With All The Choices Out There, Which Diet Should I Be Following?

which diet should I be followingThe world of nutrition can be just as overwhelming as choosing your pizza toppings.

Keto? Paleo? Carnivore? Mediterranean?  Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto Vegetarian? Ovo Vegetarian? Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian? Pollotarian? Pescatarian? Flexitarian?

I am seriously not making this stuff up. There really are such things, but is there truly only one path that leads to success? Trying to pick just one is like trying to pick your favorite child. The fitness and nutrition industry continues to be a multibillion-dollar revenue stream that promises to FINALLY get you the results when other “diets” have failed to do so.

If we really believe that to be true, how come the US still has the highest obesity rate compared to all other nations? That is because we have created a societal culture of believing there is only ONE right way that is superior to the other. Because we are so desperate for results, we have failed to realize that every time we “diet” hop, we are disrupting the homeostasis of the human metabolism.

There are no bad foods. Let me repeat. THERE ARE NO BAD FOODS! THERE ARE ONLY BAD CHOICES.

THE POISON IS IN THE DOSE!

As part of a Sports Medicine Internship program I am currently in, I have the privilege of learning and being mentored by some of the industry’s best nutrition scientists. The science is clear and the equation is on point:  1 + 1 does equal 2. This means your weight loss journey comes down to one simple formula:

CALORIES IN CALORIES OUT.

It is simple math. If you are taking in more calories than you are putting out, you will gain weight.

It really is just that simple.

We underestimate how much we eat and overestimate how much we workout. This may sound harsh.  I prefer to call it tough love. Don’t let the promises of a marketing agenda discourage you from following where science has always had it right.

If you want what you set out to seek, then you must put in the work. Diets are excuses that only take you further away from your goal. Be honest with your intentions. And get real with your expectations. Better yet, don’t have any. There is two parts to the equation. Both are equally important. There is only so much you can succeed with nutrition alone. – and you can never outrun a bad diet.

Blaming aging metabolism is a distraction. You must become comfortable with the discomfort of the process. Face the reality of how much you are really consuming versus how much you perceive to be consuming.

No foods are off limits. There is no need for extreme elimination, unless there are medical conditions that require it.

Our bodies didn’t get here overnight. So, how is it fair to demand change in two months? It is not. That is why we are in this tsunami of failure.

YOU can stop this vicious cycle!!

It is not going to be easy, and the reason it won’t be easy is because you are going to have to do something that you may not have done before. Let go of the idea that the answer is in some best selling book. It is not! It has always been within you.

Would you rather have short term results or long-term success?

This sounds great in theory, but what about in real life? I hear you. I could workout 24 hours a day, no problem, but if you asked me to give up my favorite desserts, you would see a very hangry person.

It has taken me 21+ years to get out of my comfort zone and open up to trying a new way of eating. I was always one of those, ‘I am going to eat whatever I want because I work out hard’ people. While part of that is true, there are so many better ways to do it. You really can have your cake and eat it too. You have to just be willing to try a different approach than what you are used to.

Here are just a few of the things I do for myself that help me stay the course:

  1. Hydrate. I strive to maintain a minimum of 90oz/water day. Some days are better than others. But on those off days, I do not sulk into self-judgement. I look at it for what it is and remind myself I get tomorrow to try again. And more times than not, tomorrow will be better.
  1. Measure your food. Uggh! Not going to lie! This is painful. Early on in my journey, I learned about portion control through measuring and weighing food. I was able to visualize what a “serving” looked like. For one month, I weighed everything I ate. I was shocked to see that 1 tablespoon of peanut butter is actually not ½ the jar. It was not easy to do this, but this was the turning point that has kept me consistent for the last 21 years.  Unless you are an elite athlete or competitor, you don’t have to do this every single day. But try it for a month. I guarantee anyone that tries it will be reaching out to me after a month telling me how much this experience has changed them.  It does take work, but it will be worth it.
  1. Strength train. In my opinion, this is actually the most important aspect to getting real. There is no other form of exercise that physiologically has as much of an effect on our health like resistance training. Designing a strength training program that incorporates progressive overload and movement pattern exercises will result in weight loss for any person at any level.  Cardio is fine if you need a day to zone out, but don’t expect it to get you to the same place that only strength training can.  I totally get it. I am a runner and dancer and I love to swim and spin. Until 2002, Cardio is all I used to do. But once I began to understand the power of lifting and its physiological benefits, my physique took a dramatic turn. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I took my lifting to a different level.  I lift heavier than I ever thought I could and let me tell you, my blood work results have never looked better.  It is not about the number on the scale that matters, it is about getting real on how insignificant that number actually is IF you are putting in the work needed to do this right. Don’t allow yourself to blame external factors. Get real with your intensity. Lift heavy!
  1. Just Eat Real Food. Just EAT people!!! Don’t be so concerned about searching for the best diet. The best one is the one that is sustainable. If keto works for you, great. Stick with it. If you enjoy eggs, great, stick to a Ovo Vegetarian diet. It doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, it is CALORIES IN CALORIES OUT. Period.  Don’t underestimate your intake. Don’t overestimate your activity.
  1. Sleep. The body needs time in stillness to restore. You may think you can get by with six hours of sleep, but you can’t. None of us can. There is a threshold of time the body needs to adequately replenish. It is like trying to put gas in your car. If you drive off before it has had a chance to fill up, it can only take you a short distance. But you would get significantly more mileage with a full tank. The body is no different. Don’t rush the restoration process. The body will not take any more time than it needs. Just like the gas pump, it will let you know when it is full and ready to go. Turn off the devices. Quieten the breathing. Settle your thoughts, and make sleep a priority. I promise – you will see a difference.

I used to complicate my life by spending so much energy looking externally to the experts who I thought knew so much more than I did. I trusted their opinion because after all, if it was open to the public, there must be some truth to it, right?

After years of disappointments, I came to realize that only I had the answers. It was I who I was seeking. It was me that was holding open the pages that held the secret code of life.  I didn’t have to reconfigure the formula, I just had to understand the simplicity of it. One Plus One DOES Equal Two.

