Something needs to change: Start leading a healthy lifestyle - opinion

Leading a healthy lifestyle with an emphasis on eating whole foods and plants, and getting enough sleep and exercise can add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.

 INSTEAD OF an abundance of foods like meat, chicken, eggs and dairy, try trading most of that for more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, says the writer. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
INSTEAD OF an abundance of foods like meat, chicken, eggs and dairy, try trading most of that for more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, says the writer.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

A relative of mine, age 90, felt unwell. A few weeks earlier, he was feeling a little off and went to get checked. They found a small kidney stone and said it must be the problem. It wasn’t. It wasn’t causing the unusual and terrible pain that comes with kidney stones. Fast-forward and it is Yom Kippur night and our patient is on his way to the emergency room. After a thorough examination, they discovered gallstones with one stone lodged in the bile duct and infection had set in.

Gallstones? But wait, when our 90-year-old was 66, he had his gallbladder removed because it was full of gallstones. They subsequently performed a procedure that ended up involving some minor surgery and the patient fully recovered.

What would have happened had that last missing component of medicine happened? What if the surgeon had sat down with the patient a day or two after the cholecystectomy that was done at that time and said, “Mr X, let’s talk about what brought this on. You eat a pretty standard American diet and that means a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol. These are the drivers that make these stones.”

“So instead of an abundance of foods like meat, chicken, eggs and dairy, try trading most of that out for more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. It would help this problem and lower your risk of all chronic diseases, as well.” But that didn’t happen then and rarely happens now. And if he tells Mr. X that you can get stones again? The end result 26 years later is that our patient is in pain, discomfort and in the emergency room Yom Kippur night.

 (credit: GIL AVIRAM) (credit: GIL AVIRAM)

The importance of leading a healthy lifestyle

Mr. Y is a 78-year-old client of mine. A year and a half ago, at the urging of his wife, he made an appointment with me. I was facing an overweight and sedentary person with multiple risk factors for heart attack, stroke, diabetes and other chronic diseases. He was on five different medications and neither his quality of life or his medical conditions were improving. He had been on the slippery downward slope of aging and disease, with medications managing his diseases and somewhat slowing their progress but doing nothing to resolve his issues.

We got new blood work this past week. He has already been taken off of two drugs and it appears the cholesterol medication can get dropped now, as well. His BMI is now just at normal levels, as he has dropped over 13 kilograms. He now eats mostly whole-food plants with only a small amount of animal proteins. His junk food has been cut down by about 90%. Although he still uses a cane to assist him when walking over longer distances, his mobility is much improved.

Now, what if 25 years ago as things started going wrong his physician sat down with him and said, “Mr. Y, you have the beginnings of what can be debilitating and life-shortening conditions. Now, I can start you on some medications but what you eat along with increasing your activity and getting a better night’s sleep might just help you more than any medication I can give you. As a matter of fact, we know of people who have actually reversed and even cured different chronic diseases by changing their diet and lifestyle.” The doctor then could have referred him to a lifestyle medicine specialist or a wellness coach, or taken care of it in-house if he indeed had that knowledge.

BUT INSTEAD, Mr. Y has had years of suffering along with the expense and side effects caused by medications he didn’t necessarily have to take or may have been able to take in lower doses. Needless to say, his quality of life has improved greatly in the last 8 months and is still improving.

Mr. Z is a 70-year-old man who, after thinking about it for a long time, decided to come to me four months ago. His normal daily functioning abilities were greatly diminished. Even just going to a store to shop was terribly painful and took great effort. He was overweight, had high cholesterol, was pre-diabetic and suffered from dermatitis. He was on various medications and a whole host of supplements. Over-supplementation is harmful to our gut microbiome and ultimately our health. In addition, he was on a ketogenic diet that was really not helping that much with weight loss, causing constipation and certainly not helping his cholesterol and pre-diabetes. It took a lot of convincing but I got him to move toward a more whole-food plant-based eating regimen, he signed up for a personal training program in our clinic and we cut out almost all of his supplements.

Mr. Z., who had been truly suffering for years with a very low quality of life, began to see great improvement in how he felt, all within 10 days. He is now off medications, goes to the bathroom regularly and has reached a weight he told me he hasn’t seen since high school. Now, his cholesterol is normal without drugs, his sugar has dropped and his dermatitis is mostly gone. More importantly, he is active and feels great.

He recently told me this was the first Rosh Hashanah that he was able to go to synagogue for all the prayer services and he even stood up much of the time. What if 15 years ago his problems had been addressed by our medical system with lifestyle solutions and he had been counseled on how to eat an anti-inflammatory diet instead of a very inflammatory diet that caused more problems than is solved? All of those years of poor quality of life and suffering just didn’t need to be.

As much as I get great satisfaction from helping my clients improve their health and well-being, and as much fulfillment as I get when I hear all of the stories from health professionals and doctors across the globe that engage in food over medicine, lifestyle over surgeries and procedures and prevention to begin with overtreatment, we are still mired in just doing what we’ve always done, even when there are better solutions.

Medicine, surgery and procedures have their place and can save lives but the facts are that more than 80% of chronic diseases can be prevented or reversed simply through lifestyle changes. The holidays are behind us. Just start. It can save your life and enhance your quality of life.

Don’t be one of the people to whom we have to say “what if.” Leading a healthy lifestyle with an emphasis on eating whole foods and plants, and getting enough sleep and exercise can add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.

The writer is a health and wellness coach, and personal trainer with 23 years of professional experience and is the director of The Wellness Clinic. He can be reached at [email protected]