“DR. ZEN JEN IS NOW IN”
With all the hub-bub about socialized medicine or whatever we are going to call this new modality there are some concerns/advice I would like to offer. This is with the disclaimer that I have not read the bill. But hey, neither have our lawmakers. So I think we are on a level playing field.
Personal responsibility with regards to one’s health habits is emphasized with obesity being a priori. To be sure “it can’t go on if it doesn’t go in” (referencing fat and food), but there is more to metabolism than simply calories, making this a bit of an unfair target for the government and insurers. As one patient so eloquently stated: one can live without cigarettes, but one cannot live without food. That simple statement opened my eyes on how to approach patients with weight issues. Don’t get me wrong. Making obesity the new “dragon to slay” for healthcare is a good idea. Lot of health issues can be directly related to carrying extra poundage.
However this problem is multifactorial – far more so than smoking. Genetics and home environment are two of the variables and a third is MSG – monosodium glutamate.
Being a University of Michigan alum there existed throughout Ann Arbor the infamous granola people. You’ve met them. Toothpick thin, eating tree bark and lawn clippings, riding their bicycles everywhere, they espouse the evils of meat, pollution, and msg. I thought they were crazy. I was wrong. Recently a study showed that MSG does cause weight gain. Genetically identical rats (talk about bad karma to reincarnate as such) were fed the same amount of calories and underwent the same amount of exercise. The difference was the purity of the food: MSG or no MSG. The rodents that dined on the MSG laced food gained a statistically significant amount of weight. Probably has something to do at the cellular level like the mitochondria. Nonetheless, score one for the granola people!!
What does that mean for the rest of us? Sit down, put on some mood music and Google MSG. It’s not just in Chinese restaurants. It’s everywhere! And approved by our government as safe!! When one considers the penalty for obesity (higher premiums and/or co-pays) in the new health bill it seems to be a bit of a double standard.
Another double whammy in the processed food department is high fructose corn syrup – a product of corn that is said to have the same calories and sweetness as sugar without being sugar. Flat out – do not eat this garbage!!
There’s no research to back what I am about to say so take it for what it is worth. Moons ago when I was in medical school we knew that fatty liver from alcohol consumption was bad and let us know that cirrhosis and liver failure were on their way. This condition (fatty liver) can also be as a consequence of consumptionous maximus my silly way of saying eating too much. This we thought was benign and would not progress to liver failure. Patients were told to simply put the fork down and lose weight. Now we know that it too can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. As a physician I’m here to tell you that fatty liver is everywhere!! And so is high fructose corn syrup. Read your labels. It’s number one or two in ketchup. As for high fructose corn syrup and obesity being cause and effect – I can’t say. Certainly our sedentary life styles lend to the tipping of the scales, but quoting the fitness guru Jack Lalane (born in 1914 and still kickin’) : “if man makes it, don’t eat it”. If you have a sweet tooth use turbinado sugar, raw sugar, honey, or stevia. Better yet – eat some fruit. Sadly the very government entity that exists to protect our food has shown itself as being able to be “bought” (Vioxx), making me a less likely to have faith in their “anointing” of high fructose corn syrup as being safe.
As for the activity part of the equation and health, let’s face it, exercise rocks! It helps weight loss, lowers blood pressure, improves bone mass, lowers blood sugar, it’s an aphrodisiac (could be someone you meet at the gym?), it lowers cholesterol, strengthens the immune system, it improves heart, kidney, and brain function and it’s an antidepressant. It’s portable, cheap, and easy – just walk a half hour a day if nothing else! We as a society have gotten lazy. My son texts me from his room versus getting up and asking me a question. (No, I do not live in a huge mansion though when it needs to be cleaned it can feel like such!). I encourage my patients to walk a lap or two around Walmart then shop or even park a little further from the store. Sneak in those 10,000 steps a day to get three miles of ground covered. And here is a little snipe back at the granola people: even if you do not lose weight it is healthier to be overweight and active versus bean pole thin and a couch potato.
Now I would like to switch gears to the swine flu or H1N1. (For my thoughts on the “original cause” of this disease please see my archived article “Swine Flu“). Funny how the media is all up in arms over this flu and yet we ignore the seasonal flu that kills 30,000+ people annually in our nation alone. Vaccinate or not for the swine flu? If you believe you need one then you probably do. I do highly recommend the regular seasonal flu vaccine as well as the pneumonia vaccine. The latter is to what most people succumb if they die of complications secondary to the flu. Of equal import to the flu shot and pneumovax are the following: wash your hands vigorously with running water, keep them away from your face, get good rest, and feed your mind and body with healthy choices. We are multidimensional beings with spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical bodies. Feces flows down hill. Get out of balance in any one of the first three areas and disease will manifest physically. Which brings me to my own plug: feeling stressed out? Try a healing session with me. Available by appointment most evenings and weekends! Use the contact page to request a session.
So in summary, to survive the health care challenge we need to do our part and become more self actualizing. Exercise, avoid MSG and high fructose corn syrup, drink water when you’re thirsty, and only eat when truly hungry, wash hands often, rest, and read/do something spiritual on a daily basis.