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Many of my patients in my integrative clinic in San Jose, CA come to see me regarding their joint aches and pains. If it’s not the joint itself then it’s the tendons and soft tissue around the joint that is bothering them. If you think about it, these little joints keep us active and functional. They go through a lot on a daily basis just to keep us up and about. So, don’t you think they need a lot of TLC every once in a while? How about every day and not just once in a while?

I’m going to help you with some key tips on keeping your joints happy and healthy.

First, if you know that a certain activity or repetitive motion is causing a certain joint to ache and scream, then you should refrain from that activity. If you cannot refrain from that activity because it’s a part of your work, you need to make sure you get some braces or durable medical equipment that can help support that joint. You should also get some physical therapy sessions in to help strengthen the muscles around that joint so that you can take the pressure and responsibility off that joint. Stronger muscles around the joint help to support it and thus there’s less strain on the joint.

Second, many of my patients notice great improvement in joint health and less pain when they remove food allergies or sensitivities from their diet. The reason for that is that if you certain foods trigger inflammation in the body, that inflammation may adversely affect your already irritated joint. So, ask your doctor about food allergy and sensitivity testing and if you find that you do indeed have some, make sure to avoid those sensitivities all the time to keep your joints and you aging healthily.

Finally, your diet and sleep are very important in helping your body heal and repair itself. So, you need to make sure you are eating a mostly anti-inflammatory diet full of nuts, legumes, vegetables, low saturated fat proteins, healthy fats like in olive oil and avocadoes, and whole grains. You need to remove processed foods that have chemicals and pesticides or hormones from your diet. You also need to stay hydrated with water and antioxidant-rich organic teas. If you feed your body what it needs to repair and heal your body and then you make sure that you get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, your body should have all that it needs to undo the damage of daily life on your joints and body.

It’s always very interesting to me how some populations of people in this world age well and how some don’t. Even in my clinic, I frequently see patients who look and function younger than their age, while others seem older than their age. If you look at epidemiological studies and even if you just looked at examples of people in your life or for me, in my clinic, those who manage stress well, make it a priority to get enough sleep, and eat a well-balanced mostly plant-based anti-inflammatory diet usually age extremely well.

So, whether you want to make sure that your joints, skin, body, or mind age well, just make sure that you are sleeping, making sure that you are happy and managing your stress, and eating as Mother Nature intended you to. If you do all that, you’ll be one of those people that leave others wondering what your true age is, because your glowing health will make it hard to tell.

 

It seems that everywhere we look these days, we see news clips about one catastrophe or another.  When we are faced with so many saddening facts and stressful events, how can we help ourselves and our loved ones heal?

Grief is a natural part of how we process painful and saddening events. Many of my patients in my integrative medicine clinic have to learn to address their grief or other feelings for the first time. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced society, it seems that we have learned to suppress our feelings or not deal with them because we think we don’t have the time to work through our emotions.

But, the problem with suppressing feelings long term is that eventually our body will want to have those feelings expressed and dealt with. If you don’t allow your body to attend to your feelings through its natural healing process, your body may force you to deal with it at a later point whether you want to or not. Feelings of sadness or grief can manifest in other ways such as pain, fatigue, insomnia, or worsening of already existing health issues as an exacerbation.

So, as we turn toward addressing our feelings about many of the recent natural disasters and the wonderful heroes who have died while trying to help us and those who are still currently taking on that self-sacrificing role, let’s take some time to figure out how to most effectively deal with grief and loss. Because unfortunately, with so many sad events occurring, long term suppression of feelings is not something I would recommend for any of my patients and thus I would not recommend it for my readers as well.  However, sometimes, it may be alright to put it aside for a while until we can deal with it more effectively. It seems that many of us do it and that brings our discussion to the first stage of grief…denial/shock/numbness.

There are concepts about potential stages of grief but I want to caution readers that these stages may not occur for everyone. As we are all individuals, we may also manage grief differently. This concept of the stages of grief is to help you understand what potentially can happen when something traumatic happens and we have to deal with it.