I keep my realness simple:

  1. Daily workouts
  2. Daily meditation (only few minutes a day)
  3. Adequate hydration
  4. Quality sleep
  5. Eating the way my body guides me, not the other way around
  6. Letting go of expectations
  7. Trusting the process

Please remember that it is YOU who is the real thing.  You don’t need outside influences convincing you that you need their opinions to succeed. Do your own research. Be your own experiment and find what works for you! Makes choices in your life that is a representation of your authenticity and keep it simple. You may not get there in the time you want. But you will get there!!

You just keep doing you!!

Why Self Care Should Be At The Heart Of Healthy Habits

self care“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” “You can only love others as much as you love yourself.” “You are no good to others if you are not good to yourself.”

Golden words that have never been truer. Isn’t that how it was always supposed to be? So how did we get this so wrong?

Ok. Let me stop for a moment. I am not judging anybody. But, let me be clear! By taking care of you, it doesn’t make you selfish. It doesn’t make you greedy. It doesn’t make you arrogant. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.

It just means that you respect yourself enough to do the work to become the best version of YOU. So therefor, collectively as a society, we can all become better!

It took me years to understand this, let alone accept it. I am still not sure I totally get it. But what I do know is that when self-care is first on the to-do list, the list doesn’t seem so daunting.

One of my greatest pet peeves is hearing “I don’t have time.” What do you mean you don’t have time? We all have the same 24 hours. It is how we use that precious commodity that matters. When we get stuck in the notion that time is finite, we lose ourselves in the maze of excuses. Once excuses become part of our everyday vocabulary, health, peace, joy and happiness becomes a distant dream. Then the tsunami of failing health, mental fatigue, hopelessness and desperation hits.

We all HAVE it! We breathe it 24 hours a day. It is in our faces every minute. To say we “DON’T HAVE TIME” seems like a little bit of an oxymoron.

I know! I know! I am usually not this gloom and doom, but when it comes to prioritizing self-care, I have a pretty low tolerance of hearing excuses.  Every single one of you is deserving of your “ME TIME,”  but it is up to you to seize it. The spectrum of longevity and quality of living is determined by the time and effort you put into you.

It is not a luxury! It is a necessity! Self-care is an act of lovingly giving to yourself what you deserve without judgement or guilt. The path is different for each of us. In whatever way you replenish yourself, remember why you are doing it.

While in that “ME TIME,” remember to allow the flurries of joy to arise within you.  Don’t silence it just because the task is finished or the clock tells you your time is up. Stay there. Enjoy that strange feeling, that familiar feeling from childhood when joy was all we knew and has now become a faint distant memory of adulthood. That’s where we are going. Back to that place where self-care wasn’t an option. It wasn’t something we had to choose to do. We just lived it.  And we were so much healthier because of it.

Everyone has different ways of getting back there. Take your time finding yours.

The road for me continues to be under construction. Different phases of my life have offered different opportunities and experiences to become healthier. I am learning new ways of healing while unlearning old patterned ways of destruction.

I like to keep it simple.

As many of you may know I am a Friends freak.  I watch very little, if any, TV. However,  when I see that my fuel tank is getting close to ‘E’, I will watch a couple episodes of my most favorite show! During those 60 minutes or so, I don’t worry about what has been left undone or how much time I am “wasting” in mindless glare of the screen.

For me, those few precious minutes remind me of the 20-something year old girl that is still within me and the carefree spirit she once danced through life with. That memory reminds me that no one has taken anything from me. I had just forgotten that part of me that was buried deep into the caves of other people’s expectations of me.

When I give myself permission to climb out of that burial site and allow myself to experience that joy, an internal glow of warmth takes over and it reminds me that I am enough just as I am –  and that all is ok and all will be ok.

And all of this because I gave myself 60 minutes to live, laugh and love. That feeling is what healthy living looks like.

Some of the other ways I utilize self-care in my healing are:

  1. Strength train 5-6x/wk. If one long block of time is not possible, break it up into 3x-10 minute sessions throughout the day.
  2. Meditation daily. This is a work in progress. Currently only doing it for 5-7minutes/day.
  3. Read one page out of any book.
  4. Look at my reflection in the mirror and tell myself one positive affirmation a day-OUT LOUD. This one is weird in the beginning and will take some getting used to. It is one thing to say it in your head, but it is another thing to say “You are total awesomeness” out loud. But trust me, it will change your day.
  5. Stretch for 180 seconds before bed. Notice how I didn’t say three minutes? Why? Because our thoughts will immediately tell us we don’t have time. But when we hear ‘seconds’, it is like, ‘oh, I can totally afford to take out a few seconds.’ Outsmarting the mind is the only way to recondition our engraved societal thought patterns of ‘I can’t’; ‘I don’t have time’; or the ‘go big or go home-all or none’ mentality.
  6. Every month, do ONE thing that scares you. Now why would we do something that is going to skyrocket your cortisol levels? Because when we do what we think we can’t, we realize just how capable we are and this will cause the endorphins to multiply exponentially.

As you can see, I try to keep things simple. It only takes spending a few minutes with yourself every day. Here are some other fun easy ideas:

  • Massages
  • Sports games with friends
  • At home mani-pedi
  • At home spa day
  • Diffusing essential oils
  • Sleepovers with your BFF’s-Pillow fights and all-nighter movie marathon allowed
  • Bubble baths
  • Head oil massages
  • Sidewalk chalk art

The possibility to be creative is endless. Doesn’t matter what you do. Just do it.

I used to write out complicated timelines and elaborate visions of how I was going to take the ‘best’ care of myself. They often required more time or more planning and if just one thing didn’t go according to plan that day, my whole intention was derailed. I would find myself in a fast tailspin towards mental and physical collision.

I have learned that when healing is kept simple, more space is available for us to learn, play and enjoy the experiences.

If we are patient enough, we will learn that the open grounds of life’s experiences will lead us to health and healing. When we truly begin loving ourselves and all of our perfect imperfections, we begin to love everyone around us just the same.

