It was generally accepted that the earth was flat until someone came along and challenged that concept. He was ridiculed and met with many obstacles even though he had compelling proof. It takes a quorum to embrace a paradigm shift. Someone has to stick his or her neck out and stand steadfast in changing other’s beliefs. Medicine is no different. It is an exciting field and over the years many accepted treatments and beliefs have been shattered. This is all good. We are living well beyond what our ancestors lived and facing new challenges as a result of that. Healthy aging and staying active with a clear, sharp mind and agile healthy body can make a huge difference in the quality of our lives. Much of what I learned was from integrating traditional, functional medicine, integrative medicine, anti aging medicine and personalized medicine techniques. I want to share some books whose concepts shaped my way of thinking and how I approach evaluating and treating patients. The books I will focus on in this article have to do with our minds, brains and how food, nutrients and behaviors influence them. After all, it’s our minds and thoughts that drive all of our behaviors which affect our health.
Mind, Body and Stress
In our fast paced, competitive environment filled with information overload, demands for our attention and need for constant change, stress has become the major ager and is thought to be at the root cause of many acute and chronic illnesses. Stress is not a temperament, it is a learned behavior and many a scientist defined how it affects us. Stress can raise blood pressure and pulse, elevate cortisol a hormone that can dampen our immune system, make us store fat, lose our memory, break down muscle and bone and cause fluctuations in blood sugar. Finding ways to break the cycle, prevent or undo the damage stress causes is critical for our ability to survive and thrive.
Herbert Benson, MD, a Harvard trained physician and author of “The Relaxation Response” showed that meditation has some very significant physiologic effects and scientifically proved that you can reverse the damaging effects of the stress response. It may be accepted and understood now but this was a radical shift in thinking. When I first introduced meditation in the workplace, it was never done before and was looked upon with skepticism, however having a reputable scientist validate the positive benefits made it easier to implement.
I still recommend an old book by Jon Kabat Zinn, MD called “Full Catastrophe Living.” The teachings in this book are very practical and most people can relate to the stressors of everyday living. Dealing with pain, illness, stress, anxiety and loss can be eased with the practical techniques as well as shifting the way you think and respond to these maladies. While there are many great books and tapes on this topic, these were the books that made meditation an acceptable and valued tool to manage stress and illness and are still timeless.
Our Brains can Change
When I was in medical school and throughout my training and career, it was thought that the brain could not regenerate or repair and that most of the processes or pathways were fixed. Daniel Amen, MD in his book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness, was able to show that the brain CAN change! Through diet, supplements, medication and training, the brain can heal, repair, develop new healthy patterns and set behaviors could be modified. In my practice of integrative medicine NJ, functional medicine and anti aging medicine, I see many people who are anxious, depressed, angry and impulsive and when they change their diet, feed their brain the nutrients it needs to thrive, exercise to get those nutrients to the brain and balance their hormones which relates to many mood disorders, the results are phenomenal. We no longer have to accept that we can’t change our brains. This paradigm shift allowed us to find ways to overcome issues that were thought to be fixed. David Perlmutter, MD author of “The Better Brain Book: The Best Tool for Improving Memory and Sharpness and Preventing Aging of the Brain,” gives hope to all of those who are losing or afraid of losing their memory and suffering the damaging effects of dementia. Our lifestyle and environment shapes the expression of our genes and the quality of our health and these books can empower you to take charge and make changes that keep your brains functioning optimally.
Food for Thought
Dr. David Perlmutter is also the author of “Grain Brain.” In this book, he offers a lot of scientific evidence on the effects grains and gluten have on our brains. They inflame our brains and can cause depression, brain fog, and loss of memory, anxiety, and irritability and are associated with many autoimmune disorders. If you think going gluten free is a passing phase, read “Wheat Belly,” by William Davis, MD. I am not easily convinced of the many food fads that are widely marketed and accepted, however this book chronicles how wheat and the proteins in gluten have changed and the effects on our health such as obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease and cardiovascular and other disorders. While not everyone needs to go gluten or wheat free, I have seen amazing transformations in my patients who have eliminated wheat and gluten from their diets, as has Dr. Davis.
These are just some of the books that have transformed my thinking because they were rooted in good science, convinced me that they are not passing fads and having implemented these concepts into treatment plans, I have seen many lives transformed. These and others inspired me to write my own book, “Vibrance for Life: How to Live Younger and Healthier.” Open your minds up to new perspectives try some of the recommendations in these books or seek the advice of a functional medicine, integrative medicine or anti aging physician to help you achieve optimum health.