When it comes to your health, the best thing you can do is protect and defend against future problems. These six local health experts say smart thinking about nutrition, supplements, and mind-body connections can make prevention almost painless.
PHOTOS BY JOE TRELEVEN
Integrative medicine is starting to transform the Western world. And here in Minnesota, it’s blooming like crazy.
Our state’s ahead of the curve when it comes to holistic care, according to Bill Manahan, MD, an assistant professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota Medical School and past president of the American Holistic Medicine Association. Manahan, whom peers call “a sage” and “the father of holistic medicine in Minnesota,” recently completed a tour of 20 integrative-medicine clinics across the state and says he was “blown away” by the innovation and success rates he encountered.
“In the last five to 10 years, there’s been a dramatic increase in patient knowledge and patient demand for a broader picture of healing,” says Manahan.
In other words, people are clamoring for the kind of integrative care that so impressed Manahan: Doctors who uncover the root cause of illness instead of just treating or masking symptoms. Physicians who take body, mind, and spirit into account and look carefully at the influence of lifestyle habits like diet, activity, and rest. People are looking for providers who count scientifically backed methods like acupuncture, herbs, dietary changes, and meditation among their tools—along with Western medicine’s diagnostic tests, prescription medications, and procedures.
People also want their doctors to spend time with them. Initial appointments with many integrative-medicine doctors run one to three hours, a relief to anyone sick of the hi-how-are-you-here’s-a-prescription-bye routine.
Minnesota’s lucky to have many excellent integrative doctors. (Find some at holisticphysicians.info.) We recently talked to six of the most respected names in the field and asked them to share their tips on everything from preventing headaches to improving digestion.
Of course, no health advice would be complete without a friendly reminder that you, dear reader, are a unique individual. It’s a good idea to check with your health-care provider before making changes to your health or medical routine.
Dr. Thomas Sult
WILLIAMS INTEGRACARE CLINIC, ST. CLOUD
Board-certified in family medicine and holistic medicine; training in functional medicine, herbs, and acupuncture
SEE HIM FOR
Digestion, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis
“The gut is the hub—70 percent of all immune-system tissue in your body lines the gut. When you get inflammation in the gut, you get abnormal immune-system interactions that can result in autoimmune diseases or neurological problems.”
HIS TIPS FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH
➻ Eat whole foods. Unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and whole grains result in more probiotics, the “good” bacteria in your gut that detoxifies, improves immune function, and aids digestion.
➻ Eat fermented foods regularly. Make or find live fermented vegetables, cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and miso, which breed probiotics.
➻ Choose foods with soluble fiber, like shallots, bok choy, chicory, garlic, and onions. They encourage growth of good bacteria.
➻ Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg of fish oil daily. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA reduce inflammation.
➻ Take probiotic supplements and consider food sensitivities, especially to wheat, dairy, and soy, if you already have digestive problems.
Dr. Mark Hoch
PARTNERS IN HEALING OF MINNEAPOLIS, MINNEAPOLIS
Board-certified in family medicine and holistic medicine; trained in osteopathic and nutritional medicine, tai chi and chi gong, and Trager neuromuscular therapy
SEE HIM FOR
General preventive care, injuries, body-structure alignment problems, thyroid and adrenal issues, pain, mental health
“The idea of prevention is often fear-based, like ‘I don’t want to get this!’ instead of ‘I’m doing this so I can be healthy and lead a life that doesn’t require a lot of outside intervention.’ That’s key—engaging the self-healing, self-regulating, self-correcting mechanisms of the body.”
HIS TIPS FOR OVERALL GOOD HEALTH
➻ Eat local, fresh, and in-season organic food. It’s nutritious, and you’ll reduce your intake of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Researchers have found pesticides in tumor tissues of people living in areas with high rates of breast cancer.
➻ Find a form of exercise you enjoy that’s rejuvenating for your entire body, like tai chi or yoga.
➻ Live your purpose and passion through meaningful work. A Department of Labor study in the 1970s showed the no. 1 risk factor for first heart attacks was job dissatisfaction.
➻ Follow a set of spiritual principles. Engage in regular prayer or meditation. It’ll keep you balanced, ensure you stick with your values, and treat yourself and others well.
Dr. Carolyn Torkelson
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA WOMEN'S HEALTH CENTER, MINNEAPOLIS
Board-certified in family medicine and holistic medicine; training in clinical research and botanical, nutritional, and Tibetan medicine
SEE HER FOR
Integrative care, women’s health, breast care, wellness care, fibromyalgia, chronic disease
“Changing some of your habits can have benefits. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that 38 percent of cases of breast cancer in the United States could be prevented through diet, activity, and a healthy weight. Many factors contribute to breast cancer, and some of those factors you can change with lifestyle modification.”
