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5 Naturopathic Health Myths Debunked
Myth # 1 - I've tried "everything"
This is a phrase that we hear over and over on our discovery calls. Many patients feel like they've done everything that they can to get better. However, within a few short minutes it becomes clear that there are many stones still unturned. When a person submits to the thought of having "tried everything" they subconsciously submit to the idea that nothing more can be done.
Most people we speak to have never had functional lab testing which can be fundamental to the healing process. Chances are there are many aspects of your health that have not yet been fully explored.
Myth # 2 - If this worked, my doctor would know about it
Allopathic medicine operates out of a completely different paradigm than functional medicine.
Allopathic medicine focuses on the name of the disease and implements a one-size-fits-all approach that centers around symptom management and pharmaceutical drugs. This is fine for acute care or emergency interventions to help you feel better in a traumatic or life-threatening situation. However, in long-term chronic care circumstances, treating a disease through symptom management never leads to true healing and can often end up exacerbating the problem.
In stark contrast, naturopathic health is more focused on uncovering the root causes of your health issues and providing a personalized plan to correct them and help you actually get better. We help coach up your adaptive physiology by treating the entire body as a whole, integrated unit that has the ability to self-heal once it is properly balanced and provided with the correct inputs. We also believe that there is a time and place for intelligent allopathy, and will recommend it accordingly if we feel it’s necessary.
Myth # 3 - I don't have time
We are all allotted the same amount of time in a day, and that time passes whether you’re healthy or sick. Few things are more wasteful than time spent managing an illness or disease. Think of all the hours spent online researching your illness or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room for a 15-minute visit. When you don’t feel well, you’re also less productive at work, and that can impact your finances - which leads to more time wasted spent worrying about your bottom line.
We believe that being healthy is one of the best ways to free up more time for you to do the things you enjoy the most with the people you love the most. In order to help you make the most of your time, we offer the option and convenience of telephone and recorded video consultations to provide you with clear, concise directions on how to finally take control of your health and your life. The next 24 hours are going to pass regardless of what you do. Why not spend them pursuing better health?
Myth # 4 - Functional medicine is expensive
This is the biggest misconception about functional medicine - primarily because we’ve been conditioned to expect insurance to pay for everything. In doing so, we have unwittingly ceded control of our wellness over to the lowest bidder - at the expense of our own health. In reality, functional medicine is the most affordable form of healthcare on the planet, especially when you consider that the average person spends more money in their lifetime in the allopathic model managing a disease or illness without ever truly healing.
Thankfully, some forward-thinking insurance companies and governments are now running pilot-projects to demonstrate the significant cost savings to both patients and healthcare systems using a functional medicine model, while at the same time helping participants achieve increased positive health outcomes.
Sometimes the true cost of services being rendered isn’t just measured in dollars and cents, and just because something is covered by your insurance company does not make it cheaper. We’re proud of the fact that the average Living Well patient saves over thousands of dollars each year in medical expenses, while at the same time learning a liberating life skill that can be taught to their own children and loved ones. When choosing a healthcare provider, it’s important to look beyond the cost of something, and instead consider it’s value. In this manner, naturopathic healthcare wins every time.
Myth # 5 - I can figure this out on my own
We live in the era of information, and the entirety of the world’s knowledge is available at your fingertips. Yet the most valuable information you need for true healing is the knowledge of what’s going on inside your body, and until now you weren’t allowed to access this information without the permission of your doctor or insurance company. The Living Well team is trained to ask you the right questions and order the right lab testing to provide you with a deeper insight into your personal health challenges and how to overcome them.
Functional lab testing clues you into information that you or your doctor would never know otherwise. Our goal when partnering with you is to help identify the root cause of your health problems, teach you the appropriate life skills you need to remedy them, and support you as needed. Self-navigating through the sea of conflicting information ends up costing you both your health and your sanity. We don’t recommend it.
Top 8 Naturopathic Nutrition Questions
“I’m new to this whole nutrition thing. Where do I start?”