And that my friends, is what we call SELF-CARE.

Self-care is a mosaic of your best work: a one-of-a-kind masterpiece of infinite potential buried under the misconceptions of other people’s perceptions.

YOU DO YOU! Because there is no one else like you!

Be safe. Stay healthy.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman, please contact us today.

Have You Seen My Metabolism Anywhere?

metabolismWe all know it is coming. We fight it tooth and nail. We don’t give into the relentless annoyance of it. But yet, somehow it always seems to have the upper hand. And by “it”,  I mean your metabolism or lack thereof.

How is it that three little numbers makes us lose so much sleep?

Before starting yet another dieting spree, let’s take a step back and understand what metabolism is and how it changes through the aging process. If we don’t understand it, we can’t change it.

Metabolism is a “series of chemical reactions that sustain the living state of organisms and cells.” Metabolism can slow one to two percent each year after the age of 30.

Nutrition is the KEY to metabolism! Carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals and vitamins comprise the majority of fuel needed to keep metabolism operational.

Let’s take a brief look at how each one plays a role.

  1. Carbohydrates: This includes starch, sugar and fiber. When eaten in moderation, carbohydrates are broken down to fuel metabolism.
  2. Protein: Proteins are the main tissue builders in the body. They are part of every cell in the body. Proteins help in cell structure and function. They are also vital in supplying nitrogen for DNA and RNA genetic material and energy production.
  3. Fats: Fats produce twice as much energy as either carbohydrates or protein. They help form the cellular structure, help absorb fat soluble vitamins and provide a reserve storage for energy.
  4. Minerals and vitamins: Minerals do not play a direct role in energy needs but play an important role in metabolism. Vitamins are essential compounds that the body doesn’t produce and therefore relies up nutritional intake.

What are some other potential causes of a slowed metabolism?

  • Hypothyroidism and other endocrine issues
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Chronic stress
  • Exogenous hormone intake
  • Hormonal imbalance (low estrogen and testosterone)
  • Medication side effects
  • Excess supplement intake
  • Excess fat intake
  • Calorie deprivation
  • Low muscle mass

The good news is that there are ways to naturally increase our metabolism. But first understand something. Chasing after a “goal” weight or “ideal” size is unrealistic and can lead to frustration and disappointment. The scale doesn’t take in to account skeletal density, muscle mass or fat reserves. It only tells you an absolute number, a number which is false and misleading.

Don’t panic yet. We are not doomed forever. Here are some simple ways (many of which we have seen before) to raise your metabolism.

  1. Assessing the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). The Resting Metabolic Rate test (RMR) determines the amount of calories your body is using at rest. The results of a Resting Metabolic Rate test can tell if you have an increased or decreased metabolism, and if your body primarily uses fats or carbohydrates for energy. This information can be used to determine the amount of calories you need to eat each day to maintain or lose weight. The testing is done by breathing into a mask that measures your Oxygen –Carbon Dioxide exchange.
  2. Increase muscle mass. Strength training three to four times a week is mandatory when trying to increase metabolism. Developing and maintaining muscle mass allows the RPR to increase. Every pound of muscle uses approximately six calories a day to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily.
  3. Eat. Calorie deprivation causes the body to go into crisis mode. As a preservation mechanism, the body slows down its metabolic response by storing fat and calories. Adding protein to every meal allows a constant release of glucose and maintains insulin regulation.
  4. Drink up. Dehydration is the killer when it comes to a slow metabolism. Calories need water to process. Even small levels of dehydration can cause  a slowing of the RPR.  Try for a goal of 90oz/day. If you struggle to get down your daily water quota, consuming fresh fruits that contain natural water is a great alternative.
  5. Sleep. Think of sleep like pulling into the gas station. We have to bring the car to a complete stop before we can fuel up. Just the same, sleep forces us to stop so that the body may refuel. If we compromise on sleep, we wake up on an empty tank of gas and expected to go the same distance as if the tank was full. Not possible. To sustain life, the body saves energy by decreasing metabolism.
  6. Question your medications and supplements. Just because it doesn’t say it on the package insert doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Assume everything going into your mouth is the cause until you proven otherwise. See what lifestyle changes you can make that could help you get off of prescription drugs.
  7. Maintain zero expectations. Our body will never be how it was in our 20’s and 30’s. So how can we expect it to respond in the same manner? Don’t be disappointed because you lost “only three pounds”. Be happy you didn’t gain three pounds. Body fat percentage, changes in clothing fit, how you feel is the REAL goal.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by looking for a solution under every advertisement. In the US, the weight loss market is a billion dollar industry! If these companies claim to have the answer, then how come we are still the most overweight nation? These are empty promises. The diet pills, the latest calorie restricted programs that leave you emaciated and crabby, the guaranteed “to lose 20# in 20 days” nonsense.  THEY DON’T WORK.  Don’t waste your money. Our parents and grandparents didn’t seem to struggle as we are now. So how come it is the topic of almost every conversation? What was once a simple seamless process of aging has now become a race against who can promise the fastest results.

If we stop for a second and reflect, in every moment of life our bodies are in constant conversation with us. The symptoms we experience are the body’s attempt to get our attention. A slowed metabolism isn’t something to become consumed by.  It is an opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle. Rather than trying to “fix” it, listen to what it has to say.

There is no fast way to lose weight. Let me repeat….there is no fast way to lose weight. Dropping weight faster than the body can handle is a sure fire way to crash the metabolism to an all-time low.

Be gentle and patient with yourself. No matter what the scale says, you will always be worth more than those three little numbers.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman, please contact us today.

Natural Remedies For Allergies

Natural Remedies For AllergiesAs I sat down to write this month’s blog on natural remedies for allergies, I thought, “That’s easy. Stay indoors. Move out of St. Louis.” Done. That’s the easiest blog I have ever written. Especially since we got another shot of winter weather this week.

But nothing can be that simple, right?