HER TIPS FOR BREAST-CANCER PREVENTION
➻ Maintain a healthy weight. There’s a connection between obesity and breast cancer. Estrogen production in fatty tissue may be to blame.
➻ Reduce omega-6 fatty acids, found in fast food, and polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and increase omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish. Consider daily supplements of 1 to 2 grams of fish oil.
➻ Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level. There may be a relationship between low levels and breast-cancer risk.
➻ Drink green tea. Its antioxidant properties may decrease risk.
➻ Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day.
Dr. Kara Parker
FAMILY MEDICAL CENTER, MINNEAPOLIS
Board-certified in holistic medicine; training in naturopathy and integrative medicine
SEE HER FOR
Preventative health care, adrenal and thyroid problems, chronic fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, nutritional consultation, and mind-body-spirit balance
“Humans used to get up and go to bed with the sun and spend their days outside eating whole, fresh foods. Periods of stress were short. Today, stressors are constant: busy lifestyles, bad diets, lack of sleep. Our adrenal and thyroid glands don’t get the nutrients or rest they need, so you end up tired or achy with mental slowness, depression, and loss of libido.”
HER TIPS FOR THYROID AND ADRENAL HEALTH
➻ Balance activity with rest, relaxation, and downtime.
➻ Support your thyroid with iodine, in seaweed; selenium, in Brazil nuts; vitamin A, in yellow and orange vegetables; and zinc, in nuts. Adrenals need B vitamins (in animal meat) and zinc and vitamin C.
➻ Eat organic. Thyroid and adrenal glands are especially sensitive to chemicals and heavy metals in water or the environment.
➻ Check your thyroid by asking your doctor for a Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibody test. A TSH test is not sufficient. Check adrenals with a total testosterone, DHEA sulfate, morning cortisol, and four-time salivary cortisol test.
➻ Consider eliminating gluten, a protein in wheat that may contribute to autoimmune thyroid problems.
Dr. Henry Emmons
ABBOTT NORTHWESTERN'S PENNY GEORGE INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH AND HEALING, MINNEAPOLIS
Training in Ayurvedic medicine, herbal therapies, mindfulness psychotherapy, and mind-body therapies. Author of The Chemistry of Joy and The Chemistry of Calm (October 2010).
SEE HIM FOR
Holistic psychiatry, depression, anxiety, mind-body therapies
“The usual ways of treating depression and anxiety don’t work well over long periods of time. We’re finding that an integrated approach—looking at nutrition, fitness, and the psychology of mindfulness—helps most people improve or recover more fully. It’s nothing magic—it’s just more effective than medication or even psychotherapy.”
HIS TIPS FOR DEALING WITH DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
➻ Exercise. Mild aerobic exercise quells anxiety. Vigorous aerobic exercise reduces sluggishness.
➻ Take a daily B vitamin complex, 2,000 mg of an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, and 2,000 to 4,000 IUs of vitamin D.
➻ Calm your mind with meditation, breathing, and yoga practice.
➻ Develop close, meaningful relationships.
➻ Eat healthy foods. Learn your Ayurvedic type to further tailor your diet.
Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff
ABBOTT NORTHWESTERN'S PENNY GEORGE INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH AND HEALTH
Board-certified in internal medicine and pediatrics; training in medical acupuncture and herbal medicine
SEE HIM FOR
Pain, fatigue, insomnia, digestive conditions, neurological conditions, cancer, mysterious illness
“It’s not just about giving a prescription—it’s about working with all the issues that contribute to nourishment in the greatest sense, from diet and nutrition to exercise and spirituality. People are recognizing that, they’re saying, ‘I went to my doctor, but what else can I do?’ That’s a really important question: What else can I do?”
HIS TIPS FOR PAIN PREVENTION AND IMPROVEMENT
➻ Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels, especially if you have fibromyalgia or nonspecific aches and pains. Supplement as needed to maintain a minimum of 40 ng/ML. That often requires taking at least 1,000 IUs of vitamin D daily.
➻ To help prevent migraines, take 400 mg of magnesium and 400 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2) daily.
➻ Try acupuncture, a highly effective way to reduce pain and migraines.
➻ Look into possible food sensitivities, especially if you have headaches or general pain.
➻ Take 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids EPA/DHA daily.
➻ Engage in activities that encourage balance, strength, and flexibility.