Archive for Lifestyle Medicine

Are grains good for your health?

When I encourage my patients to give up Captain Crunch and doughnuts, most seem to understand the logic behind this recommendation.  When I urge them to also eliminate or minimize their consumption of whole grain food, this advice is often met with significant resistance.   This is likely because the general consensus among medical professionals is that grains are not only healthy, but essential for our existence. They acknowledge that processed grains are bad, but still hold to the erroneous belief that we should eat 6-11 servings of “healthy whole grains” every day.  How could wheat, barley, oats, rice, rye, millet, and corn be unhealthy?  Let’s review the facts.

Grain is known to cause dramatic spikes in insulin levels.  Elevated insulin is associated with multiple serious diseases, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.  Lectins are proteins found within grain and add to the insulin problem.  One of the wheat lectins is known to mimic insulin and binds to the insulin receptor of fat cells.  Unlike insulin, this lectin remains indefinitely attached to the insulin receptor giving the cell a constant signal to make fat.

In addition, lectins are known to have a negative impact on the intestinal lining. Grains also contain gluten or gluten-like proteins that are sticky in nature and are harmful to the intestinal lining. The combination of sticky proteins and lectins damages the bowel lining, eventually letting partially digested particles of food leech into the blood stream.  These particles excite the immune system and are a major cause of allergies to common foods. In fact, these particles are associated with a host of medical problems, some of which are mentioned below.

While most health authorities tout the benefits of whole grains, there is a growing body of research that tells another story.  Grain consumption has been linked to gall bladder disease, gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, autism, psychiatric disorders, allergies, and infertility.  Given this, I would recommend getting the bulk of your carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts.

Studies have shown (and we have seen in our own patients) that a minimal grain diet can correct lipid disorders, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, eliminate skin conditions, alleviate digestive issues, increase fertility, and dramatically improve energy levels.  Are you struggling with any of the problems mentioned above?  If so, consider eliminating grains from your diet for a few months.  Discover new and delicious foods.  You may never want to go back.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Do you know anyone who has acne?

As many of you know, my wife and I are the proud parents of 3 teenagers and one pre-teen.  Pimples and zits are a part of our every day conversation.  I can honestly say that I know a thing or two about acne.  For years, the common belief within the medical field was that diet had absolutely no effect on acne.  I know first hand that this belief is wrong.  My wife and I can tell how poorly our kids have been eating based on their complexion.

A recent study published in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has finally given science a conclusive link between a high sugar, high grain diet, and acne. In this study, participants followed a diet low in sugar and grain.  This resulted in a significant improvement of their acne within 3 months.  I wonder why most people suffering from acne have never heard of this study?

It is well known that sugar and grain consumption results in a rapid rise in blood sugar.  Rapid spikes in blood sugar are associated with multiple health problems.  According to a review published in Experimental Dermatology in 2009, it is not sugar itself that contributes to acne, but the effect that blood sugar spikes have on acne producing hormones.   Unfortunately, acne is caused by more than just sweets and grains.

Acute inflammation is a normal response to injury or infection.  It starts the healing process and without inflammation you wouldn’t survive. Acute inflammation is short lived and quickly fades as the body heals.  Chronic inflammation is a whole different story.  Our exposure to pollution, environmental toxins, processed food, long hours of inactivity, poor sleep, and high stress leads to persistent internal injury.  This constant abuse results in chronic inflammation.  The term chronic refers to being stuck in a state of overdrive.  This taxes the immune system and leaves less energy and resources to fight infection, avert cancer, and kill acne-causing bacteria.

In summary, skin complexion can be a reflection of overall health.  I recommend addressing diet and lifestyle factors before resorting to acne medications.  This approach always results in an improvement in overall health, as well as a significant improvement in acne.  With all of the controversy surrounding the health risks of certain acne medications, it is refreshing to know that there is a safe, cheap, and effective treatment option.

Thanks for tuning in!

 

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

 

 

 

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Re-wiring the brain through gratitude

 

I recently met with a very nice woman who had a very difficult childhood that included physical and sexual abuse.  She was having a hard time shifting her focus away from her past abuses and was struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression.  Unfortunately, this is a very common problem.  You can probably imagine her surprise when I suggested that she focus on the many things that she is grateful for in life.  I’m sure that she initially considered this suggestion to be insensitive.  That is of course, until I explained my rationale. 