As always, it is important to understand what is happening on a cellular level before intoxicating it with medicines it may not need.  Medications can interfere with the body’s natural immune response and alter pH balance.

An allergy is defined as a hypersensitive response to anything that enters the body or touches the skin. The allergen could be environmental, food, chemicals, heavy metals, or anything your body deems as foreign.

Once the allergen enters the host, it causes an activation of an immunoglobulin called IgE.  Although everyone has IgE, those prone to allergies produce them in larger quantities. The allergen then binds to the IgE receptors. This binding triggers a “degranulation” of mast cells and basophils. Degranulation causes the mast cells and basophils to break open releasing histamine.  Histamine is responsible for all of those classic allergy symptoms that keep us from feeling our best.

We all know those pesky symptoms and if you live in St. Louis, likely you have experienced a majority of them. So let’s skip over to the important stuff.

Aside from the standard treatments of an antihistamine, eye drops, nasal spray or the ultimate allergy shots, let’s look at some natural ways that may provide relief.

  • Avoidance. While this may seem obvious, there is much more we come in contact with then we realize. Allergies are not all from pollen, grass or mold. With a weakened immune system, one can become sensitive to day to day exposures (i.e. household products, foods, daily use chemicals etc). Assume everything and anything is contributing to your symptoms until proven otherwise. Begin an elimination process by taking out one allergen every 2 weeks.
  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Eating foods that are more alkaline help restore pH balance and thereby strengthening the immune system. Foods such as garlic, lemons, green leafy vegetables, bone broth, coconut milk, almond or almond milk are great sources.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar. ACV has some promising clinical response to decreasing cellular inflammation. Add one tsp in a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning at the onset of symptoms or add one tsp in your Netti pot solution.
  • Netti Pot. There is nothing like clearing out the nasal passages with good ole saline. I like to call the Netti Pot “IV fluid for the nose.” Word of caution: make sure to use distilled water. Tap water is contaminated with chlorine and fluoride that can aggravate the sinus passages.
  • Essential oils. Dr. Axe has provided great tips for use of oils. Oils help by reducing inflammation and improving detoxification of harmful bacteria, parasites, microorganisms and toxins that can trigger an attack. An all time favorite is eucalyptus oil. Add few drops into a Netti pot solution and diffuse it in each room. Or mix with coconut oil for a topical saav. Homemade “Vicks” with the added benefit of smelling minty fresh.
  • Healthy gut. Healthy life. And there it is again! Everything comes back to the lumens of the GI tract. Eliminating gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar goes a long way in controlling those sniffles.

So, next time you long to be one with those peonies, give these tips a try. It is a whole lot easier than moving across the country.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman, please contact us today.

Heart Health and You

heart healthAccording to the CDC, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds while one dies every 36 seconds. Coronary artery disease, caused by arterial inflammation and plaque deposits, is the number one cause of heart disease in the United States.

It is so important to take heart health seriously. The greatest risks for coronary artery disease are obesity, significant tobacco and alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle, consuming a diet of processed foods and living in a chronic state of stress. These are the stereotypical images we see in doctor’s offices, magazine covers, pharmaceutical advertisements and even people in our own lives.  We are all at risk and we must work to minimize those chances.

While we can’t prevent everything, we can at least try!

The disease process begins with microscopic cellular damage. We may often have no symptoms or mild symptoms, which we will likely dismiss as a nuance. However, as the damage becomes more intensified, the symptoms become more pronounced until we can no longer ignore it.  Given the great mechanism of the human body’s ability to heal and regenerate, many diseases can be brought under control and even reversed.  But why wait and get to the point of damage control?

February is all about the heart! The heart of Valentine and the heart of YOU!

Making good lifestyle choices has been engrained into our psyche.  It is not enough to know that it is important. We must know WHY it is important. Understanding what is happening on a molecular level will make being disciplined in our day to day living a bit easier.

Let’s talk about some of the ways we can minimize our risks of heart disease.

  1. Physical activity. According to numerous NIH studies, exercising consistently lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) and increased HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Another study showed regular exercise at a moderate intensity decreased platelet aggregation thereby decreasing the risk of clotting. An active lifestyle also aids in vascular remodeling and angiogenesis. This phenomenon allows for greater blood perfusion to all tissues and organs while decreasing the chances of ischemia. Some of the more commonly known benefits to exercising are lower BP, lower glucose levels, better weight control and overall reduction in cortisol. Undeniably, numerous studies and data points show a direct link between sedentary living and increased risks of heart disease.  So, lace up and start moving.

 

  1. Diet. We all know processed foods are not good for us. But what exactly is happening at a cellular level with consumption of high fat foods? There is still much debate on the “perfect” heart healthy diet, and that is in part because of the varying ways crops are grown and harvested in different parts of the world. Let me explain. Our food system was once dominated by local markets with little modification to the crops.  However, our modern food chains, depending on the part of the world, have fallen into the hands of government regulations as a part of a global business endeavor.  This transition has led to changes in processing, packaging, and distribution of our food source. Hence the term GMO has become a household name.  That is not to say that everything we put into our mouths is bad.  We just need to become educated on how our food crops are grown.  According to an NIH article, “a large Danish prospective cohort study of the impact of replacing saturated fats with high-GI carbohydrates found that when high-GI carbohydrates replace saturated fat, myocardial infarction (MI) risk increases 33%.”  Refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, excessive sugar intake, low protein and fiber diet have been shown to increase blood sugars that can lead to diabetes.  Excessive glucose in the blood stream increases the likelihood of platelet aggregation and thrombosis.  While we do not need to deprive ourselves of our favorites, we must understand that daily indulgences can increase the risks. So rather than worrying about which diet is the right one, focus more on taking out the processed foods. Remember, shop local and know your crops.

