Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Real Preventive Medicine: The 5 Keys to Staying Healthy

Elson M. Haas, MD

What is called “Preventive Medicine” in America in the 21st Century is really more appropriately termed early intervention and early diagnosis. Having immunization injections or taking tests such as x-rays and mammograms, prostate exams, and blood tests are not really preventive in nature. Rather, they are an attempt to detect diseases in an early state. What is promoted as cancer prevention with the use of mammograms or prostate exams, sigmoidoscopes or colonoscopes is really early cancer diagnosis. This is done in hopes that cancer can be aggressively attacked before it spreads and destroys the entire body and life. Cancer represents a state of toxicity and its reaction on cellular mechanisms in the body; it is a disease of our body and not separate from it, and represents some breakdown or misguidance of our intricate immune system. After it occurs, it clearly is difficult to treat without great measures. Preventing cancer (and cardiovascular diseases, for that matter) is indeed an important goal in preventive medicine.

Real Preventive Medicine—preventing acute and chronic diseases—in other words, Staying Healthy, results from the way we live. We are a culmination of our life experiences. Our health is a by-product of our life, our genes and constitutional state, our upbringing and the habits we develop, our diets, our stresses and how we deal with them, our illnesses and how we treat them (whether we attempt to discover the underlying cause and change our lifestyle so we no longer manifest disease patterns)—all of this and more affects the level of health and vitality we experience. How we live—our lifestyle choices—is the key to long-term health, quality of life, and vitality in our later years.

The five keys to good health and disease prevention are:

  • Diet—what we eat and how, i.e. our intake habits.
  • Exercise—stretching and working our body regularly to keep it flexible and strong.
  • Sleep—adequate rest and sleep (and dream time) for each of us is crucial to “recharging our batteries,” healing many problems, keeping our moods balanced and staying healthy.
  • Stress Management—learning to deal with life’s ups and downs.
  • Attitude—keeping a positive outlook so we treat our self and others with the life-supporting respect and care we deserve.

The first level of dietary reform involves assessing potentially-toxic daily habits, such as the regular use of sugar, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and chemicals—what I call our SNACCs—and cleaning these up or taking breaks from them to re-assess our health potential and how we feel. I believe all of these substance abuses so common in modern-day cultures act as insidious poisons when used consistently over the years. The incidence of chronic, debilitating disease is steadily growing in our culture and these long-term habits are also prime contributors to this poor health in our aging years.

My nutritional message in my personal life, practice and my books has been to turn back (or forward) to a nature-based diet for greater vitality and health, to eat closer to the earth’s food source, from the gardens, farmer’s market, from the orchards, away from the boxed and canned foods and the refined and “chemicalized” cuisine. Focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, and much less animal-based foods and refined/processed foods will greatly improve health, both in our immediate future and over the years.

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Our exercise program must be frequent (at least three to four times a week), consistent over the years, and balanced, which is very important. A balanced exercise program should include regular stretching for flexibility, weight work for building tone and strength, and aerobics for endurance and stamina. Exercising regularly commonly improves body function and health as well as attitude. It is one of our best stress managers, relaxers, and mood elevators.

We should exercise realistically at our current level of physical strength and endurance so that we can progress consistently and avoid injury. If we are just beginning and not in great shape, we can start slowly and build as our stamina and strength improve. If we have been working out regularly and are already fit, then it is beneficial to periodically evaluate our state and progress, and then make appropriate changes to exercise at our full potential.

Sleep offers life’s balance for all of our activity, and that’s physical, mental and emotional activity, too. Like breathing fresh air, drinking good quality water, and eating a nourishing diet, our nightly quality sleep is crucial to our well-being. There are many stages of sleep important to our body’s recharging itself, and although we all do not regularly recollect our dreams, we need to sleep deeply enough to go into that theta wave, REM (rapid-eye-movement), dream sleep. If we are not sleeping well, applying the other principles of Preventive Medicine, such as eating well and avoiding stimulants, exercising regularly earlier in the day, and managing stress may all be helpful. And we don’t have to turn to medications for sleep because there are many natural remedies that can help, such as calcium and magnesium, L-tryptophan, and many herbal relaxers.

Managing stress is a key element in minimizing health risk and enjoying life. Stresses are our body/mind responses to our personal experiences and we are individual in the issues to which we respond and react. There are so many illnesses and diseases that are generated or worsened by stress that it is imperative each of us develop skills to deal with mental and physical demands and emotional challenges. Simple relaxation techniques, meditation, exercise, sports, outdoor activities, and especially internal disciplines like yoga or tai chi are all extremely valuable in dealing with both daily and long-term stress.

I believe one of the greatest problems of modern day life is the Indigestion of Life. Most of us do not have enough personal time to digest and assimilate our daily experiences— work, relationships, and food that we experience rapid-fire throughout our day-to-day existence. This leads to the implosion of energy and the potential explosion of emotions or bodily symptoms. These are our body’s attempt to convey messages we do not have time to receive and incorporate. Here again, it would be helpful if we were to take time to quiet ourselves, to breathe and listen, to digest and assimilate, to experience and enjoy. Taking time to clear ourselves, to become current and ready for new creativity and life is a concept and an activity that can lead us to more optimum health.

