn sweeteners, made and promoted by giant food companies that can afford slotting fees [money paid by the manufacturer to “rent” prime shelf space in the store]… and advertising. This is why entire aisles of prime supermarket real estate are devoted to soft drinks, salty snacks, and sweetened breakfast cereals, and why you can always find candy near the cash registers. Any new product that comes into a store must come with guaranteed advertising, coupons, discounts, slotting fees, and other such incentives.

These merchandising strategies expose us to a large proportion of the 30,000 to 40,000 items supermarkets carry. Most of the “food products” in a supermarket would not qualify as food by any reasonable definition. Yet the fact they are referred to as food and are sold in a food store soothes our critical minds and makes us overlook the fact that a powdered drink is nowhere comparable to the fruit it is imitating, except perhaps in colour.

Coping with too much choice…

How does exposure to 30,000 items affect us when we shop? As Barry Schwartz found when he studied the paradox of choice, sometimes our eyes glaze over, we cave in, and buy whatever. Other times we become paralyzed with indecision in the face of overwhelming choice.

Neither caving in nor becoming paralyzed is a constructive response. However, a conscious consumer can beat them at their game. Here are my suggestions for making food shopping a more satisfying experience.

Farmer's Market

My strategies to simplify and civilize food shopping… 

  1. Buy as much local produce as you can at the farmers’ market and go to a small supermarket for the remainder of your grocery list. You don’t need anywhere near 30,000 grocery items, and it’s tiring to sort through the clutter of things that don’t serve you.
  2. Shop the perimeter when you are in a  supermarket. That’s where the basics are, so this strategy allows you to deliberately skip the middle aisles where impulse items and packaged foods are shelved. I learned this early on, when I was shopping for an additive-free diet for my hyperactive child.
  3. Decide on brands you like and stick with them until they no longer work for you. Browsing and “trying new things” is an expensive proposition and usually results in half-used packages cluttering your shelves and your conscience because you can’t bear to waste money by throwing them out. It’s much simpler to purchase judiciously in the first place.
  4. Buy basic ingredients that can be made into many things, instead of purchasing specialty items and packaged mixes. When you have flour, baking powder, milk and eggs, you can make pancakes. No need for a special bag of pancake mix. (Look at the label sometime—there’s not much in a bag of pancake mix besides flour.) If you add butter and sugar to those four basic ingredients, you can also bake cakes, cookies, breads, and scones. With olive oil, vinegar, and a few herbs in your cupboard, you can declutter your fridge because you won’t need to buy a never-ending array of prepared salad dressings. No doubt about it, keeping your cupboard stocked with a few staple ingredients makes shopping and food management so much simpler…and less expensive.

Conscious choice is the deliberate act of deciding between two or more possibilities, choosing with full awareness. The opposite is allowing chance to determine what happens. In the world of food shopping, there are many others who are happy to direct your attention and influence your choices if you are not on the job.

By consciously making food shopping choices that fit with your values and viewpoints, you’ll be navigating the consumer culture on your terms. That’s much more satisfying than allowing those with vested interests to determine what you buy.

Reference chapter: “Spending Consciously” from Conscious Spending. Conscious Life.