So, potentially in the first stage of grief, you may see signs of denial, shock and/or numbness. This phase helps to protect us from the initial impact of the event so that we can maneuver ourselves out of danger or allow us to attend to the practical matters of the loss or disastrous event. This is a protective mechanism so that we are not too overwhelmed by the traumatic events and it gives us some time to more objectively get us out of trouble if we need to. It also gives us time to slowly digest the information until we recognize the full impact of the event instead of all at once when it first happens.

The next phase typically is what we call the bargaining phase. We start to think about what we could have been done differently and if we could have altered the outcome somehow by acting out the scenario in different ways. Effectively working through this phase is important to help us heal and not be stuck with feelings of extreme guilt or lack of resolution.

We then progress to the phase where we feel sadness, loneliness, and depression. It is extremely important in this phase to seek help if you need it. Support from people you feel safe with or from support groups or therapists are very helpful in this phase of the grief. I would highly recommend involving your physician in this phase of the healing process so that your physician can help you pick out the warning signs and see if any supplements or medications are appropriate at this time if you are experiencing more sadness than just associated with the loss or grief.

As you emerge from the sadness of the loss, you may feel a sense of anger and injustice at the tragedy and loss. The anger phase is a natural part of the grief healing process. Support and therapy as well as involvement of your physician and loved ones are very important in this phase because this may be a very overwhelming stage if you are typically not used to these emotions and haven’t learned to effectively deal with them.

Finally, in the acceptance phase, you learn to accept the loss and integrate the loss into your life. It’s not so much that you are fine with the loss or tragedy, but rather that your mind, body and emotions are finally able to accept the events that have occurred and you see it as something you can assimilate into your everyday life, thoughts, and feelings.

Many of my patients think that it’s not normal to have grief extend beyond a certain time limit…frequently they’ll ask questions such as “shouldn’t I be over it by now” or “shouldn’t I still be upset about this?” But it’s important to understand that healing can take as much time or as little time as your body needs to recover from great tragedies and losses. As I mention to all of my patients, we are all individuals and none of my patients are cookie-cutter replicas of each other. While the frequently used concept of stages of grief may help provide you with a road map of how someone may deal with grief, ultimately, the process differs to varying degrees from person to person.

So, be easy on yourself and as long as you are getting the support and help you need during your healing process and you have a professional healthcare practitioner monitoring you for any concerning symptoms or feelings, you should allow yourself as much or as little time as you need to heal. You may even return to an earlier phase of the grieving process at any time…and that is alright and natural as well.  

Ultimately, we all experience grief a bit differently and we may experience one episode differently from another episode. The stages of grief are used as a rough guideline to help us figure out why we feel what we feel at various stages of healing. But that doesn’t mean you are not “normal” if your grieving process is a bit different. This is the exact reason why I usually recommend for my patients to find support groups or therapists and for my readers to seek their physicians for guidance to help them through a  difficult healing process.

Needless to say, all of the disasters and senseless losses we keep seeing on TV these days make us think more about grieving and loss…I see this time and again in my own clinic (many patients come into the clinic expressing tremendous sadness about world events).

While we cannot prevent natural disasters or senseless losses (however much we want to), we can take this opportunity to help ourselves and those around us learn to properly address our emotions instead of suppressing them.

As a whole, we can be stronger and better able to withstand the stressors of life if we are able to take the negatives, feel the impacts of the negative, and grow stronger from them if we allow ourselves to deal with all the feelings that come along with these events.

References:

Maciejewski PK, et al. An Empirical Examination of the Stage Theory of Grief.  JAMA. 2007;297(7):716-723.

 

As we start entering the summer months, it almost seems too soon to worry about the Memorial Day festivities and then soon it’ll be July Fourth. It seems that Christmas just was around the last corner, wasn’t it?

But, seeing that the summer months are imminently upon us, there are some things we need to keep in mind regarding our summer time habits. For most of us, summer is a time that brings up positive memories of warm weather, water fights, beautiful flowers, and summer vacations. Along with these beautiful memories, there should be some level of vigilance about our skin health as well as making sure that we don’t overindulge in summertime sweets.