 

  1. Minimize supplements. The jury is out on this one. I believe ‘less is always more’. Many ads convince us by taking multitude of ‘natural’ supplements we can ‘prevent’ diseases from occurring. Since most supplements have not been FDA approved, we do not really know how ‘pure’ the ingredients are. And what’s not to say that some of the fillers used to bind the supplements, couldn’t in some way increase our risk to the heart. I see so many patients come in with bottles and bottles and bottles of supplements in hopes of maintaining optimal health. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that were the case?  But the secret to longevity is not by putting more things into our body, it is taking things OUT. Our bodies are equipped with everything it needs to heal and reset and knows exactly what to do. Why jam the process by adding ‘extras’?  Vitamin D, Magnesium, Omegas, Aspirin all have their place and do provide some protection. My concern with supplements is while it may claim to help now, what happens in five or ten or fifteen years? What if it is later proven that they do more harm than good? We do not know that. It is a calculated risk. But if we give our bodies a chance to restore and protect with its own natural mechanisms, it won’t let us down. We just need to do our part by making the right lifestyle choices.  Exercise, eat clean, sleep, sleep, sleep, hydrate and decrease stress levels.

 

  1. Calm the mind. This one will take lots of practice and conscious effort. Stress causes our bodies to mount a defense against the oncoming attack. This defense triggers inflammatory chemicals to be released into the system. While these components play a vital role in protecting the immune system, it comes at a price.  The cost, cellular inflammation, and DNA mutation. Translation? The start of a disease process before even a single symptom is felt! We all know what those stressors look like – not getting enough sleep, becoming physically over exerted, staying in constant states of worrying, holding onto to things that are not for us to carry.   But all is not lost. Take a step back and ask yourself, ‘how did I get here’? Here – to this place of scurry, hurry and worry. Was it worth it? IS it worth it? Did it get me to where I thought I wanted to go? Or have I dug myself in deeper? My guess is the latter. It is awesome when we become aware of what we have been carrying and even more powerful when we choose to set down that burden. The inflammatory effects of stress are real people! Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it won’t jump out of the closet one day. But we can lower this fury. How? By literally taking a deep breath. Begin to spend time in activities that will help lower the anger of the adrenal glands.  It only takes five-seven minutes a day to do this.  Try this: 

    —As soon as you wake up, instead of checking your social media posts, sit up in bed for few minutes with your eyes closed and envision your cells happy and joyous. Create how you want your day to look.

    —Another way is when you are brushing your teeth or in the shower, choose a mantra and repeat it until you finish that activity. Some of the mantras I have created for myself, “My body is the vehicle that helps me live my dream. And I need to honor that purpose.”
    “My health is important because it is through my body that I can serve others in ways they deserve.”
    “When I invest in my health, I invest in living my life’s purpose.”
    “Healthy living doesn’t have to be hard if I choose to live in simplicity.”

    You get the point. These are just some I play around with. Some days, affirmations occur on the spot. Just go with it. We must not underestimate the power of the spoken word and its effects on the cells which will rise up and match those healing intentions.

    —Meditation, Tai-Chi, Yoga, Pranayama, Essential Oils are some simple resources that can be utilized.  However you choose to focus on you, just choose wisely and lovingly.

 

Writing this blog was a bit of a challenge because I wanted to include just enough data to convince you and me why we should be doing a better job of taking care of our health without sounding like a medical journal regurgitating volumes of stats and case studies.

With every article I write, I always learn something new. But this month was different. This month, I was inspired.

Reading the extensive NIH studies and the concluding data, I was utterly astonished as to just HOW much our simple choices can make a profound difference, good and bad. I have become inspired to be a bit more conscious of my choices and not take for granted every heartbeat.

While we can’t prevent everything, we can at least try.

Happy Heart Month to you all!

Natural Ways To Raise And Maintain Your Immune System

Natural Ways To Raise And Maintain Your Immune SystemEight months into 2020, Covid has become a household name. However we cannot forget the other virus that visits us every winter, Influenza A & B.

Public health officials have been warning us since March that this winter will be the year of the double virus whammy, but what does this mean for us and how can we keep ourselves safe and healthy?

Strong theories suggest because of increased compliance with mask wearing, social distancing and aggressive hand washing, this flu season could be one of the lowest infectious years. It makes sense, but we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

As most of you who know me know, I believe in minimizing supplements and medications and would rather allow the body’s natural defenses to protect us.

So, let’s talk about some natural ways we can raise and maintain our immune system this winter season.

