How I Treated My Fatty Liver And Acid Reflux With Integrative Medicine
The most common misconception I hear about doctors is that we're all healthy and don't get sick. I mean, why would we? We have all the knowledge and information we need to be healthy, right? Well, not so much. The lifestyle of a doctor can be fast-paced, always on the go, and riddled with stress. We take care of people every day but often neglect ourselves, suffering from a serious lack of work-life balance, burnout (in fact, more than half of U.S. physicians are thought to be experiencing burnout), and alarmingly high rates of suicide.
Even as a doctor, I was at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease.
A few years ago, I was a bit over 200 pounds, and my cholesterol panel was out of whack. My liver enzymes (blood tests that show how your liver is working) were well over the normal limit, and my doctor told me I had fatty liver. Fatty liver is a condition where fat can essentially deposit on the liver and create an irritation. In some people, it can cause hepatitis and eventually lead to severe liver damage. I was scared. I didn't know what to do. I wasn't as healthy as I should have been, and I didn’t want to develop diabetes or have a heart attack, which I was at risk for.
That was when I discovered Dr. Andrew Weil and his integrative medicine center at the University of Arizona. Having been trained quite conservatively as a doctor, I was a bit of a skeptic about this more holistic approach to medicine; however, with some careful prodding from my wife (it’s always a good idea to listen to your partner, I’ve learned), I started to read more about some of the lifestyle changes I could make to optimize my wellness and get my health back on track.
My journey in integrative medicine began—and I never looked back.
When I started researching integrative medicine, I was surprised by the amount of solid data and literature there already was to support it. I wanted to learn more, so I enrolled myself in Dr. Weil’s two-year fellowship at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I wasn’t sure what I was really going to get out of it, but I just had a feeling it was something I needed to do.
Within the first few months, I learned about tai chi, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, nutrition, exercise, and a number of other things in a way that I had never known before. I also learned about nutritional supplements and natural therapies for common things like heartburn. As it turned out, taking an antacid every day wasn't my only option for my heartburn—DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) could do the trick for me whenever I had a flare-up. I became very motivated by these personal health improvements and started doing my own research outside my training program as well.
I completely remade my lifestyle (and my family's lifestyle, too).
What I learned about lifestyle changes was so compelling that I started to make some changes in my own life. Our family worked together to completely gut the pantry and buy products that were only in the best interest of our health. We did the same with our fridge and freezer. We got rid of sugar-sweetened beverages and drastically cut down on anything processed. We focused on whole foods that were organic and locally grown. I increased my fiber intake and focused on healthy sources of fat. In the first two or three weeks, I lost my first 10 pounds.
I started meditating every day and continually tried to focus on the positive aspects of life. Although our family was always aware of avoiding toxins, we re-examined the toxins we were being exposed to and made some changes. I got on a regular routine of being more physically active and spending more time outdoors. All of these changes allowed me to get a more restful sleep at night. When I got more sleep, my cravings for carbs went down. And that meant no more bagels and cream cheese for breakfast.
In three months, I lost 40 pounds and transformed my health.
Before I knew it, about three months had passed since I started my own health journey. I found that I needed new clothes because all my old clothes were too big—I had lost 40 pounds! I couldn’t believe it. And as an added bonus, I was more energetic and my mind was sharper. I no longer needed my prescription antacid, and my cholesterol panel normalized and so did my liver enzymes. I had reversed my chronic problems naturally, and I felt better than ever.
Now, I'm the author of Dr. Weil's book on integrative environmental medicine and the editor of his book Integrative Gastroenterology. I've made it my life mission to bring this message to everyone. I changed the way I practice medicine and reinvented myself as a physician, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve helped so many people improve their health and their lives the way I improved mine.
The most important lesson I learned? Our bodies are pretty amazing. If we give them the ingredients they need to do the job they were born to do, they will take care of us in return.
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