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What’s New! – A Healthy Living Newsletter

July, 2001

My patients frequently ask my opinion about new health books on the market. And there's certainly no shortage of experts peddling their advice! While many of these books are excellent, others are written by people who don't have a clinical background in the subject. Simply put - they're inaccurate.

The people writing the books either don't regularly use the medicines they write about or they're presenting theories as if they are facts. Others can be valuable tools for improving the quality of your life.




Love & Survival
The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy
By Dean Ornish, MD

Did you know that the typical health risks for heart disease such as high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, and genetics only account for 50% of the people who develop a heart condition? But if the other 50% don't have these risk factors, then how come they also develop heart disease?

That's the question Dean Ornish answers in Love and Survival.

Most of you have already heard of Dean Ornish in connection with his revolutionary cardiac program, which includes an extremely low-fat vegetarian diet, complete with exercise and meditation. (I tried 5 different recipes out of his cookbook and ended up unable to get my vegetarian kids or husband to eat anymore than one taste without significantly changing the recipe. So, don't buy the cookbook unless you have recently suffered a heart attack and need serious short-term intervention.) However, Love and Survival is a different book altogether.

Ornish cites one reputable scientific study after another to arrive at the conclusion that many people learn from life's experience. "Anything that promotes feelings of love and intimacy is healing; anything that promotes isolation, separation, loneliness, loss, hostility, anger, cynicism, depression, alienation and related feeling often leads to suffering, disease and premature death from all causes." This has been repeatedly proven with cancer patients who join support groups. That support group becomes a community of people with the same condition nurturing and helping each other. This translates into both a lower mortality rate and better quality of life for these seriously ill people

The author shares his own journey of cultivating love and intimacy, along with those of some of his patients without becoming mushy or "woo-woo". When he talks about "opening his heart", he is referring to breaking down emotional barriers, not contacting the cosmos. One of the ways in which this can be done is by forgiving others. This form of forgiveness is not excusing someone from his/her action in hurting you, but empowering and freeing yourself from the pain of chronic anger, separation and isolation.

Books like Love and Survival are powerful tools that unfortunately end up being returned to the library or gather dust on a bookshelf. As Ornish puts it, "if the medical community found a drug that would double the length of survival in …cancer, almost every doctor would prescribe it". So, why aren't we all working on our emotional health and well-being? Why do we opt to have that surgery or take that pill and ignore a powerful medicine like emotional health as an adjunct in our treatment? Who knows, maybe one day your survival may depend on it.

Losing It
American's Obsession with Weight and the Industry That Feeds on It
By Laura Fraser

I saw the title and had to read the book. I hoped to get some suggestions on how to convince patients that diets can be harmful to their health and basically don't work. Fraser, a writer by trade, and a former yo-yo dieter explains this and in addition, exposes the billion-dollar diet industry, it's lack of conclusive medical research and the story behind the major players.

According to Fraser, most of female America has a bizarre fascination with achieving a pencil-thin actress/model body that hovers between a size 4 and size 6. So, we torture ourselves with equally bizarre weight loss methods: grapefruit diets, high carbohydrate, no carbohydrate and no fat diets, watermelon diets, chocolate chip cookie diets, candy bar diets… and the list goes on.

When they don't work or to make them work better, we use drugs like PPA (phenylpropanolamine also know as Dexatrim, Acutrim, Thinz, etc.) to speed up our metabolism. There is no mention on the Dexatrim container or in popular literature that this OTC drug is banned in 95% of developed countries because of its tendency to increase the risk of strokes, anxiety and high blood pressure. And when we are truly obese, we have the endearing options of stapling our stomachs shut, having a balloon inflated in our stomachs, and my personal favorite for lunacy - wiring our jaws shut.

Along the way, we need support, so we find a guru to abuse us into compliance like Susan Powter ("Stop the Madness"), or to cajole us, like Richard Simmons. For more personal advice, we join Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or see a Bariatric Physician (medical doctor specializing in obesity). We pay out for vitamins, flat-tasting foods or candy bars, or go on liquid diets.

But it gets worse. We eat nonfoods like boxes of Snackwells (very high in sugar and low in fat), tasteless nonfat cheeses, brownies, soft drinks, potato chips, and even dangerous nonfoods like Olestra, which depletes our body of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E, needed for proper healthy functioning. We count calories or weigh our foods. We learn to hate food and ourselves.