  1. Eliminate processed foods. Excessive intake of sugar and other processed foods triggers inflammatory chemicals, such as cytokines and IL-1, Tumor Necrosis Factor. Overtime, this signals a sense of false-alarm in the body and lowers the body’s response to be able to launch a defense against infections. Processed foods also cause a decrease in the white blood cells needed for optimal immune system. Studies have also shown that a diet high in sugar and salt can cause vaccines to be less effective. This is why maintaining a fresh, clean and whole diet is imperative.
  2. Hydration. Our immune system is highly dependent on nutrients in our blood stream and water is the most important nutrient. Staying well hydrated is also very important for detoxification pathways, increasing lymphatic drainage and clearing out any foreign invaders. Dehydration can contribute to muscle tension, headaches, low serotonin production and digestive issues. I recommend drinking ½-1 oz/ pound body weight. Increased and more strenuous activities will require a higher intake. For example, someone weighing 150lb requires a minimum of 75 oz/day. If plain water is not your jive, try sprucing it up with fresh fruits, lemon, ginger, mint or your choice of flavorings. If the day gets away from you and you find it difficult to get in your quota, try setting an alarm every 20-30minutes as a reminder.  It will make a big difference for your immune system.
  3. Sleep. Our immune system releases proteins called cytokines. These cytokines are needed to help keep us healthy. Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in the release of cytokines as well as a decrease in infection fighting antibodies.  I cannot emphasize how crucial sleep is for our overall well-being. Sleep requires discipline.  Make an effort to shut down all electronic devices one hour before bedtime. Wind down with soothing instrumental music and maybe a warm cup of decaf tea or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage. Take five minutes to write in your gratitude journal or just close your eyes and enjoy the flow of your breath. As simple as all of these may seem, they are the most powerful tools we have. And we each have it in abundance.
  4. Don’t worry. Be happy. Life is a canvas of stress. That won’t change. But how we react to can. Acute or chronic stress raises cortisol levels which decreases our abilities to fight off foreign antigens. Stress also inhibits the body to mount an immune response by decreasing the production of lymphocytes. Of course there are things in life that require our constant attention and can lead us into a path of uncertainty and fear.  Remaining on this path will only takes us into a pit of disease and poor quality of life. Best way to neutralize the effects of stress is to identify which coping mechanisms help you BEFORE stressors arise.  Do you feel happy after a five mile run? Do you forget your troubles after laughing to your favorite sitcom or movie? Does reaching out to your BFF put a smile on your face at the end of the conversation? Or can sitting in silence bring you the peace and calm that is needed? Go on the offense before needing to get defensive.
  5. Essential oils. Health care providers are beginning to incorporate more holistic options into the treatment plan. While much research is still needed and ongoing, the NIH in December 2019 stated, “Certain plants possess immunomodulatory properties exerting effects on various parts of the immune system on both cellular and molecular levels: T cells and other immune effector cells, cytokine, and antibody production.” There are of course many variables that need to be factored in when choosing the correct oils. We must understand the quality control and extraction process of the company.  The plant from which the oils are extracted must be from a reliable healthy source. Understanding the compression process of the oils must retain its natural concentration and properties.  Preliminary studies show certain plants target certain parts of the immune system. Although essential oils shouldn’t be a replacement for medical care, it can be a topic of conversation with your physician.  Many of you may know, I am recovering from Covid.  Not knowing what to expect, I spent two weeks in isolation waiting to see what the day would bring. In May of this year, my daughter got me to try Essential Oils for various conditions, just to see what the hype was all about. During my two weeks with Covid, I thought this would be a good time to test out how effective these oils can really be. I used them in various ways (diffused, topically applied, drops in my water, etc.) and much to my surprise, it offered symptomatic relief for each of my symptoms. I only needed to take Tylenol one time in the entire 14 days. Essential oils may not be for everyone and they are not to be used as a substitution for your prescription medications unless discussed at length with your physician, but I do believe this is another resource to natural holistic support.

Whether you follow one or all of these tips, remember WE WILL get through this. We must be diligent, alert, patient and considerate. We are not only protecting our own health, but also the health of every single person.

Please stay safe. Please stay healthy – and know all will be ok.

Why I Got Into Concierge Medicine

concierge medicineIt feels like every week the world becomes a little more upside-down and inside out. What do we believe? Who do we believe? How do we make the simple day to day decisions that once took mere seconds have now extended into days? When will the vaccine be ready? Will a vaccine be ready? Where do I go to get tested? Can I have my antibody levels checked? What do I do about sending my kids to school in the fall when I am scared to let them out of my sight? And the list goes on and on……

The truth is, I don’t know that any of us have the answers –  it is okay not to know. It is perfectly okay to be feeling everything you are feeling. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t justify it. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Accept that everything you are feeling is legit and valid.

I have spent a great deal of time during these last four months in meditation and introspection.  My intention for these monthly articles is to always in some small way inspire each of you. But what do I write about that isn’t already out there? How can we have a conversation that doesn’t include a left or right or an up or a down? How can I translate my thoughts into words and hope it will inspire a wave of health and healing?

The only way I know how to do that is to be myself. Raw and authentic.

I thought I would share the story of how I came to practice with the principles and beliefs that I hold.

There was a time in my early years of practice when my patient schedule would be bookmarked with 20+ patients, all spaced in increments of 15 minutes.  I barely had time to say ‘Hi’ to them and next thing I knew, I was walking out the door. There was no time to ask them how they were doing or how the family, kids, or work life was going. We had time to address only one problem at each visit, leaving the rest for a future appointment.

I will never forget the day that I decided I needed to make a change. It was March 2011, and as usual my schedule was double booked with no breaks in sight. As a person who is time conscious, I make it a point to stay on time, but one small set back in the day would put me behind by at least an hour. The day started like any other. I was feeling good that I was on schedule and the stars were aligning.  By late morning, a quick 5 minute break opened. I felt like I hit the jackpot.  I walked into to see my next patient before that break, only to find out her beloved husband had suddenly died.  How could I leave her in the middle of her anguished tears just because the timer on the 15 minutes was ticking down? I couldn’t! So I stayed there to be with her.

I was very well aware of the angry patients that began to line up after her. They also had places to go, things to do, people to see. However, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that our time was finished. I wanted to give her the respect of my time as she began telling me about the special love she shared with her soulmate for over 50 years.

I also knew it was not fair to the others who were waiting after her because their time was just as important and valuable.

The internal tug-o-war was too much for me to handle. Both pulled at my heart strings and I didn’t know what the right thing to do was. Stay and comfort or politely excuse myself?

It was in that moment I knew I couldn’t do this anymore.  How was I to take care of somebody in 15 minutes when they were placing so much trust in me to help them?

I went home that night 2 hours behind schedule only to collapse into a pool of defeat.

When I graduated from medical school, I took the oath “First Do No Harm,”  NOT  “First Do No Harm but only for 15 minutes!”

This realization left me with no choice except to make the decision to change to Concierge Medicine.

In September 2011, I began my new practice. There was an exponential learning curve during those initial days.  I had to give myself permission to take my time. I had to get used to the fact that there was no reason for me to rush. What a feeling of freedom and joy I had!!  Nine years later, my patients have become like family. I cherish hearing their stories. I relish in their experiences, and I rejoice in their healing.

Concierge medicine has allowed me to scale down my patient volume from having a panel of 3000 patients to a panel of 300 patients.  This gave me the opportunity to take care of patients in a way I never thought possible. The concept of Concierge Medicine has only come to the forefront in recent years. As more focus is directed towards preventative medicine, concierge practices will soon become mainstream medicine. The last nine years have offered me the opportunity to engage in full dialogue with each one of you. I no longer feel a sense of urgency to stop the appointments in mid-sentence in an effort to stay on time. For me, the most profound experience has been the process of learning together with my patients. I always say I don’t have all the answers, but why not find out together? To engage in dialogue that brings about mutual growth and discovery is the best platform I know how to offer.

