I love traditional MD's — they're my best friends, family, and trusted colleagues. They save lives and perform medical feats beyond imagination.
So why am I insulting them in the title of this piece?
Despite the fact that many doctors are smart, well-intentioned, and caring, many of us are not trained to optimize health, which is a completely different skill than performing life-saving surgery or cancer chemotherapy.
The good news is there are many professionals out there (including some forward-thinking MDs) who can guide you to your healthiest self. But, until you find that person, I urge you to become the CEO of your body and try some (or all) of the steps below.
1. Get extended blood testing.
Some of these tests may be ordered by your doctor but many are add-ons. You may get some push back if your doctor is a minimalist, but it's worth pursuing even if you have to go to an outside lab like Wellnessfx, CanaryClub.org, DirectLabs, or AnyLabTestNow.
You'll want to order a complete blood count, which will give you information about your blood and can help pinpoint issues with fatigue and infection. It's also a good idea to order a complete thyroid panel and a complete lipid panel. Getting this data will give you a more complete assessment of your health and help you identify areas for improvement.
2. Get enough sleep.
If there's one thing I could wish on every single one of you, it would be adequate sleep. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to prioritize our zzzzs, let alone figure out how many hours we need for optimal health.
Here's the easy way: just sleep for 3 to 5 days without an alarm to find out how many hours of sleep you need to feel rested. For most of us, this is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours.
3. Manage your stress.
Too much stress disrupts your hormones, your sleep, and makes you gain weight. Worse, it can lead to adrenal burnout. That's why meditation, yoga, or some kind of mindfulness practice every day is essential.
Needs some extra help? Try taking Vitamin C (start with 1 gram three times a day and increase until you have loose stools), fish oil (1 to 4 grams a day), Phosphatidylserine (400- 800 mg/day), Ashwaganda (300 mg twice a day) or Rhodiola (200 mg twice a day).
4. Track your movement.
Whether you use a pedometer, FitBit, FuelBand or pencil and paper, tracking your movement during the day is important. Aim for 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day. (That's about five miles a day.)
5. Check your resting pulse.
Finally, an easy one! Check your pulse when you wake up, before you even get out of bed. An ideal resting pulse is 60 beats per minute or below. (Athletes are routinely in the 50s.)
6. Focus on your hormones.
Hormones are an area that many general physicians feel uncomfortable discussing because it's such a complicated topic and because the ranges are so dynamic depending upon the time in your life or even the time of day.
On top of that, the "normal" ranges of these tests are so wide that you might get a "normal" reading but be dealing with a significant problem.
I am torn about doing all these hormonal blood tests. I, and many others, have been able to recognize the symptoms of hormone imbalance and fix them, all without testing. I felt amazingly different in just four weeks. Here are the exact steps I followed.
If this doesn't work for you, or if you think I'm crazy for not checking the numbers, you can invest in testing. Men should try total testosterone testing, which is available at many outside labs such as wellness fx or Genova. They provide reference ranges and offer the option to consult with a professional. Alternatively you can take the results to your primary MD.
Women typically need three tests drawn during their 28-day cycle. This is because levels change (or should change) throughout the month. Women can get their hormones levels checked at the same places above.
7. Live creatively and with purpose.
What do you do to unwind? This is an area many of us neglect. Some ideas to explore are volunteering, writing, painting, drawing, or cooking.
Why? Getting "in the zone" with an enjoyable activity lowers stress hormones, increases your happiness, and gives you something to look forward to every day. Aim to start have fun 15 to 30 minutes every day.
8. Understand the truth about processed foods.
Whether you decide to go Paleo, vegan, or follow a Mediterranean diet ... there is one amazing thing these diets have in common: they all emphasize, whole, unprocessed foods. Did you know overly processed foods are made to make you crave them? (This is my favorite article on the subject.)
Bottom line, although it's really cliche: Eat the foods your grandparents would recognize.
9. Learn to avoid hormone disruptors.
We use, and ingest chemicals that throw our hormones off balance. Although it's hard to remove all the offenders-- I found this article to be a helpful and solid start.
10. Get tested for your inflammation markers.
Interested in your heart and overall inflammatory markers? Check your cholesterol, LDL particle number and size, homocysteine, lipoprotein a, hbaic, fibrinogen
11. Get tested for your food intolorances.
I LOVE to test my patients for food intolerances. For many, it can be the missing piece of optimal health. The best part? It's totally free and you can do it yourself. Here is one of my protocols but feel free to do what works for you.
The common top offenders?
- Cow's milk
- Wheat (gluten)
- Tree nuts
- MSG (and countless other preservatives)
12. Practice gratitude.
In the wise words of Oprah Winfrey: "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."
Of course, this list doesn't include every single thing you'd do to improve your health. It's just meant to be a starting point you can use to improvise and improve.
What do you think? Love it or hate it, I'd love to know.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com