Let’s start by eliminating nutritional deficiencies. This one is always interesting, because no one ever wants to believe they have nutritional deficiencies. People might not want to hear it at first, but nutrition beginners don’t need a major diet overhaul on day one. They don’t need to “go Paleo” or “eliminate sugar.” Our first step should be to our eyes to the fact that you probably have one or more nutritional deficiencies (seriously — more than 80 percent of the population has at least one). Until nutritional deficiencies are removed, the body simply won’t function properly — and that makes any health or fitness goal a lot harder. So, to eliminate deficiencies, our first order of business is to help you find workable strategies for rounding out the diet, so you get: a bit more protein, ample vitamins and minerals, sufficient healthy fats, and more water.
We’re going to help you establish optimal eating habits one step at a time. Once nutritional deficiencies are addressed, you can start to focus on things like food quality and portions. This process isn’t slow; it’s systematic. It focuses on the things that are in your way right now. Once they’re eliminated, progress happens fast.
“What’s the best diet to follow?”
There is no “best diet." Everyone wants to know: "Which dietary “camp” do you belong to?"
We are in a neutral position on this and do not subscribe to any one dietary philosophy. Why? All dietary protocols have their pros and cons. What works best for one person won’t work best for another. Also, A diet that has worked best for someone in the past won’t necessarily be what works best for them moving forward. We’re going to help you find the approach to eating that works best for you right now, whether it be Paleo or vegan, high-carb or low-carb, tight budget or unlimited funds — or some blend of all of these.
The truth is, the human body is amazingly adaptable to a vast array of diets, so the best diet is the one that: matches your unique physiology, includes foods you enjoy enough to follow consistently, and
is realistic for you in terms of life logistics and budget.
Indeed, people can become lean, strong, and healthy on a plant-based or a meat-based diet. Or improve their health with organic, free-range foods and with conventional foods. However, they can lose weight on a low food budget or an unlimited one.
“Is counting calories important for weight loss?”
For many people, calorie counting may be more of a hassle than it’s worth. The good news: There is a better way. Weight management is a simple equation: Eat more than you burn, and you gain weight. Eat less and you lose weight. But the physiology behind “calories in, calories out” is actually much more complex and dynamic than most people realize. Plus, it’s imprecise; we estimate that there’s typically an error of up to 25 percent on the ‘calories in’ side, and on the ‘calories out’ side. Beyond that, counting calories is an external system (outside of your body). In essence, people who count calories are less likely to see lasting results because they’re outsourcing appetite awareness to the food-label gods. To really win at portion control we coach our clients on tuning into their internal hunger signals. For these reasons, and more, we tell our clients that for most people, counting calories is a lot of work for very little benefit.
Instead of calorie counting, we recommend a hand-measure system for portion sizes. Here how it works:
Your palm determines your protein portions.
Your fist determines your veggie portions.
Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
Your thumb determines your fat portions.
This system counts your calories for you, and gets your macronutrients lined up too, without having to do any annoying food-label math. Plus, your hands are portable—they go wherever you go, making portion-sizing very convenient. In addition, your hands are generally scaled to your size — the bigger you are, the bigger your hands, so the more food you need and the more food you get. Clients typically get the hang of this system within a week of learning it; then we help them monitor results and tweak as needed.
“Should I avoid carbs?”
No; but let’s make sure you’re getting the right kind of carbs. Ask almost anyone what they need to do to lose a few pounds, and they’ll probably say: “Cut back on carbs.” As a natural health professional we’ve heard it dozens of times. However, most folks would do best eating a moderate amount of quality carbs—whole grains (when tolerated), fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans and legumes, etc. (We emphasize moderate, of course). For men, this usually means about 1-2 cupped handfuls per meal. And women, about 1 cupped handful per meal. Of course, the needs of each individual may differ, based on their size, activity level, goals, and genetics.
But, bottom line, carbs are not inherently fattening, especially whole food sources. And getting adequate carbs can help most clients exercise harder and recover better, optimizing progress.
Yep, this is a controversial position to take. But it works. And while avoiding carbs may facilitate rapid weight loss initially, we’ve found that it’s not practical (or necessary) for long-term success for most people.
“Should I avoid grains?”