The time gives me the chance to earn your trust and I hope it allows you to feel heard.

We don’t always get it right – but we always have something to work towards.

Why I am writing about this now is because everything around us, outside of us and inside of us, is chaos and confusion.  When equal trust spans between physician-patient, you know you have an anchor to always hold onto.

Practicing Concierge Medicine is the reason my bond with each of you allows me the space to say “You know what? I don’t know what is going to happen.  I don’t know when things are going to be okay, but together we will figure it out.”

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Tips For Working Out At Home

working out at homeSix weeks have passed since ringing in the New Year with all of those promising resolutions to get healthy. We set our intentions and march forward to sign up for those “unbeatable” gym specials. However, Old Man Winter can get in the way of leaving the house so we can keep up with those promising resolutions.

Whatever the reason that kept you from using that newly minted membership card, look no further. Here are my suggestions on ways to stay active without having to leave your home.

The benefits of incorporating resistance training far surpasses hours on a cardio machine.  Resistance bands have become one of my absolute favorite tools to have.  The versatility as well as the safety and ease of use are suitable to almost all fitness levels.

Bands are available online or at any retail store. Depending on the brand, prices can range from $5-$30+, a very worthwhile investment.

If you have any medical concerns that may preclude you from exercising, be sure to discuss it with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.

My Band Resistant Workout: Recommend 3x/week

Warm-up: 7 minutes

Block 1: Repeat 2x rounds.  Tie band around a sturdy structure so that both ends are available to hold. (ie a wall pillar, couch leg, a tree etc)

  1. Band squats. Extend arms straight holding on to end of the band, squat, one sec pause at the bottom and then stand. Repeat 15x reps.
  2. Alternating lunges. Extend arms straight holding on to end of band, alternate reverse lunges

Repeat 15x reps each side.

  1. Squat jack. Extend arms straight holding on to end of the band, sit low in a squat and begin jumping jacks. Repeat 30x low squat jack.

Cardio:  2 minutes high knees

Block 2: Repeat 2x rounds. Free up band from structure.

  1. Lateral pulldown. Hold band in the center with approximately 12 inches between each hand, then raise band overhead and while pulling down to chest, pull the bands apart. Stop mid chest and slowly extend back overhead. Repeat 15x reps.
  2. Bicep curls. With hands in same position as 1st exercise, rest the hands on the thighs palms facing up. Next, create tension on the band by pulling it apart in opposite direction as you flex the elbows to the foreheard. Lower back down slowly. Repeat 15x reps.
  3. Chest pull aparts. Keeping band at chest level, begin pulling the band in opposite directions to outside of chest, 3 sec pause, slowly return to center. Repeat 15x reps.

Cardio: 2 minutes run in place

Cool down/Stretch: 7 minutes.

This format is only a starting point to get you motivated to stay focused on your health. There are any number of resources (online videos, books or magazines, personal trainers) that maybe utilized to take these few exercises and transform them into a consistent way of life, no matter what the outside circumstance maybe.

Be greater than your excuses!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Must Have Exercise Equipment

Exercise EquipmentHave you ever walked into a gym, took one look at the equipment, and turned right around and walked out?

All the latest and greatest gadgets can not only be daunting, but they can also leave one to ponder who comes up with this crazy stuff.

Well, let me tell you, this is my absolute favorite thing to write about. I love and adore anything fitness. Some people reach for the latest upgrades to their Smartphones. Not me, I reach for the most convoluted apparatus to hit the market.

Don’t let lack of experience deter you from your fitness goals. If the gym is not your thing, no problem.

However, there is no excuse not to exercise.  Our aging bodies need movement to keep the joints mobile, hormones in check, metabolism up and mental sanity functioning.

Listening to your body’s cues will help streamline what type of exercise is optimal for you. Once you start on this journey, you will never want to live without it.

For those that prefer to workout in the privacy of their homes or in the nucleus of Mother Nature, here are 5 must have equipment staples:

  1. MAT. Your mat is there to support you, ground you and keep you safe. Yoga, pilates, core work, deep fascial stretching, restorative meditation are just a few of the opportunities the mat brings. Have one in the car at all times. You never know when you may have free time in your day to take to the mat.
  2. DUMBBELLS. Resistance training is a non-negotiable component to exercising. While doing cardio formats are great, strength training is where systemic balance occurs. We all know resistance training helps maintain bone strength. But did you know it also helps lower cholesterol, improve insulin resistance, decrease cellular inflammation and increase metabolism? For optimal results, strength training should be done 3-4x/wk.  Begin with the basic exercises: squats, lunges, pushups, planks. As your strength improves, begin adding weights. With those that are affected by orthopedic injuries, water aerobics is an excellent alternative.
  3. RESISTANCE BANDS. Just like my purse, these go EVERYWHERE with me. How can a latex tube cause so many muscles to cry out for mercy? That is because they are just awesome. Lightweight, compact and so versatile, bands are the best travel accessory one can pack. Resistance bands are colored for the varying intensities. Each resistance level represents the weight in pounds. For example, depending on the manufacturer company, a blue band may have enough resistance of lifting 8-10# dumbells.  This is one purchase that is a must have.
  4. SUSPENSION STRAPS.  This is where the fun begins! Straps were initially used in the military to train soldiers in various structural suspended planes. Just as the name implies, the majority of the exercises are done in a suspended manner relying on your core and the straps to keep you from falling. I bought my first set of straps 10 years ago and it still continues to be my go to on a day when I need to go all out. Many different companies have created off-brands that make it easily affordable.  Suspension straps are for every level.  That’s what makes them so great! Trust me. You will not regret adding this to your collection.
  5. FOAM ROLLER.  Cardiovascular and resistance training causes micro tears in the deep muscle fibers. The body’s natural defense mechanism is to increase blood flow and lay down new tissue to repair the damage. In the process of regeneration, scar tissue begins to develop. Over time, the scar tissue will start to inhibit range of motion in the joints. This restriction leads to injuries and avoidable traumas. Foam rolling is used to ‘knead’ out those scar tissues. If possible, do it daily for 5-10 minutes. Those that foam roll on a regular basis, notice an improvement in their overall quality of exercise.  Foam rollers also make great tools for pilates/strength exercises. Relying heavy on the core, rollers help improve balance and postural stability.