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to re-wire.  New research is showing that gratitude can be used as a tool to re-wire your brain circuits to be happier.  Re-wiring the brain is like building a muscle. Just as it takes certain physical exercises to make a particular muscle stronger, it takes certain mental exercises to be happier and more relaxed.  Gratitude is an awesome mental exercise.  Through gratitude, we can re-set our auto-pilot from depressed and anxious to happy and fulfilled 

Robert Emmons and Michael McCollough (2003) conducted a study entitled Counting Blessings versus Burdens. He split up a few groups of people and had one group count 5 blessings per day, one group count 5 burdens per day and one group just write about neutral events. As you may have guessed, the ones who counted blessings, experienced less stress and more feelings associated with well being. 

Counting our blessings is not a miracle cure and most people don’t get immediate results.  Re-wiring the brain takes time. Being thankful is a spiritual discipline and an investment; as the weeks go by, you’ll feel the fruits of your labor.  Our reality is made up of those things on which we choose to focus. 

Thanks for tuning in! 

Dr.C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Do I need this medication?

Certain medications must be taken to maintain good health.  Type I diabetics require insulin; people with hypothyroidism require thyroid hormone, and so on.  If the body over-produces or under-produces a vital hormone or enzyme, the problem must be corrected.  Safe medications that restore biological balance are good medications.  However, many of us are not on these types of meds. 

A high percentage of medications are prescribed that enable individuals to maintain an unhealthy lifestyle.  For example, studies show that high sugar beverages raise blood pressure.  Some individuals would rather drink pop and take blood pressure pills, than give up their high octane Mountain Dew. Although there are no negative side effects related to giving up sweet beverages, the list of side effects associated with blood pressure medications is quite long.  Just as pop can cause hypertension, stress can cause depression and anxiety.  There are a lot of folks out there who are taking antidepressants so that they can continue living their stressful lives.

I’m not saying that medication can’t be useful. Some conditions cannot be managed without prescription drugs.  However, for most of us who do not suffer from a severe illness, the majority of medications should be used temporarily.  The purpose of taking medication should be to bring symptoms to a tolerable level while adequately addressing the underlying cause(s) of the symptoms.  Medications should rarely be used without natural intervention (sleep, exercise, stress reduction, good nutrition, and so on). 

The consequence of a person relying solely on medication is losing the motivation to find and address the root cause.  For example, strong coffee is a good remedy for fatigue.  Although some may feel that fatigue is caused by caffeine deficiency, there are more plausible explanations.  The temporary energy boost experienced from taking caffeine may decrease one’s motivation for diagnosing the underlying cause of fatigue.  This can make matters worse.  For instance, treating sleep apnea with coffee could be life threatening.

In other words, medication can cover up symptoms, but many do not fix the underlying cause. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weight gain, depression, and fatigue should all be viewed as potentially reversible. These problems may all result from poor nutrition, high stress, and relative physical inactivity.  Lifestyle medicine is the preferred treatment for these conditions.  This approach decreases the need for long-term use of prescription meds.

If you are currently on a safe medication that addresses the root cause of your ailment, then you probably need to stay on your prescription.  However, if your doctor tells you that the medication is only treating the symptoms of the condition, then maybe it’s time to explore other options.  In conclusion, I would like to answer the title of this blog with a question: Is your medication treating the underlying cause of your problem?

Thanks for tuning in!                                     

 

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle Medicine

I have recently received the same question from both physicians and patients.  They want to know if I’m still delivering babies.  There’s been a little confusion about what I’ve been up to since I left a very successful OB/GYN practice.  To be clear, I am a full fledged OB/GYN who loves his job.  I’m still delivering babies, managing complex gynecologic issues (endometriosis, PCOS, infertility, etc.) and performing surgical procedures.  However, there has been a very big change in the nature of my practice.  I am now working with a complimentary team of healthcare professionals.  We are patient centered and dedicated to the practice of lifestyle medicine.

Lifestyle medicine is an approach that enables people to live in such a way that they naturally treat and prevent medical problems.  The ultimate goal of this approach is to bring people in to an optimal state of physical and emotional wellness.  Almost any disease can be treated with lifestyle medicine.  This type of medicine is based on extensive scientific research demonstrating that many chronic diseases can be prevented or even treated by adopting a healthy lifestyle.  This approach includes balanced eating, regular exercise, stress reduction and appropriate nutritional supplementation.

