With so many advances in medicine over the past several decades, it is easy to think that we will find a cure for everything, and that there is nothing we cannot achieve when it comes to the human body. Yet, in many cases, we benefit from looking to the past as well. Good medicine, as I discuss in this week’s podcast with Dr. Frank Lipman, a leading expert in the field of functional medicine and New York Times’ bestselling author, uses the best of both modern advances and traditional practices like acupuncture.
Dr. Lipman’s approach to good medicine is relatively simple: add what is beneficial and remove what is harmful. Over the years, he has noticed that more and more people are getting sicker younger, and for longer. And, although Western medicine is very good at crisis care, it doesn’t always know how to deal with the long-term chronic issues, such as autoimmune diseases and gut issues, many people today face. This is why Dr. Lipman encourages the people he works with to take charge of their own health by:
- Thinking about what they are putting into or onto their body, from toxic products and foods to toxic relationships. What can they remove from their lives that is upsetting their physical and mental health?
- Investigating what they can add to their lives. What are they deficient in? Whether it is more exposure to natural light and healthier foods, or more human connection, Dr. Lipman focuses on finding ways to improve their mental and physical wellbeing by focusing on things that benefit the whole person, body and mind.
We need to think about both these things if we want to improve our health and wellbeing, especially with so many conflicting wellness trends out there. We should avoid falling in line with one wellness "tribe" or another, such as veganism or the keto diet, and explore, research and investigate what works for each of us as individuals. We are all different; no one thing works for everyone!
Indeed, wellness trends can become very dangerous when they become exclusive or obsessive. We all know sleep in incredibly important, for instance, but when we become obsessed with sleep, tracking our habits using one app or another and stressing when we fall short of a desired sleep goal, our desire for wellness can become toxic, which will only further disrupt our sleeping patterns and overall health.
We should also be wary of latching on to the next "big thing" in the wellness world, and focus more on the everyday wisdom we find in the world around us. In many cases, Dr. Lipman has found that ordinary things can have extraordinary effects, such as a walk in the park, dinner with friends or a change in diet. Why? Most of our genes are affected by how we live our lives: what we think, say and do can impact our genetic predispositions by affecting how our genes are expressed, which is known as epigenetics (for more on epigenetics see my book Think and Eat Yourself Smart and Switch On Your Brain. We cannot disregard the significance of our lifestyle choices; what we think, say and do can have a dramatic effect on our health and wellbeing.
Although this may sound daunting, it is good news! We can take charge of our health by changing the way we live our lives. We can all do this, right now, which is why, in his excellent book How to Be Well, Dr. Lipman discusses how certain lifestyle changes can make an extraordinary difference in our lives and relieve toxic stress, especially when it comes to issues like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
- Get more natural light, especially in the morning. For more on light and mental health, see my recent blog and podcast.
- Prioritize sleep.
- Practice deep breathing. One technique I highly recommend (and use often!) is to breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breathe out for 4 seconds. You can also breathe in one side of nose and out the other side, which also helps you decompress.
- Eat real food mindfully and avoid industrialized and processed foods (even though they may seem healthy, like highly processed vegan burgers!). For more on this see my book and online program Think and Eat Yourself Smart.
- Exercise regularly, finding a type of exercise that works for you.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation, including meditative exercises like yoga and Tai Chi. My new app SWITCH, which I designed to help people deal with their issues and overcome negative thought patterns and behaviors through the mental process of reconceptualization, is a great tool to help teach you how to practice mindful thinking and meditate.
For more information on good medicine, wellness trends, taking charge of your health and how you can improve your mental and physical health, listen to my podcast with Dr. Frank Lipman (episode #128), check out Dr. Lipman’s website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and his book How to Be Well.
4:27 Dr. Lipman's introduction to traditional and Eastern medicine, and the benefits of Eastern and Western medicine
9:10 No one way works for everyone
11:27 How to remove what is harmful and add what is beneficial when it comes to your health
11:50 The importance of an integrative, holistic approach to medicine
14:48, 36:55 How we should take charge of our own health
16:18 How medicine is changing
16:44 The trend of younger people getting sicker with more long-term, chronic issues
18:13 The importance of gut health
20:42, 34:43 Health and wellness trends
28:34 Seasonal affective disorder
29:53 Stress relief tips
31:30 Meditation and mindfulness