There are many other available modalities, other than those listed here, that constantly challenge our physical form.  The five listed above is a great starting point for beginners and a must-have for all advanced athletes.

We must continuously change our approach to our body and evolve our techniques so that we may keep up with the emerging science and aging self.

Be mindful and practice safe proper form.  Remember, how you work out is how you will end up looking. There are a plethora of online videos that show correct technique. Find your favorite instructor and bring the training home to you.

We all have to climb this mountain of healthy living someday.  Start now when you GET to rather than waiting until you HAVE to. The choice is YOURS! Choose YOU! The view from the top really is more breathtaking!

Causes Of Fatigue

fatigueFatigue. It is something that plagues us more often than it should, and stands before us in ways and reasons we least expect. Tiredness is an all-encompassing umbrella of symptoms we use when we don’t know what is wrong with us. Some common things we tell ourselves typically are:

* I’m getting older.

*Work is getting the best of me.

*Maybe this is how life is supposed to be.

Let’s get real and talk about it. Not just chalk it up to “this is how life is.” So before filling that next prescription, or reaching for caffeine, let’s look at some causes.

  1. Hormonal imbalances. The female cycle begins entering peri-menopause around the age of 35 as it prepares to head into menopause.  The fluctuating and many times irrational hormonal swings disrupt the adrenal, thyroid and insulin metabolism. This then causes an imbalance in the hormonal ecosystem. Similarly, declining testosterone levels in men results in hormonal fatigue. Pay attention and make note of any symptoms. While blood work doesn’t always confirm hormonal shifts, the body can clue us in on the upcoming changes.
  2. Food sensitivities. Just like with environmental allergies, the attack on our GI tract triggers an immunomodulated response via the mast cells. When the body is exposed to foods that it may be sensitive too, histamine is released causing a catalyst of inflammation. If you experience itchy skin, rashes, joint swelling, sudden depressive symptoms for no reason, headaches, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc, instead of checking the mold count, start looking in your pantry as to what might be causing it. Many times the tiredness we are experiencing starts in our own kitchen. Assume everything and anything is causing it, UNTIL you prove it othewise.
  3. Change in prescription manufacturers. This can be an entire blog by itself. In my 20 years of practice, I have never seen more symptoms arising from the very treatment that was designed to help the initial complaint. Regulations for quality control of medications that enter the U.S. are expected to maintain a level of “purity.” A single generic medication can be manufactured by multiple different companies. If you notice your medications look different from month to month, look at the label for the manufacturer name. All prescription labels will have either MFG or NDC#. The NDC# is the number given to each manufacture company. While the same generic medication you have been taking for years, now looks different, that very well could be exactly what is leading to more time spent on the couch. I advise all of my patients to keep a log of every single medication, the manufacturer, the appearance of the medicine, date filled and any corresponding symptoms. Having all the information in one table helps rule out a simple manufacturer change as a source. So before adding another thing to help you feel better, take out the possible offenders.
  4. Supplements. Since when did we need to start taking so many extras to slow down aging? Generations before us only needed what nature provided to live. So what has changed that we now require a pill box to keep our supplements straight? That is right, we don’t! First of all, ask your body what it is lacking that only replenishing with external sources will help. Next, check those levels. If levels are low, find out why they are low before adding another to the list. Most of the supplements we consume are not even necessary. Bring the body back to basics. Bring it into its natural healing. The fillers, binders, preservatives, and other chemicals dilute the active component. So we are again intoxicating our system with sources that is worsening the very symptom we thought was improving.
  5. Movement. It’s such a catch 22. We are so tired, we become sedentary. By being sedentary, we are adding to the fatigue. So how to stop this hamster wheel? Simple. Take the first step. Being inactive causes more than just a few lazy days. Studies have shown limited activity increases risk of cancers, heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases and so on.  You don’t have to go run a marathon. But you do have to lace up those shoes and take one step. One step will lead to two, and then three and then before you know it, your life will transform into a haven of energy and healing.  I have friends who I have encouraged to get active, but they resist. I have better luck getting them to the gynecologist! I tell them this very same thing. At some point in each of our lives, we are ALL going to have to climb this mountain. It is inevitable. It is better to climb it now when it is not that steep and you have more people on your team to give you a hand up. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes and the lonelier it feels.  May as well do it while you can. Work smarter! Not harder!
  6. Poor sleep. This seems obvious but I am going to bring it to you from an unconventional angle. YOU CANNOT CATCH UP ON SLEEP! We sleep so the human vehicle is able to” pull into the gas station” and fuel up and be ready to go the next day. If we compromise on our sleep, the body is expected to operate like it was on a full tank of gas but only half full. The great human machine’s only purpose is to keep us alive and operating. If it runs low on fuel, it pulls its resources from the hormones. Ahhhh……now you get it……..another way your hormones are affected!! You can’t expect the body to guzzle down a full tank so it can “catch up.”  Just the same, each night we compromise on our sleep, is another opportunity lost. Turn off the screen and restore your life.

Fatigue is not some rare disease that we are trying to discover. It is an everyday symptom that is often times self-induced, knowingly or unknowingly.

Heal the body by taking things out. Remove the strangulation from gimmicky health promises. Escape the trap of fearing something is wrong with you. Allow this glorious physical existence to talk with you. Everything you need to know and hear is being conveyed to you. The human body has an enormous unimaginable ability to heal.  Look 365 degrees in every direction and you will see that you have the ultimate power to discover and accept exactly what you need to live an optimal, healthy and flourished life!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT  our office today to schedule your appointment.

You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.