Starting a lifestyle medicine plan is pretty strait forward.  The first step is figuring out your current health status.  This entails an initial meeting with one of our team members to discuss your concerns, symptoms, medical history, and family history.  This should be followed by a detailed physical exam and appropriate testing.  Once you have been fully assessed, it’s time to establish an action plan.  This will include an individualized plan of balanced eating, physical activity, and stress reduction.  Subsequent visits are scheduled to track results.  The desired results will depend on the problems, and may include pain relief, achieving pregnancy, decreased stress, weight loss, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and so on.   If we are not seeing the expected improvement, specific changes will be recommended.  If necessary, we can intervene with prescription medications and/or surgical intervention.

Yes! It is possible to be both a physician and a proponent of lifestyle medicine.  Given my understanding of how to achieve optimal health and wellness, I can’t imagine practicing medicine any other way.  Although medication and surgery are often warranted, lifestyle intervention should be the treatment of choice whenever appropriate.  So, if you want to optimize your chances of living a healthy and joyful life, then this is your kind of medicine.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Are you heading in the right direction?

What would people say about you if they watched your behaviors without knowing your goals and intentions?  Do your behaviors explain where you want to go in life?  That old cliché rings true – “actions speak louder than words.”

On any given day, I see multiple people who are in pursuit of a healthier life.  They may want to lose weight, have more energy, experience less pain, and so on.  One question that always comes to mind is:  Are their behaviors consistent with being healthy?  The fact is that the majority of health issues in this country are caused by disease promoting behaviors.

Many of us get so caught up in our daily rituals and routines that we don’t take the time to ensure that our behaviors are in alignment with our goals.  Although some individuals knowingly engage in disease promoting behavior, there are a significant number of individuals who do so unwittingly.  If you want to be in good health, then you must know the vital behaviors responsible for getting you there.  And, you must execute these behaviors.

Vital behaviors are the smallest set of actions that lead to the results you want.  If you consistently perform these few high-leverage actions, they produce the desired results. Vital behaviors are key to life transformation.  Consider the vital behaviors as the actions that must be executed.  For example, if I want to lose belly fat, I must reduce my consumption of pop, beer, and doughnuts.  If I want to have stronger biceps, I must perform curls or pull-ups, etc.  I will not have a thinner waist and bigger biceps by wishing them into existence.  I can do a bunch of other supportive behaviors, but if I don’t do these vital behaviors, I don’t get the results I want.

One of the primary roles of your healthcare provider is that of educator.  From a personal standpoint, I feel that it is my duty to make sure that my patients understand which vital behaviors are health promoting and which behaviors are disease promoting.  So, what do you plan to do today?  Remember, you won’t get to your destination until your behaviors are consistently in alignment with your intentions.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Getting Enough Vitamin D?

I recently met with a very pleasant 30+ year old woman who was experiencing fatigue, unexplained weight gain, and generalized muscle pain for over 10 years.  Within the past year, she had even started losing her hair.  Her previous doctor performed a “full assessment.” She was checked for common causes of fatigue including mono, hypothyroidism, and anemia. All of her tests came back normal and it was concluded that she was depressed.  She was confused by the diagnosis because she didn’t feel sad.  She only felt depressed when the pain in her muscles was bad enough to make her cry.  Although she had a pretty thorough evaluation, she did not have her vitamin D level drawn.  Given her symptoms, we checked her vitamin D and it was found to be extremely low.  She was started on a supplement and experienced a 90% reduction of her symptoms within a month.  It is anticipated that she will continue to improve.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is created by the skin when exposed to sun.  This vitamin is also consumed in foods such as egg yolk, fish, fish oil, beef liver, fortified dairy and grain.  In the body, this vitamin gets converted into an extremely important hormone that is involved in normal cellular functioning. Although it is well known that vitamin D is involved in strengthening the bones and preventing osteoporosis, new research shows that is a significant factor in protecting against medical problems such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, depression, hair loss, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, obesity, heart disease, and stroke.

Despite the importance of vitamin D, most people don’t get enough.  This vitamin is not abundant in our usual food choices and for many of us, sun exposure is not a reliable source.  The season, time of day, geography, latitude, level of air pollution, color of your skin, and your age all affect your body’s ability to produce vitamin D.  In general, the darker your skin and farther away you are from the equator, the lower your vitamin D production.

Recent research strongly suggests that the current recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are not adequate to protect against the above mentioned diseases.  The bottom line is this – vitamin D is a big deal for anyone who is pursuing or maintaining good health.  For those of you who don’t know your vitamin D level, I would strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.  You can have your level drawn and be put on the appropriate dose.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

 

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