Just so that I don’t dampen the wonderful spring/summer spirit that we are all eager to embrace, I will limit my health tips to just three most common tips I give to my patients in my clinic of integrative medicine in San Jose, CA.

  1. Sunscreen is a MUST. No matter whether you want a tan or not, the UV index these days are more conducive to burns rather than just a glowing tan. So, make sure that you use an SPF of at least 25 if you will be out in the sun and make sure you reapply every 1-2 hours depending on how active you are and whether you are sweating or not in your activity. Even if you have darker skin and rarely burn, we are unfortunately seeing more skin issues these days even with patients who have darker skin. So, if not for your concern for skin cancer prevention, you should be applying sunscreen to help prevent wrinkles, age spots, and premature skin aging changes.  For those of you more interested in sun protection, I would recommend an SPF of 50.
  2. Avoid excess sweets…and yes, that means too many fruits as well.  It may be surprising but the holiday season isn’t the only season where I see elevated levels of pre-diabetes or high triglyceride issues in my clinic. Because of the abundance of fresh fruits, patients tend to indulge in this during the summer months…which unfortunately leads to elevation of blood sugar levels and hypertriglyceridemia.  So, despite fruits being good for you, nothing is good for you in excess. So, keep that in mind as you enter the summer months. I usually recommend that my patients keep their fruit intake still to about 2 servings a day at most. If you have diabetes or high triglycerides already, I would highly recommend keeping fruit servings to one per day only so as not to see a spike in your levels at your next lab check-up. Making sure not to eat processed sweets like ice cream is a given…I know you’ve heard enough about that if you have sugar issues from your doctor. So avoid the ice cream and excess fruits, then you’ll still get a gold star at your next doctor’s visit.
  3. Keep those critters off of you. What I mean is that you should pay attention to making sure that you are well protected against ticks and mosquitoes and such. The negative impact of West Nile viral infections and Lyme disease is well documented. Unfortunately, most of us are too busy enjoying the summer months to pay much attention to making sure we use the clothing and body sprays that will help repel these critters. Most doctors don’t address this aspect of summer health and that’s why I’m mentioning it now. If you are into outdoors activities, make sure to protect yourself against these critters that may cause health issues long into the autumn and winter months. Just be mindful about it…that’s all I’m asking of you to keep you and your loved ones healthy while enjoying the warm beautiful summer months.

I am a great fan of the summer months because the nice weather usually prompts my patients to exercise more. But make sure you exercise during the cooler hours and to keep these three health tips in mind. This way, you and I can both feel more secure with the idea that you’ll get through the upcoming months safely…all the while hopefully having yet another summer of creating memories you’ll smile about for years to come.

Most of us think of our closets when we talk about spring cleaning. But what about our pantry and fridge? Because our diet does drastically change from winter time into the warmer months, cleaning out our pantry and fridge during the spring time is a good habit to pick up.

 The key things to think about for a fridge and pantry clean up is to think first think what your health goals are. Is your blood sugar or cholesterol too high? Do you have food sensitivities or allergies that require abstinence from certain foods? Do you have a few pounds you’d like to loose?

 

Once you’ve established your health goals, then it’s a good time to start looking through your cupboards and refrigerator. There are general categories of foods that you should throw out and there are typical foods that you should make sure you keep well-stocked in your fridge and pantry. Let’s start with what to throw out.

 

These are the typical categories of foods to toss out:

 

  1. Frozen pre-made desserts like ice cream, popsicles, and cakes
  2. Processed, pre-packaged foods
  3. Sugar or sugar substitutes
  4. Diet or regular soda
  5. Cookies and chips
  6. Pre-made processed sauces or dressings

 

Basically, I want you to throw out the processed foods in your fridge and pantry…even the ones labeled ‘low calorie’ or ‘100 calorie’ type packs or snacks.