Likewise, staying positive and motivated to experience life, unafraid to handle challenges or deal with uncomfortable emotions is also crucial to health. Lifestyle Medicine is the highest art of healing for each of us. As a doctor, I believe the most important thing I can do is to encourage my patients and readers to make personal changes in their lifestyle—diet, exercise, proper sleep, stress management, and attitude. If our lifestyle supports health, then we can influence our own health over the course of our entire lives.

Our personal health and well-being is up to each of us. We can begin by first assessing our health and lifestyle. What changes will provide us with more energy, greater clarity and vitality, and better overall health and longevity? We can create a plan to implement and experience a better quality of health with fewer sick days, fewer doctor’s visits, and a more enjoyable and livable life.

Elson M. Haas, MD is a medical practitioner with nearly 40 years experience in patient care, always with in an interest in natural medicine. For the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in the development and practice of Integrated Medicine at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984 and where he is the Medical Director. Dr Haas has been perfecting a model of healthcare that integrates sophisticated Western diagnostics and Family Medicine with time-honored natural therapies from around the world.
This educating, writing doctor is also the author of many books including Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st Century Edition, The NEW Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans and more. Visit his website for more information on his work, books and to sign up for his newsletter.

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The 5-Minute Fix to A Bad Day

By: Jordyn Cormier     January 17, 2016

We all have bad days. Your alarm doesn’t go off. Your breakfast bar becomes smooshed after you sit on it in the car. You get stuck in deadlock traffic. And, to top it all off, you are callously berated for being late to work. Things happen—sometimes we have little control over our circumstances. But what do you do in these tough times? Do you just grumble and lean into the negativity that your life is pushing? Or do you launch a positivity counterattack?

Don’t just settle into a bad day. You attract whatever mood you are putting out. If you’re angry and negative, only more negativity will find you, while if you smile in spite of the difficulties, positive things will begin to take shape. The truth is, you can turn any bad mood around in relatively little time if you set your mind to it. What is the secret, you ask? The secret is immersing yourself in something you love. That’s right. All it takes is 5 minutes—5 minutes of complete and utter love. Find something that always make you smile, whether it’s your favorite song, a steaming cup of hot cocoa, a brisk jog or your favorite poem. Whatever it is, completely immerse yourself in that for 5 minutes. Do not wallow over your bad day—sink yourself into this positive activity. Blast your favorite song on your headphones or in your car and sing along and dance. Allow happiness to flood you and keep worries at bay for 5 minutes. Most of the time, this small break from the negative cycle is enough to turn your day and your mood around.

Can’t access your go-to favorite things? There is another simple action that can turn a bad mood swiftly around. It lies in the magic of your smile. By forcing yourself to smirk or smile for a few minutes, your emotions will start to follow suit.

“Charles Darwin first posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings in 1872. ‘The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it,’ he wrote.” (Scientific American)

By exhibiting happiness on the outside, it can cause you to feel the actual emotion within. Studies have shown that those who have had botox injections, which make frowning difficult, experience more happiness than those studies who did not receive injections and could frown freely. So, if you’re having a rough time, keep a grin on your face and everything will feel a heck of a lot more manageable.

Fitting something you absolutely love into your schedule is a quick remedy to invigorate any bad day. It’s very similar to meditation, in fact. Try to make it a regular practice—much like (and perhaps in replacement of) your 3 o’clock caffeine or sugar fix. Whether you’re smiling, dancing, sketching or indulging in a small mocha, you will be amazed at how powerful 5 minutes of pure positivity and love can be.


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Acknowledge Your Anger to Help Prevent Disease

Erin Newman     August 11, 2015

The more we learn about disease, the more we start to realize that there is no separation of body from mind. Treating just the symptoms of a disease does us no good if we are not also changing our mental outlook. For instance, depressed patients with any type of disease, recover more slowly and have worse health outcomes than optimistic patients.

Scientists have also now seen enough cases of “broken heart syndrome,” often brought on by the death of a spouse, that we now have a medical term for it: stress-induced cardiomyopathy. All of this should give us cause for hope, though. It means that we can take charge of our own health, and that we can learn ways to prevent disease in our lives.

It is our mental and physical health, and not our genes, that carries the most weight in determining our health outcomes. To quote Craig Venter, a pioneer in genomic research,

“Everybody talks about the genes that they received from their mother and father, for this trait or the other. But in reality, those genes have very little impact on life outcomes. Our biology is way too complicated for that and deals with hundreds of thousands of independent factors. Genes are absolutely not our fate. They can give us useful information about the increased risk of a disease, but in most cases they will not determine the actual cause of the disease, or the actual incidence of somebody getting it. Most biology will come from the complex interaction of all the proteins and cells working with environmental factors, not driven directly by the genetic code.”

And as one recent study affirms, 90 to 95 percent of cancer is preventable with lifestyle changes, and one of the largest (and as yet least understood) is our mental disposition.

Releasing Anger: The key to prevention?