One of the many points that Fraser drives home is the our need to personally refute the myth that a perfect body (size 4 or 6), would lead to the Cinderella story complete with a prince, a good-paying job, tremendous self-esteem and no worries. If you still believe it, then look at the women in Hollywood with their merry-go-round relationships and ups-and-downs in status.

As you can probably tell by now, I really loved this book. Fraser does get a bit carried away with her history of why American women are obsessed with their bodies, but her detailed analysis of the various facets of the diet industry are excellent. Even more importantly, she talks about failure and how we repeatedly blame ourselves for gaining the weight back while we should be blaming a diet system that is designed for failure. Where would Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers be without repeat business? You could go through their program 3 or 4 times. Think about this -- if it worked consistently and everyone lost the weight and kept it off, their business would be a fraction of what it is now.

So what solution does Fraser offer? The same one that I preach in my office - eat when you are hungry and learn to cultivate a taste for good foods. Enjoy food. Real food - the kind you have to cook yourself. Savor every morsel of that Pasta Primavera with its fresh succulent crisp vegetables, delicious cheese and pasta with a hint of fresh olive oil and basil. Get up and exercise. Not as a torture to justify eating that second brownie, but for health. And lastly, as Fraser says, accept our healthy body in whatever size it comes in. If we are 5'6" and 180 lbs and we eat a healthy diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains and fish, exercise regularly and have low cholesterol, high HDLs, and average blood pressure, then it's OK.

The Hot Flash Cookbook
By Cathy Luchetti
(Forward by Risa Kagan, M.D.)

Hot Flashes average only 2 years out of a woman's life, but most menopausal women agree that it seems like more. Either the hot flashes wake you out of your sleep, or they make you wish that you were invisible when they happen in public. Cathy Luchetti wrote The Hot Flash Cookbook when her own hot flashes drenched her one too many times. She wanted to minimize them in as natural a way as possible. She did it by learning to cook healthier, and then wrote this cookbook. But, as you may have guessed, this is no ordinary cookbook. First, the forward is written by a medical doctor. And second, Luchetti starts with a well-researched explanation of the connection between menopause, health and food.

According to Luchetti, by the time that most American women reach menopause, they are often worn down by years of raising children and/or working part or full-time in or out of-the-house. Prolonged stress can lead to adrenal gland depletion. At menopause, the ovaries decrease their production of estrogen. Normally, the adrenal glands take over with estrogen production. If the adrenal glands are shot from stress, then menopause can look very similar to adrenal depletion: irritability, fatigue, mood swings, nervous disorders and depression.

What's the solution? - A diet rich in phytoestrogens, Vitamin E and the minerals calcium and magnesium. Phytoestrogens are plant constituents with weak hormonal-like properties. They are found in beans, vegetables, and whole grains. That's why other cultures who eat a less processed diet than we do, don't suffer menopausal symptoms to the same extent.

Luchetti throws in a few extra bits of information for us to chew over - such as oregano, licorice, soymilk and thyme have been shown in preliminary studies to be highly effective in blocking the estrogens that cause tumor growth. That's good news if you have a history of breast, ovarian, cervical or endometrial cancer in your family.

But what about the recipes? They're good. How does "Fettuccine with Oysters and Arugula" or "Game Hens with Wild Rice and Orange-Ginger Glaze" sound? And if you have been afraid to try tofu, now is your big chance. Luchetti shares 17 different tofu recipes - many with an Oriental influence.

So, if you are menopausal or know someone who is, then share this book with her. The Hot Flash Cookbook is a valuable adjunct to a healthy and "dry" menopause.

Herb Tip:

If you have high blood pressure, then licorice may be one candy you should avoid. Along with too much sugar, Licorice candy contains a small amount of the herb Glycerrhiza (commonly know as Licorice). Glycerrhiza when eaten in excess can contribute to high blood pressure. Moreover, Glycerrhiza can be found in many products including herbal teas. A small amount is fine; several cups of licorice tea or 1/4 pound of candy daily is not.

Health Tip:

When you put away your child's electric blanket for the summer, consider giving it away - permanently. Electric blankets emit an electromagnetic field that might contribute to some medical conditions. There are several studies in the last five years that are looking at electric blankets and a possible relationship to breast cancer nad childhood leukemia. So far, there is no established relationship with breast cancer and electric blankets, but in two small trials, there have been a possible correlation between childhood leukemia and the use of electric blankets. What does this mean? Before a definite cause and effect can be established, many tests, by many different researchers must obtain the same results. However, the fact that the researchers are looking is enough to be cautious.

Copyright 2001 Dr. Suzanne C. Lawton, LLC

 

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