 

In general, processed foods worsen cholesterol, sugars and weight. They also are typically chock full of typical food sensitivities or allergens. So, even if you’re not sure what you are sensitive to, these processed foods won’t be making your weight, health, or intestinal tract very happy.

 

The typical things you should keep in your fridge and pantry are:

 

  1. A variety of rainbow-colored vegetables (frozen is fine and potentially more cost-effective as long as they are not frozen with sauces already drenched on them)
  2. Organic white meat of chicken or turkey
  3. Wild fish
  4. Raw nuts
  5. Sparkling or still water (you can keep fresh lemon or lime around to add natural flavors to water)
  6. Organic teas
  7. If you must have red meat, such as if you are iron deficient, you should aim for bison meat over beef since it is lower in saturated fats
  8. Legumes
  9. Quinoa or faro

10.Crudité and hummus dips

11.Balsalmic vinegar and olive oil with spices to make your own dressings

12.Fresh popcorn made yourself (no prepackaged popcorn)

13.If you must have something sweet, you can make fresh juices from fruits and freeze them for popsicles

14.Agave nectar and stevia are better sweet substitutes

 

These are just some ideas to get you started. But if you’ll notice, the key difference is that I want real foods made by Mother Nature in your fridge and pantry. Many of these foods are easy to grab and eat just as they are without a lot of prep time. So, throw out those pre-packaged processed foods and put in your life these wholesome foods that Mother Nature meant for you to eat…if you do, you’ll be seeing a healthier, slimmer you by the summer!

 

 

 

 

I always tell my patients in my clinic of integrative medicine in San Jose CA that when you try to fix early disease states or address early symptoms that just are not quite right, you are essentially heading off a catastrophe before it happens.

The reason this is important is that most diseases are years in the making. If you start to address your early symptoms that don’t seem quite right, you are likely able to fix the problem before the disease fully develops.

There was a recent story lately on the news about an HIV baby that was treated with a full cocktail of HIV medications as soon as the baby was born and after it got the early full dosage therapy, years later, they are finding that the HIV is almost non-detectable in the body even without medications currently. They are now just monitoring the young child to make sure that the viral count in the body remains non-existent.  The virus was so effectively suppressed that they thought maybe the child was misdiagnosed years before but the genetic studies show some traces of the virus in the body but is now not obviously active.

I was very interested in this story because it just goes to show us that when diseases are addressed early on with medications, supplements or lifestyle changes, very good things can happen. This is what I’ve always said to my patients. There is absolutely no point in waiting for the disease to fully develop before you take it seriously. The time to take it seriously is as soon as you notice something is not right.

I have seen a lot of my patients who are pre-diabetics change their lifestyle and get their blood sugars into the solidly normal range. Along with the positive lifestyle change, usually their cholesterol, weight, energy, and quality of sleep improve.

I use the HIV baby story not to say that I am a strong proponent of always using medications early in a disease state, but rather to say that something should be done early on and that ignoring symptoms or labs that are borderline abnormal isn’t the best course of action in your quest to achieve overall health.

For those readers who know of someone who is pregnant with HIV, this story may be worthwhile for her to bring up with that someone so that she can talk to her doctor about it. For those of you who are fortunate enough not to have HIV or know of anyone with HIV, I want to use this story to remind you that when you address a disease state or symptom early on in its course, you will always end up ahead of the bad things to come. So, if there is something that is concerning you about your health, please see your doctor or nutritionist or gynecologist or psychiatrist sooner rather than later. Ultimately, doing so will lead you to a healthier and happier place…because we all know that preventing a spill is always easier than cleaning up a mess afterwards.