One study of over 160 women with breast cancer found a significant association between health and the suppression of emotions, most commonly anger. Another study concluded that suppression of anger may have a direct impact on mortality, including deaths from cancer. And yet another study determined that “Emotion-focused coping strategies were significantly associated with survival.”

All of which just means that if we want to live long and healthy lives, we’ve got to learn to express our anger and other emotions.

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Ways to tell that you may be suppressing anger or other emotions:

• People tell you that you are always smiling and happy.
• You often feel as if you can’t say no.
• You feel overwhelmed and tense.
• You no longer know what makes you happy, only what makes others happy.
• You worry often about the past or future
• Overeating, drinking, medicating, shopping, or other addictive behaviors

Women, especially, have been taught at an early age that it’s not okay to display anger. “Just who do you think you are, missy?” we might have heard, or later, we might have gotten the distinct message that we don’t want to be seen as a witch with a capital “B.” We may then mask this emotion with a happy face, or by eating, drinking, medications, or other ways to numb the emotion.

What’s behind the anger?

Often, we may not even know that we are angry about something. We might not hear the words that run through our minds about an incident or a person who’s angered us. And, while we may not want to admit it, or may not even recognize it on a conscious level, our anger is usually a mask for other, even less comfortable emotions. Sadness, shame, guilt or regret are often at the heart of our anger at another. These emotions may be even harder to recognize and discover, but when we get down to this level of emotions, then we can really clear them out and make way for love and joy.

Ways of handling anger:

Expressing or handling our anger doesn’t mean venting to others –either at the person that we are angry with or another. We must express the anger in a safe and loving way that allows us to acknowledge the anger and then work through it.

Journaling: Daily journaling is one of the most powerful ways to get in touch with your subconscious mind (which is where many of these suppressed thoughts and emotions may be lurking). This is not a “here’s what I did today” type of journal, but instead a “ this is what’s bothering me” type of journal. Clearly express everything on your mind, including just how you really and truly feel towards a person, whether that be your spouse, your child, a friend, or a parent. Many people worry that others might read their journal; if this is you, burn or shred the paper after writing. (Believe me, you won’t ever want to go back and read it!) I find (and many recommend) that journaling works best in the morning, when your mind hasn’t had time to fill itself up with thoughts of the day yet.

Loving our anger: Part of suppressing emotions is the idea that we should not be feeling a certain way at all, or that we would like for that feeling or thought to go away and leave us alone. If we can instead acknowledge that the feeling or thought is part of us, and allow it to be seen, then it will no longer have as much power to hurt us. Best yet, once we acknowledge the feeling or emotion, we can then direct love to that place in our bodies where we most feel the emotion. (This also seems to work best in the mornings, too, in a space that you can be quiet and still. But if that doesn’t work, then lunch breaks or evenings can be a good time, also.)

If these methods sound too tough or unrealistic, or just something that you can’t fit into your life, then it may help to speak to a professional who can help you to discover your inner emotions. We owe it to ourselves and to the people who love us to live the most emotionally rich and healthy lives as possible!


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The 5 Biggest Reasons People Get Anxious or Depressed

Plus: three thinking styles which can lead to depression and anxiety.

Traumatic life events are the single largest cause of anxiety and depression, a recent huge study finds.

However, whether a person becomes anxious or depressed depends on their mental approach to these events.

The findings come from a large survey of over 32,000 adults of all ages in the UK (Kinderman et al., 2013).

Professor Peter Kinderman, who led the research, said:

“Depression and anxiety are not simple conditions and there is no single cause.
We wanted to find out more about what caused people to suffer from anxiety and depression and why some people suffered more than others.”

The survey asked people whether they had a family history of mental health problems, their education and income levels, their social circumstances, relationship status and about any traumatic life events they’d experienced.

The results showed that, after traumatic life events, which were the single largest cause of depression and anxiety, the next largest causes were a family history of mental illness and income and education levels.

Both social factors and relationship status had smaller effects on the risk of depression and anxiety.

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Professor Kinderman continued:

“Whilst we know that a person’s genetics and life circumstances contribute to mental health problems, the results showed that traumatic life events are the main reason people suffer from anxiety and depression.

However, the way a person thinks about, and deals with, stressful events is as much an indicator of the level of stress and anxiety they feel.

Whilst we can’t change a person’s family history or their life experiences, it is possible to help a person to change the way they think and to teach them positive coping strategies that can mitigate and reduce stress levels.”

Crucially, there were three thinking and behavioural styles which tended to increase the chance someone would experience depression and anxiety:

  1. Rumination: when depressing thoughts roll around-and-around in the mind (here are some ways to get rid of negative thoughts).
  2. Lack of adaptive coping: examples include failing to seek support from others, eating poorly, not exercising and failing to anticipate stressful episodes.
  3. Self-blame: this is a very toxic type of mental habit. Unsurprisingly, its opposite, self-acceptance, is a key happy habit.

Although major, traumatic life events can have a powerful effect, little daily hassles can also be the cause of anxiety and depression (see: Can Everyday Hassles Make You Depressed?).

But in both cases it’s vital to realise that how people think about and approach life’s challenges can make a massive difference.

source: PsyBlog