In my quest for optimal health as a "traditional" physician, I tried to identify the top areas of health during which doctors consistently fail and how you can avoid these same pitfalls. Now, of course, I am not talking about EVERY single practitioner in all of medicine. I'm talking about physicians trained in the U.S., with an M.D. and American residency or fellowship training; essentially, people like me, whose health and nutrition practices are shaped by our years of training in hospitals.
It's shocking that health-savvy individuals (like the readers of MBG) can flip healthcare around by being healthier than their own medical advisors! Here's how you can do it:
1. End sugar overload.
Just go to any lunch room at a doctors office or hospital physicians lounge and what you'll see is soda, donuts and cookies. I've noticed patients with asthma, allergies, and other inflammatory conditions improve greatly with reduction of sugar. Even with all the knowledge we have regarding sugar and adverse health outcomes, I still see an overload of sugary treats in our break rooms. Stop eating these impulsive treats!
Most of us in medicine are type A personalities, and we often find ourselves in overdrive even when we leave work. This chronic elevation of cortisol (our "fight or flight" hormone) creates havoc to our hormonal balance and causes accumulation of belly fat. Additionally, studies suggest that people who meditate live longer and healthier than those who don't. You should have your own type of meditation, whether it's yoga, a long run (my favorite), walk in the woods to decrease your cortisol level.
During all those years of sleep loss as a training physician, I thought that skimping on sleep was the way to success. How could I possibly get everything done in a day if I sleep eight hours? It's not uncommon for sleep-deprived doctors to stay up for 30 hours or more at a time. Now, however, I recommend to all my immunology patients, as well as physicians, to sleep at least six to eight hours a night. Just tell me your goal — weight loss, work productivity, mood issues — and I'll tell you to start with sleeping more!
4. Explore alternative medicine.
We as physicians are taught to question alternative medicine. Is it harmful? Will it interact with other medications? It's therefore often dismissed or minimized. Now I tell patients to try it once they make sure they understand potential side effects. Why deny yourself a potentially helpful treatment just because your doctor didn't know about it?
5. Cut out caffeine.
As much as we want to deny it, caffeine can be the source of many health ailments from increased cortisol to disturbed sleep to irritable mood and more. Many physicians carry around multiple cups of coffee a day. For me, eliminating caffeine has made me a more productive (weird, I know), hormonally balanced, happy individual.