PMS is something we as women have had to deal with every month for most of our young adult and adult years. While we become concerned if we miss a period for obvious reasons, we are also not very happy to see our monthly friend as well which usually comes with some bloating, pain, and mood changes. So, how can we manage our PMS symptoms just a little bit easier? Let’s give these tips a try…

  1. Watch your diet a week before your usual PMS time. Food has a huge impact on PMS symptoms, so aim to eat a low salt and low sugar diet about a week before your PMS week. This will help her PMS cravings and symptoms to be a little less severe. The reason I suggest making the diet change a week before your usual PMS week is because once you hit your PMS week, you may not be able to control the cravings for salt or sugar. By pre-emptively addressing the symptoms and eating cleaner, you should ensure that your PMS week is a little less difficult.
  2. Drink green tea. This is important because it is a natural diuretic which means that it will help you feel and look less bloated. It also helps with your metabolism so that you feel a bit more energy during your PMS time and can potentially help you keep some of your PMS weight gain down.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. When you don’t get enough rest, your body likes to crave carbohydrates and tends to bloat more. It worsens the fatigue that you may already feel with PMS and it definitely worsens mood. So, not getting enough sleep means that your PMS symptoms will likely appear like it’s double the strength of not feeling good…and let’s face it, the normal strength of PMS symptoms is already more than enough.
  4. Exercise. When you exercise the week before and during the week of your PMS, your symptoms tend to be less than usual. Exercise helps to release happy hormones and helps your body to get rid of bloating and cramps. When you work out, you are also less likely to have monstrous sugar or salt cravings…basically, it is a winner all around.
  5. Spend time with people who bring you joy. This time of the month is probably not the best time to meet up with people who are draining or irritating to you. However, meeting up with people who usually bring you joy and make you feel loved is a good idea because being around them will trigger happy hormones that will help your body hold onto that happy and loved feeling long after your rendezvous with them.

So, while this is a time of the month that is traditionally not your favorite, there are ways to ensure that you get through the PMS a bit better rather than sink into the misery.  As I always tell my patients at my clinic of integrative medicine in San Jose CA, when you tackle your symptoms head on and plan ahead for them, you have a choice in helping your body manage its hormones. By living a healthy and balanced lifestyle and addressing your health issues, you can optimally and favorably control your symptoms instead of having those symptoms control you.

We take for granted that every little function our body does requires nutrients, or what I call, fundamental building block tools, for it to occur efficiently. One of those essential components is calcium. It is an essential mineral in our body that is required for normal muscle functioning as well as for all our organs to perform normally. Without it, our muscles hurt and are weak, our heart can’t pump regularly and our blood pressure might even be elevated or off.

So, what foods have calcium and why might someone be deficient? And when it does, what are the symptoms we see with calcium deficiency?

Calcium is found in many foods such as dairy, enriched whole grains, and dark green leafy vegetables, just to name a few sources. As we get older, though, we naturally absorb less of what we are eating so we are at higher risk for nutrient deficiency. So the most common reason for calcium deficiency are either from not getting enough in your diet or your hormonal system that regulates calcium is not working right. If your calcium is always low, you should have your doctor check on your parathyroid hormone level and make sure that it is working fine. If it is not, you will need to see a hormone specialist, the endocrinologist.

When we are calcium deficient, the organs in our body cannot functionally optimally and some adverse reactions can occur. Some of the common symptoms of calcium deficiency can be bone or muscle pain, muscle cramps, irregular heart beat or arrhythmias, blood pressure dysregulation, increased bruising or bleeding, nerve pain or dysfunction, and poor appetite.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or if you are suspicious that you may be deficient in calcium, you should see your doctor immediately for testing of your levels of calcium and parathyroid hormone.

In general, I recommend about 500-1200mg per day of calcium supplementation depending on the person’s size, age, and risk factors for osteoporosis, hypertension, heart disease, and muscle or nerve pain issues. Because every person’s body is different and we all have different diets and lifestyles, it would be very important to check with your doctor first before you start your calcium and ask him or her what the appropriate dosage is for you.

While I always tell my patients in my clinic of integrative medicine in San Jose CA that I am a big proponent of always getting your nutrients through your foods first, I am well aware that some of us need supplementation to get the amount of what we need. So, my recommendation is to eat as much as you can of calcium-rich foods…but when in doubt, ask your doctor to check your levels and to help you pick out the right dosage of calcium supplementation for you.

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