No; most people trying to stay lean do best with a reasonable amount of whole grains. Grain discussions are really trendy right now, as many people have suggested they’re dietary enemy #1 and should be completely eliminated. This is hot news as, just ten years ago, they were supposedly one of the healthiest foods on the planet. From our perspective, grains aren’t as evil as they’ve been made out to be by the Paleo and Whole30 camps. At the same time, they aren’t the superfood vegans and macrobiotic eaters suggest either.
Bottom line: While you don’t need to eat grains, unless you have celiac disease or a FODMAP intolerance there is absolutely no need to avoid them. (And even in those two scenarios, it’s only specific grains you need to worry about). Most people follow a better, more health-promoting diet if they’re allowed grains in reasonable amounts, along with a wide array of other non-grain carb sources like fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, etc. Remember, it’s the ability to follow a diet consistently over time that provides the greatest results, regardless of what that diet is. And unless you’re intolerant, there’s no good reason to totally exclude certain foods, especially foods you enjoy.
Should I drink less alcohol?
If optimal health and fitness is your priority, consider reevaluating your drinking habits. There’s a lot of confusion about whether drinking is good for you or not. That’s mainly because the news media likes to play up new studies revealing the possible cardiovascular benefits of alcohol. But the truth is, no one really knows who will benefit from light to moderate alcohol consumption. Meanwhile, any level of drinking (even “moderate”) comes with health risks that should be considered. Heavy drinking — more than 7 drinks a week for women and more than 14 per week for men — increases the risk for a long list of health problems involving the heart, brain, immunity, hormones, liver, and metabolism. But even light to moderate drinking can affect sleep, appetite, and decision making — which absolutely can have a negative impact on your clients’ health and fitness goals.
Still, drinking is an undeniable part of culture, and when enjoyed reasonably it can be delicious and fun.
We can help you sort out your priorities to determine the best level of drinking for you. We encourage you to track your drinking habits — and how your drinking habits make you feel physically and psychologically — for a couple weeks. Most drinkers consume a lot more alcohol than they think, and when they stop to evaluate, many decide on their own that it would feel better to cut back.
Should I do a detox or juice cleanse?
Probably not; most popular detox diets don’t remove toxins or lead to fat loss. Lots of people are worried about the effect of modern lifestyle factors like poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, stress, and environmental pollutants on their health. So we get a fair number of questions about detox diets and juice cleanses, which have come into vogue as an efficient way to (supposedly) lose weight and rid the body of impurities. But detox diets don’t clean out toxins or help you lose body fat. In fact, detox diets can work against these goals by bypassing the body’s natural detoxification systems and creating a feast-or-famine cycle of eating. Among many problems, detoxes and cleanses often: are protein deficient, are extremely low in energy, cause unhealthy blood-sugar swings, cause GI tract dysfunction, and lead to a yoyo of restrictive eating and overcompensation. We prefer helping you build life-long skills and incorporate daily practices to improve your health, performance, and body composition without extreme (and unsustainable) things like detoxes and cleanses. If targeted detoxification is necessary, we coach our clients through cautious and monitored protocols.
“Do sleep habits and stress really affect nutrition?”
Yes, but those effects vary from person to person, as do the best sleep and stress management strategies. Sleep is just as important as nutrition and movement when it comes to improving your health, performance, and body composition. We coach our clients through: creating a sleep routine, including having a regular schedule, limiting alcohol and caffeine, especially in the afternoon/evening,
choosing de-stressing activities before bed, setting an appropriate room temperature for sleep, making the room dark, keeping the room quiet, and waking up appropriately, with light exposure and soft noise.
As for stress, it’s all about finding the sweet spot. Too much stress, or the wrong kind, can harm our health. Yet stress can also be a positive force in our lives, keeping us focused, alert, and at the top of our game. It all depends on what kind of stress it is, how prepared we are to meet it — and how we view it. Since stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways, everyone experiences stress differently. Each of us has a unique “recovery zone,” whether that’s physical or psychological, and our recovery zone depends on several factors. We teach strategies and skills to view and handle your own stress load appropriately. The following can increase stress tolerance or diminish stress load: meditation or yoga, outdoor time, snuggling a pet, listening to relaxing music, deep breathing, drinking tea, massage or reflexology.